Sunday, July 16, 2017

LEFC Geocache Letter

Today at our Family Bible Week Finale, the skit was about a geocaching family who discovered a cache hidden on our campus. Inside the container was a letter from me which they read as part of the drama.

And then during the Finale Picnic, we had a presentation on geocaching by a real-life couple who do geocaching as a hobby. They told us about their experiences and then led groups of students around our campus finding small items they had temporarily hidden for them to find using a GPS.

And then we hid a bona-fide long-term geocache on our campus for hobbiests to find. And we put a copy of the letter in it. It will be neat to hear if people find it. I'll be praying for folks who are on the hunt.

Here's what the letter says:

Dear Explorer,

Congratulations! You found our stashed cache at Lanse Evangelical Free Church!

I hope it was a fun challenge for you to find it. We’re glad you’re here on our campus.

Did you know that God is also Someone who hunts for hidden items? Sometime when you have a chance, read the Gospel of Luke chapter 15 where Jesus tells 3 stories about desperate searches. Each search (for a lost sheep, a lost coin, and two lost sons) reveals to us a picture of the heart of God.

God is on the hunt for people like you and me who have lost their way in life (the Bible calls that “sin,” read Romans 3:23, 5:8, & 6:23 to learn more).

And when those lost people get found, there is a big party. Jesus says about one of those celebrations, “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10).

Here’s how we get found: We find Jesus Christ as our biggest treasure in life.

Jesus is God’s own Son who lived a perfect life, died on a cross to pay for our sin, and then came back to life to give us life (read John 3:16 to find out more). A Person like that deserves all of our trust and worship! 

Have you trusted Jesus as your King and Rescuer? He invites you to seek Him today. 

That’s what our church is all about–helping people to find Jesus Christ as their greatest treasure. We’d love it if we could help you move one step closer to Him.

The coordinates are in the Bible. Navigate to Romans 10:9-10!

In His Grip,

Pastor Matt Mitchell

[Matt's Messages] "Hidden Treasure - Family Bible Week 2017"

“Hidden Treasure”
Family Bible Week 2017
Matthew 13:44 :: July 16, 2017

As you can tell, we’ve had a great Family Bible Week. Lots of good food, good fun, good fellowship, and a really good time the Word of God.

Every single one of our classes, including the teens and adults, have spent the week studying some of the greatest short stories ever told in human history.

The Parables of Jesus Christ.

The kids back there are studying their fifth and last parable right now.

Jesus’ parables are earthly stories with a heavenly meaning, that is to say Jesus told these stories to illustrate spiritual truth.

They aren’t just nice stories, but stories with punch.

I call the parables “short stories with a shove.”

Imagine being in the audience when Jesus told His parables. There you are just listening to Jesus tell an engaging story, and then all of sudden, you realize that the story is about you!

Jesus was the greatest storyteller in history, but he didn’t just entertain with his stories–he grabbed his listeners and turned them upside down...with his stories!

When was the last time you heard a great story that pushed you in a new direction?

Well, in our verse for today, Matthew 13:44, Jesus tells a very short story.

A very short story! In the Greek, it’s just one sentence. In most of our English versions it’s just 2 sentences.

And it’s a short story about “Hidden Treasure.”

In fact, I believe it’s the earliest known story about geo-caching.

Or maybe not. But it is about hidden treasure.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”

Now, this may be a very short story, but Jesus packs an awful lot in there.

“The kingdom of heaven.”

Our adult class learned this week that the Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God (same thing) was Jesus’ favorite topic to teach on.

Whenever He got a chance to teach, Jesus was always teaching on the Kingdom of God–the righteous rule of the rightful King over His redeemed people and His restored realm. The Kingdom of Heaven.

If you were in our adult class this week, shout out the answer to these questions:

Has the kingdom come already?

Yes and no, right?

The kingdom has come because the King has come. Jesus Himself.

And yet, the kingdom has not yet come in its fullness. This is not as good as it gets.

But Jesus taught that the Kingdom will come when the King returns. And we’re supposed to be ready for it.

Next question. Is the kingdom big or small?

It starts out small (mustard seed, anyone?), but it will one day cover the world!

Next question. Is the kingdom somber or joyful?

The kingdom is a party!

It’s joyful to the ultimate degree. We saw in the parables this week incredible joy when someone found the kingdom. When someone was found in the kingdom. The kingdom is a party!

Question. Who is welcome in the kingdom? Who are the citizens of the kingdom?

Surprising Answer: Sinners who repent. The citizens of the kingdom are those who have been rebels against the King but lay down their arms and accept His gift of amnesty, His gift of forgiveness.

Not people who think they are worthy of the kingdom, but those who know they are not.

That’s who’s welcome!

The kingdom is so surprising. No wonder Jesus loved to talk about it.

This whole chapter, Matthew 13, the context of our parable for today, is chock-full of parables about the kingdom, some of which we looked at this week in their parallels in Luke. Verse 34 says that “Jesus spoke all these things [about the kingdom] to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them [during that time] without using a parable.”

Just like the Old Testament had predicted (v.35), “So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet [in Psalm 78]: ‘I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.’”

