Please go back with me to John 15. Throughout the summer we have been looking together at the gospel applied and have been focusing the last several weeks on joy. This morning, as I had already mentioned in the scripture reading we are going to be looking at the fullness of joy that Jesus intends for his followers. Nothing more clearly marks a believer as joy. No matter what the circumstance that you find yourself in trial, tribulation, or difficulty, joy can be experienced. While we have looked at this together, over several weeks, that while the joy that Jesus describes can have a type of emotional elation, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have it, but there are sometimes where that joy that God provides the emotional elation of it is not always there. Because joy, that Jesus gives, goes beyond just an emotion. Joy is, though you will recall, an attitude. It is a good feeling deep within you, in your soul, that is produced by the Holy Spirit. It allows you and I, the church, to see the beauty of Jesus and our personal circumstances don’t matter. That is why you see this Paul express this, often times when he was in the most destitute of situations. Certainly we understand that Satan wants to rob us, as believers, of our own joy. When we do so, we make an odd reflection of the image of Christ in us. He desires that, the image of Christ being distorted in us. Jesus wants us, not only to know that we posses joy, but that we can be a part of the fullness of joy. When you get to John 15, he uses some metaphors. Sometimes in the bible, I would say we all fall prey to this a little bit, you can press a metaphor beyond the intention of what is trying to be stated. When you do so you begin to look at the text and the text begins to fall apart. While I want to set some of this up, because I want you to understand this as you read this text, and undoubtedly as many of you have, as I have over 40 years of being a Christian, there are aspects of it that can be confusing. So I want to set up a part of this. In doing so I want to give you the end game, just as I stated in the scripture reading, the purpose of the first ten verse and the metaphor that Jesus will use here is so you and I, as he says, will have a full joy. Again to create this setting, Jesus is in the upper room and at this point he is with, only the 11 disciples. Judas went to the upper room with them and yet, as you recall back to John 13 as they were enjoying the meal that would be the Passover meal that would become part of the picture of the Lord’s Supper. Judas goes into the night. Jesus having loved him in a face to face way, he walks away from Jesus. So that when you get to this part of the text in John 14 - John 17, Jesus is isolated with his disciples whom are not quite catching that he is going to Calvary, he is going to die and resurrect. They are really going to recall as these things, because he is going to teach them about the Holy Spirit and, again, in this particular text he is teaching them about the fullness of joy. The reason why I mentioned about metaphors, in John’s writing (we are not going to turn to all the texts, but I am going to give them to you) he will sometimes use the word believer that aren’t genuine believers. You see this in John 2:23-25. He will use the word disciple in John 6:60-71 and he will talk about disciples that will walk away. In John 8:30-37 there is a similar text about this discussion about abiding in him that leads us to this. The reason why I am mentioning this to you because when you look at verse 2 and verse 6, there is a picture of judgement. You get this and it is a picture in the context of Judas. Judas Iscariot. Though he was connected and appeared to look like a believer, though he was connected to the inner group, the original 12 and looked like a disciple, the bottom line is, the futility that Jesus wasn’t going to bring in this physical kingdom, he walked away from Jesus because he never was a believer. He never was a disciple. At the very essence, friends, to be a Christian true belief in the gospel is that you are exchanging your life and that faith is in Jesus. That you want Jesus in your life is not the attempt to do something religious. Participate in the table, get baptized, say a prayer, any sort of thing as this type of relieving expressing, “Okay I have done that I can do back to my life.” It is an exchange. In essence when you believe the gospel, you are saying Jesus I want you in my life. So it is, we know as we have looked at this, you are. We found that Christ abides in you. Every waking moment the testimony of Christ is on your mind and soul. Sometimes even when you have been running from God or you are enjoying a fullness of joy. Christ abides in you and you are abiding in Christ.
We know furthermore in the upper room discourse that Jesus will teach that you can’t lose your salvation. That is what I want to settle on because aspects of Christianity, certainly in our country, will teach that in John 15 that you can lose your salvation. This is where they press the metaphor about abiding in me. Judas proved that he is lost, and the proof of that is that he walked away from Jesus. While that is not our central focus, you can come across that and think, “Wow, can I lose my salvation?” I want to assure you that you can’t. You can’t lose your salvation. It is God himself that is protecting you in your salvation and it is the cross of Christ that saves you.
Jesus is not teaching that you can lose your salvation, but what he is doing here is addressing his true followers and he is telling them that unbelief will not abide in the vine just like genuine belief will abide. The branches can know a full joy. In the gospel of John, Jesus describes himself here in chapter 15 as the True Vine. The True Vine. You know this to be true as well there are other portions throughout John’s gospel where he speaks of the I AM sayings. Which are very significant because there is an Old Testament connection to this. Jesus would say this in John’s gospel, “I am the bread of life. I am the light of the world. I am the door for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I am the resurrection in life. I am the way, the truth, and the life.” What Jesus was doing is saying “I am” he was identifying himself with YHWH of Exodus 3:14 when he tells Moses, “I am who I am.” These disciples, obviously who are Jewish, hear this in their ears, they are hearing his deity. He is God.
What is it specifically that Jesus means here when he says he is the True Vine? God had a special relationship with the nation Israel. They are described as a vine. Israel is the vineyard that God planted, that God nurtured, that God pruned, and he did so that they would produce fruit and that they, as a people, would nurture and enrich the world. Let me just give you several verses. I am going to read them, and you can certainly write them down if you are taking notes. Speaking of Israel. Psalm 80:8. The Exodus type language. Isaiah 5:7. Jeremiah 2:21. Ezekiel 19:10. Turn with me to Hosea 10. As we continue along with this and we now catch that this was a metaphor often times used with the vine as Israel, Jesus is speaking to something much more significant here. But he gives them, again, symbolic or metaphor type language so they will draw their attention to the scriptures they know to be the Old Testament to teach them to a greater fulfillment. We all know this, Israel failed to reach the world in the ultimate sense. It is Jesus who the gospel writers will identify from the Old Testament, he proves this that Jesus is the true Israel of God. Look with me at Hosea 10. Israel went out and worshipped in idolatry as a people and as a nation. Look again to chapter 11. Bearing this in mind, turn to Matthew 2. This is where we begin to understand the text of John 15, that Jesus himself says, “I am the True Vine. Not Israel the nation, but I Jesus am the true Israel.” In that writing of John 15, of course the disciples pick up on this and the Spirit inspires Matthew to write these types of words that were found in Hosea 11:1 to describe Jesus to us in Matthew 2:13-15. Like Israel was in Egypt, Jesus goes off to Egypt. Notice this, because this is speaking of our Lord Jesus. It is Jesus who is the true Israel of God. Where the nation failed to enrich the world, Jesus passes the test and he tells them that he is the one who the True Vine, who enriches the entire world. That Jesus is the Israel of God.
As a result of this, Jesus describes again, this metaphor. You and I are the branches. Jesus is the life through the vine. This gives us, things that we have looked at before in relationship to joy. You and I, as his followers have a union with God. We have a union with Christ. Paul will put it this way in the epistles. The Spirit has baptized us into the body of Christ, and that is the resource you have. When you are in some of the most difficult trials in life, where you feel like they are so heavy you can barely breath or even speak, there is this union and connection because you are in the Vine. The True Vine that has given you life, this is Jesus. The Father here is described as the vinedresser. He plants, he prunes, he trains, he cultivates, and all the branches on the vine are going through this aspect. But it is Jesus himself who is the True Vine. What does he mean by that? He is letting them know, I am the one that is true. I am the one that is genuine. I am the one who is authentic. I am the one who gives life. He does so in this context so their joy would be made full. Jesus does, and fulfills, what Israel was supposed to do because Jesus is faithful. Jesus accomplished the task and as the true vine he gives life to the branches. The branches, as they are described in the text, are us the church, the followers of Jesus. Those disciples who were, at that time, was alone with him. He has given them life. He is the True Vine. The True Vine, that you and I and those who know him have placed our faith and trust alone in Jesus. Well it is pretty significant here in the text from verse 4-10, Jesus uses this phrase 10 times. Abide in me. Abide in me.
What is he talking about? He says to abide in him for our productivity. For our fruitfulness. That our capacity to be productive, our capacity to be fruitful, because we are linked to the life of the True Vine. Jesus and the Father are bearing fruit in our lives. Let’s be honest, this varies in degree, doesn’t it? In the realm, just along now what we are focusing on, of joy some of you may sit here right now and you are struggling with your joy for whatever circumstances going on right now outside of your life that has caused your joy to be robbed. Or perhaps, even this morning, you are completely in on that and the spirit is nurturing your heart and cultivating it in a way because even though you may be in a difficult spot you are enjoying Christ. Well how do we get more productive? How do we become more fruitful. Please listen to this, because I believe everyone in here desires real joy. You must give yourself to the means of grace, for greater fruitfulness. What does that mean? The means of grace? You need to stay close to Jesus. You need to think about him in a day to day way. You need to be connected with him in church and allowing the word of God to bath your mind and heart, where Jesus speaks to that good feeling in your soul, bringing correction and also building and adding. You need to give yourself to the table. No we are not those who believe in transubstantiation where Jesus’ life goes into the bread and the cup, but rather he has given you new life and he dines with us with his presence in a very special way, bringing and giving us joy. You must give yourself to prayer. You must give yourself to the word and testifying and sharing. When you draw closer to Jesus, he provides his means of grace where he is pruning you. He is causing you to be more fruitful.
Fruit here, in these 11 verses is used 6 times. What is the fruit? Often times people will say, the fruit is this, it is the number of people you win to Christ, the number of souls you win in your ministry. Let’s be honest, there is nothing wrong with evangelism. We believe in evangelism and we want to testify and we want people to become Christians and we want to see salvations. The fruit here that Jesus is describing is Christ-like life. The life of Christ that you got when you exchanged your life for life in Christ is filled in your life, producing in you the beauty of Christ so that we are being changed, where ultimately we will be completed in change in the resurrection. Christ wants our life changed. What does that mean? He wants our character and our attitude to bear the fruit of the spirit, so that we yield a type of Christ likeness. He gives us this in three ways, and they are all found in verse 11, where we can experience the fullness of joy. Here is the purpose of this metaphor, I am the vine and Jesus is the True Vine, my father is the vinedresser, and we are the branches. The ones who abide in Christ, the ones who are bearing fruit. You are going to go through pruning seasons, God is going to cut things back and prune them down so that you will bear more fruit, so that you will bear much fruit. Now understand this, you will bear fruit, though for all of us it might vary in degree. Right? We will bear fruit because we have been given life by the vine. Just as you will look at your trees this afternoon and you see those branches are alive because they have leaves on them or some type of blossom on them because they are attached to the vine, so it is for you and I. We have life.
God is changing our character. This is the purpose. He does it in three ways. Sometimes Satan tries to pass off joy as materialistic things or things we find happiness like the world does, just like we looked at three weeks ago, things that happens to us. But Jesus says that those who abide in him, those who will give themselves to the means of grace, to the church, to devotion, to his word, through giving, through serving, through testifying, he will produce in them greater fruit. The result of this is in verse 11. Three ways that Jesus wants us to have the fullness of joy. Three things that you can measure for your own self. 1. My joy may be in you. The first question you want to ask yourself as you think about your joy, is your joy centered in Jesus? Or are you being robbed? Jesus wants to give you his joy. Jesus wants our joy to be him. Just as, when Jesus gives his peace as the prince of peace, the same things applies in the fruit of the spirit to joy. His joy is available to us and he wants to give us more of his joy, and he does so when we abide in him. When we give ourselves to the things of God, so that God continues to prune and we blossom more and more and richer and fuller. Is Jesus joy? Is your joy, first of all, centered in Jesus? 2. He doesn’t just want us to have this joy and kind of fix for a little while, he wants his joy to remain. That his joy would remain there. Jesus wants us to have a type of permanent joy. Not riding along in a roller coaster of moods. Joy to misery. Misery to joy. We want to have more of a consistent type of joy. Joy that God provides is available to us when we abide in him, over against being miserable. Over against being marked by bitterness, which is a sign of unbelief. Jesus wants us to be filled with joy. Filled with joy in him. When we do abide in him, we can experience the fullness of joy. Now he says this in John 15:11. Then he prays this for us in John 17. As Jesus is offering this intercessory prayer, he prays this for me and you. Verse 13. Jesus was going to die and return to his father. Jesus knew he was going to send these men into the world where gospel ministry was going to be difficult, where building gospel marriages was going to have strife, when maintaining gospel centered church ministries, where Satan was going to come against. Jesus says this. The question you want to ask yourself, are you on that roller coaster ride? Or are you sensing and thoroughly enjoying a more fullness of joy? Because whatever degree of joy you now have, God is always rich in his grace. It is a picture of a cup running over. There is more. The joy of Christ is boundless. It knows no end. He seeks to richly apply it to us, when we will abide in him and we bear fruit, his character, his attitudes. As you abide in Christ and you nurture yourself in the means of grace, as you obey Jesus in simplicity, as you serve Jesus out of love, he will supply you his joy and he will cause that joy to increase. Friends, as we begin to consider the table, I ask you this, do you want Christ’s joy? Or do you just want a partial joy? Jesus wants his joy to be full in you. So that you will love him as he has loved us. So we will obey Jesus out of that love. So that we will serve Jesus out of that love by abiding in him. Jesus will richly abide in us.
There was an acronym that was given to me when I was a kid in church. I think it was Sue Weldon, that said joy is pictured like this: it is Jesus, it is others, and then it is you. Perhaps if you are not in the position where the fullness of joy is yours you’ve got some of that mixed up. Jesus, others, and you.
It was around the age of 10 or somewhere in there, my dad, whenever he would get Detroit Tiger tickets, would surprise me. He never told me ahead of time, it was always kind of a surprise to him. I think probably because he took pleasure in the crazy elation that I experienced. It was around age 10 where, pretty close to the first Tiger tickets (not exactly the first but pretty close to the first) to the Tiger tickets that I had ever experienced. Those of you that remember Tigers Stadium, there was a built in closeness to the field. My dad, on that particular day had tickets for box seats. He came from work in his suit and picked me up from school. Even when he picked me up from school, because he was in a suit, I had no idea what was going on. Needless to say, as we began to venture off from the elementary school I was in at Hazel Park, we were headed to Tiger Stadium. I was jacked. My dad, at the time, didn’t tell me exactly where we were sitting or anything. It didn’t really matter to me because whatever I had experienced before, which was typically in the upper deck, didn’t really matter because I was going to see the Tigers. On this particular day we had 3rd base box seats. Most of you know this, that I am a baseball fan. I have a couple of kids, all three kids actually, played baseball, and I loved baseball as a kid. It wasn’t until, you remember this those of you that experienced Tigers stadium, that I was going through that tunnel when I went out on, and we were on top of that field, I was blown away with joy over that field. I was amazed at the cutting of the grass. That would have been enough because I could not believe how close we were. We had gotten there pretty early before the game. Most games early on, (the mostly play them at night now for the most part because of television) much of baseball earlier, even in the 60’s and 70’s, were during the day. So we are going down there and I am thinking, (I couldn’t hardly speak), “Dad, we are sitting down here?” and he said “yes, we are. I want to introduce you to somebody.” I am thinking introduce me to what? We got right next to the Tiger dugout and needless, and I had no idea of this, my dad knew Mickey Stanley and I was introduced to Mickey Stanley. I am a 9 or 10 year old boy and I understood everything about baseball and stats and everything. My heart was overjoyed, I didn’t know how to act. I was filled with elation. Until that day, by the end of the game, we had lost. My elation had turned to dejection as we headed home.
Elation is certainly a part of joy. Elation was certainly a part of what the disciples experienced here, as they were sent into a mission, two by two, to preach the kingdom of God to people who Jesus would eventually go to all those towns and preach the kingdom of God as well. As they are sent out and Jesus gives them, what we have already read, the instruction found in first 12 verses or so. He lets them know, as they go, that the world will not all receive your message. Why not? He lets them know, in a sense, as disciples and as followers of me, I am leading out as lambs that are led to a slaughter. Those are the words that he uses. Various gospel accounts provided different missions. You have to think about this in some respect. I am sure, to some degree or another, there had to be some fear. Just think about this, if we were to be sent out now two by two and we know this going forward, when we go into the world, there is a chance you are being led as a lamb to the slaughter. There is a little fear going on, undoubtedly. There is a little trepidation. As the result of this, the bible tells us in verse 17 that the 72 returned with joy. They are coming back, they were gone for however amount of time that was, and they were going to give Jesus the mission update, that he has sent them on. The first thing of note that they came back with collectively, is they tell Jesus that the demons are subject to us. In essence, they had probably cast out demons in several people along the way. The bible doesn’t give all the accounts of it because that is not the important issue. That was on their minds. There was this sense of an emotional elation because, if you think about this, they had power. They had some power. So when they used the name of Jesus there was some result. What are so happy about? In essence that is what Jesus asked them here. Think about the dramatic nature of this conversation. Jesus alerts them to say, “I saw Satan fall from Heaven.” When you begin to grasp that, when you begin to sit back and contemplate that, you are like, “Wow. Jesus saw Satan fall from Heaven.” Satan, we know was created as an angel of light. He was for a time, a good angel. He fell, and Jesus was there. There are a great many things that are taught there. Jesus obviously was pre-existent. But the point he is trying to use in his omniscience, because he can see their elation of happiness and as they return with joy, that is not what you are to take joy in, that you have authority. Jesus would tell them on their mission, you are going to have power over serpents and scorpions, that was a part of the danger of the travel in early bible history, or the early New Testament church. He lets them know that you are going to have power over the enemy. Yet, Jesus says in this text as a result of this particular mission, “Do not rejoice over this, rather rejoice over that your names are written in Heaven.”
Now, as we begin to consider this and we begin to consider together the greatest joy, the bible tells us in 1 John 5:13 that these things, in this bible, that we enjoy were written all of the unfolding redemption that is found in Jesus, so that you will believe on the name of the son of God. Faith in the gospel. So that you may know. So that you will have this inner man soul fueled assurance that you belong to Jesus. Jesus says that is to be the greatest satisfaction that we possess in life. The joy of redemption. I want to call your attention back to this because it is mindful of us to consistently remind ourselves of it. That is part of the design of the table. That is part of the consistency when YHWH would give warning in the Old Testament, do not forget the Lord your God. We are prone to be forgetful. He gives us here, that is Jesus does, this purpose of the mission trip which is the joy of redemption. He tells us three things that I want you to note about this so that they will be things we nurture and cultivate in our lives. The responses are found there in verses 17 - 24. I want to just go with them together with you so that we make note of this so we don’t past the dramatics of this conversation and how in the drama of this conversation, God says it is not about that, it is about redemption.
- The disciples joy should be in redemption. Verse 17 - 20. There is an exclamation that is given there that is part of the Greek text. I have shared with you there was this elation that they possessed this certain type of power. He said to them, to kind of grip them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from Heaven.” That had to cause them to go, wow. In all of these things that he named, that were a part of his mission, do not rejoice in those things. The disciples joy should be in redemption. That is what he is calling them to pay attention to. As our joy should not be in any kind of authority in the workplace, much less in the church in spiritual things. Our joy should be centered in, taking joy in him, taking joy in our redemption. That should be the very center of how we exist as a person, as one who has been redeemed by Christ. Then I love this, as he continues along here, as Jesus begins to speak.
- Jesus takes joy in you. Jesus himself takes joy in your redemption. Look at verse 21. Jesus rejoiced. Jesus took joy over those 72 disciples. Jesus takes great joy over you and I, that are his followers. He rejoices in our salvation, for he is the one who has provided it. The followers of Christ. Those who are trusting in him. It is almost flabbergasting when you consider it. Jesus is taking delight in you. We want to reciprocate that to say, I want my greatest delight in life to not be about the things in life but the very center of my being is that I take joy in Jesus. That I take joy in the fact that he has redeemed me from my sin.
- Look at verse 23. The joy of redemption. What is he talking about? I don’t want you to miss this. Jesus is telling them that every saint of old, all the way back to the garden, that was looking for the promise one to come, the one who would crush the serpent’s head. They desired for that promise to come, but they didn’t see. But you have. The kingdom has come in me. The disciples joy was that redemption had been realized. That all the promises that were shared in the Old Testament are now coming to fulfillment in Jesus. There is the sense as the kingdom has come to you and I, and as the kingdom is in your heart and life because Jesus is your Lord and Savior. It is already there. Yet is it not yet. It won’t be fully realized until Jesus returns and we are ultimately in the new creation.
Look at verses 9 - 11.
My dear friends, this morning the kingdom of God has come near to you. Romans writes this, it is near to your mouth. The words of the gospel are simplistic and clear to understand. The kingdom has come near to you, the kingdom has come. Has it captured your heart? Is Jesus the very joy and satisfaction of your life? Can you answer that question with full assurance? That is the heart of his followers. These things have been written that do believe on the son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. Joy, my friends, is centered in Christ. Joy is centered in redemption. Joy is centered in know that these things are true, already but not yet. There is going to be a fuller realization when Jesus returns. Our greatest joy is already possessed and will become our greater joy forever. As a result of this, I want to make a couple of applications. Since we know this to be true, that Jesus wants the very center of our being and we take our greatest joy in our life in him, as he delights in us, that we rejoice in the redemption which encompasses all these things in us about applying the gospel. The redemption of our sin, the removal of our guilt, turning to joy. I want us to look at a couple of applications that I trust will be helpful for us this morning. Turn to Romans 3. I want to relate this in a couple of ways. First, with joy and guilt, and secondly with the confusion of pleasure and joy that we can all be deceived by. The confusion of pleasure and joy.
- Joy and Guilt. True joy has been pretty clear to us as we have delved into this, in various examples from the Old Testament and New Testament. Joy is the happiness that salvation brings. True joy is the freedom of sin. I invited you a couple of weeks ago to think on your own experience. As you were coming into the kingdom, as Jesus was giving you birth into the kingdom. You possessed this guilt of sin where that transitioned into new life. You found joy. Your experience gave you great joy in coming to Christ. You came to realize that Christ is in you and you were in Christ. That God’s people, the church, should be the greatest place where people can find joy. When you think about this kind of joy, there is a great application to it, over against our guilt. Then there is this relief, that the burden of guilt is gone. The guilt that had come upon us because of our sin was depressing. It had squelched and tormented us. It had robbed us from true life. It was Jesus himself who bore that guilt, that we were under, and now it has been exchanged to joy that his church realizes. The guilt, as we looked at, is the pain of the soul. It is the pain of the soul. Guilt is something that tells us that there is something that is wrong. There is a pain there. Think of it like this, you have a toothache. There is something wrong there. Something has to happen to take care of that. There is a pain that is given. To your back. I can relate that to my hips. I have pain, even in the current hip that was replaced. Pain signals to us that things are not right. Our guilt, associated with that, tells us that we need help. Because guilt is a pain of the soul. Paul reminds us of this in Romans 3:10 & 19. Here is summation for all of us, we are all in the same boat in this regard. Guilt is a part of the association of sin. We are all guilty. The remedy of that pain to the soul is the forgiveness of sin. The forgiveness of sin gives freedom to the burden of sin. It lets us know that we need Jesus. We need forgiveness. Romans 10:11 is in that Roman road section. There is a verse in there that kind of is often times missed. Everyone who believes in Jesus will not be disappointed. Jesus has never disappointed any believer of any age who has called upon the name of the Lord (Romans 10:13). That faithful Old Testament phrase that was initiated, where the bible tells us in the book of Genesis (I believe it is chapter 6) where men began to call upon the name of the Lord. It is a repentant heart. It is a cry out for salvation. Jesus will never disappoint those who come to him who call upon him. Jesus has never, not once, disappointed an individual. He is never let them down. My friends, when our joy is Jesus, when you find your greatest satisfaction, when you find your greatest fulfillment in Christ, you have joy. The facts are, we all have the tendency to let that get robbed from us, don’t we? We all get caught up in the circumstances of life, where the joy that we posses that has already been realized, we get shortsighted with it. We begin to replace a type of confusion of pleasure over against joy. This always attacked the saints as it will attack us, where our flesh will deceive us. Where there is this enticement to sin. Let’s be honest, sin fights dirty. We are all deceived by our own sin. Don’t think you are not. The greatest individuals in the bible that we appear as giants were deceived by their own sin. Moses, David. There is a confusion between pleasure and joy.
- The confusion of pleasure and joy. Turn with me over to Hebrews 11. I guess as you flip over there, I want you to contemplate: are you taking your greatest joy in Jesus or are you taking your greatest joy in some type of pleasure? Are you being robbed by the deceiver? Because the truth is, there is confusion between pleasure and joy. Sin can be fun. Can’t it? It really can be. That is why there is this enticement upon all of us to one degree or another. Sin can bring, for a measure, a certain type of seizable personable enjoyment. Yet, ultimately it will not satisfy. It only ends in guilt, then creates other sinful appetites as we give our lives to it. Joy, rather for you and I, can be known in suffering. Joy can be known when you are being mistreated. Joy can be know for the one who is the child of God in ridicule and these sorts of things. Joy can realized. The bible tells us here in this text that Moses took pleasure in God. That Moses took pleasure, his pleasure was in YHWH. Look at Hebrews 11:24. Being called the son of Pharaoh's daughter was the enticement that the world had. Moses had power. Moses had access to every form of pleasure imaginable. But let's be honest, some of those things would have brought him a seizable enjoyment, but then poof they go away. Just as I went home that day in that Impala with my head tucked. The Tigers got beat. Because at that time in my life my greatest joy was the Tigers. Verse 25. My dear friends, those of you that know Jesus, is Jesus your greatest satisfaction? Is Jesus the joy and contentment of your life? Are you focusing the intent of your life for the reward? Or are you being deceived by the fleeting pleasures of sin? The text tells us the Moses, in this regard because Jesus was faithful, he himself chose to suffer the mistreatment, the ridicule of being with the people of God, over against the pleasures of sin. Turn to Psalm 51. Now I want you to know this, as we look at Psalm 51. This isn’t as if it is going to be a one time thing that you are going to have to battle in your life. In fact I would submit to you that it is a daily battle. It is not just for younger, it is not just for those who are a little bit older, or any stage of life. Finding and nurturing this aspect of joy in the battle of our sin is a lifelong war. But I want to encourage you with this, we are all in this struggle together as the followers of Christ, the true church. Right? The enjoyment of sin can’t cash. It can’t cash. It will just leave, as I mentioned earlier, other sinful appetites or the destruction of life. When you begin, in your own inner man, to battle up against the deceitfulness of the lustfulness of sins, know that guilt that you are bumping up against, is the pain of the soul to alert you to run to Jesus where you find your release from the burden of sin, where you find your salvation, where you find your redemption. The bible gives us a lot of examples of this, but I don’t know any better of one than David. David thought he had covered all his bases. His sin had deceived him. This may be for you, that you have fallen into, perhaps into a type of egregious sin or set of sins. Where the wicked one, Satan, is bombarding you, and it has caused you to run further and further away, rather than running to the Savior. David was deceived. David was living in his own sin. David had ventured out because he had the power to do so and began to catch Bathsheba. Don’t misunderstand this, this wasn’t some one time event. She became the apple of his eye. He began to peer out and know where she regularly would be where she was. Then he began to inquire as he nurtured and feasted upon his own sin. David was, when Nathan confronts him, living in sin. Living in sin, listen to me, nurturing and living in sin will only mess up your joy. If you are sitting here and you are suffering with your joy, think about what is going on in your life. Because God uses it as a pain to the soul to alert you. Because God wants this place to be a place that is filled with joy. Do any of us really believe there is any joy in the world? It is passing, it is fleeting, it is not real. It won’t cash, and it ultimately brings death. So you can be sitting there, and possibly you are, and you are cultivating an area in your life where you are just kind of living in sin and you think it is alright because protected. That is what David was doing. That sin had messed up his joy. He was living a lie in that sense. He was preying upon all his lustful appetites. That lust filled eye turned into an illicit affair with Bathsheba, that led him to the greater sin of putting her husband Uriah in harm's way and him being killed. That was being laid to his charge. Are you guarding your heart? Am I guarding my mind? Against those things that Satan wants to use to destroy my joy. Because if you are living in bitterness, if you are giving yourself to sinful appetites, what good are we to the world?
My friends, church, those who are engaged in the battle as I am, sin fights dirty. It fights dirty. Don’t be deceived by your own sin. Sin leads to guilt. Respond on first notion. Because here is what happens, if we don’t respond on first notion we begin to harden up. Don’t we? David began to harden up, as all believers do. Then he acted upon it. We say, “Oh that would never be me.” Just wait a second. Be careful with the words never and always. Reckon back to your redemption. You know what redemption is? “Lord I am unworthy, I am undeserving, I am wicked and sinful, oh thank you that you saved me.” Don’t be powerful in your own strength. Your greatest remedy is Jesus. Forgiveness of the burden of sin is only found in him. Perhaps the spirit is even convicting you now. In your inner man and in your mind, cast yourself upon him. He cares for you. Jesus takes his greatest delight in the joy of your redemption. Don’t give yourself to the very sin that he died for. David finally got to that spot. Nathan comes to him, and you know the account, and by most bible teachers they think Psalm 51 was basically written about a year later. Repentance of sin can happen in a moment. But we all know this that repentance in turning of sin can happen over time. But he writes these words and it is evident to us that his joy had been robbed. When he says this in the expression of his heart, he begs to God. Verse 12. All of us can get in bad spots, we can get in bad places. One of the prayers of my life is Lord you keep me obedient when my heart is prone to want to wander and when my heart is nurtured in such a way in its deception to want to leave the God I really love. David cries out, restore to me the joy of your salvation. David’s response is to be our response. The truth is, we can lose this joy from time to time. We can lose the grip of it. What we find here in Psalm 51 is that David repents of sin. Through the expressing of this Psalm, through the inspiration of the spirit, God removes the guilt and he restored to him the joy of his salvation. In all of these things, every last one of us, are to remember Jesus always. I ask you, have you lost your joy? If you have, ask yourself why. Cast yourself and care on the one, the only one that can give you great joy. Just as baseball in three short hours, turn in my life at that time the greatest, what I thought when I saw that field I thought, “It is so gorgeous it has got to be heaven.” No it wasn’t. My hand touched Mickey Stanley’s hand. I couldn’t believe how big and strong it was. Then I was flabbergasted that my dad knew Mickey Stanley. Where did all that happen from? It was the work and business world. Players back then had jobs in the off season. Are you enjoying Jesus? Is Jesus your greatest satisfaction? Are you nurturing a joy and contentment for you redemption? I trust that be so, especially as we take the time now to prepare our hearts to approach the table of joy, the bread and the cup.
We are going to pick up looking at the gospel applied through the summer. It was, for me, in my young teenage years where after suffering under the guilt and the shame of my own sin that God broke through, by his grace, and replaced that sin and shame and guilt that I was under, with an immense amount of joy as I confessed Jesus as my Lord and Savior. You recall those moments, that time, those days, early as you became a Christian, where it seemed as if you were carried along, for however amount of time it was, with an immense amount of joy because your relationship with God had changed. As it is, over time, I believe God does carry us along as a newborn into his family. Over time he begins to challenge our faith. One of the great challenges of walking with Jesus is that we nurture and cultivate joy in our lives. We had transitioned in looking at the guilt of the gospel, that the guilt brings all of us and helps us come to the understanding of needing Jesus, Jesus replaced that guilt with a joy, then coming to an understanding of what is joy and how it is found and described in the bible. We began looking at the difference between happiness and joy. Happiness, those feelings of happiness can certainly be a part of joy, but joy is there for us in much deeper moments. Those are some of the things we are going to move through today. Finding, maintaining, and nurturing joy in our hearts.
Joy, of course, is that good feeling you have deep within yourself. In your very being, in your soul. It is produced by the Holy Spirit. And what it does is it helps us to see the beauty of Christ. I would say, as I was growing early on in my life of faith, James for me was challenging because I never did quite understand this. What does it mean when James says, to count it all joy my brothers when you meet trials of various kinds. I mean, what? Count it all joy, what exactly does that mean and what is James talking about? Most importantly through that, how can I obey the Lord so that I can live faithfully with joy. In reality we know that we experience, some of you in fact might be experiencing now, some very deep difficult moments. Last week we prayed as a church, and I want to encourage you to continue to pray for Sharon Brady and Dave Dollwine that are literally in the fights for their lives. I was so struck by meeting with them, in their hospital rooms, having been given the type of news they were given with an immense amount of joy, yet they are in the fight, they are in the battle for their lives. We are all experiencing each and every day real feelings, aren’t we? Isaiah 53 tells us that Jesus was a man of sorrows. How does that work in concert with Jesus the sinless son of God who we know possessed joy. The bible will tell us in Ecclesiastes 7 that it is better for us to go to the house of mourning than to go to a party, for that is the end of all men, the living will take it to hear. What does it mean as we took it last week in trying to define what is blessed or happiness in the sermon on the Mount. What does it mean that blessed are those who mourn? How does that work over up against joy? No matter what your circumstance is, in terms of types of happiness we found, while people usually define happiness in the world as things that are happening to them and those things are the cause that gives them a sense of happiness. But James tells us here that as we walk in faith we are to count it as all joy. That phrase, count it all joy, carries this idea. James is writing this under various trials, various tribulations, various difficulties, know that they are the testing of your faith. To count it all joy means to reckon it, to consider under your life circumstance, and to deem it as the working of your faith. Trials placed into your life so that God is conforming you to the image of his son, so when you are under the fire (the great difficulty of life) not matter how severe, we can go through them know and trusting and having confidence in your life that you are under God’s hands and that Jesus himself is the one who is compassionately caring for you. The constance of knowing through trial, the trial that James describes here, that God can bring about good in your life, no matter how dark the moments may be. He is doing so for his glory, so that you will be greater created to his image. Under these trials, we know that we move through them, not with some sort of silly happiness. What we clearly know here is that James is not talking about being insincere or trying to conjure up and fake some sort of emotion when you feel like perhaps you can’t even talk because you are under such a severe trial. He is letting us know in those difficult moments, in the trial and testing of your faith, that you can (we can as God’s people) experience joy. Through the trials of our faith, God is working in our hearts a strengthening of our faith to give us endurance, provide a steadfastness, no matter what comes our way, a perseverance as you will.
Turn back with me to Romans 8. We will begin to look at this with varied passages that God has a design. He has a purpose. To know that, as we are in the shepherd’s hands, God can bring about good through our suffering. So that we aren’t living a kind of life that “whatever will be, will be.” That is the world’s fatalistic thoughts towards difficulty and trial. Rather, God is teaching us and God is nurturing in us so that we will be more dependent upon him, that we will lean upon him, that we will trust in him, so through the varied trials of faith we will come through them with a greater strength as we grow in Christ. Paul put it this way, in a verse very familiar to anyone who has been a Christian for any length of time, verse 28. We must trust in the fact that God, though we may not understand it, is going to bring about good through the varied difficulties we will all experience in life. You may have recently come out of a trial. Some of you may be under the fire of a trial now as we have submitted the Dollwin and Brady families in that care. You can rest assured, as long as you live, as a Christian you are going to experience these types of things. How is it that God wants me to tap into this joy that he truly wants us to experience so that people can see Christ really is alive in us.
Joy clearly is attached with hope. They are kind of like kissing cousins in scripture. For us to really experience joy under grace, we have to see the hope that God has provided for us for joy. Staying in Romans 8, I want you to look back at verse 16. Think of this in light of going through a fiery trial. He is talking about this type of suffering, suffering for the cause of Christ, and obviously we can suffer in various types of ways. But he says this, look at me in verse 18. That is joy attached to hope. The fruit of the spirit, those 9 singular things that are listed in Galatians 5, really are reflective of an attitude. There are ways that God wants us to cultivate and nurture these attitudes, obviously in looking at joy. At the center of joy, hope is attached. This hope is that there a bright future ahead for you. It gives us a type of heavenly focus, if you will. Now when you think of this globally, much of Christianity is under suffering. Across the globe, even this morning, much of Christianity is under the attempt of their lives being taken just for worshipping Jesus. It is easy for us from time to time to disconnect from that. That is much of the description of the situation of the early church. They were under threat, if not being bodily harmed, if not even death. God said, in that kind of experience, that they could have joy knowing that, in this hope, there is a better day coming. Those things that you are under in this fiery trial, they are not even worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed to us. I think what happens, as we begin to think something about heaven in a disconnect type of way as if there is something up there in heaven as if we can’t fully understand it, when really before the fall heaven converged on the earth, and when we get to the end heaven is going to converge on the earth. While there is some discontinuity about some future things that we have in our inner man, we hope for in our inner person, there is this expectation for there is also for us some continuity. It is attached to this life, and I want to try to explain it to you.
God says, about this particular hope, that when you are under this trial, you need to nurture this for your own spiritual health. You need to magnify Christ in your life so that he will, as you lean upon him and trust him and as you know you serve a good and loving and compassionate savior, the things you are going through in your life are building your life in faith. That what we experience in this age. Pales in a significance of what we will experience in the age to come. Paul will write about this in 1 Corinthians 15. You don’t have to turn there but I will go through one of the examples that he gives us there. While I am talking about this turn over to Revelation 21. Paul says this about the resurrection, about this idea of continuity and discontinuity. Again, in setting this up, sometimes we think that Heaven is so distant that we can’t even recognize exactly what life will be like. But Paul will describe it like a kernel, this life is like a kernel. We are like a kernal of corn and our kernel is our bodies. Our bodies are going to go into the ground and we are all going to die, yet in the resurrection, it will be raised to be 3 ears of corn on a stalk. So our lives in the difficulty of this life, because the world is fallen, the world is broken, though we are redeemed in our inner man we are going to experience because of our own sin and because of the brokenness of this world various forms of difficulty, there is yet this expectation that gives us this real sense of joy. A real sense of calmness and peace because there is a better day ahead. In the resurrection our life is going to be connected, because that kernel of corn that goes into the ground is still a part of the corn, yet it is raised in the new creation like this life for us on steroids. Not only will we never sin, but we never even desire sin. That is life in new creation. That is the hope that Jesus gives us. All of us, that is part of our battle. We know we have been saved for our sin, but we are struggling. Every last one of us is struggling in this battle against sin. What God says is he wants us to nurture a future hope that it provides to us a greater joy that whatever it is we are under in this life, there is a greater day coming that is very hard to describe yet it is not so far disconnected that we can understand that in eternity it is going to be beyond belief.
