Sunday, May 19, 2019

[Matt's Messages] "Open Doors at PSU"

“Open Doors at PSU”
May 19, 2019
Colossians 4:2-6

Today, we are going to commission Abraham and Jordyn Skacel for their ministry to the campus of Penn State University with the international mission Cru.

Some of you may not be familiar with the ministry of Cru. Though you might know it by its original named Campus Crusade for Christ founded by Bill Bright.

Our church has supported Cru missionaries for several decades.

I’m not going to recount for you the history of Cru, but it’s worth learning about. Cru is a great ministry that has reached out to millions with the gospel of Jesus Christ since the 1960's. And it has spawned lots of great ministries like Family Life Today and Josh McDowell and Athletes in Action.

But the bread and butter of this ministry has always been reaching out to students on college campuses. "Campus Crusade for Christ."

And that’s what Abe and Jordyn have been called to do. They met each other at Cru at Penn State (so it’s obviously a great matchmaking service as well!), and they were discipled by Cru at Penn State, and trained as leaders at Cru at Penn State, and now they are called to go back to that campus as missionaries to Penn State.

And here’s what I want us to today this morning.

We’re going to elongate our break from the Gospel of Matthew one more week. This time not going to the Psalms but to the end of one of Paul’s letters to the church at Colosse.

This is in “so what” section that normally comes at the end of Paul’s letter where he gets really practical. If the first half of this letter is true, then “so what?” How should we live because we have learned the truth of the gospel?

This part comes right after the section that we love to quote about how we should do our work “as working for the Lord, not for men.” And that’s true for all of us whether or not we are campus missionaries or pastors or anything else, right? We are all supposed to do our work as working for the Lord.

Well, this next part is also for ALL of us. Not just for those who are campus missionaries or pastors or evangelists.

Paul is talking to the whole church when he writes chapter 4, verses 2-6.

I’ve got two points of application for us today from this commissioning message.

And they are for all of us, not just for Abe & Jordyn.

Application point number one:

#1. PRAY FOR OPEN DOORS.

V.2 says, “Devote yourselves to prayer...”

Devote yourselves to prayer.

I think there are at least 4 ways that we are to pray here in these 3 verses.

#1 is to PRAY SPECIFICALLY.

Paul asks that they pray for 2 SPECIFIC THINGS:

The first is in v.3: Pray, specifically, for open doors for the gospel.

And the second is in v.4, pray, specifically, for clear proclamation of the gospel.

Let’s think about those 2 specific prayer requests.  Pray specifically for open doors for the gospel. Look at v.3.

“And pray for us, too, that God may OPEN A DOOR FOR OUR MESSAGE.”

Pray specifically for Open Doors.

This means to focus in our prayer times on asking God to create opportunities for the Gospel to go out. Literally, v.3 could be translated, “pray for us that God may open a door FOR THE WORD.” That’s the gospel.

You and I are to specifically ask God to open up doors for the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Do we do that?

What percentage of our prayer-life is given over to praying for OPEN DOORS?  Either for ourselves for others?

What percentage of our prayer-life is given over to praying for OPEN DOORS? God-ordained opportunities for the Gospel to be shared with unbelievers.

5%?  10% ?  75%?

God wants you and I to pray specifically for Open Doors for the Gospel.

So, Abe and Jordyn, you need to do that. You need to be praying that doors will open at PSU for the good news of Jesus Christ.

And, church, we need to be praying that for Abe and Jordyn. “Lord, please open a door this week for Abe as he meets with students on campus.” We need to pray that. “Lord, please open doors for Jordyn as she meets with young ladies on campus.”

But we don’t need to just pray that for PSU, right?

We need to pray it for ourselves.

Pray for your family members as they go off to school or work in the morning.

“Lord, I pray for my daughter as she gets on the school bus this morning. I pray that you would OPEN A DOOR that she can share Jesus with someone in the hallway, or in the cafeteria, or during a break.”

“Lord, I pray for my husband as he heads over the mountain to work. I pray that you would OPEN A  DOOR for your Gospel so that he can boldly share the life-giving message of Jesus Christ with a co-worker, or a client, or a customer, or a supervisor, or a lunch-mate.”

You and I need to pray specifically for open doors. God says to do it, right here.

That’s one of the reasons why we have the Harvest Prayer Time once a month. We pray for those who need Jesus by name and we pray for open doors that the gospel would reach them.

Do you do this for yourself? “ Lord, I’m heading to Wal-Mart this afternoon. Would you OPEN A DOOR for your message while I’m at the store?  I’m willing to be used if you’ll open the door.”

So often, we neglect this simple kind of prayer that asks God to create opportunities for the gospel to be proclaimed. Little prayer bursts like that would make a big difference in our power in evangelism.

Do you ever wish that you had more guts when it comes to sharing your faith?

I’ve often wished that people would ask ME about the gospel, instead of me having to bring it up. But do I pray for that? That’s where the power comes from!

You and I need to pray specifically for open doors for the gospel at PSU and wherever we are.

The second SPECIFIC prayer request here is to pray for CLEAR proclamation of the gospel. Look at v.4

“And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.”

Pray, specifically, for a clear presentation of the gospel.

One that is not hindered by a lot of excess stuff.  One that is hear-able.  One that is focused, plain, un-ambiguous, crystal-clear.

Pray that gospel goes out clearly.

This is really important as we pray for people that are sharing the good news like Abe and Jordyn and the Cru folks they work with.

There is so much that could be taken wrongly when we share the gospel.  And this is a prayer request that the gospel come out plain and unmistakable in its truth and glory.

Cru is world famous for these little booklets. “Have you heard of the four spiritual laws? #1.“God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life. #2. Man is sinful and separated from God. Therefore, he cannot know and experience God’s love and plan for his life. #3. Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for man’s sin. Through Him you can know and experience God’s love and plan for your life. #4. We must individually receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; then we can know and experience God’s love and plan for our lives.”

That’s one great way of making the gospel clear.

And that’s what we need to pray SPECIFICALLY for.

Have you prayed this way recently? “Lord, I know that I am being called to share something about Christ with my neighbor. Help me to know exactly what to say so that they can understand.”

Do you ever wish that you had better answers to people’s questions? V.4 calls us to not just wish for, but to PRAY FOR IT. 

You and I are called to specifically pray for a clear presentation of the gospel.

Let’s pray this way, “Lord, I pray for Abe as he speaks to students this coming Thursday night. I pray that he would have clear thoughts and clearly express them.  Lord, I pray for my wife as she meets with her friend for coffee; that not only would you open a door for the gospel in that meeting, but that she would share the gospel clearly–and it would be right there plain as day for her friend to consider.”

Because no one gets saved without the gospel. So our gospel needs to be as clear as we can get it.

#2.  PRAY DEVOTEDLY.  Pray specifically and pray devotedly.

V.2 says, “Devote yourselves to prayer.”

Devote yourselves to prayer.

Don’t just pray occasionally for open doors.
Don’t just pray randomly for clear presentations of the gospel.
Don’t just pray haphazardly.

Pray DEVOTEDLY.

The Greek word rendered here “Devote yourselves” is a very strong one It’s a word that was used for people who joined the military and DEVOTED themselves to the service. (And the military is not something you are casual about, is it?!) It was a word that was used of a boat that was ALWAYS at the ready for someone to use.

Constantly, Steadfastly, Faithfully, Staunchly, Devotedly...Pray.

In v.2 he has in mind prayer for all kinds of things. Prayer for our spiritual lives, prayer for our finances, prayer for our relationships, prayer for our families, prayer for our church, prayer for our businesses, prayer for our government.

You and I are to get devoted to prayer.

And in this case, it also means to pray regularly, consistently, disciplinedly, and devotedly for open doors for the gospel. Praying without ceasing for the good news.  Praying systematically, faithfully, habitually, orderly...devotedly for the gospel.

Here’s the question.

Do you have a time set aside daily to pray? It isn’t just a good idea. It’s vital for our lives. And it’s crucial for our witness. That’s where the power is! If you don’t have one, come up with a plan right now to get devoted.

Abe and Jordyn need us to be devoted to praying for them.

And we need to be devoted to praying for ourselves.

Specifically, devotedly, and number three...

#3.  We need to pray WATCHFULLY.

This means vigilantly, alert, observant, carefully, attentively, watchfully.  V.2

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful...”

Being watchful.

