Saturday, March 18, 2017

Sunday, March 12, 2017

[Matt's Messages] "Lost and Found"

“Lost and Found”
Gospel Roots (1892-2017)
March 12, 2017 :: Luke 15:1-10

This is our third message in our ongoing “Gospel Roots” sermon series where we revisit and recommit to some of our foundational values that have shaped and defined us as a church family through 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 of Christ and His Crucified.

In today’s message, I want to talk about sharing that gospel.

Not just savoring it or singing about it, but actually sharing the gospel with other people, lost people.

Our church has a long and rich history of evangelism.

I like to point out that it’s our middle name!

Because...“It’s Our Middle Name!”

Lanse EVANGELICAL Free Church.

Can you spell evangelical?

That word “evangelical” is such a tongue-twister for people isn’t it?

Someone asks, “What church do you go to?”

And you say, “Lanse Free Church.”  What do you leave off?  The “Evangelical” part.  Sometimes, I just say “the one with the playground!”

I love it when people call on the phone, and they don’t know that E-word.

“Uh, hello. Is this the Lanse Evangelistic, Evangelellel, uhm Free Church?”

Yes, it is.

Evangelical originally means “Gospel-oriented.” “Gospel-centered.”

It means that we believe in and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

It comes from the word “Evangel” which is the Greek word for “Good News” in the New Testament.

So “gospel” is our “Middle Name.”

Or, at least, it should be.

And historically, it has been.

It’s in our purpose statement, right? “Lanse Evangelical Free Church exists to glorify God by bringing people into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ through worship (SING!), instruction, fellowship, EVANGELISM, and service.”

We care about lost people and we strive to share the gospel with them.

Let me show you how this has played out in the past.

Anybody remember these?



In the 1970's this little fleet of blue buses went up and down these hills and hollers picking up folks, especially children to bring them here to hear the gospel.

That was before my time, but I love that we had them.

This was one during my time. Anybody remember this guy?

This was the mascot for Wild West Day. July 28, 2001

These were the hats we bought.

Here’s a little craft they made in our Kids’ Ministry. It has a refrigerator magnet, and it says, “I will pray for Wild West Day. I will ask God to do things I could never do. I will ask God to do miracles.”

And the Lord gave us over 1,200 people to visit our campus that day.

And hear the gospel.

Nobody came on our campus that day and left without hearing the good news about Jesus Christ.

And it’s not just about getting people onto our campus.

Anybody remember this one?

In 2002, we participated heavily in the JESUS video project. We were part of a coalition of churches that mailed a VHS copy of the Jesus video to every single home in our county. Over 30,000 videos went into the mail.

This is artifact. I’m going to ask Lita if she would put this in the display case out there. With the old song books and the old communion ware. The VHS tape! Whatever that is.

Nowadays, you can stream that sort of thing over your phone.

But back then, it was a major undertaking to get this into everybody’s hands.

And we threw ourselves into that.

Why?

Because we loved lost people and wanted them to have what we have, the gospel of Jesus Christ and Him Crucified.

When we built the Ark Park out here, we called it, “An Evangelistic Playground.” Because we didn’t build it just for us. We built it for our community. Because we love them and because we wanted a place where folks would come, and we could talk to them about Jesus.

That’s supposed to be a gospel playground out there.

Do you get the picture?

I love how this church has historically thrown itself into evangelism.

We are not just focused inward on ourselves. On our worship, on our fellowship, on our own stuff.

This church has always had a heart for lost people and a commitment to do whatever it takes to reach them.

And in that, this church has reflected the very heart of God.

Luke chapter 15 is about the heart of God.

What God cares about. And how strongly God cares about the lost.

Luke 15 is one of the most famous and familiar chapters in the whole Bible because it contains 3 of Jesus’ most famous parables. I wish I had time to give you all three, but we’re only going to look at the first two today. The third one is the one that you know the best, so you can read this afternoon.

All three stories are very similar, and they are all trying to make the same point.

There’s a pattern:

Something becomes lost.
Someone conducts a desperate search for the lost item.
And when it’s found, there is a party. There is a celebration.

“Lost and found.”

Something becomes lost.
Someone searches.
Then there is a celebration.

And all of this is to show us how the Lord cares about the lost.

The lost sheep, the lost coin, and (if you read on) the lost son.

Awesome parables from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now, the biggest mistake that people make when they are interpreting these parables is to miss verses 1 and 2.

Verses and 1 and 2 tell us who was present when Jesus told these stories.

And it’s easy to overlook them. I have just skimmed past them many times on my way to good stuff–the stories.

But verses 1 and 2 tell us not just who was present when Jesus told these stories, gave this teaching, but they tell us WHY Jesus told these parables.

Verses and 1 and 2 are very important. They set the stage for the whole chapter.

Let’s look at them again.

“Now the tax collectors and ‘sinners’ were all gathering around to hear him.  But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.’”

Now, who was present at this moment? There were two groups of people.

In the eyes of the culture of that day, there were the bad people and the good people.  The bad people and good people.  The black hats and the white hats.

Do you see that? Who were the black hats?

The tax collectors and the sinners. These were bad guys.

The tax collectors were basically the legalized thieves of the Roman world. They were turncoat Jews who were empowered by the Romans to not only take the legal taxes for the government, but to take as much more as they could get away with from every taxpayer.

This was not the IRS. This was like the mob being deputized by the IRS to collect your taxes and look the other way while they took your money.

