Posts Tagged ‘sermon’

Friends,

Here is my second installment of study notes for this week’s lectionary readings. This one focuses on Acts 4:5-12. The study focuses on the Spirit’s role, the Name, and the Exclusivity.  Quotes from William Willimon, Richard Philips, John Stott, Robert Tannehill, LJ Olgivie, DA Carson, Eugene Peterson, Aijith Fernando, Mark Driscoll, and more. There are 13 pages worth of notes, quotes, and commentary. There is Here’s an excerpt:

The leaders seemed to think that the church was no threat until the church started preaching in Jesus’ name. The world can safely ignore the church until we start making such exclusive claims about Jesus. The church is beside the point until Jesus is brought into the conversation. That is when the world begins to act in opposition. As long as the church is merely a glorified, so to speak, social services or dr phil, the world has no problem with us. It’s that pesky Name; that pesky Jesus whom the world crucified—But God resurrected! God issued his verdict on Jesus  and God’s verdict on Jesus ran and runs contrary to the world’s verdict on Jesus. Thus, the world is in opposition.

Acts 4:5-12, The Name of Jesus, May 3, 2009

Be blessed.

UPDATE: Access complete sermon mansucipt: No Other Name

Or download the MS Word manuscript here from box.net; formatted for your convenience.

Excerpt:

There is no other Name given by which men must be saved. What else on earth could possibly be of interest to the church but the Name of Jesus? Have we lost our nerve? Have we grown weary of the Name? Have we lost interest in the Name above all Names? Have we tired of the Name at which every knee will bow and every tongue confess? Do we think that people will be more interested in us if we preach something different or something softer or something more compelling or something more interesting?

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Friends,

This is the audio version of my sermon in the 90 Days with Scripture series from 2 Samuel 5-7. The sermon is simply titled, The King. (The manuscript version is also published here at this blog.) The sermon is about 31:28, but goes fast. God bless. Soli Deo Gloria!

You can download here: The King, 2 Samuel 5-7

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Print version available here: Exodus 7-12, Freedom For God’s People (or at Box.net)

Part 1: Genesis 3, Where it All Went Wrong
Part 2: Genesis 12:1-9, A Blessing for All People
Part 3: Exodus 7-12 (a), Freedom For God’s People
Part 4: Exodus 7-12 (b), Freedom For God’s People, b
Part 5: 2 Samuel 5-7, The King
Part 6: Isaiah 60-66, The New Heavens and New Earth

Other download options are available through feedburner and archive.org.

Always for His glory!

Friends,

Sadly, much of the church has become inundated with all sorts of idolatry. I think this idolatry is perhaps even more insidious than the sort of idolatry recognized by small statues in our front yards or shrines on the mantlepiece. This sermon is about Trusting God. This is what Isaiah was imploring the people to do when he said to them, “Stop trusting in human beings, who have but a breath in their nostrils. Why hold them in esteem?” (verse 22). That is the question I ask over and over in this sermon in one way or another. The audio is about 25 minutes and the print will be in a separate post. jerry

You can listen here: Trusting God.

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Always for His glory!

Friends,

Here is the latest Skycast. This is from August 24, 2008 and the sermon is from Isaiah 2:1-5. The printed text is found in a separate post here at Life Under the Blue Sky. The sermon is about 25 minutes long and I think we have finally solved our audio problems at the church building. Enjoy and learn well. jerry

Listen here: Raising God

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Always for His glory!

Friends,

This is the text of a sermon I preached on Resurrection Sunday in 2007. It’s a very personal reflection on suffering. 2007 was a difficult year for me physically as I have never been to as many doctors, taken so many prescriptions, and told my health history so many times as I did last year. When it was all said and done, I still have no answers to what was going on inside of my body or why I felt the way I did. I will say that it totally wrecked whatever confidence I may have had in doctors. Chiropractic, cardiology, ENT, General Practice, Urologist–not one of them could figure out what was ailing me. Waste of time and money is what it was. Anyhow, this is the manuscript from Resurrection Sunday 2007.

Resurrection Sunday, April 8, 2007

Thoughts on the Resurrection Life

Various Scriptures

 Introduction

“If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.”—Romans 6:5, NIV

__________________

I spent the better part of Holy Week lying prostrate on a green, old, cushion-worn couch that sits on the hard, cold wooden floors of my 100 some year old house. For a few hours of the holy week I laid on a cold, plastic hospital gurney in an Emergency Room. For a few minutes I laid on the floor of my study at the Church building. I also spent several hours lying on the not too uninviting bathroom floor in front of the toilet in my house. For some reason, and I don’t know why, but when I am sick, lying on the bathroom floor brings me considerable comfort. I also spent some time in the back of an ambulance, in my bed, in a doctor’s office, hunched over behind a small pulpit, in an emergency room lobby, and in my pajamas.

