Sunday, April 23, 2017

[Matt's Messages] "The Church That Prays Together"

“The Church That Prays Together”
Gospel Roots (1892-2017)
April 23, 2017 :: Colossians 4:2

This is the fourth message in our ongoing “Gospel Roots” sermon series where we are revisiting and recommitting to some of our foundational values that have shaped and defined us as a church family throughout the years.

The first message was the gospel itself: Jesus Christ and Him Crucified. The Person and Work of Christ is what saves us, draws us together, and provides our very purpose for existence as a church.

The second message was about something we’ve done every week together for the last 125 years–we’ve sung together. We sing the gospel. We don’t just say it, we sing it, to God in thanksgiving and to each other to remind ourselves of Jesus Christ and His Crucified.

The third message was about sharing that gospel with lost people. Not just singing about it, but sharing it. Our God is conducting a massive search and rescue mission, and for 125 years, we have been a part of His search and rescue team, reaching lost people with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Today, I want to focus on another thing that our church has done over and over again  for 125 years. And it’s something that we’ve done, not just on Sunday mornings or at special outreaches, but many more times during the week. And that is to pray together.

I took my title for today from that old line about the family, “The family that prays together, stays together.”

Well, if that proverb is generally true then it equally applies to church families. “The Church Family that Prays Together, Stays Together.”

And this church family has been praying together for one hundred and twenty-five years. This church has been built on and sustained by prayer.

Look with me at Colossians chapter 4, verse 2.

These are Paul’s instructions “to the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse...” (Col 1:2).

Here’s one of the key things that Paul says this church really ought to do. Ready?

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

#1. DEVOTE OURSELVES TO PRAYER.

I’m so thankful to be the pastor of a praying church.

Lanse Free Church has earned a reputation as a church family that prays.

This is not something for which I take any credit whatsoever. I try to encourage it and promote it and keep it going, but I inherited a church family that was already living out Colossians 4:2 long before I ever came along.

I’m trying to use artifacts from our church history in each of these Gospel Roots messages.

It’s harder to find artifacts that point to prayer over the last 125 years.

Not because this church hasn’t prayed, but praying isn’t something you normally take pictures of!

Prayer is generally a quiet thing. Even when it’s in full swing, it can go unnoticed. It doesn’t call attention to itself.

But prayer is a powerful thing whether it’s noticed or not.

Yesterday, I made a list of this church’s current prayer ministries.

Can you name them?

There’s the Prayer Meeting, of course. Wednesday nights at 7pm. I asked Vera yesterday when they started that ministry. And she said that she’s been attending this church for about 76 years and they had those prayer meetings before she started coming. So perhaps for the whole 125 years! That’s a lot of prayer meetings!

For a while there, we had them on Tuesday nights so that people could go to Prayer Meeting one night and serve in Kids for the Christ on Wednesdays. But most of the time, it’s been a Wednesday night ministry.

Sometimes we have a short Bible study, but we always take time to pray.

What else? What other prayer ministries do we have?

A few years ago, Wally Kephart started the Harvest Prayer Time which is a special prayer meeting early on Saturday mornings on the last Saturday of the month where we pray for lost people. That’s putting together our last message and this message.

And Paul does that, too. Look at verse 3. “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.”

That’s what we are praying for at our Harvest Prayer Time. The next one is this Saturday at 7am in the Prayer Room.

Yes, and we have a Prayer Room! It’s the first door on your left down the hallway to your left as you go out of the auditorium. We have a room in this building devoted to being devoted to prayer!

There are people in our community who have dropped by the church in the middle of the week just to use the Prayer Room.

That’s where we have Prayer Meeting each Wednesday.

And there are people in the Prayer Room every single Sunday morning after church.

You see that in your bulletin each week, right? And often I mention it at the end of the service. ...

Could I have the couples who serve in the Prayer Room stand right now?

I know you don’t want to. That’s what I mean by prayer is a quiet thing that doesn’t draw attention to itself.

Thank you for serving in the Prayer Room each Sunday. Confidentially praying with anybody about anything. I know that a number of you have gone in there for prayer on Sundays. And I hope for many more.

What other prayer ministries do we have? We’re just getting started.

The prayer chain, right?

For many years it was just a phone chain. You called Ruth Murray and she called two people who called two people, and we got the word out.

And then a number of years ago, Marilynn Kristofits volunteered to create an email prayer chain. This was like 16, 17 years ago. Long long before she became our administrative assistant in the church office, Marilynn has been volunteering to collect your prayer requests and get them out to the rest of the church.

So that we can devote ourselves to prayer.

What else? The blue prayer cards in the pew racks. The prayer guide here in your bulletin.

Here’s an artifact for you. This is the church bulletin for April 19, 1998.

