Forming A Gospel Culture (Part IV)

Forming the Gospel-Framed Mind | Forming A Gospel Culture (Part IV)

What is the Gospel-framed mind? Let’s go back to what we have said in our previous posts. The Gospel truth is the view of the world according to God. A Gospel framed mind sees the world the way God does. It has a Gospel-based world view. 

This explanation may still be at too high of an altitude fly over for some, so let’s break it down a bit more into some bite-sized pieces. 

Our Ethos & Ethic

We all constantly make decisions. These decisions come from a place within us that is conditioned to work according to certain principles. This is our ethos and ethic. Our ethos is our driving spirit, culture, inspiration within a group, or within a person. It has a huge impact on our decisions. Likewise, our ethic, the moral principles that have been built into our psyche by nurture and experience do as well. Our actions can be right, wrong, or indifferent. We find something that belongs to another person and return it (which is right). We can steal something or say a negative word about someone (which is wrong), and we choose and ice tea over a lemonade (which is indifferent). 

Yet what drives our ethos has greater impact on all our decisions, because ethos tends to drive our ethics. For instance, our ethic can be on the whole good, but if our primary ethos, let’s say, is the accumulation of material things, of money that could have a negative impact on the whole of our decision making to make us greedy and not compassionate towards other. We might make good decisions moral on most days, but our ethos, what we actually live for, has long term consequences for how we think and act.

Gospel-based Decision Making

So what is Gospel-based decision making? Simply put, it is driving all our decisions by the claims of the truth of the Gospel. For this to happen, it means our minds must first be filled with the Gospel and its driving principles. The mind needs to first be “framed” by the Gospel. That is what discipleship does. It is the Gospel truth absorbed in community with other Christians where the mind is transformed by the Gospel truth. Look at what the Apostle Paul says in Romans 12:2:

Rom. 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Let’s take a few minutes to break this down. First Paul lays out first the contrast between the way of the world and the way of God. They are two different ways of thinking and doing. Paul says “do not be conformed…” meaning to fall in line with or follow the pattern of something. In the Gospel, two patterns of life are at stake—a worldly pattern that is against God, the Gospel, and his kingdom, and a Gospel pattern which is the way of God. It swims against the current of the world, it is costly, and it is difficult. 

Second, Paul command to be “transformed by the renewing of you remind…” What does he mean by this? It simply implies that the natural mindset we are not only born with but also naturally learn needs to change. It is out of step with God’s will and ways for the world. This is what we mean by developing a Gospel framed mind. Through the Gospel, our mind is being reframed from its former ways for the sake of the Kingdom of God.

While “conformed” here means to fall in line with following a certain pattern, Paul uses a stronger word for “transformed.” This Greek word (metamorphao) through which we get the word “metamorphosis” implies total transformation, transfiguration, and core change at the level of complete demolition and rebuild. It is not just the change shape is “conform” does, but it means to change nature completely from one thing into something totally other. Here we can’t not add as well that he puts special emphasis on “the renewing of your mind…” That is how this radical transformation takes place. It is not overnight, but a gradual transformation that rewrites our moral and spiritual code.

Third and finally, the purpose for this he says is, “that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” This is the critical point at issue—the will of God. As I said, there are two ways in the world—God’s way and not God’s way. The Gospel calls us to God’s way, but by nature, we choose the way of the world. The Gospel challenges this and transforms us to be able to begin to discern the will of God. 

Gospelizing All Our Decisions

It also changes us at both levels, ethos, and ethics. As we learn the Gospel, we learn God’s commandments Changing the principles upon which we make our decisions. But further, the Gospel changes our ethos—that is our drive or inspiration for living. The Gospel breathes new purpose into all our decisions making some very neutral decisions into morally powerful ones. Where once we might have done something like sit and watch two hours of television by ourselves in the evening, that may be transformed into spending more quality time with children and spouse, serving, or sharing the Gospel. 

Here is the big point of the matter: The goal in discipleship is to train the mind to think from a Gospel shaped orientation in life. When someone is hurting us, “How does the Gospel command me to act in this situation?” When we are unemployed or suffering financial hardship, “how does the Gospel command me to think and trust God in this time?” — Get it? 

Gospel-based decision making means pouring every decision, however large or small through the strainer of Gospel truth. What this means as well is that there is no “bracketing!” 

What do I mean by that? Bracketing the situation is one of the most common sins in the Church. Basically “bracketing” means to tell one’s self, “well the Gospel does not apply to a situation like this.” That is a lie! A deeply hell-filled lie. This is precisely what is destroying the Church and destroying our witness to the world because we think we can rationalize and pick and choose when we want to obey the Gospel! 

Well here is the Gospel truth. You can’t! And that is how Jesus sees it. If you are Christian, you are no longer your own, but ought with a price, and you are the servant of God. We do what he says—at all times. So when that person does something wrong to you, the Scriptures give precise commandment on how to respond. Or you borrow something from another Christian and lose it. What do you do? You restitute the wrong. What if you do not have the money to? Then you find a way to work it off.

How We Frame the Mind

How then might we reframe our mind for the Gospel? That brings up back to the four major principles we already briefly outlined. These are (1) Gospel Truth, (2) Gospel Community, (3) Acceptance, and (4) Accountability.

Let’s think about it this way. The Gospel truth lived out in a community of acceptance and accountability is like soaking a shirt in a tub of dye. As it remains, it “soaks up” the color of its environment. There is no single way to do this. There is no one size fits all curriculum for this. What is necessary are these four key elements that create the context and culture through which Gospel transformation takes place. It is here we soak in and marinate in life-transforming truth that gradually replaces the old man with the new.

Transformative Power

This leads us to some other key points that we will expand in what follows. First of all, these four elements are driven by the power of the Holy Spirit within the community. It is not in our own power, and the Spirit plays the critical land life-giving role. But know this, The Spirit is a gentleman showing up where he is welcomed. So if you begin to shape your Christian community around these key principles, they are like rolling out the welcome mat for the Spirit to enter and do his work. 

The Gospel transforms the mind first. The mind leads and commands the body. When we lead our mind, then our body follows. Yes, our passions and impulses my fight back some. But again, those take place in the mind too. Our lusts, fears, anxieties, and desires are experienced between our ears. That is why Paul says we are to be “transformed by the renewing of our mind.” this is what causes the prolific life change that results in discerning and living the will of God.

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Forming A Gospel Culture (Part III)

Elements of a Gospel Culture Forming A Gospel Culture (Part III)

A Gospel culture is formed around four fundamental pillars arising out of the New Testament. These four pillars are (1) Truth, (2) Community, (3) Acceptance, and (4) Accountability. If we put it into a simple phrase we could say, A Gospel culture is the product of the Gospel truth lived out in an authentic Christian community. We will expound on what we mean by this phrase in more depth below.

  1.  Truth

Jesus said to his disciples before his Jewish accusers, “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Truth is a defining hallmark of being a follower of Jesus. Some have also said, “all truth is God’s truth.” That is surely true, though we as fallen humans have a pretty tough time discerning that sometimes. In fact, when Jesus says here “the truth shall set you free…” he means a specific body of truth—the “Gospel truth.” 

What is the Gospel truth? The Gospel truth is more than a list of fundamental statements about Jesus. It is more than mere credal formulae or confessional statements about God, the Bible, and Christian doctrine, though these play some role in it. Moreover, it is more than a belief in the concept or existence of God. So if it is not merely these things, what in fact is it?

The Gospel truth is in fact the view of the world according to God. Every person has their perspective. But the Christian by definition is a “disciple,” which means student, learner, or apprentice. As the disciple of Jesus, we choose to follow Jesus, and in taking up this cross, we are learning to follow him. 

 

Most poignantly, being a student of Jesus means learning to see the world the way God does. It is precisely this issue, that by nature we do not see the world God’s way, that is why the world is so horribly sinful and unjust. The Gospel-learner (disciple) is a recovering sinner who is being reprogramed in the vision of God, what Augustine called the Beatific vision. As we grow as disciples we learn (ever so gradually sometimes) to see the world more and more like God—to “think God’s thoughts after him,” as one great theologian said. Gospel truth is the frame and foundation of a Gospel worldview.

 This truth, this vision, this radical rearranging of priorities is what the Church is in business for. The Gospel we preach calls, sinners, to repentance because the way we think and act in the world is contrary to God, his vision, and his plan for creation. This is why Paul called the body of Christ “the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.” It is an outpost and embassy of truth in a contrarian world. 

 In the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, God is putting things right again. The Gospel is not simply a matter of “accepting Jesus into our hearts,” or even accepting ideas about him. The Gospel calls us to radical challenge and transformation. The Church teaches, lives, and feeds upon this robust doctrine of global and cosmic transformation. If she abandons this truth, she withers and fails in her mission. 

  1.  Community

The first command we encounter in the bible is not the first of the Ten Commandments (You shall have no other gods before me). Rather the first command God gives to mankind is found in the first chapter of the Bible, Genesis 1:28: “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” (RSV)

This is significant because this very fist command is in fact a command to go create community. It is a charge to have children, multiply and expand the family of mankind upon the earth.

God’s original vision for mankind was a unified humanity who basked in the love, goodness, righteousness, and holiness of God. Sin disrupted this and corrupted our race as well.  

It is not accidental that every despot, dictator, communist, and would-be savior has promised a better world to their followers. However, it has always been true as well that every person, people, or group who resisted that plan has been the object of persecution, assault, and genocide. The wannabe parodies on the Kingdom of God all end in violence and bloodshed. Only the true Gospel can produce real unity and lasting peace. 

In the meantime, we are called into a temporary community that is a taste of the heavenly Kingdom and Church; this is called the visible Church, and as noted above, it is not the kingdom, but an embassy for exiles who are on their way to the Fatherland of God. 

[Augustine’s Journey to the Fatherland]

Understanding True Community and Discipleship 

Our Summary statement above only took into account the first two major ideas lying behind the formation of a Gospel culture. There is a good reason for that, and we will add them now. The reason they were left out in the first round is that they are in fact the foundation ideas underlying the Christian community itself. This is why we used the adjective “authentic” above when we started the second idea as an “authentic Christian community.”  

In our discussion of culture in general, it is clear that humans create “community” or communities of some sort whenever they gather and live in proximity. But the lion’s share of human communities has little in common with what the apostolic Church and New Testament writers had in mind for a “Gospel community” or “Gospel culture.” The use of the word “authentic” is not just a modern “buzz” language or trendy jargon. In my usage, it has genuine content that forms a community along radical contrarian lines to all those ideas of the human community prevailing in the present world. 

By the word authentic we here refer to our last two major ideas of the four in forming a Gospel culture. These two are Unconditional Acceptance or Grace, and Accountability. We can call them just acceptance and accountability for short, but below we will expand on what we mean by each and why it is impossible to create Gospel community and culture without them. In a word, it cannot be an “authentic Christian community” without these two ingredients. Let me restate our summary statement above with them:

A Gospel culture is the product of the Gospel truth lived out in an authentic Christian community characterized by unconditional acceptance and gentle accountability.

Let’s unpack this a little more below.

  1.  Unconditional Acceptance (Grace)

There is probably no ingredient more essential to a healthy human community as well as personal mental and emotional health that acceptance. Acceptance is the key to forming any social group. A social group cannot form where there is a rejection of parties. 

Acceptance is typically rather conditional. We tend to accept people who act the way we like, behave in ways that befit the group, and so on. Some of this is absolutely essential. Those exhibiting criminal type behavior in society need to be dealt with and not tolerated so they destroy the group. The process called social controls is actually quite normal. 

But within social groups, as opposed to society as a whole, the standards and social controls for acceptance can not only be quite shallow and petty, they can often be quite cruel. People with disabilities, different colors, or who are not strong or unattractive are often pushed to the edges or completely pushed out of social groups.

The Church again is an embassy and emissary of the Kingdom of God in this present evil age. It is called to inject the ethos and ethic of God and his Kingdom down to earth. This means the Church is to love like God, care like God, and express the character of God toward all his creatures. This is why the Church is called to a radically Kingdom shaped Gospel ethos of acceptance. 

The Church, when healthy, expresses the profound acceptance of God. Paul says in Romans 5:6, “For while we were still weak, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly.” (ESV) 

What does this mean? It means that Christ died in the place of the sinner; Christ died for the offensive, the reprehensible, for the abominable—Christ died for unacceptable. God takes what is ugly, repulsive, and unattractive and embraces it, holds it, comforts it, and takes it home with him. This is the heart of God that the Church is to express. [Ezekiel]

This radical acceptance creates one of the greatest treasures of the Gospel, something every human heart longs for, a true sense of safety and security. This is not only in the world but above all, safety and security before God.

  1.  Accountability

This is the part of the Gospel community we are naturally most adverse to. What is “accountability”? Simply put, it is being in a relationship where you are answerable for your behavior, a relationship where you will gently be called out and asked to rectify it. Let it be said, without accountability, the authentic Christian community we have spoken of is elusive, if not impossible. If it is wholly lacking, it becomes entirely questionable as to whether you have a true expression of the local Church at all.

No matter how much we may not like it, no matter how much we may want to avoid it, we need external accountability to grow in our Christian lives. Accountability in the community with the aid of the Spirit is the engine of sanctification. It is the nurturing and pruning process by which we are shaped to the image of God.

Why can’t we do this on our own? It is simply because the human heart, yes for every one of us, is exceedingly dark, self-centered, and self-deluded. Our capacity to lie to ourselves, excuse our actions, and not make the changes that God requires is without parallel. We need each other to help us be honest with ourselves. That is what healthy relationships do. They require growth in one another. This is why so many marriages grow stale and bitter; this happens when we refuse the natural accountability in the relationship that calls ut to become a better self. 

In the Gospel, God calls us to our best selves. That is what Gospel truth does as it searches out the dark crevices and crevasses of the heart. This process where we face and gradually conform to God’s Gospel truth in the context of community is called repentance. It is the way of the disciple—the follower of Jesus Christ. This is why unconditional acceptance is so critical. Without a sense of safety, it is impossible to be vulnerable and welcome accountability. Only when we feel truly safe and secure in a relationship are we ready to peel back the layers of brokenness to expose the soft emotional tissue beneath so we can find healing.

 

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Forming a Gospel Culture (Part II)

The Challenge of A Gospel Culture | Forming a Gospel Culture (Part II)

Ray Ortlund, in his helpful little primer The Gospel says “It is striking that Jesus began his first extended sermon by emphasizing a gospel culture.” (pg. 71.) By this, he refers to the Beatitudes which open the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 5. Let’s read them:

Matt. 5:1 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. 5:2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

5:5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

5:7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

5:10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

5:11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

We could of course go on. The whole sermon on the Mount played a major role in the training (catechesis) of the earliest Christians in the Matthean Christian Community (probably Syrian Antioch)

What Does Authentic Christian Community Look Like?

What is this little chain of wisdom sayings expressing? It is expressing the attitude, ethos, and ethic of what Christian community is supposed to look like. What comes through is an emphasis on gentleness, hopefulness, kindness, mercy, compassion, peacemaking, and so on. 

The question that faces us today is this: Do the Beatitudes tend to describe the average Christian Church today? I will leave you to think about that for yourself. We do not need to point at one Church or another. All we need to do is ruminate on how we reflect that personally or not, and what kind of life change needs to happen to deepen the ethos and ethic of the Gospel. 

I will say this though if our immediate answer to the question of whether our churches today reflect this comes out something like, “well… kind of…” I personally would take that answer as a “No!”

Why Creating a Gospel Culture is So Elusive

Now I want to put forth a more radical idea for us to consider as to why it is so hard for our Churches in general today struggle with creating the kind of Gospel culture we find represented on the pages of the New Testament. The simple answer to that question is this:

The reason we fail to have Gospel cultures in our Churches is that we allow our church cultures to not be Gospel cultures!

Now that answer may sound patently obvious right? But there is more horsepower under that hood than it seems at first pass. When I say “allow” I mean something more on the lines of “get away with” or to permit. Or more poignantly, we permit the behavior of Christians that Jesus does not. 