Nobody liked tax collectors. They were despised.

And the rest of the black hats were just called the “sinners.”  How would you like that name to describe you in public? “There go the sinners!”

These folks were notorious for not following the Law. Either Jewish law or Roman law. They were unclean, they were rebellious, they were outsiders. They were considered scum.

But catch this–they were the ones attracted to Jesus.

They were all (v.1) “gathering around the hear him.” And more than that, Jesus was attracted to them.

He ate with them. He had table fellowship with them.

Jesus seems to like them!

And that bothers the other group that’s here. Who are they?

They are the guys with white hats.

The Pharisees–who separated themselves from everything that was unholy.

And the teachers of the Law. That is the Bible professors.

These are supposed to be the good guys. These are straight-laced guys who keep their noses clean. They are on the right side of the law.

Law abiding citizens. The white hats.

And they are scandalized by how Jesus is acting. V.2

“But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.’”

They can’t even say, “sinners” without spitting, and Jesus is eating with them?  Yuck!  Eww! With the scum of the Earth!

Now, remember that. Remember who is listening as Jesus tells His three stories.

Got it?

The first story is the story of the lost sheep.  V.3

“Then Jesus told them this parable: ‘Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?  And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.'” Stop there for a second.

Notice the pattern?

Something becomes lost.  What is it?  It’s a sheep.

Is that valuable? To this shepherd it is. Valuable enough to go searching.

Someone conducts a search. Who is that? The shepherd. He leaves the 99 where they should be safe in the open country and then goes to find the lost one.

What a great picture. Can you see him hunting that lost sheep in your mind’s eye?

Going all of the places where that sheep could possibly be.

Risky, sacrificing, searching to rescue that sheep.

And, then, he finds it. And he (v.5), “joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home.”

That’s quite an image, too, isn’t it? A happy shepherd with a found sheep over his shoulders.

What’s next? Partay! Right? V.6

“Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.'”

Let’s have a party! Let’s celebrate.

“Rejoice with me!  I’ve found my lost sheep.”

And then, Jesus gives us the point. V.7

“I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

Remember to whom Jesus is talking.

Who is the shepherd like? He’s like the Lord.

“There will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents” (one lost sheep) “than over ninety-nine (unlost sheep, so-called) “righteous persons” who do not need to “repent.”

Who is He talking about?

Who are these sinner-sheep? They are the bad guys who are attracted to Jesus.

There will be a party in heaven if a bad guys repents. If a black hat guy turns himself in. Celebration!

More rejoicing than if a so-called white hat guy doesn’t ever go anywhere.

Jesus doesn’t mean that the Pharisees and the teachers of the law didn’t really need repentance or were really righteous. That’s just how they saw themselves.

And there is no rejoicing in heaven over self-righteousness. Even when its cleaned up pretty good!

Jesus says, “So, you want to know why I eat with sinners and welcome them?”

It’s because that’s the priority of heaven.

That’s the passion of God’s heart.

The Lord loves the lost.

But, just in case they didn’t get it, Jesus tells another story. A very similar one.

The story of the lost coin. V.8

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.”

Here’s the pattern again:

Something is lost. What is it? A coin.

In Greek, it’s a drachma, about a day’s wages.

How many did this woman own? She only owns 10. She loses 10% of her wealth.

So someone conducts a desperate search!

She turns the house upside down.

Have you ever lost anything like that?

A couple of weeks ago, Heather lost something at home, and we turned the house upside down looking for it.

What if it were 10% of all of your possessions?

I remember once, one of my little nephews lost a tiny little toy he had just bought with his own money at a playground.

It was a playground like ours out there except that it was full of little rocks, you know, like a beach of rocks, and he had buried his toy under the rocks for safe keeping! And then forgotten where he’d put it.

Could we have found that toy if we tried hard enough?

Yeah, we could have. We would have had to turn over a lot of rocks, though.  It was lost.

But if we had been desperate enough, like this woman, if we had really cared about it, we could have searched until it was found. She goes to great lengths to find it.

And what happens when the item is found? Party time!  V.9

“She calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’”

And then Jesus makes sure we get the point. V.10

“In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

I love that phrase, “in the presence of the angels of God.”

Does that mean that the angels are rejoicing over the repentant sinner?

The lost coin found?

I’m sure they are. But I don’t think that’s what Jesus is saying.

Who is in the presence of the angels of God?

God Himself.

I think this is a way around way of saying that God rejoices over one sinner who repents.

There is a party in heaven over one sinner who repents.

If the kingdom of God is a party (and that’s one of the things Jesus says it is!), then the theme of that party is joy in repentant sinners.

That’s why Jesus welcomes them.

Because that’s the heart of God!

Now you can see that pattern repeated again in the parable of the lost son (or lost sons) read it this afternoon and track how it’s like these other two parables and how it has a few more twists that really bring it home.

But we’re going stop with just these 2 stories today and apply them to our church and our lives today.

Here’s how we’re going to do it.

We’re going to put ourselves into these stories.

Where are you and I in these stories?

Three points of application.

#1.  REPENT.

Where are you in this story?

Well, we all start out as something that is lost.

We are the black-hats in this story.

We are the lost sheep. We are the lost coin.

Because the Bible says that we are all sinners.

“All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”

And God, in His mercy, has been searching for us.

He sent His own Son to seek and to save that which was lost.

That’s us.

And if we want to be found, we need to do what v.7 and v.10 says.