John writes it in this way. I want you to look at this in Revelation 21. This is the ultimate experience of the joy that is attached in hope. This the hope that in you and I will be realized. We get this picture, and basically this is recognized across the globe, marriage is a relationship that is designed in the hope for the apex of a loving relationship. What God is telling us there is that we are going to enjoy an eternal loving relationship in a very transparent and pure city. Not only will we not desire sin, we will be incapable of sin. There friends, is no capacity of sin because Jesus once and for all will have crushed the serpent's head on the cross. Sin is completely done away with. As a part of the connection of this life, so we don’t think that Heaven is laying on a hammock and a type of ghostly experience, he helps us to understand what that life will be like because these are some of the things you and I experience in this life (verse 4). That freshness when you became a Christian that was carrying you along was that new life you have in Christ. Part of accessing this joy is that salvation is much more than just saying a prayer, it is actually an exchange of life where Christ is in you. Paul said it time and time again, and you are in Christ. So it isn’t as if God saves us and he kind of leaves us alone to experience this life and “Hey I’m there at the end” and ultimately be able to go to this ethereal experience, away that is so disconnected. No he is with us in this life so that we can really experience joy, no matter the difficulty and trial we are under.
One of the illustrations I gave you, in my own personal experience, undoubtedly the Spirit has given you varied experience where man that reality was yours. You were under an incredible fiery trial and perhaps no one even knew about it, and yet you recognized that Christ was in you and you were in Christ. I would dare say this, as a believer, each an every day there are moments in your mind where clearly you know you are living and that Jesus is alive. Not only that Jesus is alive, but you feel the security and the confidence of being in him and he is in you and he is supplying that. He is supplying that, for no matter what you experience in this life. You see friends, the Christian’s joy centers on hope, but it fixes itself upon the person of Jesus. If Jesus becomes your soul satisfaction, no matter what you are involved with in life, then you can not only find joy, you can experience joy. It can be a reality in your life though it looks like on the outside your life is caving, your life is falling apart. God says that he wants us to experience this. It is the joy that as we studied in Hebrews, flip back to Hebrews 6, that anchors the soul. You see dear friends at some point all the pain, all the trial, all the struggle that you are up against is going to cease. There will be no more worries. There will be no more sorrows. You will never bud up against any form of adversity and we will all experience Jesus in a face to face way. That reality, that spiritual reality, again is not an ethereal experience because in the resurrection we are going to have a resurrected body that allows us to enjoy Jesus for eternity. He wants that to be the driving though, the driving motive, of our lives and it will help up to get through the difficulties, the pains, and the sorrows, and the real life feelings that we go through in this life.
Let’s be honest, death sucks. I have done a lot of funerals over the last 23 years. Please hear this, in the best of circumstances death sucks. It is horrible. Yet Paul will tell us in 1 Thessalonians that there is a hope for you and I, that we don’t have to be so disconnected. Though death takes place there is a greater experience, there is a greater day ahead for you and I. That is eternal life, an eternal existence with Jesus in a face to face relationship. Joy fixes and centers itself on hope but it is not some generic hope, it is not hope in the english mind of you are wishing for something to happen, it is fixed on the person of Jesus who died for you, who bore your sin and sorrow and shame and guilt, and every experience of hell was borne on Jesus on the cross and replaced that part of your life and my life and then gave you his righteousness. He wants us to think about that. He wants for us this joy filled optimism. Again, not some quirky try to be happy, this real experience of Christ in you. This union created, when the bible tells us again in 1 Corinthian 12 or Romans 8 where we baptized into the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit. We never felt that in an experiential way but the reality of that feeling, when you are in that difficulty, or even if things are flying by well, you know you are in Christ and Christ is in you. Everything that is coming into your life, never are you out of the compassionate care of your great high priest Jesus. He wants us to be filled by a type of optimism that we will live with Jesus forever. Now when you think about this type of hope and this type of joy, there is no comparison in this life. The type of joy that God is talking about in scripture is only provided by for his people. If there is a yearning in you for that, a real reality of it can be found in Jesus if you come confessing to him. If you come in acknowledgement that not only do you need salvation, but that there is nothing you can do to save yourself. You exchange your life by faith in Jesus, in giving him your life as your Lord and Savior. Trusting in Jesus allows us to experience even the calamities and difficulties of life.
Turn with me back to Habakkuk 3. The writer of Hebrews, the pastor writer there tells us in Hebrews that this type of experience we are talking about that Jesus is the anchor to the soul. Again when you are under the fiery experiences of life it is Jesus that keeps you anchored to him. He is the one that is providing you himself so that you can endure, so that you can be steadfast, so that you can persevere in the faith. God has provided this type of endurance for his people, for all times. Romans 1:17. The just shall live by faith. I want to ask you this, are you really trusting in Jesus? Or have you, in your mind, you just believe in God? Are you really experiencing where you are trusting in God’s promises that are provided for you? Are you trusting in Jesus himself? Do you believe that the experiences that are coming about in your life are for the strengthening of your faith? Or is there this strong disconnect between you and God and these types of trials? Is there an understanding of your trust in Jesus that ultimately all of these things are leading to your ultimate joy and we are going to live, listen friends, we are going to live inside that ultimately joy for eternity? When all the difficult things of this life are put behind. Habakkuk relates, as we wrap this up, and we begin now to approach the table as you consider Jesus’ blood and body that was sacrificed for us. You may be sitting here and perhaps you are kind of wondering why is this happening. I don’t completely understand what is going on. It seems to me as if my life is falling apart. Habakkuk writes these very words when he doesn’t understand exactly how God is working in Judah and they are under captivity. I am telling you, these words we are going to read, they are just as real when they were written as in our experience. Under this type of trial Habakkuk writes this, look at verse 17. What is he talking about there? It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. He is talking about the material things in his life. Think about this, so when the farming industry collapses, when the auto industry goes belly up, when the stock market crashes, if the oil fields dry up, you can experience verse 18. Habakkuk not understanding all the things that were going on, it didn’t make complete sense to him and yet he was under this kind of fiery trial and too often we tie our christian experience to material things. Listen to verse 18. YHWH is Jesus friends, he is the covenant God who says, “I am with you, I will never leave you, I will never forsake you.” Habakkuk says this, “Though this devastation is going on around me and I don’t fully comprehend it and the victory is not blossoming nor the fruit on the vines and olive has failed and the fields yield no food and the flocks are cut off from the fold and there is no herd in the stalls, I will rejoice in YHWH. I will take joy in the God of my salvation. Because God the Lord is my strength.” See this joy is not us trying to conjure up this emotion, rather it is resting in the gospel that these promises are real. These promises are true. God is at work in my life for my good and his glory. I will experience him in a much greater joy filled way when hope is realized in the resurrection.
Turn to the 28th chapter of Matthew’s gospel. We will begin with the very famous great commission. These final words of Jesus in Matthew’s gospel are something, that as a church, we should have in front of us very often because this indeed is our great commission. This is what Jesus has left for us to do, even as pastor Kevin shared when we read from Colossians 1 this morning. Colossians 1 is the other side of how Matthew 28 has played out in Paul’s lifetime. This past Monday we pulled back into the church parking lot at about 9 am we had been on the road for about 17 hours straight, which is pretty good considering it took us 20 hours to get down there, as we returned from New Orleans, LA. As many of you know, we spent a week helping Immanuel Community Church reach their neighborhood for Jesus Christ. Myself, Mike Champoux, Brett Eckel, Dave, Rene, Josh, and Jameson Ross, Richard, Liz, Pearce, and Ricky Kauffman, Kaitlyn and Joey Gralka, Kylie and Seth Ray, Lili DiTrapani, and Kierra and Khloe Stokes loaded up 2 cars, church van and Dave and Renee’s van, and we made the trip to invest in this church plant. Now church planting may not be something that you think about often in your day-to-day life. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, church planting is when existing churches start new churches. Basically that is it. It is that simple. An existing established church is going to start a new church in a new neighborhood for the glory and name of Jesus Christ. It can be easy for us to neglect church planting. Let’s be fair, because we’re all busy with work, kids, and grandkids. We are all busy in our own communities, in our own neighborhoods. Not to mention we have our church here that we love and that want to grow. We want people to get saved and to join here. So it seems that thinking about helping other churches start and grow would be lower priority. Like we got to do us before we worry about other people. But is that the mindset of the Bible? Is that Jesus’ mindset.
We planned this trip, a year ago now, because as an Elder board and as a church we believe in church planting. We believe that the NT model for mission, for disciple multiplication, is through the planting of churches. When we say as a church that we believe in Gospel, Community, Mission, this is the mission element of that vision statement. That’s not to say that other mission programs and efforts can’t be good and helpful, but church planting is the most organically related to the Kingdom of Jesus.
The assumption of the NT is that the glory of Christ will cover the globe through the planting of churches. Now to some of you, that may not really seem that incredible of a statement. To others of you who were raised or spent years hearing about para-church mission opportunities that may seem a little more radical of a statement. So let me say it again, the assumption of the NT is that the glory of Christ will cover the globe through the planting of churches. Because that’s true, CCC must be a church that plants churches. We must be a church that is involved in the planting of churches.
We believe, as we just read from Matthew 28, that Jesus directed that churches be planted. Jesus declared it. He decreed it. These are our marching orders. Listen to his pronouncement, once again in the Great Commission:
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matt 28.18-20).”
Jesus’ final words in the gospel of Matthew were a command to plant churches. You’ll notice that Jesus’ commission here is sandwiched by his power in verse 18 and his presence in verse 20. We can follow the orders of our king Jesus with confidence because he has all authority in Heaven and Earth and because he is with us. We have his power and we have his presence. Jesus is not the god of Deism – almighty yet aloof. Jesus is not the god of Protestant Liberalism – friendly yet feeble. Jesus is powerful and Jesus present with his church.
Because of his power and presence, he directs his church to make disciples. You have to remember that’s the imperative in this statement. The command isn’t “to go” the command is to “make disciples” (μαθητεύσατε). The go is a participle. As you are going, make disciples. The commission, grammatically speaking, is not to go, but to make disciples. Jesus literally tells his disciples, as you are going multiply. And this clearly happens through the planting of churches. He commands us to make disciples through two things: baptism and teaching. These are the work of the church.
Christian baptism has always been tied to the local church. You’re probably thinking that someone could get baptized outside of the church. Someone can get baptized as a non-church thing, at camp or a para-church organization or something like that. But again, we have to as ourselves is that that the assumption of the NT. It that the New Testament vision for baptism to be outside of the local church – especially in the generations following the apostles. Since the church has been established, baptism is the work of the local church. Baptism is baptism into the body of Christ. Teaching and preaching are primarily the ministry of the local church, and specifically the Elders of the local church. This is what the Apostle Paul spent his whole life doing. Isn’t that what we just read in Colossians 1? After Jesus calls Paul, what does he give the rest of his life to? The planting of churches, baptism, and teaching to create a body. The book of Acts, all 28 chapters, the epistles, and even the book of Revelation – the rest of the New Testament are about how church plants fulfill the Great Commission. There is a great church planting fellowship that calls themselves Act 29. They call themselves that because they believe, as we would, that the work of the church is to continue the work of the book of Acts. The planting of churches is living out the 29th chapter of the book of Acts as Jesus’ church. In order to fulfill Jesus’ Great Commission, we must be a church that is reproducing – churches planting churches.
Not only does Jesus direct the planting of churches, but he also promises to defend the church. You don’t have to turn there, but listen to this, listen to what has often been called the Great Constitution. Matthew 28 is called the Great Commission; this has historically been called the Great Constitution from Matthew 16:
“But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Matt 16.15-19)”
Peter here makes the good confession. We sing this, don’t we? I believe he is Christ, son of the living God. Peter makes that confession and then Jesus divulges to Peter that only knows it because the Father has revealed it to him. What a summary of your salvation. You know who Jesus is because God the father revealed it to you. Thank you Lord! Then Jesus makes this often-confusing statement about the building of the church. “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church”. The Roman Catholic Church historically has misunderstood what Christ meant because they think that he established the papacy. You ask them, “why is there a Pope” well Peter is the first pope. This is how they interpret that. Clearly not what we believe. But sometimes as Protestants we then overreact to a Roman Catholic interpretation and say, “No, no, no, Jesus wasn’t saying he was building his church on Peter, he was saying he was building his church on Peter’s confession.” The good confession. But we need to be honest with ourselves and we need to be honest the bible and we need to interpret it fairly. Jesus certainly declared that he will build the church on Peter. We need to understand that, that is what he meant. He was talking to Peter. “You are Peter, on this rock I will build my church.” Peter’s name means “rock.” Petra. Literally, Jesus is saying, if you read this in Greek, “I tell you Petra, on this petra I will build my church.” Don’t overreact. Don’t overreact to the Roman Catholics and then misinterpret it yourselves. Don’t be unjust to the text. Of course Jesus said he was going to build his church on Peter. Why? Because Peter is the leader of the apostles and the apostolic witness is what the church has been built upon. We are the church, the descendants of the apostles. They are the ones who planted all the churches, who planted all the churches, who planted all the church, who planted this church. Jesus ends the Sermon on the Mount with the story about the wise man building his house upon the rock, and here Jesus declares that he is going to do that.
He promises then that the gates of hell will not prevail against this church. Notice the wording of the phrase. The gates of hell cannot conquer the church (NLT). They shall not prevail against the church. This is the picture I get in my mind reading Jesus saying that. It’s almost like Satan and his minions are the Egyptian army. They are walking through the Red Sea, and the church is the Red Sea that is just pummeling down on them. No chance. The gates of Hell shall not conquer the church. Satan is playing defense and the tidal wave of the church cannot be stopped. Jesus’ vision for the church is not static, but to use the literal sense of the word, Jesus’ vision for the church is effective. The church is multiplying, and there’s nothing Satan can do about it. It’s moving, the church is moving, because she has the keys to the Kingdom. You guys see that, Jesus said that. We have the keys to the Kingdom. We have the gospel! That is how you get in, there is no other way. That is the key that opens the gate to the kingdom of Jesus. The gospel. We have it. We’ve got it. We’ve got it free to give. We have the means of grace. The church, she is the guardian of the word, of the water, of the bread, and of the wine. Like an heir who posses the keys to the home, we are Jesus’ bride, and we enter freely. Jesus’ vision for the church is multiplication. We can plant churches with confidence that King Jesus declared he will defend his church.
The Great Commission and the Great Constitution only have power because of our great gospel. We must plant churches because Jesus died for the church. Listen to what Paul says in Ephesians 5:25-27. This will be familiar to you as he is instructing husbands and wives in the household:
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish (Eph 5.25-27).
Church planting is an important element of our mission as a church because Jesus died for the church. Jesus didn’t just die hoping that just some people might believe in him; he died for the church. He gave himself up in order that he might present her to himself in the end. 1 Tim 4.10 says that Jesus is the savior of those who believe. Titus 2.14 says that Jesus died to redeem for himself a people for his own possession. The planting of churches is imperative because it is what Jesus lived and died for.
Jesus didn’t come for para-church ministry. Jesus’ mission wasn’t for your personal quiet time. Jesus didn’t die for online church, TV preachers, campus ministries, Samaritan’s Purse, seminaries, denominations, or anything else. Jesus died for the church. Jesus gave himself up so that people from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation might become his bride. If that’s true then that means we must use our time, treasures, and talents to cover the earth with as many churches as possible.
So what does this mean for us? What does it mean for Christ Community Church? How do we move from understanding the Word of God to standing under the Word of God? The answer is that we must be a church that is active in church planting. That is why we worked with Restore Church in Detroit a few years ago. This is why we’ve given to the IMB of the SBC. This is why we had Matt Delaughter come and preach last Thanksgiving. This is why we took up an offering for Immanuel Community Church, and this is why a group from Christ Community Church drove down to New Orleans last week.
As a Christian, you’re called to be involved in church planting. It’s not just for missionaries. It’s not just for seminary students. It’s not just for pastors. It’s not just a special occasion thing. We should all be investing in church planting, and that is possible through a number of ways. We should be giving to church planting efforts. We do this, as a church, every Thanksgiving. We should be praying regularly for these church plants, Restore Church and Immanuel Community Church. Are we praying for them regularly? Man I am asking myself, am I praying for them? Short-term mission trips like the one we took last week are also opportunities to be involved in the planting of churches. That is the easy part.
At a more involved level, maybe some of you are being called to plant a church someday. Maybe a group of you will be called to plant a church from this body. Can you imagine that? Can you imagine if someday Christ Community Church planted a church, if we sent a group of you out to make the name of Jesus famous in a different neighborhood? How beautiful would that be? There’s no competition here. We aren’t in competition. We don’t have enough seats in our building for the 4 million people who live in metro Detroit. We need more churches! But now Satan starts to whisper in your ear, you guys aren’t big enough to plant a church. You guys don’t have enough money to plant a church. You are too small. You can’t afford it. To be honest, how many of you have heard that right after I said it. I heard it when I was writing this sermon. I’ve heard of smaller churches than us, planting churches. I don’t know what Jesus has for Christ Community Church in the future. I don’t, I am not a prophet, I am not apostle Alex, but I know he wants us to be involved in church planting. I know that, I would die for that truth. He died for it and he wants to see her grow. Jesus wants to cover the globe with churches like the waters cover the seas.
Church planting is non-negotiable for Christ Community Church. The NT assumes that churches will plant churches. That is the assumption of the New Testament. In fact, if we are a church that is completely uninvolved in church planting, we are unfaithful to King Jesus. Last week was about church planting, we had fun in New Orleans and you can ask them all about the seafood they ate and the French Quarter and all that fun stuff, but last week was about church planting. Last week was about Immanuel Community Church bringing the gospel to the Treme neighborhood. And not just for the group that went, I had to many of you who came to me and said we were praying for you, so many of you gave so the students could afford to go. That was us! Don’t mishear the sermon this morning church, I am not rebuking us for not doing something, I am telling you this is what we just did. Let’s keep doing it! We can’t settle back now that this big trip is over and assume we’re good for a while. Immanuel Community Church still needs your prayers. Restore Church still needs your prayers. They need our partnership for the gospel. Church, we want the name of Jesus to be made famous in the Treme neighborhood of New Orleans, and in the post-Christian urban centers of Europe, and we want the name of Jesus to be made famous in the jungles of the Amazon, and the desserts of the Middle East, in China and India, and on the plains of Africa. But this is the call this morning, all of that starts at the NE corner of 14 and Van Dyke.
We are looking at the gospel applied. We have spent a few messages looking at guilt. We are going to begin looking at, this morning and over several weeks together, how for the church that guilt turns to joy. As you are turning to Psalm 51, I want you to think back to the time where you gave your life to Christ and the things we talked about, you found yourself under the guilt and conviction of sin, you repented, and apprehended the mercy that God offers in Jesus and how that for you turned to a released from that burden to this incredible, incredible joy, that was real. The joy of the changed relationship, where before you were the enemy of God and now you have been made his friend through Christ, was real in you. It carried you, kind of like a high for x amount of time, that storyline is true for anyone that I have ever really talked with that knows Jesus. We go through this period where it just overwhelms us. Obviously we know we can’t always live on a high, and then we continue to live in this world, we sin, we sometimes fall apart and various things that happens to us. Joy can be stolen away. What we are actually going to begin to look at today is to define finding joy, and then kind of absorb that and what the bible tells us about joy so that we can maintain it in our lives, each and every day.
Psalm 51 was written, most of you probably know this, on the heals of David confessing. David knew YHWH, he knew God, and he had fallen into what I guess you would call a grievous sin, right. He had had an affair with Bathsheba and through the story, as it goes in his account, literally had Bathsheba’s husband basically murdered because he put him on the very front lines. We know this that Nathan the prophet confronts David, David is basically hiding this sin. He begins to lie to himself and be deceived, like we all can be in our own flesh and in our own sin, he is under the burden of that sin. He has lost the joy of his relationship to YHWH. The prophet Nathan confronts David, if you know the storyline, and it is here in Psalm 51, which is said to be about a year past that, that David writes some very instructive words that leads us into understanding how do we find joy, and how do we maintain joy. It is a confession that David makes. You even look at the transcription before the verse that David when the prophet went to him after he had gone into Bathsheba. This particular confession has that as its concentration. What had happened to David was that he had lost joy, amongst other things. I want you to think of this, in light of perhaps you struggle with this. Perhaps you struggle with finding joy, or even maintaining joy. I can rest assured for you by the time we get through this, with the amount of bible texts that we will look at, that joy can be something that can be maintained. It is something that we are always striving for because it is a resource that is given to each of us by and through his grace. Notice this with me, David appeals to God to give him his joy back. We are just going to jump through this for times sake. Look at verse 8. He had been broken over his sin and the guilt of his sin, now he is seeking because he had finally repented to have the joy back. He wanted the joy back, he yearned for it. Church, you know what that sense is, you know what that feels like. It is a real emotional state in your inner man and in your mind. He goes on and jump ahead to verse 12. He is wanting his joy back. He wants to know in an experiential way the joy of the relationship he has with God. A part of the application of the gospel to guilt we know this comes to us by grace through faith. That is when you received Jesus, however you were battling your sin as you came under the conviction and acknowledgement of that and the exchange of life when you placed your faith and trust in Christ. God gave you joy. He gave you joy, and that joy amongst other things, the graces that are appropriated, they were things that were real. They were evident to you. Part of maintaining that sense of joy, we have already begun to look at, 2 Corinthians 7:10, repentance. It is godly sorrow that leads to repentance in salvation. 1 John 1:9 confession. If we confess our sin he is faithful and just to forgive us for our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. These things, though we know we are eternally secure, they are a part of the regular appetites and the regular disciplines of being a believer. When guilt comes into our lives, we have kind of strayed into sin, God supplies through his graces of confession and repentance, so that can come back to joy and not remain under guilt.
One of the names for Satan is Lucifer, which literally means the accuser of the brethren. He wants you to feel under the attack of guilt. We know that guilt can be a healthy thing if it draws us to Christ, but obviously if we deal with it in a worldly fashion is can lead to despair and even death in some cases. But God wants his church, his people, who do know him to enjoy the grace, peace, repentance, and confession that all lead to joy, to freshness. It allows us to interact in transparency not hiding under a guilt that we have tried to put away that we really haven’t dealt with. Some of the wonderful truths that lead us to joy are confession and repentance. We are not to fight against those things, we are rather to have them free course in our lives so that we can maintain a joy. You recall this, grace cancels the debt of your sin for eternity. Peace has comforted your soul, where you were unstable in your inner man prior to Christ, God brought you peace. Repentance through the acknowledgement of your sin and this desire to turn. Confession brings forgiveness. All of these things are a part of God’s mercy, and at the end of it gives us a tremendous amount of joy.
Now turn back with me to Psalm 30. I want us to begin to kind of look at how the bible presents joy over against how the world often times looks at joy. Because joy, I want you to know this, appears in the bible over and over again. Just to give you a couple of examples, we saw this with David in chapter 51, but look at chapter 30 verse 5. Joy comes in the morning, in the freshness of a new day. Turn to Psalm 66:1. Shout for joy. When we get into the New Testament, we know that joy is a part of the fruit of the spirit. It is a by product of the relationship that you have with God through Christ that God gives you through his grace the fruit of the spirit, a joy. Yet the bible is consistent to place an emphasis on joy. So what does that mean? The fruit of the spirit to have joy. Let’s be honest, I should say let me be honest with you, sometimes I might struggle with my joy. The bible place so much emphasis on it, I think the first place we need to go is to understand, what is he talking about and what is joy and how do I pursue it.
Let’s go back to Matthew 5 and we are really going to spend our time just for a moment here in Matthew, we will end up going to Philippians 4. We are going to try and set up some things today for, again, the weeks ahead. How many of you remember in the 90’s there was a really popular tune that came out that Bobby McFerrin wrote, Don’t Worry Be Happy. A lot of you remember that song. It was real catchy. It was a lighthearted tune, catchy lyrics and it stayed number 1 for x amount of weeks, but it was a very popular song. It literally became a hit in America, but it was also a worldwide hit. Don’t worry, be happy. There is a lot of confusion, I want you to know, as we try to establish this, this morning. There is a lot of confusion between happiness and joy. I don’t know what translation you have in your hand, you obviously know that we preach from the ESV. The text that I read from in the scripture reading, Matthew 5:3-11 uses the term blessed, but you may have a translation that says happy. That can be a confusing term, blessed over against happy. So that is what I want to deal with a little bit. Because the scripture says here, Jesus say this at the sermon on the mount, blessed…. To establish this so we can all have a clear understanding, cause I don’t know exactly what God is talking about when he consistently presents, over and over again throughout the bible, what we find is literally a command to have joy.
So what does he mean? Well happiness, today by and large, is translated in this kind of way, it has to do with sentimental or trivial things. It is getting the warm and fuzzy feelings. Happiness as it was certainly tied to that particular song Don’t Worry Be Happy, had this idea of being carefree and cavelier. It was really a focus on happiness as something that happens to us. From this perspective, we are passive. So I can get, to give you an example of this, I can gain happiness through a job promotion. I could gain happiness through being given a raise. I could find happiness in getting a new home or a new car. Happiness are things that happen to us, where we are really passive but when we get them, we have this sense of feeling. We want to be careful to understand and not overly think that this type of happiness is the biblical concept of joy. Again, you may have this but in the Greek blessed does mean happy. Its referring to though, joy. Now let me say this, joy may include warm feelings of happiness but it is much much more. It runs, for you and I who know Jesus, much much deeper. So it is not so much that we don’t want to have happy feelings, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want to have a sense of happiness, but the concept of joy in the bible runs much deeper than that. It may be inclusive in that but sometimes those happy feelings might not be there and there is something greater that is there. Blessed again is translated to happy here, carries the idea of a profound peace, a comfort, a stability. It is a great joy. Notice this with me, Jesus uses these as an imperative over against passive. The imperative means it is a command. Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted, and on and on it goes. God is literally giving us a command to be joyful. What does that tell us? Joy is an attitude. Joy is an attitude that we know is given by the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). It is driven by the Spirit. God also wants us to know this, you can experience joy in pain and in suffering and in grief. Look at verse 11 again.
You are probably thinking of moments in your life when you have experienced that type of joy. Let me move past one for you an example in my life, past my salvation experience. It was a time at both of my parents death, as ironic as that may seem, but God provided for me a powerful sense of joy. Going into, my dad passed away before my mom (my mom went about 15 months after my dad), the first time I saw my dad he was already at the funeral. Val and I walked in from driving from Michigan and I couldn’t say a word. I felt like if I had said something I was going to fall apart. Yet for me in that moment, I give you this as a testimony to Jesus, he gave me this profound sense of joy. This incredible sense of stability and comfort and it was real. As I looked at him in the casket and again, as I said I was honored and blessed to preach both of my parents’ funerals, there was a realization for me that everything they had built their home upon, in one part had come to a greater fruition. They were with Jesus. God gave me a sense of incredible joy with that truth. I was truly comforted, past a warm and fuzzy feeling. I will be honest with you, it stunk. Dad was a golf buddy whenever I would go down there. I could get out and do certain things with him. There were going to be things about that relationship that brought me tremendous sorrow yet past the sorrow there was something greater going on within me. I fully understand what David was talking about, restore to me the joy of your salvation. It was there because Jesus was the source of it. It wasn’t something I could muster up, but it was real.
At the very heart of biblical joy, even when you are in deep hurt or pain, there is hope. There is a greater day coming. There is a better day coming. It is the hope of the gospel. Joy is a state of well being. Joy is being in a right relationship with God, so that joy moves beyond things that are happening to you or beyond your temporary circumstance. Joy, when you are experiencing it you want to know this, belongs to those who know Jesus because Jesus is the source of joy.
Turn with me to Philippians 4. I think this an appropriate example because Paul refers to it. He refers to this example in the middle of dealing with a problem. He is dealing with a problem. Philippians 4:2-8. Paul is in prison when he writes this. He is writing to a church that had brought him a tremendous amount of joy, and as any church filled with fallen people and any home or family filled with fallen people though redeemed by God, there are hiccups. People stumble into sinful things, things happen. That has happened here at this church. He writes this, he is giving them an exhortation but he says some things that, if you considered these definitions I have given you, are pretty remarkable. In the middle of a problem, likely the biggest problem that ever occurred at Philippi this was left in God’s eternal word, he commands them to have joy, just a Jesus did.
Now jump back up here with me as we use this to lead us to the table. Maybe you are experiencing joy right now, yet it is something you want to maintain. Let's be honest, we all fall in and out of it from time to time. Paul gives this command, I want you to notice this with me because I think it could be helpful for great instructions for all of us. There are two Christian women who are in a fight here. It is clear to us that they are Christian women because Paul tells us in verse 2 and 3, they have helped me in the gospel, and then he says this whose names are written in the book of life. God gave Paul that through revelation through the Spirit so they are Christians. We can’t miss that. It is not one side was wrong because they were lost, they are Christians. Euodia and Syntyche were not only Christians, but they were ladies who had helped Paul in the service of the gospel and the building of this church plant that happened at Philippi. It appears, and the reason why the text writes this, the problem had festered beyond just Euodia and Syntyche where it appears that groups were taking side. I am either on Euodia’s side of this or Syntyche’s. Yet, it is so trivial that Paul doesn’t even identify to us what they were fighting about. Let’s be honest, most of the things we end up fighting and wrestling about really don’t amount to a hill of beans, in light of the bigger picture. That is exactly what he is doing for them. He says, “Hey these sisters have helped me in the gospel.” He is trying to get this thing calmed down. “These sisters have helped me in the gospel, along with Clement, and they are people whose names are written in the book of life.” Then he gives this imperative, command, rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice. He starts with “have joy” this attitude of joy. Well what does he mean? He is calling upon them to think about the relationship that they have in the Lord, that Jesus has borne the curse of their sin and not only have Jesus borne the curse of their sin, that Jesus has applied his righteousness to them and they are eternally secure. He gives them big picture so they will see past the trivial nature of whatever it was, and we don’t know what it was. We just know it didn’t amount to a hill of beans. What is Paul saying? He is saying you are in Christ, Christ is in you, you are eternally secure, and you are so secure nothing can change that. Your names are written in the book of life. Please stop fighting. That is exactly the instruction. The first instruction is, “Hey, rejoice in the Lord. Step back from the circumstance you are in and think about Christ.” Christ has taken the curse of my sin, Christ has applied his righteousness to me. Let me tell you something, when that took place (I think that is part of the point of this passage) is that Euodia looked at Syntyche differently. Not only did she consider her own life, she looked at Syntyche differently. Syntyche looked at Euodia and she not only considered her own life, but she looked at Euodia and she began to look at her significantly different. Stop fighting, rejoice in the Lord, again I say rejoice. Focus your attention on Jesus. Recognize what he has done for you. Take your joy in him. Live to do right before Christ. Then live to do right toward your brothers and sisters. That is the instruction.
I guess from time to time we can identify, we have all been in a scrap with somebody. At least if we are honest we have. That is part of our instruction. But he doesn’t stop. I want to show you this as well. Look at verse 6. Often times these passages are read and they are thought about in isolation. Don’t worry. But think about what happens when you have a problem with someone else and you get isolated, all of us in our sinfulness speculate about what they are going to do. What they are thinking about doing. What it does, it is creates a fear, a worry, an anxiety on us. We are preparing for greater battle. Paul knowing this, identifies, don’t be anxious. Whatever it is that was bothering you, don’t be anxious. He doesn’t even identify it. The truth is, you know what is going to rob you of joy? Fear, anxiety, and worry. Here is what happens when we lose our joy through fear, anxiety, and worry, we forfeit joy. People begin to get isolated and they move back, and they move back, and they move back. As he is further developing how to have joy, he writes this and look at this (cause all of these are attached to joy), when these things begin to happen to you and you begin to perhaps experience a fear, anxiety, or worry, perhaps you get in a scrap with your spouse, your children, or God forbid someone in this room who are apart of the church. We begin to focus upon, I need to rejoice. I want you to get this, when I read verse 8, this list is not exhaustive. It is not the only things, he is trying to make points. There are more representative of what joy will look like. It thinks about things that are just and pure and lovely and commendable and excellent, things that are worthy of praise. When God tells us to just focus on Jesus, it doesn’t mean we just focus on Jesus but we are going to treat that person bad, when we focus on Jesus we are going to want to be right with that person that is next to us. We are going to want to be right. Peace and joy come to the heart when we think about those things that are joy filled or true and honorable and pure and lovely and excellent and praiseworthy. At the end of the day, you know what those things are? Jesus, the gospel, the things of God, which are inclusive to the people of God, and in doing so God extends and allows us to experience joy in a very real day. Joy is a command, it is a command. Each of us on our own part must nurture so that we can truly live with it, truly have it.
Why is a raven like a writing desk? This riddle is found in Lewis Carroll’s classic work Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. No doubt every one of us here in the room has been exposed to Alice to one degree or another. Maybe you have read the book, maybe you have seen the play, or maybe one of the TV specials. I don’t doubt that most of us has seen one of the many renditions that Disney has put out. There are many many famous tales come from Alice’s Adventures – “Down the Rabbit Hole,” “Advice from a Caterpillar,” and of course “A Mad Tea Party,” which is where this particular riddle is found. Remember the Hatter, the Hare, and the sleepy mouse? All of these adventures begin when Alice travels down the rabbit hole. This initial decision dominoes from one kerfuffle to the next. It’s like in The Matrix where Neo chooses between two pills. It’s like Alice opens Pandora’s Box.
In Mark chapter 8, which we did not read from this morning, the disciple Peter makes what we call the Good Confession. Jesus asks Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter replies, “You are the Christ.” That is the same confession we made together this morning. I believe he is the Christ, Son of the living God. After Peter’s confession, if you read through Mark’s gospel, it’s almost like Peter has now opened Pandora’s Box on Jesus’ ministry. It is as if, Peter and Jesus and John and James and all of his disciples are now going to travel down the rabbit hole. The pace is going to pick up. Things are going to get difficult. They are headed towards Calvary. Jesus is more open about his mission. He starts speaking openly about a death and resurrection. Immediately after Peter’s good confession, in Mark 8, we come to this scene in Mark 9, the scene on the mountain. Jesus’ glory is revealed to the disciples straightaway after they confess who he is.
As you guy know, we are dedicating this summer to “The Gospel Applied.” How do we apply the gospel to everyday life? Pastor Kevin preached the last 2 weeks on guilt. How do we deal with guilt in light of the gospel? Before we move forward in this series to forgiveness, among other things, I want us as a church to hit the pause button this morning. Take a time-out. We need to pause at this scene on the mountain and simply behold the glory of Jesus. The glory of Jesus is your motivation to live the gospel everyday. The glory of Jesus is your fuel to faithfully follow Christ. This is the power of the gospel, church. The glory of Christ.
Six days after Peter’s confession Jesus leads Peter, James, and John up a high mountain. Even in the details of the story, you can hear the reminiscent tone, can’t you? Remember, Mark’s gospel is basically Peter’s memoirs of his time with Jesus. It was 6 days after the good confession that Jesus led them up the mountain. It wasn’t a few days, it wasn’t a couple days, but Peter remembers that it was 6 days. James Brooks notes that outside of the Passion narrative, in Mark, this is the most precise chronological indicator in the whole gospel. Besides the passion narrative this is the most precise date. As you read, that stands out to you, right? Mark doesn’t normally give precise dates. It says here it was 6 days later which must be important, memorable. Jesus leads his 3 closest friends up the mountain and then out of nowhere Jesus is transfigured in front of them.
Some of you have grown up in church and you know what transfigured means. You remember the flannel graph from Sunday School of Jesus with white clothes and bright lines coming around him. But some of you here, I would wager, may have no idea what it means. When we were reading God’s word this morning you stumbled upon it and you were like, “That’s weird. That is not an everyday word.” Transfigured (μετεμορφώθη), you can hear where we get the word metamorphosis, it literally means to be transformed, and he is changed. Jesus didn’t look like the normal Jesus that they were used to seeing all the time. Mark says that his clothes were intensely white. All of the bleach in the world couldn’t make your clothes as white as the clothes Jesus wore on the mountain. Matthew says that his face was shining like the sun (Matt 17). This crazy memorable experience for Peter, James, and John, would’ve done 2 things for the disciples and for 1st century readers who are reading Mark’s gospel.
First, this narrative, this story, these details, would be like a Delorean that was taking them back in time. It would have jogged their memory. It would have made them think of something in particular, namely their freedom from slavery in Egypt. You see, after the Exodus, YHWH led Israel to another high mountain where there was another cloud. On that mountain YHWH made Israel his son (read Exodus 20 and on). He gave them his Word. They would have thought of that when they heard all these details. Now it’s almost like Jesus is a 2nd Moses leading a 2nd Israel (12 apostles / 12 tribes of Israel) up the mountain again. In fact, this is so important that God makes sure Moses is there to see it himself. Jesus is like Moses, the prophet from among the brothers of Israel (Deut 18.15). Jesus is the true and better Moses, who will lead his people out of the slave market of sin into the promised land of the New Creation. This scene, this story, would have jogged their memory. It would have taken them back in time to the mountain with the law, YHWH, and Moses.
But this scene would have also pointed them forward. It is doing double duty. Every once in a while we take our 3 boys to the movie theater. We literally regret the decision every time. They are always bad without fail. One time, maybe one of the first times that we had taken them to see a movie, the previews come on and you know when the previews are coming on there’s that green screen that says it’s approved or whatever? So the screen comes on and I’m just sitting there having fun with Alex and Jack and I’m like, “Hey, are you guys ready? Are you ready for the previews?” And now every single time they see that green screen, they are like, “Are you ready?” Every preview, every movie, every single time. I think they think it is a requirement now. I love seeing trailers at the movies. I always want to be there early enough to make sure that I catch all of the trailers. I want to see them all; I don’t want to miss any. A good movie trailer will show you just enough of the movie to get you invested but not enough for you to really know what’s going on. That is what a good movie trailer does. When I see a good movie trailer at the theatre, I forget about the movie that I’m going to see and I get excited about the trailed movie and I want to see that one. Sometimes I’ve even been disappointed that the movies comes on that I paid to see because I want to see the movie from the trailer.
When Jesus is transformed, transfigured, changed, on the mountain, he’s giving the disciples, and now us the subsequent readers, a glimpse of the New Creation that is coming. He is taking us forward in time. Like YHWH on the mountain, Jesus is revealing God’s glory to his people. It’s like a trailer for the true glory of Jesus that we are going to enjoy when we see him as he is. I think that’s why Moses was invited. I think that is why God brought Moses to the mountain that day. Remember the 1st time, on Sinai, Moses had to turn and his when YHWH’s glory passed by. If he didn’t he wouldn’t live. Now, on this mountain, Moses sees Jesus face to face, the final glory that YHWH would reveal. Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God. C. S. Lewis talks about how we long to be face to face with God, it’s built into who we are. It’s part of what it means to bear God’s image. Moses longed for that and here on the mountain he saw the true glory of God. So did the disciples, and so do we in Christ.