And on the inside it says, “Welcome, Matt and Heather Mitchell.”

That was 19 years ago this last week when we were here to candidate.

It’s interesting how similar it is to our bulletins today.

Guess who was going to do nursery the next Sunday?  Ruth Murray.

Guess who was going to do Children’s Church? Darla Kyler.

Guess what else is in the bulletin?

Well, the church is now accepting bids for mowing the cemetery. There is an Open House at Miracle Mountain Ranch.

And there is a call for prayer requests. It says, “There is a Prayer Request Box on the table in the foyer. Anyone who has a prayer item that you would like to have the Wednesday evening prayer group pray for, please put your request in the box.”

And there’s a list of “prayer of concerns” including an upcoming Ladies’ Retreat and this one, “Pray for the Mitchell’s as they spend time with us and for a safe trip home.”  Heather and me, long before Robin. Thank you for praying!

Here’s another artifact from 19 years ago. It’s a letter from Donna Weatherly to me with her perspective on the church that I was praying about coming to pastor. Donna was on the search committee for a new pastor. She writes, “The past few years there has been an increasing humility and unity manifested by greater dependence on the Lord in prayer. Seeing a dependence on prayer is probably the most encouraging thing to me. We all fail in this area–but there is no question that we see this as vital for any life and growth in our church.”

That was one of the things that drew us to come here and be your pastor.

Remember this book? It had swept through our church around that same time. Especially with it’s workbook. Experiencing God taught our church family to devote ourselves to prayer and to look for God at work in our lives.

Here’s another place we pray. We pray right here. Every Sunday.

Opening prayer, closing prayer, prayer before the sermon, prayer after the message, prayer with the offering, worship in prayer.

We actually have the “guys with mics” most Sundays who go around the room collecting your prayer requests.

You know, I’ve never been a part of another church that does that.

I’ve been at churches that have a pastoral prayer where the pastor prays through a list of things that have been turned in before. But taking these prayer requests and praises on a Sunday morning “from the floor” is pretty unique in my limited experience.

I’ve been in Sunday evening services like that. And at small church plants like that.

Every Sunday is a prayer meeting here!

And then there are special times of prayer.

Back to School Sunday–when we pray for the students, teachers, and administration.

Baby dedications, praying for our graduates.

Commissionings, when we pray for missions teams or when someone moves away or heads into military service, and we’re sending them off with prayer.

Here’s a picture of people praying here at Lanse Free Church. This one hangs in my office. It’s pretty fuzzy, but I’m glad it exists. It’s the prayer for me at my installation as your pastor, July 26, 1998.  I’m on my knees, and Heather is holding my hand. And Alan Fisch, Charlie Weaver, Wally Kephart, Superintendent Leroy Glover, guest speaker Steve Kemp, and my friend Blair Murray have their hands on me and they are all praying for me as I take up the weighty responsibility of being your shepherd.

And that includes me praying for you.

These are a set of prayer cards from one of my recent Pastoral Prayer Retreats.

You tell me what you need prayed for, and I take these on a long walk and lift up each request to the Lord.

I know that I have a lot to learn about praying for my flock.

But I’ve come a long way.

If you have asked me to pray for something, and then I forgot to do it, I’m sorry.

I know that I’ve bungled some prayer requests in the past. I’ve forgotten them or gotten the details wrong or passed them on at the wrong time.

I think I’ve gotten a lot better at it, but it’s a learning process. Thank you for your patience with me.

One thing we learned a number of years ago was “10 Second Prayers.”  Do you remember that?

In July of 2004, Bob Bakke came from the EFCA national office and did a seminar with us on “Becoming a Praying Church.”

And one of the biggest things I took away from that seminar was that prayer can be very short and very simple. Just take 10 seconds RIGHT NOW and pray about that problem, about that need.

I learned to say, “Can we pray about that right now?”

I love to pray with you as your go out the door on Sunday mornings.

And you don’t have to pray with me for 10 seconds. Anybody can do that.

Over the back of the pew. In the foyer. On the Ark Park.

In the parking lot.

I wonder how many prayers have been offered up in that parking lot as people go out to their cars, maybe after a meeting.

There’s a lot of prayer that goes on in our ministry teams and committees.

Your elders have been praying through the list of families that attend the church for the last two years. We take copious amount of time at every elders’ meeting to pray for you by name.

And I know that the Missions Ministry Team prays, the Deaconesses pray, the Facilities Team prays, and so on and so on.

Our Link Groups pray. I think we pray at our Link Group on some Sunday nights as much as or more than we do at Prayer Meeting on Wednesdays.

The Youth Boys pray on Wednesday nights. They take requests and they do the praying. I’m sure that happens in Kids for Christ and ABC Kids, too.