We need to repent.

To repent means to turn.

To turn in our hearts and with our lives away from sin and to the Savior.

To turn to Jesus and put our trust in Him.

Notice that sinners and the tax-collectors still needed to repent.

It’s not enough that they were attracted to Jesus and listening to Him.

They had to respond.

In our home, when each of our children made their first profession of faith in Jesus, we began to call them, “Found Sheep.” And each one of them was given a little stuffed lamb to mark that response of their hearts to the gospel.

Jesus died for lost sheep. And lost sheep are found when they repent.

Are you still a lost sheep?

Turn from your sin and put your trust in the Savior. Repent.

It might be hard for you to identify yourself with the scum in this story.

You might see yourself as a pretty good guy or a pretty good gal.

But every one of us is a sinner and needs the Savior.

There will only be rejoicing in heaven for you if you repent.

I invite you to do it right now.

In your heart, pray to the Lord. Tell Him that you need Him and that you are turning from your sin, asking for His forgiveness, and trusting in Jesus’ sacrifice for you.

The Lord promises for all who come to Him, all who call upon the name of the Lord, they will be saved.

Maybe that happened for you because of a bus ministry or a Wild West Day or a Jesus Video Project or some other ministry of this church:

A Good News Cruise
A Family Bible Week
A Kids for Christ
A Wild Game Dinner

Or maybe it was far away from here and unrelated.

But if it hasn’t happened yet, it’s past time.

Repent.

That’s where it starts.

#2.  RECOVER.

And by this, I mean, join the search party for lost people.

Put yourself in the shoes of the white-hats for a second.

Did they care about those who were lost?

No, they only cared about themselves and their good works and their clean reputations.

Jesus told this story to both convict them and to change them.

He wants us to join the search party for lost people.

Do you and I care about lost people?

And I mean do we care about lost people?!

Not do we say we care about lost people, but do we do it?

Do we do anything about it?

This shepherd left the 99 and went after the lost sheep.

This woman lit the lamp and swept the house clean to find the lost coin.

God is recovering lost people.

Are we a part of that search or are we just standing on the sidelines?

Who are you helping to recover?
What lost people are you praying for?
What lost people are you talking to about Jesus?

Let me give you three steps here.

Care, Prayer, and Share.

First we have to care. We have to cultivate a love for those people whom God loves.

This church has been really good at that for 125 years.

And I am so proud of our church family when I see it.

I love to tell the story about my first Summer here as your pastor. I was writing the sermons on Saturday nights (which I still often do!), and there were gangs of young people out here on the parking lot on Saturday nights.

Before we had a nice paved parking lot.

This was the meeting spot. They’d be out here doing donuts in the field. Smoking, talking, hanging out.

And I told the elder board about that. It was Wally and George and Blair and Bruce and Charlie and those guys. And I told them about what was going on in our parking lot, and asked if we needed to have the police drop.

And they said to me, “We’re glad they are here on our land, I wonder what we can do to reach out to them and tell them that Jesus loves them.”

I knew then that this church was a keeper.

Who have you cared enough about to invite to the Wild Game Dinner?

I promise you that Zeke Pipher will make the gospel clear to them.

But people don’t care what you know until they know that you care.

Does somebody know that you care about them and are going to bring them to hear Zeke on Saturday?

Our Louisiana Team is down South this week serving in the name of Jesus Christ, showing those folks down there that we care.

Thank you for sending them.

I’m proud of you for sending them.
I’m proud of them for going.

It shows that we care.

We’ve got to keep the gospel as our middle name.

The second step is prayer.

We have to continue to pray for the lost to be found.

Remember this artifact from our history?

Back in 2007, we filled up this fishbowl with the names of people for whom we are praying to come to know Jesus. And we fasted and prayed over those names.

And some of those names are names of people who are today trusting Jesus Christ as their Savior, in part because we prayed!

Who are you praying for right now to get found?

Who are you praying for to come to the Wild Game Dinner?
Or to come to church next Sunday and hear Zeke preach here?
Or come on Resurrection Sunday and hear the gospel?

That’s what our Harvest Prayer Time is all about.

Who is on your prayer list?

And the third step is to share.

It’s not enough to just want them to know Jesus, we have to introduce them to Jesus.

It takes words. It takes the gospel.

If we truly care, we will dare to share.

The Holy Spirit will give us the power.

Our friend Matt Modzel just recently shared with a group of teenagers at the FCA Badminton Tournament last Friday night.

He didn’t know I was taking his picture.

And he doesn’t know that I’m going to put it here today.

But I’m proud of him. Because he overcame his nervousness and got up on his hind legs and shared his testimony and the good news about how God so loved the world.

When Matt’s nervous his face goes all red. It was as red as those mats against the wall there. But that didn’t stop him for sharing.

We need to join the search and rescue recovery team.

And that requires faith and boldness.

Are we talking to the lost people about Jesus?

Or are we just content to mutter, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

Do we eat with sinners?

I don’t want to be like the so-called “white hat” people in this story.

If I have to choose sides, then put me with the black hats.

Because that’s where Jesus is.

Let me say something about our culture right now and what Christians need to be doing in it.

I hear a lot of talk about the two M’s–Muslims and Mexicans.

Those two kinds of people are in the news a lot.

And I hear a lot of people being very negative about both of them.

Very against Muslims and Mexicans.

It’s like they are the black hats or something.