Being aware of what God is doing...and what God might be doing. Looking forward to Christ’s return. Remember that “watchful” is almost a buzz-word for being ready for the return of Christ.

We need to pray in a watchful way.

Alert to God’s agenda.

Do you pray that God would keep your eyes open to what He is about to do?

We don’t know how much time we have until Christ returns. And so we need to be alert. We need to have our “heads-up,” so to speak. We need to be watchful.

And #4.  We need to pray THANKFULLY.

V.2 “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”

Thanksgiving is to be a constant attitude in our constant prayers.

We need to see how little we deserve and how much we have and let our gratitude spill over into thankfulness in our prayers.

And we need to thank God in advance for how He is going to answer our prayers.

Especially for OPEN DOORS!

“I pray today, Lord, that you would OPEN A DOOR for me at work to share Christ with my co-workers. Help me to make a part of your gospel clear to them today. And Lord, however you answer this prayer, thank you in advance for what you are going to do.”

I’m not saying that we should thank Him in advance for doing exactly as we have asked, because He refuses to be boxed-in by our prayers. But we know that He loves to answer our prayers and always does what is best with them. So, we can thank Him in advance.We can overflow with thanksgiving as we devote ourselves to prayer.

Application Point #1.  Pray for Open Doors.

Pray Specifically.
Pray Devotedly.
Pray Watchfully.
And Pray Thankfully.

Application Point Number Two for both the Skacels and for all of us.

#2. WALK THROUGH OPEN DOORS.

It’s not enough to just pray.

We must pray! But we can’t stop there.

We must walk through the doors that God opens for us. Look at verse 5.

“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.  Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

Abe & Jordyn, “Walk Through Open Doors at PSU.”

Church Family, “Walk Through Open Doors wherever the Lord opens them before you.”

I see three ways we’re supposed to do that here in Colossians 4.

First, we need to:

- WALK THE WALK.

V.5 again, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders.”

The key word there is ACT.  Behavior.  What your life says about Christ is almost as important as what your mouth says about Christ.

Be wise in the way you act toward people outside of Jesus Christ. 

Walk the Walk.

Be a consistent Christian.

Remember what we prayed for Simon last week from Colossians 3:12, “As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” That’s right here in the context.

That’s walking the walk. That’s living like a Christ-follower!

When a non-Christian sees someone living like that...watch out...OPEN DOORS are right ahead!

One of the greatest joys you can ever have is when someone takes you aside and says, “There’s something different about you. You aren’t like the rest of us. What is it?  I want what you have. Would you share it with me?”

That comes from living the life 24/7.  Not just on Sundays at 10:30am.  But Mondays at 2:30pm.  On Fridays at 10:45pm.  24/7.

The door is always open for Walking the Walk before unbelievers.

And then, secondly:

-  SNAP-UP EACH OPPORTUNITY AS IT COMES.

V.5 again.

“Make the most of every opportunity.”

The word here for “make the most” is a word that shoppers would like.

It’s the word for grabbing a bargain.

Like on Black Friday shopping! People standing in line in the cold for hours and hours to get a fantastic deal. And when time is right, they SNAP-IT-UP!  No waiting.  No hesitation. They know a good deal when they see it, and [WHOOOMMF!] that dress is hers. That smartphone is his.

They make the most of each opportunity.

That’s what this word here means.  Snap it up.  Grab it before someone else takes it off the shelf.  Now’s the time.

WALK THROUGH THE DOOR.

God loves to open doors. And we must walk through them.

It would probably be better to say, “Leap through open doors!”

When you see an opening for the gospel, jump in there.  Don’t hesitate!  Grab it while you can.

Abe & Jordyn, Lanse Free Church, if you want to be used by the Lord to see people come to faith in Christ, then walk the walk before them and then snap-up each opportunity that comes your way.

And you do that by saying words.

No one gets saved without words. 

Your walk is vital, but your words are essential.

And last but not least:

-  SHARE THE GOSPEL WITH WORDS OF GRACE AND SALT.  V.6

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

Grace, here, probably refers to the gentleness and winsomeness with which you share the gospel. But it also probably refers to the content of your speech. That you would talk about the GRACE of God in Jesus Christ.  That you can’t get to heaven by your works.  You can’t win your way there.  You must trust in the grace of God.  You must receive what Christ did for you on the Cross to be saved.  It’s a gift, it’s grace. You don’t deserve it.  You deserve Hell, but God offers grace.

That’s what our words should be full of. Full of grace.

And full of salt.  Salt could mean two different things.  Salt was a preservative for life.  So it would be life-full words.  Words that communicate the abundant life Christ offers.  Or salt was also (as it is today) something that adds flavor.  So, it would mean zesty-words.  Words full of wit and life and tact and winsomeness.

“Not boring” would be another way of putting it.  Don’t sound like a broken record or a life-less machine when you are talking about the GREAT NEWS in the world!

Your words about the gospel should contain some passion, some spark, some twinkle of zesty-ness to enliven the conversation.

Jesus Christ is the most amazing person that ever will live, there should be some razmataz when we take up his name in our conversations.

You and I must walk through the open doors that God provides.

Walking the walk, snapping-up the opportunities, and talking the talk, sharing the Gospel with words seasoned with grace and salt.

Abe & Jordyn, I believe that the Lord will be opening many many doors for you at PSU. This is YOUR TIME to reach students for Jesus Christ.

We’re all going to pray for that. We’re going to pray specifically, devotedly, watchfully, and thankfully.

And not just for you but for us, too.

And we’re going commission you today to walk through those open doors as the Lord opens them.

Walking the walking–snapping-up each opportunity as they come, and sharing the gospel with words full of grace and salt with the students at Penn State University and beyond.


Sunday, May 12, 2019

[Matt's Messages] "Unshaken Moms"

“Unshaken Moms”
May 12, 2019 :: Psalm 62

We’re going to elongate our little break from the action in the Gospel of Matthew and take another quick dip into the Psalter together.

Last week, we looked at Psalm 103. This week, we want to look at Psalm 62. Another of the Psalms of David.

When Anita, and Amy Jo and I got together this week to plan our Mother’s Day worship service, I asked them what song they would want to sing, as mothers, on Mother’s Day.

And Amy Jo said, “I’d like to sing ‘Great Is Thy Faithfulness.’ That’s what I need to hear on a Sunday singing about being a Mom. That our God is faithful.”

And I thought, I’m sure that all of the moms need to hear that and sing that, too.

And that got me thinking, maybe I should find a good psalm with that message to preach it, too. A song about God’s faithfulness.

We looked at one last week with Psalm 103. What if we stuck with that theme?

So I decided that the next day, I would go looking for one.

And the next day, I got up in the morning, made my Trader Joe’s coffee, poured it into my favorite ugly mug, and sat down on the couch before anybody else woke up to do my daily devotions in the Psalms, and what do you think was the very next Psalm for me to read?

Psalm 62.

And I read it, and then I read it again. And then I said, “This is the Psalm for Mother’s Day.”

It’s not your normal Mother’s Day text. It’s not Proverbs 31 or something like that.

And it’s from a guy’s perspective. It’s written by King David.

But you know what? Being a Mom is, I think, a lot like being a king.

Because you know what I think the hardest part of being a king is?

It’s being responsible.

It’s probably great to have sovereignty and authority and power.

But a great king is greatly responsible.

And that’s what Moms are, right?

Moms, do you feel the weight of responsibility?

And kings are often under attack. David was, at least.

Do Moms feels attacked?

The Psalms exist to give a prayer language to people under great stress.

Any moms under great stress?

Well, Psalm 62 is about a person who is under great stress but is trusting God and finding in God the peace that they need.

In fact, the psalmist says that they will quote, “never be shaken.”

Let me read the first two verses to you.

“For the director of music. For Jeduthun. A psalm of David. My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”

Here’s my title for today, “Unshaken Moms.”

Mothers who are unshaken and virtually unshakeable no matter what gets thrown at them.

Sound good?

Of course, this is true for more than just moms.

This is a song for all of us to sing, to ourselves, to others, and to God.

But I want to provide some particular application to Moms because this is Mother’s Day, and because I want our church family to be full of unshakeable Moms.

Let’s read the first two verses again.

What I love about them is that they are so confident.

David comes out of the gate singing a loud anthem of confident trust in the Lord.

“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”

I like that song!

It’s positive and encouraging. It could be on K-Love!

And it sounds so good. I want that for myself.