But you noticed Moses isn’t the only throwback Bible character that shows up; Elijah is there too. There are a couple reasons why God puts both Moses and Elijah on the mountain for this momentous occasion. First of all, he did it for them; he did it for Moses and Elijah, so that they would see the realization of their faith. Our journey back through Hebrews 11 reminded us of the saints, they did not yet see the end. They longed for the serpent-crushing seed of Eve and here on the mountain, Moses and Elijah just saw him in his radiant glory. But God did it for us too. You see, Moses and Elijah are both the personification of the OT – the Law (Moses) & the Prophets (Elijah). What God is doing here, what he is preaching through this providential action, is that everything of the OT finds its telos, its goal, its end, its perfection, its completion, in Jesus Christ. He is the fulfillment of the Law & the Prophets. God, in his providence, brought Moses and Elijah to the mountain to encourage you and me this morning that your OT is all about Jesus Christ.
In the midst of this magnificent scene it shouldn’t surprise you that Peter is going to say something stupid. Remember, this Gospel is Peter’s recollections, and I’ll give it to Peter, he is brutally honest about himself. Peter, and the disciples in general, are never painted in a more negative light than they are in the Gospel of Mark. You can check me on that. Go home and read all four gospels, the disciples never say or do more stupid things than in gospel of Mark. That is because it is Peter’s memories. John MacArthur calls Peter the disciple with the foot-shaped mouth. Peter is seeing this magnificent scene, he is a witness to this new creation trailer that Jesus is revealing, and Peter gets nervous. He starts to get a little nervous, a little fidgety, and he feels like he has got to do something. Man, some of you in here have that problem, don’t you? You always feel like you’ve got to be doing something or you get nervous. Something always needs, there’s too much work to be done. Peter gets nervous. Peter feels like he needs to do something, so he says to Jesus, “Hey Jesus, this is great! That is awesome, super fun day on the mountain. I don’t want it to end. I want to stay here. Let’s go camping. I am going to build 3 tents: 1 for you, 1 for Moses, and 1 for Elijah. We will just post up here and chill, because this is too great to leave. We can’t go back down to real world. I want to stay here and do this. I want to stay at camp, I want to stay at my Christian retreat. I want to stay in this forever; I can’t go back to real life. This is too good.” Mark confesses that Peter was scared and people do dumb things when they’re scared.
Peter is missing the point here. He wants to build these 3 tents in order to keep the party going forever. The passage literally says that he wants to build three tabernacles but he doesn’t even realize that the true tabernacle of God is the one who let him up the mountain. John tells us, the word became flesh and dwelt, literally tabernacled, among us (John 1.14). That is the same word that Peter uses, “Let me build three dwellings. Let me build three tabernacles. Let me build three skénoó.” He is missing the point. God’s true temple is the one who is standing there in front of him. And Jesus can’t stay here in these tents with Moses and Elijah, Peter, because Jesus has to go to Jerusalem to die. If Jesus stays on the mountain then Moses & Elijah’s faith is not realized. If Jesus stays on the mountain, then Peter’s sin is not paid for. If Jesus stays on the mountain, then you and I are to be most pitied.
Well, Peter’s faux pas is leads to the most remarkable moment in this entire narrative. This is what we need to hear this morning, church. Jesus’ instruction to his bride. Suddenly, even while Peter is speaking, the group enveloped by a cloud and a voice rings out, “This is my beloved son; listen to him.” And then in the twinkling of an eye there was only Jesus standing there. Moses and Elijah were gone. It was just Jesus.
So what does this mean for us? What does this mean for CCC? How do we move from understanding God’s Word to standing under God’s Word? The answer is found in the words of our heavenly Father, “This is my beloved son; listen to him.” Church, we can only live out the gospel well, we can only deal with guilt, forgiveness, and everything else that we’re going to explore this summer, if we first look to Jesus and then listen to Jesus. “This is my beloved son; listen to him.” Look to Jesus and listen to Jesus.
We must behold the beloved Son of God. Jesus is God’s beloved Son. That was the declaration of the father. In fact that was the second time in Mark’s gospel that the father audibly affirms who Jesus is and what Jesus is doing. Do you remember when Jesus was baptized? The dove descended and the voice came from heaven. He’s the one who was transformed in glory. Jesus is the one who lived a righteous life. Jesus is the one who kept God’s law. Jesus died in our place on the cross. Jesus lay dead in the tomb for 3 days. Jesus resurrected on the 3rd day. He ascended into Heaven where he rules at God’s right hand, and he’s coming back some day to raise the dead, judge the world, and make all things new. The existential nature of the gospel begins with seeing Jesus for who he is. You remember that when God saved you. That was the first moment where you saw who Jesus is, you understood, you loved him. Let me ask you this morning, are you beholding Jesus? Do you love Jesus? I am not asking if you go saved one time, I am not asking you if you prayed a prayer or walked an aisle or went to camp or talked to your grandma, I am not asking you any of those things. I am asking you this morning, do you love Jesus? Are you captivated by Jesus? Is Jesus beautiful to you? Do you see his compassion and mercy? Do you want to follow Jesus? Church, if we ever want to faithfully live the gospel, we must look to Jesus. Confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead. “This is my beloved son.”
Second, we must listen to Jesus. The Father’s command here is the best advice you’ll ever get. “Listen to him.” This imperative is really a single sentence summary of the entire Bible: listen to Jesus. Listen to Jesus because he’s the Christ, the son of the living God. Listen to Jesus because He’s the eternal Word of God who’s come to show us life and how to live it. Listen to him because his ways are the keys to human flourishing. He has given us a pattern for the good life. Listen to him because he’s there for you. You know sometimes other people are there for us, and they should be, right? We are a church, we are a family, and we should be there for each other, not just for two hours on Sunday morning and not just when we have classes or studies or events. But we are a family; we should be there for each other. But we are tired sometimes, and we are weak and frail and we are sinful, and lets be honest, it is unfair for you and me to put our emotional burden on someone else 100% of the time. People need to sleep, people need to work, and people need to eat. We are not omnipresent. We are not omnipotent. Even in your marriage, your spouse cannot bear your sin. They cannot carry the weight of your cross. Jesus does! Jesus is there for you 24/7. He does not sleep, he doesn’t get tired, and it’s never too much for him. You don’t emotionally exhaust him. Jesus is there for you and he’s all you need. When Moses & Elijah disappeared, Jesus was standing there all-alone. That’s because Jesus is all we need. Simply to apply the gospel and everything we are going to talk about this summer, means to follow Jesus. Are you following Jesus?
Why is a raven like a writing desk? The answer: because it can produce a few notes, though they are very flat. Lewis Carroll didn’t originally have an answer to that riddle when the work was penned. You know it’s interesting, in all of her adventures in Wonderland and the Tea Party in particular, Alice spends most of her time confused. It’s almost as if she’s having an identity crisis. She doesn’t know who she is, she doesn’t know how to get there, she doesn’t know where is there, it is too much, it is weighing down on her, the cross is too heavy to bear. She’s alone and she is lost. Mark first wrote this pericope two millennia ago, he was writing to a church experiencing persecution, experiencing pain, and experiencing tribulation. For the first time in a long time, followers of the Lord, of Jesus were being disowned by families and communities because their Jewish heritage said, “This isn’t Judaism. I don’t know what you are doing, it is different though. Get out.” They were experiencing persecution from the Roman empire, from their own family. They were somewhat in an identity crisis. Some of you this morning, if not all of us, are feeling the pain of what it means to live east of Eden: cancer, death, divorce, rebellious children, financial problems. The point is that Jesus is with us. On the road to Calvary Jesus is with us. And even though we can’t always see it, he bears the glory of God. Often times you may feel alone or abandoned as you try to live out the gospel. Taking up your cross is never easy. But hear the gospel proclaimed to you this morning church, Jesus is with you. Let us look to Jesus and listen to Jesus. Pray along with Jesus, in the pain, in the trials, in the hurt, in the sin, our prayer is the prayer of our king. Thy will be done.
We are going to continue to look through the summer as the gospel applied and we have begun by looking at guilt, because guilt is a part of the gospel component. I grew up, basically until I went to college, in a one-room church. Along the times, and certainly afterwards, in particular coming to Christ in faith, I would attend church with my mom and dad. At the end of the service I will never forget, in particular the last three months prior to receiving Christ, suffering mightily with guilt and with good because, as we saw last week, I was clearly guilty. It was intense, I can remember this even now. There was only one door out that I really knew about and certainly there was only one way that people in and out regularly. The pastor of the church was always at the back, and it seemed to me in those last three months, prior to confessing Jesus and suffering alone in this guilt, he would ask, “Kevin are you okay?” And then I’d be doing this number like this, “Man can he read my mind?” and I’d go, “Yeah, I am alright. I’m fine.” And I would go along. Until obviously, God’s grace and peace broke through as I found Christ and removed the guilt that I was suffering with.
Now we began last week to look at some things and how to deal with guilt, which we are going to continue today and transition, because where we were at last week was dark. Romans 1, 2, and 3 is really a dark place because there is a stark reality that needs to be understood so we can understand our need to be, as the bible uses the term, saved. We need deliverance. In Romans, which Paul writes about this in chapters 1, 2, and 3, it is a lengthy dissertation that has to do with sin and the guilt of it. So as we dip into this, and we are going to make application for our own selves, what I want you to know about this, look at me in verse one of chapter two. He is in the middle of it here. He is addressing, not only the Judaizers but religious gentiles, people that had sat back and resting in their own minds on their laurels, their own good deeds, their own good works, to be sufficient to make their lives in satisfaction with God. They were, coined in a phrase, self-righteous. This is what he is writing against, this is what he is dealing with, this is what he is trying to let that group of people understand, when he is writing about a statement about sin. Now we move through a few verses in this dissertation, I want you to think about a few questions for your own life and certainly answer to your self, but how many people really live up to their own standards in life? I want you to think about, however it was when you first stepped out into adulthood and you began to think about the life and career that you wanted to have, have many of you have really lived up completely and fully, perfectly if you will, to your own standards? By and large, I would dare say if we were to be honest with ourselves, we would say we really haven’t. There is this area or that area in my life that I really haven’t lived up to the standard that I thought I had set for myself. Now you think about your own life and you set that as the text is dealing with, and that is the graphic nature that Paul is trying to deal with. He is trying to pinpoint this to religious gentiles and of course the head of the self-righteous Judaizers, the Pharisees. Think about that in light of God’s standard, what God’s standard is, which obviously as we know is infinitely higher because it is perfect and holy.
As we began to reflect upon that last week, it’s obviously the text begins to bear a weight, it begins to place a type of burden upon us that was really, whether we recognize it or not, is a healthy thing at first to identify to us the reality of God. But the two things, as we begin to move along with this, that we looked at last week is to understand that guilt is an objective reality that every human being has. Guilt is associated with a moral law that has been violated, so somewhere along the way our conscience will bear guilt. I gave an illustration last week when I was a kid and I used to steal from Hi-Lo, at the end of Cayuga. That began to lay guilt over me that God used. But everyone has to deal with guilt, even as a Christian. As Pastor Alex led us to this point when leading the service. It is a good and healthy thing that we should deal with the guilt, but everyone should do that. It doesn’t matter if you are a Christian or if you are an unbeliever because everyone has violated the moral law laid upon the conscience by God. In part of what we looked at last week, as we transition through this, we looked at two opposite ends of guilt so that we would understand what real guilt is. That first of all, that there is guilt without guilty feelings. This comes with a psychopath type of liar. One begins to lie to themselves so often, and perpetuate that so long, that they begin to believe the lies that they are telling. To give you an illustration of this, the Pharisees, the leaders that plot to kill Jesus, did so on the heels on him raising Lazarus from the dead and they self-righteously convened together thinking it was okay to kill Jesus. Talk about lying to yourself! Guilt without guilty feelings. They didn’t feel any guilt, because at that point their conscience had been silenced because they had shunned guilt. The opposite end of that has to do with legalism, which is a people possessing guilty feeling without being guilty. That is where a standard, or a box, has been set, a list of 10 or 20 or whatever that box may be, to where there is guilty feelings heaped upon, without true guilt because its not really in the bible. We looked at and talked about two opposite ends, and now what I want us to look at and turn back to Romans 1. I want to look at a couple of things as we transition to this.
The first one is denying our guilt. What does denial look like? You were perhaps in this place, or you know someone who is in this place, and I would say in this particular category it would be with an unbeliever. But you have yourself, you have guilt, and we have God. You are having this gospel conversation, which it is because we are trying to figure out how to apply the gospel not only to ourselves but I trust the rich friendships you are making with those that don’t know Jesus. They respond in this fashion, “Well, I don’t believe in God.” In Romans, Paul begins to talk about this where they suppress the truth of God in unrighteousness. They will respond in this way, “I don’t believe in the bible” or “There is no such thing as being truly guilty.” Paul begins to deal with this type of thought starting in Romans 1:18. To deal with guilt they suppress the truth because it has an association with our knowledge of God. Paul, as he is writing this and he is trying to direct the Judaizers and the religious gentiles so they would understand that they are guilty, pointing them to the reality that God exists and that reality is pointed through creation itself, when one looks around, and also in your own conscience. It’s the conscience now that we want to begin to talk about, begin think about, and you begin to reflect upon your own conscience. We all know this, as we looked at last week. All humanity has been created in God’s image. So that it is in the fall that our conscience became wounded in such a way, that though it still points us to the reality that there is a God, it also leaves us guilty. There is a dual thing that is going on with the conscience of all people.
What is this actual conscience that God’s deals with in terms of us being guilty? Look again with me to Romans 1:18. God’s moral law is placed upon people in their conscience so they know the difference between right and wrong. Without reading it in the bible, people know because of their conscience that it is right or wrong to steal. It is wrong to commit murder, it is wrong to do a set amount of things. Those that do such are obviously guilty. God’s moral law, in that regard, has been published plainly written in the scriptures. Often times when we think about God’s law we think of the Law of Moses and certainly that is true, and grace people will go to in this idea that the law doesn’t have to be dealt with, but the law continues to be dealt with in the gospel. You and I live with people who are guilty every day. They are hiding in or they are burdened under that guilt. The law of God, God’s moral law has been written to us in the scriptures. Now you might be sitting there thinking this, and perhaps it has been responded to you, as it has been to me, “Well I don’t believe the bible. I don’t believe that the bible is God’s word. It’s a book made by man.” Yet here is one of the identifying factors that the bible talks about that help people understand, then why do you feel guilt? The hearts of every individual have an innate sense of right and wrong. It is their conscience that bears witness to that. They have been clearly perceived as Romans 1:20 tells us. When one begins to recognize that it is guilt and begin to accept guilt for what it is, that I am guilty, there is an immediate recognition that God is my authority, I owe him, and I have wronged God. We obviously know this; the world does not want to deal with that whatsoever. The world specifically tells itself that they don’t want any authority but themselves, humanism. They are their own god. But God has given for all of us, and for all of humanity, a conscience that points to the reality that God is alive and there is a moral law that is written on people’s minds and hearts. There is an innate sense of right and wrong. There remains for all of us, since childhood, as we are able to understand reason, this oughtness. This is what I “ought” to be; yet I don’t measure up. Guilt is usually associated with those things. Of course the world hates the thought of being guilty, yet every moral creation posses this. Humanity, which bears a soul.
Turn back to chapter 2, he goes along this heavy, heavy passage, dealing with sin and the nature of it. He talks more about this law of God or this moral law. People take, in the world in the lost state, and they begin to make excuses when they are accused in their own conscience. We looked at last week in the garden, Adam begins to shift blame right to the face of God, Eve, who you gave me, even though he knew he was guilty. Over time, here is what happens, we begin to be desensitized in our conscience to our sin. Obviously in the world it gets completely silent. Though the conscience doesn’t save you, we need the gospel, there are more components. It just heaps, because of the fall, this burden we are under this burden. The world runs the various things of sources to deal with the guilt. Flip over to Romans 3. One wrong result of guilt is to deny our guilt and secondly to rationalize our behavior. We begin to justify ourselves. For those that deny their guilt, they begin to rationalize their behavior. They begin, as Paul says in Romans 2:15, to make up excuses, sometimes even when we know we are flat out wrong. I go back to the illustration I used about a liar, where someone begins to lie so often they honestly begin to believe their own lie and they are buried under it. They begin to justify their circumstances, and they will begin to convince family or friends around them, when it is only obvious that what they are doing is lying.
Here is what the religionist does, here is what the Universalist does, which is who Paul was dealing with, he was dealing with people who though, “Hey look, I’m a good person and I feel my goodness will be accepted by God.” The religionist and the Universalist begin to cast aside guilt. They do not want to deal with it honestly. Here is how it comes up, God is love, he will look over my debt and really when I think about my life, my good outweighs my bad. They shirk what Paul leads them to in 3:19. Everyone is going to give account to God. What he is saying is that everyone is guilty. Because of their guilt, they are going to give an account to God. The Universalist and the religionist begin to outweigh that, he will forgive me, he will look over my debt, my good outweighs my bad, I am doing okay. Millions of people are banking on it. When you think about that, it’s terrifying. Every religion outside of true Christianity, deals with God on their righteousness basis. It is works based. Only in true Christianity can someone find the freedom from guilt. Guilt of course, even bombards Christians, which we are going to continue to look at. But our rest, our hope, is always found in the gospel, and how to deal with and battle with our guilt. The truth is, our good works will not pay our debt. It won’t.
That is where I want to begin to transition us now, to understanding that reality. Turn to our text, 2 Corinthians 7. There are several parts to this, where God deals with our guilt. I want to talk for the remainder of our time this morning about what this means: grace and peace. Here is our text again, because this is the summation of how all of humanity deals with guilt. Guilt is there. Guilt is associated with us all. Guilt is the boat we are all in and everybody has to deal with it. Guilt is the bad news if we apply a worldly grief over against a Godly grief. Grace and peace are for those who deal with their guilt with a Godly grief that results in repentance. Grace and peace are parts of the remedy of your guilt. Now in the scriptures, Paul addresses in 9 of his epistles in an introductory way with grace and peace. He writes 5 times personally to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, with grace and peace as its introduction. Peter, in both of his epistles, talks about the church, the believers under grace and peace. John in addressing the seven churches of Asia in chapters 2 and 3 addresses them in chapter 1 with grace and peace. This is such a sweet truth. I tell you that today because I want to bring you to the water, where you can drink fresh. Perhaps you are under the burden of your guilt where you find the sweet release that God provides in his grace and peace, which is for his people called the church. The group gathered, the called out ones, the followers of Jesus, God says, “They get my grace and they get my peace.” We receive grace from God the father and peace from the Lord Jesus Christ, and then talk about it being multiplied. God wants us to enjoy the freedom that is the remedy to guilt. What is it about grace and peace? Grace remits the sin. Grace cancels the debt. The debt that you have violated, that all of us have violated in different ways, but it is grace that remits the sin. It cancels the debt. It is then peace that quiets the conscience. It is peace that calms the soul.
I remember being frightfully unstable in my soul, in my inner man, and really was wrestling with it unbeknownst to anyone around me. I was constantly being told in that little church, “Hey look he is the good kid. He is the good Kevin.” And man was I running around, guilty as all get out in my mind. The burden was so heavy; God gave peace to my soul. God allowed me to sleep, after I had spent so many nights restless without sleep because I was bearing my guilt, bearing my shame. Sin, the conscience, and guilt, it torments us. It torments us. Christ has overcome! Christ has paid the debt of sin and when Godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, God sheds his grace. Jesus gives us his peace.
Now sitting there, you may think, “Now Kevin, I don’t really want to talk about this, but I am struggling as a Christian.” What I want you to know, first and foremost, is I am struggling too. You’re struggling, I’m struggling, and if we are honest with ourselves every one in this room is struggling. That is the battle cry we are called into as Christians. What Satan tries to do often times with guilt, is to isolate people and get them away from the body as he continues to accuse them so they will run to worldly means that only produce, as Paul says, death, when guilt isn’t remedied in God’s way. The facts are, you and I are in an upward climb. We have been made part of a beloved family, the family of God. God gives us his grace and his peace and they come to us in repentance, in confession, in mercy, and in forgiveness. Yes, you confessed Jesus as Lord and Savior when you got saved and you repented of your sin, but confession and repentance are a continual work that is going on in your heart and mind. It is one of the proof qualities that you know you are his. Because we are struggling, because the truth is, we are guilty. We are guilty. Thank God we are forgiven because of Jesus! Jesus forgives us. Jesus’ forgiveness allows us to enjoy his grace and peace. It is provided for his people. Worldly grief brings despair. It leads to death. Godly grief works in repentance. It cancels the debt. God gives us peace and tranquility of soul. Those are the two responses to guilt. Worldly grief or Godly grief?
What is Godly grief? Godly grief is this, where you come under the guilt of your sin and you begin to realize that my wrong, my error, is against God who is holy and God in his love has offered me salvation in Jesus, in his death and in his resurrection. In that Godly sorrow, it begins to work in acknowledgement to your sin, a desire to repent because you have wronged God. You want to apprehend God’s mercy that is only found in Jesus. You see, my friends, Jesus is the only remedy to guilt in this life. He is the only remedy that the bible tells us. The gospel is a solution to a problem. It is a problem that you cannot solve, and I cannot solve. We have a debt that we owe, that we cannot pay. It is good for us to sense that burden, not to try to suppress that. When we accept that burden we begin to acknowledge that I’ve wronged God, we begin to acknowledge that yes God, I am a sinner and I need a Savior, and I repent. We cannot save ourselves. We have this debt that sin owes, simply because you and I are guilty. Christ alone, of course, is the provision. He alone is the one who cancels the debt. Jesus remits the sin.
Turn real quickly to 1 John 2. We will see this and then we will wrap it up this morning. In Godly sorrow, shame and guilt are given over, where grace and peace can reign in your heart and in your mind. Though we struggle, because since still remains in us, our flesh still remains and the truth is we can fall into sin. Let’s be honest, we can fall into a grievous sin. Grace and peace are our hope. God provides his grace and his peace in Jesus. Look at 1 John 2:1. He is addressing believers in this passage. God pours out his grace, his forgiveness, his mercy, his peace, and his love. My friends, Jesus bore the shame. Jesus bore the wrath. Jesus bore the sorrow. Jesus bore the guilt, though he was not guilty, on our behalf. You and I can enjoy grace and peace because of the cross, because of Jesus’ death and resurrection. I pray this morning, that God’s grace and peace are two items that are refreshing your heart.
2 Corinthians 7:10
Let’s turn to 2 Corinthians 7. Of course, anytime and every time the bible is preached, we are called to be attentive and I’m sure that is what God’s people do. I kind of want to say this in a fresh way, for you particular note takers that you will take notes and as you take them if I am going a little too fast, of course always feel to contact me, not only after the service but even sitting down afterwards. Perhaps in your home, wherever that might be. We are going to be dealing with how to apply the gospel and dealing with guilt. Guilt and guilty feelings, and we are going to do so because that is a gospel application, which the gospel is applied to everything in the life of a Christian. We are going to this over the next three weeks, so I want to begin and encourage you to pay close attention because I promise you, over the next three weeks this will be very helpful. No matter how long you have been a Christian, certainly perhaps by your own personal ecclesiology, you will be persuaded to trust by the spirit and it will teach us his truth. When we come before it, we will allow the words of Christ to actually, if we need to, etch-a-sketch some things. So it will guide us into the truth. We can be established in the truth and built in it. Because without the truth of the scripture, I say this to you and you (as the church does) will hold me accountable as the church of the Bereans were, to apply the text. I do not ever, and by God’s grace to my knowledge have never offered the words of my own volition to the congregation. I can say that the word of God has been faithfully taught here for 20+ years, that I know to be true because I have been here. If we lose this, then we really don’t have anything to build on. We really don’t even have anything to guide our relationship with. Any presumptions that we have on our own, as we face the text, I trust and pray that the Holy Spirit will teach us and point us to the gospel as to how it should be applied. So we begin, and we begin with a verse that I think will apply appropriately, because it gives us, as we will see this morning, a text to go on over the next three weeks. I want you to look with me at 2 Corinthians 7:10.
Paul was using this verse to apply to the church that was dealing with some church issues, but the gospel is always relevant to the church. It is not like the gospel for you and I, and I have been saved for over 45 years, is a finished product. I am not in my resurrected body yet. It is always at work and working. The Godly grief which came to your hearts as you were being converted to Jesus, continues to produce in your heart a Godly sorrow over your sin, that leads to and produces a genuine repentance; repentance towards the God who saved you. That leads us to a salvation without regret. There are no regrets. There are not regrets. There is no disappointment in anyone that has truly been converted by the gospel to God, through the person of Jesus Christ.
Worldly grief, over against the Godly grief, produces death. I want to begin by sharing with you a certain truth so that we will all understand this. Every human being, since the fall, has to deal with guilt. People who are lost have to deal with guilt, people who are Christians, have to deal with guilt. Guilt in that regard is an objective reality, for all of us. What is guilt? What is guilt and where does it come from? I want you to turn with me back to Genesis 3, and we will find that even in the garden, where guilt began, since the fall it has been something that all of us have to deal with. Genesis 3, follow along as I read and listen closely to the words found in Genesis 3. The responses that we find here, since the fall of man, is that which is guilt. Guilt is that which a person incurs when they violate a law. God had given a specific stipulation in the garden and that stipulation was violated, the result of that became guilt. Adam and Eve hid themselves. They ran from God over against where they had this open relationship with God and interacting with him, where obviously since had not yet occurred. There was no guilt necessary, and no guilt that was there.
I want you to notice a couple of things before we branch into other areas to help us understand what guilt is and how to deal with it. What takes place here, as a result of their guilt as they run from God, then they blame shift. Adam blames, in essence God, because it was God who gave him Eve, as a beauteous grace-gift to complement him as his helper. He is the one that failed in protecting his bride that God had given him. This often times happens with guilt. This is often times what happens in the world, where they attempt to deal with guilt in worldly means, as we looked at in 2 Corinthians 7:10. There is a worldly grief that produces death. So the world, without Christ, will take various means to deal with those things that are associated with guilt. Now I tried to recollect back to some of the first times in my early days where guilt was associated in my life. We entered into the summertime and I grew up in Hazel Park and lived for the most part, as we moved back from Tennessee, on Cayuga. We always played baseball on Beecher Junior High’s football field. The reason why we did this was because they had grass. We wanted our field to look like, not having to deal with dirt, but it felt like the major leagues. We built, literally dug out, on Beecher’s football field every summer. We went there daily, all of the dudes in the neighborhood, to play baseball. Well when you cross 9 mile road, because I lived between 9 and 9 ½, there was a store and it was elongated and pretty much, where you paid for your items was at the front of the store so it was easy to steal. We were the type of kids that would go across and stay as long as we could, all day long to play baseball. We didn’t leave the house with Gatorades and drinking soup cups and all these things kids often have today when they play sports. We were staying out there all day, and probably would have sauntered off to a house with a house and everyone drank from it and everything else. But from time to time, I confess to you, I would steal in that store because I didn’t have a dime on me. That was the first time that I began to realize, though no one had told me, there was guilt on me because I had violated a law. God had said thou shall no steal. So when no one was around me, I felt the burden of that guilt. Pastor Alex mentioned how the structure of the service is to acknowledge guilt, to find the grace of God so guilt can be dealt with, then to move into a life filled with hearts full of gratitude. Really, my friends, that was the order of the temple service. People would come and they would bring a sacrifice for their sin, and that sacrifice was an acknowledgement of their own guilt, if it was a true heartfelt repentance and not just going through a religious activity. It was acknowledgement that God would come and he would bear the sin. Guilt to grace to gratitude.
Guilty feelings though all of us have it and all of us meaning the world, those without Christ, and the church, those who are in Christ, have a subjective response. Turn with me to Jeremiah 3. I want to describe to you, two opposite ends of the spectrum. There are ways we want don’t want to fall prey to when dealing with guilt. Jeremiah 3.
The first subjective response we want to look at is guilt without guilty feelings. It is guilt without guilty feelings. That is, you are guilty, yet you don’t have the sense of the feelings of guilt. This obviously often times happens when ones conscience is seared. Sometimes this is referred to in the world of psychology of psychopaths or sociopaths. Let me give you an example. Where one will so often lie in their lives that they begin to believe their lies, and if someone even confronts them in their lying, they get very aggressive to get them to back down. They have become, a psychologist would call, a psychopath or sociopath. Very aggressive. This can happens with parents, where their children may fall into some form of sin or perhaps lying or whatever it might be, and to protect their emotion, they’ll cover up their guilt by saying that things are okay. They become more child centered, rather than dealing with the reality in their children, so it builds in their children this victim mentality. When someone becomes, a psychopath or sociopath, they have guilt and they suffer, but they have no feeling of emotion. They just lack it; it’s gone it gets removed. This becomes a way the world deals with guilt. There is an example here of this, I want you to look at this with me in Jeremiah 3. Whereas there were men in Israel that had decided to put off their wives to obtain other women for their own sexual pleasures and they bore no guilt associated with that, because they were just feasting on their own desires and their own lust. That is guilt without guilty feeling. Here, of course, Jeremiah is dealing with that they should have and maintain a fidelity to YHWH and yet they were proceeding and acting in such a way, the men of Israel, with no blush, no shame, no sorrow. There can come a place and a time where people, who deal with their guilt by worldly means, that they don’t even regard the feelings. They disassociate that. What is it? It’s guilt. True guilt, yet without guilty feelings. I believe part of the DNA of being born in the image of God is that we have fallen. This is on all people. There is a natural reaction (just as I had when I stole) that we are wrong, that we are guilty. This comes upon the world, that all of us and perhaps even you now are thinking of particular sins that you know you are guilty of. The chief and most important sin, for those of you that deny Jesus, is that you have rejected Christ.
Now the opposite side of this is guilty feelings without guilt. That people can experience guilty feelings without guilt. Some time ago, I would say 30 years or more, Valerie and I went, long before kids, we went and visited some friends of ours on a weekend. We went to church with them. During the church service the pastor used the book of Jonah and launched from Jonah 1:1, Jonah 2:1, Jonah 3:1, and Jonah 4:1 to literally abuse 8 women who wore pants at the Christian schools soccer game in 28 degree weather, over gauchos. Now some of you that giggled know what gauchos are. Gauchos are those shirt pants. Those would have been appropriate. It was freezing out, the day before was a Friday when the soccer game had taken place and it had been reported to the pastor and we sat there, of course aghast, because that was not only the principle point of the sermon, it was the only point of the sermon. Gauchos. We were talking about gauchos. Guilt feelings without guilt. It has happens often times in the American church since the days of prohibition. Legalistic churches where men will attempt to heap guilt upon people who really don’t have any guilt. There is no guilt there because nothing has been wrong. I would submit this to you, people who fall under (and this is why I would challenge you to take these verses down so you can understand what is sin over against what is not sin) this kind of burden that is placed upon people keeps them in a yoke of slavery to their feelings. Because they have these types of guilty feelings and they don’t know how to battle them, and its not predicated on eternal truth. Its predicated upon a legalistic standard that is not born out of the word of God, thus enslaving those that have been redeemed by the grace of God. It is horrifying. Perhaps you have been affected by this. I know I have in past times of my life. What happens when someone who has and maintains and gathers these guilty feelings without guilt as they fall under this yoke of slavery, they carry the grace of God in salvation to this standard that leaves them bitter and leaves them angry and leaves them in misery. We are talking about gauchos. Where the world, that doesn’t know Jesus and perhaps bumps up against us, says, “What on earth are they talking about?” Guilty feelings without guilt.
Now whether one posses guilt without guilty feelings, or one (I would say I fall in this category more) guilt feelings without guilt, neither one of them deal appropriately to the response that God calls upon us to have because we objectively do have guilt. Don’t we? Some of you already, by this Spirit of God (even as he done me) as he works on our hearts for the truth, we have to deal with guilt. Turn with me to Romans 3. You know Romans 1:16-3:23. Paul is dealing with the issue of sin. Often times, if I could submit this to you perhaps if you do any kind of reading you can connect with this, there is another aspect of the gospel that is coming up under the history of America and there is a book written called The Healing Gospel by Derek Flood uses worldly means. He calls it the gospel, but it is not really any gospel at all. To not have to deal with these issues of guilt, that ultimately him and those others who are in this openness theology that ultimately God is just going to forgive everybody. He is just going to forgive everybody. He doesn’t deal with the reality of guilt and literally from this type of teaching has wiped out the very thing that gives you and I relief from the burden of guilt, which is repentance. This for me, this book was recently written, has been a long category from a group of people that have really confused the church in our country. To use its methodology giving a hope of getting people past the guilt, because we do want to get people past the guilt, no one wants to walk around day to day suffering with the guilt when God has provided, in the gospel, an application of one of the most beautiful things that is looked upon almost like the worst cussword in the American language, which is repentance.
My question to you, as we read this this morning, what do you do with your guilt? Because as pastor Alex appropriately said this morning, we sin don’t we? We sin daily. Its not as if we want to take our sin lightly, because we don’t want to abuse the grace of God in our lives, God didn’t give his grace to abuse him. Grace is not cheap. It cost God some significant things, which was Jesus. The grief that it caused God is something that is very difficult for us to comprehend because for those moments on the cross when Jesus became sin for us, there was a suffering in the Trinity that is hard for us to comprehend. When the creation itself bowed its head in shame in darkness, as Jesus became sin for you and I so that we can be made free from our sin. What do you do with your guilt? We don’t want to pass over it, do we? We don’t want to think of it like that child centered parent. We don’t want to begin to step back and so compare our lives unwisely and blame others and almost become a liar to our own sin and guilt and shame and begin to believe, like a psychopath, our own guilt and shame. We lack emotions towards our sin and sorrow that literally caused Jesus to suffer. My sin did. My sin. Look with me as Paul makes this summation that basically the whole world is guilty before God. Please friends don’t run from this. Getting right in there and dealing with it is going to help you have the capacity not only to battle your own sin, but to not be ashamed of the gospel because some dear person in your life needs a freedom because they are caught in a yoke. They are enslaved with something and without repentance they will never get the freedom of salvation. They will keep battling it in a subjective way, worldly ways that won’t produce salvation to be enjoyed. To be enjoyed like we enjoy. We want to enjoy God’s freedom and grace. We want to do so without bitterness, anger, and misery. That does not reflect the gospel. We don’t want to create standards upon people that are flat out not biblical. Perhaps some of you are sitting here under the bondage of some legalistic form or things you have held to that you know aren’t found in the scripture that has produced in you guilty feelings when you are not, in fact, guilty. What do we do with our guilt? Well it’s clear to us from the summation of this text, that we are all guilty. All humans are guilty. Verse 9.
How often have you heard this phrase when dealing with someone who is a guilty in a situation, “Hey man, nobody is perfect.” Usually that is a set up to begin to blame shift the guilt. Nobody is perfect. The text tells us hamartia in the Greek, which means to miss the mark. Verse 19 – 23. Here is the mark, here is the benchmark and it is true. We always want to hold to this and treasure this to be true that God’s law and God’s character is perfect. Sometimes you will read the word perfect in the bible and it has to do with maturity. I want to give you an example where Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount was trying to help everyone identify because they had set this religious standard on people in various ways and he will go through this. You say you don’t lust, you don’t commit adultery, well have you lusted in your heart? You say you don’t have anger and you are just okay with God. You have not murdered, but do you have anger? And so on. But turn with me and I want you to see this because this is helpful. Matthew 5. We want to find freedom because guilt is a good thing in the gospel because it points us to something. But guilt that is dealt with in a worldly perspective only produces death. Here is the reason why we are guilty, every last one of us. Verse 48, he is giving a summation having gone through anger, lust, divorce, oaths, retaliation, about loving your enemies, and all these kinds of things. He had a mass amount of people. He had Pharisees there. And it wasn’t just that, he had a mass amount of people at the Sermon on the Mount from the least in life to the greatest and he says this. Listen to this standard, this is good to use in gospel application as people are coming to Christ. Jesus is not saying you must be mature, and be more mature than the person next to you so you can haughtily look down on them because they are not as mature as you. He is not saying that. He is saying we must perfect, without sin, as Jesus was, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Life with God, the standard is perfection. This is why the gospel is such good news for you and me, because we do miss the mark, and because God is holy, and because God’s word is holy and righteous and good. Because God’s moral law still lies on our conscience and points us when we are in sin, in secrecy or violation of the law. When you have guilt feelings that warrant addressing, how do you do it? Are you subjecting yourself to the world’s man made methods to deal with guilt? Some often times do this and they spiral downward for years and years and create a legalistic thickness to haughtily look down on others.
Let’s go back to the text and we will wrap this up this morning. In 2 Corinthians 7, I want you to notice a couple of things before we wrap this up and go to the table. From the text we are going to flip it. We are going to deal with worldly grief first. The world gives us methods and gives us ways to deal with guilt. Sometimes even saying there is no such thing as sin, there is no such thing as dealing with guilt in a man made way. Guilt is built in with shame, sorrow, causes us to worry, and creates anxiety. Sometimes people will beat themselves up, or move to forms of asceticism, like Luther did. Where he would torture himself because he wanted to be right with God whom he knew was perfect and holy, yet he could not get past. He thought if he treated himself worse and worse, and it was actually reading the book of Romans that God broke through to his heart the gospel of grace and he found the freedom where only guilt can be applied. He was severely disciplining himself. Why? Because he had a desire to make amends, to pay a penance. He thought he could redeem himself. That is why the confessional booth does nothing for anybody. Only genuine repentance to the one who can bear your sin. Jesus alone is the remedy for anybody’s sin. It is not Jesus plus anything, it is Jesus. It is not Jesus and me doing x amount of said things that is going to make me righteous and guiltless before God. No. I am guilty. So I stand here, say some 40+ years removed from the time I went into Hi-Lo stealing some BBQ potato chips or a Pepsi on the way out. I stand here as one who has stolen from the grace of God because I am guilty. I am guilty. It is with that acknowledgement that God begins to produce in a heart, look at this it is so beautiful, we would never want to wipe out repentance from the gospel for Godly grief produces a repentance the leads to salvation. Please church, listen to this: a gospel with no sin and guilt, with no need to repent, is not good news. It is not! It just leaves us subjected to our own thoughts, our own life, and produces a greater angst to where we get more isolated. We are running into the trees like Adam and Eve were because they knew they were guilty. It is trying to produce some way to release that burden. It was this very thing that drove me to Jesus.