And I understand that there are legitimate questions for our leaders to sort out in terms of immigration and national security. We need good people to come up with good policies and practices on those.

But I what I am concerned about is how much muttering I hear, even among Christians. I hear hate and fear and anger.

And I don’t hear enough about this question:

How can we reach Muslims with the gospel of Jesus Christ? Those that are coming here, and how can we go to them?

How can we reach immigrants (with or without the proper documents!) with the hope of salvation in Jesus Christ?

Because they are lost without Him.

And he cares. He desperately cares. He’s turning the house upside down to find them.

Jesus says what God cares about the most is not our national security or our economy or jobs for Americans or even the rule of law.

What God cares about most is finding lost people. He’s after the black hats.

Are we a part of God’s desperate search party?

Or are we just standing around muttering?

Let’s get personal for a second.

Who do you and I need to talk to this week?

Who do we need to pray for the next 7 days and then to bring up Jesus in conversation?

Who is the one sheep out of the 100 in our life that is lost that we need to care about?

Who is the one drachma that is lost in the house that we need to sweep for with the Lord?

Let’s go searching, friends.  Let’s go searching.

That’s what this church is all about.

#3.  REJOICE!

You knew that would be point #3, didn’t you?

Let’s pretend that we’re the friends in these two stories.

We’re the neighbors.

What does the shepherd say, “Rejoice with me!”

What does the woman say, “Rejoice with me!”

What does God say? “There is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents!”

Rejoice!

Every time a sinner comes in, we should rejoice.

Every time a sinner gets baptized, we should rejoice.

Every time a decision is made for Christ, we should rejoice.

And we should rejoice for ourselves that our names are written in the Lamb’s book of life!

There is a party in heaven.

There should be one here, too.

My prayer is that we, as a church, will see a greater harvest and have a greater party in the next few months and years than we ever have before.

But the gospel has to stay our middle name.

We can’t lose sight of this driving value of our church to reach out to the lost with the good news of Jesus Christ.


***

Previous Messages in This Series:

01. Jesus Christ and Him Crucified
02. Sing!


Saturday, March 11, 2017

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Goods Books about the Books of Kings

I'm going to miss these guys.

They were my constant companions for the last year as we studied the Books of Kings in the Old Testament.

I recommend each of these commentaries for their unique contribution:

Dale Ralph Davis, 1 Kings: The Wisdom and the Folly & 2 Kings: The Power and the Fury.

Dale Davis writes my favorite commentaries for help in preaching Old Testament narrative books. He is an bona fide OT scholar and it shows, but his commentaries are edited versions of his sermons on through these books, so they are pastoral and practical, as well.

Iain W. Provan, 1-2 Kings (NIBC)

Provan is a master of concision and always sees something that the other commentators miss. His book forms the basis for the notes in the ESV Study Bible.

Peter Leithart1-2 Kings (Brazos TCOTB)

Leithart is good for opening up maximal possibilities. I don't pick up everything he lays down, but he makes fascinating connections between various themes, words, characters, and other items across the testaments.

Paul R. House, 1-2 Kings (NAC Vol. 8)

If I was only allowed one commentary on 1-2 Kings, I would probably buy this one because House does it all in solid workmanlike prose. He's not as fun to read as Davis, but he really gets the job done. I always checked everything I planned to say on Sundays against the discussion in this book.

August H. Konkel, 1-2 Kings (NIVAC)

I've had Konkel's commentary the longest of the set. I used it to teach the youth boys' class the books of kings a few years ago, and it served me well. As with others in this series, there is a major emphasis in each section on application to life.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

[Matt's Messages] "The Table of the King"

“The Table of the King”
The King of Kings in the Books of Kings
March 5, 2017 :: 2 Kings 23:31-25:30

We’ve been in the Books of Kings now for 30 messages.  On and off now for 11 months from the beginning of April 2016 to the beginning of March 2017.

And all of that time, the Books of Kings have been particularly repetitive.

There is a broken record playing throughout the Books of Kings and the song is not, for the most part, a happy one.

This book is, after all, a tragedy.

Today, we’re going to read the ending, and it is NOT a happy one.

In fact, I think it would be easy to argue that these chapters chronicle the saddest event in Israel’s history between the Fall of Genesis 3 and the trial of Jesus Christ.

These are the worst days of the nation of Israel in the Old Testament.

These are the days when the southern kingdom, called Judah, went into exile, “went into captivity away from her land” (2 Kings 25:21).

This tragic day has been coming for a very long time.

If you think about it, ever since Abraham was given the promises of offspring, land, and blessing, the story of Israel was on the rise.

In 2003, we began studying that Big Story of the Old Testament. And in Genesis, we saw the promises be fulfilled slowly but surely.

Offspring. Blessing. And Land.

In Exodus, the people grew and grew. And the LORD blessed them.

And then in Numbers, they marched to the Promised Land.

And God promised them that if they obeyed the Law, if they were a thumbs-up people, He would continue to bless them. And they would possess the Land.

And then in Joshua they actually began to possess the land.

But then the downward spiral began. The book of Judges.

There were bright spots along the way like Ruth and Boaz and even Samuel.

But they were never quite what they ought to be.

And the threat of exile began to gather like storm clouds on the horizon.

God gave them a king after His own heart in David.

And then David’s son was given wisdom and a glorious golden kingdom.

That was the highpoint of the fulfillment of all of the promises so far.

But then it began to unravel.