That’s where we got our theme for Family Bible Week this year.

Jesus is unearthing spiritual truth after spiritual truth about the Kingdom of God.

And we get to listen and learn!

Now, let’s look specifically at the story of the kingdom that Jesus tells in verse 44.

“The kingdom of heaven is like [there’s a correspondence between the kingdom and...] treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”

Do you get the picture?

A treasure is hidden in a field.
A man finds it in the field.
The man (like a good geo-cacher) hides it again in the field.
The man sells his stuff and buys the field.
End of story.

Now, isn’t that an incredible short story? There is so much in there.

It’s got buried treasure in it.
It’s a got a very surprised and very happy man.
It’s got a twist at the end.

What more could you want?

What does it mean?

What is Jesus teaching?

So, let’s ask our adult class what is the first thing that we should look for to interpret this parable?

We need to ask, “What is what?”

Right?

What things in the story correspond to what things outside the story in real life?

And we learned this week that not every detail in a story directly relates to something outside the story in real life.

It’s easy to go wrong if you try to get too many details to match up.

That’s now how these stories of Jesus work.

So, what is what?

Well, we know that the kingdom is like treasure hidden in a field.

Now, sometimes that opening sentence can be misleading. Like in the next verse, it  says, “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls.”

That does mean that the pearl-seeking merchant himself is the kingdom of heaven.

The phrase is basically saying that the “reality of the kingdom” is like this story I’m now about to tell you about.

But in the case of verse 44, I think it’s actually a direct correspondence.

The kingdom itself is like the treasure.

Hidden, yes. And valuable. So incredibly valuable.

The hiddenness of the kingdom is present throughout this chapter. Our adult class learned a lot about context this week, and the hidden nature of the kingdom is a theme throughout the context of this chapter. It can be easily missed.

And then the emphasis here in verse 44 is on how valuable that hidden treasure really is.

How about the field?

What do think the field is in this story?

Earlier in the chapter, there is another field in another parable.

And when Jesus 3 explains that parable, he says (v .38), “The field is the world.”

So do you think the field here in verse 44 is the world?

Class?

No. We learned this week that the correspondences in one parable do not automatically port to another parable.

No, I think the field in this story is just a field in this story.

But what about the man?

Who is the man in the story in a real life? What is his external referent?

I’m not sure that he really has one.

In a story so short, I don’t know that the man has to have a corresponding reality.

Some people have thought that the man is Jesus Christ Himself.

And that is a remote possibility.

In that case, the parable is teaching the truth that “for the joy set before Him, Jesus endured the Cross.” Jesus gave His all, His precious blood to purchase the Kingdom to give it to us.

And that is certainly true. He sure did.

But I don’t think that’s what this parable is talking about.

I think that’s looking for too much correspondence.

I think the point of the parable is simply that kingdom is supremely valuable.

The Kingdom of God is worth everything.

Absolutely everything.

Because that’s the kicker, isn’t it?

I mean there isn’t much time in this story for there to be a twist, but what a surprise ending?!  Verse 44 again.

“When a man found [the treasure], he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”

All he had?!

That’s a twist, isn’t it?

What all do you have?

Do you own a car or two, a house?
Do you have a bank account?
Do you own some land?
Do you have something in your wallet?
Do you have something in storage?
Do you have some things in your closet?

Now, imagine liquidating all of that.

You go to the bank, and you withdraw all of your money.

You sell your house, your vehicles, you cash in your retirement plan.

You put every single thing you have into one cashier's check, and you go to the realtor’s office, and you put it down on that one field.

You slide all of the chips you have across the table for that one field.

Because it has that one treasure that’s worth it all!

Do you see the joy there?

The kingdom is a party.

This guy is so overjoyed to get this treasure for himself.

He has hit the jackpot.

He has won the lottery without even playing it!

Now, in the next story in the next verse, there is another man. This guy was actually searching, but he finds something similar. V.45

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”

Same lesson.

The kingdom of heaven is worth absolutely everything.

It’s worth jumping at the chance to get no matter what it costs.

Now, I think we could also go wrong in thinking that we can somehow buy the kingdom.

If we give enough money.

If we just give away all of our money, we can buy the kingdom.

But I don’t think we’re the man in the story either.

I don’t think Jesus is the man.
I don’t think the disciples are the man.
I don’t think we are the man.

This parable is not teaching us HOW to find the kingdom.

It’s teaching us that the kingdom is supremely valuable.

The kingdom is worth everything. Absolutely everything.

And one other way we can go wrong is by getting stuck on the ethics of the man in the story.

Anybody feel that question as we read it?

I mean was this ethical for him to do that?

I understand that he didn’t lift the treasure. He didn’t steal it. He didn’t find it and run home with it.

He just put it back where he found it and then bought the whole the field so that it was unquestionably his.

What he did was probably legal.

But I wouldn’t want somebody to do that to me!

What do you think, class?

I think it’s not the point.

Jesus isn’t teaching ethics here. He does elsewhere.

The other night, we studied the parable of the Shrewd and Dishonest[!] Manager. He was not commended for being dishonest, just for looking ahead and exhibiting shrewdness.

Jesus is not necessarily commending this course of action.