Plenty of articles and books have been penned on the question of non-Christians who call themselves Christians. We do not need to belabor that here. Moreover, false conversion is always a challenge of the visible Church. You cannot eradicate it completely. As Paul says, “Let God be true, and every man found to be a liar.” We lie even to ourselves—and quite habitually. In today’s Church environment, this is expressly problematic. Perhaps never has the bar to be called a Christian been lowered so much. When in the early Church one typically went through months or even years of instruction before baptism, today, if you will so much as raise your hand, or pray a two lin prayer, you can be called a Christian without question. That itself is not the biggest part of the problem as much as what is expected thereafter. I believe many sincere conversions are adversely affected by simply never being trained and shown what is truly expected of the follower of Jesus. 

Here is the issue though. For a Gospel culture to thrive, it must uphold the very same expectations that God and his Gospel do. People normally rise to the standard you expect of them, however imperfectly. But if a Christian community is lax or permissive in its expectations, its culture will reflect that. If it expects Christians to live as Christians, with very clear biblical precedent, then Spiritual formation can take place.

Culture Change for Life Change

Where then does true spiritual formation take place? It takes place in the context of a Gospel shaped culture. This is the point we have been leading up to from the beginning of this discussion; People shape culture, and culture shapes people. Culture is a natural byproduct of humans living in proximity. Nevertheless, we have the power to determine the nature, ethos, and ethic of our culture by the choices we make. Even unintentional and poorly thought out choices, create a culture, and rarely for the good of all. 

When we encounter the Gospel of Jesus, as we observed above in the Beatitudes, we see that the Gospel gives us that ethos and ethic by which to live and create a culture in our churches and homes that reflect the grace and peace of God. it is imperative then for the local Church and its leaders to understand that (1) a Gospel culture is a choice, one that can only be obtained intentionally with a clear focus and hard work. (2) A Gospel culture while formed by our choices forms the Church. This is key to creating Churches with powerful witness socially and evangelistically.

Creating a Gospel culture is engineered through obedience to the Scripture through the power of the Spirit. Perhaps the best analogy is to compare a Gospel culture to an engineer creating a manufacturing mold. It must first be intentionally conceived and designed; then it must be formed. Afterward, it is now the mold that does the shaping of the raw material poured into it. Granted this process is far more dynamic and gradual in the Church. It takes time to form a Gospel culture, and it takes more time for a Gospel culture to form people.

So is it with creating Gospel cultures for our Churches? We must take the key elements we find in Scripture that comprise the Christian way of life and gently press them into the warp and woof of our Churches. This again takes time. It is more like carving a sculpture rather than just popping a product out of a mold. But as we build this ethos and ethic into our Churches, the nature and tone of the community positively change. Subsequently, the people inside the system change too—all for the better. And here is the really good news about a Gospel culture: Once a Gospel culture is formed, it can’t NOT change people! That is critical. A healthy Gospel formed culture in fact does the heavy lifting, not only in sanctification, but in all stages of the Christian process, from pre-evangelism to evangelism, to conversion, discipleship, and onto growing levels of maturity. 

So what are these elements of a Gospel culture that are so critical to both forming Church culture and Christians? Those are the topics of discussion for our next installment. 

Gospel + Safety + Time (Ortlund The Gospel pg. 72)

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Choosing Wisdom From Above

James 3:13-18; “Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”(RSV)

Do you remember the soldier who is guarding the chalices in the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade? He says to the German officer, “Choose wisely”. But of course, the officer chooses the wrong cup (made of gold and very ornate). He drinks the life-giving water from the cup and is immediately destroyed. Then it’s Indiana’s turn. He chooses the unassuming cut made from Clay. After Indiana drinks from the cup, the elderly guard says “You have chosen wisely”.

Would I have chosen the clay cup? Maybe. In my younger days probably not. Wisdom is not one of my strong suits. That’s why I ask God for it so often in my prayers. I think wisdom is a gift that a person is given to enable them to visualize something that is not produced because of a past experience. One definition in my dictionary states that wisdom is the ‘ability to discern inner qualities and relationships.’ Of course, another is ‘learning (knowledge)’. I do know one thing for sure; I was and am very wise in choosing Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.

God has given us the ability to choose. Choose whether we believe in Him or not. If we choose to believe that God is the Creator, then we must choose to follow Him or not. We must choose to believe that He sent Jesus in the form of a human being to save us by telling us the Truth. So we continue to choose, again and again. If we choose wisely, the end result will be Eternal Life in the presence of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

According to James in the above reading, we receive and use wisdom from either the world or from God. We must choose which one we will serve.

Bill Sexton

Joshua 24:15; “…..But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (RSV)

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A Life to Cherish

If you look strictly at statistics, this previous year has been very discouraging for those who believe the killing of an unborn child is wrong.  

Some of the setbacks include Planned Parenthood being awarded two million dollars in November 2019, in a lawsuit that exposed them for selling aborted baby body parts. Instead of being horrified about the practices at Planned Parenthood, the jury found the undercover reporters who brought the practice to light guilty of trespassing and fraud and fined them two million dollars.

Additionally, in June 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that it is not necessary for a doctor who performs abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. Though this case was being heard as a concern for the safety of the mother it was struck down because it was considered a barrier to a woman’s access to abortion.

Currently, and for the past couple of years, there have been two bills before the Senate Judiciary Committee that appear to have been put on hold, again. The first is the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act which would mandate medical care to be provided to a baby born alive after an abortion. The second bill is the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act which would ban abortion after 20 weeks post-fertilization since the baby would be able to feel pain during its demise. These bills were put on hold again because there aren’t enough Senators willing to yes, that these bills are good bills to pass; that it’s a good idea to provide medical care to a baby that has survived an abortion, and yes, it’s a good idea to not kill an unborn child that feels pain.  

So, yes, we, as a nation, continue to debate in the courts, “When does the unborn child feel pain? Should we save a baby who has survived an abortion? Is it okay to sell body parts of aborted babies? Some of us may scratch our heads and think “Are you serious? Or brush it aside with, “That doesn’t really happen.” But the fact of the matter is, in the U.S. alone, 345,672 unborn babies lost their lives to abortion in 2018. Though this number is staggering, it is a marked improvement from the previous year at 862,320.  

 We, as Christians, must continually resist the distraction that the devil thrives on, who seeks to keep us in calamity, to keep us endlessly debating in the public square. 

We, as Christians, rest on our sure foundation of Jesus Christ. He doesn’t call us to be distracted but to have words and actions of love. There is no need to waste a moment in the senseless debate when we know our Creator affirms over and over that we are all precious in his sight. He knows the plans he has for each of us in his kingdom.

Our voice about abortion should be as confident as Mother Teresa’s voice, a dedicated nun whom we all know and love, who served the poor in India until her death in 1997. Pope Francis recently announced she will be canonized as a saint next month on the eve of the anniversary of her death, September 4, 1997. Mother Teresa shared her voice emphatically about the plague of abortion in our country at the National Prayer Breakfast in 1994 when President Clinton was President. Her message, twenty-six years ago, is no less poignant today. “I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another? How do we persuade a woman not to have an abortion? As always, we must persuade her with love and we remind ourselves that love means to be willing to give until it hurts. Jesus gave even His life to love us. So, the mother who is thinking of abortion should be helped to love, that is, to give until it hurts her plans, or her free time, to respect the life of her child. The father of that child, whoever he is, must also give until it hurts. By abortion, that father is told that he does not have to take any responsibility at all for the child he has brought into the world. ”

As believers in Jesus Christ, we are called to love, love until it hurts. In the gospel, Jesus says very clearly: “Love as I have loved you.” Jesus died on the Cross because that is what it took for Him to do good to us – to save us from our selfishness in sin. We, as we live out our faith, are called to “put on Christ”, as we love our neighbor. He calls us to love, even if it hurts. He calls us to see Him in our neighbor, the lonely, the outcast, the needy.

And so, likewise, we are called to reach out in love to one who is experiencing all of the above, such as someone experiencing an unplanned pregnancy. Reaching out in kindness to someone who is feeling lost and abandoned can make all the difference.    

There have been a staggering sixty million abortions in our country since Roe vs Wade was decided, in 1973, forty-seven years ago. Many of us have either had an abortion or know many women who have. It is up to us to look into the quiet recesses of our hearts and confront the pain that lingers from a time long ago. This is the opportunity to seek forgiveness from the One who died on the cross for that very reason, to forgive for a sin that cannot be spoken. If those who have carried the burden for so long could speak to the younger generation, to let them know that they too can be freed from the guilt and pain if they would lay their burden down at the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ, who is the great healer, who alone has the power to forgive. We owe it to our children and our children’s children.   

Let’s let love begin in our homes and radiate out from there to our neighbor. That is what it means to let Christ rule in our hearts and it is how we grow in holiness so that we look more like Christ and less like the world. We cannot, as people of God, rely on laws to force us to make good decisions. We can only change the hearts and minds of another when we believe in our own heart that taking a life not yet lived is against what Jesus would want for either of us. And possibly, one by one, we may be able to heal a daughter, a friend, maybe a neighbor, and who knows, a nation.

We cannot lose heart that much of the world supports abortion. Perhaps many are supportive because they are complicit. How does one object to a sin we ourselves have committed? Our mission from Jesus Christ is not to use our time in endless debate but to speak the truth in gentleness and humbleness. We are called to be ambassadors for Christ and shine his light of love. Jesus did not come into the world to condemn it but to save it. He wants to save the world through you. “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” We must not give up. The family is our most important asset; given to us by God. Love begins at home, in the family. We must do all we can to love it, nourish it, protect it. 

Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”  

Let us go forward with the mindset that we need to protect our prophets. Every one of them.

Submitted by Deacon Deb Adams

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Forming a Gospel Culture (Part 1)

Forming a Gospel Culture (Part 1)

What is a Gospel culture? It is a good question, and it is likely you have not really heard that phrase before. Perhaps it is more helpful if we start with the word “culture” itself. 

It is a word we easily take for granted in our conversation. We speak of various ethnic cultures, ancient culture, high-culture encompassing the arts, and so on, and we even  “culture” yogurt. 

I Like Kim Ann Zimmermann’s definition in her helpful article “What is Culture” where she states: “Culture is the characteristics and knowledge of a particular group of people, encompassing language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music and arts.” 

She also goes on to quote The Center for Advance Research on Language Acquisition which defines culture “as shared patterns of behaviors and interactions, cognitive constructs and understanding that are learned by socialization.”

If we put that in really really simple, uber understandable normal people’s language, we could just say “culture is the way a group, tribe, or nation lives.” Nations, regions, cities, neighborhoods, and even families have cultures. 

Culture For Better or Worse

Culture is really neutral, at least it should be. In general, there is nothing inherently moral or immoral about the color and style garments in one culture versus another. So with the style of music, food, and so on.

When we slide into the realm of government and religion, well the morality of the issue really becomes a matter of what ideas are promoted and what is practiced. 

The big point here is that culture is ubiquitous. By that I mean, people cannot live without culture; this is because, in the very act of living, we create culture. And create culture we do!

The question that faces all human beings is do we foster a good culture or a bad one? The general ways we live are neutral, the clothes we wear, what we eat, the holidays and traditions we make. But cultures are also driven by ideas, and ideas have consequences. What people believe and hold to be true becomes foundations upon which decisions are made. Those underlying ideas and decisions can have profound impact, for good or evil, on people’s lives. One people group who decides that another is a problem, nuisance, inferior, etc. can lead to infighting, persecution, slavery, and even genocide. The decade of the 1990’s saw this in the Croatian crisis. Today we see reports of Communist China’ repression and forced labor slavery among the ethnic Uyghur people of Western China.

Creating and Growing Culture

The term “culture” descends to us through the French language, originally from Latin “colere”  which means to grow or cultivate the earth. There is something inherently intentional in culture. We create traditions, patterns of living, recipes, music, art, sports, entertainment, worship, and tradition; and we do it all by choice. Nevertheless, it is possible to do so without clear goals in mind. As I said above, humans living in a community create culture by default. 

Nevertheless, is it possible to create cultures that are unhealthy or toxic for people?—perhaps even unchallenging and mediocre cultures? Yes, it is definitely the case. In cultures where people live off of checks from the state, they tend to become unproductive, unimaginative, and unmotivated. People get paid whether they work or not, and if they work harder, they see no gains. The best life then seems to do the least work for the money one would get paid. 

A culture can be created intentionally and on purpose, and with a mind to creating thoughts, rhythms, and traditions that tend toward greater mental, physical, and emotional health. An alcoholic family may have a highly abusive culture until the key drinker turns over a new leaf and commits to personal life change. The whole household is benefitted by it. 

Can We Create a Gospel-Centered Culture?

The simple answer is yes—of course, we can. If being human inherently creates culture, then we can create one infused with the truth of the Gospel. But it is not easy. To do so, we must learn the Gospel, not just as a set of ideas, but as a way of life, a lifestyle to be practiced in relationship with each other. 

A Gospel culture is really founded upon the two great commandments: (1) to love God, and (2) to love one’s neighbor. () The difficulty that we often encounter is that we are often unaware of how much attention that takes. 

The primary ingredient necessary in a Gospel culture is primary attention to our appetites. No, I do not mean just for food (though that is a strong one) but for all our desires as a whole. These are also known in biblical terms as the “passions” or in the New Testament (pathoi) These are the lusts and desires of the heart, the self-serving tendency that abides in all of us. 

It is this, “the passions” that always stand in the way of a Gospel culture. A truly loving, merciful, compassionate, patient, other-focused culture cannot be built where our own passions rule. James himself says, 

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions1 are yat war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. (James 4:1–3)

It is for this reason the early Christians also coined a term for the kind of lifestyle and culture where the passions were put in check. They called this “dispassion” or in Greek apatheia

What is “apatheia”? It has been called many things, but chief among them are “mortification,” the “death to self,” “cross-bearing,” and above all “repentance.” 

In our follow up Articles to this one, we will expand on this.

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 God’s Providence and Stopping the Chain of Violence

There are few things more puzzling in Jesus’ teaching than his radical call to non-violence and forgiveness. It seems counter-intuitive to nature to not return violence with violence. The principle of lex talionis— “an eye for an eye” is fundamentally the law of nature. In fact, in many cases, violence seems inevitable, and sometimes it is.

One is immediately prompted to ask, what about World War II and the Nazi regime? What about Napolean Bonaparte? These were clearly aggressor-dictators whom without the armed resistance of Wellington and the British Army, and the Allies in WWII, the world would not only be a very different place but clearly the worse off.

Perhaps it is appropriate to make a distinction between a restrained defensive stand and the violence that springs from vengeance. Christianity has long since Augustine possessed a well-articulated just-war theory, namely that the human has the right, albeit sometimes the duty to resist the evil person and their violence with counter-violence. This is especially true when it comes to protecting family, wives, children, etc. To not defend the vulnerable under your care would be another cowardly evil of its own kind.

The Circle of Violence

There is also a circular, if not spiraling downward process of violence that we are often sucked into. You can see it in small ways in a put-down match when folks quarrel; one biting comment is met with another until it escalates or peters out. You may also see it more profoundly in a situation like the Yugoslav Wars of the Balkans that took place throughout the decade of the 1990s. An estimated 140,000 died in what included genocidal war crimes.

There are many motivations that flow into a conflict between persons, people groups, nations, and so on. When violence is committed, on the one hand, one of the primary motivations to respond is vengeance. In this way, every act of violence instigates another act of violence, and so on—a process we watched play out on our TV sets throughout the ’90s

Love Your Enemy

It is into such situations and conflicts that Jesus’ call to “love your enemies” comes as such a shock. How exactly does one do this? Again this does not mean we are going to lay down our weapons when someone is invading our homeland our home or assaulting our spouse or kids. But Jesus’ ethic does call us to a path and pattern to stop the circle of violence. 

The big question is when the initial violence has stopped, what do we do as we sit in the ashes of the aftermath? What do we do with the consequences of another person’s evil deeds? When lives have been lost, humans wounded, and rights violated, what do we do next? This is where we meet with the choice of forgiveness or to hold onto the sin and hold it against them. 

A Violence of Heart

The circle of violence is the offspring of a heart that has embraced the violence it received. A violent heart is a heart of unforgiveness and vengeance toward the perpetrator. It also has everything to do with one’s long-term mental and emotional health. When we choose to hold on to the anger, we are germinating the seeds of vengeance. We must understand that revenge begins in the human heart and psyche. There it grows like steam in a pressure cooker until it explodes upon the original perpetrator, or more sadly, upon the innocent bystanders of his own family, friends, or comrades. 