The kingdom was torn in two. Everything we’ve read now for the last year.

And the two kingdoms went up and down.  The northern kingdom much faster than the southern kingdom. But both of them failing to keep the covenant.

Always, God has a remnant. He’s always at work caring for His people. We saw that in Elijah and Elisha and every thumbs-up king.

But the slide has been ever downward. And now we’ve reached the bottom.

Last week, we read about one of those bright spots along the way. Godly King Josiah who led a biblical reformation in Judah.

But even his biblical godliness was not enough to stem the tide of what was to come.

And now he’s dead, and his son Jehoahaz has become king. In less than 25 years from Josiah’s death, Judah will have run through 4 bad kings, and the whole nation will be destroyed.

This is that sad story.

The title of today’s message is “The Table of the King,” but I’m not going to explain it until the very end.

Hang with me, and I’ll explain it when we get there.

I don’t think you’ll be surprised by what we learn today of what we can apply to our lives.

I have four headings that I want to tell this story under and they should all be very familiar for those who have tracked with me throughout this sermon series. They are all things we’ve talked about again and again and again throughout the Books of Kings.

Here’s the first one:

#1. THE EYES OF THE LORD.

What matters most is in any given situation is God’s evaluation of it.

We’ve seen this phrase again and again. “The eyes of the LORD.” It appears here in verse 32. Let’s start in verse 31. 2 Kings 23:31.

“Jehoahaz was twenty-three years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months. His mother's name was Hamutal daughter of Jeremiah; she was from Libnah. [Thumbs-up or thumbs-down?] He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, just as his fathers had done.”

How many times have we asked the question, “Thumbs up or thumbs down?” over the last year?

Like a broken record! Unfortunately, the rest of these kings of Judah are all thumbs-down. No more good ones.

This one only makes it 3 months.

And why is he thumbs-down?

It’s not because he wasn’t smart.
It’s not because he wasn’t politically savvy.
It’s not because he didn’t have good ideas about how to run a big organization.
It’s not because he lacked royal skills.

It’s because (v.32), “He did evil in the eyes of the LORD.”

That’s why he’s thumbs down.

His great-grandpa Manasseh ruled for 55 years. He must have been pretty good at the king thing.

But he was thumbs-down, too.

Because he didn’t do his one job in the eyes of the LORD. He had just one job, and he didn’t do it.

It’s what God thinks about you or me or about anything that is the most important thing.

It doesn’t matter what the world thinks.
It doesn’t matter what our friends think.
It doesn’t matter what our co-workers think.
It doesn’t matter what our family thinks.
It doesn’t even really matter what we think.

Like it matters what God thinks!

What really matters in life is how things stand in the eyes of the LORD.

If we truly get that, we will live very differently. Amen?

What if all you cared about ultimately was the Lord’s opinion?

And you lived for Him and Him alone?

That’s how Jesus lived. He wasn’t controlled by anything but bringing glory to His Father whom He loved.

Remember, when these kings are at their best, they remind us of King Jesus.

But not Jehoahaz. He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, just as his fathers had done.

Not his daddy. King Josiah had been two thumbs-up.

But Jehoahaz went the way of so many of the rest of his forefathers and continued their thumbs-down ways. V.33

“Pharaoh Neco put him in chains at Riblah in the land of Hamath so that he might not reign in Jerusalem, and he imposed on Judah a levy of a hundred talents of silver and a talent of gold. Pharaoh Neco made Eliakim son of Josiah king in place of his father Josiah and changed Eliakim's name to Jehoiakim. But he took Jehoahaz and carried him off to Egypt, and there he died.”

Here’s where it’s gotten to–the king of Egypt is deciding who will be the king of Judah!

Jehoahaz is out, and his brother renamed Jehoiakim is in.

And he’s a real stinker.

If you want to know how bad Jehoiakim was, then read the book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah is prophesying during this time period.

Jehoiakim is living under Neco’s thumb and levies a great big tax on the people, but he still finds enough money in the budget to build a big palace for himself. And he kills prophets. And he tears up the word of God and burns it in a fire to keep himself warm.

He’s nothing like his dad. V.35

“Jehoiakim paid Pharaoh Neco the silver and gold he demanded. In order to do so, he taxed the land and exacted the silver and gold from the people of the land according to their assessments. Jehoiakim was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eleven years. His mother's name was Zebidah daughter of Pedaiah; she was from Rumah. And he did evil in the eyes of the LORD, just as his fathers had done.”

Now, here’s the second thing we’re going to see. I’d be willing to bet that some of you could nail if I gave you a second.

Here it is:

#2. THE WORD OF THE LORD.

How many times have we seen that?

God has promised some things.
God has said some things.

And those things will happen. For certain. You can count on it.

Chapter 24, verse 1.

“During Jehoiakim's reign, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon invaded the land, and Jehoiakim became his vassal for three years. But then he changed his mind and rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar. The LORD sent Babylonian, Aramean, Moabite and Ammonite raiders against him. He sent them to destroy Judah, in accordance with the word of the LORD proclaimed by his servants the prophets.”

This is just what God had said.

God has promised that Judah will be destroyed, and He will see to it that it happens just as he said.

By the way, this is when Daniel and his friends get taken into captivity in Babylon.

Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. Or as they were also called “Shadrach; Meshach, and Abednego.”

Taken into captivity during the failed reign of King Jehoiakim.

Things got really bad.