He’s just showing how much this treasure was worth to this man.

The kingdom is worth whatever it takes!

The merchant, he had found the be-all-and-end all of pearls.

And he was willing to part with every other thing he had of value to gain that pearl.

That’s it! That’s what this story is teaching.

The kingdom of heaven is supremely valuable.

It’s worthy risking anything and everything to possess!

So here’s the shove.

Is the kingdom this valuable to you and me?

And you know what makes the kingdom so valuable?

It’s the King, of course.

It’s the Kingdom of Christ!

So here’s the shove again:

Is the King and His Kingdom this valuable to you and me?

No, we don’t buy it. We never could.

We couldn’t rub together enough money to earn this kingdom.

That’s what we’re learning in Galatians, isn’t it?

We get into the kingdom by grace through faith.

Faith in Jesus Christ.

Paul got it. He said Philippians 3, “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.”

Paul gave up everything He had to gain Christ.

Because everything He had was nothing.

Christ Jesus is the only thing worth everything!

Is the King and His Kingdom worth everything to you?

Let me ask it this way:

If the King and His Kingdom was this valuable to you, what would change?

What would change in your priorities?

What would change in how you spend your time?

What would change in how you spend your money?

What would change in how you worship?

What would change in you work?

What would change in your relationship?

If the kingdom is worth everything to you and me, what needs to change to reflect that?

Where is your treasure?

What is your treasure?

Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

What needs to change in your life to reflect the fact that you have found the be-all-and-end-all? The pearl of greatest price.

The treasure that relativizes all treasures.

Is there a sin that needs confessed and repented of?

Is there a relationship that needs to change?

Is there some forgiveness that needs to be granted?

Is there a shifting of your time or money or some other thing you need to move?

If Jesus and His Kingdom is worth everything, absolutely everything, then what needs to change in your life and mine?

I believe that’s the question that Jesus’ story is pushing us to answer in each of our lives today.

Can I ask you to do something as we close?

Would you write down what you think needs to change?

And would you pray to God that you will make strides by faith to change in that area this week.

I think it would be very sad if we all said, “No, I’m good. I’ve heard that story before. It’s interesting. But I’m not listening. I’m not changing. My life already reflects the appropriate amount of value that I give to the kingdom.”

That would be so sad.

But he who has ears to hear, let him hear.

And let him respond appropriately.

Because “[t]he kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands;
I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand

Than to be the king of a vast domain
Or be held in sin’s dread sway;
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Sunday, July 09, 2017

[Matt's Messages] "I Live By Faith in the Son of God"

“I Live By Faith in the Son of God”
Galatians: The Truth of the Gospel
July 9, 2017 :: Galatians 2:15-21

Our sermon series is called “The Truth of the Gospel” because that was what was a stake in Galatia.

The Apostle Paul has written what we called a Tornado Warning Letter. He has broken the glass and sounded the alarm because these churches were on the brink of abandoning the truth of the gospel of grace.

False teachers had snuck into the churches that Paul had planted on his missionary journeys and sowed false teaching, a false gospel, another gospel which really is no gospel at all. 

And they’ve discredited Paul as a faulty apostle, preaching a derivative and defective gospel. Derivative of Jerusalem’s apostles and defective because it doesn’t say enough about the Law of Moses.

And Paul was shocked to find out that these churches had been entertaining the ideas of these false teachers, so he picks up his pen and writes them the Epistle to the Galatians.

Paul uses some of the strongest language of all of his letters for this letter because he was concerned that these churches he cared so much about might flounder and sink into heresy and ruin.

So for last two chapters, he’s been setting the record straight on where he got his gospel.

Where did he get his gospel? Peter, James, John?

No, directly from Jesus Christ.

Paul wasn’t looking for the gospel, but Jesus came looking for him!

But even though he didn’t get his gospel from the apostles based in Jerusalem, he had the exact same gospel as the apostles based in Jerusalem.

They met once and agreed on everything central to the gospel!

Peter, James, John, and Paul all had the exact same gospel.

Which made it kind of awkward when the apostle Peter came up to Antioch and acted inconsistently with the truth of the gospel.

That’s what we looked at last week.

Peter came up to Antioch and, at first, lived up to his theological convictions of what he could eat as a Christian and who he could eat with as fellow Christians, equal in the gospel.

And then...certain men from James came up and Peter all of sudden chickened out.

He stopped eating with the Gentile Christians which sent the message that only those who were Jews were truly acceptable Christians.

Peter didn’t say that in so many words, but that’s the message that was being conveyed.

So Paul opposed him to his face. He called Peter out in public. Remember this?

He said that Peter was not acting in line with the truth of the gospel. He was a hypocrite. V.14

“You are a Jew, [Pete!] yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. [And that’s okay because of your freedom in Christ. But...] How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?” To become Jews, in essence?

“That’s not right!”

Now, he wasn’t saying that Peter was teaching a false gospel, but that you could get the wrong idea of what the truth of the gospel was by how Peter was acting.

Peter’s life was sending the message that you had to take on the Law of Moses to be a good Christian.

Is that how it works?