Breaking the Chain

One of the steepest hills in Jesus’ ethic of forgiveness is the question of justice, that is, will the perpetrator get what he or she deserves? Will the wrong be righted? This is exacerbated all the more when the original perpetrator shows no signs of repentance or remorse for what was committed. 

There is an amazing thing that happens when someone shows genuine grief over their actions and begs forgiveness. It is atoning and lifts a toilsome burden from the victim. A weight is lifted making it all the more liberating for the victim to forgive. But what about when they don’t? What about when they harden themselves in their position—when they actually defend their atrocious actions? This is all the more galling. It causes us to look upward and say, “God what are you going to do about this? Really?—You are just going to let that atrocity and their arrogance go?” That is what we often think and the typical path to being angry with God as well.

The thought of the perpetrator entering into the next life, scott-free, getting a pass, and never be judged for their actions is appalling to us. And it should be. God is a God of justice. He contends that he will judge every “idle word.” The pretexts for most vengeance is a humanly attempt to balance the scales of justice by our own power. But this usually only results in tipping them all the way to the other side, making us now the perpetrator.

The God of Justice

At the heart of the Gospel is the judgment of the world. So is it for the Apostle Paul and his preaching? 

“But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. For he will render to every man according to his works: (Rom. 2:5–6)

It stands at its very center, the very same center where you will find the crucified God. The death, burial, and resurrection of Christ is God’s answer to “an eye for an eye” and “life for life.” It is precisely the judgment of God that put Jesus on the Cross. It is the sin and atrocities of all of us that necessitated his death so that we might be forgiven.

The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus from the grave mean one of two things for every human who will ever walk this terrestrial ball: (1) If he hardens his heart, does not repent and believe this message, he or she will be eternally judged. (2) If she or he does repent, and embrace the forgiveness of God in the Gospel, she or he will be eternally blessed. This means nobody gets a pass. The penalty has to be paid. We will either try to pay it ourselves, or we will humbly accept payment on our behalf by Jesus. There is no other way. And above all, no evil deed will ever go unpunished.

God’s Providence and Forgiveness

The question is do we believe that? There is no way to forgive and stop the cycle of hatred and violence without the providence of God. He is either a good God who will one day set all things right, or not. 

The big question is this: How can we forgive those who do evil against us if we do not believe God is just and will right every wrong? If all people are independent automatons floating meaninglessly in a vast universe of chance, how will those who hurt us pay for what they have done? How will the wrong be righted? 

On the one hand, people today have a gag reflex to the idea of a just and holy God who judges sin. It is distasteful and offputting to most. But that is simply the result of not thinking it through. If we are here by chance, and there is no God of justice to set things right, then the Holocaust was meaningless. If there is nothing more, then millions of Jews who died were meaningless too and the Nazi’s like so many other butchersome warlords will get off free. It means every life, whether suffering or prosperous, is without meaning.

Deep down, none of us want a world like that—a world where there is no justice, no answering, no accountability, and no reckoning. We just tend to shrug it off when we think about it in regard to ourselves standing there. We do not like the discomfort in the thought of standing before a holy God.

The Providence of God, the trust in his divine care, and the outworking of his justice in the Gospel are mission-critical to breaking the chain of anger, vengeance, and violence. Without it, we might as well just take it into our own hands. Only by trusting that there is an eternally just and good God can we hand the anger, the wrath, and hatred over to him. We can unload our burdens upon God. When we do, Jesus shoulders them on the cross. There every wrong, every fury, every hurt, and every pain was crucified there with him and in him.

It is that the God and Father of Jesus Christ is in control which frees us to “turn the other cheek.” We then deliver all our cares to him, and he takes care of us. In the safe haven of his providence, we leave the judgment of our adversaries, oppressors, and abusers to him. It is no longer ours to carry. And whatever judgment falls upon them will be perfect justice from a perfect hand. 

 

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“HATING HATE” AND THE RADICAL ETHICS OF JESUS

Today I found myself stopped at a light. Being the momentary captive audience that I was, I could not help noticing the political sticker on the vehicle in front of me. It sported a background formed of an assorted variety of revolutionary fists raised together in the air.

What was particularly interesting to me was the moniker splayed across it which read: “Vote Against Hate.” Well, who could not raise a fist pump to that?

Sign Language
Signs and symbols carry more meaning than the image itself does. Moreover, a fist is also a form of body language. It says something by the very way in which it is oriented.
For instance, If the top of my fist is pointed straight out facing someone else, my knuckles oriented upward, elbow down, and I make a slight motion upward and downward, we call that a “fist pump”—something we do when we are excited about a circumstance, victory, or cheering when our team scored the goal. The clenched revolutionary fist however is typically pointed either straight up or up and away from the person (ironically not so different from a Nazi salute!). 

Interpreting the Signs
When encountering such gestures and, it is wise to consider them, not only for what they are intended to mean but even what those who use them are subconsciously meaning that they themselves may not entirely be aware of. 

The revolutionary fist is typically a symbol of power and defiance. This is why it was so widely employed as an order of self-definition against the “bourgeoisie,” capitalists, industrialists, oppressors, etc. Deeper than that, the simple clenched fist has long been a symbol of violence. It spells anger, hatred, vengeance, and an intention to inflict a wound on one’s opponent.

The “Hate” of Violence
If there is one thing we can be sure of, it is that hate drives violence. We speak not here of when individuals or nations are forced to defend themselves against violence; here I speak of the ideological hatred or even the personal hatred that causes one man to perpetrate violence against another. When Karl Marx’ and Frederick Engles’ Communist Manifesto is carefully read, what jumps off the page is the passion and invective inherent in their prose.

The entire work is a call to arms—a battle cry toward violence. The bourgeoisie has committed injustice which justifies their deposition and destruction. Its pages bleed through with sweltering wrath and lust for vengeance. No doubt, Marx and Engles are preachers—preachers of their own making. 

A Violent [g]ospel
Every movement has its mission; that mission is rooted in a vision of a better world, its proverbial “gospel.” When Marx and Engles wrote the manifesto, they sincerely believed what they were doing was right. They envisioned a world without class struggle, one class subjugated by another, an end of suffering, and everlasting peace. They were idealists. This was their “gospel”—their “good news” message that they preached to put the right. But it could achieve nothing more than a parody status of the true Gospel of Christ, and Communism’s fruit in the 20th century bears this out.

Idealism and the Fallen Human Nature
Idealists are typically naive, and social reform movements are especially naive in one particular category where the historic Gospel could help; this is the problem of human nature. Most of us figure out pretty quickly that most people cannot be entirely trusted. But the Gospel of Jesus forces a deeper question…

“Yeah, but can you trust yourself?”

Jesus’ answer is resounding No. The Gospel does not begin with a utopian vision of the Kingdom of God. It starts with the rather unpopular topic of the universal sinfulness of all mankind. No matter how good we try to be, we are incessantly unfaithful, untrustworthy, and self-centered. The Evangelist of John’s Gospel makes an interesting, but often overlooked comment on this point:

“But Jesus did not trust himself to them, because he knew all men and needed no one to bear witness of man; for he himself knew what was in man.” (RSV John 2:24–25)

These words pay no compliment to the human race. When you couple sin nature with the homiletic call to arms seen in the Manifesto and contemporary leftist rhetoric today, you have a recipe for violence. And that is precisely what we are seeing spilling onto our streets. It is then not so surprising that while in protest against the Czarist regime’s injustices of over six thousand political executions, the Bolsheviks far outstripped them more than doubling that to over fifteen thousand political executions in only two months! All told, in the roughly eighty-year reign of communism, it’s call to “hating hate” boasts over one hundred million deaths.

Hating Hate
The fist symbol in the sticker says something profound, perhaps far more than its creator meant, but quite on the mark. The fist is itself a symbol of ideological hate; in that sense, the revolutionary fist with the slogan “Vote against hate” is in fact a call to “hate, hate”—to hate “hate speech” or to hate the “hater.” We will leave off the debatable question of whether the target of this sticker (obviously President Trump and his supporters) are in fact guilty of such hate.

The sticker, like the history of communism in general, makes an exception to the rule of hating. In the ethical constellation of the radical left, “hate,” “haters”, “hateful rhetoric,” “hate speech,” and so on have become cardinal sins. It is wrong to hate, racially, economically, socially, and so on. That is the baseline ethic, which is good in so far as it goes. The problem is in the very next step, which is that it is ok to hate, hate. 

Fundamentally, it is always wrong to hate, except for hating hateful people. For example, it is ok to hate a Nazi—Nazis may be hated because they are a hate group. And therein lies precisely the problem. That is precisely where every ideological revolution and communist movement turned into a tragedy of social oppression, injustice, and mass murder.

For a concrete example, as Stalin’s forces crept back across Europe towards Berlin they installed a policy of systematic gang-rape to “punish” the German people. In just a few months, it is estimated that over 250,000 German women were raped (and many many murdered) by the communist forces. This is where the ethic of “it’s ok to hate the hater” consequently leads. We are seeing this same pattern on our streets and even in our schools where new acts of violence are being perpetrated daily.

That is precisely what the raised fist in the sticker is saying—it is ok to hate those whom you deem to be a hate-filled person. (That, of course, does not reflectively answer how one arrives at an objective conclusion of who is a truly hate-filled person and therefore truly deserves to be “hated.”) By and large, this seems to be devolving into invective, slander, and violence against anyone with whom one may religiously, morally, and politically disagree.

Once that line is crossed, violence also gets a pass too. It reasons, It is never ok to hate, except a person who hates; if you however decide that this or that person is full of hate, then you MUST hate them, and you also now MAY commit violence against them because… “they deserve it.”

This ethical leap is made simply on the basis of their own eschatology? By eschatology, I mean vision of the “end of the world” or the “end result” of the cause. If the eschatological vision is a world without hatred, then the easiest way to get rid of hatred is by getting rid of all the people who hate.

Rise Up!—Exterminate the haters! Of course, the “hater” very quickly reduces to nothing more than someone who disagrees with you and your agenda. The naive conclusion is that once there are no “haters” left, then it is a world free of hate speech, hatred, and haters… right?

Wrong. The violence behind a “hatred cleansing” is hate that simply perpetuates more hate. This is precisely what communism did all over the world in the 20th century. As noted above, the Bolsheviks far outstripped the Czars in violence. In their zeal to bring in their own workers’ utopia, they brought in an eighty-year reign of violence that has seen no parallel. And for the discerning reader, this could easily be seen in the violence pumping rhetoric of the Manifesto.

Hating Hate and the Radical Ethic of Jesus
Only the historical Gospel Jesus offers an ethic that can offer the world hope. The idea of “hating your enemies is not new. Jesus addressed it head-on in his own day. 

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matt. 5:43)

The Gospel does not call us to hate our enemies (hating the haters) but to love them and see them as an object of compassion and conversion to this same ethic. There is of course nothing easy about this. But that is precisely what makes the Gospel of Jesus so radical and so other-worldly. Hating one’s enemy only multiplies hatred and violence; the ethic of Jesus turns the first person away from hatred with the goal of possibly converting his enemy as well. The result is then the conversion and subtraction of hate-driven people in the world—yet without the use of violence.

Moreover, Jesus’ ethic is watertight. No matter how badly one may not want it to be true, it is. It cannot be punctured, popped, dissolved, or disintegrated. Jesus’ “love your enemies” ethic bears perfect balance and integrity. You cannot destroy hatred by hatred. By hating hate, you have only multiplied the collective hate in the world. When one non-hateful person begins hating the hatemonger for his hate, the world now has two people driven by hatred. The hatemonger, by his hate, has won a convert—not to his cause per se, but to a shared hate-driven way of life.

The Naivete of Would-be Reformers
The problem with almost all would-be reform movements and reformers is that they are inherently hypocritical and “other-focused.” By this, I mean that their default posture is “I’m right” and their opponent is wrong. With this comes the natural self-righteousness to justify violence against one’s enemy. It’s Achilles heel is that it remains naive to the darkness in one’s own soul. That is why the reforms of communism and other socialist movements were not only such fantastic failures but perpetrators of the worst violence.

Only the Gospel of Jesus begins with the individual looking inward at his or her own soul for reform first. While social-reformers typically focus on the splinter in their enemy’s eye, the Gospel calls us to self-examination, accountability, and self-reproof. As Paul puts it, in the Gospel we judged ourselves so that we may not be judged with the world. [1 Cor 11:31–32]

Albeit we as Christians may not always do this as well as we could. Nevertheless, the byproduct of Jesus’ ethic of self-examination and repentance far outstrips any alternative in the social and civil sphere. By the revelation of and primary focus upon our own evil, the Gospel reforms the world from the human heart outward—not from the tip of a bayonet inward. The bayonet has never converted any man, but its violence sure has hardened men to make them the worse for it. Only the Gospel offers freedom from the vortex of perpetual hatred.

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How do We Measure Discipleship?

A Big Question on Discipleship
How many of us feel we are really hitting it out of the park in our Christian growth? I think most of us don’t. And if we did, that might in fact be a bad thing. Nevertheless, most of us Christians tend to live with a gnawing sense of constant failure, insecurity, and self-consciousness.

If we are truly growing in our faith, we should be both growing in both our sense of brokenness and humility on the one hand while at the same time growing in our sense of security with the savior on the other. That is the fruit of true Gospel love, true gospel transformation, and true Gospel peace.

Raising Both Bars
When I mention “raising the bar,” I do not mean the old Olympic high-bar analogy, but more like the bars in a bar-graph. When we look at a bar-graph we see multiple bars that measure some quantities in comparison and contrast. 

Let’s imagine for a moment a bar graph in which there are two quantities. The first is the holiness/obedience meter. This measures our growing levels of learning to live like, obey, and reflect the character of Jesus. The second is the humility meter. This one measures our sense of imperfection, brokenness, and need for saving. 

Both of these bars should (generally) go up together (i.e. If we grow in holiness, we must be growing in humility). Likewise, as we grow in humility, our holiness increases with it. If our humility increases and our holiness does not, it is really more of a show and we are a fraud who is in fact feigning humility. For instance, many of us as Christians, when called upon to own this or that fault can be heard admitting “yep, I’m a sinner…” Yet this is just a reigned humility, no different from the old “nobody is perfect…” that the most godless person will appeal to.

This is what I call the “jump into the crowd” method, where when the light is shone on our sin, we just try to get lost in the crowd by pointing out how we are really no worse than anyone else. What this does is avoid true culpability to sending up a flare the takes the focus off ourselves by pointing out the ungodliness of the rest of the human race. When the Gospel takes hold of our lives, our sin disgusts us and drives us to true repentance. We feel the sting of it as if we were the only person who ever did anything like that, we own it, and we hunger for God’s forgiveness.

On the other hand, if our obedience increases and our humility does not, we become little more than a religious hypocrite. Again if we are able to comply with the general moral expectations of God’s word, but we do not grow in humility, this is also a show. This is revealed very quickly when we are cleaned up on the outside and very quick to pass judgment on others.

So what is True Discipleship and How do we Measure It?
So what is true discipleship? It is not a program, service, or event. These things can of course be part of the process. But discipleship is the process of life in the Church that shapes us more to the image of Christ. More tangibly, it raises both bars: it challenges us to deeper levels of obedience (both outwardly and inwardly) and it increases humility. This means that while we grow in obedience, we never feel like we are. Our sense of duty to obey Christ and sense of need for forgiveness and saving grow together.

This kind of discipleship is palpable. It makes a noticeable difference in our lives and relationships. It leads to an ever-growing peace within our relationships with our family, friends, and enemies.

How then may we measure discipleship? We measure it in several ways. In the most general sense, it should lead to peace. This is certainly not a perfect peace, the kind we will experience in the kingdom of God. But it is in fact a taste of it in our lives that is growing, tangible, and evident. Here are three key ways:

  1. Discipleship works itself out in better relationships. This is one of the most obvious. When the Gospel changes us, it has the opportunity to change how we relate to everyone around us in practical ways. Discipleship mends fences; it redeems broken relationships.
  1. Discipleship creates peace within ourselves. We no longer want to hold onto our pride, our neighbor’s faults, and so on. It creates both psychological and emotional peace within ourselves and with the world around us—a peace rooted squarely in forgiveness.
  1. Discipleship creates a posture of repentance. We need to unpack this more elsewhere, but for now, let’s summarize. True discipleship produces repentance that leads to humility. Repentance is the process of self-examination, owning our faults, and asking forgiveness of God and others. When you repent, especially in your relationships, this refreshes, renews, and rebuilds broken relationships.