This is a prayer saturated church.

We devote ourselves to prayer.

I’m sure that I haven’t listed them all.

The Pastoral Prayer Team. Where I send you my needs and you pray for me.

I’m so humbled to know that some of you pray for me every single day.

Bea Johnson used to pray for me every single day.
Blair Murray prayed for me every single day.

I know that a number of you pray for me every day and especially on Saturdays when I’m writing these messages. Thank you! Thank you!

As you can tell, this devoting ourselves to prayer can look different at different times.

125 years ago, they didn’t have the email prayer chain coming to their phones.

Neither did the Colossian church. But they still devoted themselves to prayer.

That word “devoted” in verse 2 is a very strong word.

It's a word that was used for people who joined the military and DEVOTED themselves to the service. It was a word that was used of a boat that was ALWAYS at the ready for someone to use. It’s a discipline word. Disciplined prayer.

Constant. Steadfast. Faithful. Staunch. Devoted prayer.

Praying and not giving up. Like Zeke Pipher talked about a month ago.

Not just a casual attachment to prayer but a devotion to prayer.

That’s not easy to do. Prayer can be hard work. It takes effort and commitment.

Especially in our distracting world. I don’t know about you, but I have trouble with focus when I’m praying.

The best book I’ve ever read on the subject of prayer is by Paul Miller. Our Link Group studied it together a few years ago.

It’s called, A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World. Life-changing for me. I totally recommend it.

Verse 2 is a call to commitment.

“Devote yourselves to prayer.”

That’s what the early church did. This same word is used of the apostles in Acts 1:14 and 6:4 and the church as a whole in Acts 2:42, “They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” [See also Romans 12:12!]

And it’s what churches are supposed to do today.

We are supposed to devote ourselves to prayer.

What are we supposed to pray for?

Well, anything and everything, I think. Missionaries, ministries, other churches.

But especially for each other.

Look down at verse 12. I think it’s a model for us.

Paul sends the greetings of his friend Epaphras who was probably from Colosse himself. V.12

“Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.”

I love that. I absolutely love that.

How many of you were High School wrestlers? Did that require any energy? Was that just a walk in the park? Or was that hard work? Did that take devotion?

Epaphras was a Prayer Wrestler. V.13 calls it “hard work.”

We talk about prayer warriors, but Epaphras was a Prayer Wrestler.

And who did he pray for?  He prayed for the rest of the church.

And I’m sure he prayed for their health, success, safety, decision-making, and relationships. But he also focused on their hearts. V.12 again.

“He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.”

Are we praying that for each other?

Ephesians 6:18, “[P]ray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”

God is calling us to become Prayer Wrestlers for the body of Christ.

How are you and I doing at being devoted to prayer?

I’ve listed what we’ve done in the past, but we never want to live in the past.

We are thankful for the past but we live in the present.

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

What do you need to do to be devoted to prayer?

What do you need to do to kick it up a notch?

I know some of what I need to do. What do you need to do?

What’s your plan?

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

#2. BEING WATCHFUL.

What’s that mean “being watchful?”

I used to think it meant, look for answers to your prayers.

And that could be right.

Be on the lookout, be watchful for answered prayers.

Especially if your prayers are for open doors to share the gospel. Because if they came along, you need to snatch them up.

But this word “watchful” is often used in two other ways in your New Testament.

One is being watchful or vigilant against temptation.

Like when Jesus said to the disciples, “"Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”

So as we pray, we are not just diligent but vigilant.

That very well could be.

The other way that “watchful” is used is watching for the return of Christ.

That’s another historical value of this church–believing in and living in light of the return of Jesus Christ.

Perhaps this is a call to pray as part of being watchful for Christ’s return.

Which is a reminder that time is short, so we better stay busy praying.

Don’t get too comfortable and forget to pray.

What does Paul say in Philippians 4 “The Lord is near. [Then what, so what?] Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (vv.5b-7).

Watch and pray.
Pray and watch.
Watch and pray.

#3. BEING THANKFUL.

This one is more obvious. We should always be thankful as we pray.

Because God is always answering our prayers!

Not always how we’d like Him to or when we’d like Him to, but always perfectly and on time.

God loves to answer our prayers.

This October, we’re going to give everybody a chance to share some favorite stories  of God’s work at and through Lanse Free Church.

And if I were a betting man, I would bet that a lot of those stories will be stories of answered prayer.

God has been so faithful to us.

He loves to answer our prayers.

He always has, and He always will.

Here’s one last artifact.

This is a post office receipt dated February 14, 1998.

I’ve told this story before, but it’s good one.

This was the receipt for the package of materials I sent to Wallace Kephart, Morrisdale PA 16848. And I sent it Express Mail.