Last week, we read through verses 15 and 16 but we had run out of time to really dive into them. So it’s fitting that we start with them today.

This section is really the heart of the letter. Paul has finally got to what he really wants to say to the Galatians.

He’s finishing up the history that brings him to this point and is transitioning into the theology that desperately wants the Galatians to get.

I’m not sure where the report of what he said to Peter ends and where his further reflections begin, but it doesn’t really matter. By chapter 3, he’s speaking directly to the Galatians and addressing their folly.

But here he’s making his central point and waxing eloquent on what it means to be united to Jesus Christ.

For the last 25 years, Galatians 2:20 has been one of my favorite Bible verses, and I’m excited that it is our new Hide the Word verse to learn together.

Let’s say it together.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.

Here’s one of those places where the Bible tell us how Jesus loves us.

He “loved me and gave himself for me.”

I love Galatians 2:20.

When I was a student at Moody Bible Institute, we had to memorize this verse for a class, and it just jumped off the pages at me.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”

There is a mysterious connection between Jesus and me.

He has identified with me, and I have identified with Him.

Enough that there is something about me that no longer lives.

And Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, lives in me.

There is still a sense in which I do live, but it’s by faith.

“The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God...”

That’s our title for today.

What a precious truth!

But Galatians 2:20 doesn’t exist out there on it’s own.

It was written in a certain particular contexts in a certain particular letter of Paul to the churches in Galatia.

Paul says what he says in Galatians 2:20 a part a bigger point he is making, a more complex argument.

And it is very...complex.

I admit that the logic of a few of these verses (especially verses 17, 18, and 19, the logic of them) escapes me.

I’ve read and read the commentaries, and I have a vague idea, but I’m not sure I can adequately explain them.

It helped me that D.A. Carson, one of the leading evangelical Bible scholars of our day and one of my former professors at Trinity says that these are a “bit hard to understand.” I feel like I’m in good company there.

And Douglas Moo, another one of my old professors from Trinity, and an amazing Bible teacher himself, has end-notes that have footnotes on these verses in his commentary! Notes on the notes!

So there is some complexity here and some ambiguity on the details.

But at the exact same time, the main points are simple and obvious.

And precious.

I’ve got two points of application for you today and they are very personal for Paul and for us.

Point #1. I am justified by faith in Jesus Christ.

Point #2. I am living by faith in Jesus Christ.

If you’ve got that, you’ve got it all.

Let me try to show you what I see here.

#1. I AM JUSTIFIED BY FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST.

Do you remember what it means to be justified?

It means to be declared in the right. To be counted as righteous.

To be recognized as right with God, possessing a right standing with God.

How does that work?

How does one be justified before God?

Paul had a lot to say about this in the book of Romans which we studied together in 2014, 2015, and the first part of 2016.

The Greek word is “dikaioo.”  “To be justified” or “made just” or “righteousified.”

How does one become justified before God?

Well one way is to be perfectly righteous every second of your life.

Like Jesus Christ.

When God the Father looked at Jesus Christ, His Son, He could easily say, “That Person there is justified! That Person there is just. He is righteous. I can declare it!”

“He is my beloved Son with Whom I am well pleased.”

But unfortunately, there is no one else, by nature, in that category.

Is there anyone here who has been perfectly righteous every second of your life?

If so, I want to shake your hand.

So if I can’t be justified by possessing a perfect righteousness on my own, how can I ever be?

That was the question that plagued Martin Luther, a Bible teaching monk in the 16th century.

He knew that God was perfectly righteous, and he knew that he himself was not, and he feared the righteousness of God.

And rightly so.

Because without being justified there will be no salvation, no eternal life, no enjoying the kingdom of God when it comes in its fullness.

There will only be what we learned about in Sunday School this morning, the judgment of God. The justice of God. The full payment due for un-righteousness.

You see why this letter is so important?

You see the stakes? You see why Paul uses such strong language?

Eternal life is on the line.

How does a sinner become justified?

Paul reminds Peter in verse 15 that they know the answer to that question.

It’s the gospel of grace. It’s the gospel of Jesus Christ. And we know that they both believe that. V.15

“We who are Jews by birth [Peter and Paul] and not 'Gentile sinners' [our little pet name for those who didn’t have the privilege of being born a Jew, WE] know that a man is not justified by observing the law [or literally, “by works of the law], but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.”

Did Paul just repeat himself?

I believe so.

I think he said the same thing three times in a row!

This is that important!

Paul is contrasting two different approaches to justification.

One is right and one is wrong.

Which one is wrong?

Last phrase, “by observing the law [by works of the law] no one will be justified.”

What law is he talking about there?

Well, the obvious one is the Law of Moses.

The Law God gave to Moses back in the Old Testament.

So the 10 commandments and the sacrificial system and the dietary restrictions and the purification laws and the civil justice code and the feasts and all of that.

Signified for the newborn males by receiving the sign of circumcision in the flesh.

“You, my son, are now under this Law.”

Now, was the Law a bad thing?

No, it was a wonderful gift to the people of Israel.

But...doing the Law, obeying the Law, observing the Law was never intended to be the basis of anyone’s justification. V.16

“...by observing the law no one will be justified.”