But it wasn’t because Nebuchadnezzar was so powerful.

It’s because the LORD had threatened (which is a kind of promise) that this would happen. V.3

“Surely these things happened to Judah according to the LORD's command, in order to remove them from his presence because of the sins of Manasseh and all he had done,  including the shedding of innocent blood. For he had filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and the LORD was not willing to forgive.”

They had reached the limit of God’s longsuffering patience.

And He had to keep His promises.

Because God is faithful.

All of those things that God said He would do in Deuteronomy, if the nation forsook Him and broke the covenant?  He had to do those things or He wouldn’t have been faithful to His end of the covenant!

See, we should be glad that God keeps His threats, because it’s another proof that God is faithful to keep His promises.

One of the biggest themes that runs through the whole Old Testament, we’ve seen it again and again, is that God always keeps His promises.

He doesn’t ever say, “I know I promised that but J/K. I was just kidding.”

And if He never carried out His threats, it would bring His faithfulness into dubiety.

So it’s good news for us. But it was bad news for Jehoiakim and Judah. V.5

“As for the other events of Jehoiakim's reign, and all he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah? Jehoiakim rested with his fathers. And Jehoiachin his son succeeded him as king.” v.7

“The king of Egypt did not march out from his own country again, because the king of Babylon had taken all his territory, from the Wadi of Egypt to the Euphrates River.”

By the way, that’s called the “Battle of Carchemish.” You might have heard about it in your world history classes. It was kind of a big deal.

Egypt never recovered from that. Nebuchadnezzar was now the big dog of the whole region. V.8

“Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months. His mother's name was Nehushta daughter of Elnathan; she was from Jerusalem. He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, just as his father had done.

At that time the officers of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon advanced on Jerusalem and laid siege to it, and Nebuchadnezzar himself came up to the city while his officers were besieging it.

Jehoiachin king of Judah, his mother, his attendants, his nobles and his officials all surrendered to him. In the eighth year of the reign of the king of Babylon, he took Jehoiachin prisoner.”

By the way, this is when the prophet Ezekiel was taken into captivity himself.

He begins his ministry in the fifth year of Jehoiachin’s exile (Ez. 1:2).

You see how all of the Bible is coming together and fits together?

Why did all of these bad things happen to them? Was it random chance? V.13

“As the LORD had declared [it’s because of the word of the LORD], Nebuchadnezzar removed all the treasures from the temple of the LORD and from the royal palace, and took away all the gold articles that Solomon king of Israel had made for the temple of the LORD.

[Do you remember all of that gold? It’s gone.]

He carried into exile all Jerusalem: all the officers and fighting men, and all the craftsmen and artisans–a total of ten thousand. Only the poorest people of the land were left.

Nebuchadnezzar took Jehoiachin captive to Babylon. [Remember that. We’ll come back to that.] He also took from Jerusalem to Babylon the king's mother, his wives, his officials and the leading men of the land. The king of Babylon also deported to Babylon the entire force of seven thousand fighting men, strong and fit for war, and a thousand craftsmen and artisans.”

And now he makes the decision about who the king of Judah will be. The king of Babylon decides who will be the king of Judah. V.17

“He made Mattaniah, Jehoiachin's uncle, king in his place and changed his name to Zedekiah. Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eleven years. His mother's name was Hamutal daughter of Jeremiah; she was from Libnah. [Last one. Ready? Thumbs up or thumbs down?] He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, just as Jehoiakim had done. It was because of the LORD's anger that all this happened to Jerusalem and Judah, and in the end he thrust them from his presence.”

#3. THE ANGER OF THE LORD.

All of this did not happen because Babylon was so great.

It happened because God was so angry.

Righteously, justly, perfectly, virtuously angry.

We have trouble with that because our anger goes so wrong so often.

We’re not that familiar with righteous anger.

But God does anger perfectly.

And this was His perfect righteous anger at work.

Now, you need to know that Zedekiah was a wimpy king. He was one of those put a finger to the wind to decide what to do kind of guys.

He was evil like Jehoiakim or Manasseh, but he was evil because he just did what he thought was politically expedient, not what was righteous.

For example the last sentence of verse 20, “Now Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.”

That sounds good! But if you read the book of Jeremiah, you find out that that’s the exact opposite of what God had told Zedekiah to do through the prophet.

God had told them to submit to Babylon, so of course, Zedekiah does the opposite!

And now the flood of judgment comes. Because of the anger of the LORD. Chapter 25.

“So in the ninth year of Zedekiah's reign, on the tenth day of the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon marched against Jerusalem with his whole army. He encamped outside the city and built siege works all around it. The city was kept under siege until the eleventh year of King Zedekiah. [That’s two years. And there is no last second rescue by the angel of the LORD.]

By the ninth day of the fourth month the famine in the city had become so severe that there was no food for the people to eat. Then the city wall was broken through, and the whole army fled at night through the gate between the two walls near the king's garden, though the Babylonians were surrounding the city. They fled toward the Arabah, but the Babylonian army pursued the king and overtook him in the plains of Jericho. All his soldiers were separated from him and scattered, and he was captured. He was taken to the king of Babylon at Riblah, where sentence was pronounced on him.

They killed the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes. Then they put out his eyes, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon. [Last thing he ever saw.]

On the seventh day of the fifth month, in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard, an official of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem.

He set fire to the temple of the LORD, the royal palace and all the houses of Jerusalem. Every important building he burned down.”