In July in a non-air conditioned house, we are literally laying in bed listening to the hum of the fan. God pounded in, “Kevin you are guilty.” I had church people around me telling me I am not guilty and I was. Because I had walked the aisle. I was guilty and I knew it. God produced in me a Godly sorrow that admitted to him, “God I have wronged you. I acknowledge to you that I am a sinner and I need your salvation.” You see we offer the gospel and we don’t ask people to beg for repentance, to beg for salvation. We have belittled God and heightened ourselves. We don’t want to subject ourselves to a weeping and to remorse to acknowledge our own sinfulness and our guilt, but it is only in and through that that you will get freedom. From the shame, from the anxiety, from the worry, it is an honest and humble admission. It is that acknowledgement of your own sin. In genuine repentance you turn to Jesus and then I know that Jesus bore my wrath. Jesus took what I deserved. Jesus took the shame, that public shame of the cross that I was due. He suffered the guilt, though he himself was innocent and pure and perfect and holy. Church, Jesus took what you were due to that you could enjoy the beautiful Gospel applied truth of repentance. So that you could drive to work, while alone, and you can openly confess to Jesus in thanksgiving. Because of repentance he has given you freedom so you can move past where the accusing of the brethren, which is Satan, to cast you down. My friends, you are guilty and so am I. But because Jesus is my advocate I have one with my Father. Jesus is my advocate. Jesus Christ, the righteous. Here is what happens sometimes, you get to talking about sin in a pleasant conversation, and people start clamming up. Please church, recognize in the people you love, not in an attacking way but in an inclusive way. It is only through that discussion in the gospel do people come to know Jesus. Let us not cover up that sin, “well that’s okay”, no it is not okay! You are okay, I am okay, we are all okay is a lie! People are guilty. I am guilty. We are all guilty. We find freedom, we find sweet freedom. For me on that night, it seemed like I had born that guilt for a thousand years, though I was 12 or 13. As I recall back and reflected on that night this week, it seemed like I was sleepless for 3 months just hoping that guilt would go away. Thank God that he produced in my heart a Godly sorrow over the recognition of my own sin and that I couldn’t save myself. So if you are sitting there and you have not acknowledged Christ in this regard, acknowledge your sin before God. Humbly accept that position because it is true. Know this, that if you believe upon him, Jesus has born your wrath. He has taken your sin so that you could be free from the burden of the penalty of your sin. To the church now, as we go to a time of prayer, let us thank God for that! Let us not shirk the joy of repentance. Because ultimately here is what repentance does, as you exchange your life, it brings for you, when you acknowledge your sin in repentance, peace and comfort and joy and freedom. Each and every one of us in here that knows Jesus, we have people around us that desperately need that.
A Proper Theology Proper
In 2009 Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw both starred in a movie called The Blind Side. The film is a biopic about Michael Oher, who won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens, and is currently an offensive tackle for the Carolina Panthers. Oher grew up in the ghetto of Memphis. His father was gone, his mother was on drugs, and he was poor. But Michael Oher’s story changes when a wealthy white family, Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy, bring him into their own home. They feed him, they buy him clothes, and they even include him in the family Christmas card. At one point in the movie, if you have seen it you will remember, the Tuohy’s approach Michael about them becoming his legal guardians. At that scene in the film, Sandra Bullock approached Michael Oher and says, “we want you to become a part of this family,” and Michael’s response to her is that, “I thought I already was.”
Well as you know, Michael begins playing football, obviously, at the high school and he is incredibly talented. So much so that it seems like every school in the SEC begins recruiting him and he decides eventually to go to Ole’ Miss. This decision leads to an NCAA investigation into Michael Oher’s decision because the NCAA is concerned that this well-to-do family brought Michael Oher into their home just so they could get him to play football at the University of Mississippi, because the University of Mississippi is the alma mater of Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy. The climax of the film comes at the NCAA hearing where they are trying to discern why Michael wants to go to school at Ole’ Miss. Michael’s response and when he testifies to the committee is that, “I want to go to school there because that’s where my family went to school.” By the end of the film the Tuohy’s are calling Michael their son, and he is calling them mom and dad. He had completely become a part of their family. They treated him like a son. He legally was their son. He had the rights and privileges of the Tuohy family. He had been adopted.
Adoption is something that has been an integral part of human history. Even currently in the United States of America there has been resurgence among conservative Christianity toward orphan care and adoption ministry. Many of you know, at different times in the life of our church we have had families go through the adoption process. When St. Paul wrote this letter to the church at Rome, he was writing in a Greco-Roman culture that also had certain adoption practices just like we do. In fact, the word that Paul uses in verse 15 that we read “adoption as sons” is υἱοθεσίας, refers to a very specific adoption practice in the Greco-Roman culture. Here is how it goes: In the 1st century when there was a wealthy family who had no heir that they could pass their wealth on to, they would adopt a male – sometimes a child, sometimes a youth, or sometimes even an adult. They would adopt this male so they could carry on the family legacy. When that happens, that specific act of adoption happens, four realities that would change for the family, both for the one who had been adopted and for the father and mother who had adopted: (1) All of the old debts of the young man would be wiped clean. He would get a fresh start with this new family. It would be paid; (2) The one who was adopted would get a new name and he would instantly become an heir to all the wealth that that family had; (3) The father, that had adopted the young man, would instantly be liable for all of his sons actions. Any crimes that he committed, any debts that he owed, subsequently any actions the father was now liable for; and (4) The son now had new obligations to please and honor his father. When Paul writes, “We have received the spirit of adoption as sons, that is what he is referring to in the first century.
Father’s Day is one of those potentially awkward services in the life of a church. For people like me, it’s celebratory. I’m grateful for the father that God gave me. I feel bad for my sons that they don’t have a father with the spiritual fortitude that I do. But I’m grateful to be a father. I’m grateful for my father. I’m grateful for my grandfather. This is a happy day for me. But that’s not true for all of you though. Some of you had despicable fathers. We can try to dress it up a little for Father’s Day and have some happy memories. But for some of you the truth is that you had a despicable father. Some of you never knew your father. Some of you have recently lost your father. Some of you in the room this morning may be struggling with the fact you’re a terrible fathers, and you know it. Regardless of your paternal circumstance, I want you to hear one simple truth from this text. I want you to be comforted and convicted this morning by one thing. That is this: when you trust in Jesus Christ, God becomes your father, and he’s a good father. That’s what this pericope is all about. Through the gospel of Jesus, God has adopted us into his family – he has transferred us from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of his beloved son.
That’s what it means when it says, everyone who is led by God’s Spirit, these are God’s sons (vs 14). In the first century, this would’ve been a radical statement. Radical. Theologically radical. Everyone who is led by God’s Spirit, these are God’s sons. It would have been radical because for over two thousand years, the nation of Israel believed themselves exclusively to be the Sons of God. In the OT, only the nation of Israel is called the Son of God. Paul would’ve known that, for Paul was a Hebrew among Hebrews. Wasn’t he? Then why does Paul, trained Pharisee, say that everyone who is led by God’s spirit is God’s son, not just ethnic Jews? The answer, you know as you open the pages of your New Testament, is that Jesus of Nazareth has come. When Jesus came, he called himself the Son of God. Jesus is true Israel. Jesus did everything that Israel was supposed to do. Jesus succeeded on Israel’s behalf. Jesus died in the place of sinners and rose from the dead on the third day. Because of the gospel of Jesus, now all who trust in Jesus as savior and Lord, Paul says they are the Sons of God. In Galatians 6 Paul calls, us, the church the Israel of God. We are God’s sons.
Now, let’s pause for a minute because some of you might be getting a little uncomfortable with the masculine language that. Don’t you mean sons and daughters of God? Why do you just keep saying sons? But that’s not what Paul says. He doesn’t say sons and daughters here, he says all who are led by God’s Spirit, these are sons of God. And here is the truth, in this Greco-Roman culture it was male dominated. A girl would never be adopted in this particular situation that we are referring to. There would never be a wealthy family who needed an heir, to whom they passed on their wealth, it would never be a girl. It was always a son, it was always a young man. And that’s why Paul speaks only here of sons of God. But there in lies the beauty, you see. This is where Christianity turns every culture on its head. Because Paul says that everyone who is led by God’s Spirit is God’s son – Jew and gentile, poor and rich, male and female. If you’re here this morning and you are a woman and you’re led by God’s Spirit, then you are God’s son. Don’t let the masculine language offend you, just like I should not be offended by being called the bride of Christ. Everyone is who is a Christian is a Son of God and the bride of Christ.
Paul says, you can know that you are God’s son if you are led by God’s Spirit. Now, again this is something with which we need to think through because people get confused. People are prone to sentimentalize what “led by the Spirit” means. I’ll tell you this, being led by the Spirit doesn’t mean that you talk nice church talk all the time, like: “how are you? Well brother, I’m doing well, you know; my cup overfloweth; God’s blessings are abounding.” That’s all you do and that means you are led by the Spirit. That’s not what being led by the Spirit means. It also doesn’t mean that you speak in tongues, stringing together a bunch of unintelligible utterance. That has nothing to do with being led by the Spirit. Being led by the Spirit doesn’t mean that you never make any plans or decisions because you’re “letting the Spirit lead.” “Let go and let God.” None of those things have anything to do with those who are being led by the Spirit. The Apostle Paul tells us exactly what being led by the Spirit means. If you’ll notice, verse 14 begins with this conjunction “for (γὰρ).” It is an explanatory conjunction, when you see the word for it means he is going to explain was verse 13 means. He is almost going to restate verse 13 in verse 14. That is what the for is there for. Verse 13: For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live (Rom 8.13). Being led by the Spirit of God means that you crucify your sin. It means that you kill the flesh. It means that you don’t live for you, you live for Jesus. You fight for holiness.
And Paul says that all those who are led by the Spirit of God are the Sons of God. You can’t have one without the other. There is no one who is led by the Spirit who isn’t God’s son, and there’s no one who is God’s son, who isn’t led by the Spirit. Which means we ought to be examining our hearts this morning. Are you seeking to put your sin to death? Are you fighting for holiness? Are you led by the spirit of God? Because if not, you may not be God’s son. Everyone who is led by God’s Spirit is God’s son.
The text goes on to say that we did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall again into fear, but we have received the spirit of adoption as sons. Again, the apostle is reinterpreting the entire Israel narrative for us and he is doing it in light of the gospel of Jesus. Israel, they were the ones who were freed from slavery, remember, and with their freedom came sonship. When YHWH led Israel out of slavery in Egypt and brought them to the mountain, they became the sons of God. In the Old Testament, Israel was God’s son, they inherited the Promised Land in the book of Joshua. In the same way, Christian, through the gospel of Jesus you have been freed from the slave market of sin, and death, and hell. What Paul is doing here is taking all of the Old Testament promises, all of the promises you read that are given to Israel in the Old Testament, he is taking them and applying to us. To the sons of God – Jew and Gentile, poor and rich, male and female. All of the promises of God, in the Old Testament and new find their goal, their telos, their end in Jesus. We didn’t receive a spirit of slavery; we received a spirit of adoption as sons, and this is because of Jesus, He is the true Israel. Jesus is the Son of God. So we don’t have to be afraid. We didn’t receive a spirit of fear, Jesus is our victory. And you know it’s true because you cry, “Abba Father!”
Dr. Russell Moore is the head of the ERLC of the SBC and he used to be my Dean, Professor, and Pastor when Bethany and I lived in Louisville. Dr. Moore tells the story of when him and his wife Mariah adopted their 2 oldest sons from a Russian orphanage. Dr. Moore says the thing that shocked him the most when he walked into that orphanage in the former Soviet Union wasn’t the smell, though he said had to fight the urge to vomit when he walked in, but the smell wasn’t what shocked him the most. It wasn’t the living conditions, though they were beyond deplorable. Dr. Moore said the thing that frightened him the most, as he walked into that Russian orphanage, was the silence. They walked into an orphanage filled with infants, toddlers, and children, and it was dead silent. You see, the babies learned that if they cried, no one was coming for them, so eventually they stopped crying.
Well, Dr. Moore and his wife spent a week there in Russia, every day they would go spend time with those two boys, so that they could get acclimated to each other. They would play with them, hug them, kiss them, and feed them for a week solid, and change their diapers. Then, on the last day they were there the director of the orphanage took them and said, “Now you need to go back to the US until we can get all of the paperwork finalized and finished, and then you can come back and take your sons home.” So they went to get up and they went to leave the nursery where the boys were, and as they were walking out the door one of the boys ran to the edge of the crib, stuck his arm out the side of the bars, and let out a primal scream. Not because he had hurt himself when he ran into the bards, but because his mom and dad were leaving. He knew from this past week, when he cried he says that that is the most beautiful sound that he’s ever heard. That’s the picture here, church.
Brothers and sisters, we are the ones that cry out, “Abba Father.” We know that when we cry out to our father that he hears us. In the first century, Abba for those who spoke Aramaic would have been one of the first words that a baby spoke. You guys know when a baby starts putting sounds together and they start, you know Sophia starts making sounds and then all of a sudden, at some point, it sounds like “dadadadadad,” and she notices that you respond to that. So then eventually it clicks with her, if I say “dada” he is listening. Or “mamamama.” That is how baby speaks English. Of course, we have four children out of utero, of the four, three of them said, “dada” first (Alex, Haddon, and Sophia), so just saying. Jack was the only one that said “mama”. But that is kind of how it was in the first century. Babies would start making sounds and eventually it would be “abbaabbabba” and dads would respond to that, Abba is daddy, poppa, and father. It’s less formal than father, its like dad, daddy, or poppa. So that is what was going on, but Paul doesn’t merely say that we say, “Abba,” or we ramble Abba or we sweetly whisper Abba, he says we cry out (κράζομεν) “Abba!” We cry out, we cry out to God as our father. You need to hear this this morning if you are here and you are a follower of Jesus. This is only true of those who follow Jesus. We like to talk because all people are image bearers. Some people like to talk about the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. There is a sense in which that is true, in terms of social responsibility, but when it comes to what Paul is talking about here, it is not true. If you are not a follower of Jesus, God is not your father. God is only father to those following Jesus. Because this is true of Jesus. Jesus is the one who reveals God as father. Jesus is the one calls the Father, “Abba” (Mark 14.36). Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father.” And here’s the gospel reality, the adoption reality of the gospel, it is only, it’s only, it’s only, it’s only through Jesus that you can know God as father.
If you’re here this morning and you haven’t trusted Jesus, hear this right now, today is the day to cry out, cry out to your father and he will hear you. Some of you are sitting here in these theater seats this morning, and you are too prideful to hear what I’m saying, and if that’s the case, then you’re not ready for Jesus. Because God doesn’t hear the smug mumbling of the proud, he hears the cry of the humble. God is only Father to those who desperately cry out for Jesus. God will not be your Father until you’re at the point of desperation, until you are at that point to let out that primal scream. But if you do, your father hears you. Are you desperate for Jesus? Do you want Jesus like that Russian orphan wanted his mommy? The comfort this morning for you Christian, if you’re already a believer, you can know that your Father hears you every time you cry out for him, not just the first time. Because you have God’s Spirit, because you’re a son and not a slave, you can cry out to your Father in heaven. You don’t need to make an appointment, you don’t need to sacrifice an animal, you don’t need to pay a copay. All you have to do is cry out.
And the beautiful thing is that when we do cry out, we can have assurance. Isn’t that beautiful? We can have assurance! We are protestant, we are reformed, and we have assurance. We don’t have to wonder, we don’t have to be scared. We didn’t receive a spirit of fear; we received a spirit of adoption. We can genuinely know that we are God’s children. Verse 16: The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. Paul says that the Holy Spirit is a witness, a martyr, a testifier with us that we are God’s children. The image is that of a courtroom. Imagine this, paint a mental picture. You’re being prosecuted for a crime that you didn’t commit. You are sitting there, you are on the stand, but you are getting prosecuted. They are bringing evidence against you. You have testified, under oath, that you were not at the scene. And, here is what the Holy Spirit does; your attorney brings in a different witness. This witness can confirm your story; he can testify that you weren’t at the scene because he was. He is testifying with you. You see that? You are both testifying to the truth. That is what Paul is saying here, that the Holy Spirit bears witness with us that we are God’s children. That is what the Spirit does. He is a witness alongside us that we are God’s children. As you examine your life and your heart in a regular way, you do it at the table every week, you do it at different times when it is impressed on you, am I growing? Am I following Jesus? What does my life look like? Am I bearing? Do I have the presence and growth of the fruit of the Spirit? Is there love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control? Do I see that in my heart and life and home? As you see those things you can be assured that you are God’s child. But there are those times, aren’t there, those are those times where you really don’t feel like you are God’s child. You have those days where you wake up and you say to yourself, “Am I even a Christian?” It’s in those times that the Spirit testifies. He gives you that inner peace. He tells you that you know you are God’s child because you are the one who cries out “Abba Father.” God loves you. God’s saved you. Jesus died and rose for you. Church there are times, because of our sin, because of our weakness that we have to confess truths that our sinful, dark, black hearts don’t always believe. We need to that! That’s why we sing these songs, that is why are different times we confess different creeds, or different liturgies, because we need to verbally confess some things that our dark hearts don’t always believe are true. We struggle to believe. Lord, I believe help my unbelief.
Paul then gives us a gospel logic lesson. He says, if we are children, then we are heirs. It is only logical. Heirs with God and co-heirs with Christ. When you love, and trust, and follow, and obey, Jesus becomes your brother and God becomes your Father. In the gospel, be comforted by this, in the gospel everything that’s true of Jesus is now true of you. You have died to your flesh, you have been resurrected as a new man. You will be resurrected when Jesus returns to raise the dead, judge the world, and make all things new. You can believe that a man will be raised from the dead because your brother Jesus has already done it. You are God’s beloved son, and he is well pleased with you.
But here’s the kicker of the gospel. Paul says if we’re co-heirs with Christ that means we must suffer with Christ. NT Wright says of the Christian life, “Don’t be surprised if the way is hard and stony. It’s always like that when you go from Egypt to Canaan.” There is no glorification without suffering. There is no kingdom without a cross. Isn’t that what we’ve seen throughout Hebrews 11? Jesus said, “Don’t be surprised if they kill you because they killed me.” Jesus said, “Take up your cross and follow me.” The gospel doesn’t promise health and wealth, it promises resurrection. And the hope of the gospel is that the present suffering, whatever suffering you are experiencing, whatever pain comes with father’s day in your heart and in your home, that present suffering is not worth comparing to the glory that is going to be revealed to you when you see Jesus as he is.
When The Blind side was released 8 years ago, it was a major success. I don’t know if you guys remember that. The world, Hollywood, loved it. Sandra Bulloch won an Oscar for her role as Leigh Anne Tuohy. It wasn’t just the academy that liked the movie, Christians loved the film too. On one occasion, at our little church in Kentucky, we even watched it for a church movie night one night. We watched The Blindside. There’s a reason why Michael Oher’s story tugs on the heartstrings. There’s a reason why people love to see a wealthy family adopt a poor kid and lavish upon him riches that he’s never imagined. There’s a reason why we get emotional when we see a child who didn’t have parents, brought into a family with loving parents. Church, you love that because that’s your story. You have been adopted into God’s family. He is now your Father. Jesus is now your brother. And all of the riches of the heavenly places have been lavished upon you. There’s still going to be trials, there is still going to be persecution, and pain, but you will never be alone. Because of the gospel of Jesus, God is your good good father, that’s who he is. And you’re loved by him, that’s who you are.
We are just going to jump into this. Putting together some things before we get to the particulars of verse 3 & 4. Then pull it together with some closing thoughts that pertains to a faith that is enduring and a faith that perseveres. The reason why it does is because you are eyeing the prize and the prize is Jesus, himself. So the goal of Hebrews 11, through the first 4 verses of chapter 12 is not any different for you and I, then it was any different for any believer of any day and age. We are reaching for, each of us, and living out an enduring persevering faith, and it doesn’t matter if you are new to the family of God or if you have walked in Christ for decades. The text here that we will see this morning says to look to Jesus, to consider him because it is Jesus who is the prize of our faith. It is Jesus who is the founder of our faith, as you were given the gift of faith to believe on him. He is the perfecter of your faith in the resurrection. He will make you perfect. Faith begins in us. It will ultimately be made perfect. That perfection takes place at his appearing when he saves those who love his appearing. The promised redemption as he has really dealt with us throughout this, what we believe is a singular sermon, the book of Hebrews. It is already true for you now. You posses that new creation, yet it will be consummated when Jesus comes. Jesus is the eye of your prize. His people, for Jesus’ sake himself, it was for the joy, as we looked at, before him. Jesus knew the prize that was ahead. It allowed him to endure with joy. The contradiction he had with sinners in the dying for sin. Jesus in that regard is our example. He trusted his father’s plan. He, with great patience and endurance, suffered for sin and he did so with joy because he knew what was, and still is, ahead. He was completely satisfied with his father. He knew that what the cross would accomplish was that he would save us. As a result of that, he knows that because of that salvation we are going to dwell with him intimately for eternity. We look at chapter 11 and did so together, and we saw the people of faith and it was to give us a certain amount of motivation and instruction. Yet ultimately the real example here, the founder and perfecter of our faith, is the one who brings us the full satisfaction. As they were reaching for and look for the promised one, that didn’t come. Now he has of course. He uses this and tells us this, that this will produce as it did in them, a type of endurance and perseverance knowing that whatever suffering we have in this life, it will not be compared to what is ahead. Jesus himself is far more worth than anything that any believer will experience in this life. So here’s the eye of the prize this morning as we get back now to the text, look to Jesus. Look to Jesus. Look to Jesus.
Now, as in anything, any section section of scripture, you begin to ask questions. How do I do that? He defines that for us. That is what I want you to get a hold of before we draw this up. Look at Hebrews 12:3-4. This has a definite Greek idea here, that is very important for us. If we are going to have the kind of faith that endures and perseveres well. It literally means here to calculate carefully. To take a step back and to contemplate Jesus with thought. To think on him. To make him your consideration. Now we all live, and we live in our country, a very busy oriented life. What the pastor writer is asking us to do is to take a step back, to remain seated (metaphorically), to give our minds to muse on this, and to consider Jesus with very careful thought. In this particular example, he uses this as an example. Its Jesus’ example in front of Caiaphas who was his bitter enemy and hated Jesus desperately and plotted to put him to death. It is Jesus’ example in front of Harrod, who would mock Jesus. It is Jesus’ in front of Pilot, though Pilot knew he was innocent and was befuddled people wanted to just do away with him. Jesus, their creator, endured such things. Jesus possesses for us, a type of example of enduring faith. He had a will of steel. He moved with confidence, yet he did so with humility. He had kind of a heart of velvet, with steel-like strength. The text tells us that he endured his enemies. Jesus embraced and engaged people who hated him. What an example this is for us! An enduring persevering faith. He says in that, do not grow weary or fainthearted, but rather embrace and engage those around you who may hate you because you love Jesus. Do so by relying on the power of Christ’s strength. Do so knowing that Jesus has a sovereign means over your life and nothing, listen to me, nothing is happening in your life by chance or circumstance. How do we get through such things like this? With such intense hatred? Consider him. Calculate Christ carefully. Be absorbed by Jesus and with Jesus. Find your greatest satisfaction in anything that you can be a part of in this life to be with Christ. To know he is with you and you are in him. He is asking us, when he says to consider him to be intentional, to be focused, to read the word, read the gospels, see the promise that was made, and that you have obtained the promise. Jesus is the prize before you and it will come to pass, so that you can endure anything that comes to you in life. He is telling us along the way to turn away from things that distract from that. Don’t get that wrong, that doesn’t mean we are to live a life of a hermit, to go away from the world. Rather is is to embrace the world that we live in and to turn to Jesus for the help to run our race. To rely on the power of his strength. To do so in a disciplined fashion. To do so in a trained fashion. He tells us to consider Jesus.
Now I am not going to do this long, but I want to give you some examples of this. Of people who have ran their race. That is what is means, to run your race is your life. We are running this race, Jesus is the prize, and he tells us to run with a type of endurance and perseverance because this is not a sprint, it is a marathon. We are involved in a marathon, yet there are a plenty of examples that he set before in chapter 11. There are prophets, there is Moses, there is Elijah, there is Samuel, there is Daniel, and there are others that are set before us that sought to obtain and see the promised redemption. There are the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We have the New Testament examples of the apostles with Peter and John and Paul, and this pastor writer himself whomever it may be. My friends we have martyrs, both in our history and currently across the globe. People who are running their race with a fidelity out of a love for Jesus who are dying for the cause of Christ. We have reformers who were set before us in guys like Luther and Calvin and Knox that possess a rich history. They persevered with an endurance because they loved Christ. There was evil that was set against them. He is offering us a challenge here. He tells us, in verse 4, something kind of odd in terms of, how does this fit in here? He gives us a challenge, which is the struggle of faith. I think what this text is really relying on, because again it is a sermon, is written back in chapter 10. He says, none of you have died, you have endured a lot, but there is no reason to fall away from Jesus, you have not died. He has given examples of people that have died. Look at Hebrews 10:32. There were no martyrs in this church, though they had endured suffering. You do as well friends. It is what is ahead. It spurs us to have a faith that endures, that perseveres. Again, it’s not this, “Man, I’m just trying to hang on.” Jesus is the prize! He is the goal of this thing. You are running a race and you are trying to run it well. He gives us an athletic type of form to help us understand what was going on. We are in a race. He offers a challenge to look to Jesus. He tells us, you haven’t shedded your own blood, but Jesus did. Jesus bled in the garden. Jesus bled when he was beaten. Jesus bled on the cross. I don’t know what it means to pray to a level with such great intensity, the bible tells us that he sweated blood. From what I learned about that, it is said to be extremely painful. I can only imagine it! Again, what is he doing? He is trying to set before us an example. This is what Jesus endured! He endured this for you. He endured this to pay for your sin. The intensity of the garden, which I’ll be honest with you is sometimes left out, all along life’s way Jesus was enduring the contradiction of sinners. He saw the pain and sorrow of death. It caused him to weep over people he loved. He loves you. He wants you to run your life well. How are you going to do that? You have to eye the prize. You have to look to Jesus. You have to consider him, and it helps you to put off all the childish and immature things that can distract. Here is the truth of this, everyone who becomes a Christian starts well. There is this delightful, joy-filled satisfaction. You remember it. There is this initial rush of joy that overwhelms you. But if you are not careful, over years some Christians turn sour. Hardship of life causes you to be bitter. You see this in Christians. People call it burn-out. You see this in pastors. People call it burn-out. You say, are those things real? Yeah they are real. But it is because they lose sight of the prize. I’m not saying I can’t fall prey to that, but if I do, it is because I lose sight of the prize. The prize is Jesus! He is the prize of the high calling of God. It is Christ. He is what awaits me. He is what awaits you. So you don’t want to become bitter. You don’t want to become hardened over life’s sorrows. In difficulties, stresses, and persecutions that arrive, you have to find your joy and satisfaction in Christ and in him alone.
Well that can’t help but cause us to ask, how do I do this? How do I apply so that I can get years and years in of knowing Christ and I can run better? So that I can keep running to the end of my race? I want to give you four quick things to wrap this up as we close this section this morning. Four, what I would consider, applications to endurance. Again, let me read this text so you can see this. Four quick things that are all centered on looking to Jesus and considering him.
Which means to kill it. When you get sinful impulses of lust and greed and sinful desires, when they creep up out of a fidelity to Jesus because Jesus is the prize, refuse your sin and turn to Christ. Now let me say this, you are never going to run your race well, and neither will I, if we don’t capitalize on this. Because the other ones are meaningful, they are essential but we can’t look past sin, in terms of battling it well in our lives. Yes it has been conquered, but we all know we have been engaged in this war. That is why the bible will give us military type terms. He does so here. He wants us to be focused and know that this is serious. This is not only a sport arena, it is a battle. It is a war, and it is to be taken serious because as Jack Nicholson said, “lives are at stake.” Your own life first. Soldier take up your post. Fight your own sin.
Again, before we get into the other three I want to say this. Here is what happens from time to time. We get focused on our sin, to our own detriment. I want to teach you how to handle this. And I say teach, I believe this is driven by the scripture. This is why we are to look to Jesus and consider him. The gospel never, never, for any of us wants us to be thinking of our sin to lead us to despair. That is the guilt of the world. That is where Satan wants you. He wants you in despair because if you see yourself in despair he is going to render you useless for the sake of the kingdom. So it’s not like you want to look at your sin and to be fixated on it, no it is to acknowledge it and then to look to Christ where there is the victory. He is the hope, so that I know the victory is sure, it is ahead, I refuse my sin. I refuse my in fidelity to Jesus. Not like, “I can’t lust, I can’t lust. I can’t steal, I can’t steal. I can’t be greedy. I can’t hate. I can’t be angry. I can’t.” See it’s not teeth gritting and making it through, its desperation knowing I can’t make it through. Jesus, I need you. Jesus, I know you are going to perfect in me the faith that I have obtained. It is turning to Jesus. So refusing your sin, centers on fidelity on Jesus. When you think about trying to be faithful to Jesus, your faithfulness to him will be joy filled, it will be satisfying, it will be, “Wow, I can’t believe I have this life!” Refuse your sin. To do so, so seriously, the sins that you are struggling with, the sins that are close, the sins that are besetting war them in such a way and do it well. Kill your flesh, mortify it. Put off the impulses. Deal with them with a quick response. Initial reaction. Refuse your sin. Hebrews 4.
Run to Jesus. Run to Jesus. I mentioned this last week, I think the pastor writer uses the name Jesus, because Jesus is his human name. He wants you to know, and I to know, when Jesus is the example, you see him as God, but he lived this life. He is human. He became a human. He is with us right, Immanuel, God is with us. So that Jesus is sympathetic to you. He is understanding. He knows the way you are made up. He know your frailties. He knows your weakness. He knows your sin, better than you know your sin. When you are going to sin, and you will even though you want to war it well because you want to mature in Christ, he wants you to run to Jesus. Now we all know this, usually when we sin we have a tendency to run and hide. They have been doing that, and everybody has been doing that since the garden. What God says, is when we don’t war well, run to Jesus. Cast yourselves and say, I don’t have the strength to do this. Lord, I need you. I need you for the faith you have given me to perfect in me. To give me the strength to battle this sin and to refuse it. I want to do so in a way that I am going to refuse to walk away from Christ. That is the primary reason for this epistle. People were walking away from Jesus. It caused some awkward situations within the context of this local assembly. I am talking about people who wouldn’t follow Christ any longer. Obviously faith that is real endures and perseveres and that is what he has been explaining. We are to run to Jesus, We are to refuse to quit following him, to never do that. To do it in an unhasting way. To do it in the sense of an unresting way. To be constant. To run to Jesus because, Jesus I need your help to endure. I need your help to persevere. I cannot make it through this life well, unless you are the center of it. Run to Jesus. That is what he is saying. Here is the beauty of it. He is there! He is there. Verse 14. Again, he uses his human name. He is basically just saying this point, run to Jesus. Run to him. Refuse to quit. Do it quick. Do it tirelessly. Be constant. Run to Jesus and then hold fast our confession for we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness. He knows everything about your life and what you are enduring. The one who, in every respect, has been tempted as are, yet without sin. Let me tell you something, we all have need, every day, for this. If you feel self sufficient, you are listening to the hiss of the serpent. It is to live in your inner man with a sense of desperation, Jesus I need you. I want you. I can’t get through this without you, but with you I can have a sense of confidence and strength that I can take it all on, even if I have to do it alone. When you run to Jesus for this kind of help, that help is there.
I love the word grace. Whenever you find the word grace in the bible, God never just gives you a little. He pours it until it runs over, everywhere. That is what I love about God, he likes to lavish. He likes to lavish, he likes to pour it over. He wants you to feel enriched by him. He wants you to sense his compassion. He wants you to sense his care. He wants you to sense that if you feel alone, you are loved by him! Are you kidding me? That makes you want to endure. That makes you want to persevere. Look to Jesus! Consider Jesus! Calculate him carefully! Run to Jesus!
Rest in Jesus. You are probably wondering, that sounds weird. How do I run, which when I think of running exhausts me, then how do I rest? I am going to give you an athletic term. I will never forget this. I have used the illustration before. That my nephew, John, who was a collegiate runner. A great runner. They come up every now and again and the dude would go on these 10 mile runs. I’m like what are you doing, 10 mile run? It didn’t matter what the weather was. If the weather was raining, he would just throw on the right gear and I’m telling you, I remember driving down Metro Parkway and it’s pouring. I am out and about from the morning, I left the house and there’s John. So I asked him once, I said, “John, how do you do it?” He said, “Well I just love to do it.” and I said, “But how can you do it for 10 miles?” He said, “You relax.” I said, “You relax?” He said, “Yeah! You train so long you relax, you feel relaxed.” So you can perform your best. That is true for really any athletic endeavor. You have to do something with force, so you relax. Here in a spiritual sense, God tells us to run to Jesus with a fixed focus, to be intentional that way, and then he tells us to rest in Jesus. What I love about this, it doesn’t trust on self-sufficiency, it lets us rest knowing that Jesus has paid for everyone of our sins. Everyone of my sins! Knowing this isn’t a trump card to sin more, that’s an oxymoron. When we rest in Jesus, it gives us this mentality. Jesus has to be the center of all of your goals in living. You are eyeing the prize in him and with such vision like that, it will develop in you this persevering endurance to follow after Christ well. Knowing, as we have learned, he is the pioneer who has blazed the way. He is the author of my faith. He is the founder of my faith. He is the perfecter. He is the finisher. He is the one who will complete it. This is going to come to pass. We will win the race because Jesus is the strength. That lets you rest. It lets you feel confident. Jesus has paid the way. You now have access to God so that you can spiritually run, rest, and relax. Because when you recognize that Jesus is sovereign over all, you don’t have to panic over everything. You turn to Christ. Learning and training yourself to do this, and that is what I believe exactly what Hebrews 12 is all about, he wants us to refuse our sin, he wants us to run to Jesus, he wants us to rest in Jesus which means to rest in the truth of the gospel that I belong to him and that I am in him and he is mine, and then I can live. When perhaps the task seems overwhelming or the circumstance great and difficult. Learn how to relax and yet you are running, full force, just like John.
Fourthly, as we close, what he is saying to consider him, to look to him. He is saying, remember Jesus. Refuse your sin, run to Jesus, rest in Jesus, remember Jesus. That should ring a bell with us. It really should. It should ring a bell, because if you casually read the bible in the Old Testament, God is always reminding his people do not forget me, do not forget me, do not forget me. I am the covenant God who keeps his covenant. What I divinely promise will come to pass. It’s easy, even on our part, to sometimes forget Jesus. He is asking us to remember Jesus when we consider him. To not be overwhelmed by the circumstance you are in, and to take a pause and remember Jesus. You know what it means to remember Jesus? Please listen to this. Friends, if you get a hold of this, you remember Jesus how he lived. Which is the fulfillment of the fruit of the Spirit. When you take the fruit of the Spirit, you will live your life with your spouse, your children, people in this building, and those without, you will live with the fruit of the Spirit. It is not when I come to church, I’ll do the church thing and when I go into the world… No! It is taking and remembering Jesus in every set of circumstances. So that, in remembering Jesus, Jesus becomes your motive for everything. No matter what your circumstance is, trust Jesus, follow him, and remember this sweet, sweet Savior.
In closing, before we go to the table, I want to give you a couple things. It is one thing to have a sermon, it is one thing to give notes, but I am going to find, I am going to give you a couple names of a couple of authors who I have found, when I read, they make me want to love Jesus more. So I thought, though it is not in my notes, it would be appropriate to at least share with you, and I would get a hold of every book that they have. Because anything that will ignite in you a desire to refuse your sin, a desire to run to Jesus, a desire to rest in Jesus, and a desire to remember Jesus, the people who want to hang out with them, they will cause you to have joy. Michael Horton, for me I read that man and it makes me want to love Jesus. I feel adored by Jesus when I read him. And yes he is as sound as this wood pulpit. Now I have read this second guy to a lesser degree, but everyone who I talk to gets the same thing, Tim Keller. Read Tim Keller. I follow his tweets, I have twitter. I read his tweets and you know what I think, this guy loves Jesus. He loves Jesus and he just takes shots. Michael Horton, Tim Keller. That is just a side note.
Hebrews 12: 1 - 4
In looking at this particular section that calls us to enduring faith, the pastor writer has given us the examples of it in chapter 11 and we jump into the beginning of chapter 12 and he says “therefore”. Therefore is the transition from what we have just looked at in those individuals of chapters 11. This morning and next week are parts 1 and 2 from these four verses and I’ve entitled it Eyes on the Prize. There is prize that is ahead for all of us. It’s the view of that prize that helps us to understand the truth of the perseverance of the saints. Which is enduring faith that leans on growth. From the moment you came into the family of God until you leave the earth, you are called to grow. In fact we are required by God to grow. As Peter puts it, to grow in grace. Perseverance, when you hear that word, and you hear the words to endure, we get a mental picture of plunging along and barely making it. Certainly, the individuals mentioned in chapter 11 went through a great deal of difficulty and hardship. But that is not the only aspect of perseverance of the saints. There are people who live in the world and endure difficulty and struggle. The perseverance of the saints is the strength of your faith which continues to compel you to the prize. The prize of course is Jesus. You are going to be with Jesus! That provides for you through your difficulties, through your trials of various kinds throughout life, a great deal of satisfaction because Jesus walks with you.
Before we dip into the text, I want to give you the means of grace which comes to the church in manifold ways. These are the ways God administers his grace to us. He does that, God blesses us with his grace to sustain us and to empower our faith to endure throughout this life. I want to give you a series of them, and I am only going to pass through them, but you will readily identify them. They are the things that are building your life. They are instruments that God is utilizing his grace to build your life. It starts with corporate worship, Sunday morning. The meeting and gathering of God’s people. It’s here that we find, as we worship Christ, that we need each other. That has always been God’s makeup in every local assembly, that the “one anothers” should be practiced. It doesn’t matter of our walk in life, it doesn’t matter of our ethnic position, it doesn’t matter of our intellectual position, or financial position. We are here together, built together by the grace of God to worship him and to see each other as a family. As families go through struggles, our own physical family, so the church goes through them. God administers his grace through me assembling myself with you. He does that for you as well. God gives it and blesses and sustains it and empowers it through his means of grace. By baptism, by the sharing and taking of the table. By the bible itself, as you hear it now, as you read it own your own, as your study it on your own, as you memorize it and think about it. As you think about it as how it should pertain and function in your life. God’s means of grace comes to you as you pray the words of God, and that should be the emphasis of our prayers as you pray truth. He gives his grace to you, to give, give of your material things, to testify of Jesus to others of the gospel and what Jesus has done in and through your life. Another means of grace is marriage. It causes an individual to think of others. While some do have the gift of singleness, which God’s administers his grace to you in that way, in marital relationships there are a lot of different ways where we see the means of grace administered to us. Your good works, in a day by day way, with just giving a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name, meaning Jesus is the motive for your desire to do goodness, that is the means of grace.
