Monday, March 31, 2008

Barn Raising (Part 1)



Our Link Group and my folks came over on Saturday to help us to raise Heather's Hen House. These are a few pictures from our "Coop Raising" (a work in progress...).

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Because "Loud Times" Just Doesn't Sound Right?

David Powlison on why we shouldn't call our times of devotion "quiet times" (or rather, why we shouldn't be so quiet when relating to God!).

When I first heard Dr. Powlison speak to this issue, it was immediately and incredibly freeing!

I'm glad I'm allowed to be aloud!

Matt's Messages "The Holy Spirit Dwells Inside Of Us

“The Holy Spirit Dwells Inside Of Us”
The Fellowship of the Holy Spirit
March 30, 2008
John 14:16-17

We are returning today to our study of the Person and Ministry of the Holy Spirit, and the one of the most natural places to go is the Upper Room Discourse of John 14 through 16. It was in the Upper Room that Jesus gave His fullest teaching about Who the Holy Spirit is and what He would do when He came in His fullness.

While you’re turning there, let me get us back into gear with a reminder of what we’ve been learning.

The first message in this series was about Who the Spirit is. We learned 4 things that we’ve seen again and again and again:

The Holy Spirit is God, worthy to be worshiped.
The Holy Spirit is a Person, Someone we are able to relate to, to fellowship with.
The Holy Spirit is Mysterious, beyond our comprehension and out of our control.
And the Holy Spirit is Christ-Centered, focused on “spotlighting” the Lord Jesus Christ.

And then in the next three messages, we began to talk about what He does. What are the Holy Spirit’s precious ministries to us.

And the first was: The Holy Spirit Brings Us to Christ.

He draws, convicts us, regenerates, and converts us.

If it wasn’t for the Holy Spirit, we wouldn’t have a relationship with God in the first place.

And the second was that: The Holy Spirit Assures Us of Our Relationship With God.

He Assures Us Of Our Ownership, Of Our Inheritance, and Of Our Adoption.

The third thing was that: The Holy Spirit Guides Us Into All Truth.

He inspired the Bible, He illuminates the truth of the Bible to us, and He shows us how the truth of the Bible points to the Truth of Jesus Christ.

That’s what we’ve seen so far.

And we’re just getting started! We’re going to see again and again and again that the Holy Spirit has a full and vital panoply of ministries to and through us.

Now today, we’re going to meditate on a mind-blowing ministry of the Holy Spirit that is obvious when you think about it, but we don’t think about it enough!

And it’s this: “The Holy Spirit Dwells Inside of Us.”

And by “us,” I mean what I’ve meant all along in these titles. “Us” refers to Real Christians, faith-followers of Jesus Christ.

The Holy Spirit Dwells Inside of Us.

Let’s hear it from Jesus’ own words. John chapter 14. Jesus is in the middle of telling His followers that He is leaving. Verse 16.

“...I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever–the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”

Hear it again in the King James Version:

“I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.”

Let’s pray.

Jesus was going away. But He wasn’t going to leave His followers alone.

He was going to give them (through asking the Father) a Great Companion.

Another (that is another just like Him) Paraclete, One Who is called alongside. A Comforter, an Advocate, a Counselor, a Companion to be WITH THEM.

And He gives Him a name: The Spirit of Truth. Like we saw last time, His ministry is one to guide us into all truth.

The world (most of human society) can’t receive Him, can’t accept Him, doesn’t believe in the Spirit because they can’t see Him nor know Him.

But Jesus’ followers (and you and me) do know Him, because He lives with us (in the disciples’ case I think that means that He dwelt among them by dwelling in Jesus) and (last phrase) “[He] will be in you.”

Pentecost hadn’t happened yet, but it was promised.
The Spirit hadn’t been given yet, but He was coming.

And He was going to take up residence in believers!

“[He] will be in you.”

The Holy Spirit Dwells Inside of Us. Within Us.

That is an amazing truth!

One that we don’t think about nearly enough!

The Holy Spirit Lives Inside of All Genuine Believers!

Now, yes, He lives everywhere!

The Holy Spirit is omnipresent because He is God.

The Old Testament said that we can’t go anywhere to get away from the Spirit.

But now, we learn in the New Testament, that the Holy Spirit lives in a special way within the bodies and hearts of the children of God.