Remember when they built that temple?

And all that it stood for? The very presence of God?

They are being thrust out of His presence.

He’s left town, and they are being forced out, too. V.10

“The whole Babylonian army, under the commander of the imperial guard, broke down the walls around Jerusalem. Nebuzaradan the commander of the guard carried into exile the people who remained in the city, along with the rest of the populace and those who had gone over to the king of Babylon. But the commander left behind some of the poorest people of the land to work the vineyards and fields.

[They dismantled the temple.]

The Babylonians broke up the bronze pillars, the movable stands and the bronze Sea that were at the temple of the LORD and they carried the bronze to Babylon. They also took away the pots, shovels, wick trimmers, dishes and all the bronze articles used in the temple service. The commander of the imperial guard took away the censers and sprinkling bowls–all that were made of pure gold or silver.

The bronze from the two pillars, the Sea and the movable stands, which Solomon had made for the temple of the LORD, was more than could be weighed. Each pillar was twenty-seven feet high. The bronze capital on top of one pillar was four and a half feet high and was decorated with a network and pomegranates of bronze all around. The other pillar, with its network, was similar.”

Remember when they built that? The gold, the silver, the bronze.

It’s all gone. It’s all undone.

You feel like there should be some judgment to come on Babylon for this.

(And there will be. The book of Habbakuk tells us there will be.)

But this is judgment on Judah. And it’s devastating. V.18

“The commander of the guard took as prisoners Seraiah the chief priest, Zephaniah the priest next in rank and the three doorkeepers. Of those still in the city, he took the officer in charge of the fighting men and five royal advisers. He also took the secretary who was chief officer in charge of conscripting the people of the land and sixty of his men who were found in the city. [What did he do with them?] Nebuzaradan the commander took them all and brought them to the king of Babylon at Riblah. There at Riblah, in the land of Hamath, the king had them executed. So Judah went into captivity, away from her land.”

That is one of the saddest sentences in the whole Old Testament.

This afternoon, you should read the book of Lamentations to see how Israel felt at this very moment.

There’s a whole book in your Bible just to record how sad they were about this event.

We are missing what God has to say to us if we don’t feel some of the sorrow of this tragic moment.

“So Judah went into captivity, away from her land.”  V.22

“Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon appointed Gedaliah son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, to be over the people he had left behind in Judah. [He’s not a king. He’s a governor. And he’s not a son of David. There is now no son of David on the throne in Judah.]

When all the army officers and their men heard that the king of Babylon had appointed Gedaliah as governor, they came to Gedaliah at Mizpah–Ishmael son of Nethaniah, Johanan son of Kareah, Seraiah son of Tanhumeth the Netophathite, Jaazaniah the son of the Maacathite, and their men. Gedaliah took an oath to reassure them and their men. ‘Do not be afraid of the Babylonian officials,’ he said. ‘Settle down in the land and serve the king of Babylon, and it will go well with you.’

[That’s the message that Jeremiah sent to them as well. V.25]

In the seventh month, however, Ishmael son of Nethaniah, the son of Elishama, who was of royal blood, came with ten men and assassinated Gedaliah and also the men of Judah and the Babylonians who were with him at Mizpah. At this, all the people from the least to the greatest, together with the army officers, fled to Egypt for fear of the Babylonians.”

Everything has fallen apart.

The worst thing ever has happened.

God has, in His righteous anger, destroyed the temple, destroyed Jerusalem, and sent Judah into exile.

If you want to know more about this, read the last few chapters of Jeremiah and all of Lamentations. Because you really feel just how terrible these events truly are.

The anger of the LORD.

But we’ve got one more. And it’s just a little glimmer of light, but on a dark day, a little glimmer shines bright.

#4. THE GRACE OF THE LORD. Look at verse 27.

“In the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah [remember him?], in the year Evil-Merodach became king of Babylon [Nebuchadnezzar’s son], he released Jehoiachin from prison on the twenty-seventh day of the twelfth month. He spoke kindly to him and gave him a seat of honor higher than those of the other kings who were with him in Babylon. So Jehoiachin put aside his prison clothes and for the rest of his life ate regularly at the king's table. Day by day the king gave Jehoiachin a regular allowance as long as he lived.”

That’s where I get the title for today’s message. V.29, “The King’s Table.”

One the one hand, it’s a table of dishonor and defeat.

Jehoiachin is in exile and has no power or authority in Judah.

He lives off of the king of Babylon’s table.

But I also think there is ray of hope here, too.

Because of how he’s treated. This guy has been in exile for 37 years and living as a prisoner.

He actually outlives Nebuchadnezzar.

It’s weird to think about it, but Daniel is at work in this kingdom as an official this whole time.

And his king is in prison this whole time. And until 37 years after he was sent into exile, he is called up, given new clothes and treated, kind of royally.

He’s a Son of David who is treated as the rightful king.

I think there’s some grace here.

I don’t think you’re supposed to get all excited about it. Because the main thing we should be feeling at the end of 2 Kings is sadness and sorrow and lamentation.

But seeing this old king, this thumbs-down king, being given a seat of honor and provision at this king’s table, makes me think that God is still at work.

God is still keeping His promises, including the promise of Davidic King.
God is still being kind and gentle and not giving everything that His wayward people deserve.
God is still showing mercy and kindness and steadfast love.

Do you see that there?

And you know what I’m going to say next.

It also reminds me of a much greater King and His table.

The table that we are going to eat at right now.