I did not get a lot of work done this week. I felt rather worthless and guilty. Here it is the most important week on the church calendar, by far, and there I lay: on a couch, on the linoleum, on the carpet, on the bed, on the plastic. I felt ridiculous, absurd, and more than once, like a complete waste of time, a non-benefit to humanity. How can I just lay here? I have to get something done, there are people who are depending on me and the work I do every day.

When I was not writhing in godly pain, I was too tired to read or stay awake. Television lost its distracting benefit after about 5 minutes—and besides, who can sit through more than 2 minutes of Maury? When I did manage to fall asleep the dogs or the phone managed to cut it more than short. When none of this worked, I was twisted and wrenched in a pain that has been described to me in words that range somewhere between equal to and worse than giving birth to a fully gestated human being. I care not to experience either one either again or at all. They say a woman soon forgets childbirth; I wish I could forget what I experienced but for some reason the memories linger on even today. Residual pain from all the work the muscles did over a period of 5 days trying to expel a small stone only slightly larger than a mustard seed.

When the pain came upon me I had a few options at my disposal. First, I could take pain medication. Vicadin is what the ER Doctor prescribed. He may as well have given me M & M’s. Alternately, I could lay there, or stand, or walk, or roll around on the floor like a dog with fleas, or jerk, or shake my limbs as if I had been slain in the spirit. There was also the possibility that I could assuage my pain with a hot water bottle or with the nicely microwave heated bag of field corn that Mrs. S. loaned to me. I could drink water or cranberry juice. There was, surprisingly, the option of going upstairs to the bathroom and taking a long scalding hot shower. The doctor I saw Friday told me this relaxed the muscles and reduced their contractions. This worked well until I drained the hot water tank. It worked 3 or 4 times over the course of a couple of days. I could also spend as much time as I liked saying, “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” Water, water everywhere…

Well, mine was no crucifixion, but it may as well have been because insofar as pain is concerned, I was being crucified. And I make no apologies for thinking such. Pain is pain and hurt is hurt. In my heart I believed, because the pain was so great, the stress so un-mitigating, and the fear so unnerving, that I was dying.

________________

What a way to spend this most Holy week on the Christian calendar. Surely, I guess, I should have been ‘out there’ among the masses. I should have been conducting Holy Wednesday services, Maundy Thursday Services, Good Friday Services, Sabbath Services and finally Sunrise & Resurrection Services. And each of those services should have been something original, inventive, unique and entertaining—something causing us deep emotional stirrings. But there I lay, on my couch, barely able to lift my eyes let alone my bible or my pen.

I couldn’t even go to school where I believe I have a very serious, real-life, real-time ministry to the masses. But the one day I tried to go, Wednesday, I walked in, grimacing in pain, and walked out, hunched over like Quasimodo barely able to control the nausea rising up inside my esophagus, shamed because I was hurting so badly, embarrassed because I could not stay and discharge my responsibilities in the lunch room, humiliated because I had to make such a confession to a room full of older ladies. There I was: young, vigorous, strong, healthy young man, as weak as a baby, helpless as a cripple, weaker than an old woman.

What a way to spend the Holiest Week on the Christian calendar. Unable to do anything but lay on the couch, in pajamas, wrapped in a blanket, succored by a hot water bottle, crippled with an unquenchable pain that incapacitated me. I could do nothing. The medication didn’t work. I could barely smile. If I received five minutes of relief I suffered for 5 hours for it.

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Friends,

I published the manuscript for this sermon last night. This sermon is about 28 minutes long. I am preaching from Mark 5:1-43. You can see from the manuscript version of this sermon that I am trying to work out what it means to be involved in the re-creation of the heavens and the earth now. What does it mean to live the resurrection life now? What is the church doing now to promote the advance of the Kingdom of God, God’s rule, God’s reign begun in the Resurrection of Jesus? I am here not providing concrete answers as much as I am looking in a direction, trying to understand how the church is involved in what Jesus says in Revelation 21: “Behold, I am making all things news.” That is, I don’t have all the answers and probably conclude with more questions than answers. Nevertheless, I am learning and thinking in that direction. Perhaps you might listen and help me understand a little more of what God is doing in your life and in the world. –jerrry

Listen here: The Advancing Kingdom of God.

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Soli Deo Gloria!