The words “my soul finds rest” in some versions is translated, “my soul waits in silence” (ESV) or “I wait quietly” (NLT).

The Hebrew is literally, “my soul silence.” Or “My soul is silence.”

The idea is that David’s soul, his innermost being, is silent.

Now, obviously, he’s making noise here.

He’s composing and singing a song for his worship leader Jeduthun to put into the rotation at worship at the tabernacle.

But his soul is not noisy. It’s not chaotic. It’s not frantic. It’s not frenetic and disorderly and loud.

It’s...silent.

It’s at rest.

It’s sitting there patiently waiting for God’s salvation.

“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him.”

That salvation was from David’s enemies.

He was under attack. He was under stress. He was under duress. He was being assaulted.

But He was at peace.

I want that. And I want that for you. And I want that especially for our Moms.

The way to get there is to trust in God alone. V.2

“He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”

You never know how much you appreciate a rock until you need it.

You never know how much you appreciate something solid and trustworthy and true and unshakeable until your life gets shaken.

God is a rock.

That doesn’t mean He’s dumb. He’s smarter than anything.

But it does mean that He’s immovable. He does not budge. He does not move. He does not drift away. He is solid and trustworthy.

God is not going anywhere.

Let me say that again. You can trust God because God is not going anywhere.

“He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress...”

David knew all about fortresses. They were places of safety, right?

If you run to the fortress. If you can just get to the fortress, you’ll be safe.

God is a fortress.

You’re safe if you’re in Him.

Do you see that? Do you feel that?

David says, “He is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”

Some versions say “greatly” shaken. You won’t be able to knock this guy over.

I don’t know about you. But I want that for myself.

I want to be able to say that and sing that and mean that.

But I don’t always feel that.

Well, here’s a little secret:

David doesn’t always feel it either.

Verses 1 and 2 are the goal and the end result, but they are not the whole story.

Look at verse 3.

David turns from confidence to complaint. V.3

“How long will you assault a man? Would all of you throw him down–this leaning wall, this tottering fence?”

He’s not talking to God here. He’s talking in his song to his enemies.

He’s using some of the language of lament. That pregnant phrase, “How long?”

Which indicates that he’s had enough. He’s really feeling it, and he wants it to be over like now.

How long are you guys going to keep this up? How long do I have put up with this treat?

And notice how vulnerable he feels!

“Would all of you throw him down–this leaning wall, this tottering fence?”

David feels shakeable!

David feels vulnerable.

David feels weak and under attack.

He’s a leaning wall. And these guys are pounding on it.

He’s a fence that is tottering. And these guys are kicking it.

Does anybody feel like David right now?

I’ll bet there are some Moms right here who feel that right now.

Like you’re a fence ready to fall.

And there’s somebody, Satan if not other humans, who is pushing on the fence.

What I want you to see and hear and feel is that David is both Psalm 62:1-2 and Psalm 62:3-4. Both of those are true of David in that moment.

David can proclaim that he will never be greatly shaken, and he can feel vulnerable and shakeable at the same time.

Because he’s under attack.

And he knows it. He knows the score. Verse 4

“They [his enemies] fully intend to topple him from his lofty place; they take delight in lies. With their mouths they bless, but in their hearts they curse. Selah”

That probably means to pause and take a break to let that sink in. Selah.

He knows his enemies two-faced schemes.

They want to take him out.

Topple him from being the king.

Remember Psalm 41? How they came to his sickbed and acted like they cared, but then they gleefully spread the word that he was going to die.

Moms, you have enemies, too.

The world, the flesh, and the devil.

And they are liars, as well, that want to see you go down.

It’s right to be fed up with it.

It’s right to call it out.

David wrote a song about it that he wanted other people to sing.

What’s not okay is to give in.

After taking the deep breath at the end of verse 4, David sings loudly to his soul. V.5

“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.”

Three points of application this morning. Here’s number one.

#1. TELL YOUR SOUL TO TRUST IN GOD.

David’s talking to himself again!

Last week, he was telling himself to praise the Lord.

He was telling his soul to bless the Lord.

Here he’s telling his soul to get quiet in the Lord.

“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone.”

It’s the same thing as verse 1, right? Just he’s singing it to himself now.

Verse 1 said that this is what he does. His soul finds rest in God alone.

Now, he’s saying to himself, “Don’t forget to do what you do, David!”

Tell your soul to trust in God.

“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone.”

See it doesn’t always just happen. We have to talk ourselves into it sometimes.

“Remember Who God is!”

“Remember what we said in verse 2?”

“Sing that to your soul again in verse 6.”

“He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.”

And here, David drops the “greatly.”

“I won’t just be not greatly shaken. I won’t be shaken at all!”

Tell your soul to trust in God.

That’s how to be an unshaken Mom.

It’s simple. I’m not saying it’s always easy. But it is simple.

“Hey, soul. Don’t forget Who your God is!”

“They are coming at you with all they’ve got. And you know how weak you really are. Your Instagram looks great. You look like you’ve got this mothering thing all together. You are set to be mother of the year.

But you know what it’s really like inside your home and even worse inside your heart.”

A leaning wall. A tottering fence.

Sing this song to your soul.

“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.”

Verse 7. “My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge.”

#2. TELL OTHERS TO TRUST IN GOD.

In verse 8, David turns outward. He had been turned inward, talking to his own soul.

But now his song changes to a song for other people to hear and to follow. V.8

“Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. Selah”

Stop and pause and think about that!

God isn’t just David’s refuge. He is the people’s refuge. He’s everybody’s refuge that runs to Him.

“Trust in him at all times, O people;”

In all circumstances.

No matter what is going on.

Trust in Him.

Here’s what a godly Mom does all day long.

She’s constantly pointing her children towards the Lord.

And urging them to trust in Him.

I’ve seen that so many times as I watched Heather Joy in action as a Mom.

And notice that David urges prayer.

Not just faith but faith focused upward in prayer.

“Pour out your hearts to Him.”

That’s what a godly mom does. She prays.

And she encourages her kids to pray.

And she encourages other people to pray.

Moms encourage other Moms.

Everybody encourages everybody.

“Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.”

In verse 9, David contrasts what we are supposed to trust with what we aren’t supposed to trust. Basically people and money. People in verse 9 and money in verse 10.

“Lowborn men are but a breath, the highborn are but a lie; if weighed on a balance, they are nothing; together they are only a breath.”

Top to bottom and bottom to top, people can’t be trusted and don’t have that much true weight.

Not trust in an ultimate sense. Don’t look to people for your validation as a Mom.

Don’t look to people for your salvation.

Don’t expect people to fill that God-shaped hole in your heart.

They can’t and they won’t.

If you have one, don’t expect your husband to fill that hole.

Don’t expect your kids to fill that hole.

And don’t expect money to do it either. Whether you by it legally or otherwise. V.10

“Do not trust in extortion or take pride in stolen goods; though your riches increase, do not set your heart on them.”

David is singing loudly, isn’t he?

He’s singing to whoever will listen to his song that you can’t build your life on people or money.

They are not a rock.
They are not salvation.
They are not a fortress.
They are not a refuge.

Only God is.

“Do not set your heart on them.”

We need to tell people that.

And then David changes again. He goes from singing to himself, to singing to other people, to all of a sudden singing straight to God.

In verse 11, Psalm 62 becomes a prayer.

“One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving. Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done.”

That’s a poetic device there in verse 11 that we call X+1. He says something and then adds something to it.

“One thing God has spoken [X], two things have I heard [X+1, listen up to both. They add up to something awesome]: that you, O God, are strong [powerful, sovereign, a rock, a fortress], and that you, O Lord, are loving [hesed, faithful love, steadfast love, trustworthy love]. Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done.”

He is saying that God is just!

God is full of power and love and justice.

That’s just the kind of God that we need!

And unshaken God!

God is unshaken!
God is unshakeable!

He is strong.
He is steadfast.
He is just.

And that’s exactly what David prays back to God.

#3. TELL GOD YOU TRUST IN HIM.

You’ve heard who God is and you are putting your faith in Him.

That’s what makes an unshakeable Mom.

That’s what makes an unshakeable King.

That’s what makes an unshakeable Christian.

When life gets tough, the tough get to singing.

They sing to their own souls: “Find rest, O My Soul, in God alone.’

They sing to their friends and neighbors and their own children, “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.”

And they sing to their God, “You are strong. You are loving. You are just. You are faithful.”