Because when these kings have been at their best, they have reminded us of Jesus.

But when they have been at their worst (and they have been at their worst!), they remind us of why we need Jesus.

It’s because of the eyes of the LORD that we need Jesus.

We have been evaluated and found wanting.

It’s because of the word of the LORD that we need Jesus.

God has promised to punish sin.

It’s because of the anger of the LORD that we need Jesus.

Because “the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness...” (Romans 1:18).

What happened to the temple and to Jerusalem is a shadow, a picture, of the judgment to come.

The anger of God poured out on the disobedient.

That’s why we need Jesus.

And that’s why He came.

This Table represents the Cross.

Where the King of Glory took on our sin.

He was forsaken. He was condemned.

In our place.

Jesus absorbed the righteous wrath of God.

And He turned the ultimate tragedy into an ultimate victory.

For all who will put their faith in Him.

This is the Table of the King of Kings.

Hallelujah, What A Savior!


***

Messages in this Series:

01. Who Will Be King?
02. The Wisdom of the King
03. The Temple of the King
04. The Incomparable King of the Temple
05. A Breathtaking King
06. The Turned King and the Torn Kingdom
07. The Two Kings and the Tearing of the Kingdom
08. The Word of the LORD
09. In the Eyes of the LORD
10. The LORD Lives
11. The LORD Is God!
12. The LORD Is Still God.
13. “You Will Know that I am the LORD”
14. "Thus Saith the LORD!"
15. What the LORD Says
16. Is There No God in Israel?
17. Where Is the God of Elijah?
18. How NOT To Relate to God
19. God of Wonders
20. No God in the All the World Except in Israel
21. LORD, Open Our Eyes!
22. "If the LORD Should Open the Floodgates of Heaven"
23. "I Will Avenge the Blood of My Servants"
24. "Long Live the King!"
25. God Is Good Even When the King Is Bad
26. “Good Kings, Bad Kings, Good Things, Bad Things”
27. The Last King of Israel
28. "You Alone, O LORD, Are God"
29. "I Have Found the Book of the Law"

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Friday, March 03, 2017

The Shack Movie - Resource Round-Up

"The Shack" movie comes out this weekend, an adaptation of the uber-popular book The Shack by William P. Young. A whole lot of people are talking about it online right now.

I read the book in 2009 and registered my cautions and concerns about it then, and today, as none of my concerns have gone away, my cautions also remain. Set your discernment-level to "high" if you chose to watch this one.

Here are some of the best things I've read about the book (and a few about the movie):

1. Pastor and author Timothy Keller wrote about it in 2010.  He says, "At the heart of the book is a noble effort—to help modern people understand why God allows suffering, using a narrative form." I agree that this is the driving purpose of the book, and I know that many have resonated with that part of the book and comforted by it. However, Keller goes on to caution:
Anyone who is strongly influenced by the imaginative world of The Shack will be totally unprepared for the far more multi-dimensional and complex God that you actually meet when you read the Bible. . . . The God of The Shack has none of the balance and complexity of the Biblical God. Half a God is not God at all.
2. Blogger and author Tim Challies wrote a thorough review of the theology of the book in 2008 that has been read by many.  His conclusion:
Because of the sheer volume of error and because of the importance of the doctrines reinvented by the author, I would encourage Christians, and especially young Christians, to decline this invitation to meet with God in The Shack. It is not worth reading for the story and certainly not worth reading for the theology.
Tim also has written recently on his concerns about watching any movie where God is portrayed in human form, especially God the Father and God the Spirit. While I don't share his concerns in the same way, I thought his follow-up article about the differences between Aslan of Narnia and "Papa" of The Shack had a lot of merit to it.

3. Author Randy Alcorn, who also writes fiction to teach theology and has met with the author, urges discernment about watching the movie (and previously wrote about concerns about the book's content).

4. Plugged In and World Magazine both posted reviews which try to provide balancing opinions. In its typical skewering satirical fashion, The Babylon Bee was a little less balanced.

5. David Mathis of Desiring God compares and contrasts The Shack with the biblical book of Job. I think this is a wonderful comparison to make because the book is not primarily about the Trinity (though it is definitely teaching a poor theology proper, too) so much as it is about suffering. I'm with Mathis in finding the Book of Job's answer much more satisfying than Young's, even if it does not conform to my wishes.

6. My all-time favorite review of The Shack book is actually five reviews at once by Fred Sanders, one of the smartest theologians we have in current evangelicalism. He adopts five different personas to attack The Shack from different directions, some with his tongue firmly placed in his cheek. It's fun to read out loud. For example, Sanders' Haiku artist puts it this way:

Eugene Peterson
Said it was good as Bunyan.
He must have meant Paul.

We’ve all got a shack:
That dark place deep inside us
Where we keep our crap.

“I’m thinking that bird
Probably understands that
Better than I do” (p. 98)

That Jewish guy said
Papa baked me some cookies
‘Cuz she is so sweet.

Whose problem is it
That I feel weird with this God
Like Aunt Jemima?

Wacky Trinity
Is not what you expected
And that’s the whole point.

“I’m sorry, but those
Are just words to me. They don’t
Make much sense,” Mack shrugged. (p. 98)

My copy was free
But I almost lost my mind
Inside of the Shack.

All of that to say, read and watch with discernment. And if you don't know how to do that, give this book and its movie a pass. There's a lot better stuff out there for you to ingest.