These three can be considered benchmarks and consequently provide some standard by which we can begin to measure our growth. We will come back to these more. But for now, we can use these to begin to get our bearings. 

So here is a helpful exercise to start to begin applying them. (1) Set aside some time in a quiet place. A place outdoors or inspiring is preferable, especially where you can be alone without interruption. (2) Bring a pad and pen to do some brainstorming. Begin by brainstorming how you are living and experiencing each of these categories. Then review and begin praying about it. (3) Share it with a safe close relationship like a confidant, close friend, or spouse who can give you some kind of objective thought.

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Circumcision of the Heart – The Third Sunday of Pentecost

Circumcision of the Heart – The Third Sunday of Pentecost

let us pray Heavenly Father we come to
you in humility and did we ask your
spirit to move on our heart and humble
us more come together in prayer and
worship we come to meet with you
and come to do business with God we come
to keep short accounts father please let
your word speak to us not just speak to
our sin and call us to repent but speak
to who we are as a person and remind us
that for God so loved the world that He
gave His only Son that whoever believes
in him not perish but have eternal life
father did this promise we cling and all
God’s people said and please be seated
I spent some time when I was in college
I had the opportunity to travel abroad
and to study abroad and the place I
chose was Israel particularly Jerusalem
and so I did a semester in my junior
year in Jerusalem in it was a time that
was very impactful on me as a Christian
and as a person I mean there there’s a
certain devotional advantage when you
you know want to read the book of
Matthew and you go up on them olives and
you read it and you can see about almost
every place where those things happened
even those those buildings and things
aren’t there anymore
you can see some of the ruins that was
the city that Jesus did these things
since so there’s that but on top of it
too was a time where I was in immersed
in the culture of Israel and immersed in
some of the theology of the Old
Testament and one day there and the what
they called The Jerusalem University
College where I was taking classes I sat
down in the library with my Bible and I
decided to read Deuteronomy looking out
this picturesque window over a valley
called the the Hinnom Valley and this is
the historic Valley where you get the
name Gehenna for hell it was the trash
kind of the trash dump in Jesus’s day
and there was all kinds of the bad place
back then it was a bad place in ancient
Israel where Israel had sacrificed their
own children
not unlike what our culture is starting
to do today but in a different way but
as I read through I came across these
verses here in Deuteronomy
we read this morning where God says in
the first circumcised therefore the
foreskin of your heart and you no longer
stubborn and on the other hand he says
he will circumcise our hearts and you
know my you know up until that time I
had read this idea of circumcision of
the heart in the New Testament and I
realized that what Paul is doing is he’s
not saying something radically different
from the Old Testament but in fact he’s
saying exactly the same message that God
has always been saying to his people and
that’s very important to us as
Christians is a a common misconception
out there that the way you earned God’s
favor in the Old Testament was by
keeping the law and then when Jesus
comes that somehow changed and now it’s
grays and it reminds me of the time
while I was there in Jerusalem and I was
talking with me and some friends we’re
talking with a rabbi and we got on the
subject of the temple and the the issue
of sacrifice and atonement and so you
know I being a young college student I
thought I might be a little clever and
wanted to see if I the rabbi a little
bit and I said okay well you don’t have
a temple today so how do you obtain
forgiveness for your sins and he without
a like he said through repentance the
repentance
which is another way to say circumcision
at the heart and being a man who was
steeped in the Old Testament he
understand what the heart of the law is
but the heart of the law is is calling
us to know Jesus to know God in an
intimate way and an authentic way an
authentic way you see if the gospel
changes you it will change everything
everything if nothing just then it’s not
the gospel nothing in our life changes
it’s not the gospel if it is the gospel
if the gospel is real it will impact us
in all our relationships it will impact
first how we relate to cut and then it
will impact how we relate to each other
because the circumcision of the heart
idea aims that arrow-straight at the
heart for us to begin with repentance a
humbling of ourselves if you what we
talked about last week the one big
takeaway i talked about was let’s begin
in our conflicts and our relationships
with the idea I may be wrong because
that’s never how we begin right we
always begin with I’m right you’re wrong
and I shared with you you know the CS
Lewis’s ideas about quarreling when he
opens up his famous work mere
christianity is that we all begin with
the idea of being right and we always
begin with the idea of justifying
ourselves that we’re right and as I said
the book of Romans here is the hole it’s
the it’s the Magna Carta it’s the it is
the great constitution of justification
by faith that God justifies the ungodly
and that we that you now in Christ when
you are baptized into cry as Nicky soon
will be you are a new creation and you
don’t have to justify yourself God
defends you and he doesn’t defend you
because you’re better or you’re right
than the next person he defends you
because he’s covered you in his own
blood
and so what is Paul doing in the book of
Romans he’s he’s driving a point that
the point is that nothing else matters
except this pure gospel this
justification and this is very important
for us as Christians because there’s a
lot of things we do as Christians will
call them Christian trappings that are
not wrong and they’re allowable but it’s
very easy for them to replace the gospel
itself it’s very easy for our
preferences within the church to somehow
hijack the gospel and we become
uncharitable about things
Jesus is not all that interested in he’s
fine but there’s a hot there’s a
thousands of churches millions of
churches worshiping this morning in all
slightly different ways when Jesus is
read is receiving that worship with a
smile
it’s a Paul is about demolishing our
religious trappings and false confidence
in those trappings be they our works or
the way we do things and so we have the
same problems
see Paul aims his guns at distraught
destroying all false confidence all
false confidence
look at verse 17 with me here in Romans
he says but if you call yourself a Jew
and rely the law and boast in God and
know his will and approve what is
excellent because you were instructed
from the law and if you are sure that
you yourself are a guide to the blind
and a light to those who are in darkness
and structor foolish a teacher of
children having in the law and
embodiment of the knowledge in truth now
what is Paul doing here well he’s
talking about someone’s reliance upon
the law talking about a well catechized
a well-trained Jew at this time but
what’s happened is the entire role of
the law has been turned on its head it’s
circumvented its role he says but if you
call yourself a Jew and rely upon the
law well what does rely mean well to
rely means to trust or to lean upon to
rely and and trust something is is in
the same way that you’re sitting on a
Pew right now you sat down on it because
you had a pretty you had a pretty
logical hypothesis having sat in these
pews quite a few times that it would
hold your weight and not let you go
plummeting to the floor now what Paul is
saying is you have that same kind of
faith that’s this person has that same
kind of faith in the law but here’s the
problem here’s the little short circuit
the short circuit is is that the person
doesn’t realize having confidence in the
law they’re like well I’ve learned the
law I’ve been trained all these years
yeah like I know this I got this I got
this now I can stick the landing
right and what’s happened is
short-circuit because when we are
putting our confidence in something like
the law it’s because we think we have a
competence with it we think we have a
competence into what it’s now is this
person is not really having confidence
in the law they’re having confidence in
themselves and their own ability to do
the law and what Paul’s going to do is
go you don’t understand the law at all
if you understood the law you’d have no
confidence in yourself and you would be
on your knees with your hands raised to
heaven like the tax collector in the
temple who beat his chest and said Oh
Lord forgive me a sinner but the person
he’s talking to here is like the
Pharisee in that parallel Bo says oh god
I’m glad that I am not like other men
that you have made me bla bla bla and on
it goes and what Paul saying well you don’t
understand the law if you rely upon the
law can’t keep the law there’s no one
who has ever fully kept the law in its
perfection except Jesus our Lord and
that’s the way a reason he is the only
one who can be an atoning sacrifice
first because you have to be perfect
how perfect as good is God is perfect so
my question to you this morning is what
is your confidence
what are you relying upon what are you
nesting upon
as your assurance what you feel assured
of your hope and your salvation what makes
you feel assured of that what Paul is
going to tell us number one our
confidence is in Christ alone our
confidence is 100% in Christ alone and
as I heard one preacher say one one time
is the gospel plus nothing if it’s plus
nothing equals everything and Jesus plus
something equals nothing would you get
that Jesus plus nothing equals something
because what we’re doing is we’re adding
something to the work and there’s
nothing you can add to the work of Jesus
there’s nothing you can do and so
our confidence we often place in and one
of those things we do is the sin of
comparison right we compare ourselves
and so what’s standard the question is
what standard are we using to compare
ourselves and in this case the Jewish
person was using an outward simple and
oversimplified outward reading of the
law well I’m gonna do all the outward
stuff but Paul’s gonna go to the knot
the circumcision of the flesh but the
circumcision of the heart that sneaky
little devil in our heart that’s always
darting this way and that that’s having
suspicious untrusting feelings toward
our neighbor toward our spouse toward
our friend doubts toward God jealousies
and our relationships those are the
respectable sins that people don’t see
as much and they sneak by everybody
else’s radar but they’re there and they
are the bigger sins that actually keep
us distant from God that they’re the the
cookies in the cookie jar that we don’t
want to let go of and so the question is
is what standard are we using this self
justify and we just don’t understand the
law because when we when we get into the
law we begin to see oh well I break it
there I break it there I break it there
I break it there and the law as Paul
says in Galatians is a schoolmaster a
teacher to bring us to Christ that for
the Christian there is no condemnation
to those who are in Christ Jesus who
walk not according to the flesh but
according to the law of the spirit of
life in Christ Jesus has made me free
from the law of sin and death and so
that’s why our confidence must be in
Christ alone and so he goes on he says
you then who teach others do you not
teach yourself while you preach against
stealing
you steal you who say that one must not
commit adultery do you commit adultery
you who abhor idols do you rob temples
you who boast in the law do you dishonor
God by breaking the law for as it is
written the name of God is blasphemed
among the Gentiles through you he talks
about this as if as if breaking the law
a law for Christians and that’s what
he’s going to talk about is this law of
sin and death because because of the
fall we have original sin and a sin
nature and we fall it back habitually in
Chapter seven Paul’s gonna say the sin I
don’t want to do I do anyways and the
sin that the good things I would do I do
not
that’s the Apostle Paul and in fact he
quotes here he says the name blast
beamed among the Gentiles through you
from second Samuel 12 14 its target this
is the prophet Samuel talking to David
God’s God’s enemies have cause to
blaspheme now you have this problem that
we get a little bit of knowledge and
that we think we’re doing it do you
remember that
remember when you were learning to ride
the bike remember you’re riding a bike
and that first time you really get going
and now you you got it what do you do
I’m doing
doing it and you really were
you were what the law is not like that
the law is not like riding a bike
you know you never really forget how to
ride a bike and once you got it down you
got it down but the law is not like that
the law is like alice’s rabbit hole that
goes deeper and deeper and deeper into
the recesses of our art mix more and
more and more and that’s our second
point is we have a radical bride
blindness to our own law-breaking
we have a radical blindness to our own
sin and law-breaking you see we’re not
to begin with I am right but we’re to
begin with well I may be wrong and
that’s the beginning of repentance in
the Christian life when we hit conflict
when we strife when we hit friction in
our relationships do we begin with this
is ugly
I may be wrong what could I do you know
when somebody comes to us and say hey
you know hon whenever I talk to you
about this but whenever I say something
like this to you you you do this have
you noticed that we immediately justify
right not well that’s because of you
right we turn it back around and that’s
normal for us why because we don’t want
to be wrong we weren’t born to be wrong
let me just encourage you with that you
weren’t you weren’t made to be wrong I
didn’t make us to be born he made the
world to be right all the strife that’s
going on right now in the world all the
fear we’re all wearing masks cuz of the
fall but people are fighting in the
streets there’s people who’ve taken over
9 city blocks and Seattle why because
they’re somewhere they know something’s
wrong in the world and the only
difference between a Christian and
anyone else in the world is that that
the gospel is saying Jesus is the answer
Jesus is the answer Jesus is going heal
everything and he’s going to make you
right you’ll never have the self justify
in the kingdom of God he will be
absolutely clean your sin will be as far
as from the east to the west and you
will be perfect and that is your destiny
that was always your destiny and it got
shortchanged by sin but Jesus has given
it back he’s giving back all the years
and the generations at the locus that’s
eaten the kingdom of God and it’s
righteousness is yours
it’s yours
and so he says in verse 25 he says for
circumcision indeed is a value if you
obey the law but if you break the law
your circumcision becomes uncircumcision
and he says in verse 26 if a man who is
uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the
law will not his uncircumcision be
regarded as circumcision
this is a really important one because
what he’s saying is is that even though
this person may not be circumcised in
flesh that if they are a keeper of the
law and what he means is a keeper of the
law by faith you have to understand this
whole argument here he’s not saying all
of these just going out and doing the
outward things what he’s talking about
is the circumcision of the heart and
he’s he’s arguing with his Jewish
adversaries this will not the person who
keeps the law be regarded as circumcised
because they have the faith of Abraham
and the answer is yes and the word he
uses for regarded there is very
important it’s one of the most
illogically important words in Romans
it’s the same word in Romans 4 3 where
it says for what does the scripture say
but abraham believed God and it was
regarded to him as righteousness
I wanted to him as righteousness or as
Martin Luther put it it was imputed to
him as righteous that means as as Luther
said simultaneously sinful and yet
justified that’s our life right now
until we die or enter the kingdom of God
we are simultaneously still struggling
with sin and the flesh and yet justified
in the sight of God when God looks at
you who are in Christ he doesn’t see
your sin anymore sees is Jesus and that
is really good news because I don’t want
God to see any but Jesus in me because
if he sees just me I’m in trouble
amen
Jesus God sees Jesus that’s his
compassion that’s his love and so God
calls us to a circumcision of the heart
to live by faith in the Son of God and
so he says here in verse 28 for no one
is a Jew who is merely one outwardly nor
is circumcision outward and physical but
a Jew is one inwardly and circumcision
is a matter of the heart by the spirit
and not by the letter whose praise is
not from man but from God and I love
that he is a Jew who’s one inwardly and
circumcision is a matter of the heart
that is the justifying faith that he’s
talking about and that is what Jesus is
calling us into this morning nobody in
the Old Testament was justified by
keeping the law
nobody was justified by being
circumcised nobody in the New Testament
is saved by merely being baptized or by
even attending church church helps us to
grow in our sanctification but we’re
justified by faith in work of Jesus and
it’s because of that God can wipe away
every tear that he gives us what loots
are called an alien righteousness a
righteousness that foreign to me but
it’s mine
and it’s yours this morning a man
brothers and sisters let’s continue our
worship
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What is True Discipleship?

What is True Discipleship?

What is true discipleship? The question sounds obvious at best. But that is precisely the slippery little problem of discipleship in the modern church. Discipleship SHOULD BE clear; it should be obvious, it should be so well understood by the Church that its definition can be taken for granted. The difficulty is that in reality, true discipleship is in fact not so obvious.

If you were asked the question “what is discipleship?” how would you answer it? Here are some typical answers: Discipleship is…

  • preaching a sermon
  • a beginner class on basic Christian doctrine after accepting Christ
  • a class someone takes before they accept Christ (see what I did there!)
  • evangelism
  • a bible study
  • a small groups
  • accountability groups
  • community
  • fellowship

I think you get the point. If we take this shortlist of typical answers, we can make two primary observations: (1) many of these are to one degree or another contradictory, like how some would see discipleship as something that happens when we ingest a sermon during a Sunday service while others would contend it only takes place a small group, accountability group, or bible study. (2) Many of these things overlap to varying degrees and are also not entirely contradictory. For example, both a sermon and a small group bible study have to do with teaching the contents of the Bible.

When Close Enough is Too Far Away

The problem here is twofold, namely having enough truth to feel comfortably right, and enough error to never fully arrive at a holistic understanding of true biblical discipleship as Jesus envisioned it for his Church. Sometimes being close enough, in the end, leaves us too far away.

I remember watching an episode of the reality show, the Amazing Race where teams of two raced around the globe. In one episode, there were multiple clues in this particular area of the city. Somehow one team stumbled on the next clue before they found the one before it. As they stood excited they had arrived at the end of this stage first, their hopes were suddenly dashed when the host had to tell them that they missed a clue and had to return to do it. In the end, though having originally arrived first by a stroke of luck, the backtracking for the missing clue forced them to be last and they were eliminated from the race.