“Great Is Your Faithfulness.”


Thursday, May 09, 2019

"Anger: Calming Your Heart" by Robert D. Jones [Book Review]

Anger: Calming Your Heart (31-Day Devotionals for Life)Anger: Calming Your Heart by Robert D. Jones

Robert D. Jones has written yet another incisive book that I wish I didn’t need so much.

Anger: Calming Your Heart is the newest installment in the 31-Day Devotionals for Life series which is shaping up to be one of the most helpful set of resources out there today providing biblical counsel for life change. This one in particular is really good.

They picked the right guy to help readers deal with their anger. Bob is an expert. I was an early admirer of his first book on anger (Uprooting Anger, 2006), and this one contains that same wisdom now distilled into short readings that get right to the heart of the matter and then move quickly into practical application to help you change. Don’t be fooled by the brevity. There is a lot of gold buried in them thar hills.

The greatest strength of Anger: Calming Your Heart is the biblical precision with which Bob treats his subject. Bob cuts through the cultural fog that surrounds this topic with clear definitions and biblical nuance. He knows what anger truly is, where it goes wrong, and what we are supposed to do about it.

My favorite aspect of the book is that Bob presents multiple godly alternatives to sinful anger. He doesn’t just urge repentance but also shows us the many righteous routes we can take instead. There is a whole week of readings that start “Don’t Get Mad; Get ___________!” I really needed those.

I also dog-eared several entries on righteous anger which was exemplified by Jesus Christ. Bob calls Him, “The Perfectly Angry Man.” By comparing my anger to Jesus’ anger, I was better able to assess how often my heart and ways are so often skewed in the wrong directions and proportions. My anger does not measure up. Thankfully, Bob shares that the same Person Who is my perfect example is also my sacrificial Savior who provides the pardon for my sinful anger.

At times, this book doesn’t always feel “devotional.” My friend Bob is a teacher at heart, and while each chapter is eminently practical, it is not always as warm and welcoming as I would have preferred. Of course, I don’t always need “warm and welcoming” as much as I need “incisive and transformative.” Bob certainly does not see himself as above the reader and often turns the illustrative spotlight back onto himself revealing his own failures and room for growth. Bob knows that we must deal with our anger, so he does not coddle.

Bob has been a mentor in ministry for me now for two decades, and this book reminds me why. It is brimming with concise, precise, and incisive wisdom for a problem we all have. I will be giving it out to others liberally and returning to it again and again.


View all my Goodreads reviews.

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

From Opponent to Proponent: How my mind changed about requiring premillennialism in the EFCA

Next month, our association of churches will be making a decision together about changing one word in our statement of faith.

I have written a short paper about how my thinking has changed on this idea over the years. I've gone from having strong concerns to being an advocate for the change.

I'm hoping that my story is helpful for those who are processing the discussion in their own minds.

If that sounds interesting to you, you can download it from my Dropbox: From Opponent to Proponent: How my mind changed about requiring premillennialism in the EFCA.

[Note: Dropbox may ask you if you want to open an account before showing you the file. You don't have to do that. Just click "No, go directly to view."]

Sunday, May 05, 2019

[Matt's Messages] "Praise the LORD, O My Soul!"

“Praise the LORD, O My Soul”
May 5, 2019 :: Psalm 103

We’re going to take another break from the Gospel of Matthew. I didn’t plan this break, but apparently the Lord did.

When Emilee died on Thursday, and Heather and I went to be with Ken and Rob & Michele at the hospital, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to just preach the next text in Matthew this Sunday. I was pretty sure that I needed to go back to the Psalms.

And I figured that if I needed the Psalms, probably many of you would need the psalms, too.

As I said a few weeks ago, I’ve been reading and praying through the Psalms deeply in 2019. They have been the focus of my morning devotions each day.

And I just finished reading that excellent book on lament, that biblical practice of taking your pain and sorrow directly to the Lord.

A few weeks ago, we looked together at Psalm 41 which has some strong lament in the middle of it.

I highly recommend Psalms of lament when your life hurts.

Psalm 103 is not a song of lament though it recognizes the reality of pain and suffering in our lives.

Psalm 103 is more a song of comfort and gratitude.

We often read it in November around Thanksgiving.

And we sing from it year round to give praise to the Lord for His many blessings.

In recent years the song “10,000 Reasons” has become popular, and it is based on this Psalm. Psalm 103. We’re going to sing it next Sunday.

The thing I appreciate the most about Psalm 103 is that in it King David talks to himself.

You know that it’s okay to talk to yourself?

I like that this Psalm gives me permission to talk to myself because I do.

You know if you wear a Bluetooth earpiece nowadays people just assume that you’re talking on the phone. “Yes, hello!”

So, it’s socially acceptable to talk to yourself now.

Well, it’s also spiritually acceptable to talk to yourself.

In fact, it’s spiritually recommended to talk to yourself.

It’s spiritually necessary to talk to yourself the way that David does here.

He talks to his soul.

The title of our message is the first line of the Psalm:

“Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.”

That’s what we call Hebrew parallelism.

The Hebrews liked to repeat themselves.
The Hebrews liked to repeat themselves.
I say, “the Hebrews liked to repeat themselves.”

When David says, “Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.”

He’s saying the same thing twice.

He’s talking to his soul which he calls his inmost being.

The King James says, “All that is within me.”

He’s talking to himself.

And he’s telling himself what to do.

We all need to do this from time to time.

We all need to give our own souls a talking to.

Because our own souls, our own hearts, don’t necessarily want to do what they are supposed to do.

Can I get an Amen?

David talks to his deepest insides, the real David down deep inside, his heart, his soul, and he says, “Hey, soul? Praise the LORD.”

“You may not feel like it, but do it anyway.”

“Praise the LORD. Praise His holy name.”

That’s important. That means praise God as He truly is. As everything that His holy name signifies.

David is preaching a sermon to his soul.

Why did he need to do that?

What was going on in his life?

When didn’t he need to remind himself of this?!  Remember the life of David that we read about a few years ago in 1 and 2 Samuel?

My friend Pastor Russell Muilenburg once wrote this about Psalm 103:
The Biblical record does not tell us when in his lifetime he wrote this Psalm, but there are many occasions in his story when these words may have fallen from David's lips.
When he was a young man his death was ordered by King Saul, his father-in-law and mentor.  For months on end he lived as a fugitive in the hills of Israel.  Separated from his wife and forced to act like a madman in the presence of his mortal enemies, he lived his every day on a dangerous precipice where the slightest mistake would mean his life.  He was a wanted man, a hunted animal in a land which had once hailed him as a hero.
Surely in the long nights he spent hidden away in secrecy caves there were times when the running nearly got the best of him.  Times when he was ready to throw his hands up in the air and turn his back on God.  Times when he felt like cursing God rather than worshiping Him.
Then it would have been that he would have needed a pep talk for his soul.  Then it would have been that he would have needed to preach these words to his heart.  Maybe it was then that this anthem of self-exhortation came into being:  "Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name."
Or again, after David married Bathsheba she bore him a son who lived only a short time.  For seven days David fasted and wept while his infant son was overcome by illness.  He was so distraught over the sickness that when the child died the servants did not dare tell him for fear of what he might do.
Surely this was one of the darkest times of David's life, a time when the forces of unbelief waged relentless battle with his soul.  And yet, when he did learn of the child's death, scripture tells us he picked himself up off the ground, put on clean clothes, and went into the house of the LORD to worship (2 Sam. 12:20).  Then it would have been that he would have needed a pep talk for his soul.  Then it would have been that he would have needed to preach these words to his heart.  Maybe it was then that this anthem of self-exhortation came into being:  "Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name."
Or still later, as David's reign as king neared its end, his son, Absalom, mounted a coup against him.  Once again the loyalties of a nation that had so revered him were turned away.  An exile from his own city David was forced into enmity with his own flesh and blood.  Surely in those days when he was mustering an army to fight his own son, David must have wondered where God was.  Surely there were times when he wanted to give in to the dark impulses of his soul.  Times when he was prepared to abandon his faith in God for the life of the frustrated skeptic.
Then it would have been that he would have needed a pep talk for his soul.  Then it would have been that he would have needed to preach these words to his heart.  Maybe it was then that this anthem of self-exhortation came into being:  "Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name." (“A Pep Talk for the Soul” Russell Muilenburg,  Sermon: 3/5/00)
One of things I’ve loved about reading the Psalms this year is that we often DON’T know what was going on the psalmist’s life that was causing and shaping the psalmists to write these songs.