Friends,

On the page ‘Grace’ I have posted the print version of a sermon I preached in February called “Grace as Undeserved Love.” This is the audio of that sermon I preached on February 17, 2008 at the Painesville Church of Christ in Painesville, Ohio. The congregation is going through some tough times and recently endured a split. All the preachers (3), a significant portion of the congregation, and most of their leadership left to form their own congregation. I was invited to preach. The congregation I serve is a daughter of the Painesville Church so it was a great honor to be invited to preach there. This sermon takes about 38 minutes. God bless.

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Soli Deo Gloria!

Friends,

This is part 5 of my current sermon series based on Colossians. In this sermon, I am dealing with the issue of people who want to pile rule upon rule upon rule as requirements for salvation. The apostle says, “don’t let anyone judge you.” Sound words in our age of internet ‘discernment’ (read: judgment) ministries. What people fail to recognize is that when we add to the requirements of salvation, we are not judging others but Christ and we are, in effect, declaring that Christ’s work is not sufficient. I do apologize for the poor audio. I am working on that. The sermon takes around 30 minutes. God bless.

Click here: Colossians 2:16-23 Sermon Audio

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Soli Deo Gloria!

Friends,

This is a new adventure for Life Under the Blue Sky: Podcasting of sunday’s sermons.  This is a trial run from a sermon I preached about 2 years ago. The sermon is called Now is the Time to Fast and Pray and is part 1 of a 5 part series called The Resurrection Driven Life. The sermon is based on Isaiah, Matthew, John and Acts. Let me know what you think.

Soli Deo Gloria!

ps–There is a manuscript download available in the box.net widget to your right. You can download the entire manuscript for this podcast. It is a word.doc file and fairly generic so as to be accessible to most readers. jerry

Use the link below to subscribe to future podcasts via itunes or your favorite homepage such as yahoo, aol, google, etc.

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Friends,

We have begun our new series of sermons at the church. This month I am preaching on the spiritual discipline of ‘service.’ But as you will see, service is not just about service. Service is rather about developing a servant’s heart. This sermon is drawn from the first 11 verses of 1 Corinthians 12, but the latter half of the chapter is not neglected and, in fact, is most vital to our understanding of the former half. Any feedback is appreciated.–jerry

February 3, 2008

Spiritual Disciplines: Service 1.1

1 Corinthians 12:1-11

Many Types of Gifts; Many Types of Service

Introduction

Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant. You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols.Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.

    Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.

    The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

    Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.  they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

    The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

    Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But eagerly desire the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way.

____________________

Over the next four weeks we will be talking about the Spiritual Discipline of Service. On the other hand, we will not be talking about the discipline of service.

You see, service can be an end in itself. Too much activity that goes on in the church, and outside the church, is done merely for the sake of doing it. Somehow we have developed this idea among humanity that we work just to work, that we serve just to serve, that we accomplish simply to accomplish. We are interested in creating ways for people to serve instead of developing people who are willing to serve. In other words, I’m not so much interested in these sermons in telling you that you should help someone across the street or why you cut someone’s grass or work at the food pantry or that you should sharpen pencils for Sunday morning worship.

Among the people of the world, there are scores of different jobs that we can do on any given day, at any given moment. What I am interested in doing is not delineating the jobs that need done or the jobs you can do, but rather I am interested in helping you develop the disposition of a servant. What matters is not service per se, but the Christlike attitude that demonstrates we are servants. Mark Buchanan wrote this in his book Your God is Too Safe concerning this very thought:

Our true aim should not be the holy habit of service, but the Christlike attitude of servanthood. Anyone can do acts of service. We can give blankets to homeless people, food to the hungry, water to the thirsty, and all of that might deepen rather than break our delusional messiah complex. It might be done only to exalt self, to become something, to be a star. But it’s another thing to make yourself nothing, to become humble, to be a servant. That’s the only messianic complex the Bible invites us into.

In borderland if we have any religious impulse at all, it’s the impulse to be great for its own sake. So we want to be either heroes or martyrs. Our acts of service tend to rise from the yearning to be one or the other. We want to be either carried on the crowd’s shoulders or trampled beneath the mob’s feet. Put upon me the laurel wreath of triumph or put upon me the thorny crown of suffering; emblazon my name on the marquee or set me ablaze at the stake; hail me victor or hail me with stones; shower me with accolades or bludgeon me with curses; celebrate me or crucify me. Make me a hero or make me a martyr. That’s the delusional messiah complex.