That’s not how it works.

How does it work?

Paul says that he and Peter (v.16) “have put [their] faith in Christ Jesus that we maybe justified by faith in Christ...”

That’s it?
Just faith? Just trust?
Just putting your faith in Jesus Christ?
That’s it?
That’s all?
Nothing else?
Just putting yourself in His hands?
Trusting in Who Jesus is and what Jesus has done?
That’s all?
And then I’m declared righteous before God?
I’m declared righteous BY God?!

Just by faith in Christ and Christ alone?

Yes, exactly.

And that’s what Martin Luther rediscovered in the book of Galatians and the book of Romans back in the 16th century. And it turned the world upside down.

Here’s what we know: I am justified by faith in Jesus Christ.

Are you sure?

Don’t you think we have to add some works of the Law in there?

Don’t I do something? Don’t I add some good works? Don’t I clean up my act? Don’t I become a good person first?

Pastor Jonathan Edwards once said, No, “You contribute nothing to your salvation except the sin that made it necessary.”

Because Paul said, “...by observing the law no one will be justified.”

Well, that’s not what everybody thought. Paul’s enemies had an answer for that an accusation. They, apparently, said that this gospel of sheer grace makes Jesus a promoter of sin. Look at verse 17.

“If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not!”

Now, I’m not sure that I understand Paul’s logic here.

There are multiple ways of construing it.

My best guess for today is that he’s saying that if you trust Christ for justification and then you still end up sinning (which you still will!) then whose fault is that?

The circumcision folks say that it’s all that grace that’s being thrown around.

If you tell people that all you have to do is believe in Jesus, then they are going to sin, and sin and sin all the more so that grace may abound.

“Hey, come over here, there’s free sin!”

“Jesus is giving away grace, so He’s okay with us sinning!”

Does that sound familiar? Like something we read about in Romans 6?

What was Paul’s answer for that back then? In Greek, “May Genoita.”

“Absolutely now! No way, no how. That’s not how it works.”

People who have genuinely come to believe in Jesus Christ do not go crazy with sinning!

How about you?  Do you want sin a lot more now that you have trusted Christ?

Yes, I know you want to sin sometimes.

But do want to sin more because Jesus has been gracious to you?

I don’t think so. And Paul says, even more, in verse 18.

“If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker.”

I’m not totally sure what that means either. But I think he’s saying that if put the Law back in the place where these people wanted it to be (something we trust in), then it would only provide more judgment, more condemnation. The law only kills. It doesn’t bring salvation. V.19

“For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.”

And I really don’t know what that one means!

I think he’s saying that the law kills, and it killed Jesus. Because He took on the curse of the Law (we’ll read more about that in chapter 3), and when He died fulfilling the Law, you and I died to the Law.

We are no longer under the Mosaic Law.

And, paradoxically, now we can live for God!

So, the opposite is true. I am not justified by observing the Law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.

Do you see that? I’m sorry I can’t explain it better.

It’s following that statement that “through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God” that Paul gives us Galatians 2:20.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”

What a powerful way of saying it.

When Jesus died, somehow, we died with Him.

Now, not physically, of course. We did not take the nails that we deserved! He did.

But somehow in spiritual reality, we were co-crucified with Jesus.

And we are still in that state. The Greek tense here is the perfect tense.

So you could accurately say, “I am in the state of having been crucified with Christ.”

And I no longer live.

The old me.

The old “I”.

The “I” that is a sinner who loves sin.
The “I” that was trying to justify myself.
The “I” that was an enemy of God and destined for Hell.

That “I” no longer lives.

Not really.

Not in the most meaningful sense.

That “I” still has a zombie life, of course. We’ll learn more about the flesh and indwelling sin when we get towards of the end of Galatians.

But the old me has been rendered virtually powerless by my co-crucifixion with Jesus.

And now “Christ lives in me.” I have resurrection life. I have the personal presence of the Son of God through the Spirit of God.

I was not just joined to Him in His death, but I am joined to Him in His new life!

So, I still live. The new “I,” the new me.

“I live by faith in the Son of God.”

#2. I AM LIVING BY FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST.

This is the living dynamic at work in life.

I am trusting in Jesus Christ and He is my life.

I am trusting Him daily.

I am trusting Him moment by moment.

I have a life-changing relationship with Him.

I don’t live by faith in my own good deeds.

I live by faith day to day, by faith in the Son of God.

Everything has changed.

Living by faith is not just nodding your head that some facts are true.

It is placing yourself in the hands of Jesus and trusting your whole life and your whole eternal future to Him.

It is trusting that you have been united to Christ and share in everything that He has.

You know what that means?

It means when God the Father looks at you, He sees the righteousness of His Own Son.

I think that’s part of why Paul calls Jesus, “the Son of God” here.

Because you and I are, by faith, united to God’s beloved Son.

And He can easily say, “That person there is righteous. They are in my Son.

They were crucified with Him. And He lives in them now!”

I don’t think that you and I disappear as persons in Galatians 2:20. We are still ourselves. It’s not saying that the person of Matt Mitchell got crucified and now I’m some kind of a puppet.

I’m more “myself” than I have ever been.