So they are so readily applicable to whatever is going on in our lives right now.

You don’t have to be going through the exact same thing as David to sing the same song he does.

But we do need to sing this song, and we need to sing it our ourselves, to our own souls.

V.2 “Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits–”

He repeats himself again.

And this time, he takes it another step.

Praise the Lord involves remembering.

It involves remembering, not forgetting all of the blessings that the Lord has given you.

Sometimes, when something bad happens to us, we forget all of the good things that have happened to us.

And we forget WHO gave us all of those good things.

David says to David, “Don’t forget all of the LORD’s benefits.”

And then he lists some of them to himself (v.3).

“...who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.”

David says, “Remember that, David?!”

“Don’t forget!”

It’s so easy to forget.

So David says to David, “Remember He "forgives all your sins" (and David was forgiven much!). He "heals all your diseases" (David had been healed many times by the Lord). He "redeems your life from the pit" (How many times did the Lord rescue David? He "crowns you with love and compassion" (and David knew about crowns. What a beautiful picture of his care for David–a crown of love and compassion on his head!) He "satisfies your desires with good things" (The Lord was David’s shepherd.) He renews your youth "like the eagle's" (Giving David the vigor and vitality he needed to be a man after God’s own heart).

All of those blessings and more have been given to David by the LORD.

And David told David to not forget any one of them.

We need to count our blessings, too. And remember that they are the Lord’s blessings given to us.

That’s David’s list in verses 3-5. What’s on yours? What’s on mine?

“Praise the LORD, of my soul, and forget not all his benefits.”

In verse 6, David moves from focusing on himself to all of God’s people, and he begins to say even more what God is like. V.6

“The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel: The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.”

David sees God clearly.

He sees that he worships a God–who no matter what the circumstances that we find ourselves in–this is a God worthy of our praise. And he preaches that goodness and praiseworthiness of God to his own soul that his soul would give God the worship that he demands and deserves.

How can he do this? He knows who God is. He says (v.7) that God made known his ways to Moses and his deeds to the people of Israel. Because God spoke through the 10 Commandments and through the miracles and through the prophets and through the Word of God, we can know what kind of a God, God is.

Does verse 8 sound familiar to you?

It should. It’s one of those foundational touchstones of the whole Bible.

It comes from what God said about Himself when Moses asked to see His glory.

And God said, “No, that won’t work. But I’ll hide you in the cleft of a rock, and I’ll pass by and you can see the afterglow of my back.” Whatever that means.

And when the LORD went by, He said His name.

His holy name.

“The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.”

That’s who God is!

And David knows it.

And he wants his soul to know it and respond with praise.

In the remaining verses of Psalm 103, I want us to see 3 major things about the LORD that are always worth praising. Three reasons to praise the holy name of God no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in. Three aspects of His character that are foundational, bedrock truths about God that we can build our lives upon no matter what comes.

The first is that:

#1. THE LORD IS THE GRACIOUS FORGIVER OF OUR SINS.  Let’s read vv.9-12.

“He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

The Lord is the gracious forgiver of our sins.

David could give praise to God because he knew something of the mercy of God. He knew that the LORD is "compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love."

He knew that God is a holy and just God who cannot tolerate sin; his own experience with Bathsheba had taught him that. But he also knew that for those who repent and confess, God stands ready to forgive and show mercy and to lessen the discipline and treat us in a way we do not deserve.

And if this was the experience of David, an Old Testament saint, how much more so for those of us who know Jesus Christ as our Savior?

We know that God's love for sinners is very great. Verse 11 says that "as high as the heavens are above the earth" that's how great God's love is for those who fear and serve Him.

Think about that for a second. Nobody has yet given an exact measurement of the universe. From our perspective on this rock we call Earth, the celestial heavens spread out above us in a never ending canopy. That's how great God's love is for His chosen people.

It is out of that unending love that God sent his one and only Son into the world to die for us and pay the penalty for our sins. Jesus Christ died on the Cross so that we would not have to experience Hell. All who put their trust in him and give him their lives will not taste Hell, but instead will enjoy the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

O, how we do not deserve this! And O, what a joy this truth is for us sinners!

That’s what this table down here represents.

Verse 12 says, "as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our sins from us."

Let your mind dwell on that for a second.  East and West NEVER touch, especially the minds of the Israelites. East went that way and West went that way, and they didn’t touch. And for those who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, our sins have been removed from us like east from west. Opposite directions.

That means there is no record of our sins anymore. No abiding smudge or stain still attached to our souls. Our sins are separated from us by a measureless expanse that stretches beyond infinity.

Does that describe you? Have your sins been forgiven? Removed from you like east from west? Are you a faith-follower of Jesus Christ?

I have to tell you this morning, that if you don't know Jesus Christ as your own Lord and Savior, then you must repent of your sins and trust in Christ to be saved.  Or you will not be forgiven. You must cast yourself into the boundless mercy of God and receive the forgiveness of your sins. You must accept Him by faith and believe in His name and let Him do His redeeming work in your life.

And if you do know Him as your own Lord and Savior, then His forgiveness of your sins should be the first stanza in the song you sing to your soul each day. Preach this to your soul!

“The LORD is the gracious forgiver of my sin. Praise the Lord, O my soul.”

#2. THE LORD IS THE EVERLASTING LOVER OF OUR SOULS.  Let’s read vv.13-18.

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children–with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.”

The LORD is the everlasting lover of our souls.

The everlastingness of God's love for us is contrasted in these verses with the frailty and brevity of human life.

We have felt that this week with the passing of Emilee.

She was here, and then she was gone.

Our lives are temporary and short and fragile.

Verse 14 says that we are dust.

We pretend sometimes that this is not so, we tell ourselves that we are going to live in this world forever.

But David knew better. He knew that this body was created from dust, and that it will return to dust.

But God's love isn't like that. God's love isn't limited by our frailty or subject to the same limits as we are. It’s not fragile and breakable and brief.

David says that from everlasting to everlasting God's love is with those who fear Him. From beginning to end, even from the point of our conception, God's love abides with His covenant people.

In fact, in verse 13, David compares this everlasting love of God to the love earthly dads have for their children.

"As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him."

The love that Rob has for Emilee is a beautiful echo of the oceanic love that the Father has for His children.

I love my four children. I can’t believe how big they are getting. Robin is done with school. Drew is headed into his senior year.

But our love for our children is just a fraction of the everlasting love that God has for us!

Right? Like we saw last week? How does God feel about us who are His “little ones?”

And think about this, our own frailty and brief life on this earth are not the end of the story.

There is coming a day when all those who believe in Jesus will be raised from the dead and these "dust"-formed bodies will be trans-formed bodies–to be like Christ.

Think about that!

In the everlasting love of God there is a day coming of glorious reunions with those who gone on before.

And we know there will be no tears there that day–and if there are, they will be tears of the purest joy.

God's love for His people is everlasting. And David knew that. He relished the fact that God loved him. Even though he didn't deserve or earn God's love–no one can (and that makes it all the more sweeter)–he was loved by God, and he knew it and it was a reason for praise!

If you are feeling crushed and destroyed, if sadness seems to be the cloak that life has wrapped around you, make this truth the second point of the sermon that you preach to your soul: God's love for you has no end.

“The LORD is the everlasting lover of my soul. Praise the Lord, O my Soul!”

Number three and last. We need to preach to our souls that:

#3. THE LORD IS THE SOVEREIGN RULER OF OUR LIVES. V.19.

“The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.”

The LORD is the is the sovereign ruler of our lives. David says that his kingdom is over ALL. A-L-L. All!

The Lord is king. He rules over everything from his throne in heaven. Everything in our lives is ruled by God. And David knew that.

Nothing makes it into our lives by accident. Nothing is outside of God's kingly control. Not the Sun, not the Moon, not the Stars. Not creatures, not humans, not chest pains or cancer, not blood clots, not miscarriages or stillbirths or broken relationships or famine or earthquakes, or the loss of a job, or anything else!

Nothing is outside of God's kingly control.

And when you put together the truth of God's everlasting love for his people and the truth of his kingly control of all things, then you can praise God that nothing that comes into your life will be for your ultimate harm. God works all things for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose. All things.

We don’t know He does it.

And we don’t have to like everything that He allows.