God’s messiah complex looks very different. God invites us, Christlike, to become servants. That means we’ll do many of our acts of service in secret. We’ll do them regardless of whether we’re thanked or applauded. We’ll do them not seeking persecution, but not avoiding it either. We’ll do them when we feel like it and when we don’t. We’ll do them despite their inconvenience. We’ll do them because we’re servants, and servants serve.—211-212

The Scripture says: “Have this attitude in yourselves…

5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

__________________

Now, I’d like to focus for a couple of minutes on the selected passage for today which is 1 Corinthians 12:1-11. I have read the entire chapter, but I will focus only on the first half or so and allude the latter half in the context. With that in mind, I’d like to make a few observations about the nature of the service that we are called to, or, better, that nature of the servanthood that we are empowered to live out in these bodies.

First, verses 1-3, the ambition of Christlike Servanthood is always the same: Bring Glory to the Name of Jesus. I had to put some thought into why the apostle begins a section of Scripture, clearly about spiritual gifts, with a discussion about who can and cannot say this or not say that. Those who say “Jesus is Lord” certainly cannot do so apart from the presence of the Holy Spirit and those who say “Jesus is anathema” certainly cannot be in possession of the Holy Spirit. But if Paul is going to be talking about different types of service, workings, gifts why does he begin by discussing what sort of words can and cannot come forth from our lips?

Well, I think it has something to do with the nature of the service we perform, or, better, the quality of the Christlike servanthood we strive for. In other words, if we are indeed people possessed by the Holy Spirit of God, and this is our confession, Jesus is Lord, then our work, our attitude, our service will be in accordance with that confession. Thus, our goal will be the same as the goal of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said in John 16:14: “He will bring glory to me by taking from me what is mine and making it known to you.” The work of the Holy Spirit is to bring glory to Christ. For those who confess, “Jesus is Lord,” I think the goal and the attitude is no different. Our objectives are the same: To bring glory to Christ.

David Prior wrote, “This burning desire of the Holy Spirit to glorify Jesus is Paul’s overall criterion of genuineness in this matter of spirituality.” The truly spiritual person, doing spiritual work, is measured by his willingness to work for nothing more than the glory of Jesus Christ. There is an intimate link between the confession “Jesus is Lord” and the work the Spirit does through us. If you are indeed possessed by the Holy Spirit, and “Jesus is Lord” is your confession, then how can your ambition in servanthood be any different from the Spirit who possesses you? That is, if we are empowered by the Spirit, and Paul adequately makes his case that we are, then it is the Spirit’s work that we must do.

Second, verses 4-6, the differences in the gifts among us do not inspire competition but cooperation as each of us see how we fit in to the body. Notice here that Paul says there are different kinds of gifts, different kinds of service, different kinds of workings but they all come from the same place. Namely, they come from God. There is an undoubted pointing to the Holy Trinity in these verses and what we notice is that the Holy Trinity gives gifts always to the same end. The gifts we receive do not come from different places and they do not come from a myriad of gods who are striving in competition with one another. The gifts we have come from the same God who works in cooperation with himself.

I don’t pretend to understand all the mysteries of the Trinitarian expression of God. All I can say is that God gives the gifts out of his abundance not so that you and I will be in competition with one another, but so that everyone might benefit in some way. This will be the foundation for the second half of this chapter: We need each other! There is no part of the body that is dispensable, the Body is a Unit, it is One, those it is many parts. We were baptized into One Body, by One Spirit. I read this story about Leonard Bernstein:

Leonard Bernstein, the conductor, was once asked, ‘What is the hardest instrument to play?’ Without a twinge of hesitation, he replied, ‘Second fiddle. I can always get plenty of first violinists. But to find one who plays second violin with as much enthusiasm, or second French horn, or second flute, now that’s a problem. And yet if no one plays second, we have no harmony.”—(Your God is Too Safe, 213) Third, verses 7-10, each Christian has been given a manifestation of the Spirit’s power. He says this over and over again: ‘to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given…’, ‘…to one…’, ‘to another…’, ‘to another…’, ‘to another…’, ‘to still another…’. Nothing grieves the Holy Spirit more, I think, than when the Holy Spirit hears someone He has gifted say, “I have nothing to offer.” That is simply nonsense to the Spirit who has gifted all of us in some capacity to do something for the glory of Christ! And I assure you, in keeping with the previous point, this is not a competition.

The preacher doesn’t have a right to say, “Well, I am more important than the secretary,” any more than the Janitor has a right to say “I am more important than the teacher.” Here’s what Paul wrote:

“If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be?”

So some are feet, some are hands, some are mouths, some are ears yet each one is distinct, and each one is vital. And all the gifts that have been given have come from the Same Spirit and serves the same Spiritual goal: To glorify Christ. We have each been given spiritual gifts that serve spiritual purposes.

Fourth, verse 11, it is the Spirit himself who decides what gifts are given to whom, and when, and why. HE said, “All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.” I think what this does, practically and theologically, is that it levels the playing field. In other words, he elevates some and humbles others.