That is often how our attempts at discipleship are today; we are so close, living in the neighborhood, we are not on alert to look for anything deeper for something more challenging, more engaging, something pressing the soul into intimacy with Jesus and his Church.

Discipleship without Parallel

When we take the time to consider discipleship and formation of the earliest Church, it really has no modern parallel. Part of the problem of describing discipleship to you is that there are few modern parallels to point to. We cannot point to this or that Church today and say “see there it is.”

Sure this does not mean there is no discipleship going on at all. What I am talking about here is a distinction in degree.

Let’s say that the discipleship that the Apostolic disciples experienced with Jesus equaled 100%. If we say that, then we could theoretically measure all forms of discipleship by that gold standard.

Further, assuming that no Church has ever disciplined at the full 100% capacity as Jesus did with the 12, we might still say, “hey the Apostolic Church probably scored a solid 85%–95%” depending on the day of the week. Again we do not want to come off to idealistic here; no church or ministry EVER disciples perfectly.  At the same time, if we are honest enough to recognize a sliding scale, then it clearly implies that some ministries will disciple better than others. Hence we can all agree that disciplining at 75% strength of what Jesus did is better than 40%, and so on.

This leads us so far to a simple question, namely… do we think there is always room to improve our discipleship? I think there can be only one possible answer to that. That is YES.

But there is more. If the Church looks very little like it once did, especially at a time when it was particularly fresh and healthy, might our room for improvement be profound? I think so too.

Some Key Considerations

This question, the level of quality or functionality in our discipleship is critical for several reasons. First Churches have a tendency to mimic the same activities, without serious assessment to the resulting outcomes. For instance, if your Church A. does X, what fruit is it actually bearing. In other words, what observable difference is X bible study, small group, fill-in-the-blank, actually producing.

Second, how does one even begin to measure such things such as “godliness,” “behavior,” “life-change? This is some food for thought, for all Christians, but especially Church leaders. We will consider these issues in our next post.

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Seeking Immortality – The Second Sunday of Pentecost