He doesn’t like everything that He allows!

He hates death, for example.

But that doesn’t mean that it’s out of His control.

He is the King.

The LORD holds the strings of our lives in His hands. There is nothing outside of His kingly sovereignty. And He is compassionate and gracious; He loves us with an everlasting fatherly love, and His kingdom rules over all. All.

David knew that. And we know that.

And we need to preach it to our souls.

God is in control.

When you are feeling lost and the events of your life seem to be spinning at a frantic, riotous pace, remember: God is in control.

Incorporate it into the fabric of your life. Sing it over and over again to your soul.  Urge your heart to know and believe and cling to this truth:

“The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.”

“LORD is the Sovereign Ruler of our lives. Praise the LORD, O my Soul!”

Lament, yes.

Don’t just praise God. Take Him your pain and your complaint and your trouble and your anguish.

But, also, give Him your praise.

Think about how these three things all fit together.

God isn’t just one or two of them. And He doesn’t just do one at a time. He is all three all the time.

Do you feel burdened by the indescribable weight of your sin?  Preach to your soul. “Praise the Lord, O My Soul.  Praise Him for His gracious forgiveness.”

Do you feel lost and alone in this incredibly hostile world? Preach to your soul.  “Praise the Lord, O My Soul.  Praise Him for His everlasting love.”

Do you feel the ravages of doubt and fear in a life that so often fails to make sense?  Preach to your soul.“Praise the Lord, O My Soul.  Praise Him for His sovereign rule over my life.”

David wants us all to join him in his call to all of creation to bring praise to God: v.20.

“Praise the LORD, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will. Praise the LORD, all his works everywhere in his dominion. Praise the LORD, O my soul.”

Sunday, April 28, 2019

[Matt's Messages] "These Little Ones"

“These Little Ones”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
April 28, 2019 :: Matthew 18:1-14

Our sermon series is called “Following Jesus,” because that’s what Matthew is all about. The Gospel of Matthew is about answering the question, “Who Is Jesus?” and when you find out the real answer to that question, your next question is, “What does it mean to follow Him?”

The Gospel of Matthew is a theological biography of Jesus Christ, the most compelling Person Who ever lived.

We’ve reached chapter 18 which marks the beginning of the fourth of five major blocks of teaching in the Gospel of Matthew. The first was the Sermon on the Mount, the second was the Teaching on Missions. The third was the Parables of the Kingdom. And now, we’ve reach the fourth which seems to be mostly about living as Jesus’ disciples in community with one another. Following Jesus as a part of His new called-out fellowship. It’s about relationships and obedience.

And today it’s about what Jesus calls, “These Little Ones.”

He keeps using that phrase again and again in the first 14 verses of this chapter.

“These Little Ones”

And let me tell you right off, Jesus feels strongly about these people whom He calls “these little ones.”

Though you might be surprised to find out who they are.

There are a lot of surprises into today’s passage!

The first surprise was for the disciples who wanted to know which of them was the G.O.A.T.

You know what that stands for, right?

Sports fans are always arguing about this, right?

Greatest. Of. All. Time.

Michael Jordan or LeBron James? (Or Maybe Wilt Chamberlin?)
Jack Nicklaus or comeback kid Tiger Woods?
Tom Brady or ___________?

[I knew that I’d get a reaction out of you with that one! I vote for Bernie Kosar.]

We don’t just fight over the G.O.A.T. in sports.

We do that with movies, too. Some are saying that Avengers: Endgame is the G.O.A.T. for superhero movies. I enjoyed it a lot, but I don’t know about greatest of all time....?

We argue about whether lots of things are great or are the greatest of all time.

Well, the disciples were wondering who was the G.O.A.T. of the kingdom of heaven.

And the Gospel of Mark tells us that they had been arguing with each other about which one of them it was!

“Jesus, which of us is the G.O.A.T?”

“I mean, it’s one of us, right?  We’re your twelve disciples.”

“There’s going to be twelve thrones, right? You’re on the top throne, of course, but who will be at your right hand?”

We just learned about a similar discussion this morning in Sunday School!

Look at verse 1.

“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’”

They weren’t asking about anything little were they?

How is Jesus going to answer?

“Jesus, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’”

I don’t know what they expected to hear.

I know how our world defines greatness:

How many followers do you have?
What have you accomplished?
What many wins have you racked up?
How much money have you earned?
How many possessions do you have?
What is your status and reputation?
How famous are you?
How much power do you wield?

Those are the kind of markers that we look for in the great.

And it was similar back then.

The disciples probably had a similar idea of what greatness was.

But Jesus’ idea was very different.

They were asking about the kingdom–Jesus’ favorite thing to teach about.

But they had forgotten that Jesus’ kingdom is an upside-down kingdom, right?

Verse 2.

“He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Jesus said, “You want a picture of greatness?”

Greatness looks like this.

Now, this is actually a shocking thing for Jesus to say.

We don’t understand how shocking it is, because we live in a society that values children, in many ways because Jesus did.

And in fact sometimes we overvalue children. Some people’s lives center around keeping children happy. Kid-centric.

But that’s not what it was like in Jesus’ day.

Parents loved their children. That’s always been true.

But society didn’t love or respect children.

Children had no power.
Children had virtually no rights.

A picture of status?
Is this a picture of someone with millions of followers?
Great accomplishments?
Lots of money and possessions?

Is this a picture of power?

No, but it is a picture of greatness. What greatness is.

V.3 again.

“He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

#1. BECOME LIKE THESE LITTLE ONES. 

If you don’t, you won't even get into the kingdom of heaven, much less be the greatest one there!

Now, don’t get Jesus wrong here.

There are ways in which we are supposed to be like this child and ways we are not supposed to be like this child.

He’s not saying that we are supposed to be childish.

We’re not supposed to be immature or naive.

And he’s not saying that we’re supposed to be innocent or sinless. Children are not innocent or sinless or perfectly pure.

Here’s what children were: They were dependent. They were lowly. They were powerless. They were defenseless. They were vulnerable. They were needy. They were humble.

What was the name of this child?

We don’t know.

He’s was just a kid.

And Jesus said (v.4), “Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child [this nameless little forgettable powerless vulnerable, needy, lowly child] is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

Jesus says that we must humble ourselves.

That’s hard to do.

It’s especially hard to do if you are busy arguing about how great you are.

It’s not natural.

That’s why Jesus says in verse 3 that we have to “change and become like little children.”

It requires change, and that requires God’s help.

Our job is to humble ourselves.

Have you done that?

Have you become like one of these little dependent children?

Some people think that believing in Jesus is a crutch.

But believing in Jesus is more than a crutch. It’s a stretcher.

It’s being carried by Jesus, trusting in Him, putting all of your weight on Him.

Is there a prettier picture than a sleeping child over the shoulder of a mom or dad?

Jesus says that we have to become like that.

You want to be great? Be like that kid!

We have to humble ourselves.

Just to get into the kingdom. Becoming a Christian is a humbling experience.

You have to say that you can’t do it on your own. And you need what Jesus did for you on the Cross or you are toast. And you know you deserve it.

That kind of honest and humility does not come easily for people like you and me.

But we have to become like these little ones.

We have to trust and become vulnerable and ask for help.

And we have to keep growing in humility.

Are you and I growing in humility?

Is there anyone in your life that would say that you are currently growing in humility?

More childlike in your faith?
More childlike in your self-assessment?
More childlike in your dependence?

If not, then you’ll never be the greatest.

Because the kingdom is upside.

Remember who the G.O.A.T. is for humility!

It’s the King Himself, right?

“[Jesus], being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man [AS A CHILD!], he humbled himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross!”

That’s the G.O.A.T right there!

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Humility is the path to greatness.

#2. WELCOME THESE LITTLE ONES.

In verse 5, Jesus takes the discussion into a different lane. He says (v.5):

“And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.”

Now, I’m not sure if the “little child like this” is the little guy that Jesus has standing in their midst, the little object lesson guy, or if Jesus means any follower of His who has humbled themselves and become like that child.

I asked my family about it last night, and Andrew said, “Why can’t it be both?”

Maybe it can.

If you welcome a little child, a little vulnerable, dependent, powerless child in the name of Jesus, you welcome Jesus.

That’s something, isn’t it?!

Wow.

That should say something to our children’s ministry workers.

The folks back there in the nursery.
The folks back there in children’s church.
The people who work with the ABCs and the KFC’s and the MOPS kids.