Coupled with this is service to this particular body, which is really what God designs the church for. Another means of grace is to serve. I am to serve in the body of believers that God makes me a part of. Corporate worship, baptism, the Lord’s supper, prayer, the word, testifying, marriage, good works, service, these are all together are what build a Christian life. We function in these means of grace with this, the eye on the prize, the prize that is ahead, so we don’t see ourselves practicing some of this, we identify with all of it. We are engaged in all of it. Here comes the motive for all of this, which you know you can measure this by if you assimilate this well, first and foremost is a love for Jesus, he is your focus and your motive. But it is just that, secondarily, it is a love for the people that I am around, especially the church. Eye on the prize is not that phrase you heard, “Just let go and let God.” Friends, that is not grace. Grace is free, but grace produces something. Grace produces endurance. Grace produces perseverance, so that when you are eyeing the prize, you will do as the text tells us, we will run our race, through those means of grace I just mentioned.
This morning I just want to give you a few things. We are going to look at how the pastor writer gives them an encouragement, he tells them about the encumbrances, then he sets an example, okay? We will finish this second aspect of this next week before we go into our summer season together of a different series. Let’s notice the text, which in my mind is often a misused text. He sets before them, first of all, an encouragement. He is giving them a list of people we have looked at. It’s kind of like this, if you will think about it this way, it is like a hall of fame. We read chapter 11 and we think about the heroes of faith, and then walking through that, I listed these things. You see someone, “for the sake of Jesus,” “for the love of YHWH,” one who was martyred by his own brother, one who was ridiculed for being stupid, one who opposed Pharaoh, which was unimaginable, one who forsook the pleasures of the world and placed in power, those who resisted opportunities for fame and power. There were the people of God passing through the Red Sea, shouting down the walls of Jericho, conquered kingdoms, the mouths of lions shut, quenched by the power of fire, some received back their dead by power of resurrection, tortured, mobbed, scoured, in prison, sawn in half. Some were dressed in animal skins for warmth, killed an animal and cut out its insides and used it for warmth because they were destitute and cold. Afflicted, mistreated, homeless. It is a hall of faith. Some people look at this text, perhaps you have looked at this, there are people in Heaven, that are up there looking down on us. I don’t think that whatsoever is the text. If you were to think that, how good would Heaven be that we can look down and see the misery that people are in this life? Perhaps your own family members that reject Jesus. I think that view belittles our Savior, who I think we are going to be in awe of, because he is reigning there now. The cloud of witnesses, I kind of look at this, for a lack of a more appropriate example, if you have ever gone to Cooperstown, and you have visited the Hall of Fame and you want through the three stories that are there and you hear the stories of these individuals, and in many cases, their struggle and of course you see their accomplishment and successes. The cloud of witnesses for us, are to motivate us and to instruct us in a spiritual way as we take the time to examine their lives. That is why we have done that, we walked through them with sermons and spent a great deal of time there, so that as you run your race and I run my race, and we eye the prize of that race, we are motivated. Their human circumstances are applicable to our human circumstances. It asks us this question, how do I apply the gospel to my life? Past the meeting time, right now, how do I leave this place and apply the gospel to my life? So if you think these saints are watching us, standing in a gallery of Heaven, like a sports arena from the perspective of watching us perform, I think they are enthralled with Jesus.
Now, as we look at this, I want to explain this. Sometimes the witnesses are looked at like the heroes, but I want you to understand this, from chapter 11, the witnesses, were the witnesses to God, not witnesses to us. They lived their lives and they had enduring faith. They were persevering through their faith in Jesus. Their witness is a witness to God, not to us. They become to us, in that regard, our examples not our onlookers viewing our lives now. Their faith endured, they were following Jesus. The pastor writer consistently write that they were running after the promise. As we looked at a few weeks ago, they did not receive it, as Jesus had not yet come. Their encouragement of their lives that is an encouragement to us, they bore witness to God, as he requires of me and of you. He certainly does that electively of us, to bear witness to God. That should be our encouragement. In order for that to take place, our encumbrances should be set aside. So as we continue to view the prize, we run our race, with endurance, that is set before us setting aside our encumbrances. First and foremost is to put away our sin. This is part of our struggle. The phrase there, put away our sin, literally means to lay aside. It is giving a language of understanding, that is how olympians competed in those days, they stripped themselves naked so they could run faster. There was to be no hindrance. They were to throw off everything, so they could run their best. The point he is trying to make to us is that we need to remove some sin that is besetting sin, it doesn’t have to be a single sin it can be a set of sins, that is keeping us from eyeing the prize well so we would run the race with endurance and perseverance. Allowing the means of grace to give us strength. Removing those things that keep up from following Jesus.
Let’s start with this, our sin. I want you to think about your sin for a moment, that is keeping you from eyeing the prize and running the race. That is keeping you from the gospel. They are sometimes called besetting sins. There are sins for you that you are likely to commit. It is sin that is appealing to you. The bottom line is, you know it and there is no use trying to hide it because we all have it. What I mean by that, you have to deal with it. I have to deal with my besetting sins. Besetting sins can be sensuality, they can be jealousy, it can be lying, and so on and so on. It is something in your life that tempts you more than other things. There are other sins that are easier to put off, but these particular sins or particular sin tempt you more. So that in some areas, you are stronger, but in other areas you are weaker. Either way everyone in here who claims Christ, and for that matter every believer across the globe, has them. They can be, criticism, slothfulness, hatred, lust, ingratitude, pride, greed, anger. The religious side of you wants you to think of yourself as better than the person next to you and to not deal with your own sin, which produces legalism. God is calling you to look for the prize, which is Jesus, and to do a self examination, first and foremost, to set aside hindrances, and to not really sin against the very first thing, worship of God’s people when we gather together. We accept one another and we love one another and we honor one another, and all of those glorious principles that are a part of corporate worship. Whatever your sins are, he is saying to strip them, to battle them, to mortify them, which means to kill. You know what they are because spirit of God is already identifying them to you. The High Priest is alive! He is alive. Even in preaching this, while I am moving through the words, he is re-identifying them to me. They are there to let us know, we need him. We need him to help us set aside our sin.
Along with this he says, the weight. There are weights for all of us, that keep us and hinder us from following Jesus. The question is, what is the hinderance to you? It may not be a weight to others. Listen to me, because Christianity does not live in a box. We are called upon by God to constantly apply the gospel to my life, first and foremost. Then from my life, by the grace of God, to become a sweet fragrance of God to the people of the church and to those who don’t know Jesus. That is the beginning. A weight in this regard friends, can be something good, and yet it is keeping you weighed down. It could be a friendship, it could be an association, it could be an event, it could be a place, it could be a habit, it could be a pleasure, it could be an entertainment, it could be something that is honorable. It is not necessarily, in of itself sin, but in your life it is something that is dragging you down, that lures you away from following Jesus and applying the gospel in your life in every phase. It keeps you from following Jesus, it keeps you from trusting Jesus, it keeps you from serving Jesus. To help us understand that, because again it was an olympic comparison. The images he gives there are extreme, and they are intended to be that way. To let us know that Jesus is to be the focus of how we live and why we live. He is the one, let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, look to Jesus, so that we can strip off the encumbrances. The only time you will graduate is in the resurrection when you go to be with Jesus.
Then he sets before us, the greatest of standards, the greatest of examples. The pastor writer gives us Jesus. We are talking about a persevering and enduring faith, stay with this, because this is rich. Let me tell you something, when you get a hold of this, this is going to give you comfort, this is going to let you do this spiritually. I feel rest in this, though there is a lot of pressure on me. He is going to give us Jesus who could be for us, this impossible standard. Then Jesus is just going to jump right in there and let you know, “I am here with you.” Because he is the founder and perfecter of our faith. So let’s start with looking to Jesus as our example. Let’s start with a negative. He is saying this, “Don’t get preoccupied with your own self.” People get overwhelmed. Listen to me for just a minute, it is okay to have pain when loved ones die who are Christians, it is inappropriate to quit life. It is inappropriate to deny the means of grace. That is not the Christian view. The world suffers without hope, but we have hope! Now this doesn’t mean we don’t have pain and sorrow. The closest to me in my life that I have that have passed on, are my parents. But I don’t bemoan that they are gone, yes it bums me out because I can’t go golfing with him and tell him that he is a hack but he is with Jesus reigning. So don’t get preoccupied with yourself because it creates within us, this Eeyore Christianity, this “Woe is me.” That is not the picture of those in chapter 11! Abel got killed by his own brother, by his own blood brother, over YHWH. So don’t get paralyzed by your own analysis of your life, don’t get preoccupied with yourself. The means of grace, with all those individuals as examples, they are to tear us away from the preoccupation of our own selves. That is what they are there for! Don’t become preoccupied with what others think of you, or what others are doing. I am not talking about not bearing a concern for others, as we prayed this morning for our dear brother Ozzy. I am talking about in this regard, looking to Jesus. Because Jesus was so selfless. As to not have such an egotistical view of ourselves, to even live our christianity as a man pleasure with arrogance looking to impress, “See what I do.” If we are being honest, I think we are all honest, we all struggle a little bit with that. People are involved in ministry and they are doing things the way we want them to do. We think everybody else is a bad Christian. He says, “Look to Jesus.” You know what that means? Jesus was alone. He died alone! That is the kind of stick-to-it-ness, that is the kind of kindness and focus that is being generated here so that we will have an enduring faith.
Your life, my life, is lived to the audience of one, which is Christ. We look to Jesus, and as Pastor Alex appropriately said earlier, he is calling upon that High Priestly card for us here. That is what he is really referencing! Jesus is our help. Jesus in fact is the one who is leading us. Jesus resides in us. Because he has conquered sin in a final way, we can truly take off our sin that we battle with, we can run this race, because he is going to initiate our battle cry. He is going to aid us in our battle with sin. In fact, Jesus is the one that gives you the desire to battle your sin. He says here, and again I think this area is often misused, Jesus is the founder and perfecter of our faith. Now let me just say this real quick, the faith in the bible is sometimes used as a body of truth, and sometimes it is used to refer to a personal trust in Christ. I think both fit well here, but in particular, I think he is talking about your personal faith. That is, Jesus is the author of my faith, he is the perfecter of my faith. Jesus is the founder of my faith, he is the one who authored it. He is the one who blazed the way, the access to God. He has pioneered it. It is Jesus who has bestowed to me faith as a gift. Ephesians 2:8-10. What the pastor writer is saying is this, so that we don’t get so egotistical and isolated to think we are doing this alone, or have ever done this alone, we need to take notice that Jesus is with us, every breath. Not only is he just with us, he is not just a bystander. Jesus himself who is giving you strength, Jesus himself who is giving all things that are excellent. He is the one who is giving you victory! The ability to cast off your sin. Look, my friend, to Jesus. Look to him. Fix yourself on him, and not your problems. As you magnify Christ in this way, no matter the turmoil and duress you find yourself in, you will rejoice. You will feel a deep satisfaction! You won’t magnify your sin to your own despair, that is not the gospel. God wants us to view this sin, that is apart of us and the hindrances, but he wants us to have a right view because Jesus is not only in the storm, sometimes the storm has come explicitly by his hand to teach us. He wants us to run a race! How do I do that? Let me do something here, this helps me a lot, notice this, he says, look to Jesus, not to Christ. He doesn’t use another term, you know the son of God, he says look to Jesus. It is personal! He gives the Christ his human name, Jesus. We are to focus on Jesus, because Jesus lived, as a human. So that he knows the strain you are under. Jesus knows your difficulty. He knows your suffering. Jesus knows the sin that you are battling, that you fall prey to from time to time. But listen friends, he endured all that and never sinned. He is letting you know he has won. He has won the victory over your battle! In that regard, not only is Jesus the founder of your faith, Jesus is the perfecter of your faith. Jesus makes perfect our faith. You know why? Your faith is stained by your own sin. Your best day, doing your most spiritual activity, is tainted by your own sin. The truth is, from time to time our own faith can be weak. Did you wake up this past week not feeling much like a Christian? Life does that to us. You know what is indicative of American Christianity, that I think is probably different from any other culture in the history of the world, we run to isolation. We first and foremost leave the means of grace. Because we live in a self absorbed society. Jesus is the perfecter of my faith! I don’t know about you, but that gives me this wild, this crazy, unbelievable rush of joy! Because the faith he has given me is going to take me to the end, and it is not me because I am tough. No, he is going to make my faith perfect! Because he is perfect. Jesus is at the beginning of your faith in him, and Jesus is at the end of your faith with him. Take hope! Your faith is going to be made perfect. And it is not because of what you have done. It is everything because of what he has done! In Jesus’ entire earthly life, he trusted God. He perfected living by faith. He lived in total dependence of his father. The son’s faith in his father, allowed him to endure desertion, mocking, beating, rejection, suffering, the cross. Let me ask you this, as I wrap this up, you may not have come in here this way, but do you sense a need to run the race? Or are you just spectating? Living your christian life through someone else? Perhaps even in a judgemental way. Run the race. How Kevin? Fix yourself on Jesus! Know this, he has lived the life that you are living, and how much more in the sense that Jesus never fell to temptation. Satan tried everything he could to cause him to sin. Can you imagine? We could take all of our struggles and temptations and combine them together and it would pale in comparison to the types of things that Jesus endured as a human. As a human, yet without sin. Jesus has won my war! He has given me the gift of faith, and he is going to perfect that. He is going to make it perfect! Apart from Jesus, you can do nothing. Apply the means of grace for your own endurance. Listen, you can do that in the sort of self-struggle way. You want to make that fresh? Be awestruck by Jesus. Be awestruck by him. Be satisfied by him. I want you to think about difficult spots in your life, and be awestruck with being satisfied with Jesus. That is what the pastor writer is talking about. If you fail to do that, you are just going to keep spinning your wheels as a Christian. Why am I constantly frustrated? Because without faith it is impossible to please him. Hebrews 11:6. You know why God designs this, he wants us to know life can’t be lived independent from him. He wants you completely and entirely dependent on Jesus. Become okay with that! That doesn’t mean, “Let go and let God,” that means we are winning! So have a refreshing urge to live life because he is the prize. Jesus is the prize! Not the streets of gold. Don’t get me wrong, it is okay that they are there too, but it is Jesus. Jesus is the prize!
Here is what faith looks like. It endures, it perseveres. All faith, the faith of the people mentioned in chapter 11. Your faith has within itself an enduring hope. This is a part of God’s grace and provision to each of us. And what that’s there for in our lives, is to give us hope. No matter your circumstance this morning, in terms of how it relates to your faith, there is a persevering faith in life that is going on. It has a purposeful direction, to Jesus. So all of the suffering, all of the tribulation, all of the trials that you go through, all of the ridicule, whatever it might be in life, for your belief in Jesus Christ, are there by God’s design to strengthen your faith and bring you to its intended end. The intended end that the individuals mentioned in chapter 11 are going to have. Jesus is your king. He is your master. He is your ruler. He created you. He has summoned the church, us who believe in Jesus, to an enduring faith. Before we dip into the text, I want you to understand this, because a lot of people get this confused, over what is the perseverance of the saints and in particular, what is discipline (which we won’t get into until the Fall). Our faith, your faith personal, is not perfect. On your best day, doing the most spiritual thing, you are not perfect, you are tainted still by your sin. So even now, you sit back and you think am I experiencing some of these other things? I feel like I am alone, the people of the church don’t experience that. That’s not true, we all experiencing it. Over various things, that’s why he will say later, lay aside the weight and the sin that easily besets us. So we are all engaged in this upward, enduring, and faith arduous journey, so we wouldn’t look at each other in some judgemental way. Because everyone of our faith here, to one degree or another is weak. It is stumbled, it is sinned.
Now it is not that we want to subject ourselves and say this is “just who I am”, no we want to grow in our faith! Peter will talk about, no we want to grow in the strength and the power of his grace. We want to grow, we want our faith to become stronger for the battles we will engage in, as a result of our faith. But let’s not forget that! That our faith may become weak, and some of us may fall into sin, even a grievous sin, to be deep. But ultimately, this is what enduring faith is, we will continue to follow Jesus. Because Jesus is the one who brings us satisfaction in our souls. So he will bring us back up on the road along the way.
Hebrews 11, as we have looked at that, it lists all these people. Notice with me in verse 39 he says, and all of these. Its that whole group of people that have walked together, slowly, patiently, by design. As Pastor Alex and I talked about this series, they are worth noting. There was a bunch of rich truth there that the pastor writes, knowing his church, he was calling upon them, “Hey remember these people.” This is what their faith looked like. This morning we find ourselves here, that their stories were fitting into a bigger picture of God’s story, which was Christ. So now, we are going to look at this in two ways, we are going to look at being commended by faith (which they were) and then ultimately as we look in verse 40, the consummation of faith.
Holiday weekends are always enjoyable for all of us. This is of course as we mention, Memorial Day. There's Mother's Day celebrated, there's Father's Day, there's 4 July, of course Labor Day weekend. Many of you throughout the summer will go to very family reunions that some even this morning at mention to me about. Usually at all of those gatherings, you look forward to it. You look forward to it for a lot of reasons, to see family members and whatnot, and to enjoy a time spent together. It always seemed to me, at the family reunions I went to, that there was always a reflection that it wasn’t just completely perfect because someone was missing that couldn’t make it. Maybe you’ve experienced that as well at your family reunions. As I thought back to the family reunions of the McGuire family, and you know this my family is from the south, the best family reunion that I remember going to was early in our marriage at Kentucky Lake. It was by far, in my opinion, the best family reunion we ever did. It was on the 4th of July weekend and as I recall, as you know it can be sweltering and oppressively hot, it wasn’t terribly that was but it was very warm. It was on Kentucky Lake and many of you have been to Kentucky Lake, and if you haven’t been to Kentucky Lake it’s a great lake and it’s a great place to have a picnic. And as I recall, it was the most people ever at the McGuire family reunion. Valerie got to see all of my family, and for whatever reason on that particular day I remember how happy my dad was. We got to spend some time on the lake, we had these paddle boats and honestly it was the best McGuire family reunion ever.
What this this text is about, is a reunion. It’s a reunion that is yet to take place. But my friends, it is going to take place. The pastor writer here, is identifying that this reunion is a reunion of the family of God. They are the people of God because they have been identified by their faith in Jesus. I want us to look at this first of all that they are commended by their faith. Stay in chapter 11 and look back with me earlier in the chapter to verse 6. Friends, this is what pleases God. You want to please God in your life, this is beginning place. He was defining faith to them and then he gave them, as we looked at for however long we went through those, the people of faith. It is impossible on our part to please God apart from faith. Faith is the only way we gain access to God, and genuine faith seeks God. That is why you are here this morning, because you want to seek from and hear from the words of God and participate in the strengthening graces that build the Christian life of faith. The writer here says that that faith must be diligent and that that diligence is to pursue Jesus. So to please God you must demonstrate a faith in Jesus that has this enduring quality, that no matter your life circumstance you just keep pursuing after and looking for Christ. Its diligent, it pursues Jesus. It persists, no matter the difficulty. It may go weak, it may happen in life circumstances of difficulty, yet nonetheless it endures. Because it endures, this is how we know it’s real, it’s genuine. That person is a follower of Christ. They have faith in Jesus.
There is a lot that is talked about faith today. Most often, what you hear about faith in this day and age, you get on the TV right? It usually comes from athletes. That faith though, is really described as faith in faith. I believe I can do it and because I believe, it’s going to happen. They will use bible verses, yanked out of context, I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me, to accomplish what they want. That is not the faith that the pastor writer is describing to us. He is describing to us a faith that pursues Jesus. That is why he is going to say, a few verses later that he is the author and finisher of our faith. Jesus is the founder and perfecter of our faith, that is what he is going to say about it. This is what we know to be true because genuine faith centers on Jesus. It centers on the merits of Jesus. What I mean by merits, I am talking about Jesus’ works. I am talking about Jesus’ sinless life, I am talking about what we read from Matthew 27, him giving his life a sacrifice for sin. I am talking about Jesus resurrection. I am talking about Jesus’ ascension and now kingly, priestly reign that he refers to often in the book of Hebrews. Faith, dear church, centers on Jesus. That faith is a belief that Jesus is the fulfillment of what God has promised. When it’s genuine, it perseveres. When it’s genuine it endures. These saints that we have looked at together went through a great deal of difficulty, yet they held to the promises of God and they held to hope that they were anticipating.
They were filled with expectancy. They were waiting for the promise to come. Jesus, of course, was the promise of the Old Testament and we know the pastor writer is trying to point them to those things that they are trying to hold back to, Jesus has fulfilled. What was spoken of by Moses under the old covenant was promised Jesus, Jesus was the fulfillment of. Of course as we have watched and looked at and gleaned together, he has done so in an incredibly rich way. But notice this with me, the Old Testament saints did not see the promise (verse 39). Jesus hadn’t come. They waited so, with great anticipation. They did. Abel was waiting for it. He heard the gospel from his mom and dad and he was waiting. He demonstrated that faith, didn’t he, by bringing a blood sacrifice for sin in demonstration of the one who would come and would crush the head of the serpent. On and on this goes in chapter 11, where we have watched this together. Jesus is pictured as the better priest. Jesus is pictured, not only as the better priest, but as the better sacrifice. That Jesus himself is the better temple. This a singular sermon written with the symbols of the priesthood, the sacrifices and the temple to cause our imagination to run back to what was the greater reality of what is. That Christ is the one who fulfilled all of it. He fulfilled every last bit of it. He is trying to emphasize for them, please don’t miss the main point. The main point is Christ. Don’t get sidetracked with details. Jesus is the promised reality.
Now notice this with me, because you can kind of miss this (verse 40). He says this as we read this, for us and apart from us. The pastor writer here, again think about this, he is writing to this Hebrew church full of Christians and believers, they had received the promise. Jesus had come, Jesus had died, Jesus had resurrected, not long ago even. He was pointing to them that Jesus was the reality. They, along with those pictured in chapter 11 the Old Testament saints, would both be received together at Jesus’ return, then perfection would be obtained through resurrection. See there is an element to this faith that has not yet been completed in this sense. They were looking forward. They were looking forward with this persevering, and this enduring quality of faith. Abel was killed for his faith, his own blood brother. Enoch walked alone, and I believe that represents he probably lived a lot in isolation. There weren’t a lot of believers around. Then God just took him. He had some difficulty. Noah, think about the message Noah represented of promise. It’s going to rain. It’s going to do, what? It’s going to rain. it ‘s not just going to rain, it is going to rain so bad that it is going to flood the earth. It’s going to do what? Are you crazy, old man? And he preaches righteousness to them while this ark is being built. Imagine the difficulty and trial of this man’s life as he is ostracized in society for his faith. Think of Abraham. Abraham is called out of the Err of Chaldees. He leaves, saved out of idolatry, to go to a city that he has no idea where it is. My friends, that’s faith. That is faith in the promise of God. It continues doesn’t it? Sarah is told in her elder years, she is going to have a child. It causes her to laugh. Isaac comes along and he is not the promised Messiah. Jacob then comes along and he is not the promised Messiah. Yet within the context of his life, he proclaims through the inspiration, of course, that a scepter will rise as the king. Moses’ parents, they suffered, the felt the suffering of having to give away a child, trusting in the promise of God. Great separation and suffering because they trusted in the promise of God. Moses could have lived in the king’s palace all of his life, but he chose to suffer and identify with the people of God. And on it goes. Rahab is converted to the desired Messiah. Samson, think of Samson. Samson repented, having suffered over his own sin. This is a trial of enduring faith. He really, went through suffering for his sin, but in suffering for his sin he got right, which proved he had an enduring and persevering faith. David, Samuel, the prophets, all the great heroes, Abraham, Moses, and David. Listen to this, don’t miss this, what we find is in their story of how they are redeemed by their faith in the promise, there is a greater story that is being told. The greater story is Jesus.
To that we can make great application. Listen to this church. Do you desire enduring faith? Is there a motive at work within you, that you are going to stick to and follow after Christ, no matter what anybody else does? That’s the quality of genuine belief. Do you desire Jesus with a joy filled manner? Are you captivated? Even as Pastor Alex shared, the reading of what chapter 27 did to him. Are you captivated by what Christ has done for you? Are you shaping your life around that, so that when the difficulty of life or perhaps the persecution of faith comes, it preserves, it endures. Are you losing your story to the greater story? Or are you kind of just living life? That is what he is trying to define for them. Everyone of them endured the trial and difficulty of life. The perseverance that is needed over faith in Jesus. Verse 40 again. What is that? That is the consummation of faith. That is the gathering of believers. The Old Testament saints, they knew what was promised but they hadn’t yet received it. Jesus had come, the pastor writer is preaching that Jesus has fulfilled what is necessary under the old covenant. Both of course pointing to Jesus and they, this early church along with the Old Testament saints, along with you and I and everyone else that’s being saved across the globe, represent the one eternal family. God is going to hold a reunion for. Look at this. There is something better for us, that apart from us, see it was incomplete yet, the story of redemption is still unfolding. It has been secured, don’t get that wrong, it is completely secured. But the truth of the matter is, people are getting saved. They are getting saved all across the globe. I have a friend who just got back from 2 weeks in Africa and he is with 30 church planters. There are people getting saved over there like crazy. It’s awesome! The story has not been told yet. The consummation of faith, the perfection of faith is not yet here. God’s eternal family is still expanding. It’s still growing. The promise made to Abraham that in your seed all the nations of the earth will be bless, is still our reality. We are living it out.
Dear friends, one day this will be completed. It happens at the consummation of Jesus’ second coming. Flip back with me to chapter 9, verse 27. See he came the first time to be that sacrifice for sin, he will appear the second time in his second coming, not to deal with sin but he is coming to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. That is enduring faith, that has a hope in front of it, an expectancy, an anticipation that Jesus will return. That is running around in your inner man, because you know Christ. It is causing you and leading you along the way. This author, this finisher of our faith. Jesus will return. When he returns he will judge the living and the dead, and he will gather and save his people. His one eternal final family. You and I will be connected, yes, even back to Abel. It’s the consummation of faith.
Believers are redeemed in resurrection. Turn to 1 Corinthians 15. I am going to give you two passages which are the goal of our faith. Two strong motivations to live in pursuing Jesus, because this is our reality. Verse 51. Listen to me, all those people died in the Old Testament. They died, all those people in the early church, all those apostles, they are dead. Perhaps if Jesus doesn’t return, perhaps everyone in this room are going to die. But this is going to be your reality. Death is swallowed in victory! Oh death, where is your victory, oh death where is your sting. The sting of death is sin. Oh it is going to bring you some harm, but it is going to be short lived. The power of sin, is the law. The law brings us the reality that we are sinners. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord. Because this is true, because there is this hope, that is filled with Jesus, it brings us expectancy and anticipation. It’s a win-win. Now, he talks about resurrection here, right? All this is really a part of verses 39 and 40 of Hebrews 11. Turn to Revelation 21. I know this is how we start the year, but this is a great gospel end game. It is a great motivation to keep before you, so that you will abound in the work of the Lord. So you will see that your life is not about building just a great business, becoming an engineer, becoming this or that. Now those are good things, they are worthwhile. God gave us work. Your life should be built upon a faith in Jesus, that is pursuing Jesus. I am going to obtain a body of resurrection, because in Jesus I am going to live with him forever in that resurrected body. There will be no more death, there will be no more mourning, there will be no more crying, there will be no more pain. Because the former things, the things we understand about this life are going to be put behind. Gone. You see, now when I have a family reunion, mom and dad ain’t there. I’d be lying to you if I told you, seven years ago my dad about 5 ½ my mom. It’s almost weird at times. Val and I were driving home Friday night, and it kind of hit us that way. Because I didn’t live by them regularly. The reality that they are gone doesn’t always hit me. I didn’t see them in a day to day way. Our family reunions now, they are not perfect. That pastor writer is saying this, it’s not yet perfect, I’m bringing more in. When I bring more in, when that last one comes in, man it’s secure. Then we are all going to come to the reunion. Jesus is going to return. He is going to save his people.
Now, let’s be honest, at least I am going to be honest. I didn’t want to go to every McGuire reunion. I didn’t, that’s the truth. As a kid, man they had outhouses. Stuck all day at a park yesterday with porta-johns, made me think of my childhood. I couldn’t stand to go to Tennessee and my mom and dad would just, we would hit that thing in August. We would hit 75 and they would be excited to get there, and all I thought about was the Wampus cat that wasn’t real and the reality that I had to go back about 100 yards off the house to the outhouse. Are you kidding me? Do people live like this?
You know why faith endures? God gives it hope. It is a grace gift. Something is going on in your inner man, in your mind. There is hope, there is hope, there is hope, there is a greater day coming. It is with that grace gift that God gives us, I want you to know, that is what he wanting you to understand about this text. There is a hope, because that hope is real, because that hope is true, because that hope will be your reality, you want to live now, you know want to have a faith that perseveres. You want to pursue Jesus. You want to build it into your marriage, you want to build it into your marriage. You want to be gathered with the people of God, shoulder to shoulder, fulfilling out the great commission, because your life isn’t about this life. I can do all things through Christ, which strengthens me, isn’t so I can make major league baseball. God wants you to understand this passage, to provide for you this beautiful picture and give you a powerful faith-filled endurance. You know what he is about to tell them? Run your race man. Run your race! The prize is not just rewards, the rewards are Jesus! It fills you to run this race with expectancy, with anticipation. Aren’t you glad that God provided hope as a part of faith? We need hope. There are so many people that we rub shoulders with that have no hope. Everything they tie to hope has to do with this life. Many of them that I meet up with that are lost, are too retirement, and often times I ask them, what’s after retirement? Your busy to retire, to do what? To die?
The Old Testament believer did not receive the promise. Jesus had not yet come, so that apart from us, the church’s completion, which is still being built, dear friends it is going to be secured, because when God saves that last person, Jesus is going to come. And all of the family of the people of God will be gathered. Not in a singular day of the marriage supper, no, in an eternal supper. Let me tell you something, I know a little something about supper, being raised in a Southern home. There ain’t nothing better than supper. Southern people know how to cook. You want to know what you are going to be eating, read Isaiah 25:6-8. Jesus himself is going to prepare it. Your family reunion is secured. It is going to take place, listen to this, I thought of that day when there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and it wasn’t that hot, the glory of that family reunion is going to be Christ himself. All of the redeemed together, not one missing. All will enjoy Christ forever. Hope realized. Dear friends, dear church, be true to Jesus.
The Problem with Christianity
Two weeks ago today I got some unexpected news. We were hanging out at Mike and Holly’s house for Mike’s 30th birthday party and I got a text from my college roommate, one of my best friends, Brady. The text simply said this, “I think my dad is dead. Please pray for my family.” It was only six months ago, in November, that Brady first told me that his dad wasn’t feeling well. And it was only in January that they had finally figured out that he had myeloma. Over the last four months his dad, Steve, had spent time in hospitals in Houston and Little Rock, and it seemed like he was getting better. The original plan, earlier that week, so almost 3 weeks ago now, was for Steve (Brady’s father) to spend 21 days in the hospital, receiving treatment and recovering, but he was doing so well by the end of that week that they sent him home. Well, two weeks ago, on that Sunday morning, he wasn’t feeling so well, so he didn’t go to church that Sunday morning. Brady’s mom went to church, and her name is Cindy. She came home and his dad, Steve, asked her if she’d make him a bowl of soup and maybe he would feel better. As she prepared his lunch, he went back to the bedroom to get his cell phone, probably to either call or text Brady, who lives in Texas. She is making his lunch. Cindy heard a crash; she ran back to the bedroom by the time she got back there, he was already gone. Steve was 58 years old.
Why do bad things like this happen? I mean it’s not like Steve was 101 years old. Sure, it’s sad when any one dies, even someone who’s lived 100 years, but when someone has lived 100 years it’s not unexpected. 58 is still pretty young. Steve’s mother is still alive, I was with her two weeks ago, she’s in her eighties. I watched her bury her son. How are we supposed to think about this evil that exists in the world? Some of you sitting in the room this morning have experienced the pain of burying a loved one. Someone of you have experienced that pain recently. But even if you haven’t, all of us have felt the ravaging effects of sin on God’s good world. Pastor Kevin mentioned moments ago that we are all coming to worship this morning with some kind of pain, some kind of family issue, some kind of hurt, some kind of brokenness. We all know the pain of living east of Eden. Some of you are dealing with chronic pain. Some of you are in the middle of painful relationship issues with a spouse or family members. Some of you are lonely. Why do these bad things happen to God’s people, and I guess more importantly how are we supposed to deal with them?
Theresa of Ávila was a 6th century Spanish Mystic and an old story is told of Theresa that one time she confronted God about her suffering. “Why am I suffering in this way?” God responded, “This is how I deal with my friends.” She responded, “Well in that case you shouldn’t be surprised if you don’t have many.”
Christianity has always historically had this problem, at least philosophically. The world had always charged Christianity with the problem of evil. How do you people deal with evil? If God is sovereign, and God is good, why does evil exist in the world? And the world has looked at Christianity and said, “You don’t have a good answer.” Those who believe in reincarnation, they have an answer. They believe that every reincarnation is a chance for you to pay for the sins of your former lives. So when you deal with pain and loss in this life, it is because of all the wrongs that you committed in past lives. That’s encouraging Buddhism and Hinduism address the problem of evil by contending that the physical world doesn’t matter. The material body does not matter, only spiritual things matters. So if you are a Buddhist or a Hindu you will be “saved” when you can shed your body and you shed the world for good. But Christianity has never believed that. Christianity has always taught that God created a good world, and that he will recreate the eternal new earth. We as Christians, as we sang this morning, have always believed in the resurrection of the dead on the last day. When Jesus returns he will raise the dead, judge the world, and make all things new. If that’s true, then what do we do with the pain and loss that we experience right now in this life? The pain that my friend Brady is experiencing, the pain that you are experiencing this morning, whatever it is.
We have spent several weeks now walking through Hebrews 11 and what we have called biblical theology of faith, the story of faith from the very beginning. The Holy Spirit has conducted for us a symphony of the saints. Beginning with creation and moving through what many have called the old, old story to last week when we dwelt in Rahab’s tavern together, and we have been captivated by the score of redemptive history. Now we find ourselves in verses 32-38, that we just read a few moments ago, and this is what Al Mohler calls the crescendo of this great masterpiece. In verse 32 the author picks up a more rapid pace than we have been experiencing; And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets. Basically saying we could talk forever about the faith that God’s people have displayed around the world.
I think Jerry Seinfeld would call this the “yada yada yada” portion of the sermon. To quote Johnny from Angels With Even Filthier Souls: “I could go on forever, baby.” All of the books in the entire world could not contain the stories of faith that fill history. The Internet couldn’t hold all of the stories of how God has caused his saints to persevere. “Could we with ink the ocean fill and were the skies of parchment made, were every stalk on earth a quill and every man a scribe by trade. To write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry. Nor could the scroll contain the whole though stretched from sky to sky.”
We could talk endlessly about those who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. These judges, these prophets, these kings did unbelievable things by faith. David conquered kingdoms. Daniel stopped the mouth of lions. Elijah quenched the power of fire, and both he and Elisha brought children back from the dead. The Bible is seeping with stories of God’s people doing miraculous things by faith.
It is also noteworthy that the book of Hebrews doesn’t remember these men for their sin, but for their faith. Samson was sexually immoral and he broke his vow to YHWH, Jephthah made a foolish vow to God, and David was an adulterer and a murderer. The list goes on. We could spend all day reciting the sins of our fathers, but Scripture doesn’t do that here, does it? The Word of God commends these men and women for their faith. Church, I want you to be encouraged by the word of God this morning, if you’ve repented of your sin and you’re trusting in Christ, then your legacy is not your mistakes, your legacy is not your rebellion. God does not view you as condemned, but he views you as in Christ. When you believe the gospel by faith, that’s what you’re remembered for in the mind of God. You know, when I was at Steve’s funeral, there was not a single person who we reminiscing about those times when Steve had been a jerk to them, nobody was talking about any of his past sins. Indeed he was a sinner, like the rest of us. But I heard hundreds of people, 700 people, in no-wheresville AR made comment about Steve’s belief in the gospel, and how he lived that out every single day. That is good news church. We believe in the perseverance of the saints. We believe that those whom God chooses, he will keep. Be encouraged in that this morning, because as John MacArthur said, “If you could lose your salvation, you would lose your salvation.” Jesus won’t let go.
It’s interesting, that in verse 35 the text makes a sharp turn. After 34 verses of reciting some of the most epic biblical narratives ever recorded, the Holy Spirit begins to travel down a more unfamiliar road; the melody becomes a lot more difficult to hum along with. 35 Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. For all of the Bible’s blockbuster stories that end in victory, many of which we have recounted over our journey through Hebrews 11, there are just as many that end in tragedy. For all the marquee names that did miraculous things, for all the Noahs, and the Abrahams, for all of the Moses’, and the Davids, there are just as many, if not more, that you’ve never heard of.
This section is a little harsh, isn’t it? It’s kind of abrupt. There were many who were imprisoned, tortured, and murdered. That’s it. There is no “Job ending” to this pericope. It’s like if you were to go to the doctor because you weren’t feeling well and you were to receive a negative diagnosis, you have been diagnosed with X, Y, and Z. And it’s like you coming to church here at Christ Community Church and saying, “Hey can you guys pray for me, I just found out I have blah, blah, blah.” And it would be like someone in your class or block saying, “I’ve heard of that, my mom died from it.” Okay, thanks for the chipper news. You’re not supposed to tell me that your mom died from it, you’re supposed to tell me that your mom had it, she’s recovered, and now she is running the Boston marathon. That’s what I want to hear. I don’t want to hear, “I’ve heard of that. Yeah I know people who have died from that disease.” But that’s kind of what this feels like, isn’t it? That’s not the reality with which we live is it? There isn’t always a “job ending” is there? The point of this section of scripture, church, is that this is what faith looks like. Some times faith is the triumph of Abraham, Moses, and David, and other times it’s an anonymous saint who is persecuted or martyred for their faith. And both are faith.