Seeking Immortality – The Second Sunday of Pentecost

TRANSCRIPT

 good morning family of God so good to

see everybody’s eyeballs this morning

well let’s just take a moment and ask

God’s blessing on our study of the word

of God in Romans this morning Heavenly

Father we just thank you that you are so

gracious we thank you that you have

brought us together here as your church

we thank you that you are gentle we

thank you that you are faithful we thank

you that you are kind and we thank you

that you’ve protected us throughout this

pandemic we ask your continued

protection as there’s a lot of mayhem

and strife going on in our country right

now it’s a father we just pray for grace

we pray that clearer heads will prevail

we pray that grace will prevail we pray

that grace will reign all God’s people

said and you may be seated

well I used to spend a lot of time going

into Providence and one of my favorite

haunts was a coffee shop named coffee

exchange right down on Wickenden Street

they brew their own coffee it’s probably

the best coffee in Rhode Island I’m

gonna say that that’s my opinion

but I think I know a little bit about

coffee so but yeah but they have really

good coffee

and so I’d be I was in there and I’m in

there you know I got to know quite a few

people in there and I’m in there talking

to this teacher that I know this guy Jim

and I set my bag down on this chair and

you know and as I’m talking to Jim this

other guy comes along and plops his bag

right on top of the table next to my my

chair and I was like hmm

okay so you know I I just didn’t know

really what to do and so I I you know

went talking to Jim and then I just kind

of moved my bag off my chair and and sat

down I was like I I don’t mind sharing

the table I guess so I’m sitting there

and then he comes back and stops in the

middle of the whole coffee shop and goes

what do you think you’re doing you know

that thought like one of these guys one

of these guys right so we’re gonna have

a whole scene we’re gonna get enough

we’re gonna fight over a table so

anyways he says you weren’t sitting

there I’m like well actually I was

sitting here my stuff was here and and

he started to get argumentative I just

got up and I was like you know what you

can have the table and that’s fine I’ll

sit over here with Jim and because I was

talking to Jim anyways and another table

opened up but my point with my little

story is we got into or at least the

temptation I’ve could have engaged him

more in a quarrel and you know if you

read CS Lewis’s Christianity that’s one

of the that’s one of the first things he

talks about when he opens up in the

first chapter is human quarreling and he

talks about how people argue with one

another and this is what Lewis says

about quarreling

he says quarreling means to show the

other man is in the wrong and there

would be no sense in trying to do that

unless you or he had some sort of

agreement as to what right and wrong are

you see if there is nothing in common

morally if there’s not something

agreed-upon what do you have to argue

about and he goes on to give the example

of a footballer and it’s like how do you

and he’s talking about soccer not real

football not American football but I’m

teasing I like soccer too but he you

know he’s saying if there’s not an

agreement about the rules how do you

call a foul how do you call foul and

that’s what we do when we get into an

argument and we begin to quarrel and he

says now the law or rule about right and

wrong used to be called the law of

nature it calls it this law of nature

that Lewis is talking about and he’s

getting into a lot of the ancient you

know ancient philosophers about this

moral rule of right and wrong that we

all take for granted and it’s

interesting in his defense of

Christianity that’s where he starts he

starts with this unseen but very real

moral rule that’s in all of us and it’s

skewed because of sin because that well

the law itself isn’t skewed but our

interpretation is and very often when

people are quarreling there’s obviously

one person wrong

one person is in the wrong but they

think they’re in the right and that’s

why they’re arguing back and forth and

that’s why we have to go to court we

have to take each other to court over

things because somebody is violating

somebody else’s right sometimes they’re

both violating each other’s rights and

it takes a judge to sort it out but if

you drop down in our passage to verse 14

Paul says these words he says for when

the Gentiles who do not have the law by

nature do what the law requires they are

a law to themselves even though they do

not have the law what he means is he’s

showing that they try and and hold each

other to a standard of right and wrong

even though they don’t have the Jewish

law meaning the first five books of the

Old Testament Genesis Exodus Leviticus

numbers Deuteronomy that outlines the

Jewish law even though they don’t have

the law and he says they show that the

work of the law is written on their

hearts which is exactly what Lewis is

talking about he says while their

conscience also bears witness and their

conflicting conflicting thoughts accuse

or even excuse them on that day when

according to my gospel God will judge

God judges the secrets of men by Jesus

Christ now that statement there in verse

15 says that their conscience bears

witness what he’s saying as their

conscience bears witness he just talked

about in the first chapter of Roman that

the wrath of God is revealed from heaven

against all ungodliness and

unrighteousness of men who suppress the

truth in unrighteousness because what is

known of God is revealed to them they

know it and now he’s digging a little

deeper and saying that that law of what

people know to be right and wrong is in

them and he says their thoughts either

accuse or excuse them and isn’t that

what we do

when we have a conflict with somebody

even years ago we go back and we start

thinking about what get angry like well

but but she did this to me

and that justifies the what my behavior

or my action or my position when you see

where I’m going with that really in our

lives we if you if you really pay

attention to our thoughts when it comes

to any kind of strife in a relationship

you’ll see a constant reasoning legal

reasoning of why I’m right and that

person is wrong and this is the law of

nature that Lois is talking about it’s

the standard we all assume now Romans is

all about justification so when we’re

accusing someone else or excusing

ourselves what we’re trying to do is

justify justify ourselves and it’s way

more important to us than we realize our

entire life posture is oriented toward

self justification we all want to be

justified we all want to feel that we’re

right that the world is right with us

that the world around us is right all

this strife contention and mayhem that’s

going on in the world right now over the

death of George Floyd is an alternate

gospel now what is the gospel a gospel

is good news and what the gospel

promises is a better world that’s put

right and even these young people who

have so unwisely basically committed

treason and made their own country out

there in Seattle believe what they’re

doing is creating a better world I’ll be

at six blocks of a better world even

though they’re already extorting people

and showing absolutely bullsh

Vic and Nazi behavior towards the people

inside they really believe their

narrative of a better world and that’s

what it gospel does gospel offers a

better world but only God’s gospel the

true gospel offers a truly better world

and so we can ask the question why is it

we as humans quarrel well the simple

answer is because we begin with a

posture of I’m right I’m right in most

of our relationships and as I expressed

in that situation in the coffee shop we

begin with the position that’s right

you see what happened in that situation

is I had been there ten minutes before

that gentleman and I put my bag down on

the chair at that but when he came in he

was kind of preoccupied and he didn’t

see my bag there and he put his on the

chair and I I venture from his

perspective once he put on the chair he

was even less to see mine behind the

chair and he walked away and he came up

to me after and when I’m sitting in the

chair that I had marked off 15 minutes

before he arrived and he challenged me

and accused me of wrong behavior of

wronging him now III don’t really fault

the man we all make mistakes like that

but and it’s probably a pretty honest

mistake on his part he just didn’t see

my bag but the point that I’m trying to

make is when he challenged me he started

with the assumption I’m right he’s wrong

and when the gospel comes into our lives

when the gospel of Jesus Christ comes to

us it tells us to flip the values of the

world on its head it tells us to flip

how we do things and what it says is now

you’re going to go through life with the

posture of

I’m wrong you’re going to start with I’m

wrong not I’m bad but that I’m loved by

God but I need a Savior and that for me

to have the best possible relationships

with both God and myself I need to start

in any conflict with the assumption that

I may be wrong there may be something

like my bookbag that I don’t see right

and so that is what changes it because

as soon as we start with the possibility

of well I I may be wrong and someone

says hey you wronged me what you do is

instead of deflecting it back and

throwing it back at them and then the

unholy boxing match starts what you do

is you absorb it with humility and say

well explain I’m sorry me I may be wrong

what is the issue please explain that to

me just that response goes a long way in

our relationships but you see our

tendency our default pattern is to self

justify and it’s so important to the

book of Romans because we need

justification we need that we need to be

made right I had a professor at Bible

College and he would ask over and over

throughout the semester as we were

studying any of these books of the New

Testament and he always focused on Paul

he says how good does the gospel make me

and then he says it makes me as good as

God is that’s how good the gospel makes

you you see when Jesus dies on the cross

he gives you his righteousness he takes

on our sin and he gives you his

righteousness and so we don’t have the

Shelf justify but what we need is true

justification and that’s what this whole

passage here in Romans 2 is about is

about how we self justify instead of

looking for the just

vacation of God and so we often justify

in three ways we justify our actions as

good and right we do it by doing good

actions to make ourselves feel good or

feel better say well I did this I do

this you know I come to church or I

serve at this place or I do this you

know and then the third thing is we

compare ourselves to others there’s

always somebody out there who looks

morally inferior to us and so we can

compare ourselves to them and say well

at least I’m not like that person right

but that’s not what God wants us doing

God wants us to start with the pot the

the position well I may be wrong to

start with the white-hot perfection of

God’s righteousness now that produces

humility there’s always somebody whose

life is more messed up more unholy

looking at least not more unholy not

more sinful but more sinful looking than

ours that we compare so Romans is the

magna carta of how no man will be

justified ourselves just justifying is

actually a waste of our thought life

it’s a waste of time it doesn’t go

anywhere in our relationships and it

doesn’t surely go anywhere with God

because look how he starts Romans 2 he

says therefore you have no excuse o man

or woman every one of you who judges for

in passing judgment on another you

condemn yourself because you the judge

practice the very same things we know

that the judgment of God rightly falls

on those who practice such things do you

suppose oh man you who judge those who

practice such things and yet do

themselves that you will escape the

judgment of God what does Paul mean by

this what he means is that all men sin

in the very same way we may not do

exactly the same sin but really when it

comes down to

there’s really just a couple sins and

there’s all types of varieties of that

sin we could talk about land mammals and

reptiles and fish okay so there’s

thousands of types of fish and thousands

of types of land mammals but there’s

still fish or mammals and that’s why we

need to think about sin that’s why we

need to think about the Ten Commandments

you know extortion is a type of lying

and a type of stealing embezzlement is a

type of lying and stealing right right

a cheating on a test is a type of lying

right so every kind of sin has just all

these other you know sneaky little

variations you know we’re just I mean

God

put an immense amount of creativity into

the human heart and if you look at sin

you can just see how creative we are as

a human race amen okay because we can

find every possible way to lie in every

possible way to fornicate or whatever it

is to steal lie but it all comes down to

several divots just a handful of things

you know and so Paul talks about this as

a spiritual law he says for in passing

judgment on another you condemn yourself

what’s that mean

what he’s saying is is when we get in

that conflict with somebody and we go

you without really thinking through what

God’s really calling that judgment that

passing judgment on another is a self

condemnation of ourselves it’s really

pointing the finger at ourselves that’s

what Paul says when you when you pass

judgment another you’re just showing

your own guilt in doing so

see there’s a natural hypocrisy and

every one of us this is important

there’s a natural hypocrisy that comes

to all of us a natural tendency to judge

and that’s because of our eyes when you

get up in the morning you see everything

else but yourself okay we see the food

on each other’s faces not on our own so

I’m literally talking right here just

physically my ability to view somebody

else objectively from the outside and

pick out their faults is ten times more

powerful than my ability to see it

myself

so the other other day I was lifting

weights with my wife and brother-in-law

and I was doing a exercise called a

deadlift and there was just a slight

thing that I was doing wrong and it took

us about ten minutes of them observing

me my wife and my brother-in-law

observing me and go okay here’s what

you’re doing wrong this is the good side

this is the good side because in the

church we can have truly accountable

relationships and we can help each other

grow we can have a gentle posture toward

one another and they were able to help

me fix my form so I wouldn’t hurt my

back that’s the positive side and we’ll

get into that more in the book of Romans

but right now Paul is talking about the

negative side he’s talking about the

negative side of judging where we just

see each other’s faults and we just sees

them and we then what we do is we hide

behind our brothers faults we go see

your fault and you know what I’m talking

about you know what I’m talking about

when you somebody is doing something

wrong a friend at work a spouse or

something and you don’t like what

they’re doing and and you mention

something to them and they immediately

go yes but you right

so that’s take you know that’s you know

that’s kind of like the old you know

throw the rock over there or throw the

stick over there and get the debt

the dog to chase the stick right and we

all have the tendency to do that and so

because of our sin nature we naturally

judge our neighbor as an object of

critique rather than an object of

edification you get that an object of

critique instead of an object of

edification that’s where the gospel

turns it on its head you see when I

begin to start with a posture of well I

may be wrong and I see my job in life is

to encourage and build up the body of

Christ now I don’t come to the to my

brothers and sisters and all my

relationship as judging them but is

building them up I begin to see weakness

as an opportunity for me to feel at home

in the flesh because I’ve got the same

weakness if you have a hard time not

judging other people then it’s time to

get some other people to speak in your

life to actually welcome somebody and

say hey what do I need to work on

because what will happen variable happen

is people will point out things to you

that you didn’t see like my form and

lifting weights and so the gospel flips

that back over see he gets here in verse

2 he says or do you presume upon the

riches of his kindness and the

forbearance and patience not knowing

that God’s kindness is meant to lead you

to repentance and because of your heart

and in penitent heart you’re storing up

wrath for yourself on the day of wrath

when God’s righteous judgment will be

revealed so he talks about presuming

upon the kindness and forbearance of God

the first thing I just want to say here

is his emphasis on the kindness and

forbearance of God okay that’s what the

gospel does the gospel of Jesus Christ

hanging on a tree and and and and dying

and being resurrected God has a posture

of non judgment with us now God who has

every right to judge he is perfect he

never sinned he forgoes the right to

judge and then when he welcomes us into

his family and into the kingdom he says

guess what else you have to forego the

right to judge does not mean to be in

healthy accountable relationships but

those are relationships that are built

over time with trust and you know I’m

talking all kinds of judging like when

you’re driving down the road and that

person cuts you off and then you start

to you know give them sign language and

you know whatever else okay for that

debt muttering the little cuss words and

all that stuff or you know that’s an

idiot and what a jerk and stuff that’s

actually cursing our brother in our

heart like that’s that’s that soul

sucking when we give in to that because

what we’re doing is we’re judging and

when you think about it that you know

this little statement it sounds so

innocuous someone cuts you off in shock

and you go what an idiot what we’re

doing is actually devaluing them as a

human being which is to God it’s kind of

like standing in front of an artist and

looking at their art and says that’s

dumb and none of us want to be that

person right none of us want to be that

but we do that right and we’re doing

that to God’s masterpiece other people

and so he talked about presuming upon

the kindness and forbearance of God what

he’s talking about is this certitude

what do I mean by certitude I mean

certitude is is an arrogant assumption

of our redemption it’s it’s not a humble

assumption of God’s grace to us it’s an

arrogant assumption like I’m good I

accepted Jesus I’m good I don’t have

anything to worry about but that’s not

what he’s talking about he’s talking

about a life of repentance here you see

he says do you presume on the riches of

his kindness and for in other words do

you take them for granted

not knowing that the kindness is meant

to lead you to repentance that we’re

going to come back to this a concept of

repentance over and over again because

that is the center in the heart of the

gospel what is repentance and how does

it relate to our daily Christian walk

what’s the act of turning the will from

disobedience to obedience not just how

we come to Jesus but it’s how we live by

faith in Jesus it’s an ongoing and so

discipleship as I said starts with this

presumption of not presuming upon the

kindness and Ference of God but

presuming that I may be wrong because

these that’s the first step in

repentance is humbling ourselves and

saying God forgive me a sinner and to

begin to take that posture into all our

relationships oh god somebody brings

something to our attention we go oh well

I don’t want to disappoint God and I

don’t want to hurt this person so maybe

I should listen it doesn’t mean

somebody’s not going to bring something

to you that’s really not trumped up

people will people find all kinds of

sinful reasons to be mad at each other

that are not but if we listen we still

can bring healing if we start with while

I may be wrong we gain the respect that

comes through humility and so he paints

the picture of two kinds of people here

and verse six he says he will render to

each one according to his works to those

who by patience and well doing seek for

glory honor and immortality he will give

eternal life but to those who are

self-seeking and do not obey the truth

but obey unrighteousness there will be

wrath and fury wrath and fury there’s

two kinds of people in the world those

who are trying to follow God and those

who are not and this is really important

he talks about those who seek with

patience and well doing but what they do

if this is going back to verse

five of chapter one races he talks about

the obedience of faith the first person

here who is seeking glory and honor and

immortality is the person who is seeking

the obedience of faith and the other is

the opposite those who obey on

righteousness and this is where he talks

about to the Jew first and also the

Greek you see there’s two ways in the

world in fact the early church the

gospel and Christianity was referred to

as the way and when they discipled

Christian they taught them in the two

ways the way of life and the way of

death two kinds of people in the world

the seeker of God and the seeker of self

it’s very important here because he

talks about being self seeking you see

that’s a Dollar Tree

self seeking and when we’re self seeking

we are seeking to self justify we start

with the assumption of I’m right and I

deserve and I should get and that is

what wrecks our life it wrecks our

relationship and it wrecks

the world and that’s what we see going

on in the world every four years we

naively look to a new president to bring

in a new order that’s going to make

everything right in the world but if

you’ve read the good book the Word of

God there’s only one leader who’s going

to bring in true righteousness and

that’s the King of Kings Jesus Christ

amen

and so when we are self-seeking we are

focused on ourselves we are focused on

idolatry and that’s what leads us astray

that’s what brings us to conflict in our

relationships and that’s what brings up

this what I call the good person fallacy

which will find here more in Romans and

that’s the idea that we live a generally

good life and we’re not a criminal and

we raised in a good family and we have a

good job and therefore God should accept

me I remember I put out on Facebook once

and I asked the question what this was a

while back some years ago but I said

what are your biggest questions but the

spiritual life and one of them that came

up was do good people go to heaven if I

just live if I don’t go to church and I

generally live a good life will God

accept me well it depends on what you

mean by that and what Paul is saying

here but Paul would generally say no

first of all he’s going to tell us and

then as we go on here in the next couple

of chapters there’s no such thing as a

good person not morally good if people

they’re good because we were created in

the image of God and God loves us but

morally no we’ve all broken the law we

don’t meet God’s standard but more than

that and it’s what’s it runs all through

Romans is the idea is it’s the mind that

is set on God receives justification

whatsoever is not of faith is sin is

what Paul says in Romans 14 whatever we

do that is not focused in the gospel and

not in a life of pursuing God and that’s

why he makes these this contrast here of

those who are seeking good and seeking

evil because really that the person

who’s seeking evil is not going out

there like I’m gonna seek evil today

that’s not what they’re doing what most

of them are doing getting up every day

and go I’m gonna have fun and I’m gonna

be a good person I’m gonna be a good

person watch how good I am which is

self-justifying which God doesn’t accept

it’s a life that’s focused on itself

it’s self seeking that’s why Paul says

that that’s not what God is looking for

what God is looking for is faith to

those who by patience and well doing

seek for glory honor and immortality he

will give eternal life that’s our

promise to us the first step in this

idea called repentance that will unpack

more is that humility to start with I

may be wrong I may be wrong so let me

summarize by nature we judge others and

self justify ourselves and that’s what

the gospel redeems us from that’s what

the gospel redeems us from and so here’s

three quick points the goal of

discipleship is repentance the Great

Commission we read last week teaching

all that I can’t command you go make

disciples and teach them all that I

command you number to start with

I may be wrong number three the

repentant life is the life of seeking

God with our whole mind with all our

heart soul mind and strength amen

+

Trinity Sunday

Trinity Sunday, June 7, 2020

TRANSCRIPT
good morning people of God so good to
see your faces in the pews this morning
how exciting is that let’s give us a
round of applause I’m gonna go ahead and
let you sit down and I’m just rejoicing
to be with you this morning mainly
because we’re back together and just
just being the body of God together and
and worshiping so a very excited of how
we’ll spend this summer together and one
of the things that we are doing for the
Pentecost season our lectionary year a
puts a special emphasis on Rome and so
we’re going to be focusing on Romans and
doing a series called the reign of grace
and I talked a little bit about it for
you guys on Facebook so just want to
give you guys a little heads up on how
you can get the most out of that here’s
a couple couple ideas is number one is
start reading Romans a lot you know read
through it and you know the most
powerful way that people learn is when
we develop questions so when you develop
your own questions those things those
answers stick a lot quicker and faster
encourage you to take notes if you’re a
note taker if you’re not a note taker
you might want to become one so and then
it’s a great opportunity to discuss in
your your prayer groups or in a you know
with some your other brothers and
sisters
but I want to point us real quick before
we pray to Romans 5:21 you don’t have to
turn there but Paul says these words he
says so that as sin reigned in death
grace also might reign through
righteousness leading to Edel eternal
life through Jesus Christ our Lord and
therein lies the reason for the title of
our series the reign of grace is that as
Christians God has called us not back
he’s called us back from the reign of
sin and death which we’re all seeing
right now the whole George Floyd
incident is another witness to the reign
of sin and death and we as Christians as
blood-bought Christians were called into
the reign of grace and that’s what our
election area is talking about in you
know our gospel passage this morning to
go make disciples of all nations to make
disciples to invite people to live and
walk in the rain of grace so before we
get started let’s just bow our heads and
and let’s just pray and thank God for
our time to be back together and to
study the Word of God together
Heavenly Father I just thank you for the
peace and justice of God in the world I
want to raise up a particular call to
prayer I want to raise up a prayer of
blessing and peace on George Floyd’s
family and father I just pray against
the violence the violence that led to
his death and the violence that’s
ensuing father rage and violence didn’t
solve anything but the cross the cross
of Jesus Christ solves all things and so
you’ve called us in to the reign of
grace and so we thank you for your word
we thank you that it dwells richly in us
and we thank you
you have given the peace of God in our
hearts that we may cry Abba Father all
God’s people said and so I want to start
off by just asking a question here and
that simple question is what is the goal
of the gospel we saw that we see some of
that going on in the in the Matthew
passage and our gospel passage go
therefore and make disciples of all
nations baptizing them in the name of
the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit
and teaching them all that I command you
well as we begin to look at Romans
someone asked me well what what’s what
is the how does the gospel relate to
Romans and I said that’s a great
question the basically the book of
Romans is the gospel of Jesus Christ to
the Romans through the Apostle Paul that
is the his understanding of the gospel
that he’s preaching to us and so when we
ask that question what is the gospel
what is the goal of the gospel of God
Paul answers with a certain statement he
answers with the statement the obedience
of faith and if you have your Bible you
can look at it but I’ll read it to you
in Romans one four and five Paul says
Jesus Christ our Lord through whom we
have received Grace and Apostleship to
bring about the obedience of faith for
the sake of his name among all nations
there’s some powerful words there and
there’s some deep meaningful things
there first of all he says the obedience
of faith he he doesn’t say it’s
obedience versus faith he doesn’t say
faith versus works but he says the
obedience of faith and so we need to
hold on to that little idea that idea
will come back to you over and over
again throughout pentecost season as we
go through romans is that god is sending
the church into the world to bring about
the obedience of faith that’s the same
thing that’s going on and
Matthieu when he says go make disciples
of all nations
we don’t obey out of a spartan sense of
works we obey only my faith and when he
says among all nations what that points
back to is that Abrahamic promised that
Abraham would be the father of all
nations which he’s going to he’s going
to talk about more in the next few
chapters and so Paul goes on as we
launch into our our text this morning he
says for I am not ashamed of the gospel
for it is the power of God for salvation
to everyone who believes or to everyone
who has faith to the Jew first and also
the Greek for in it the righteousness of
God is revealed from faith for faith as
it is written the just shall live by
faith and that’s really his thesis
statement here in this book this is what
he is talking about this is this whole
point of the book is that the just
person shall live by faith or that the
person is made just not by their own
perfection but by faith and that true
obedience grows out of that faith and so
everything in this book turns on relman
on on faith and so we can ask this
question is who are the Romans it really
helps us understand because he says
right here before in verse 15 he says
for I’m I’m eager to preach the gospel
to you who were at Rome who were these
people were these Romans well they were
actually Christians the Christians at
Rome and don’t you think that’s kind of
interesting that he’s excited and all
jazzed up to go preach the gospel to
Christians
do we think that’s kind of unique maybe
not maybe so because when we think about
preaching the gospel we think about
preaching to non-christians right the
Paul wants to preach the gospel to
Christians too because the Christians
need the gospel just as bad the the that
faith sometimes leaks as I said in my
Sunday sermon I mean my Wednesday sermon
this week is sometimes our faith leaks
sometimes we feel weak and so God is
calling us into this gospel and so as we
look at verse 18 he says for the wrath
of God is revealed against heaven
against all ungodliness and
unrighteousness of men who by their
unrighteousness suppress the truth for
what can be known about God is plain to
them because God has shown it to them
for his invisible attributes namely his
eternal power and divine nature have
been clearly perceived ever since the
creation of the world and the things
that have been made so that they are
without excuse
the Paul talks about the wrath of God
here but he points right back to the
creation and that’s what he’s going to
focus on here is that the creation is
God’s gifted it to us and that’s what we
read in Genesis this morning God gifted
the creation and made us to live in
creation and it’s a place to house us
and so he says here for although they
knew God in verse 21 they did not honor
him as God or give thanks to him but
became futile and their thinking and
their foolish hearts were darkened and
so we can ask the question what is Paul
doing here and these opening chapters
what’s he trying to accomplish here and
so I’ll I’ll fill you in a little bit
he’s establishing that all men
all of us apart from Jesus Christ our
self condemned under sin that’s what
he’s doing in the first few chapters of
Romans all of us and I and I’m
emphasizing apart from Christ apart from
Christ all mankind is self condemned
there’s two points on that you don’t we
don’t need God to condemn us because our
actions as sinners already condemn us
but that’s apart from Christ Paul’s
gospel is God’s long-suffering that God
is kind that God is pouring out his
heart through the gospel toward mankind
and so this brings us to our first point
here is what I’ll call the dishonouring
of God and the dishonouring of ourselves
and I III want to explain that a little
bit to you they see this passage talks
about the dishonouring of God but it
also talks about dishonouring ourselves
and dishonouring our bodies and see
that’s where God’s rule his will his law
comes about very much like a parent what
God wants for us is best for us and so
when we break God’s rules when we break
God’s law we don’t just dishonor God we
dishonor ourselves we’re not necessarily
damaging God but we are always damaging
ourselves and on Wednesday I asked this
question what is the difference between
love and respect and the reason I asked
that as I shared on Wednesday was that I
was sitting with one of my son’s
recently and he asked me I don’t know if
you want me to love you
or respect you and my response after I
thought for a minute was well
most men feel loved when their respected
and if you disrespect them they don’t
feel loved and then I thought about it
in the days following and I’m like you
know I think everybody’s that way and so
Paul talks here about honoring God if
you look back at verse 21 he says though
they knew God but they did not honor him
or give thanks they did not honor him or
give thanks in verse 21 to honor
somebody is to respect them to treat
them in the way they are meant to be
treated and what Paul is painting a
picture of here is a world that doesn’t
honor God he’s painting a picture of a
world where the Creator who created this
world and put men in it and gifted him
with his very breath treats God as if he
doesn’t even exist treats God as if he
doesn’t matter and you could kind of
relate to that as if you you know you
gave somebody the opportunity to come
live with you and then they kind of just
took over and acted like it was their
house and started mistreating you in
your house and started telling you how
things were supposed to be in your house
eventually you’d get a little aggravated
wouldn’t you a lot says Farrell and you
know you would be right to expel them
from your house right amen all right so
and yet God Paul says here in Romans is
long-suffering toward us but the
fundamental posture of us as a people is
that we are disrespecting and
dishonouring God in his house
dishonouring God in his own house and it
says it goes on and says but they became
futile in their thinking and their
foolish heart
were darkened says their minds became
dark and what you see throughout this
passage as you read it on your own what
you’ll see is this process of man
choosing darkness and then God allowing
him to choose his darkness and that man
chooses to go toward darkness and God
allows man to sink deeper into his own
darkness and you see this in verse 23
says and they exchanged the glory of the
immortal God for images resembling
mortal man and bird and animals and
creeping things and so they began to
worship what he calls the creature
rather than a creator and if you
understand the passage we’ve just read
in Genesis how powerful is in its
ancient context because when the writer
of Genesis wrote Genesis 1 it was
literally taking the gods of the ancient
world and and and and dethroning them
you see what he was saying is all those
things you worship the Sun the moon the
animals the beasts the birds all the
things that people in the ancient world
were were worshipping the writer of
Genesis takes down and says now they’re
creations of the one God of the Jews the
one God and Paul’s talking about that
here how they how they began to worship
the images of mortal man and birds and
creeping things and you know in Romans
18 where he starts off he talks about
those who suppress who by their
unrighteousness suppress the truth well
my question is you what does it mean to
suppress the truth what does that mean
and some of us would think that that is
an active thing but do you really think
that most meant and then that he’s
talking about wake up every morning like
ha ha I am gonna suppress the truth of
God today no that’s not how we suppress
the truth
that’s not how we suppress the truth we
suppress the truth by dishonouring God
and as we’ll see down below we suppress
the truth by not retaining God in our
knowledge by not retaining God in our
thoughts
you see we suppress the truth passively
by making God unimportant to us and so
in verse 24 says therefore God gave them
up God gave them up to the lusts of
their hearts to impurity to the
dishonouring of their bodies among
themselves because they exchanged the
truth about God for a lie and worshiped
the creature rather than the Creator who
is blessed for ever amen and so he says
and that brings us to our second point
and this is a real sobering one you see
our first point was when we dishonor God
we dishonor ourselves as well the second
point is that God gives us what we want
God gives us what we want God is enough
of a gentleman that he doesn’t force us
but he invites us into the gospel of God
he invites us into the truth of God and
when we reject it and we exchanged the
truth of God for a lie and worshiped the
creature and worshiped ourselves more
than the Creator he gives us what we
want and that’s a sobering thought
God gives us what we want and we earn
the outcome of what we pursue
we either pursue God’s Way in the world
or we pursue our way in the world it’s
one of the other and even as a Christian
we have to learn to practice pursuing
the truth of God and what you see here
is a pattern in fact three different
times in this passage he talks about how
men exchange God’s will for our own in
Romans 1 23 he says and they exchanged
the glory that immortal God for images
in Romans 1:25 he says because they
exchanged the truth about God for a lie
and then in verse 26 for this reason God
gave them up to dishonorable passions
for they their women exchanged natural
relations for those that are contrary to
nature and likewise men gave up or
exchanged the natural relationships with
women and I want to just point out here
the God here are that Paul here is not
picking on homosexuals as this as if
that’s some unique sin among sins but he
does see it as a sign he does see it as
a flag in the sand that talks about to a
point to where mankind has gone in this
day and age this there’s nothing more
apropos to the day and age we live in
right now we have this condition now
where people are born a man and decide
that they want to be a female and vice
versa there’s a name for it called
gender dysphoria and for Paul what he’s
talking about is this kind of thinking
where you where we lose perspective of
the simplicity of the creation that God
made them male and female
and it doesn’t give us a position to be
judgmental toward those who are in that
kind of sin because we all sin and all
sin falls short of the glory of God but
the point that Paul is is making here is
that when we are without the truth of
God we sink farther and farther and
farther away from God where truth
becomes so blurry that we don’t know
what is up and what is down what is
right and what’s wrong and that’s what
Paul is talking about here is that when
we choose this path as people when we
choose the path to exchange the truth of
God for a lie God will give us what we
want and we will sink lower and lower
and lower and you may be saying well I’m
a Christian I’m not choosing that path
and and that’s good but even we as
Christians have to be on the guard
because the whole world is pressing in
on us and especially with today’s
technology and stuff we constantly
bombarded with ideas that are not about
God and what we have to do is guard our
mind and that really brings us to our
last point that last point here is that
the gap that the battleground for the
gospel is your mind it’s what’s going on
between our ears the battleground for
the gospel is our mind look at verse 28
he says since they did not see fit to
acknowledge God God gave them up to a
debased mind to do what not ought to be
done you see my point there they chose
the way they want they chose rebellion
we we as a human race chose rebellion
against God and God says I’ll be a
gentleman here have what you want if
that’s what you really want but in the
gospel God comes to us and he sends the
church
and he sends preachers and he sends the
body of God to bring the truth of God in
the world to call men out of it to call
us out of it but this little verse here
is like the Magna Carta of the entire
gospel because he says since they did
not see fit to acknowledge God God gave
them up now I love the old King James
translation of that says since they did
not see fit to retain God in their
knowledge what it’s basically saying is
sense of mankind did not choose to
actively harbour thoughts about God in
their mind they went over the falls
there’s a spiritual classic called the
practice of the presence of God by
brother Lawrence and that classic is
about practicing harboring God in our
thoughts and I think you know as well as
I that when we don’t have God in our
thoughts a lot of other ugly thoughts
enter in you know it’s the classic thing
if I say don’t think about the pink
elephant what are you guys all thinking
about now the pink elephant that’s right
and so it is with every horrible thing
you can’t stop thinking and you can’t
stop pondering the bad things the world
by not actively putting other active
things in and so now if I say something
like how many of you went to Disney
World when you were a kid that’s a good
thought right and now you’re not
thinking about the pink elephant until I
mentioned it again because you’re
thinking because I suggested something
else and that’s where the mind works
that’s the battleground of the mind he
says since they did not see fit to
acknowledge God God gave them up they
did not see fit to hold God in their
thoughts
and it goes on back in you know back in
verse 20 once for although they knew God
they did not honor him as God or give
thanks to him but became futile in their
thinking and their foolish hearts were
darkened and so you see this pattern
where we darken our hearts and then God
darkens our hearts more when we rebel
against him you see nothing could be
more important than this battleground
for the mind and as we go through Romans
you’re gonna see him talk about the mind
the mind the mind he’s gonna talk about
the mind of Christ he’s gonna talk about
those who walk in the spirit and walking
in the spirit is all about listening to
the spirit in our own mind and so as we
close let me just give you kind of a big
takeaway just a big idea that kind of
close us out with it’s made of kind of
two points number one all mankind has
condemned themselves under sin that’s
where we started out the wrath of God
has been revealed from heaven against
all ungodliness and unrighteousness of
men who suppress the truth but see God
doesn’t want to be a wrathful God you
see the gospel is about his love and God
responds to our rejection of him by
giving us what we want but God so loved
the world that He gave His only begotten
Son that whosoever believeth in him
should have eternal life and that is the
reign of grace and that’s what we’re
gonna keep learning about here in this
Pentecost season amen
+