When you get down on one need and warmly welcome a child in the name of Jesus, you are welcoming Jesus.

Wow.

Of course, it’s bigger, not smaller, if Jesus means every single follower of His who has humbled themselves like a little child.

If you receive a humble disciple in the name of Jesus, you are welcoming Jesus.

Because Jesus cares about His little ones.

But here’s the flipside. If you harm one of these little ones, you are in big trouble.

#3. DON’T HARM THESE LITTLE ONES. V.6

“But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”

Those are very strong words.

They are a warning from Jesus to all who need to hear it.

Do not harm these little ones.

It’s hard not to think here about the horror of child abuse.

If Jesus loves the little children, and you or I hurt the little children, we can expect to be hurt ourselves.

But notice in verse 6 exactly who “these little ones” are.

Jesus calls them, “these little ones who believe in me.” I think He’s talking about all of us who have humbled ourselves to become His followers.

Weak, dependent, like children, spiritual children, disciples.

Don’t harm them. Don’t harm us.

And the harm he’s talking about here is specifically leading others into sin. Being a stumbling block for them. Tempting them.

Tempting them to sin.
Tempting them to apostasy.
Tempting them to stop following Christ.

If you or I or anybody tries to lead vulnerable little disciples away from following Jesus, Jesus will get very mad about it.

He issues to warning “woes.” v.7

“Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come!”

Judgment is on the way.

It may not seem like it, but it is inevitable.

Woe to the world for the evil at work in the world.

But woe to the people who are working the evil.

Woe to those “anyone [who] causes one of these little ones who believe in [Jesus] to sin.”

If you are tempted to go down that route, then you must take drastic action to stop yourself. V.8

“If your hand or your foot causes you to sin cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.”

Jesus has already spoken like this in the Gospel of Matthew. Remember where? Back in the Sermon on the Mount.

There he was talking specifically about lust. Here it could be just about any sin, including the sin of pride which He’s been talking about since the beginning of the chapter.

Some scholars think this is talking about church discipline and excommunication. The body here would be like Paul’s metaphor of the body. And that’s possible. Jesus is going to teach on church discipline in just a few verses. He could be saying that we need to take drastic action to make sure that those who would harm the little ones are cut off and excluded.

But I think it’s more likely that He’s saying that we all personally need to take drastic action [whatever it takes!] to make sure we don’t become the kind of people who harm the little ones. Who turn disciples into nondisciples. Who lead other disciples into sin and apostasy.

No way. No how. Not going to there. Whatever it takes.

Of course, Jesus is using hyperbole and exaggeration. Because literally cutting off your foot, hand, or eye won’t cut out your sin. That’s got to be a metaphor for intense repentance and doing whatever it takes to resist temptation.

But that doesn’t make it any less serious.

The warning is death by drowning would be better.
The warning is it’d be better to maim yourself than to burn in Hell.

Don’t harm these little ones!

And don’t hate these little ones, either.

#4. DON’T HATE THESE LITTLE ONES. V.10

“See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.”

The word translated “look down” means to despise or hold in contempt.

Jesus is still warning anyone who needs to hear it, that He cares deeply and indisputably about these little ones.

He loves them.

He loves us, His little children.

And if He loves the little ones, then we shouldn’t hate them.

He says that these little ones have personal angels. “Their angels.” I don’t know if that means “guardian angels” here and whether it’s one for one. One for each believer.

It says that these angels are in heaven. Not on earth.

But, He says that their angels “always see the face of my Father in heaven.” Jesus’ Father in heaven.

These angels have access to the Father!

And so you don’t want sin against these little ones, or their angels will tell the Father!

That’s how great these little ones are. They have personal angels who speak to God on their behalf when they are sinned against.

And I think those little ones are you and me if we have humbled ourselves and become like a little child.

Do you feel like a nobody?

That’s okay. It’s probably good.

But just know that nobodies are greatly loved by the great Somebody.

Don’t hate these little ones. They are loved by God!

So if one of them wanders off, what then?

Does God just say, “O well, I’ve got a bunch of others.”

In verse 12, Jesus offers a thought experiment.

“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? [You might guess, “No,” but the answer is actually “Yes.” It’s a rhetorical question about love.]  And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep [restored!] than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven [not just His Father here, but our Father] is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.”

Again, I think the little ones are, ultimately, the trust disciples.

You and me if we have humbled ourselves and become like a little child.

What if we begin to wander?

“Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.”

What then?

This is like Jesus’ story about the Lost Sheep in Luke 15, but there it’s talking about lost people, pre-Christians, nonChristians.

This is talking about these little ones, true disciples who begin to lose their way.

What about them?

How does the Father feel about them?

Here this. “Your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.”

He goes after all of His true children and He makes sure they get home.

That is so precious!

We call that the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints.

“He will me fast.”

Of course, He uses us to help do that.

If the Good Shepherd goes after the wayward sheep, we should do the same.

Galatians 6:1, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.”

James 5:19, “My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins” (vv.19-20).

God loves these little ones, and goes after them, so so should we.

We’re on God’s search and rescue team.

Don’t hate these little ones, even if they wander.

Go after them! Love them like you would want to be loved.

This is so different from how world is, isn’t it?

We are called to a upside-down kingdom.

Where nobodies are greatly loved by the Great Somebody.

So we must become like these little ones.
And welcome these little ones.
And not harm these little ones.
And not hate these little ones.

But love these little ones, because Jesus loves us.


***

Previous Messages in This Series:
01. The Genealogy of Jesus
02. The Birth of Jesus Christ
03. The Search for Jesus Christ
04. The Baptism of Jesus
05. The Temptation of Jesus
06. Following Jesus
07. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount
08. The Good Life (Part One)
09. The Good Life (Part Two)
10. You Are The...
11. Jesus and the First 2/3 of the Bible
12. But I Tell You
13. But I Tell You (2)
14. But I Tell You (3)
15. In Secret
16. Choose Wisely
17. Seek First His Kingdom
18. Generous
19. These Words of Mine
20. When He Saw the Crowds
21. When He Came Down from the Mountainside
22. Follow Me
23. Our Greatest Problem
24. Who Does He Think He Is?
25. Special Agents
26. Sheep Among Wolves
27. What To Expect On Your Mission
28. Are You the One?
29. Come to Me
30. The King of Rest
31. So Thankful!
32. Overflow
33. This Wicked Generation
34. Get It?
35. What Is Really Going On Here?
36. Baptizing the Disciples
37. The Treasure of the Kingdom
38. Living the Last Beatitude
39. Five Loaves, Two Fish, and Jesus
40. It Is I.
41. Worthless Worship
42. Great Faith in a Great God
43. The Pharisees and Sadducees
44. The Question and the Promise
45. Take Up His Cross
46. Like the Sun
47. Seed-Sized Faith

Sunday, April 21, 2019

[Matt's Messages] "He Saved Us"

“He Saved Us”
Resurrection Sunday
Titus 3:3-7 :: April 21, 2019

You’ve probably noticed that we’re going to do things a little differently today.

We are going to have a baptism this morning, John Walter is getting baptized.

But there is no water in the baptistry. John will not be dunked today.

Instead, we’re going to have a pouring. Instead of baptism by immersion, we’re going to be doing baptism by affusion. Affusion, or pouring.

Normally, when we do a baptism at Lanse Free Church, we fully immerse the one being baptized (the baptee?) into the water because the Greek word baptizo literally means “to dip under,” and all of the baptisms in the Bible were by immersion, including Jesus’ baptism.

Baptism by immersion best symbolizes our inclusion in Jesus’ death and RESURRECTION, what we’ve been celebrating all morning. As Romans 6 says, “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”

But.

But what if you can’t be immersed? You’re physically unable.

What do we do then?

Well, I’ve been reading a little bit in church history about the history of baptism in the first few centuries after the Bible was completed.

Scholar Tim Dowley writes in his Introduction to the History of Christianity that in the early church, “Baptism was normally by immersion either in the river or in the bath-house of a large house [they didn’t have church buildings with heated baptistries]. The person was normally immersed three times [that’s interesting isn’t it?] in response to three questions about belief in the three persons of the Trinity. From the early second century, baptism by pouring of water was allowed in cases of emergency or sickness” (pg. 30).

These baptisms by affusion were called klinai baptisms from the Greek word for “bed.” And we get our word “clinical” from klinai, meaning a hospital bed.