Do you know the difference between Priority Mail and Express Mail?

The difference is like $10!

I paid $15 to send it.

The funny part of the story is that Wally had told me that he was going away in February and to not worry about sending my resume, doctrinal statement, cassette tape with a sample sermon and so on, all that fast. Because it might not get there before he left.

So, I was at the Post Office to mail this. And Heather was in Iowa visiting a friend.

And she felt the Lord prompting her to pray that I would buy the right amount of postage.

She has never prayed for postage before and never prayed about postage since.

But that day she did.

And when I was at the Post Office counter in Zion, Illinois, the lady behind the desk asked, “Did you want to send it Priority or Express?”

And as a broke seminary student, I should have said, “Priority,” but I said, “Express.”

And if I remember the story right, the package got to Wally on a Sunday afternoon. Does anybody else get mail on a Sunday afternoon?

And he made copies of it and passed it out to the search committee and then went on vacation for two weeks.

For those two weeks, my packet of information was the only information that the search committee had to look at for any of the candidates.

So if you’re looking for someone to blame, blame Heather’s prayer life!

Of course, the Lord could have used anything and redirected anything for His own purposes.

But He loves to answer prayer.

And you all prayed for me. And we prayed for you.

And here we are today.

Thank you, Lord! Thank you, Lord!

We are thankful.

And we will stay thankful.
And we will stay watchful.
And we will devote ourselves to prayer.

Let’s do it again.


***

Previous Messages in This Series:

01. Jesus Christ and Him Crucified
02. Sing!
03. Lost and Found


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Friday, April 21, 2017

Keeping Gossip Out of Prayer Requests - CareLeader


The good folks at CareLeader have republished my article on gossip and prayer ministry. May the Lord use it to help praying folks be more vigilant, discerning, and loving.

Check out their website for lots of helpful articles and other resources for providing care for the people in your church. I've been especially helped by their GriefShare resources including the book Grieving with Hope.


Sunday, April 16, 2017

[Matt's Messages] "Forsaken No Longer"

“Forsaken No Longer”
Resurrection Sunday
April 16, 2017 :: Psalm 22

Christ Is Risen!
He Is Risen Indeed!

Or in the words we’ve been using recently, “Christ Is Forsaken No Longer. He Is Forsaken No Longer Indeed.”

For the last several weeks, we’ve been studying Psalm 22 together as a church family.

By the way, if you are guest with us this morning, or a newcomer, welcome! You are catching the tail end of our sermon series, but you’ve got here in time for the big victorious ending!

Can I just say, please come back next week and the next week after that if you can? If you’re visiting from out of state or another church, I understand. Don’t come back next week. But I’ve noticed that some people only come on like Christmas or Easter?

And we are so glad you do come at those times. But we want to invite you to come on other Sundays, as well. There is a lot more to this Christianity thing than just two Sundays a year.

Some of you might have expected baptisms today because we often have them on Resurrection Sunday. I love it when we do!  But that’s not the only Sunday that we can do baptisms. I actually expect more baptisms in the next few weeks. I’ve been teaching a class, and they are almost ready to go! So you never know when something like that might happen.

And every week, we open the Bible together and see amazing things.

So, I want to invite you to worship with us again next week and the week after that and the week after that.

Have you found Psalm 22?

Psalm 22 starts out incredibly depressing.

It’s a sad song of anguish and abandonment and excruciating pain.

Last week, we saw that it was on the lips of Jesus when He was crucified on the cross.

The first words of Psalm 22 were some of Jesus’ last words before He died. It starts out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

A cry of dereliction.
A cry of pain.
An anguished cry of torment that was originally written by David to express his affliction but was so much more experienced by our Lord Jesus Christ.

What David merely tasted, Jesus swallowed whole.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

On the Cross, Jesus was experiencing that question as no one ever had or ever will.

And we saw last week that it went further than just that verse. Jesus fulfilled the whole psalm. It was written a thousand years before Jesus was even born, but it predicted how Jesus would suffer, down to many of the details!

His groaning.
His being scorned and mocked.
The wagging of the heads of those around him.
Being surrounded by his enemies.
Their casting lots for his clothing.
Even down to verse 16, “They have pierced my hands and my feet.”

Jesus lived out Psalm 22 to the extreme.
Jesus was godforsaken on that Cross.

The Bible says that Jesus “became sin” for us on that Cross.

And you know how God feels about sin.

He experienced the righteous wrath of God for our sins in His body on the Tree.

Or in the words of Isaiah 53,

“[Jesus] was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

But Jesus did not stay forsaken.

That’s what we celebrate today.

Not just that He was forsaken, but that He did not stay forsaken for long.

And Psalm 22 predicted that, as well.