Because I am now united to Jesus Christ.

And now I am living by faith in Jesus Christ.

“...who loved me and gave himself for me.”

I love that Paul uses the personal pronouns here.

Jesus didn’t just love everyone.

Jesus didn’t just love His chosen people.

Jesus loved even me.

He “loved me and gave himself for me.”

And that gift of Himself was not in vain. V.21

“I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

Do you see his logic?

Paul is not going to budge on this gospel of grace.

He will not nullify the grace of God.

He will not change his tune on what gospel he preaches.

He will not give in for a moment to the idea that we are justified by works of the law.

Because if he did, then he would be saying that Jesus never had to die.

Right?

I mean if I could get myself justified by simply obeying the Mosaic Law, then why did Jesus have to die? He didn’t.

I could have just done it on my own!

How insulting that is to Jesus!

“Why did you bother to give yourself for us on the Cross, Jesus?”

“Thanks but no thanks. I’ll do it my way.”

Paul says, “May it never be.”

“He loved me and gave Himself for me.”

I will not set aside the grace of God.

Does that make sense?

The application is obvious, I hope.

Put your faith in Jesus Christ.

And Jesus Christ alone.

I know that all of this is familiar to you.

At least, I hope it’s familiar to you! This is the gospel that we are trying to preach here at Lanse Free Church.

This is the message that we are going to give each day to the children, youth, and adults that come to Family Bible Week.

So, I hope it’s familiar.

But it’s not obvious.

Most people think that the gospel is about being a good person.

Go down to the Pumpkin House or Key Largo and do a survey. Ask them what it takes to be justified before God.

And so many will say, “Be a good person. Keep the 10 Commandments. Do more good than bad. Go to church. Give your money. Do good things.”

Those are all good things to do.

But “by observing the law no one will be justified.”

You’ve got trust in Jesus Christ.

You’ve got to trust in what He did on the Cross when He loved you and gave Himself for you.

Be justified by placing your faith in Jesus Christ.

And then live that faith every single day.

Because when you believe in Jesus, everything changes.

Your relationship with sin.
Your relationship with the Law.
Your relationship with God. You can now live for God!

Because you have been crucified with Christ and no longer live, but Christ lives in you.

The life you now live in the body, LIVE BY FAITH in the Son of God who loved you and gave Himself for you.


***

Messages in this Series
01. To the Churches in Galatia
02. Turning to a Different Gospel
03. Preaching the Faith He Once Tried to Destroy
04. So the Truth of the Gospel Might Remain With You
05. Acting in Line with the Truth of the Gospel

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Friday, July 07, 2017

And the Winner Is....

.... Drumroll please! ...

I'm pleased to announce that Todd Dobo has won a signed copy of The Wild Man and Wild Mountain Tribe by Zeke Pipher!

Congratulations, Todd. I look forward to hearing how the Lord uses them in you and your boys' lives.

Thank you, everyone who participated!

If you want to buy your own set, visit the Wild Mountain to order your own copy of The Wild Man and/or Wild Mountain Tribe today!

Related:




Thursday, July 06, 2017

Wild, Man

5 Things I Appreciate About the New Books on Manhood from Zeke Pipher

All this week, I’ve been promoting The Wild Man fable and Wild Mountain Tribe by Zeke Pipher [read our interview here]. In fact, I’m giving away a signed set tomorrow morning (enter by 11:59 tonight!). I’m pleased to do this because I applaud what Zeke is trying to do with these new resources for followers of Jesus Christ.

I haven’t had the time or mental bandwidth to write a full review, but here is a quick list of some of the things I appreciate the most about Zeke’s “wild” books:

1. In writing The Wild Man and Wild Mountain Tribe, Zeke is doing his part to raise up godly men.

It’s easy to bemoan the lack of godly men in this world. I could quickly dash off a paragraph about the pitfalls and failings of “failure-to-launch” males, no problem. But it’s much more difficult to see the problem and then do something constructive about it. Zeke has “manned-up” and done the harder thing, creating something valuable that can be used by others to raise up godly men. I love that he wrote the simple, creative story for his son Aiden in the first place as an exercise in faithful fathering. As the father of 3 growing boys, I am encouraged by Zeke’s example to do my own part.


2. Zeke’s books are a valiant attempt at capturing masculinity.

It’s also hard to get the message of manhood right. Not only does the world offer many false and twisted versions of masculinity, but even when you’re trying to be biblical, there are various extremes that are tempting to fall into. I’m glad that Zeke has taken up the challenge of leading the expedition through the minefield. I love that he calls it the “quest to capture masculinity.” We won’t get everything right, but we are aiming in the right direction. And we’re doing it together.

3. Zeke knows that masculinity is not one-size-fits all.

People who write about manhood often try to pigeonhole all men into one mold. But God didn’t make us that way. He’s much more creative than that! I get frustrated when I read books on biblical masculinity that miss out on the inventive and diverse variations of faithful godly masculinity that are possible. Not all men look or act the same. And a lot of what we think is “masculine” is actually just culturally condition preferences.

Zeke gets that. So while his main characters in the fable do some “traditionally” manly things like hunting, fishing, or sleeping outdoors, he is also careful to not stereotype, especially in the guidebook.