Reign of Grace

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

please be seated let’s take a moment to
ask God’s blessing on our time in the
study of his word this afternoon
Heavenly Father and gracious King you
are good oh so good you are always
faithful and oh so faithful and you have
called the remnant of mankind from among
all nations a bedraggled host to become
a royal glorious and obedient host your
church Father forgive us all the sins
that we knowingly and unknowingly Sitton
that we commit against you and father
can fill our hearts with your spirit
that we might know you more love you
more and give our lives unreservedly to
you unless this time in your word today
in Jesus name all God’s people said man
when we’re looking at Romans chapter 1 1
through 17 and we’re starting a new
series we’re going to study the book of
Romans together doing during the
pentecost season and so this Sunday we
will be starting in Romans chapter 2
which is where the meat begins but I
wanted to bring the salutation part the
part that doesn’t you know seems like
kind of just the window dressing getting
the pleasantries out of the way but
you’ll see very quickly about this that
everything about this text has to do
with what Pentecost is about which is
the mission of the gospel
you notice we just read our Deacon Kathy
just read that the father that Jesus
says to the disciples there in John
chapter 20 as the father has sent me
even so I am sending you and with that
he said it said this and he breathed on
them and said receive the Holy Spirit
and so he says send the Holy Spirit – so
he sends Jesus to pay for our sins he
sends the Holy Spirit to fill the church
to send the church into the world and
when we opened the book of Romans we see
this all over because the first thing
Paul’s going to talk about is his
apostolic ministry look at verses 1
through 4 with me real quick Paul a
servant of Jesus Christ called to be an
apostle and he sent one set apart to the
gospel of God that’s the good news the
message he’s taken which he promised
beforehand through his prophets and the
Holy Scriptures the gospel concerning
his son who was descended from David
according to the flesh and designated
the Son of God and power according the
spirit of holiness by his resurrection
from the dead Jesus Christ our Lord
the Paul is going to talk more about his
Apostleship but I’ll give you an idea
for us to kind of you know hinge
thoughts on for a minute
and that’s the question of love more
respect love or respect now why am I
asking this well not too long I was
sitting with one of my sons and even
though my sons are getting older
sometimes you still have to have those
fatherly conversations and this certain
young man who remains unnamed looks at
me and says dad I don’t know if you want
me to love you or respect you and it’s a
it’s a good question
I thought about it for a minute and
speaking from a man’s point of view but
as I’ve I don’t think it’s just limited
to men now about it my answer my
historic answer at the time is well
buddy and then feel loved when you
respect them and if you disrespect them
they don’t feel loved and as I thought
about it in the time since I’m like you
know I think it’s pretty much like that
with all relationships it’s with women
too you know if you speak
disrespectfully to someone they don’t
feel love they don’t feel a fruit that
they don’t feel appreciated and another
way is we can take that respect because
respect has a lot of different shades to
it right respect has obedience we could
talk about love versus obedience but
they’re not versus right and then
there’s also justice if I treat you
wrongly disrespectfully I’m also
treating you on justly right so there’s
all these different shades that really
overlap but are absolutely true and kind
of come to be the same thing and my
whole point of bringing up that little
story is to relate that back to God and
the cosmic view of the gospel that Paul
is putting out here in
does God want us to respect him and is
mankind living in a respectful way and
we’re gonna get into a little bit here
but it’s going to become very obvious
when we get into the second half of
Romans on Sunday so I hope I’m wetting
your appetite
but really because all of all of Romans
1 & 2 is about man’s disobedience and
it’s really
we’re disobeying the Creator and so
we’re disrespecting the Creator God
doesn’t feel loved when we disobey just
the way a father doesn’t feel loved when
we disobey because we’re disrespecting
his commandments and we see this
beautiful picture of the gospel here and
Paul starts this letter with this idea
and I want you to notice this here
verses 3 and 4 cuz he sets it out what
God has done
objectively and I want you to see these
key pieces right here that are really
the backbone of the Apostles Creed in
our Nicene Creed he says the gospel
concerning his son who was descended
from David according to the flesh
there’s the incarnation designated the
son of God and power the deity of Christ
according to the spirit of holiness that
spirit and the church by the
resurrection of dead and Jesus Christ
our Lord and Paul’s whole gospel is that
Jesus came and was incarnate by the Holy
Spirit born of a virgin lived in this
life died was buried and resurrected for
the justification of all things and if
you take this and you go to Corinthians
chapter 15 you’ll see this even a little
expanded more it looks even more like
the Apostles Creed that was built on it
and so we see this confessional
statement of what God has done and we
have the all through
the book of Romans we’ve got these
things the statement of the gospel what
God has done because we have broken the
law of God and so you’re going to hear
all through the book of Romans the law
and the gospel and how all men have
fallen short of the glory of God and
then condemned self condemned by our
actions and the gospel of God frees us
and so look at verse 5 with me he says
through whom we have received Grace and
Apostleship to bring about the obedience
of faith for the sake of his name among
all nations including yourselves who are
called to belong to Jesus Christ there’s
a lot going on there but I want to ask
you about the mission of the gospel what
is the mission of the gospel see what we
have right here is Paul’s apostolic
Commission another way we can translate
that verse there is it is through him we
have received grace and the Commission
to Apostleship and Apostle is sent
that’s what we are looking at that’s
what Pentecost is God Jesus has
completed the death burial and
resurrection and on Pentecost he sends
the spirit and he Commission’s and we
hear those words of Matthew 28:19 3:20
goes therefore and make disciples of all
nations baptizing them and teaching them
to obey all I commanded the gospel is
really simple we just complicate it
right we complicate it and so what is
the goal of the gospel and that’s what’s
really important in this passage what is
the goal of the gospel what is the
outcome that God wants from the church
and missionaries like Paul and that
answer is right there at verse 5 he says
the to bring about the obedience of
things for the sake of his name among
all nations that there’s a whole bunch
there Paul wasn’t yet and he had an
incredible theological mind he was just
it was huge okay
it was huge he and and there’s so much
in play there
I’m not going to overwhelm us because
it’s like drinking from a fire hydrant
but I want you to point out something
this this statement shows up a couple
times
there’s obedience of faith in Romans you
notice he talks about faith as obedience
not faith versus obedience
it’s the obedience of faith that’s the
obedience of trusting in God to not
trust God is disobedience it’s to
disrespect God is to say God you’re not
good at your word and it’s very
important to the understand the whole
book of Romans because the whole book of
Romans behind it is a narrative about
Abraham and his faith you need to
understand Abraham’s relationship to God
to understand the book of Romans like
one of my best friends from college and
seminary wrote his PhD sir tation on
that I have the book and I’ve read it
and I won’t try to explain it
that’s the nutshell so you know what I
want to do is I just want to read a
couple passages to you from Genesis real
quick just to get it in our mind because
this is well it’s such good stuff so I’m
going to read two of the most key texts
okay so you don’t have to turn there was
technically not supposed to be touching
our handbooks and Bibles right now so
I’ll just read it to you okay but it’s
it’s Genesis 15 and I’m gonna start in
verse 3 God comes to Abraham like
Abraham I don’t have an heir all I’ve
got is this this dude in my house this
servant Eliezer of Damascus and I don’t
want to give him all my goods I want to
give it to my my son and it says in
Abraham said Behold you have given me no
offspring and a member of my household
would be my heir behold the word of the
Lord came to him and the Lord says this
man will not shall not be your heir your
very own son shall be your heir he
doesn’t have a son yet he didn’t have a
biological son you and he brought him
outside and said look toward heaven and
Number the Stars if you were able to
number them and he said to him so shall
your offspring offspring great be and he
believed the Lord and he any candidate
to him as righteousness okay on that
verse hinges the whole book of Romans
now we’re gonna go to chapter 17 of
Genesis real quick I’ll read that to you
it says when Abraham was 99 years old
the Father the Lord appeared to Abram
and said behold I am God Almighty walk
before me and be blameless that I may
make my covenant between me and you and
we multiply you greatly
then Abram fell on his face and God said
to him behold my covenant is with you
and he shall no longer be the father you
shall no longer
be father my coming is with you and you
shall be the father of a multitude of
Nations no longer shall your name be
called Abram but your name shall be
Abraham for I have made you the father
of a multitude of Nations so you cannot
understand the book of Romans without
those two verses there that abraham
believed God and it was accounted him as
righteousness and then when he changes
his name from Abram to Abraham from
exalted father to the father of many
nations and Paul is going to take those
ideas and say this is about the gospel
that calls all nations back to him and
he’s going to argue that it’s not just
that gospel is not just for the Jew it’s
not just for the keepers of the law but
it’s for those who come to him by faith
and so the obedience of faith among the
nations is the fulfillment of the
Abrahamic promise by faith the nations
become the children of Abraham by faith
Abraham Abram is made Abraham father of
many nations and so he says the
righteousness of God is revealed through
faith for faith below and so Paul later
in the book of Romans in 11 11 through
12 says so I ask did they stumble he’s
talking about Israel did they stumble in
order that they might fall he says by no
means rather that through their trespass
salvation has come to the Gentiles to
make Israel jealous now if their
trespass means the riches of the world
and if their failure means riches for
the Gentiles how much more will their
inclusion mean you see God’s not just
calling the gent God’s not calling the
Gentiles he’s not making Abraham the
father of many nations to spite Israel
he’s making it the call Israel Israel
his chosen
now he’s chosen us they see God empowers
the church to fill the mission of the
gospel to bring about the obedience of
faith among all nations and that’s why
that statement among all nations is so
important
that’s about Paul’s apostolic calling to
be the missionary to the Gentiles and
also shows God’s sense of humor God
likes to use people in their weakness
you know if you were a Jew in Paul’s day
Paul came from a wealthy family wealthy
Jewish family of Asia Minor who had the
money to send him to Jerusalem to study
under one of the most reputable rabbis
if not being most of the day so he had
the Jewish equivalent of the Harvard or
Yale education of the day and yet
instead of sending Paul with that
education to the Jews they he sends the
fisherman Peter to the Jews
who’s the stumbling block and sends Paul
who seemed so appropriate to win
Pharisees who was the Pharisee and sends
him to end the Gentiles and so don’t
find them preaching to people who think
they’re the offscouring the dirt of the
earth isn’t that God’s Way
you know God wants us to labor and
weakness and I think that’s so important
and so the church lies at the center of
this mission that the church is part of
it he sends the spirit into the church
and sends the church in the world and I
just I want you to look at verse
nine real quick he says for God is my
witness whom I served with my spirit and
the gospel of son his son that without
ceasing I mention you always in my
prayers asking that somehow by God’s
will I may now at last succeed in coming
to you for a long to see you and he says
this that I may impart to you some
spiritual gift to strengthen you and
that is that we may be mutually
encouraged by each other’s faith both
yours and mine the great apostle sees
his faith dependent on the encouragement
of other Christians these Roman
Christians he hasn’t even met and he
sees their faith dependent on him that’s
a church as the family of God that’s the
church as the people who need one
another and so he says that I may impart
you some spiritual gift just strengthen
you and that’s our third part the church
lies at the center of this mission and
you know he’s going to say here in a
minute
I long to preach the gospel to you who
are in room I just want you to hold that
thought in mind he says that I may
impart to you some spiritual gift to
strengthen you he wants to strengthen
their faith why because faith is weak
our faith is weak it wanes
any of you ever have doubts I do I have
doubts about my faith sometimes do I
chose to be a pastor
keeps me in the Word of God keeps me
more encouraged I thought I’d be more
likely to fall away from the faith if I
didn’t have responsibility for other
people’s spiritual life so that’s you
helping me that’s that’s just the
responsibility to preach to you guys and
to and Shepherd you guys and to love you
guys
keeps me on my toes it’s better for I’m
a better Christian for it and it’s a
great thing when you’re around other
Christians who you feel like a better
Christian than yourself and that’s even
better blessing and he says that we may
be mutually encouraged by one of those
faiths that’s why we gather together
that’s why the writer the Hebrew says
forsake not the assembling of yourselves
together it’s it’s where we feed on the
gospel you know to not gather with the
church is like stopping eating it’s not
[Music]
you know a short little fast is a good
thing
– wrong makes you ill and you wither
away and so the church mutually builds
up the faith in each other together and
so Paul comes to these kind of caps name
statement of the gospel he says for I am
not ashamed of the gospel it’s the power
of God for salvation to everyone who has
faith to the Jew first and also the
Greek for in it the righteousness of God
is revealed through faith for faith as
it is written he who through faith is
righteous shall live or the just shall
live by faith and if you look back at
verse 15 he says so I am eager to preach
the gospel to you who are wrong why does
he say this well because the gospel is
not just for lost people faith leaks
that’s doubt faith leaks it’s very
important and I’ll price say this again
on Sunday but a lot of us we have this
idea that I call it the sanctification
bucket and everybody thinks you get when
you become a Christian you get this
sanctification bucket okay and as you
grow water keeps dripping in you know
holiness keeps dripping into this bucket
and over your lifetime as a Christian it
fills up more and more and more and you
get yeah you know there’s some truth to
God but you know what my experience is
and my experience is really in life my
buckets got all these holes in it holy
bucket I don’t mean like holy sanctified
I mean it’s got holes in it and when I’m
around the church you ever played a game
and you’re a kid where you had something
like a bucket with holes in it and as
long as you kept the water filling up
the bucket it stayed filling but as soon
as you took it away it emptied out you
know or that slightly plugged table
where if you keep the shower going you
know the scum is getting up to your
ankles right but really
that’s what it isn’t then what happens
though as soon as you get away from the
church what happens empties out all of a
sudden you know I’m muttering cuss words
under my breath and all kinds of stuff
you know what because I didn’t have the
accountability I don’t have the
oversight I don’t have the encouragement
and that’s what the church does we can’t
live without the church and so the
gospel is for the church we constantly
need a diet of the gospel that’s why
it’s gold make disciples of all nations
and teach all that I command we have to
constantly hear it because you know our
hearts are sore slippers sometimes we
just miss it we miss that we’re being
hypocritical in the situation we’re
being self-centered in this situation we
see things with our perspective but
somebody else sees it better and goes
Todd you know that’s not you’re being
selfish that’s not right don’t you think
so and so he says it for in the gospel
I’m not ashamed of the gospel and just
so we know when he says I’m not ashamed
of the gospel that’s because a lot of
people in his day already saw it as a
social stigma all those Christians over
there that he had to say that meant that
somebody thought this was absolute
foolishness and he talks about that
extensively in Corinthians he says I’m
not ashamed of the gospel and as the
power God for salvation to everyone who
has faith to the Jew first and also the
Greek for in it the righteousness of God
is revealed through faith for faith as
it is written he who through faith his
righteous shall live
where the just one shall live by his
faith
so as we wrap up I want to make a little
comment about this confusing little
statement here that the righteousness of
God has revealed through faith for faith
that on first reading has always seemed
like kind of flowery nonsensical
language to me like what does he really
mean but he really means something
concrete what he means is that the
gospel is driven and revealed by faith
but by the faith of the Son of God you
see what made Jesus righteous was his
true respect for the father he never
doubted the father he never doubted his
love for him I’m pretty sure having
raised six boys that at times my
behavior has made them doubt my love and
I’m putting I’m putting the onus on me
not on that right because I’m a sinner
and I’ve done things wrong and I’ve had
to apologize to my son for how I’ve
handled things but God never fails us
sometimes circumstances look like that
he fails us but he doesn’t and Jesus
never failed in loving and respecting
his father his faith never failed and so
the gospel is driven by faith for faith
the way you can say is into faith or for
the creation if they’ve by Jesus’s faith
his perfect righteous face in the father
faith in the father he comes into the
world and gives us the spirit and by
faith we take the gospel into the world
that creates faith in others that’s what
this is the gospel is about faith and it
drives faith and it creates faith in the
unbelieving that’s what we’re called to
do the gospel creates faith in the
unbelieving faith your faith can create
faith in the unbelieving it’s generative
its regenerative it really generates
life and holiness life from the dead
your life in Christ is to bring
spiritual resurrection into other
people’s life and that’s why we’re in
this series on Romans we’re gonna talk
all about the reign of grace because
Jesus and His perfect faith and is
perfect holiness in perfect respect and
perfect justice and relationship that
the father is reigning at the right hand
of God and grace reigns and we’ve got
that grace and in spite of our
imperfection we bring that grace into
the world amen
all right well let’s prepare our hearts
for the Eucharist
+