We often miss that. At least I do. When I read Psalm 22, I almost tremble to think of what Jesus did for us on the Cross. But that’s just the first two thirds of the psalm.

In verse 22, the psalm really changes. It really takes a big turn and then it gets big and expansive and joyful and glorious as it heads down the last stretch.

I think we often forget to read to the end.

What are some of your favorite comebacks of all time?

Your favorite turnarounds, reversals, returns from behind?

I know that a bunch of you are sports fans, and that’s where your mind immediately goes.

So maybe you go to Penn State Football. November 6, 2010 Penn State versus Northwestern. A 21 point comeback. Biggest of Joe Paterno’s career as coach of the Nittany Lions.

Or maybe you go to Pittsburgh Steeler Football. December 15, 1985. Against the Buffalo Bills. Again, a 21 point comeback. Only happened 3 times in Steeler history. That day, plus against the Ravens in 1997, and the Chicago Cardinals in 1953!

Or maybe your sport is wrestling. And you are thinking about Penn State’s NWCA Dual Championship just this year. They came back from a 13-0 deficit to win 27-13.

Or maybe you’re thinking of the Chicago Cubs and their game 7 of this last year’s world series. And how that was comeback to win the world series after 106 years of never winning the world series.

Or maybe you’re like me and not into sports at all and would have to look up all of games on Google to even know they were ever played!

Whether you are into sports or not, we all have comebacks that we love.

Maybe it’s the twisty ending of your favorite movie when it seems like the hero has lost for the last time, and then (wonder of wonders!) they come back and beat the bad guys.

Or that video game that you love to play. Remember that time you came back from so far behind and beat your brother? Or beat your sister?

Or maybe it was someone who came back from cancer.

Or from the brink of divorce.

Or from bankruptcy.

They were headed for the falls, and they somehow beat back the current and survived.

What’s your favorite comeback?

What if we love comebacks so much because at the very center of history is the greatest comeback ever?

Jesus came back from being forsaken by God.

Jesus came back from the dead.

David anticipated his comeback in verses 22 through 31.

Life was terrible, and he was crying out to God to rescue him.

But he believed that God was going to save him, so he planned in advance to praise him. V.22 again.

“I will declare your name to my brothers; in the congregation I will praise you. You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel! [Why?] For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.”

David expected to be answered. To be saved.

He did not believe that he would remain forsaken forever.

That God would answer his cry for help.

And the same is true for Jesus.

He just had to die first.

Jesus did everything bigger than David.

David felt like he was dying.
Jesus died.

David believed that God would restore him.
Jesus was restored from the dead.

David felt forsaken.
Jesus was forsaken, but is forsaken no longer.

The resurrection was the greatest comeback of all human history.

And it is historical.

The resurrection actually happened.

Jesus came back from the dead, not in some metaphorical or analogical way. Not in some mythical way. Like just a great story.

But really. Truly. Jesus was dead. Flatlined. No brain activity. His body had become a corpse.

But three days later, He was alive again.

If you don’t believe that yet, I challenge you to review the evidence.

Read a good book about it like The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel which, I understand, has been made into a big movie in theaters right now.

It’s not just a story, not just a fairy tale.

It’s history.

And it’s the greatest comeback of all history.

#1. IN THE RESURRECTION, JESUS IS FORSAKEN NO LONGER. 

You know, I believe that Jesus had the whole of Psalm 22 on His mind when He was the Cross, not just the first verse.

I wonder if he didn’t quote the whole thing down the very end. From “forsaken” to “I will declare your name to my brothers; in the congregation I will praise you.”

You know the early church saw Jesus in these verses at the end of Psalm 22 and not just at the beginning.

Verse 22 is quoted word for word in Hebrews chapter 2, verse 12.

“I will declare your name to my brothers; in the congregation I will praise you.”

And the author of Hebrews says, “That’s Jesus! That’s Jesus saying that.”

And the only way He can say it, is if Jesus has risen from the dead.

And He has.

He is forsaken no longer.

And because He is forsaken no longer.

We are never forsaken.

#2. BECAUSE OF THE RESURRECTION WE ARE NEVER FORSAKEN.

God says to His children who have put their faith in Jesus, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”  That’s Hebrews chapter 13:5.

And it’s all because of the resurrection.

Think about what Psalm 22 predicts.

It predicts that we will become the brothers and sisters of Christ. V.22 again.

“I will declare your name to my brothers.”

According to Hebrews 2, that’s Jesus saying that.

Who are Jesus’ brothers?

It’s you and me.

Do you know that Jesus never called his disciples “brothers” until after the resurrection? He called them by name, He called them His children, His disciples, His flock, etc.

But it wasn’t until Mary ran into Him in the garden that He said this. John 20, verse 17, “Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

Isn’t that interesting?