In fact, Zeke has a introductory word on masculinity in Wild Mountain Tribe that says it really well:
In The Wild Man fable, masculinity is represented by hair and physical strength. However, you do not need to have a beard or large biceps to be masculine. Many of the young men who read The Wild Man and Wild Mountain Tribe are several years away from being able to grow facial hair or bench press impressive weights. Likewise, many of the older men who read these books have lost the thick hair and physical abilities of their youth. Neither situation limits a man’s opportunity to be wild. Many authors and speakers have reduced the definition of masculinity down to haircuts, clothing styles, and physical accomplishments. This narrow, external-focused explanation of masculinity pushes many of our manliest men out of the category, and that is a sad loss. To be masculine is to carry the right vision, do the right things, and follow the right King. Being masculine does involve being strong, but strength takes many forms. For this reason, the fraternity of wild men is varied, abundant, and multi-sided. You will find that it has plenty of room for your style, abilities, and skill-set as a man.
4. Zeke’s vision of manhood is biblical, not cultural.

Another way of saying this is that the vision of manhood that Zeke is developing and promoting is biblical, not cultural. If it’s not about being a one-size-fits-all kind of man, what kind of man is Zeke trying to get us to be?

In a word: Christlike.

Look at the list of manly virtues that Wild Mountain tribes will discuss when they get together and you will find a very counter-cultural set of values, including grace, honesty, humility, self-control, responsibility, proactiveness, protectiveness, courage, faithfulness, wisdom, discipline, submissiveness. Oh, what the Lord could do with a generation of men like that!

5. Zeke’s vision is the raising up of a generation (or more!) of wild, but not savage, men.

To tell you the truth, I was not “wild” about the adjective Zeke used to sum up his project.

I told him so when I first read it back in March. For me, “wild” came with too much baggage from other books with similar themes (but different visions) and sounded too...I don’t know...“wild.”

But Zeke has won me over to using this language by doing three things:

First, Zeke reminds me that God Himself is not domesticated. In the words of C.S. Lewis about his stories’ Christ-figure, Aslan is not a “tame Lion.” He is not safe, but He’s good.

Second, Zeke paints a picture of what “wild” means in the context of his fable and the guidebook, and it’s really good. I want to be like Zeke’s Ancient Man and Wild Man. They may seem scary at first, but I actually want men like that around me and walking with me through life. If that’s “wild,” then sign me up!

And third, Zeke explains in the very first week of Wild Mountain Tribe the difference between being savage men “brutish, rude, and cruel” with being wild men “powerful, and even at times fierce, but they are always kind and self-controlled” (pgs. 17-18). That contrast was really helpful for understanding what Zeke was trying to convey.

So, I’m glad that Zeke worked in a few of my suggestions for improving these books–his humility is another mark of manliness!–but I’m also glad that he’s retained the adjective “wild.”

So that now I can tell guys who ask me what I thought of Zeke’s new book, I can honestly say, “It’s wild, man, truly wild.”

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

An Interview with Zeke Pipher about "The Wild Man" and "Wild Mountain Tribe"

It's a privilege to have Zeke Pipher of The Wild Mountain visit the blog today and answer some questions about his excellent new books The Wild Man and Wild Mountain Tribe which just came out last month (enter our contest to win a free set for yourself).

Interview

Matt: Tell us about yourself and your family. Who is Zeke Pipher and how did you come to write this book?

Zeke: I was transformed by the grace of Jesus Christ in 1990, during my sophomore year in college. I’m an EFCA pastor and author from central Nebraska. I’ve been married to Jamie since 1997, and together we have three children who are in the throes of junior high and high school. Those are the most important things about me. Some lesser important things I could mention are—I’m fanatical about hunting and fishing, I have absolutely no golf game, I love to butcher meat and chop vegetables, I just bought a motorcycle jacket to go with my newest hobby, I contribute to several national hunting magazines, and most of my books have been geared toward men and boys.

The Wild Man fable came from someplace deep inside me. One of my strongest desires is to be a faithful husband, father, and friend. A couple years ago, when my son, Aidan, turned twelve, I felt an awesome responsibility to pass on a concrete vision of manhood. I decided to write a story for him to provide him images of strong, courageous, faithful masculinity. Many men today are looking to society (celebrities, sports figures, politicians) to give them a definition of masculinity; my hope is to show Aidan through these two books how the Scriptures and his conscience can provide the direction. The Wild Man fable provides the vision of masculinity, and the Wild Mountain Tribe guidebook helps men—young and old—have conversations about how to live it out.

Matt: Why is The Wild Man a fable?

Zeke: I chose to write a fable because the genre fit my message perfectly. Fables are timeless, tapping into ideas that transcend any one culture. When we discuss masculinity, we are talking about ancient values that find their origin in the person of God and the order and nature of His creation. There are unique ways that each culture exhibits masculinity, but there are clear, timeless qualities that define it. These qualities are best exhibited in Jesus, “the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15).” I chose to write The Wild Man as a fable so that I could illustrate the timeless qualities God has built into the idea of being a man.