The point here, the point we are going to see next week as we end Hebrews 11 and in the weeks to come as we move to chapter 12, is that none of these men and women, not Abel, not Enoch, not Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, the Prophets, none of them, non of the men, non of these women, in triumph or tragedy, received what they were hoping in when they died. Verses 39-40 make that clear. In the best of times and in the worst of times, every one of these saints had in incomplete faith when they died. They had not yet seen the one in whom they were hoping. What was their hope? What were they waiting on? Verse 35 reminds us: that they might rise again to a better life. Church, we sang of their hope this morning. I believe in the resurrection when Jesus comes again. They were waiting for the resurrection, they were waiting for the better city, the unshakable kingdom. They were assured in this hope; they were convicted about this truth, even though they couldn’t see it. The good news for us this morning is that the treasure that they groped for in darkness has been given light. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1.5).
The hope of the OT has been realized in the gospel of Jesus. Jesus’ virgin birth, sinless life, substitutionary death, resurrection, and ascension are the sun to which the OT shadow had been pointing. All of the stories, these epic stories, stories that span from Sunday school flannel boards to movies starring Christian Bale and Russell Crowe, stories that captivated even the unbelieving world, of theses stories, the stories of anonymous saints, the names of which you have never even heard, who were faithful to Jesus in their death. These stories were merely signposts pointing us to Jesus Christ of Nazareth, who is the founder and perfecter of the faith. This faith that we have been tracing all the way through Hebrews 11 is all about Jesus. He is the founder, he started it, he is the perfecter, he is the telos, he is the goalkeeper, he is the one who is going to finish it. Jesus is the true Israelite who had more faith than any of these men or women we read about. Jesus is the fulfillment of Israel’s faith – he is messiah that they had been waiting for. Jesus is the snake-crushing warrior king come to save his people.
So as Christians, when faced with the problem of evil, there is a sense in which, we must confess that we are not God. There is some math we just can’t do. We can’t fully understand God’s ways. And yet, while there can be some uncertainty in understanding God’s sovereignty and goodness in light of evil, even if that doesn’t fully make sense to you at different times of your life, we do know, based on Hebrews 11, how we can endure this pain, hurt, and loss; the answer, church, is by faith. Verse 38 says that the world was not worthy of these men and women, and that is the answer to the problem of evil. Listen to what N.T. Wright says about this passage of scripture: “the fact that they suffered such things, and that they demonstrated that the world wasn’t worthy of them, was a sign that both they believed God was making new world that would be better and that this belief was in facts true. They were out of tune with their times because they were living by faith in God’s future world, while society all around them was living as though the present world was all there was and all there would be. God was giving them strength to live like that, thus proving the truth of their claim. They were, in their own lives and suffering, pointers to the fact that the God who made the world was intending to remake it and that they were the advanced guard of that great moment.” How could these saints endure the pain, loss, persecution, and martyrdom that they did and still keep faith? How can you endure the pain, loss, persecution, tribulation, hurt, sin, rebellion, and still believe by faith? The answer, church, is that we believe a better world was coming. We believe that the seed of the woman crushed the head of the serpent when he walked out of that tomb. We believe that God is making all things new, starting with his church. God’s great story is filled with people who have experienced joy and sadness, gain and loss, but they all had faith that God would keep his promise, which he did in Jesus Christ. If that’s true of them, if that’s true of Abel all the way down through the Prophets, who greeted Jesus from afar, how much more true is it for us, Christ Community Church, the ones who dine at his table every week?
This is the gospel challenge for us in light of Hebrews 11:32-38, hear God’s Word this morning. Hear the voice of Jesus this morning through his word. Do you believe the gospel? Do you believe the gospel? Not in a trite way. Not in a “that’s my family’s religion” kind of way. Can you look down into the deepest darkest crevices of your sinful broken heart, and say “all I have is Christ. If I lose everything else, Jesus is enough for me.” Because if you can’t, then you are not believing the gospel. You might be believing some stuff about Jesus, but if you don’t believe Jesus is enough for everything, for eternity, then you are not believing the gospel. I want to invite you this morning to belief the stories, because they are true. Jesus is enough. Jesus was enough for all of these Saints. These saints that you‘ve never heard of, who were sawn in two. They could endure that because they were looking forward to Jesus. Do you believe the gospel? Do you live like the New Creation is coming? Not just because it makes for a catchy song, is your life structured around the fact that Jesus is going to physically, visibly return to raise the dead, judge the world, make all things new. Do you live like that is actually going to happen? Do you love your enemies? Do you forgive others when they wrong you? Do you seek forgiveness and restoration when you wrong others? Because these are all marks and signs of someone who believes the gospel. Here is one that challenges our rugged individualism: Christian, are you willing to be wronged? Man, we live in a time where everyone wants immediate justice when they’ve been wronged. Everyone sues everyone. When my waiter doesn't meet my standards, I need to see their manager. When someone makes me mad, I’m going to passive aggressively post something on Facebook. That will shows them. I need vindication. Are you willing to be wronged knowing that God is the final judge? Are you willing if it ever comes, to be tortured, refusing to accept release so that you may rise again to a better life? Are you willing to suffer mocking, flogging, chains, imprisonment, stoning, being sawn in two, killed with the sword, going about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, wandering about in deserts and mountains and dens and caves of the earth. Not don’t mishear this church, we aren’t asking for that, that is sick if you are asking for that. But the question we have to ask ourselves when we are confronted with the gospel this morning, if God-forbid, that madness ever breaks out here or anywhere else, because it does happen, there are Christians in parts of the world who do have to face this reality this morning, is Jesus enough for you if that happens. Are you willing to be wronged for the gospel of Jesus? Let me tell you this, if you can’t help but make a snarky comment on Facebook, when someone is rude, then you are not going to be willing to be sawn in two for the gospel of Jesus. Jesus was wronged for you. These Saints hadn’t seen Jesus yet, and they persevered by faith. Church, we commune with Jesus every week, church let us live like that’s true.
There’s an old story about a man who found an incredibly valuable treasure buried in a field. That man was wise. He was willing to sell everything that he had to buy the field and obtain that treasure. He was willing to lose everything, to acquire that one thing. That’s the faith that’s described in Hebrews 11. That’s our faith, church. We can willingly lose everything this world has to offer, even our own lives, because the treasure we’ve been given is far more valuable than anything this world has to offer. This world, this present, evil, anti-Christ system that has been in rebellion against God since the garden, is not worthy of the gospel treasure that you’ve been given in Jesus. And this is the good word to take with you this morning. That treasure, that gospel treasure, the person of Jesus, that is enough to sustain you. To sustain youthrough sickness, and pain, and even the premature death of your father. Let’s pray.
In Matthew’s genealogy, Chapter 1 of this book is the genealogy of Jesus there are five women that are mentioned. There some a couple things I think we would all want to note about those particular circumstances, because really nothing outside about them is really that special apart from the grace of God. Five women are mentioned. Now in near Eastern culture, it is not usual at all for a woman to be mentioned in the accounts and yet in the genealogy of Jesus, that will be with us forever, God intended and left for us five different women.
One of them is Tamar. If you're at all familiar with the book of Genesis, you read chapter 38, she's the first that is mentioned in the genealogy and Tamar was one that was basically abused sexually. The second one, which is the one that we're going to view this morning, is Rahab and in several of her accounts that are mentioned in the Bible from the Old Testament and the New Testament, she is called Rahab the prostitute or Rahab the harlot, depending on your translation. The third of women that are mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus, is Ruth. Ruth was a Moabite woman and basically came down the Moabites came down through the lineage of Lot and she was converted. As we know in the book of Ruth, how wonderful story her story is as your story is, and all of it though fades into the bigger story which is the story of redemption and Jesus. The fourth of accounts that the Bible makes note of, that is gonna be in the eternal write forever with us, is Bathsheba. Of course we know that the account of Bathsheba is one of adultery. So you have Tamar who is abused sexually, Rahab the prostitute, Ruth who is a Moabite woman who is converted in the most difficult and desperate times, you have Bathsheba who is caught up in adultery with David and then the one for sure you knew is Mary. She was simply a young virgin girl, and we certainly know that God could have used any virgin in Israel, but he chose to take Mary who faithfully disregards her own life as she cries out to God her Savior. Savior, of course, is an inclusive term in the Bible of an acknowledgment of the end of your own sin and need of repentance. Nothing in particular about Mary's life, outside of that she was a young virgin girl. For each of them, in each of their storylines that are given in the Bible, what we find and what we will see in Rahab’s story this morning is God's grace is at work. As we get into the account we're gonna read, I think you want to get your mind into this storyline here.
As we begin, I want to say this to the moms and the grandmom's this morning: no matter what has happened in your past, however guilty you may feel about how you raised your children, in the past or even currently, Jesus can take and wash away anything you've experienced. I know this from being in the same church for over two decades that sometimes, and this has been seen in particular on Father's Day where dad's won't even come on Father's day because of the guilt associated in their own home. I want you to understand this: that the gospel doesn't work that way, the gospel brings a guilt from conviction but it doesn't lead us into despair. However you're sitting here and and if Satan's beating you up or even your being your own self up with with the condition of your own home, mom I want you to rejoice this morning that the gospel is always a new and fresh start. Rahab, you know, and the providence and the wisdom of God in the text this morning because she clearly pictures for us God's grace at work.
Not one of us here this morning, a mother, not a mother, or even a female, sits here not sullied by our own sin. Our own dark closets of our own minds are battling engagement in the warring with our desire, war with our own sense. Right now all of us have some things you just don't want anybody to know about and not that everything should be confessed to people, nothing wrong with that because the Bible says to confess your own fault, but you understand what I'm saying. None of us go to the family reunion, your mother's immediate family or extended family where there have been lives ripped apart by sin. I guess what we see as we dip again to this text this morning into the account Rahab, friends there's hope here. Here is just a great account, there is hope and the hope is always Jesus in the Gospel. It's always Jesus in the Gospel and what God is feeling as seen in Hebrews chapter 11, is how Rahab's story fits in as the other stories do that we've looked. That Pastor Alex and I have brought to you, but especially this morning for moms, I want you to understand we're gonna see, even though she has a checkered past, she's a part of Jesus's genealogy, God takes her by the working of his grace and he changes lives. Let's be honest that's why we're sitting here. If he didn't do that, you none of us could be here. So mom if if you're sitting there and you're condemning yourself and and you're doing this or that, please don't do that to yourself this morning. In a sense, in a real way, releasing yourself from the prison of your own sin to freedom that the gospel gives and that Jesus desires to give because no matter your checkered past or even perhaps some current of your own failing God wants you freed so that you can enjoy him. The tendencies for mothers, and we all know this the dynamic of motherhood, they care so much it’s perhaps to either beat themselves up or perhaps if you're condemning towards other moms, you should take caution. You should not dwell on the inadequacies that you have or judge the inadequacies of maybe others that are under, you need some freedom. You need to release being so stressed out about everything. That's what the gospel promises. I can't give that to you, Pastor Alex can't give that to you, nor the elder board. God wants you to experience that in a very real way. I hope you're able to do that as we look this morning. Because let's be honest in the day we live up against it is always been true for Christianity since the attack on the first very first home, there is no tougher job than being a mom. I'm not saying that with lip service. I know what my mom did in the home I grew up in and I know what my dear wife does in our own home and her rustling for the sake of righteousness, plus of the myriad of other things that she fits in. Here is what I want you to get as we dip into this, which was certainly true for Rahab is you don’t have to be perfect. For whatever reason that's been on my mind a little, but I hope you understand that. You don't have to be perfect. I'm thankful for all of our sake the Christ was perfect and that we sit here now and we enjoy the salvation and we're gonna enjoy throughout the afternoon, the whole theme of motherhood as hopefully I don't burn things on the grill, because that can happen. God often does the unexpected and chooses the unlikely. It’s again a picture of his grace and certainly true and Rahab and what is left for her as a mom. What a reward because the Bible is going to be with us in the new creation. It's eternal when you contemplate that it is just just a beautiful picture here. So let's go back to Joshua chapter 2 and let's begin to look at Rahab's salvation. Her faith, as we just read from the account this morning in Hebrews chapter 11, because what's true for her is this true for us and so we're gonna look at this account. Ten truths, ten specific things that I'm going to point out through this storyline that were true for Rahab that are true for us. Read Joshua 2:1 God here gives us the account and says that the two spies go and they come into the house of Rahab the prostitute. Now turn to James 2, stay back in Joshua because we're gonna spend all our time there but I wanted to see this. I think it's important and you know I think sometimes we miss this. James 2: 24 - 25 you see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. I'll explain that and in the same way Rahab the prostitute was not justified by her works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way. We know this to be the truth of Christianity and the gospel that we are justified (justified meaning made acceptable to God by our faith). She's in the account right in Hebrews chapter 11 and what James is arguing there is the idea of justification, indicates that her works were proof that she had believed. Don’t get confused, the Bible is not contradicting itself. It's explaining itself. But I thought that's necessary to explain, and some of you may be confused by that. But my point, actually, by looking at that text is that Rahab once again is called Rahab the harlot (perhaps in your translation the prostitute) and she's she's called this in Joshua 2:1, in James 2:25 and also in our text of Hebrews 11:31. Now there's two types of prostitutes in the Bible, the first one is is one of cultic worship there were prostitutes in certain cults that were utilized for the sake of worship. As bizarre as that may sound that was the case. But that's not the type of prostitute that Rahab was. Rahab was rather the second one that we're look at let's go back to the text in Joshua 2 and I'll point this out to you and you kinda get what is actually happening here as to how salvation comes to her. The Bible tells us there again in verse two and they went and they came into the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab and lodging there she at her home would've been a picture like if you watch old western movies like a saloon. It was a place not quite like a sports bar today it would be like a place that's not just for prostitution only it was a place like where people convene where people came together. The spies went there because community was being done, information was being passed, and she had this in her home obviously an established business as a Gentile. The Bible just lets us know what's going on because sometimes this is how in the world Rahab find out about this. This is where community took place in her home so it wasn't as if everybody went there for the sake of prostitution there was discussion. People met, and I guess the clearest way I could try to give you a picture that it again would be at a saloon type setting. The two spies, the Bible tells us, went there and they lodged there. Now what we want to know particularly about her salvation was the first point, it's always the first point, that people need to understand, that Rahab understood that she was a sinner. The Bible is quick to remind us of this truth. In the three texts that I read you this morning, Rahab was a sinner as all men are sinners, all of humanity are we set here in the seat as converted sinners. But nonetheless sinners miss the mark, that's what Romans 3:23 is “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” the picture is the one the shooting of an arrow we miss the bull's-eye. We fall short of the glory of God. The glory of God is perfection. Rahab is a sinner and the Bible reminds us of that and it is good to remind ourselves of that. Kevin is a sinner. Secondly under this issue look at this look at verse nine and Joshua chapter 2 in her recognition of her sin and her understanding, she knows that she is under judgment. Joshua 2:9, the Bible says this before the man lay down, she came to them where she hid them on the roof and said to the man I know look at this this is very important to look at what what the words of her mouth and the activity of her life say “I know that the Lord has given you the land and that the fear of you has fallen upon us for all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you,” she knows that the terror of the Lord has fallen on her people. They are under judgment, now remember this is a war type setting. This is a war type setting but yet in her establishment, in her home, and all of the community is discussing what is taking place prior to the two men coming into her home. She knows and she goes to the two spies and explains to them, “I know we're under judgment, I'm under judgment all of humanity is under judgment they are lost and under God's wrath.” John 3:36 tells us that the wrath of God abides on those who are lost, basically those who are without Christ, you and I are no longer under that condemnation. Jesus has taken our condemnation. Jesus took our condemnation you see this in Romans 5:1 and you see this in Romans 8:1, “there is now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus,” yet at this point when you read this in Joshua 2, she knows that her people and that she is under the judgment of God. What's tied to the Gospel that sometimes we underestimate and we should never underestimate, because I believe it's a part of the turning of conversion that God uses: God is angry, friends, with sin. Psalms 5:5 tells us that God is angry with the wicked every day, and it's manifested in that currently they are already under the judgment of God awaiting to be judged in the last day. The word the wrath of God abides on the lost in John 3:36 in the Greek is a present tense active verb which means that God is holding them under judgment, until that judgement is turned when we place our faith in Christ because Christ bears our judgment on the cross. Thank God that he did so! But a part of the working of salvation is a recognition of, number one, that you are a sinner and that, secondly, is a part of being not okay with everyone being just a sinner. No we are headed to judgment and that was a factor that drew me to Jesus. I literally believed in my mind that whatever hell exactly is in it's in its fierce nature, I would dare say it's worse than what we could even imagine, I thought I was dying as a 12/13-year-old that night and going to hell, and I was alone. I knew I was under judgment, all Christians know that prior to Christ and without Christ we are under judgment. Thirdly though in this, look at verse 17 and 18 as we continue in looking at Rahab, the Bible tells us in verse 17 as the discussion unfolds with the spies, “the man said to her we will be guiltless with respect to this oath of yours” they they make most back and forth you know that we'll look into in just a few moments and verse 18 says, “behold we come into the land you shall tie the scarlet cord in the window through it which you let us down and you shall gather your house and your father and your mother and your brothers and all your father's household.” And at this point what I want you to understand about this that pertains to the salvation that Jesus offers is that Rahab's given time to repent. See the judgment hasn't come yet and right now as you sit here God is giving you time to repent, because you’re alive. You're your breathing. Because once Jesus comes, it's done. Right? It's the one life opportunity. And so in knowing the message, of course we know that Rahab goes on and she repents and she is scapes the judgment of her sin and it's represented to us as what was described there you jump down to verse 21 and “she according to your words so be it, then she sent them away and departed and she tied the scarlet cord in the window representing her faith in the Lord God of Israel.” Now a lot of people try to do this scarlet chorus it's not significant. I think it is, first and foremost, it represents her faith and that Jesus’ blood that was shed at the cross was scarlet and crimson. She is demonstrating her faith in YHWH. She is trusting in and she knows that she's been given time to repent. Now the gospel is come to her in perfect clarity. It has enlightened her mind as it does everyone, because you must know the components of the Gospel in a head knowledge type way to be converted to Jesus. Nobody just getting saved by accident. You're not just believing some, there is specific knowledge that pertains to the gospel. She knows she's a sinner, she knows she's under judgment, she know she's been to been given time to repent and what signified to her is the gospel is come to her in those two spies and she believes. By faith she believes the message. Oh friends repent, escape the judgment. That's what she is doing. In the community of those people that come, here is where the Gospel in her own home in the saloon type atmosphere. It reminds me of Romans 2:3-5 where people repent, it is under the loving kindness of God that brings a person to repentance. I live that reality, you live that reality. That fierce judgment when I was trying to just take stay isolated away from people so they wouldn't know what was going on in my mind, God arrested me.He arrested me. He had lovingly and kindly dealt mercifully toward me with to Jesus. I feel no different than Rahab. So in this Rabah pleads for mercy. She is pleading for kindness. She is pleading for forgiveness. She is resting in a God that is longsuffering and kind. She is coming to Christ on his terms, not her own terms. She is recognizing some things here. Number four in this, look back in Joshua 2:9. The gospel came to us in human instrument. See in her home, the gospel had come to her in oral form. Someone had communicated to her prior to the spies. What they had communicated was the truth that pertain to God and his people. The gospel was declared we see this in Acts 4:12 where the gospel is declared and when the gospel is is being proclaimed. There's knowledge about God, there's knowledge about Jesus, there's knowledge about what we are, there's knowledge about sin, there's knowledge about judgment, there's knowledge about repentance, there's knowledge about believe, there's knowledge about salvation, there's knowledge about new creation. That's what had happened to her. God's people somewhere along the way were engaging. Listen that's how she received this. She was a Gentile, she never would have heard this any other way. Because that's the truth to salvation, you hear the word in oral form. I want you to think back to when you were converted to Christ, who brought the word of God to you the gospel to you in oral form? Again for me it was Betty Ruth. It was my entire family got use my entire family and others. Bible class teachers, I think back to Dale Johnson, Sue Weldon. These people brought me Jesus in the Gospel when I was lost. But it was my mom at my conversion because I tried to go to my dad, but he was in the shower and I thought I was dying before he got out. I seriously did. I couldn’t wait. I cried out to my mom, I need I need to be saved. She goes, “Kevin you're already saved” I said “no I’m not”. I heard the word in oral form then from her. Fresh, new. Why is it necessary to hear the word oral form? Because there is salvation and no other way. Because Jesus is the only way and we need to tell people about Jesus. Listen let me say this, Jesus needs to be the language of your lips. You need to learn to say Jesus name and not just have generic conversations about God. You need to learn to say Jesus name and let yourself be loved by Jesus in a fresh way, to where the purity and the warmth and the compassion of that will so saturate your mind you will want to say Jesus to other people. I had a dude I went out with a few weeks ago, not part of the congregation, just lost. One of the things he said, “Man, you're always talking about Jesus” man I was like “Thanks! That may not have done much for you, but you just did a lot for me.” Then in that moment I got to express to him how Jesus could save him, like he saved me and that he could have some peace and contentment. Listen to me, this establishment was right,even by normal society, it was a prostitution saloon. She was probably doing it out of desperation to survive. In a culture that was very difficult upon women. No excuse to this but she was a sinner. But don't self righteously sit back and judge others and think you can engage them. Do you understand there are people that are surrounding you that desperately need you? And they need you to give the gospel to them! The sweet tasting words of the Gospel that are found in no other name but Jesus.
Quit self righteously looking at them and what they wear what they look like. Come on! Engage them, love them because they're created in the image of God. By God's grace as he gives you an opportunity, please hand them Jesus. Number five to this she believe the word of God. She did she believe the word of God look at verse 11. That was the fear of the judgment right. She believed the word of God and so as the gospel came to her in oral form it brought to her inner man write her immaterial man of conviction her heart was melted in that regard. See there's a lot of people that get convicted. The world stands under the conviction of sin, it's just mired with guilt. They might want to use drugs to escape it, they might want to use any number of things to escape it. The only thing that brings freedom is Jesus. So the fear of the people of Jericho are there under it, but man Rahab guys about to get set loose. “I believe the word That is come to me and you are God is the God of the heavens above and the earth beneath. I know how he delivered his people from Pharaoh. I know that your people cross the Red Sea on dry land I believe that miracle though I wasn't there.” That's faith. It is a conviction that bears repentance, it is a conviction that bears faith, that reveals itself in humility. The Lord your God he is God in heaven, submission. He is God on the earth, acknowledgment. And then friends that's not any different than ours. Those are all the elements of true faith, acknowledgment, submission, humility, repentance, and faith. Yes that's what faith is she believe the word of God. Let’s turn to chapter 6. We will jump forward in this story and we'll look at number six. We show you what happens to you when you believe. You already know this, in your heart and it's one day going to be manifested in reality. And that's this number six, in these ten truths that pertain to the gospel is deliverance from judgment and all that’s said here and exhale, Thank God! I'm delivered from the judgment! I desire he's delivered me. Rahab and her father's household are spared from judgment. Look at 6:17. Hey friends, let me tell you this no one's escaping the judgment unless they believe the gospel is true. Then now you have people in your life that don't know Jesus. It's time for us to get busy. Look at verse 22. She believed the message of God and she was spared. Which means at the end of this day, I have been praying for,because I woke up three times last night, that you're gonna lay your head down knowing that if something tragically happens to you, you will be with Jesus. You have been delivered from judgment the only way you can be delivered in judgment is to believe the gospel. Believers are delivered because believers are justified by faith and therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God. Again as I mentioned earlier Romans 5:1 “there's no condemnation to those which are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1 Jesus, Rahab, and the believers of Rahab’s gospel. As she went back to her home and told the gospel to her family. Who are the first people you tell? The first person I told when I got saved was my dad, when he got out shower. Then my brother when he came home, to the room we share. I shared with my family. That's what she did. She's running to her family. She had been delivered from judgment. Obviously in her deliverance she was spared. Number seven it was proved by her works that vindicated to her a genuine faith. This is what the Bible is referring to because in genuine faith, works are applied. Works are the action of love and the result of true faith. Listen to this, she hides the spies, she lets them down by a rope Joshua, and she ties a scarlet cord in the window and that example is given to her by the apostle James in the New Testament to where he says faith is evidenced and made alive by works. Without works faith is dead. It's a do nothing, save nothing, faith but the results of genuine belief is that one follows after YHWH, follows after Jesus. This is not only the case of Rahab, it is the case for we who are as God's people today. For you and I, Ephesians 2:8-10, were created as God’s masterpiece, of his grace for good works, her faith is proved by works. Of course one of those things, number eight, was that she sought to when others already read about Joshua 2:12 -13 where she makes her plea for her family and then of course again here in Joshua 6:23 so the young man who had been spies went in and brought out Rahab and her father and her mother and her brothers and all who belong to her and they brought all her relatives and put them outside the camp of Israel. We have had a plea and I believe that this plea was genuine. It's a genuine result of her faith because I really think this but when someone is really converted to Christ it isn't private religion. Why would I want my religion to be private and my dear wife and sons fall under judgment? No I love them and I want them converted to Christ. Just as you do for your home and it's not just for homes, it's for people outside of our homes. Because genuine faith results in people who will share the gospel in oral form. Rahab makes a plea. Listen to me think about the moment, she's desperate. Would you spare my dad? Would you spare my mom? Would you take with him my brothers and my sisters? I love them. Then of course the gospel oriented man will do it. Get this, this is a plea. Her heart is being revealed. She doesn't care who knows her heart is driven by a love for YHWH and then a love for people that's faith. That's faith, that's the gospel. When it’s believed, it seeks to win others. Number nine we go back to verse 25. This is true. Please this is an important point, man, it's often missed today. But Rahab the prostitute in verse 25 and her father’s household and all who belong to her and then Joshua saved their lives. She lived in Israel to this day. When salvation takes place, the people identify with the people of God. Rahab doesn't get saved and say this is private, I want to live on my own. I don't need those self-righteous people know this has always been consistent to real faith. People want to identify with the people of God's church. We meet to celebrate Christ and what he's done for us, as he did for Rahab. Rahab and her family identify with YHWH’s people.They believe God, they love God, and they love his people so it is true today of genuine faith. We want to identify with the people of God. We love the children of God. We love the people of God. 1 John 2:10-11, John 15, Jesus said it would be so in verses 12 - 17. Last one this is a good window go to go to Matthew 1. It’s not the end. This whole thing has not been consummated yet. Rahab's life ends up as she dwells with the people. It ends up in a wedding. And a wedding she gets to go to. Thank God for the wedding yesterday for Andrew and Chrissy and all the weddings that are gonna be taking and are taking place and for the children being born. I think these are reflections of the Gospel and a healthy church. Rahab gets converted and she goes to a wedding. Chapter 1:5 Salmon is identified here as her husband. What's interesting about this is his name Salmon means peace. The Bible doesn't say this but I still think it's pretty cool, it's obvious that she's married to him but there is Jewish legend that says Salmon was one of the two spies. The romantic in me loves that and if it isn't 100% factual, man will it preach. Salmon was known as a prince in the house of Judah. He married Rahab. Think about Rahab's life, a one time harlot just trying to survive. Sins forgiven and erased, marries Salmon, and even if he wasn't one of the spies he became and obviously was a leading man in Israel. Grace erased her former life.
Because of the wonder of technology my brother and sister, of whom I have one of each, got to enjoy each other this morning in light of mom, shooting text and then interacting with love for each other thankful they were spared. Find the joy of Christ and the Gospel for whatever failures you've experienced cast them at Jesus. He cares for you! Again, I love this story because everything changes for her, just like it changes for us in Christ. Because of God's grace she goes from prostitution shame to a wife and then into the genealogy of Jesus. Man, only Jesus does stuff like this. Their marriage becomes a picture of what you and I will participate in which is an eternal celebration, dear friends, the wedding feast is not just a momentary day, it's the eternal day. This morning, believers of the Gospel are those who understand they are sinners, they understand they are under judgment, understand because they're living they have been given time to repent and they hear the gospel in oral form. They believe the word of God. They rest, even as you and I do this morning, knowing they were delivered from judgment but the genuineness of their faith is proven through good works. The reality of that is we seek to win others with the gospel because we love them. They identify themselves with the people of God known as his church, that will be with him in eternity and that we're going to a wedding!
Exodus 14, Hebrews 11:29
In thinking and considering about this text this morning, I entitled the sermon “God Saves His People”. An account in the bible that I would say pretty much everyone in here is very familiar with, yet the truth is that title could be said every week, “God Saves His People”. Again in considering that, my parents were born and raised in the South and lived in the country and in thinking about this text, thinking about Hebrews 11, and in thinking about we would go down there and of course there were bean fields and there were cornfields and there would even be wheat fields. I remember seeing about the wheat fields, and if you haven’t personally seen this I’m sure you’ve seen it in some setting, a book or TV. The wind just blows across the wheat and it seems like the wind just saturates the entire field. I have physically stood and saw that. It reminded me of this text and fitting in to Hebrews 11 and the biblical mantra of the flowing wind across the field of wheat there, how the bible is, throughout the 66 books, moving through how God saves his people. God has done this and done so since the garden. He will do so to the end and the age to come. God will save his people. I find this truth to be so pure and so real that every person in here that belongs to Jesus should enjoy this life sustaining reality as it moves you through the very things that you go through in this life. That is this Jesus, my friends, will never let you go. He will never let you go and he will save you in the end. No matter the tribulation you are under, no matter the turmoil, no matter the life duress or difficulty, please know this (as God created his church to meet together to be edified to go into the world that they live in) and rest in this: God in the end will save you and he is going to save his people.
So we come this morning, as we have with pastor Alex as we’ve moved very quickly through Hebrews, it is an incredible book as it takes us, in Hebrews 11 alone, through the Old Testament and he is pointing, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to teach his people. In this account this morning, it is a very familiar story to us; Israel crossing the Red Sea as the Egyptian army pursues. As you and I now move through Exodus 14 and then we are going to wrap this up with one particular application. I know there are many that can be made, but we are going to make it up into one application that God has for his people. Know this as we move through this, I was you to rest in this and (yes I am saying this correctly) enjoy this. Always understand this in the sermons every week: God is saving his people.
You move through this account and it is just a fantastic account that’s given to us here, the Lord’s presence is evident. The circumstance that the setting gives us in Exodus 14 is that two million Jews or more are leaving Egypt under the leadership of Moses. Moses is leading them out as God had ordained. God had, through their slavery time there, made a people for himself. God now, at this moment in their history, had wanted a greater conformity to his ways and his will so he was calling them out, as we see here, to righteousness, to himself for a way of life. He was calling them out of Egypt where they were unable to worship as God ordained. You get to this and the bible is consistent to remind us this way that God’s people crossed on dry land in this miraculous moment. As we read earlier, God’s presence is with them. What we want to know about the Lord’s presence in this, is that the Lord is demonstrating his sovereignty and his power and his presence in those people’s lives and obviously that is true for us. His presence was with them and you find this in chapter 13. Here is how it took place. He was always with them. In the Lord’s presence, and we know he is calling them out of Egypt and they are being led out of Egypt in chapter 14, they are coming to the account of the Red Sea and the Lord is revealing a plan that he has for his people. His presence is with them and as his presence is with them, the Lord now is giving a plan and that plan has always been true for God’s people and that’s this: trust him. Trust in the Lord. God here is directing them, and as we see and know, his plan at first was not to safety. He designs a predicament for them, as we see. He sets a scenario for them that is impossible for them to obtain their salvation, yet he is going to provide it. Without the Lord’s intervention in this particular case, and certainly it’s true for us, the people are going to perish; they are going to die. That is spoken of, look at Exodus 13:20.
You can picture this, and I am going to try to help shape this. What you have here is kind of a geographical cul-de-sac. We lived in a cul-de-sac for 15 years, and you know you are hemmed in; there is only one way. In that one way out, here comes the Egyptian army. There is no place to go for Israel. They are very vulnerable in a military kind of way. They cannot defeat a well-equipped army. In this cul-de-sac, to kind of put your mind there, to the South is a massive Egyptian fortress of its kingdom, to the North is a barren desert, to the West is the deep Red Sea, and to the East here comes this Egyptian army. They are surrounded entirely. There is no place to go. This, of course, is part of the Lord’s plan.
Sometimes people express this into today’s kind of language. They think, “Well God doesn’t put too much on you that he knows you can’t handle.” And I want you to know, that is never true. God designs things for his people to reveal to them that they can’t handle it, that they desperately need him. That is actually God’s design. Those things are set for us, the trials that we go through, not that we might try to escape them, I’ll be honest with you that is what I often want to do, but rather that the trials would purify and strengthened their strength. That is what he is going to do for them, as he certainly does for each and every one of us that knows Jesus. It is the Lord’s plan that we trust him and trusting him means we rest in him. We rest in Christ, and we rest in the gospel. This is the picture that is for this people, now we know in Exodus 14 the Egyptian army is pursuing them. Look in verse 5. Pharaoh at this point has changed his heart and now he is going to set out to pursue the Israelites. The text tells us here that he takes 600 of his chosen chariots. Obviously there were men that were operating them. Those would be for us the first in, say the Navy Seals. The most trained of army. He is setting them out because his heart has been changed and he wants to pursue Israel and certainly take them captive and kill whatever he needs to. Added on to this elite chosen army, he also sends out all the rest of the Egyptian chariots, which obvious to us it a very formidable army. Now that army, if you can picture the 2 million Jews that are moving through with Moses, this formidable army is now visible to them in the distance. The can see the dust rising, from all the commotion being made as they are charging toward God’s people. If you can picture that and kind of think about that, it’s like the dust of that is rising to the sky as they are coming towards them. Undoubtedly for those people, the children of Israel, what’s attacking and causing their heart this sheer fright, is they know they are being fiercely pursued to be killed.
Look at verse 8. The Lord had hardened Pharaoh’s heart in this. His unbelief in YHWH and his defiance, his rejection has brought him a hardening. Let me say this to a hardness of heart, for any of us, that is the worst place in the world that any of us could be; in a hard heart place. As it is demonstrated in this individual, and there are hard hearts and rejection to the gospel all across the world, it creates a bitterness that leads to an anger that can produce murder. That was the Egyptian pursuit led by this evil Pharaoh. Now again we join in here in Exodus 14:10 and we see the very fright of God’s people. They are scared to death. They are fearing for their very life! “We are going to die!” That is what they are thinking. The people feared greatly. It literally means that their hearts are filled with fear. Now I don’t know if you have ever had that kind of experience where you thought you were going to die, and again I recollected one particular occasion that I can remember in my life where I thought I was going to die. The reason I thought I was going to die is because my mom’s reaction. I had done what I normally did on any other particular weekend day, spent the day on a Saturday playing filthy as can be. My mom always sent me to the basement because I couldn’t dirty up anything of the upstairs, rightfully so. I come in the back door and head to the basement. I was maybe 12 or 13 years old. From having been outside all day, because we didn’t take Gatorades or Powerades or water bottles, we just stayed out there all day and you were parched and thirsty, but you just stayed out anyway. If you were at somebody’s backyard you just used somebody’s hose. But that was not the case on this particular occasion, and I am thirsty and I didn’t have any patience to wait, though my mom sent me to the basement. And I grab this big car jar that’s clear water right? I take that sucker with two hands and start guzzling it. It’s bleach. I didn’t know what bleach was at the time, I just thought, “Man this is water, this is awful!” But I got a couple big gulps in and so I holler out, “Mom what is this?” Well she comes running down the stairs and sees the jar and I am telling you, she turned white with fear. Now, I am scared. I don’t know what it means but she says, “Kevin you will kill yourself.” I am thinking, “I’m not trying to kill myself, I’m just thirsty!” So she runs into a panic for the next half hour I drank about 2 gallons of milk because she was trying to get me to call Earl. That was my closest bought with a super fear of death.
The people’s hearts were filled with fear. There is a panic that is on them. As a result of this, read verse 10. They knew then what was indicative of all sinful man. They cry out to the Lord and they blame the leader. Blame has always been a strong game of people. From the garden to people currently in rejection of the gospel, they will blame their condition whatever number of reasons. It is easy for us to blame. So in their panic or a predicament, in a lack of recognition of YHWH’s sovereignty in their life, they begin to whine. “Oh my goodness, we are going to die. Now Moses you’ve brought us out here and we are cooked!” This is when we get the central part that we read earlier of this particular account. Look again to verse 13. Think of the intensity of the moment, two million plus people are thinking they are going to die. A powerful army in pursuit drawing closer, and Moses responds to the people in verse 13 fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord. It’s God’s grace at work. He is about to intervene for his people and destroy the enemy. God has always worked (I say this and I would ask you to read every account) out the salvation of his people. The Egyptian army is about to be devastated here. Moses lets them know, “You will never see them again.” Why? Because the Lord will fight for you, just stand firm and be silent. This is true because you cannot add to the Lord’s salvation and if you could then things wouldn’t be grace.
Before we continue on in this, how the Lord protects his people here, I just want to offer a few things to you. Three moments that I have found to be incredibly enjoyable to share, things in my personal life that I would like to share with you and hopefully, as they are tied to Christ and the gospel and the bible, they can be encouraging to you. Three moments in my life, it is not just the dramatic nature when they happened but the result of it. The first one is obvious, when I got saved. The whole game changed in that late 12 early 13 year. Everything about my life and my inner man got turned upside down. It was when salvation broke through the pressure, the guilt, the shame, and everything was gone. I felt like I was flying when I got up in the morning. It was so real to me what had taken place. It was right there in the mid-twenties and the doctrines of grace came to me, as I was pouring myself into the bible and how God works and these types of things, they became this incredible rewarding experience. I saw things in a greater light, things I had never seen before became abundantly clear and obvious to me. The last one, I would say that has truly come to life over the past five years, is taking a very simple thing that all of us can do that is really helpful and soul satisfying. When I say soul I mean your inner man, and it will change how you interact at work and with family and others. I am not saying I am doing any of that perfectly, I am just saying that I am finding this. To be so powerfully impactful and rewarding in my life, it makes me feel weak and strong, if that makes any sense. That is, when you are moving through a text and asking yourself the who, what, when, where, why, and how, of understanding what a thing means in a text, then you take that to a greater light and you define how that applies to Jesus and the gospel because has all been accomplished and it all rests on Jesus. For me, even in explaining that to Valerie and my sons and those who are in close confidence with me here at the church and others outside of the church that God has given me relationship with, in terms of pouring out deep personal stuff I have to say this to you, it is has been revolutionary for me. I want to share that with you because you, like me it is no different for any one of us, are going to continue to go through trials, tribulation, turmoil, and difficulty. I know this is what Moses’ is saying, “Rest! His presence is with us. It is before us, behind us.”