The resurrection makes us the brothers and sisters of Jesus.

By adoption and by new birth.

And if you are the spiritual brother of Jesus, you will never be forsaken!

Read Romans chapter 8 sometime to see how secure and loved are the children of God!

Nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord!

Because He is Risen, We are Never forsaken.

“Brothers!”

And it’s more than just that. We are satisfied forever. Look at verse 25.

“From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you will I fulfill my vows. The poor will eat and be satisfied; they who seek the LORD will praise him–may your hearts live forever!”

The poor there in verse 26 could be translated “afflicted” or “meek.” They are the ones who know that they are needy.

Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Do you know that you are needy?

Jesus says that those who come to Him will be satisfied. And their hearts will live forever.

Do you see how the kingdom comes here?  This psalm goes so big. Bigger than David could have ever imagined. V.27

“All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD [even the people in Pennyslvania?!], and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the LORD and he rules over the nations.

All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him–those who cannot keep themselves alive. [Everybody] Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn–for he has done it.”

You know what that sounds like to me?

It sounds like Philippians chapter 2.

Jesus “being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross! 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.”

Forever and ever and ever!

Because of the resurrection, we will never be forsaken and we will enjoy Jesus forever. Kingdom come!

All glory be to Christ our king!
All glory be to Christ!
His rule and reign will ever sing,
All glory be to Christ!

So, how should we respond to the greatest comeback ever?

Three things.

#1. REPENT.

Look at verse 27, what we are suppose to do.

“All the ends of the earth will remember and TURN to the LORD.”

Another word for that is to repent.

Jesus has come back to the dead, and He is calling for our allegiance to Him.

He doesn’t just want us to nod our heads and say, “What’s up. Welcome back, Jesus.”

He wants us to say, “I turn from our sin and trust in You. I want to become your follower. Please take me as your own.”

Don’t wait for this.

Don’t wait until Jesus completes His comeback.

When He comes back from heaven, there will be no second chances. Now is the time to turn to Him and be saved.

Repent.

If you forsake Jesus, you will be forsaken.

But Jesus says, “If you come to me, I will never drive you away” (John 6:37).

His arms are open wide.

Repent and come to Jesus.

#2. PRAISE!

Isn’t that the theme of this last third of Psalm 22?

V.22 “I will praise you.”
V.23 “Praise Him! Honor Him! Revere Him!”
V.25 “The theme of my praise...”
V.26 “They will praise Him....”
V.27 “Bow down before Him.”

Jesus is alive and that changes everything.

Including our worship.

We are never forsaken!

We have every reason to praise God!

We don’t sing enough.
We don’t praise enough.

We can’t praise enough for what Jesus has done.

In His suffering and death, Jesus has brought unbelievable blessing to everyone of His children. So we sing and praise and revere and worship Him.

And we tell others.

#3. PROCLAIM.

Look at verse 30 again.

“Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. [Who is going to do the telling? That’s our job. We’re the future generations!] They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn–for he has done it.”

It is finished. And it’s our job to tell other people.

Who do you need to tell this week that Jesus is no longer forsaken and therefore anyone who comes to Him in faith will never be forsaken?

They won’t know on their own.

It’s our job to get the word out.

In past years, we’ve had a baptism at this point in the service.

Somebody has gotten up and praised Jesus’ name in the assembly.

I think it’s appropriate for us to end this service today planning to be that person this week in somebody else’s life.

Whom could you proclaim it to?

Jesus planned to get up on that Resurrection Sunday morning and declare God’s faithfulness to Him even after being forsaken for us.

We should plan to get up tomorrow and go declare God’s faithfulness to us because we will never be forsaken.


Messages in this Series
1. Godforsaken: David
2. Godforsaken: Jesus

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Sunday, April 09, 2017

[Matt's Messages] "Godforsaken: Jesus"

“Godforsaken: Jesus”
April 9, 2017 :: Psalm 22 // Matthew 27

Two weeks ago we read Psalm 22 from the perspective of its author, King David.

David wrote this psalm out of an agonizing personal experience, and he gave it the believing community to use in worship.

As we said two weeks ago, we don’t like talking like Psalm 22 talks. We’d rather quote Psalm 23 because it’s so comforting. But as good as Psalm 23 is, it’s not enough. We also need Psalm 22 for those times when we feel abandoned and alone.

Last time, we studied Psalm 22 as a psalm of lament and saw how God has provided a divine pattern for our prayers when we hurt. We don’t just smile, grin, and bear it. We don’t pretend and fake it until we make it. We bring our whole selves to the Lord in honesty including all of our pain and fear and sorrow and anguish.

The whole blistering mess.

That’s what God wants. Bring Him the whole blistering mess when you feel forsaken.