When you couldn’t get into the river because of some physical ailment, the early church decided to do baptism by pouring.

There’s a book written in the second century called the Didache which isn’t part of the Bible but was an early guide for pastors and disciplers in discipleship and church leadership.

Listen to a little of what chapter 7 of the Didache says about baptism:

“7:1 But concerning baptism, thus baptize ye: having first recited all these precepts, baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in running water [meaning in a river];

7:2 but if thou hast not running water, baptize in some other water, and if thou canst not baptize in cold, in warm water; [How about that, John? It says we should use cold water. That’s what Keith wanted to do. He wanted to put some icecubes in one of these pitchers! But they are actually very warm and toasting. Verse 3]

7:3 but if thou hast neither, pour water three times on the head, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

So that’s the early tradition that we’re going to follow this morning.

But before we do that, here’s a question for you.

Is pouring also a biblical picture of the gospel of our resurrected Lord?

I believe it is, and I want to show you a key passage in the Bible.

Titus chapter 3, verses 3 through 7.

Believe it or not, verses 4 through 7 are one long sentence in the original Greek!

Paul loves long sentences, and is this is a glorious one.

Paul is writing to Titus to help him to apply the gospel to the disciples on the island of Crete.

And here towards the end of the letter, Paul reminds Titus of what the gospel is.

And we always need those reminders, don’t we?

It’s so easy to forget.

That’s why we meet on Sundays. Not just on Resurrection Sunday but every Sunday to rehearse the gospel, to remind ourselves of the gospel and of its implications for all of life. So Paul reminds Titus.

Isn’t this a beautiful statement of the gospel?

A beautiful summary of the good news of Jesus Christ.

And those words in the middle?

“He Saved Us!”

What could be better news than that?

Of course, the good news must begin with the bad news.

We sure need saving.

Listen to verse 3, and see how Paul puts himself in there (and so should we).

“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.”

That’s bad news.

I don’t like to think of myself that way.

But it’s true.

Left to my own self, verse 3 is a description of what I was deep down inside.

And it’s true of everybody no matter how “nice” they are on the outside.

By the way, John is a very nice person.

I’ve always liked him ever since I’ve known him.

I don’t know anybody who doesn’t like him, and I can’t imagine why they would.

But being a nice guy will not save you.

And we all need saved.

Verse 3 is not pretty, but it’s true.

Just open the newspaper, turn on Facebook, watch the evening news, and look into the mirror, and you will find verse 3.

Foolish, disobedient, enslaved by passions and pleasures, malice and envy, hate and hating. That’s our world, and deep down that is us.

We need saving.

But here’s the good news: God sent a Savior!

Look at that b-u-t in verse 4.

“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us,”

What is Paul talking about?

He’s talking about when Jesus came to Earth.

“When the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared...”

That’s when Jesus showed up. That’s Christmas!

That’s the Incarnation, the arrival of the Son of God, God the Son, “God our Savior.”

The Father sent the Son on a rescue mission.

And it was successful!

“He saved us,” that is, His people. His church. His chosen ones. His disciples.

“...when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us.”

That’s the best news there ever was.

And that’s what John has experienced.

John has experienced salvation.

Jesus has saved John.

That’s why he’s getting baptized.

Not that baptism will save him. That’s already happened.

But John is getting baptized to say to the world that he has been saved.

And we as a church are baptizing him to say to the world that we, too, believe that he has been saved.

John was sprinkled as an infant. And like Keith and Dottie from New Year’s baptisms, by being baptized today, John intends no disrespect to his parents or their religious leaders for their loving him and wanting him to be baptized when he was little.

But he’s come to believe that baptism is for disciples who believe the gospel to go public with their faith and for the church to confirm and nourish the disciple’s faith.

So he’s going public in baptism today to say that Jesus has saved him.

Have you done the same?

Have you been saved?

And following that, have you been baptized?

Look at what Paul says next.

He saved us...now catch this. This is important.

#1. NOT BECAUSE OF US.

V.5 “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done...”

Not!

Listen to this. This is very important.

This is not what most people think.

Most people in the world think that you get saved by doing good works.

You get saved by doing more good than bad.

You get saved by earning God’s favor.

You get saved by doing righteous things.

And that’s just not true.

That’s not the way salvation works.

Put every good work you want to into that sentence.

He saved us, not because we went to church.
He saved us, not because we gave money.
He saved us, not because we got baptized!
He saved us, not because we cared for the poor.
He saved us, not because of righteous things that we have done.

John has done a lot of righteous things.

In fact, John has been pretty religious at various times in his life.

I’ll let him tell his own story.

But I can say this, John is not saved because of righteous things that he has done.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t do righteous things.

Paul is big on doing righteous things. The whole book of Titus is about how to do righteous things and how we should do righteous things.

But we are not saved because of righteous things we have done.

He saved us not because of us...

#2. BUT IN SPITE OF US.

Look at verse 5.

“He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.”

We did not deserve it, but He did it anyway.

We deserved condemnation, but He gives us salvation.

Not because of something in us but because of something in Him.

Verse 4 called it “kindness and love.”
Verse 5 calls it “mercy.”
Verse 7 calls it, “grace.”

That’s why Jesus saves us!

Isn’t that awesome?

That’s such good news. Because we could never earn our own way.

We could never be justified by works. We could never do enough righteous things.

The first year that John was here a part of our church, we were studying the book of Galatians together. In that book, Paul taught that justification was by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone to the glory of God alone.

And I think John’s eyes were opened to the gospel of grace.

Or as Ephesians 2 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Jesus saves us in spite of ourselves.

Do you believe that?

You’ve got to believe that to be saved.

Number three.

He saved us.

#3. BY WASHING US.

Did you see that at the end of verse 5?

“He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously...”

Here’s where we get our pouring, right?

Is this passage about baptism?

No. Not directly. It doesn’t say anything about water baptism.

But I do think that water baptism is a picture of Titus 3:5.

The washing here is a spiritual washing.

It’s the washing away of our sins by the work of the Holy Spirit when we come to faith.

Notice that it’s “the washing of rebirth and renewal.”

The new birth and a new life.

A new way of living.

A changed life from the inside out.

And this is the work of the Holy Spirit.

When you and I come to faith in Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes into our lives and gives us new birth and new life.

It’s a spiritual resurrection inside of us.

And it washes us clean.

When I’m teaching my baptism class, we always read this verse, and then I ask the students, like John.

“Why do we baptize with water and not mud? Or Pepsi or Kool-Aid?”

And they always say, “Because it’s a symbol of washing. It’s a symbol of cleansing. It’s a symbol of purification.”

So, John, Keith wanted us to use Gatorade, like what they pour on the coach after a football game, but I said, “No, it’s gotta be water.”

Not because this water back here is magic.

It’s not. It doesn’t do anything.

But it stands for the Holy Spirit Who sure does do something.

He washes.
He gives new birth.
He gives new life.
He changes our lives when He is poured out on us generously.

An abundant overflow.

There is no rule for how much water you use in an affusion baptism, and if John were laid up and very ill, we wouldn’t use very much.

But he’s really big and strong, he just can’t be laid back into the water, so we’re going to use an ample amount here. And don’t worry. We have covered up all of the nearby electrical cords. And these mats are very absorbent. When the dishwasher broke in the lightning strike a couple of years ago, these mats soaked up most of the water that came pouring out of it. This is very safe.

But we’re going to use a good amount of water here to symbolize the abundant overflow of the Holy Spirit who has washed John with rebirth and renewal.

But where does all of that come from?

How does it come to us?

Look again at verse 6.

Look for the Trinity there.

“He [the Father] poured out [the Spirit] on us generously through [the Son] Jesus Christ our Savior.”

#4. THROUGH JESUS.

This salvation comes to us through Jesus Christ our Savior.

The One Who died on the Cross, when love ran red.

The One Who came back from the dead and is risen just like He said.

Look what He has done. He has made us (v.7) “heirs having the hope of eternal life.”

And that’s not just the wishful kind of hope, like “I hope there is Texas Sheetcake for my birthday in two weeks.” Maybe, maybe not. I hope so.

But this is biblical hope. This is knowing with your heart that something good is coming for certain.

And we know that is.

That’s our own resurrection.

That’s new bodies in the new heavens and the new earth.

That’s eternal life with Jesus forever and ever and ever. Amen.

That’s what we have to look forward to because of Jesus.

Because He Saved Us.