Isn’t this what he wrote:

“The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”

So we don’t decide who gets to be what and when and how. This is why, when I am asked “Why did you become a preacher?” I respond with the words, “I didn’t choose to become a preacher; preaching chose me.” It is the Spirit who decides. To me this means that those who think their humble service is meaningless and not important are blaspheming. This is why I, when I bemoan that I am not more important in this world, grieve the Holy Spirit who has called me to such a task as this. This is why you, you who serve in lowly places and lowly ways, are some of the most significant and impressive people on the planet. Jim McQuiggan aptly reminds us that we serve a ‘God of the Towel.’ If it is the Spirit who decides what persons receive what gifts, then I assume it is also the Spirit who decides what those gifts have been given for. I don’t think the Spirit chooses one person over another because he thinks one person will be particularly more faithful than another. I think He chooses according the mysteries of his own counsel, and that we who have been so gifted should honor him well by using His gifts in a way that brings as much glory to the Name of Jesus as possible.

Finally, I want to note that all of these gifts are manifestations of God’s grace to us. All spiritual gifts, according to the apostle, even marriage, are charismata, that is, grace gifts. In his mysterious way, God’s grace flows to us even in the gifts that he gives us to use for his own purposes in bringing glory to Jesus.

If these gifts are gifts of grace to us, then it seems fair to conclude that their use should also be manifestations of God’s grace to others. We do not have these gifts simply to bring pleasure or honor or glory to ourselves. We have then in order to demonstrate God’s grace to others and in that way we might bring glory and honor to the Name of Jesus Christ:

14″You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Conclusion

“Lorne Sanny, the founder of Navigators, was once asked how you could tell if you really were a servant. “By how you act,” he said, “when you’re treated like one.” (from Buchanan)

In the coming three weeks, I will show you that Jesus was among us as one who served and that he is the model Paul says we are to imitate, it is His attitude that we are to have in ourselves. The question is: Do you act like a servant? If you act like one you are likely to be treated like one. Even you Scouts among us this morning. Don’t be fooled into thinking that service is an end unto itself. Instead, become servants. Live a life that is defined not by what you do, but by why you do it. In other words, do you serve to be served? Do you serve to serve? Or, do you serve because you are a servant?

I read a passage earlier today from John 13. It tells the story of Jesus who, on the night he was betrayed, got up from the table, stripped down to near nothing, took a bowl of water and a towel and began washing the feet of his disciples. We often read this story and say things like, ‘what a remarkable story,’ or ‘see how humble he was,’ or ‘we should do things like that too.’ I’d like to show you a side of the story that we often overlook.

I never paid much attention before, in all the hurry to see Jesus merely washing feet, to the fact that John says this: “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God, and was returning to God, so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist…” Then he washed feet. He washed feet in the full knowledge of these things: He knew his identity, he knew his destiny, he knew the power that was his, yet what he chose to do with all this knowledge was wash feet. He knew he would be betrayed. This is what makes this story so impressive: It’s not that we know who Jesus was that makes the feet washing so impressive, it’s that Jesus knew who he was that makes what he did so impressive.

In the full knowledge of who he was: Jesus washed feet. And in this way he demonstrated the full extent of his love. And in this way, he brought glory to the Father, “Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.”

In what way can we as servants of Christ bring glory to His Name? If you confess Jesus as Lord, are you prepared to keep in step with the Spirit and bring glory to the Name of Jesus by having in yourself the attitude of servanthood?

Soli Deo Gloria!

Friends, here is the last part of the series on worship. The sermon is based on 1 Corinthians 10-11. It develops the idea that worship is, at its core, saying something about God. In fact, it may say more about God than it says about us; although, to be sure, it says something about what we think of God too! Worship seems to be done entirely too flippantly in some cases. While I am not a proponent or ‘fan’ or so-called high church liturgy, I do think there is something to be said about the idea that Christian worship should be significantly holier than it is. People are watching how Christians worship and the question becomes something like this: What are we telling the unbelieving world about Jesus through our worship? This is why worship must, in my judgment, be planned and practiced in such a way that God is honored first and only. I do not believe that worship should be ‘designed’ with the unbeliever exclusively in mind. Worship is ultimately directed to the only one it can be: God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Worship planned, directed, or designed with any other intention or object is idolatry which is nothing less than devil worship. –jerry

Introduction

For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert.

Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry.” We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test the Lord, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.

These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.

Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons. Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

 “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others. Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”

If some unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. But if anyone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the man who told you and for conscience’ sake—the other man’s conscience, I mean, not yours. For why should my freedom be judged by another’s conscience? If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God—even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.