But we also felt that there was something more going on in this psalm.

We couldn’t avoid it!

Everywhere we turned, we heard Jesus singing this psalm.

We saw Jesus filling up the details of this psalm.

This psalm was clearly prophetic.

It wasn’t just powerful lament. It was prefigured lament.

As so many other things in David’s life, he was a foretaste of the Greater One to come.

David was the shadow. Jesus was the substance.
David was the type. Jesus was the antitype.
David was the prototype. Jesus was the ultimate iteration. The fulfillment.

For a thousand years, Jewish believers had been singing Psalm 22 when they were in pain.

And then when Jesus was the crucified, He sang Psalm 22 like no one ever before or since.

“‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Matthew 27:46).

This is the perfect psalm to read as we enter into Passion Week.

As we said last time, only Isaiah 53 rivals this psalm for prophetic insight into the crucifixion.

And, think about this, it was written about a 1000 years before Jesus was born!

Here’s what I want to do today. I want to read Psalm 22. Just read it. Let the words wash over us again. No commentary. Just remember what we learned last time as we read it.

And then I want to leave a finger in Psalm 22 and go Matthew 27 and read the account of the crucifixion of Jesus there in Matthew 27 and see how Jesus filled up Psalm 22.  You with me?

Let’s read Psalm 22.

[scripture reading, prayer]

So leave one finger there in Psalm 22 and turn over to Matthew 27. Matthew 27:27.

Our Lord Jesus has been on trial before the Sanhedrin and before the Roman governor, Pilate. Pilate offered to release Jesus but the crowd chose for the notorious prisoner, Barabbas to be released and Jesus to be crucified.

“Crucify him!”

Earlier that week, it was “Hosanna! Hosanna!”

Now it’s, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

Pilate washed his hands of the matter, he had Jesus flogged and he handed him over to be crucified.  V.27 Listen for Psalm 22.

“Then the governor's soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again.”

Don’t forget that this happened.

Never forget what was done to Jesus.

It’s so easy to go about our daily lives and put these thoughts out of our minds.

But we should come back to this again and again.

This happened to Jesus.

And in fact, He chose it, for us. V.31

“After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.”

You know what that means, right?

It wasn’t just figurative language about dog bites piercing David’s hands and feet. Psalm 22:16

They actually pierced Jesus’ hands and feet with nails. With nails!

The nailed him. And then he struggled to breathe. He’d pull up on the nails to get his breath then collapse back down.

It’s called “excruciating” pain because it has the word “cruc” or “cross” in the middle of it. V.32

“As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. They came to a place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). [The Latin for Skull is “Calvi” so we call this “Calvary.” “Skull hill.”] There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it.”

He didn’t want to be drugged. He didn’t want to be in a haze. He wanted to be awake and alert as much as he could be.

But He was so thirsty. Psalm 22:15

“My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roofo my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.”

He lived that song. The Gospel of John chapter 19, verse 28 tells us “so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty.’” v.35

“When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots.”

That’s verse 18 of Psalm 22!  “They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.”

David may have just been using figurative language to mean that they were circling around him and wanting him to die and leave his stuff behind.

But they actually did it to Jesus.

Think about that. One of these guys went home that night with Jesus’ clothes. Maybe wearing them.

“Where’d you get that?” his wife asks.

“I won it. We cast lots. How do you think it looks?”

“Dusty. Dirty. Bloody. But whatever.” v.36

“And sitting down, they kept watch over him there.”

That’s Psalm 22, verse 17.

“I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me.” v.37

“Above his head they placed the written charge against him: THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Two robbers were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!’”

Look at Psalm 22 again. Look at verse 7.

“All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads."

That was written a thousand years before Jesus was even born.

Look at the next verse Psalm 22:8, “He trust in the LORD, let the LORD rescue him.”

Now turn back to Matthew 27. Pick up again in verse 41.

“In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. ‘He saved others,’ they said, ‘but he can't save himself! He's the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, 'I am the Son of God.'’”

Sound familiar?

These people were unconsciously fulfilling Scripture.

They didn’t intend to be the bad guys of Psalm 22, but that’s exactly what they were.

When Jesus was fulfilling it.

V.44 “In the same way the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.  From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’–which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’”

What David just tasted, Jesus swallowed whole.

Jesus lived out this question like no one ever before.

Psalm 22, verse 1 was on His lips when He was dying for you and me.

Let us never forget it.

Jesus was abandoned.
Jesus was forsaken.

Not just forsaken. Jesus suffered the wrath of God.

God was not just absent from Jesus. God was against Jesus.

In those moments. In those minutes.

Last week, Darko said that the Father turned His face away from the Son on the Cross.

He did.