Now Christianity is not a “do nothing” thing. The reality of God’s grace is that it invigorates us to do things. Moses is about to lift his hands and God is about to work on the Egyptian army and they pass on dry ground. So I wanted to share those things with you, and I hope in light of that, for whatever way God can use it, you would embrace that and especially see, I turned 57 a month ago, its just been unbelievable these past 5 years experiencing this. Let’s go back to the text.
We have already read the account in the middle of chapter 14 on. The Lord is going to protect them, we see that Israel is clearly hemmed in, Pharaoh’s military is in hot pursuit, the Lord is now going to protect his people, and he is going to bring judgment on the Egyptians. The first part of this protection is that the Lord commands Moses to move Israel to the Red Sea. Now think again about this scenario. They are filled with fright and they are probably wondering, “I can’t swim! What do you mean go towards the Red Sea?” Then you look at all of this, and we aren’t going to re-read it for times sake, but in verse 19 the Lord surrounds his people for protection. It is the Lord’s protection. He is protecting his people in the midst of this trial. Verse 20, this kept the Egyptian army from advancing on Israel. Here is what I want you to know, in terms of you not being able to handle it, no matter what it is, the difficulty that you are under, God is in the middle of it. That is the part that he wants us to understand and believe and trust in, when perhaps things are so overwhelmingly difficult that not only can’t you talk but you also don’t feel like you can breath. That is where God’s people are. He does, as God always does, he provides a miraculous escape, his salvation. The waters are divided, Israel passes on dry land, as the waters are lifted up into this wall and then what follows there, the Egyptians pursue and the Lord causes the chariots to clog. This prolific army in world history is stopped, halted. You have read about it, probably hundreds of times over. What takes place then is probably one of the greatest events that world identifies of the bible; the destruction of the Egyptian army and the deliverance of the Israelites. It really is a graphic scene of God’s miracle and working hand. It’s things you have read about, I have read about and talked about, and people who aren’t even Christians are familiar with. As a result of all of this, the Lord is praised in verse 30 and 31. The Egyptian army is dead, the water has collapsed as the Lord had said, God’s people are spared, and they rejoice in the fear of the Lord. That is, they are overwhelmed by his awesomeness and his power as it is displayed, and they fear the Lord and they believe in the Lord. What those two expressions are, is praise. They are like, “Wow! Our God!” That’s us, right? We are worshipping, “Our God!” In a moment here we will enjoy the table.
In most of this, there is probably not anything new you have learned this morning. What I want to do is make one application point to this that I think is central as parents, grandparents, in a faithful regard to being God’s people. Because God’s people were being called out of Egypt to live in righteousness as God has called you and I, his church, out of the world to live in righteousness. Which has been a most difficult thing that has plagued the church worldwide, especially been true of the church in America. This was a calling out of the world, just like they were. A people made for his righteousness, just like we are, where God will dwell with us. He does, right? In and through Jesus and his presiding even over this service and table and the power of his grace and his word. This picture of Israel as God’s people is a picture today of the church. It is only, before I get to this central application point, proving to us a greater reality of eternity. That is why I want you to take comfort in, but then I want that comforting truth to lead to something. So we will live faithfully to his righteousness! God is going to save us in the end. We will dwell in his righteousness and we will be his people as he intends. Knowing that should stir us to be the kind of people that God has wanted us to be.
I ask you now to turn to 2 Corinthians 6. I am going to wrap this up real quick. I want this point to be made out of this, and it is the only point I am going to make, as it pertains to this account we just read from. It is an area that has been sinned against too often by God’s Church, and even by pastor’s for a cheap buck, $50. That application, friends, though I want us to get the seriousness of it, I want this to strengthen us so that we feel empowered to live to his righteousness. It is a very practical point on marriage. Look at verse 14. Israel was unequally yoked under Egyptian bondage. What joining covenantal accord does Jesus have with Satan? That will make you shiver! What portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God, and this is the central text that is used for biblical separation. Now I don’t know your history, I am only going to share my history. Largely, what has been tied to biblical separation has been hair, pants, and alcohol. That has it’s own subject matter, but what I want you to understand biblically is that biblical separation is that a believer should never marry an unbeliever for no circumstance. The people of God should not only believe it, but the leadership of God and pastors should never do it. They are disobeying God himself who created the covenant of marriage. God forbids, and I want you to embrace this, God forbids for biblical separation, same sex marriage, polygamy marriage, or unequal marriage; meaning, an unbeliever with a believer. Here is where the flavor of churches I have been a part of have tried to misappropriate 2 Corinthians 6:14-16. They say an unequally yoked marriage is a white man marrying a black women or a white man a red woman or a yellow woman or a brown woman. You can carry that on. That’s what we have made this! It is an abuse of God’s word. The answer, of course, to that question can a white man or a black man marry a white woman, is yes! If they are believers, yes! Its believer with believer, that is the unequally yoked part. So what I want you to understand about this, what pleases God is that marriage is designed for a believer to another believer. That is what he created the greater picture for, and we have used that example in other ways. But we must embrace this! Christians need to marry other Christians. To raise gospel centered, Jesus loving homes. To impact as homes, the church. Inside of that, we are all to live in celebration of Jesus. Now, that’s been my mantra since I got here 22 years ago. I used to teach stuff like that on Wednesday night when it was just men. Knowing at the time, even then, only having one son that was one and Val was pregnant with Zach. That has been the consistent theme of our household, and I am only saying this as an example just to say things to you in a practical way. So the question you are probably asking yourself as a mom or a grandma if they choose to disobey what do I do? You hold to the mantra. Of course you are not going to hate your children, you shouldn’t hate your children, but you should hold to the mantra. Because God designed it! Because God called us out of this world to be a people designed for himself in righteousness. The story of God’s people crossing the Red Sea is not just a story. He wants his people to live in righteousness. What we want to do in this place is to promote Jesus and God-centered and gospel-centered homes so his name is magnified among us! This should be a faithful theme for all of us. Let me just say this, friends this starts with dad. He will be given the ultimate responsibility.
God rests in his people by faith. Stay with me on this! This isn’t to lead you to despair, because all of us are probably sitting here thinking of a number of ways that that is being violated in our family or extended family. Let me just offer this, I am in a war with my extended family right now, a spiritual war. It is not all rosey colored in the McGuire household. In my extended family there is a war going on for this. I tell you that to encourage you. It’s not like I’m sitting here, “Oh you should look like me.” No this is a war and we are in this together! We should be promoting the things that God promotes. We should be there for each other to encourage each other and to love on another, because we are all standing here as a working of God’s grace because we have sinned. The beautiful thing is this, no matter where your household is, we have to pick this back up because biblical separation is not the length of your hair, its not the fact that a woman has pants on, or the use of wine or beer, the biblical separation is the issue of marriage. That is God defined, not Kevin’s opinion. If we lose the words of God, we have lost is all! Lets hold a guard, lets be faithful and true, and then God give us the strength to get this muddle out and turned around, for right sake!
don’t walk like an egyptian: why you’re not who you think you are, and that’s a good thing
I moved to Louisville in August of 2006, as many of you know. Some, or most of you probably, will remember that the World Series that fall featured your Detroit Tigers against the St. Louis Cardinals. What I learned that fall was that the fine citizens of Louisville KY predominantly cheer for one of two baseball teams: the Cincinnati Reds, or the St. Louis Cardinals. So, there I was, at the time not the world’s biggest baseball fan, but my home team was in the fall classic, so I rep’ed the Tigers. I can’t speak for metro Louisville in general, but on the campus of Southern Seminary, I was a lone wolf; a speck of orange and blue in a sea of Cardinal Red. You probably remember that the Tigers lost that series, having only won the second game. I, of course, was appropriately ridiculed for identifying with the Detroit Tigers that fall. People love to identify with sports franchises. Do they not? Those fans (to use the “being” verb literally), you can replace the St. Louis Cardinals with any sports team at any level, are Cardinal fans. They identify as Cardinals fans, they see themselves existing being Cardinals fans. Even though I like baseball now more than I did then, at the time, if I was going to identify with a major league baseball franchise, it was going to be the Detroit Tigers.
Whether you identify with a sports team or not, most people try to find their identity in some kind of group, some kind of community. On April 12th of this year, the NYT published an article entitled, Why Americans Vote ‘Against Their Interests:’ Partisanship. The article talked about wealthy liberals who vote against tax cuts for the rich and working class conservatives who would vote for economic or healthcare related policies that don’t favor their income bracket. The NYT submitted partisanship as the answer. The wisdom of NYT said most people identify themselves either as Republicans or Democrats in America, and in our political climate that usually means all or nothing for people. If someone votes Republican, they will usually support all Republican politicians and policies without differentiation, and the same for Democrats. Usually. They would say if you are a Democrat, that means you believe “X, Y, & Z,” and the same is true for the Grand Old Party.
Regardless of your specific political affiliations or sports allegiances, one thing is true everyone who’s ever lived is tying their identity to something. Feminists tie their identity to sex; racists tie their identity to race, some place their identity in their education, their income bracket, their citizenship, their appearance, and the list goes on and on. The question for us, church, this morning is, with what, or maybe more appropriately, with whom, does Christianity call us to identify? As we move forward, now, in the eleventh chapter of Hebrew – in this biblical theology of faith – we stumbled last week across baby Moses, and we beheld the faith of his parents. This morning we’re going to see how the life and faith of Moses is a picture for us, and how it can help us run our race better. How did Moses address the universal human identity crisis by faith, and how can we do the same?
Identify with the King’s People
First of all, the Holy Spirit, in Hebrews 11, tells us that Moses identified with God’s people. Moses identified with God’s people. Look at verse 24. This verse is specifically making reference to Moses’ defense of the Hebrew slave and murder of the Egyptian taskmaster (Exod 2.11-22). Tom Schreiner notes, “Such an action, even if it was a mistake in some respects, wasn’t merely a temporary fit of temper. It signaled where Moses’ loyalties were, demonstrating that he had associated himself with the people of God rather than the Egyptians.” You know, sometimes we talk about Moses’ murder of the Egyptian in defense of the Hebrew slave almost like it was just a chaotic circumstance, like it just kind of happened and then Moses reacted and he just happened to run away. But I’m a Calvinist, so I don’t believe in coincidence. Moses was taking a stand. Moses was choosing to identify with God’s people, over against his adopted kin.
The author of this sermon even goes so far as to say that [Moses] considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. When Moses chose the hardship of Israel over the throne room of Egypt, he was identifying with Jesus himself. That is what the Holy Spirit says. Moses considered the reproach of Christ greater than the treasures of Egypt. Jesus himself who would chose the hardship of the cross over the throne room of Heaven. Moses was finding his identity in the promises of God, not in the comfort of his upbringing. You know, if I were Moses, I think I would have been able to convince myself to stay in Pharaoh’s house. I would say something like; “I believe that God has me here for such a time as this. He providentially had me adopted and I am going to do everything I can in the interworkings of the Egyptian legal system to make things better for the Jews. God made me Pharaoh’s grandson, so he must want me to stay here.” But that’s not what YHWH called Moses to do, is it? He called him to identify with God’s people. Moses’ identity was not found in being Pharaoh’s grandson, or in being one of Egypt’s most eligible bachelors; it was in being one of the elect children of YHWH.
A few moments ago we just sang that beautiful hymn, All Creatures of Our God and King. You may or may not know this but that song was written in the 1200’s by St. Francis. Francis was raised in wealth but gave it all up to preach the gospel and to feed the hungry. He literally abandoned his wealthy attire and founded the Franciscan order. Francis left a life of privilege to obey the call of God. Church, Moses did the same thing. He left a life of privilege to identify with God’s people. That’s why he defended his oppressed brother against the tyranny of the cruel Egyptians. That’s why he left his home. That’s why he returned to Egypt to lead God’s people out of slavery. Moses’ identity was not found in his family, it was not found in his education, or his wealth; his identity was found in God’s people.
This is what the book of Revelation is all about. The book of Revelation is not about future chaos, Henry Kissinger, or how your credit card chip is the number 666. The mark of the beast means to identify with Babylon, or in Moses’ case Egypt, over against the kingdom of Christ. Throughout history, God’s people have never taken the mark of the beast. That’s how we know they are God’s people. Moses did not take the mark of the beast, he identified with God’s kingdom. He thought that the reproach of Christ was better than the treasures of Egypt.
The beginning of this chapter told us that faith is the assurance of things hoped for and that faith is the conviction of things not seen (Heb 11.1). As new covenant believers that means that we identify with God’s people – the church, even when the church appears to be weak. We don’t identify with any of the faux churches that the world has to offer, but, first and foremost, our identity is found in the kingdom of Christ. You are not first and foremost a millennial, a baby boomer, or a member of the greatest generation. Your identity is not cemented in your race, your education, you income level, or your sexual attraction. You are not first and foremost a Republican, Democrat, or even American. If you have faith in Jesus Christ, then your identity is in Christ. That is who you are, church!
By faith, you have been adopted into God’s family. You are a member of Jesus’ body. You are a stone in the temple of the Holy Spirit. You are a solider in the Lord’s army. You are a disciple of Jesus; you’re a Christian. You have died with Christ and resurrected with Christ when you were baptized. You are a new creation, behold the old has gone and the new has come. Hear the glory of the gospel this morning, church. When God looks down at you, he sees the righteousness of his Son Jesus Christ. By faith these things are true of you right now. You are the church.
Church, that means that we need to have a little smaller view of the world. If we are going to properly identify with God’s people. Because faith, first and foremost means that we identify with God’s people. We don’t always believe that. If that’s true, that means you have more in common with a Christian Syrian refugee than you do your unbelieving American next-door neighbor. You are more related to the Russian Christian who is legally banned from sharing the gospel, than you are to your unbelieving parent, sibling, or child. You are more connected with South American Christians living in huts on the Amazon River that have never ever heard of the Detroit Tigers, than you are with the unregenerate thousands who fill Comerica Park and sing the national anthem with you. Now that doesn’t mean that going to ball games and having small talk with your neighbor is wrong, on the contrary, these are good things, but we must not forget their place. The question we have to ask ourselves this morning, do we value the reproach of Christ more than the treasures of America? Like Moses did the treasures of Egypt. Would you rather be mistreated with the people of God than enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin? Surely everything Moses enjoyed in his comfortable Egyptian life was not sin, just like going to a baseball game is not sin, but it sin if we love it more than Jesus.
It’s not wrong to identify with a certain political party, but if that means you have to train yourself to hate the unborn, or anyone else made in the image of God, then we’re doing it wrong. If you can go to a ball game and get all emotional singing the national anthem, and you remain here stoic during corporate worship, than you’re doing it wrong. Are you willing to be mistreated with the people of God, or do you love the pleasures of comfort?
This is the truth, guys, identifying with God’s people, means you will be mistreated. If you want to follow Jesus, then your understanding of sex and marriage is going to be hated by most Americans. “What do you mean marriage means only one man and one woman? What do you mean that any sex outside of the marriage of one man and one woman is sin?” Are you willing to stand with God’s people in that? “What do you mean that you give at least 10% of your gross income to the church? That’s crazy! Imagine how much more you could have or how much more you can invest? What do you mean you want to get married young? What do you mean that you want to have kids? What do you mean you want to have a lot of kids? What do you mean abortion is murder? What do you mean you go to church every Sunday?” They look at us like we are Looney Tunes. Identifying with God’s people will mean reproach. Moses had faith, so he knew that it was more valuable than all the treasures of Egypt. Do you believe that the reproach of Christ is more valuable than the American dream?
Rebel Against the King’s Enemy
Moses also knew that following king Jesus meant rebelling against king Pharaoh. Verse 27 says that Moses left Egypt because he was more afraid of the invisible king than he was the king of Egypt. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Moses was convicted of the invisible kind. Moses feared YHWH more than he feared Pharaoh. He falls in line with the history of God’s people who have rebelled against all that is anti-Christ. Rahab who rebelled against Jericho, the Apostle’s who looked the Jewish leadership in the eyes and said, “We cannot help but preach that which we have seen.” Martin Luther who defied the world-ruling Roman Catholic Church when he declared, “Here I stand, I can do no other.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer who fought Hitler’s Germany, and gave his life in the process. Indeed, church, there are a great cloud of witnesses who have come before us in rebellion to the evil serpent king; many of them gave their blood as the seed of the church.
Hear this, this morning, brothers and sisters, faith means that we must rebel. We are rebels. Like Moses, we must rebel against our own comfort. Pharaoh was abusing God’s people and Moses spoke truth to power. Like Moses’ parents, we must rebel against a culture that says that children are an unfortunate side effect of sex, and they are the end of your happiness and freedom. We rebel against that evil and declare that children are a gift from God. Like Joseph, we must rebel against a culture that tells us that sex outside of marriage is liberating and bountiful, while sex inside of marriage is dull and rare. We rebel by running from sexual immorality and by loving our spouses like Christ loves the church. You know what Satan loves? He loves it when you badmouth your spouse to other people. Because there is nothing in all of creation that declares the gospel isn’t true, like two spouses not loving each other. Man, Satan really loves that. That helps his cause. He loves it when we ignore our children. He loves these things because they are anti-Christ. He loves it when a Christian man is addicted to pornography and it affects his relationship with his wife. Church, we need to fight back against this damning worldview. We need to rebel! Faith means that, like Moses, we must rebel against God’s enemy.
Dine at the King’s Table
Moses didn’t just identify with God’s people, and rebel against God’s enemy, but he also dined at God’s table. Verse 28 says, By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them. Instituting and keeping the Passover was an act of faith on Moses’ part. YHWH had declared, as our brother Bobby read this morning, that he was going to reckon the payment of the firstborn that was due him. But those who would sacrifice the lamb and spread the blood over the doorposts, the angel of death would pass over them. Israel remembered this groundbreaking event in the history of God’s people every single year when they would celebrate the Passover feast. By participating in the event itself and then continuing in its annual feast, Moses declared that he was abandoning Pharaoh’s table and sitting at YHWH’s table.
The spring semester of my sophomore year of college I moved home for a semester and took some online classes. Bethany was a senior in high school and I wanted to spend that last semester here with her before we both moved down to Kentucky in preparation for getting married. Because I knew that I was moving back to Kentucky, I left my seminary-parking sticker on my car. You know you have to have your parking sticker or else you will get a ticket at school. So, one night I was driving home from Bethany’s parents house, they used to live at12/Hayes and I was driving to my parent’s house. They live at 13/Campbell. I made it to 13/Dequindre, and got pulled over for running a red light, which looked kind of orange to me. For the record, I think it was more orange than red. I got pulled over at 13/Dequindre by Warren PD and the officer comes up to my window and I’m, you know how you feel when that happens. The first thing he says to me, I swear, the first thing he says to me was, “Son, are you a Southern Baptist?” I was like, “Excuse me sire?” You know, that is not the question you normally get when you pulled over. So I say, “Well, I go to the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville KY.” He said, “I saw your Southern Baptist parking sticker on your car. I’m Southern Baptist!” I was like, “Okay!” I am still reeling, like this is going on. He said, “Son I am going to let you off with a warning now because you are going to seminary and you are going to be a preacher, so don’t run red lights.” So he let me off! Glory, right? Under the protection of that parking sticker, the just wrath of the law passed over me. Because I had that sticker, that is what saved me, I was under that protection and I guess you could argue that I deserved it. Again, I feel like it was rather orange. But if you were to argue that I did than that sticker protected me as the law passed over me.
Church, when Moses by faith sacrificed that lamb for Israel and they spread the blood over the doorpost, the just wrath of God passed over them. That which they deserved, they were sinners like we are and God’s justice and wrath passed over them because they were covered and protected by the blood of the Lamb. Moses dined at that table every single year by faith, in rebellion to the serpent king. Identifying with God’s people. What Moses did not fully understand thought, was that the Passover was instituted because some 1,500 years later, in a small upper room in Jerusalem, Jesus of Nazareth would shed light on the true meaning of the Passover. The bread is his body. The wine is his blood. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. As Israel celebrated the Passover feast for centuries, it was all pointing them forward to Jesus who would die on their behalf. Church, when we identify with Jesus, when we have faith in Jesus, his blood covers our doorposts and God’s just deserving wrath passes over us.
This is why we celebrate the Eucharist every week. We dine at Jesus’ table to identify with his people, to rebel against his enemy. The Passover meal has been redefined by the gospel of Jesus. We were once enemies, but now we’re sons and daughters. We, church, have traded the table of this world for the table of the king. This is your family. This is your meal.
It’s easy for us to find our identity in sports, politics, education, family, but church, these things are eternal. Like Moses, we must identify with the king’s people, rebel against the king’s enemy, and dine at the king’s table. Faith means that your identity is found in the kingdom of Jesus. That is who you are. Before country, before blood, we are kingdom people. Like Moses, we declare unabashedly, we pledge allegiance to king Jesus. And that allegiance is stronger than a political party, its stronger than the United States of America, and its even stronger than the Detroit Tigers. Let’s pray.
Return with me to the book of Hebrews, where we are going to pick up in chapter 11, continuing our movement through the book of Hebrews together. I had pastor Alex read from the account that’s given in Exodus 1 and 2 because that provides us the setting of the singular verse we are going to look at this morning in Hebrews 11, look with me at verse 23.
We of course, as stated, are moving through chapter 11 of the book of Hebrews. Which is, as most of us know, the faith chapter, for us in particular, a biblical theology of faith. God revealing the accounts of the stories of said individuals of their enduring trust in the Lord, in YHWH, to the greater story, which was the sending of God’s own son, the promised Lord Jesus Christ to redeem both them and us. As we move through this, and in each account as we move through them, it’s pretty evident that there is one form of difficulty or another that is provided in their circumstance to which we then see their persevering faith in God. When you get to this particular verse it’s kind of easy, to miss the story of Moses’ parents as it’s found here in Hebrews 11. Yet I have found this, in studying it, it is an incredibly wonderful and encouraging story, their account, as it fits in of course to the rest of the gospel story. I find it to be strengthening and encouraging to us who desire to have gospel centered families and gospel-centered homes.
You may or may not know the names of Moses’ parents but they are Amram and Jochebed. Amram and Jochebed kind of sound like a bad monster movie. For those of you that grew up in this area, I know as a kid, every Saturday Godzilla would come on. That was, when I was a kid, one of the highlights of the week. I couldn’t wait for Saturday because on channel 50 Godzilla was going to come on and he was going to fight a particular monster. So I was a Godzilla fan. When you look at Amram and Jochebed, and you kind of say their names quick that is what it sounds like, a bad monster movie. But these are the parents of Moses. Amram his father, and Jochebed being his mother. However brief it is presented here in Hebrews 11, it is a very important moment in our history. I kind of need you to pull this together with me because we are going to look at three different passages. We are going to jump back to Exodus 2, we are going to look at Acts 7 in a few moments here, and then we will tie this in to Hebrews 11 to see how this account formulates.
Getting us to that point I want to share just a couple things about Amram and Jochebed by name, which are pretty significant. Amram name means an exulted people of abundance. His name means love and companionship, peace and harmony, and also his name means aggressive. So it means an exulted people of abundance, love and companionship, peace and harmony, and aggressive. Jochebed has a beautiful name as well, in terms of her meaning. The meaning of Jochebed means YHWH or the Lord is glory. And of course you and I understand that YHWH, the Lord, we come to know as the person of Jesus. When you put these two together, you of course, know the story of Moses, and as we are going to look at it, the picture is pretty clear. Theirs was, even in the center of tremendous difficulty and turmoil, a happy home. They had a faithful home. They had, if you want to call it, a gospel-centered home. They were living to the glory of YHWH. Just as you and I meet here weekly as the design of God, his church, we all have desires (there’s no doubt in my mind or else you wouldn’t be here) to live to the glory of Jesus, both personally and most assuredly as a home. I think what you find in Amram and Jochebed’s name is that their home was filled with love and peace and harmony. Compassion was exhibited. They were faithfully living out and following after YHWH. And inside of that home, understand this, they were parenting aggressively… strong, godly parents. Amram and Jochebed, they’re mentioned in Exodus chapter 6 verse 20, by name, as Moses’ parents. Exodus chapter 2, they were from the tribe of Levi. And what the Bible tells us there in Exodus chapter 6 is this household of Amram and Jochebed had Miriam, a prophetess, Moses, who becomes one of the greatest leaders in the history of Israel, and also Aaron, his brother, who becomes a high priest. Amram and Jochebed had a faith in the Promise. And God enters them into the picture. When you look back again to verse 23, it’s easy to almost miss this, it says, “By faith Moses, when he was born…” Well, when Moses was born, he was hidden for three months by his parents. It was the parents’ faith that had hidden Moses for three months for this reason because they saw that the child was beautiful and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. Moses was born under a tremendous amount of distress on the people of Israel. They were under bondage. They were in slavery, of course, as Pastor Alex read from Exodus 1:15-22. You know this; you’re familiar with this, as you’re familiar with the story of Moses. It was a dark time in Israel’s history. They were under oppression by the Egyptians. And Pharaoh, the leader of the Egyptian nation, enslaved the Israelites. He was a ruthless individual. Some of you even groaned in the account that Pastor Alex read from. He was a gruesome individual. And he wanted to keep these people under control because he had them in bondage. They were their slaves. In doing so, he placed amount of great burdens on them. And he offers, as we note together, an edict found in Exodus 1:16, which Pharaoh began to fear the growth of the nation of Israel. Now, you can imagine being subject to slavery and such heavy lifting and the things of this nature (because undoubtedly they were used to build much of the pyramids and all of those things that were going on in the construction) much would cause the men of the nation to grow strongand mighty and powerful. And they not only were growing that way physically, but more importantly God was giving them homes and families. In a tremendous amount of difficulty and distress, they were having families. And they were trusting, even though they were in bondage and slavery, they were trusting in the Lord. And the Lord was making preparation to free them. Pharaoh, of course, was concerned that this group of people (the Jews and the nation of Israel) would surpass Egypt. And he was fearful of being overpowered by them, and so he orders the murder of males. And yet, as the text tells us, the midwives feared God and they did not obey Pharaoh and God made provision for them (Exodus 1:19-21). And the people had families. The number of the people of Israel were growing. It was said that when they left, the nation of Egypt had at least 2 million people. Egypt had had them in bondage. And it’s in that backdrop that we’re going to look at three different texts that tell us and give us the faith of Amram and Jockebed.
Amram and Jochebed believed the Lord. They trusted in God’s promise. They believed, which is really the theme of all of chapter 11, they believe and they obey. Their belief is demonstrated by their obedience. These parents had followed YHWH, and it was a winsome kind of home. There was love, and there was peace, and there was harmony, and it was being lived out to the glory of YHWH. These things were shared. You get to chapter two then, and amidst this difficult, stressful time comes the birth of Moses. Now, again, I wanted you to stay with me, and I want you to follow this. This is kind of easy to miss if you do this in a casual reading. But this will bless you. And God left it there in time and space as the story of redemption unfolds.
So, we’re going to turn to Exodus chapter 2, and we’re going to go the three spots all at the same time. Then, we’re going to go to Acts chapter 7, and you’re going to hold your spot here in Hebrew chapter 11. So, go ahead and do that. I want to get everybody turned over there and get settled in so you can follow this with me. And I trust this morning it will encourage you certainly, as it did me. Exodus chapter 2, the book of Acts chapter 7, and of course you know that’s where Stephen is preaching through the Old Testament, a biblical theology of the Old Testament, and then Hebrews chapter 11.
There is something stated within each of these texts that are consistent. One particular thing. It’s a curious thing; you will see this as we read it. You’ll notice this with me that in this set of circumstances Moses had an unusual birth and those things that happen that surround his birth and his early infancy. Read Exodus 2:2. Now turn with me to Acts 7, I’m going to read a bigger section here that isn’t too long, look at verses 17-22 because it’s here that Stephen as he is preaching, who obviously ends up stoned and martyred, as he is trying to point to the people the promise of Jesus that is found in the Old Testament. He enters into this in verse 17.
So here in verse 20 of Acts 7, the Bible tells us that Moses was beautiful in God’s sight. Now once again turn to chapter 11 of Hebrews and we will pull all this together. Exodus 2:2, “a fine child”, Acts 7:20, “beautiful in God’s sight” and Hebrews 11:23, “the child was beautiful.” What is the significance of that?
If God says something once it’s important and he means it, but its stated in three different accounts and three different time frames. In one respect, don’t all parents think their kids are beautiful? I think back to when our first, Drew, was born and the excitement we had in waiting for him, and yes I did help deliver all three of my boys. But I have to be honest with you, I never necessarily thought any of them were beautiful. I kind of thought they came out the same way, dark headed and red. But as it were, they were beautiful to us. Because the truth is, parents think their kids are beautiful. So in one regard, Moses was a good-looking infant. But this translation an appearance can also mean favor. When it is translated that way beautiful in God’s sight in Acts 7:20, it would have to be that the child had God’s favor on him. That’s more the significance, though he may have been a pretty little boy. The significance of what’s going to take place, that God was pouring his favor into Moses who would be the deliverer of God’s people.
Let me say this, here is one of the reasons why I believe that, God is not interested in your looks. You don’t get saved because you are good looking. You don’t get saved because of your intellect. You don’t get saved because of your wealth. You don’t get saved because of the particular family you come from. That is clear on a lot of fronts, in particular John 1:12-13. There is nothing in and of our lives, which is even true of Moses, that God is going to be overly impressed with. But God does pour out his favor. You are the recipient of his favor, as I am, that have been converted to Jesus Christ. So it was going to be for Moses, and in particular was already the said faith of his parents Amram and Jochebed. Go back again to verse Acts 7:17. As Moses was being born and the edict had come forward from Pharaoh, Amram and Jochebed had an understanding of this and were trusting in YHWH for his protection. There was a greater purpose to this than just some random plan to put him in a basket and to set him into the water, even though that was a part of their narrative. Moses, to Amram and Jochebed, was going to have a unique destiny beyond just his own parent’s thinking but they knew it was going to come from the Lord himself. That Moses was going to have a play in God’s promise of redemption. He would be the delivered of God’s people and one who would make a covenant with the nation, a covenant made under Moses. Now go back to Hebrews 11, having taken those things into account, and that’s a part of this story that is given to us, however brief it is, of Moses’ parents Amram and Jochebed in verse 23.
They were trusting in YHWH though the lived in a time of great duress, slavery. God had provided for Amram and Jochebed protection. They were trusting in YHWH and their faith appears to us as reckless and very brave. They conceal Moses for as long as they can, for three months. Can you imagine trying to keep from birth to three months a baby from crying? It’s difficult and it’s impossible. But they were trusting in the Lord and they did not fear Pharaoh. Their lives were committed to the ways of YHWH over against the difficult environment that they lived in. That is truth to live on. They trusted in YHWH and it resulted in them obeying him. They were believers in God’s promise, they conceal Moses’ presence and their doing so, under the fear of death for Moses, perhaps even Mariam and Aaron, and as well to themselves. Their faith certainly is brave; it’s reckless. Amram and Jochebed come up with this creative plan. Here is what I want you to know about this, it is important and indicative to all who believe in Jesus Christ, our faith is a reasonable faith, it makes sense. It isn’t just some random blind thing. That is, when you really believe and have been converted to Christ, God calls upon us to think. We have think through things and we have to give ourselves to a faith that is active, condition upon the things that are going on in our home and the things that are going on in our church. Faith is not blind in the sense that I believe and that’s it. Real faith is moved to action, I think you see that to be true of the people in Hebrews 11.
We know it to be true for those people in Amram and Jochebed’s home. They come up with a plan. Jochebed makes a basket, a papyrus basket, it’s coated with pitch. They sent beautiful Moses into this basket. Now just think about that for a moment, that’s terrifying. Are you kidding me? That’s terrifying. We can almost read through that as if it’s not that big of a deal. They were trusting in YHWH, they were believing in the promise, but they were setting this thing forth. Now before we continue on, I want you to turn to Proverbs 21. Because I think in all of our lives, in all of our family’s lives we are called upon by God to trust him and obey him no matter the set of circumstances. Here is what works with trusting the Lord, trusting in Christ, and giving yourself to his ways, when sometimes you don’t have the answers. Any number of things could have happened to Moses, but they were trusting in YHWH.
Look at Proverbs 21: 1. You and I, as followers of Christ are in the hand of the Lord and our circumstances, sometimes that we don’t necessarily have the answer to, need to continue to trust in Christ, to obey the things of Christ when maybe we see things being altered. Because the King’s heart is in the hand of the Lord and he turns it however he wills. See your life is not being lived in some random fashion, we aren’t some people who are Johnny-come-lately. God is at work in the lives of those who believe. Here again, beautiful little Moses is placed into the basket and then placed into the water where Pharaoh’s daughter was bathing and big sister Mariam is set there to watch, “You watch there Mariam.” Baby Moses is found, he melts the heart of Pharaoh’s daughter, Mariam pops up and offers a great suggestion as the account is given to us, “shall I go and find a Hebrew woman to nurse the child?” And the result is this, Jochebed raises Moses, probably for most people believe, up to age 4 and she gets paid. You know why? Because following YHWH, following the Lord, following Jesus is always win-win. We win now, no matter the circumstances, no matter what life brings us, and we win in the end. You will never be able to out-give God.
Jochebed gets paid for nursing her baby Moses and she raises him in his early years, and again many think that was probably until age 4. She, along with Amram, continues to live out to the glory of YHWH and it is a home filled with compassion and love and peace and harmony, and they are following after the Lord, it’s a faithful home. Man, this is a haven! Moses, at this point, is spared at 3 months through his parent’s heroic faith. Amram and Jochebed raise Moses for four years, he is nurtured and powerfully given the things that pertain to the Lord. He becomes aware of his origin, he is taught to fear YHWH, and he learns of the things of YHWH and God reveals other things to him as his life unfolds. To make note of that, to know that is true and I am not just making it up, look at Acts 7:25. This is when Moses behaves wrongly and kills an Egyptian. Moses begins to reveal him and he always cultured in this empire of Egyptian, he begins to understand who he is, and he acts in this part in the flesh. His first forty years are spent in Egypt and then he goes into the desert, and on and on and on it goes. His life is being formulated by God. Moses is going to become the deliverer.
Just to pause for a moment, for us, Christianity always endures difficulty. No matter it is. Jesus told us, in this life you will always have trouble. God doesn’t bring trouble because you can handle it, cause you are tough or you know how to get the answers, God brings trouble into our lives to nurture, develop, and strengthen our faith, and to develop us into running to Jesus, because otherwise we will act too independent of him. What an encouragement! This Godly home, this Godly family, with nurturing parents. Faith in YHWH, they bathed Moses’ life in prayer as the turned him over. Their faith possessed a bravery to it. It was almost reckless! They were nurturing in their own home. I want you to get this, just as a side application, nothing replaces the home. Not the church, the school that you send your kids to, nothing replaces the home. The responsibility, as my children were raised here, was never on their particular Sunday school teachers. The burden of the account of the day has always been placed on me, first and foremost as head of the household. It is my responsibility as that, to create an atmosphere like Amram had; Godly, peaceful, harmony, loving, compassionate, and being very aggressive. In this day and age, past some of those things, because I have found this to be true and I don’t know the circumstance of all the families in our church, but from time to time in our church we have had people in our church choose various forms of education for their children. Sometimes Christian school, sometimes homeschool, and sometimes public schools. As it were, people would approach me about my opinion on it, time to time they would. Which I have always replied, “You know what is best for your child and what you want them to do and what you want them to become and I would never try to replace those things.” For a moment in our lives, sometimes our kids went to a Christian school, even sometimes, I just want to be honest with you, I was approached by a family who had two toddlers that said, “I can’t believe you’ll throw kids to the wolves by sending them to public school.” I looked her like, “Woah, ain’t you sassy.” They are no longer here, and I didn’t rebuke her. But I am serious when I say this, as a pastor I will support you as a family. We are in this thing together! We are all trying to raise Godly homes, and not just Godly homes that make it to church once in a while, we are talking about homes filled with love and compassion and gospel conversation and peaceful and harmony that stems from a right relationship with the spouse that provides security for the children that observe it. Not just child-centered parenting. I want to reissue this to you, nothing replaces the home in terms of responsibility. Now I am thankful, with all my heart, for all the people who have had influence into my life, my wife’s life, and my children’s lives in the church. Obviously church you know as I am saying this, obviously it’s not that it’s not important, I’m just submitting this to you, that coming here and trying look right doesn’t mean anything if at your house, hell is going on.
It stems first and foremost, Amram and Jochebed had a right relationship with each other. Amram, there is no doubt in my mind, lead the charge in that. He wanted a right relationship with Jochebed, and they together wanted to live to the glory of YHWH. Man, do I want to look like those two people! Because, guess what, we are all living in a difficult environment. In an environment that hates the things of God. We are not going to shrink back from that! We are going to have our homes to be havens. We trust to be gospel-centered, we support ministry that will love and support that, and we are going to engage the world we live in, for the glory of Jesus. We want to make his name famous.
Parents, if you are sending your children to a Christian school, or you are homeschooling them, or sending them to public school for their education, there is no doubt in my mind, if you are following after Christ, that you are trying to do the best you can for your kids. Guess what? We are going to love you and support you in it. To the degree that God has us involved in their lives, we are going to support that, we are going to encourage that. Amram and Jochebed were raising their home to the glory of YHWH. Of course, as this is, we know that their story as it unfolds in Hebrews 11 fits into the great story who is the greatest hero of this, Jesus. Jesus is the hero to their story, as he is to our story. Moses’s parents, as read here, had this creative plan and they turn Moses over, as all of us parents have to do. We are raising our children for a new nest. As this unusual plan unfolds for Moses, they turned him over so Moses could live and wouldn’t be murdered. In doing so, they trusted in YHWH to protect him. Our heavenly Father has an eternal plan. His plan is a foolproof plan to bring salvation to you. The Father turned to his son Jesus and said go. He didn’t protect him to live, he asked him to die. So that you and I could enjoy the life that he gives. Why would we not want to have homes that aggressively follow after YHWH? Jesus dies so many could live, and those who are living are you and I church. Moses’ parents had a son, in this case Moses, and Moses would become a deliverer as he is known in the history of Israel. Moses is a deliverer of a nation. The Father has a son, his name is Jesus and Jesus is a deliverer. Jesus did not only deliver a nation, he has blessed the nations. He is the sole deliverer of all nations; he is the only way someone can know the Father. Matthew 28:18&19, you know this passage. Jesus delivered you from your sin, for eternity. Trust and obey Jesus, as that song goes. Trust and obey for there is no other way. You want to be happy in Jesus, then you want to trust and obey.