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While in the early planning stages of this sermon series I came across this article on the internet. It concerns a popular trend that is taking place around the world: Mystery Shopping. The twist, however, is that these mystery shoppers are not targeting your favorite restaurant, but rather churches. Consider:

LONDON – Singing hymns and clasping hands in prayer, they look like regular church-going Christians. But the worshippers at some Sunday services in Britain definitely are not. Instead they are mostly nonbelievers paid $60 a pop to rate churches in Britain on everything from sermon length to after-service refreshments.

For decades, businesses have used “mystery shoppers,” researchers dispatched to retail stores to pose as consumers, to evaluate customer service and quality control. Now, churches are turning to “mystery worshippers” to visit and rate their performance. The program was launched in November by Christian Research of London and expands this month before reaching nationwide in May.

Religious experts agree that the research could be beneficial for any church seeking to understand how to best draw and keep worshippers in an age of declining attendance. “Any self-respecting organization is, or should be, alert to useful criticism of its modus operandi,” said Sam Berry, an expert on religion at University College London.

“I would regard the mystery-worshipper approach in the same way I would hotels asking people to fill in a form about their experiences at the hotel.”

Attendance at Anglican church services has dropped by 50 percent in 40 years as Britain has grown increasingly secular. (From the Toledo Blade)

Well, I think they might be on to something. The question that comes from this is simple: What are we showing to these mystery shoppers who visit the worship? A popular American preacher recently posted 12 convictions his congregation has about worship. On the one hand the author of the 12 convictions writes:

10. A service geared toward non-believers is meant to supplement personal evangelism, not replace it.

Then, on the other hand he writes:

4. While unbelievers can’t worship, they can watch believers worship.

I’m not sure how the two work together. In other words, why design a worship service that is geared towards non-believers when unbelievers cannot worship? It seems rather self-defeating. Nevertheless, I agree with the second part of the second proposition. I don’t know that unbelievers cannot worship, but I do agree that they can watch believers worship. So, what do we show to those unbelievers who are at least watching what us believers do? What should those mystery worshipers see in our worship time—at least the worship time we participate in on Sunday mornings?

I’d like to develop briefly a couple of ideas from chapter 10 and then show the full expression of what this means from chapters 10-11.

Warnings From Israel’s History: Chapter 10 in context

The apostle scans the history of Israel—mostly wilderness wanderings recorded in the book of Numbers, but also Exodus—and says flat out, “Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did…These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.” We are meant to learn, but what? What did the apostle say: “Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, ‘The people would sit down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry.’” He then tells how much of the worship during that time was corrupt: pagan revelry, sexual immorality, grumbling.

The problem is, essentially, that they did not recognize ‘Christ among them.’ Paul wrote, “They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all at the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that Rock was Christ.” His point is that they acted and worshiped as if God were not among them. So they mimicked and aped the culture, participated in the activities of pagans, and in general displeased the Lord among them. There was, and I think this is key here, there was nothing distinctive about what Israel was doing. As the rules were given to them by God through Moses the point of the rules was to set them apart for God’s service; they were to be a kingdom of priests leading the nations in worship of God. That is why they were to be distinct, different. That’s why they had funny rules to follow, and strange rituals to observe.

As silly and strange as they seemed to Israel, and as unique as they were in that culture, they marked those people as God’s people and declared things about the nature of the God to whom they belonged.

Truth be told it is not any different for the Church, the New Israel. We are a distinctive people, a unique people, who follow a strange God so to speak who has called us, Peter wrote, “like living stones, being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ…[We are] a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that [we] may declare the praises of him who called [us] out of darkness and into his marvelous light.” We are not the culture. We are not just anybody. We are somebody, uniquely belonging to the Father. As such our worship is meant and designed to reflect God’s will, God’s message, and significantly, God’s Messiah. What we do we do for His Glory Alone: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” Even outside of this specific context, this verse is applicable. He will apply this specifically to the observation of the Lord’s Supper and demonstrate that it is the Lord’s Supper and we dare not presume that it is our supper.

So Paul tells us all these things and says: Don’t follow their example. He notes that when Israel behaved this way ‘God scattered them in the desert,’ and ‘in one day 23,000 of them died,’ and some ‘were killed by snakes,’ and some were ‘killed by the destroying angel.’ However, he also notes that in the Christian context it is no less dangerous to fall into the hands of the living God: ‘For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgement unto himself. That is why many of you are weak and sick, and a number of you have come under judgment. But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment.’ In short, God deals with His people differently than he does the world in general. And if Israel’s complacency about worship brought judgment, then how much more will judgment fall on the Church and the Christian who is complacent about worship?