Pentecost – A gift for a purpose.

TRANSCRIPT
come a holy comforter thy sacred witness
bear in this glad our thou who almighty
art now rule in every heart spirit of
power Amen may be seated
this my brothers and sisters marks the
Feast of Pentecost one of the auspicious
moments in the church history to one
degree or another all Christians get
their identity from this precious
narrative here in st. looks Luke’s book
the Acts of the Apostles which was our
first reading the gospel supports this
reading in many different ways but Luke
being succinct creates a picture in our
minds that will revel in today well
nearly all who call themselves
Christians from the earliest time the
apostles to the fathers of the church
through the undivided the divided church
to the reformers even up to and
including some of those who adhere to
the most modern piety z’ they revere the
coming of the holy spirit as the last
great movement of the triune God in
history many seems we could explore but
for today let’s look at the facts as
they are presented in Scripture in light
of our Commission it’s difficult for us
to focus on our
commission when we are being pressed so
hard lately nonetheless it was the
pressure that was put upon the early
church that caused it to move forward to
all the ends of the earth amen
so let’s set selves upon a single theme
today and keep that theme right in front
of our eyes
hopefully some of us will come away with
a new revelation of the word and a
renewed vigor for ministry and this
theme is timeless theme that has never
changed since the church was born on
that Pentecost Sunday is this that the
Holy Spirit was sent to enable the
Church of Jesus Christ to evangelize the
Holy Spirit was sent by Jesus to enable
the Church of Jesus Christ to evangelize
that takes many different forms and we
know all the different works of the
comforter but yet the singular mission
is to show Jesus Christ to the world so
this day of Pentecost this wonderful
narrative from Luke dr. Luke what was
Pentecost about anyway well really it’s
a Jewish feast okay it’s not a Christian
feast it’s called the the feast of weeks
it occurred 50 complete days after the
Passover she’s a Greek the Greek were
root for this word Penta means 50 so 50
complete days after the Passover
there’s a celebration of the first grain
harvest of the year after a period of
time
when even in the desert the earth gave
forth very little the first green for a
harvest of the year was something to be
celebrated so is about a harvest so what
what really is a harvest all about what
happens at a harvest what happens
gathered someone said gathered it was
Jake right is a gathering
thus devout Jews gathered together as
they did in ty memorial as they would
gather together at Sinai where God gave
the defining attribute of the Jewish
people which was the law they gathered
together to receive the law that was
going to set them apart as his own
people to go into the world to glorify
his name
that’s what the feast of Pentecost meant
to the Jew
well today we observe the feast of the
Pentecost because we’re Christians so
what does it mean to us the law was the
defining attribute of the Jew what is
the defining attribute for the Christian
it’s I’ll give you a clue it’s the G
word what’s the word its grace that’s
how we are defined also in luke’s time
some scholars believe that this this
particular feast of weeks was a special
one there’s is really a big deal because
they were circulating in that day a
rumor that the Jewish Messiah was going
to come so this could mean that more
Jews than usual were present in
Jerusalem and that many
more may have come from further away
than was normal so I think that
Jerusalem this day of Pentecost was
really a special special spent Pentecost
because they were more Jews there to
hear and see what was going to go on
than ever before
[Applause]
well brothers and sisters does the
church not have today a reach into every
single peoples of the world through
technology through the shrinking of the
world through communication do not don’t
we have a way to reach out to more and
more people now keeping in mind the
reason why the holy spirit was sent the
holy spirit was sent so that the church
could do what it could Evangelos and I I
thought this was kind of a cool little
fact being a fact guy you know this is
the first full day of the week they said
so that made it what they did a Sunday
okay but the people of the way his new
Christians called the Lord’s Day so the
Feast of Pentecost the gathering the
identity was distributed upon the Lord’s
Day and don’t we gather together on the
Lord’s Day don’t we symbolically gather
together because we know innately as
Christians that it’s our job to gather
the harvest to Jesus don’t we gather
together for the grace that’s bestowed
upon us through his word and through the
sacrament on the Lord’s Day on on Sunday
God sent the Holy Spirit so the church
could evangelize so we look at this
narrative from Luke and in verse 1 it
says that the disciples were all
together in one place they’re all
together in one place why were they
there what did Jesus tell them to do go
into Jerusalem and wait there right so
what did what did the disciples do they
went to Jerusalem and waited there they
obeyed the master that’s amazing how
Luke puts that upfront everything that
comes after this has to do with the
obedience to the master Jesus when the
master commands the church obeys and
earlier in chapter 1 it’s written that
the disciples they with all their and
they were of one Accord that’s
significant the Spirit of God is
welcomed by those who submit and obey
the master but they also submit to each
other the Church of Jesus Christ is
about love we submit to the master we
submit to each other that’s what’s
called what accord because where there
is strife and disunity and disagreement
that hinders the work of the spirit
spirits not going to come in like a
hammer and force himself on you that’s
not what love is love does not force
itself on another love is patient and
kind
love submits to one another so here we
go the great rushing wind
how many servants have been preached
about that this is mighty wind shook the
house maybe you’ve heard it all but do
you know what you have to take away from
today about the church about that why
the spirit was sent to the church so
they could evangelize is that there was
a time when God spoke to people
individually did not he speak to Elijah
in a small voice he spoke to one he
spoke to another one he spoke to another
one but now on the day of Pentecost like
a mighty rushing wind
he speaks aloud to the whole world to
the Assembly of the disciples and he
speaks out to them with power the Lord
is slow to anger in a great power the
Prophet says his way is in whirlwind and
storm was that prophecy not fulfilled on
the day of Pentecost it must have shaken
the house saw must have been loud
because from the narrative I read that
those who were outside could hear it too
even the stiff-necked even those who
call them devout but do not know Jesus
you say God sent the Holy Spirit so that
the church could have an july’s the
world
devided comes as of fire descended upon
the disciples John said remember John
but John said hey i baptize you now in
the jordan with water but this one
coming who is going to baptize you with
the Holy Spirit in with fire so the last
great prophet the prophecy is fulfilled
and though there was a fire that was
divided among them in brothers and
sisters this is the most important thing
you need to take away from the
scriptures today on the feast of
Pentecost 2020 the most important thing
you will take away is that all the
tongues of fire descended upon them each
and every one of those tongues of fire
was fully and completely the same holy
spirit fully and completely every one
and if you’re missing why that’s
important I’m here to explain it you see
now there are varieties of gifts Paul
says but the same spirit there are
varieties of service but the same Lord
and there are varieties of activities
but it’s the same God who empowers them
all in every one and through whom does
he do that the Holy Spirit and this is
so important that elsewhere he has to
tell the Ephesians that there’s but one
body in one spirit one Hulk one Lord one
faith one baptism one God and
one spirit the divided tongues of fire
one spirit so in a sense upon these
individuals an individual portion of the
spirit has been given yet each portion
is the fullness of the Godhead that’s
really really big for you in your
ministry and here’s how Luke
proves this out here’s how he makes this
brings us right down to the ground they
were able to speak in other languages as
the spirit gave them the gift right as
the spirit gave him utter ups as the
Spirit gave them utterance
you see could the gifts of the Holy
Spirit when you were gifted with the
Holy Spirit and you are I know that when
you are gifted with the Holy Spirit it
comes with the responsibility okay it
comes with a duty the Marines know that
Matt right Jesus sent His Spirit into us
crying Abba Father why because he wanted
to enable the church of Jesus Christ to
spread the good news at Pentecost
divided tongues of fire came down on the
people now I’m not Jewish but boy if I
was at you I would be looking at that
this way divided Tonks we would mind
mind go if I was reading the Pentateuch
maybe to the Tower of Babel who the
tongues were divided right
you know it’s a day back then when the
mankind was divided why because of the
rebellion against God and because there
was no Accord among those people there
was no Accord one to another quorum deo
in the face of God the Tower of Babel
brothers and sisters is there to mark
rebellion against the Creator so who has
the solution to rebellion who has the
solution to all the ills of mankind but
Jesus and his work on the cross but he
says guess what I send you a promise
right that’s what’s in the gospel I
promise you this Pentecost the tongues
would again divided but then because of
Jesus and because he sent the Holy
Spirit the divided tongues brought forth
unity brought forth Accord and
fellowship the nation’s once they stood
against each other in linguistic and
ethnic and in racial strife who does
that sound familiar but as we say in our
prayer book in the confession of the one
true faith God gives to his church the
power to serve him as a royal priesthood
and to preach the gospel to all nations
in this my brothers and sisters on the
day of Pentecost marks not the rebellion
but the reconciliation of mankind to the
Father
now as we said before people from all
over the known world it just happened
kick them more than ever maybe just
happen to be in Jerusalem oh gee what a
coincidence yeah I don’t think God works
with coincidences I think this the fact
that those people were there when this
rushing wind blew the walls out of the
house they were there to observe it and
that’s just as much the work of the Holy
Spirit brothers and sisters as wind and
tongs and everything else God made it
happen why why did he bring them out
there because you know what God is not
willing that any should be lost in order
tell us why on Pentecost the Spirit was
given to the church so that the church
could go out and share the good news to
the world and if that’s not enough dr.
Luke goes on he says each one heard them
speaking in their own language each one
heard them speaking in their own
language wow that’s pretty amazing so
I’m gonna get stuck on the fact that
they spoke these languages as galilaeans
that they could just barely speak their
own violet oh I’m stuck on that well how
about this what is it that these people
when these people I’m over here I’m from
Cappadocia and I speak some kind of
dialect and I heard the Apostles
speaking in my language what were they
saying what were they hearing they heard
them speaking but what would they say
all my sandals are too tight what’s for
supper tonight is that is that what
these people from all over the known
world heard what did they hear
they heard the gospel of Jesus Christ so
the focus is in our note that the the
languages the focus is on the gospel you
know what God has given each one of you
a gift to bring the gospel to somebody
okay and the gift is not the focus the
gospel is the focus you don’t know it
but you’re going somewhere today and
tomorrow with the gospel you could live
out the gospel then you don’t think it’s
possible because I don’t have this
wonderful gift well forget about the
gift just focus on the gospel
see that’s what Luke’s trying to say the
disciples spoke as the Spirit gave them
utterance and he gave them the utterance
of the gospel of Jesus Christ the way
that Jesus was born suffered died and
rose again from the dead and yes
ascending to heaven where he sits today
praying for you so that ought to be
enough ammunition for you to go out into
the world that is an immense story it’s
the only thing that will change all the
strife you see in Minneapolis and in
Detroit and even in Providence that’s
the only answer to that stuff see the
proof is in the promise of Jesus he said
because he said he’d be lifted up and he
draw the whole world to him all right
the whole world and in Jerusalem it
started just like he said you will be my
witnesses first in Jerusalem and then
into Judea into Samaria the ones who we
don’t care about and then to where the
ends of the earth that’s what the Holy
Spirit came to do
holy spirit was said to enable the
Church of Jesus Christ to evangelize in
his name beloved I hope you revel in
this today that they the thrice holy God
right the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob
the father of our Lord Jesus Christ he’s
asked you he’s asked you to be his
messenger he’s asked you to be his
witness for what you know
he says you to just use the gift he’s
given you whatever that is
just use it he’s asked you to be the
ambassador for the kingdom that’s that’s
really big that’s a lot of
responsibility but it is the greatest of
honor he’s giving you knowledge are
those ancestors giving you gifts and
though you might not think so he’s given
you courage when the time comes when you
really need it he’ll put the words in
your mouth he promised that to tell the
story of how your savior came from glory
to give his life on Calvary to save a
wretch like you but you know hey the
world doesn’t always believe this right
hey Rob I go out there I try my best but
they’re all like dead they they dead yes
they’re dead they don’t want to believe
it they want to mock you just like they
mocked the disciples hey they’re out of
their minds right don’t let that stop
you because you don’t know you don’t
know what kind of kindness what kind of
good work
what kind of word you might have said to
someone along the way you’re gonna find
out one day you bring your crowns to the
feet of Jesus you might be surprised
some crowns you didn’t even know about
because you obeyed you submitted to
Christ and you submitted to your
brothers and sisters because you’re in
the spirit the spirit lives in you let
them say what they want about us
brothers and sisters but you know that
your redeemer lives
you’ll behold him face to face one day
so be filled with grace now brothers and
sisters and as you go about your life
you work towards that moment you kneel
before our risen Lord Christ maybe you
took someone with you in the name of the
Father and of the Son and the Holy
Spirit