And more. He poured out His just wrath on the Son on the Cross.

It’s unthinkable.

We can sing it better than we can say it.

Alas! and did my Savior bleed
And did my Sov’reign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I?

Was it for crimes that I had done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!

Well might the sun in darkness hide
And shut his glories in,
When Christ, the mighty Maker died,
For man the creature’s sin.

Thus might I hide my blushing face
While His dear cross appears,
Dissolve my heart in thankfulness,
And melt my eyes to tears.

No wonder the Sun went dark for 3 hours.

How could it shine when Jesus was being forsaken?!

“‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?'”

He knew the answer the question, but He was experiencing that question like no one ever had or ever will.

We call this the “Cry of Dereliction from the Cross.”

And it’s one of the most agonizingly awful moments in human history.

“‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?'”

Some people there misunderstood him. They thought he was saying, “Elijah, Eli, not Eloi, ‘my God.’” v.47

“When some of those standing there heard this, they said, ‘He's calling Elijah.’  Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, ‘Now leave him alone. Let's see if Elijah comes to save him.’ And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.”

He died!

And look what that did. V.51

“At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus' resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people. [That’s crazy!] When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, ‘Surely he was the Son of God!’”

Look what Jesus’ suffering did!

It brought new life. A foretaste of the resurrection to come.

It brought a new perspective. This centurion understands Who Jesus really is. “He is the Son of God!”

And it brought new access to God.  The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.

That means that the way in to the Holy of Holies has been opened.

It’s an amazing symbol of access to God.

No barriers.

Jesus has opened the way to God.

Let me put it this way.

JESUS WAS FORSAKEN SO THAT HIS PEOPLE WILL NEVER BE.

We just sang it a little bit ago,

I'm forgiven because you were forsaken
I'm accepted, you were condemned
I'm alive and well
Your spirit is within me
Because you died and rose again

Amazing love, how can it be?
That you, my king, would die for me?
Amazing love I know it's true
Its my joy to honor you
In all I do
I honor you

WORSHIP AT THE LORD’S TABLE

Jesus was forsaken so that His people will never be forsaken.

What a perfect thought to go to the table with.

There’s a lot of things we could say about the juxtaposition of Psalm 22 and Matthew 27.

I think it’s amazing, for example, how perfectly Scripture was fulfilled a thousand years after it was written.

And so specifically and particularly. You normally think about the New Testament fulfillments as being more spiritual.

But these were very literal fulfillments, weren’t they?

That’s interesting.

But I don’t think that’s what we ought to focus on right now.

What we ought to focus on is the suffering of Jesus on our behalf.

Think about this.

Sin must be completely horrible for this to be what it takes to deal with it.

This table stands for our sins.

And the sacrifice of Jesus it took to forgive us of our sins.

Romans 3.

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him [on the Cross] as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.”

This is what it took for our sins to be forgiven.

It took Jesus living out Psalm 22 to an unimaginable degree.

One time, I preached a sermon called “Abandoned,” and about all I did was read Mark chapters 14 and 15.  And you see how Jesus was abandoned by everybody.

Including God the Father.

Yes, by mutual arrangement. They agreed on that in advance. The Father and the Son both chose it out of love for us.

But they did it!  The Father abandoned the Son and even more poured out His wrath on Him, a sacrifice of atonement through faith in His blood.

That’s how horrible sin is.

And how great is the love God has shown to His people!

I love those songs that express incredulity over this.

“And can it be that I should gain
An int'rest in the Savior's blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, should die for me?”

“Would He devote that Sacred Head for such a worm as I?”

“Amazing love, how can it be?
That you, my king. would die for me”

I almost can’t believe it!

What love is this?

Never forget.
Never forget what Jesus suffered for you and for me.

Jesus was forsaken so that His people will never be.

But you gotta be part of His people.

It’s only those who are in Christ Jesus who have no condemnation.

Are you in Christ Jesus?

If you are not yet or you don’t know, then we invite you to put your faith in Jesus right now. Trust in Him and what Hid for you at Calvary.

Don’t look away.
Don’t walk away.

Come to Christ.

And all who have come to Christ, thank Him for what He did for you and for me.

Jesus was forsaken so that we will never be.


Messages in this Series

1. Godforsaken: David

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Friday, April 07, 2017

"Resisting Gossip" Now Available in Korean! 험담을 멈추라

Rejoice with me!

Our little book has made it safely across the ocean and been translated into the Korean language.

Thank you, CLC Korea, for making it available to readers!

At least, I think that's what this is. I can't read a word of Korean. 😀  I can't even tell if my Google Translate guess from 2014 was even close.

Yet even though I can't read it, I look forward to holding a copy in my own hands soon.

Saturday, April 01, 2017