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Friends, here is part three of my short series on Grace. It is taken from Luke 10:25-37 and the parable of the ‘Good Samaritan.’ I hope it blesses you. 

Luke’s Gospel
Luke 10:25-37
Grace as Undiscriminating Love

Introduction

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26″What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” 27He answered: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” 28″You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” 29But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ 36″Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 37The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

We have been talking on Sunday mornings about grace. If I reckon correctly, this will be the fifth sermon that I have preached on grace in the last two months having interrupted my previous series on Suffering to preach two rather impromptu sermons on grace and how grace works itself out in the lives of those who call themselves and who are called to be the church in and to the world.

I saw a certain author’s work yesterday. He was attempting to interpret this parable of the good Samaritan for his readers. He said the parable teaches at least four main lessons. One of his points, the first one in fact, is this: The parable teaches the impossibility of earning one’s salvation. The standard, which is perfect love, is too high. Well, on the contrary, the parable teaches no such thing. Matthew quite specifically tells us that Jesus’ parable was designed to teach the man who his neighbor was.

So in fact this parable has nothing to do whatsoever with a doctrine of salvation. It has nothing to do, for that matter, with another of the author’s suggestions: that the parable attacks racial prejudice. It wasn’t merely racial prejudice that prevented one man from helping another. In fact it was much deeper than that and I’ll get to that near the end of the message. To be sure, this story really has nothing to with even answering the Lawyer’s question: “Who is my neighbor?” as a careful reading of the verses demonstrates.

Jesus doesn’t tell the man who his neighbor is. Jesus asks the Lawyer, at the end of the parable, what sort of a neighbor he is. Listen: “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”

The Lawyer replies, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus responds, “Go and do likewise.” So the point is clearly not who is my neighbor, but rather to whom am I a neighbor. Darrell Bock rightly comments, “By reversing the perspective Jesus changes both the question and the answer. He makes the call no longer one of assessing other people, but of being a certain kind of person in one’s own activity.” The parable is one that forces us to probe our own discriminating proclivities. In this context: Everyone is our neighbor. There is no discrimination to be shown, no favoritism, no partiality. This parable points the finger right back at us and asks: Who is not your neighbor?

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I think one of the reasons why we are so afraid to be gracious to other people is because we are typically, absolutely, terrified of getting involved in the messiness of others’ lives. I know from my own life that being involved with difficult people, messed up people, people who can’t not be involved in controversy is draining. I remember going on a field trip when I was still in college. We went around for Church Growth class visiting churches that were successful and had otherwise successful preachers.

I specifically remember one of the successful ones telling our class that he purposely avoided getting involved with what he called ‘high maintenance’ people. That is, people who took up too much of his time, people who never contributed anything particularly useful to the congregation life. They are the ones who always need, always want, always take. I remember very specifically that conversation: ‘I don’t do it,’ he said. ‘I involve myself with people who will make my life easier, better, or more successful.’ Some of that is paraphrase, but it is true to the point.

How can I be gracious to those whose lives I am unwilling to participate in? How can I love the ones I would rather observe than touch? Here’s what I read:

“One of the most insidious maladies of our time is: the tendency in most of us to observe rather than act, avoid rather than participate, not do rather than do; the tendency to give in to the sly, negative cautionary voices that constantly counsel us to be careful, to be controlled, to be wary and prudent and hesitant and guarded in our approach of this complicated thing called living.”—Arthur Gordon, A Touch of Wonder as quoted by Mike Yaconelli in Messy Spirituality.

Again the point becomes this: How can I be gracious to people if I am not involved in the messiness of their lives? How can I love the unlovely if I am not willing to risk being hated? How can I bring hope to the hopeless if I am not willing to risk being rejected? How can I carry the Gospel to those who haven’t heard if I am not willing to risk the very culture I inhabit being a barrier to communication? How can I have a conversation with those to whom no one speaks unless I open my mouth and initiate a conversation they may have no interest in? How can I be an agent of healing and reconciliation in the lives of broken and divorced people unless I am willing to touch their wounds, bind up their diseases, carry their infirmities?

Amazing thing about Jesus is that He spent a lot of time touching and being touched by people. People weren’t afraid to touch him; he wasn’t afraid to touch them. He wasn’t embarrassed by their diseases, their poverty, their shame, their guilty, or their age. He embraced and loved.

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I’d like to share a rather lengthy portion of a book by Mark Buchanan. The book is called Your God is Too Safe. Listen carefully as Buchanan analyzes the problem and provides succinct solutions to it.