Matt: What are you hoping to accomplish by publishing The Wild Man and Wild Mountain Tribe?

Zeke: There are few things I desire more than to see older men – fathers, grandfathers, mentors, and father-figures – teach younger men how to be strong, courageous, and faithful to Christ. It saddens me how many times I’ve heard fathers and grandfathers say, “I’ve dropped the ball when it comes to my son/grandson.” It breaks my heart for that older man. It makes me sad for the younger man. And it grieves me for our society. Everyone in a community benefits when men—young and old—are strong, courageous, self-sacrificing, humble, and justice-seeking. We are experiencing a crisis in our America surrounding issues of sexuality, gender, end of life, beginning of life, finances, and our stewardship of creation. When men are faithful to Christ as men, including in how they pass on a vision for masculinity, everyone in society wins. I wrote these two books to help men be the “image and glory of God (1 Cor. 11:7b) as faithfully as possible.

Matt: Where did you get the idea for the “Ancient Symbol of the Deep Masculine” (from The Wild Man)?

Zeke: That symbol is the ancient Chi Rho christogram that the early church used to represent Christ. It is formed by the first two Greek letters of the word Christos, the chi and the rho. I chose that symbol because it is a way of connecting the fable and its presentation of masculinity to the person of Christ. All the qualities and characteristics of masculinity find their origin and perfect expression in Jesus, and so I wanted the “Ancient Symbol of the Deep Masculine” to direct the reader back to Jesus.

Matt: In addition to The Wild Man, you wrote a 14-week guidebook called, Wild Mountain Tribe. What is that guidebook for, and who is it for?

Zeke: Men often have the right heart and desires, but struggle to have deep conversations over important subjects. I wanted to help fathers, grandfathers, mentors, and father-figures have some of the most vital conversations with the young men in their lives. Churches, men’s groups, college ministries, and families can use Wild Mountain Tribe as a resource. The fable will help cast a vision, and the guidebook will help men see how to live it out.

Matt: What word of encouragement would you want to leave any dads who are reading this interview?

Zeke: Fatherhood is one of the most noble, challenging, and rewarding endeavors God has given us. To do it well, we’ve got to be intentional. We must spend time with our children, and we must have the right conversations and experiences with them. This isn’t easy. The best fathers in the world struggle with discouragement and uncertainty at times. One of my hopes for us older men as we use The Wild Man and Wild Mountain Tribe to teach young men to be faithful is that we never feel alone. We have an enemy who knows our souls well, and knows that if he can make us feel isolated, he’s got us on the ropes. We are not isolated. We are a part of a tribe of faithful men that stretches back to the first family God created. My hope and prayer is that you take your roles as a father, grandfather, mentor, and father-figure seriously. And as you do, I pray that you feel us—the greater tribe of faithful men—cheering you on in your journey.

Matt: Thanks, Zeke, for your time in this interview, but even more for writing this book. I pray that it blesses thousands of men and soon-to-be-men and their families.

Our giveaway contest ends Thursday at 11:59pm.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Win a Copy of "The Wild Man" Fable and "Wild Mountain Tribe" by Zeke Pipher

This Spring, I finally had the privilege of meeting Zeke Pipher in person. He came to Pennsylvania to speak at our church's Wild Game Dinner. Zeke and I had been online friends for a few years as fellow EFCA pastors with mutual friends, and I'd been an admirer of his books for hyper-hobbied and outdoorsmen, but we'd never gotten to meet face-to-face.

We hit it off right away.

And right off the bat, one of the issues we connected on was the need to pass on godly masculinity to the next generation. I have 3 sons (and a daughter who will be an adult before too long!), so it's deeply important to me. The world offers so many false messages about manhood, and they are all not only flawed but dangerous.

So Zeke told me about a project he was working on--a fable that teaches about Christ-centered masculinity through an allegorical story and also a guidebook for men and young men to go through together. He even gave me pre-publication copies to review.

I like them a lot!

These are two books not quite like any others out there, and I think they would help any dads, granddads, or uncle-types who wanted to get some good principles of biblical masculinity across to the young bucks whom they care about.

Tomorrow on Independence Day, I'll be publishing an interview I did with Zeke all about how and why he wrote these two books.

Win A Set for Yourself

Today, I'm offering starting a contest to win a free set. Zeke will send a copy of each book to the winner picked at random.

Entering this contest is very simple:

1. Leave a comment on this post (either here or on Facebook) with your name on it.

2. Wait to see if you win. I'll be drawing the names out of a hat. It's that easy! (Don't forget to check back or subscribe to updates to find out if you win--I'll need your mailing address if you do.)

You can also increase your chances of winning by posting about this contest on your social media page (FB, Twitter, Blog, Pinterest, etc.). Just send me an email or leave a comment with the link so that I know that you've expanded the reach of the contest. For each time you link to the contest, you get your name added to the hat one more time (limit of 7 chances, the contest ends at 11:59pm EST on Thursday night, July 6th).

I'll announce the winner on Friday.

But if you can't wait, order your copy of The Wild Man and/or Wild Mountain Tribe today!

This video from Zeke's Wild Mountain website tells the story of what these books are all about.