Parents, let me ask you this as we sum this up as we prepare to take the holy family meal together, is your home a happy home? I am talking about, not being a happy home centered upon things materials you have obtained, materialistic things or sport related or because they’re smart. Is your home a gospel-centered home? Centered upon the only one who can bring happiness in this life. I am asking you dad’s is your home centered upon Jesus? Are you having gospel conversations with one another, with your spouse in a loving way? Are having gospel conversations with your children that are filled with love, even if they stumble and sin, just like you do? Is your home filled with companionship? Is peace and harmony to be said in your household? I guess what I am asking is, do you have a happy faithful family? Well the one of the ways God uses that, I believe this with all my heart, is that you must parent aggressively. If you don’t want to parent aggressively for the glory of Jesus, your household is getting run over. Now just stating that, and just me even saying those words, trust me there is burden and guilt that comes to my mind. For all of us to one degree or the other, there’s been some failing in this. But Jesus succeeded. In saying that, the gospel message and gospel centered living centers on, “Lord I’ve messed up and I want to make it right with you, I want to make it right with my spouse.” Even if need be, your sons and daughters need to hear the words, “I’m sorry, will you forgive me?” Aggressive parenting for the sake of Jesus, because life is difficult. Listen to me, it was meant to be. It was meant to be, for us as Christians so that we would possess the type of faith that this list gives us: atrusting in Jesus faith and an enduring hope in the gospel message itself, and sometimes not having the answers. We’re going to the Lord, we are going to obey the Lord. We know even some in this chapter, many died. Trust Jesus, trust the gospel, be filled with love, be filled with graciousness, deal with life with one another in a gospel centered, grace filled way. Then we can look like Amram and Jochebed. They are not a monster movie, they are a beautiful couple that God used in this story of redemption.
1 Corinthians 15.1-11
My family, as most of you know, my mom and dad and all of their heritage is in the South. We vacationed every year, the last two weeks in August in my youthful years. We would go down South for vacation. To be honest with you, a portion of those last two weeks were enjoyable but then you had to go back to school time, so toward the end of it, it was sad. Being a city kid, I was born in Detroit and raised in Hazel Park, I was not “country” what so ever.
I will never forget this, for those of you who were raised in the South this is probably familiar, both my grandparents had swings on their front porch. The swing in the evening, in the cool of the day, was a big deal. It was where everybody got together and swung. By about after 3 days, I was just fit to be tied out of boredom, and of course all of the family would convene at the end of the day. They were on the swing, and it was still hot. You are talking mid to late August in Tennessee, its always nearly 100 degrees. So on one said day with relatives, and the prompting of my brother whom I worshipped, they told me that if I run seven times around grandma’s house a Wampus cat would appear. It was one thing for my relatives to say it, it was another thing that my brother was saying it because I believed every word he said. When he said it, I was all in. I was in because Keith told me, and then I was in because I had never seen a Wampus cat. So, in high humidity there I went, seven times around grandma’s house. This was about age 10. Second time around the house, she lived in what you would call a log house, it was a wood house, and I’m drenched head to toe. They’re hollering around, and I would just follow that swing, “don’t look! Don’t look behind you.” It’s killing me to not look early, and as I got around on the seventh time, I started where the swing was on the front porch, I looked over my shoulder and there was no Wampus cat. “Keep running! Keep running! You’ve got to keep going.” So I kept running, and I’m sprinting as hard as I can and I was just completely thoroughly, as if I just went swimming, drenched head to toe. Eighth time around, ninth time around, and they are hollering at me to keep coming. Tenth time around, now everybody is roaring on the front porch. I looked over and never saw the Wampus cat, because the Wampus cat does not exist. Since then, the joke is this city kid.
Well friends, Jesus is not the Wampus cat. However people view Jesus, all of us sit here this morning, with a certain acknowledgement of who Jesus is. I wrote down some of these and I would really say all of this would fit, and all of humanity would fit in one of these five categories. There are those who view Jesus with a callous heart with just a blatant disregard, completely cold, completely indifferent. They just don’t think two wits about Jesus because by in large they don’t think he ever existed. There would be a second category, which I think really in my lifetime we have veered back to, that’s one of being a skeptic. Having a skeptical point of view. The skeptic doubts seriously, the veracity of Jesus, but from time to time consideration of him will come into their minds but in the end they doubt it and just cast it off and place it aside. Another category of people I would qualify, they are the curious. This could be any one of you that are here today, along with the other two. There is somewhat of an attraction to Jesus, somewhat of a curiosity. Perhaps it is because of a dear friend or family member’s love and affection for Christ. It has provoked in you a certain type of curiosity about who is Jesus, but it really is just left there. You’re curious but it falls short of faith. There is a fourth category of people, and I would submit to you they are kind of what we began to look at last Palm Sunday, the fickle crowd. The crowd that was celebrating Jesus as he was coming into Jerusalem became the same crowd that is crying out for him to be crucified. The fickle crowd changes their mind frequently; they go back and forth. They are the person today that was raised in Christianity by their parents and they have some regard because they have a certain set of head knowledge of who Jesus is. But really, its fickle, there is no real faith, and when they leave their parent’s household, they don’t regard Jesus and they go their own way. He may pop back into their mind when they are considering a life mate, he may pop back into their mind when they are having children, because the children need to know about Jesus. It is the fickle crowd that goes back and forth. They’ll kind of promote and be with Jesus because it helps some of their family members. I want you to understand something; the fickle crowd is those who have spurious faith, it is not genuine and its not real. Then of course, according to this account and other varied accounts as we begin to kind of explore this in a panoramic view of the New Testament, there are those who are believers, the church of Jesus Christ. Those individuals are ones who have trusted in Jesus Christ to the saving of their souls. They have heard the gospel, the things we have sung about, the things pastor Alex explained about, every focus of this particular service and every service we have here at Christ Community Church. On the churches part, Jesus Christ is received as Lord and Savior. This is truly a belief that saves. They are, as believers, disciples who then love and follow Jesus. We don’t do it perfectly, but by God’s grace we do it. We persevere through the difficulties and the trials of life.
I would say to you, everyone of us here that are sitting here, for that matter, everyone that is walking on this globe falls into one of those five categories: the callus, the skeptic, the curious, the fickle, and the believer. In stepping back, I want to first of all acknowledge what we know. For whatever reason, you may be sitting here in one of those categories, we want to walk through, in a kind of apologetic way, a summation of truths that are true to life, give you the information tied to other portions of scriptures, and then of course each of us will bear a responsibility with that information. Turn to the gospel of John 1. We want to begin with what we know, what was said, and certainly faith believes with this.
1. Jesus is God. Here is what I would want you to know about that, in the early days of Jesus’ life throughout his ministry and in the early days of the church, that was always accepted but now it is doubted. The reason why it was accepted in the early days was because Jesus was doing so many miraculous things that some stood back and said, “He can’t be a man, he’s a god.” His deeds were so miraculous. That isn’t the day we live in now, but it was then. You will see this literally discussed by the apostle John in his epistles. He will discuss the fact that Jesus was more than man, he was God. But Jesus certainly is God. The proof of his Lordship is even found in your own life, even if you are not a believer. Jesus is Lord! Here is how you know this is true. You are built to worship. It is in your very DNA. The proof of that is that you are worshipping something. Some worship food, some worship sex, some worship sports, some worship power, some worship money, some worship their bodies, but all of us that are sitting here and the world at large are all worshipping something. So on and on it goes in terms of what we worship, but we all are worshipping something. This is proven because that’s how God designed it to be.
Look at John 1:1. That is all very familiar terminology from the book of Genesis, right? Notice this with me in verse 3, speaking Jesus who we humbly acknowledge as God. Jesus is presented here clearly as the creator, defined from the very beginning in Genesis 1. We know from the book of Genesis that all of us, when we were born, were created in the image of God. As part of what that language means to be created in the image of God, if you were to look at Revelation 4:11, the bible is clear to tell us that we were created for and do exist to worship God, and only because of the fall, we will still worship, but we don’t worship God. We worship things that pertain to our own sin. You were created, and I was created, to worship. Literally your soul is a vacuum to worship. John Calvin wrote these words, “Our hearts are a factory of idols.” I have my own that I battle against, even being a new creation. You have your own idols that you battle against. But it is Jesus that has filled my heart; it is Jesus alone that has brought me this very difficult to describe satisfaction and joy. It’s overwhelming! Jesus is what you long for. Whatever it is that you are worshipping, you know that ultimately the very thing you enjoy then begin to fade because you can’t take too much of even a good thing, but that is not so with Jesus. When Jesus fills the vacuum of your soul, you desire more. You desire more.
Jesus provides, in the hearts of his church, an insatiable appetite for him. So we worship him and we love him because that is what we were created to do. We were created to worship and love, and the truth is we are all doing that now. We just trust that you are doing that in Christ. Prior to Christ, dead idols fill our hearts. When Jesus is received by faith, we fulfill what we were created for. Creation, we are his creation, worships our creator the Lord Jesus and the Triune Godhead. Jesus fills the very longing of our hearts. Jesus is the reward in new creation. Though we are here being created in the image of God, because we fell in our own sin, we need a new creation. Paul will go on to describe this, for the church becomes a new creation in Christ Jesus. God has made me new in Jesus. He has given me new desires. He has given me new wants, though I still have to battle some of those wills and intents, Christ overwhelms and he is my Savior and my Lord.
What the Spirit does to us, as new creation, is he nurtures in the hearts of his people a desire for more. As you sit here this morning, as a believer, there is a desire, there is a yearning, and there is a longing to have him more and to want him more. Jesus is not an addendum to life; Jesus is the very essence of life. Jesus is the essence of my life in relationship to this place, in this church. Jesus is essence of my life and my relationship to Valerie. Jesus is the essence of my life in relationship to my three sons. Jesus is the essence of my life in relationship to the baseball parents I’m involved with. Jesus is the essence of my life because he has made me a new creation.
Jesus is God, it’s revealed to us by his power. Jesus proved his power over nature; he caused the sea and the winds to cease. Didn’t he? He did when he spoke to them. The bible tells us in the book of Job YHWH gave the boundaries of the ocean, the scream to us the knowledge that Jesus is God. Jesus placed the coin in the fish’s mouth, and on and on and on these things go. Jesus displayed a power over nature to where the early people said, “He is definitely a god, is he a man?” Jesus displayed his deity by his power over humanity. He caused those who were deaf to hear. He caused people who were lame from birth to grow limbs, to leap and stand and walk. Then he revealed to us his deity, that Jesus is God, by causing the blind to see, even to a greater degree the dead to be raised. Jesus proved he was God because he raised Lazarus from the dead. You may be sitting here in unbelief, in large part because you refuse the miracles. That is what you struggle with. You can’t see the accounts and your unbelief has blinded your mind toward the miracles of Jesus that took place.
Here is what I want to do; I just want to provide you with some information. We will call this extra-biblical information, meaning it is proof that Jesus is God outside of the very text that we really only need. Just for your own information because sometimes this stuff is passed over and not even discussed. There was a Greek historian names Celsus who was also a philosopher, in his writings recorded that this Jesus of Nazareth preforms miraculous deeds. Suetonius, who was a Roman official and historian, wrote this, “The Jews were expulsed from Rome over the controversy that ensued within jewery over Christ.” That Christ existed and some obviously in that controversy was Jesus rose from the dead. He is alive! Which we read in 1 Corinthians 15, those were all Jews giving an account that Jesus is alive. It created a stir in Rome that caused the expulsion of the Jews from Rome. That is a Roman historian.
Trajan who was emperor and killed many Christians, received this from Pliny the younger, who was known as the imperial governor of what is know as Turkey today. Listen to these words that this historian wrote from Rome, “Christians gather together on Sunday, they prayed to Jesus as God, they hear the letters by appointed officers, and then they read the scriptures and expound on them. They receive a meal Christ presides over.” One of the things I love about that is that is exactly what we do. We believe all of that, and Pliny the imperial governor was reporting that to the emperor Trajan. Celsus, Suetonius, and Pliny, all unbelievers. There is a Jewish history account from Josephus, and Josephus is also an unbeliever and he records in his writings that the disciples have announced they meet with Jesus and they have met with Jesus after the resurrection. They are recording him as alive.
Listen to me for just a minute. Say you don’t want to believe the biblical account, you believe in Abe Lincoln right? You never saw Abe Lincoln, but history records with the closest people connected to Jesus by Romans, Greeks, and Jews there is historical record that Jesus existed and it is even written about that Jesus is God. His deity is proven to us in his miracles, we believe the account of the scriptures. His power over death, Lazarus my friends was raised from the dead. That is literally why they are worshipping him when he goes into Palm Sunday. It is spread everywhere that Lazarus has died and that Jesus has resurrected him from the dead. In that unbelieving heart, instead of giving credence to the testimony to the Pharisees and the Romans, they plotted to kill him because that is what a hardened unbelieving heart does.
Lazarus had died, Jesus had raised him from the dead, it heightened Jesus’ movements in Jerusalem. Of course we know from 1 Corinthians 15 that Jesus was seen alive. There are close to 15 accounts in the gospel itself of varied individuals, the largest of which he appeared to 500 brethren at one time, those who professed Jesus is God. Secular history though, for your own sake, it records the witness and no witness would deny seeing Jesus, even if it meant martyrdom. It did cost many of these guys their very lives. These eyewitness accounts of seeing Jesus alive became the proclaimers of Christ. They would do it with their own families, and they do it with their own friends. Paul himself, being converted as Jesus appeared to him, would then go to the synagogues where he had relationship. The church exploded, by these people sharing the good news, “Hey man, Jesus is alive! I saw him!” They begin to share the gospel. That is the essence or the apex of the gospel, Christ’s resurrection. The world was changed, as it was known. Clearly friends, history records that Jesus is God.
Secondly, along with this, Jesus is man. Jesus was a man. He came into the world as a man. Here is what I want you to understand about that. Jesus wasn’t 50% God and 50% man. Jesus was 100% God and was 100% man, even now as he sits as a king and reigns. That might not make much sense to you, how could he be 100% God and 100% man? Jesus laid aside in coming into the world, Immanuel God with us, he laid aside the prerogatives of deity to fulfill the mission that his Father sent him on. Which was to seek and to save that which was lost and to give his life for ransom for many. Jesus is a man. Today that is accepted, to some degree even by unbelievers, but back then it was doubted. The apostles were consistent in their writings to appeal to Jesus’ humanity. Listen to some of them, “Jesus was born of a woman, the virgin Mary” “He was subject to growth” (Luke 2:12) “He grew in stature, and knowledge.” Jesus was a baby, an infant, and then he grew up like a normal human being because it proved he was a man. Jesus was seen; Jesus was touched, hugged, kissed, and embraced. John puts it this way in 1 John 1, “Handled,” that means they embraced him. There are accounts in the gospels where Jesus got hungry and he ate. There are accounts in the gospels where Jesus got thirsty and he drank. There are accounts in the gospels where Jesus grew tired and retired away to be away from those, so that he might rest, and even sleep. Jesus slept. These are proofs of Jesus’ humanity. But my friends, it doesn’t just stop there. He was not a robot. Listen to this, Jesus had emotion, He had emotion and he felt. Jesus had compassion upon Mary and Martha when Lazarus died. The Bible tells us, he wept. He wept because he loved Lazarus. He wept because he loved Mary. He wept because he loved Martha. They were in sorrow. Jesus had compassion. Jesus had emotion. The bible tells us that Jesus had emotion and he lived in distress. His soul was distressed in the garden of Gethsemane when all of the disciples slept. Jesus possessed and had and maintained joy with his disciples. The Bible tells us that Jesus even marveled as a human through the unbelief of humanity. He had emotion.
All of these things for us prove that Jesus was a man. But I want you to understand this, Jesus was a man and it’s proven in that he died. Jesus died. Because in this account that’s given about Lazarus as the deniers come that even viewed Lazarus raise from the dead, they give the account to the Pharisees what is then ensued is a death plot, “We’ve got to kill him. He is messing our system up! He is overturning the apple cart and the cash machine.” People hated him. Hating him, they knew he was a man and they wanted him dead. The Pharisees put together a group of people and this plot to kill Jesus, and they couldn’t kill him fast enough. In a very cold, in a very calculated way, they put together a Kangaroo court and they convicted an innocent man. Orchestrated by wicked men this maniacal evil plot was to kill Jesus. Listen, all of the secular historians record this, that Jesus was a wise and good man who did miraculous deeds, yet they wanted Jesus dead.
Turn quickly to Acts 2, in all of the events that were taking place around the death of Jesus, yes the Romans had their hand in it, yes the Jewish nation had a hand in it, but most assuredly, Jesus’ death was necessary because of our own sin. Jesus had to die. It wasn’t enough that Jesus would cut his arm and bleed; Jesus had to die. Jesus couldn’t just go into a coma; he had to die as a sacrifice for sin. The Romans wanted him dead, Israel wanted him dead, and certainly our sin put him on the cross. But understand this friends, Jesus gave his life. Acts 2:22-23. This was the Trinity’s plan that the son would go, the Father’s plan in essence. The Father sent the Son, and the Son lived in full submission of the Father in eternity past and he came to the earth out of love for his Father to win a people back. You have crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men, God raised him up loosing the pains of death because it was not possible for him to be held by it because, my friends, Jesus is God. Look quickly, Galatians 1:1 the bible tells us that the Father raised Jesus from the dead, John 10 tells us that Jesus raised himself from the dead and the Holy Spirit in Romans 8 raised Jesus from the dead, and all will have a hand when the dead are raised to life in the final resurrection. Here’s what happens, we don’t talk about a resurrection enough. In American Christianity what we focus on is the intermediate state, which the bible says little about other than, I believe, to be absent in the body is to be present with the Lord. The early church fathers wrote more about the resurrection than anything. They wrote more about the resurrection of Jesus and they wrote more about the church’s resurrection. Because Jesus was raised from the dead, you and I will be raised from the dead also to a new creation, when he saves those, according to Hebrews, at his appearing in a final judgment day. Jesus’ death, from Acts 2, was not an accident! Jesus was born to die. He gave his life a ransom for many. He came to seek and to save that which is lost. If you do not have Jesus in genuine belief, you need to be ransomed, my friend, you are lost. Jesus ransoms, Jesus saves. How did he do that? By a sinless life, by his cruel death, and by his victory over death, because Jesus rose again! All of these are proof of Jesus’ humanity. Jesus died, and he lived in a body. On the cross, Jesus’ body in his back through the whippings that he received, his back from the top of his neck to his upper thighs where like hamburger, raw hamburgers. Doctors have even studied it. You could reach your hands into his back and grab his major organs. His brow was beaten and crushed with thorns. His feet and hands were nailed and hung. The picture that you see of Jesus on a cross is not accurate. He was unrecognizable. His death is incomprehensible. In further proof of Roman history, the Romans were excellent at execution and their main execution was crucifixion. For over 500 years, they executed people by crucifixion. Please listen to this, there were zero survivors, not one record in history that one person survived the cross. History records that, that Jesus was murdered on the cross, he died, and they recognize his death.
My dear friends, Jesus is God and Jesus is man, and Jesus is gone. Turn to Matthew 28. Everything I have shared with you thus far obviously has some biblical record to it, which is the most important and assured thing that has been convicting tool of the gospel, which has saved our souls. Nonetheless, the record is not left alone! This record is even historical proof, for the Greeks, for the Romans, for the Jews. Jesus is gone. The tomb is empty! There is no body here. Jesus is gone. This, my friends, is historical evidence. There was a Roman guard, Roman guards, that were set to watch the tomb. Look at me in Matthew 28:11-15. One of the accounts of the empty tomb is that Jesus’ body was stolen. The gospel leaves the record here that his body was in fact missing. Here is what we want to know, for a Roman soldier to lose a body in a tomb meant execution, they would die. They would be sent back to Rome and probably crucified, if not speared with a sword. Yet in all of this, what astounds me as I read this, instead of wanting to accept the account unbelief is so callous, so hardened it remains unaffected to just keep worshipping what they want to worship. In this case that was money and power.
Here is what we know; here is what is recorded as history. There are seven things I want to give you, quickly. Jesus was a real person. Jesus was condemned to die by the Romans. Jesus was executed by crucifixion. Jesus was buried in a tomb after his death. The tomb is empty. His followers claim to see Jesus alive, so they spread to the family, friends, synagogues and the world that was known. Their followers are recorded in secular history as claiming to see Jesus alive. Number 7, tied to this Matthew 28 account, his enemies never presented a body. All of this, even if you are sitting here callous to who Jesus is, it’s true in history. It is true!
Where does that leave us? Where do we stand with this? Where we stand with this is the question of the sermon, which is “Who is Jesus?” Who is he? You have three options. Jesus is a liar, Jesus is a lunatic, or Jesus is Lord. Most attribute this to C.S Lewis, what do you believe? But really this concept of him being a liar, a lunatic, or a Lord is really recorded in John 7. That becomes the very discussion of, “Man, who is Jesus? He’s a blasphemer. He’s a devil. He’s a lunatic. He’s concocted this.” We won’t go there now, but all of us sit here in one of these three positions. The question is, what do you believe? Is Jesus evil? Is he a liar? Is just a con man that was brilliant in his mind that he memorized the Old Testament and he concocted in a fraudulent way, even his death? You believe that? Is Jesus evil? Is Jesus mad? Is he simply just a lunatic that is delusion and is the member and the head of a cult? Or is Jesus Lord, just as he is described in the scriptures, Savior, Creator, Master, Ruler, or King? My friends this conversation has gone on since the day of Jesus, with Jesus standing before him. So I ask you, who is Jesus to you? Is he bad? Is he mad? Or is he God? And it falls into one of those three categories, just like we all fall into one of those five categories of how we view Jesus.
What will you do with Jesus? Jesus is God, Jesus is man, and Jesus is gone! He rose. He is not in that tomb! So what will you do with all this information? Because every person in history is going to give an account in the day of reckoning. To you, is Jesus just a lair? Is Jesus a lunatic? Or is he Lord? Dear friend, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. Believe that Jesus died for your sin! Believe that you deserve God’s wrath because of your sin! Believe that Jesus rose from the dead to grant and give you life! Believe the witness of the gospel of these faithful men, because that is what the New Testament is. It’s just a record account of what they saw. Believe the churches message, ever since Jesus left into heaven. Jesus will come again; believe it, to save his believers. If you believe this, what I just stated to you, you will not perish! Believe this and you will live. Jesus, right now, will save you, as he saved me at 23312 Cayuga, in my own bed with nobody else around. Church, Christ has won us a great victory! Jesus is the resurrection and life!
A Palm Sunday Reflection
It was too perfect. It was going to be a parenting win. It was one of those things, one of those times, once of those occasions, where you just know that you’re hitting a parental home run. Now, Jack had been very specific that he wanted action figures from the movie Big Hero 6. He had been saying it for weeks. When we made our Christmas lists together, Jack was adamant that the Big Hero 6 action figures be placed near the top of his list. And here I am now, in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, staring at the exact toys that he wants for Christmas. I mean I’m like Indiana Jones at the beginning of Raiders. I’m like, “This is it! This is what he wants!” Not only was it a win because I found the actual toys that he wanted, but it was even better because I can tell him that I found them at the most magical place on earth! Now when he opened and played with the toys, he could enjoy the action figures, and once I tell him we got them on vacation, every time he played with the toys he could remember the fun times that we had as a family. I’m telling you, the plan was foolproof.
Well, Bethany and I have started this tradition with our kids of celebrating Advent every year as a family. We do so as a church, as you know. So after church, every week of Advent, what we do is we go home, we light a candle, we read Scripture, and we teach our kids to anticipate the coming of Christmas over those four weeks. As part of our family Advent tradition we also give the kids one particular present every single week to build the joy and anticipation of the joy of the coming of the greatest the world has ever know, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. So here we are in this week of Advent, and the Big Hero 6 action figures are on deck. He is going to get these toys on this day of Advent. I am excited, as his father, to watch him open the toys. As he tore the wrapping paper of the present, his face lit up and I took great pride in telling him where we got the toys, how I had covertly kept it from him for weeks, and now he gets to enjoy them, what he wanted for Christmas. I’m not kidding when I tell you guys this; within 90 seconds they were broken. They were broken!
They had made it all the way from Orlando, FL., and they couldn’t last 2 minutes in the hand of my child. These heroes are not very “super” if you ask me. In spite of the toy’s deformity, my boys still like to play with the Big Hero 6 action figures, and it’s not just kids that like superheroes. People love superheroes, don’t they? Batman and marvel movies abound, don’t they? I think people love superheroes; I think they are drawn to stories of superheroes, because these superheroes that we watch and read about, they’re almost like divine men. Aren’t they? Consider the legacy of Superman for a moment: the hero (superman) has been a cultural phenomenon since he was 1st unveiled in 1933. Superman, in the story, is the son of a “god” who comes to earth – looking just like everyone else – and saves humanity through his supernatural power. Batman, Iron Man, Captain America, these guys are basically divine men. Aren’t they? They look like us, yet they have the power of a god.
I think that we’re drawn to superheroes because there’s a part of us that wants to be God. This has been true for all of human history - For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. History of humanity is filled with rulers, leaders, kings who made claims of divinity: Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Alexander the Great, and Caesar Augustus, just to name a few.
The apostle Paul writes this letter to the Philippian church in a Roman culture that deified its rulers. As Paul writes the epistle to the Philippians, Caesar Augustus –the adopted son of Julius Caesar – is ruling the Roman world and claiming god-hood for himself. He said that he was a god and that his father Julius Caesar was a god. But the apostle Paul is writing to this little church condemning that idolatry. Christians cannot look to political rulers to bring joy and unity to the church. We will never have a savior on Capitol Hill. If we can’t count on human rulers to bring joy and unity to the church, where does it come from? The answer is not in a man who claims to be god, but in the man who was God, is God. The only truly divine man. In this confused Roman culture, St. Paul uses this early Christological hymn to encourage gospel-centered joy and unity in the church. In fact, that is what he says in Philippians 2, in the first four verses. The imperative that follows the first four verses is where we started: Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus. We can only have gospel-centered joy and unity in the church if we acknowledge that if Jesus is Lord, and if Jesus is Lord then Caesar is not. When the church sees and loves the real Jesus, they will adopt the mind of Christ themselves. That indeed is the imperative in verse 5: Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus. Paul calls the church to thoughtfully dwell on the person of Christ, and then to thoughtfully plan to follow the example of Christ.
As we look at this pericope together this morning, I want to challenge us as a church to take on the mind of Christ together. We are, in some ways, hitting a reset button of sorts together as have changed our name, and it is imperative during this season of the life of our church that we are unified. This season in the life of our church is an opportunity to reflect on the gospel together and to realign ourselves with its joy-giving, unity-producing power. Here is what this means: the mind of Christ means that we humbly (1) serve others, and (2) obey God.
Humbly Serving Others
Paul tells us, in this text, of the humble service of Jesus, who was in the form of God. Jesus was in the form of God. The apostle’s declaration of divinity is in concert with the entire message of the NT and the witness of the history of the church. Jesus is the image of the invisible God (Col 1.15), in the beginning, he was with God and he was God (John 1.1-3), Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God (Heb 1.3). The witness of church history is that Jesus is Homoousios with the Father. He is of the same substance as the Father. Even though all that is true, the Holy Spirit tells us that Jesus did not take advantage of his heavenly rights, but he emptied himself and took on the form of a servant. In fact, Jesus emptied himself by taking on the form of a servant. This is the fulfillment of the garden promise – Jesus, the eternal Word of God, became flesh and dwelt among us. Now in church history some people have read this passage and they’ve misread this passage and they have confused St. Paul’s words. Jesus did not empty himself of being God during the incarnation. That would be to misread Philippians 2. Jesus always has been and always will be God. Jesus did not cease to be divine while he was a man. Christian orthodoxy has always taught the hypostatic union of the two natures of Jesus Christ, man and God. He is both divine and human. He is both creator and creature. He is both YHWH and Israel. He is both the Son of God and the son of man. The incarnation is the glorious doctrine that the infinite God humbled himself and became a finite creature in his own creation. In the incarnation, Homer joined the Odyssey, Shakespeare graced Hamlet’s court, CS Lewis entered the wardrobe, and Tolkien wandered the Shire. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1.14).
But Jesus didn’t just dwell among his people, he also served them. Jesus emptied himself by serving others. This indeed is the meaning of κενόω. That is what the kenosis refers to. Jesus did not empty himself of being divine, but Jesus emptied himself by serving his creatures. Jesus Christ emptied himself of his heavenly prerogatives and privileges by taking on the form of a servant. The creator served the creatures. The King of kings, worthy of all honor, glory, and praise, came to wash feet, heal the sick, and feed the hungry. He was the great physician who has come to nurse the wounded, the great shepherd who came to tend the lost sheep. Jesus had every prerogative to be served, but he served his Father and he served his people out of love.
I was talking about Jack a little earlier and his toys. On the way to church this morning, we got them all buckled up and I’m buckling Haddon in. Jack and Alex are already buckled, and Jack starts passing out Spiderman stickers. I’m like, “Wait, where are you getting Spiderman stickers from?” He had multiple, and he is handing them out. And I’m like, “what are you doing?” And apparently this past week Jack had gone to the doctor, and the doctor had offered Jack a sticker. As parents you know, glory to God, if there is a sticker or a sucker to save the wailing and gnashing of teeth that happens after the shots. So Jack got a Spiderman sticker and Jack was adamant that he needed to get a sticker for Alex too, and a sticker for Haddon as well. He has a tender heart, which is how he is made up. He loves to serve his brothers and sisters. I’ll tell you when I was a kid, I wasn’t concerned with getting Andrew a sticker. That is not, in my sin, I’m not given to that tenderness. I want a sticker, but he is on his own. But not Jack, every time not matter what we are doing or where we are going, he wants to serve his brothers and sister. When Sophia is upset he wants to go fetch toys. And that’s just Jack, he is a Sour Patch. You know that commercial? Where they are super sweet and super sour. Man, that is Jack. He lives on the edges of that spectrum. But he doesn’t do it for our approval, I don’t think he can put it together yet that if “I get this for Alex, mom and dad will think that I’m being a good brother.” He just wants to do it; he just wants to serve them because he loves them. He is just a tenderhearted 4-year-old kid. If that’s true for his little tender heart, brothers and sisters, how much more true is it for Jesus Christ? Jesus served God and others out of love. That is what the bible tells us, John 13:1 tells us that He loved his own to the end. John also tells us – in quite possibly the most famous Scripture passage of all time – that the motivation for the Christ event was God’s love (John 3.16).
Brothers and sisters, listen to the words of the Holy Spirit this morning, this is our gospel-centered motivation to lovingly serve each other. Jesus lovingly served God and neighbor. Go and do like-wise. Joy and unity will flood our church only when we take on the mind of Christ by humbly serving other people. Only when we count others more significant than ourselves. Only when we look to the interest of others the interest of our own. Oh how unified we will be, when we place people in this body before ourselves. Isn’t that true in your home? I know it’s true in ours. When I’m being selfish, when it’s all about me, when I am counting myself more significant than others, my interest more significant than others, then serving Bethany or the children is an annoyance. I am more prone to being aggravated towards them when I’m focused on serving myself, isn’t that true? You know why? Because are just getting in the way of serving me, of my self-centered telos. But if my focus is on serving them, then I’m usually happier and so are they. Funny how that works! Joy and unity have room to flourish when we’re all focused on everyone else.
That’s true for the family of God as well. If our primary concern is that others are served before ourselves, then we’re usually willing to put up with a lot more than if we want our way before others. Sure, it’s easy to slip in to a bible class right on time. It is a lot easier to do that than it is do the work of committing to teaching a kid’s class, to study for the lesson, to show up on time, and to serve the children of Christ Community Church. It’s way easier to show up and passively listen to a bible class, but the gospel tells us that the hard thing is the more rewarding thing. If we believe that the gospel is true, then it will benefit your soul, and this body more if you sacrifice your time and energy to the eternal benefit of these children.
It’s definitely easier to always be the guest and never the host at a flock small group. It’s not that hard to show up twice a month and bring a dish. It’s a lot harder to have to have your house clean before, and to clean up afterward. It’s a lot harder to have to be hospitable from the moment the first guest shows up until the moment that the last guest leaves. Nobody ever said that Christian hospitality was easy, but if the gospel is true then that means that that sacrifice is worth it. It means that overturning the idols of laziness and privacy will make you more into the image of Christ, because Jesus put others before himself.
It’s easy to tell someone that you’ll be praying for them. It’s harder to actually intercede on behalf of our brothers and sisters. It’s easy to enjoy a church meal. It’s harder to stay after and clean up. It’s easy to say that a church should have an active student ministry. It’s harder to give of time and money to serve students to allow them to go on mission trips or other things. It’s easy to say, “The Lord loves a cheerful giver.” It’s harder to faithfully give to your local church every week from your gross income. Brothers, and sisters, the gospel is calling us together to take on the mind of Christ here at Christ Community Church. Jesus humbly served other people, and if we want a joy-filled, unified church, then there is no other alternative.
Humbly Obeying God
Not only do we take on the mind of Christ by humbly serving others, but we also take on the mind of Christ by humbly obeying God. Paul says Jesus that humbled himself to the point of death, even death on a cross. In our Western culture, the cross has become a beloved religious symbol – and rightfully so. It’s most pronounced during, as Pastor Kevin announced at the beginning of the service, holy week, this week. Bookstores are featuring religious books, there are TV specials and movies coming out about the life of Christ, and you can see the cross everywhere as a symbol of Christianity. This wouldn’t have been the sentiment of the cross when Paul 1st penned this epistle. The cross was the most gruesome instrument of death in the Roman Empire. Origen said good citizens don’t even speak of crucifixion in polite company. Jesus obeyed his Father by going to the cross. Jesus humbly obeyed God when it was hard, when it cost him everything – not my will, but yours be done.
If our study of Hebrews 11 so far has taught us anything, it’s that faith produces humble obedience. Noah believed that God’s judgment was coming; he had faith in that so he built the ark. Abraham believed that YHWH could raise Isaac from the dead if he had to in order to keep his promise, so he led him up the mountain. Joseph believed that God would be faithful to raise him up in the last day, so he had his bones brought back to Canaan. All these saints humbly obeyed God at times when it was hard and when it would cost them everything. These men were all types pointing us to the one, true, faithful servant Jesus Christ who would humble himself and obey God to the point of death, even death on a cross.
You see, when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on that Palm Sunday all those years ago, the people in the crowd spoke far better than they knew. They shouted, “Hosanna,” which means “save us.” They proclaimed, “Blessed is the coming of God’s kingdom, peace in heaven, and glory to God.” This morning in our bible class with our students, we were talking about Palm Sunday, what it means and why we celebrate it, and why we think about it. We talked about how the Jews that were living under Roman oppression, when they saw Jesus do all these miraculous things, they thought that the Messiah had come, from the line of David, the son of David. Blessed is the son of David! And he was going to be the king, Jesus was going to lead the insurrection charge against the Roman Empire and that Israel was going to be politically free again. Brett made a great point to me, in light of this text this morning, that they shouted “Hosanna”, the shouted “save us”, they shouted “glory to the king” and they thought that meant overthrowing the government, but really Jesus’s insurrection, Jesus’ kingdom was one where he emptied himself to the point of death, even death on a cross. All of those things did come with Jesus, but what they didn’t know is that they could only come through his death on the cross. Jesus saves his people through his substitutionary death – he died in our place. The kingdom of God comes not by Jesus overthrowing the Roman government, but by Jesus disarming Satan at Calvary. There is peace between Heaven and earth because the creator himself died to redeem the cosmos. Jesus’ humble obedience to God, church, that is the gospel that saves us.
And now this is our gospel motivation for humbly obeying God in our church. We must take on the mind of Christ, who humbly obeyed God even when it was hard and even when it cost him everything. Church, holding to a gospel-centered understanding of marriage, in our culture, will be considered “hate speech.” You’re going to be told that you’re “on the wrong side of history.” But we’ve got to love the Bible even when it’s hard, when the culture, and when even some in this room, don’t like what is says. We’ve got to obey God even when it costs us. Whether it’s our reputation, relationships, or even our rights as citizens. Are will willing to obey God when it’s unpopular or difficult? It’s hard to go to a brother or sister and have a conversation when there’s a disagreement. It’s easier to run and hide, but that’s not biblical. We are commanded not let the sun set on our anger. We are called to be unified. Sometimes obedience is hard. Scripture commands us to only have sex with the person to whom we’re married. Scripture commands us to cheerfully give. We’re called to love the brothers, and to bring the gospel to our own communities. No body said it would be easy. We have bought into the lie. We have bought into the lie that everyone agrees with it, that this how life should be, and that this is good and easy, and that Jesus wants you to have your best life now. Jesus humbly obeyed God to the point of death, even death on the cross. Nobody said it would be easy. Following Christ has never been easy. Jesus is not tame, but he’s good. Brothers and sisters, Jesus humbly obeyed God when it was hard and it cost him, and we must do the same if we want joy and unity in this people.
Every superhero has a weakness. If you like superhero stories you know that. Superman’s is Kryptonite. Superman may be virtually indestructible – the Man of Steel, faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive – but if you get your hands on some Kryptonite, he is like an action figure in Jack’s hands - he’s done. I’m fairly certain that 2,000 years ago on this coming Saturday – the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday – Satan probably thought that he had found Jesus’ kryptonite – the death on the cross. But Paul tells us in verse 11, “therefore” (διὸ), for this reason, because Jesus died on the cross, God the Father exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that every knee would bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. The result of Jesus’ humble service and obedience was his exultation.
Church: this is our gospel motivation. On this Palm Sunday, as we begin holy week: if we want joy and unity at Christ Community Church, we must adopt the mind of Christ.
The mind of Christ means we humbly (1) serve others, and (2) that we humbly obey God.
Let’s do that church. Let’s join the orchestra of the great cloud of witnesses that have come before us singing this hymn of glory to Jesus in our church. Let’s consider others before ourselves. Let’s obey God even when it’s hard and it costs us. If we do so, if we do that church then our body, our lives, our homes, this community, will sing that song together in the glory of Christ. We will – to quote Andrew Peterson – we will “sing out with joy for the brave little boy who was God, but he made himself nothing. He gave up his pride and he came here to die like a man.”