In order to escape borderland, it is not enough that you grasp a holy must, maintain faith, or forsake your pride. Living in the holy wild also requires a complete change of ethics…

A number of years ago, a wise man pointed out to me the root difference between the ethic of Jesus and the ethic of the Pharisees. Usually we think of the difference in these terms: the Pharisees had an ethic of externals, of ritual and rigmarole, and Jesus had an ethic of the heart, of the heart’s inner workings. The Pharisees were concerned about not committing adultery, while Jesus was concerned about lust, the root of adultery. He was concerned with adulterousness.

That’s true as far as it goes. Only it doesn’t go very far. The deeper difference between Jesus’ ethic and that of the Pharisees was this: The Pharisees had an ethic of avoidance, and Jesus had an ethic of involvement. The Pharisee’s question was not ‘How can I glorify God?’ It was ‘How can I avoid bringing disgrace to God?’ This degenerated into a concern not with God, but with self—with image, reputation, procedure. They didn’t ask, ‘How can I make others clean?’ They asked, ‘How can I keep myself from getting dirty?’ They did not seek to rescue sinners, only to avoid sinning.

Jesus, in sharp contrast, got involved. He sought always and in all ways to help, to heal, to save, to restore. Rather than running from evil, He ran towards the good. And evil, in fear, fled. Look at Legion, the man under assault by a demon mob. Everyone else fears Legion, tries to banish him to the tombs. But when Jesus shows up, it’s Legion who is afraid, begging Jesus not to torture him. Jesus has come to seek and save that which is lost, not to destroy. He heals Legion and restores him to community. Jesus is not the least afraid of Legion’s evil. Rather, the evil in Legion fears the holy power in Jesus and is subdued by it. Darkness always flees light.

Mark it well: evil isn’t safe in the presence of the God who is not safe. Nor—and this is the point—is evil safe in the presence of those who forsake the god who is too safe and follow the Christ. Legions all over the world live both in terror and in desperate yearning for those who dare to leave borderland and live in the holy wild. They’re the ones who set the captives free.

Jesus got close enough to unholy people for the spark of holiness in Him to jump. He took the tax collectors, the rough fishermen, the harlots, the demon possessed, and gave back to them dignity and life. He gave back to Legion his real name. The Pharisees avoided these people lest they were infected with their sin and were overwhelmed by their evil.

The problem is that we have often preferred the ethic of the Pharisee to the ethic of Christ. We have become self-obsessed in our doctrine of sin, as though sin were merely a personal flaw like acne, plantar’s warts, or crooked teeth. As those sin is merely about personal victory or defeat. We seldom see sin as a brokenness that’s bone deep and creationwide…

* * *

Jesus uses the marketplace to touch the sick with healing. There He is, Lord of the holy wild, iconoclast of the safe god, striding hugely, robes flying about Him, jostling with the crowds, spreading His hands wide, pressing those hands against flesh scalding with fever or icy with approaching death, letting clutching, disease-soaked hands grab hold of Him. That’s Jesus in the marketplace.

Then there are the Pharisees, lords of borderland, charter members of the safe god society. If they go into the marketplace at all, they take great and grave precautions. They avoid even the residue, even the shadow, of the sick people’s presence. There they are, prim mannered, mincing their steps, holding themselves tight, picking up items between the pinched ends of two fingers, rushing home to scrub up.

Jesus is about healing the sick. The Pharisees are about avoiding them and making sure, above all, that they themselves don’t get sick. (108-114)

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Neighbors take risks. We need to change our thinking about who we are neighbors to.

Craig Blomberg makes a poignant statement, “Grace comes in surprising ways and from sources people seldom suspect.” But should it? Isn’t Jesus’ point here that grace should not, in fact, be so surprising? Shouldn’t our neighborly proclivities be so abundantly clear that it is surprising when we don’t do something for the man laying in a ditch?

Should grace be so strange in this world? And if it is, why? How does grace play in ten thousand places? How does grace play itself out in real life when hate lives right next door, or walks hand in hand with love? How is grace stronger in the lives of the weak, in the lives of messy people, the lives of the decrepit and broken?

Is it possible to really love God if we do not love our neighbor? And is it really possible to limit who our neighbor is? Doesn’t Jesus dispel the myth that we have the right to discriminate who does and does not receive the efficacious side of our love and mercy and grace? So Leon Morris, “Our attitude to God determines the rest. If we really love him we love our neighbor too.”

“We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

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The measure of the depth of our love for God is taken by the depth of our love for neighbors. Perhaps it is thus time for us to love our neighbors. Perhaps it is time that our neighbors knew that we loved them by our actions.

Perhaps it is time for God to know that we love Him by our actions towards our neighbors.

Soli Deo Gloria!