The Holy Spirit Dwells Inside Of Us.

Now, this may be obvious to you, maybe you learned that long ago, but I don’t think that we operate our daily lives enough on this basic gospel truth. I know that I don’t!

What does it mean that the Holy Spirit of God has taken up residence within me?

Let me suggest four things this morning:

#1. This truth MAKES US HAPPY!

The truth of the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit Should Make Us Happy.

I’m sure that it was reassuring to the disciples.

I know that they didn’t understand everything Jesus said in the Upper Room, but as they did come to understand it, this would be a precious truth.

Jesus was going away, but there was another Companion who wasn’t! V.16 again.

“I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you [catch this word!] FOREVER–the Spirit of truth.”

How does that make you feel?

If you are a genuine believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, you have the Holy Spirit within you, and He’s never leaving!

Have people left you? Have you been disappointed and left behind? He’s never leaving.

That’s the reason why He’s a down-payment on all of God’s promises. Remember that from last month? He is earnest-money that won’t be taken back.

In fact, all of His ministries that we have looked at so far and all of the ministries we’re going to look at over the next few months–proceed from this fact–He lives within the believer–and He’s not going anywhere!

Rejoice!

This truth makes us happy.

Listen to Romans 5:5 – “...God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”

Do you know the love of God in your heart? That comes from the presence of the Holy Spirit within you!

He mediates all of God’s blessings to us in the New Covenant and He does it, not from outside of us, but from within!

Isn’t that precious? And it should make us a happy people.

As I thought about this truth this week, I found my heart leaping and my faith and joy growing because I know Who is here.

As we meditate on the truth of the Spirit’s indwelling, we should grow in our joy.

#2. This truth MAKES US HOLY.

The truth of the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit Should Make Us Holy.

If the Holy Spirit lives inside of you, what does that make you?

Holy?

Yes, it does. His presence is a purifying presence. Wherever He goes, He sanctifies.

Listen to Romans 8:5-14. Listen for “indwelling” words:

“Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires [that’s unholiness]; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. [Now listen! V.9] You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ [The Holy Spirit Dwells Inside Of All Real Christians]. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. [Now catch this Resurrection reference...] And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you [which He is!], he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you [there it is again!]. Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation–but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”

Now, I wish that I was preaching Romans 8 to unpack all of that deep theology.

But I think that the main point was clear. The Holy Spirit lives inside of His people and because of that, He makes them holy.

Now, it isn’t automatic. It involves a process of killing off sin within (what we sometimes call “mortification,” our cooperation with the Spirit in killing off indwelling sin), but it is a sure thing for all genuine believers.

And that’s because when we became believers, the Holy Spirit moved into the control room of our lives–our hearts! And now that He’s there (and never leaving!), He’s slowly but surely taking more and more control of our control-centers, and therefore, steering us into holiness.

Now, I want to talk more about that in the next few weeks, so I won’t go too far into it now.

But I want you to see it here and think of it as a natural and inescapable result of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence.

By living inside of us, He makes us holy.

Now, let’s apply that for a second.

What unholiness is there in your heart and life right now?

What sins are besetting you?
What habits are unrighteous?
What relationships are upside-down?
What, in your life, is not what it should be?

The Holy Spirit is on-site and wanting to clean house.

Are you going to let Him or are you going to fight Him?

Yesterday, we had a barn-raising at our house. Our Link Group came over and helped us start to put up “Heather’s Hen House”–the prettiest little chicken coop that you’ve ever seen (at least, that I’ve ever seen).

Every since this Fall, Heather has become “Feather-Brained” and gotten excited about the idea of keeping chickens for fun and for eggs.

And at Christmastime, my big gift for her was a promise that the “mighty builder” would build her a Hen House that she could fill up with a dozen “lay-ers.”

Now, I checked with her yesterday, there was a detail that we hadn’t cleared up yet.

She had made her order of peeps this week from the hatchery, and I wanted to make sure that she’d ordered the kind of chickens that don’t...well, you know...

Because I was making a very nice clean hen house out of rough-cut Hemlock with ship-lap siding, nesting boxes, and the whole nine-yards.

And I didn’t want to get Chicken-Do all the nice new floor, if you know what I mean.

And I especially don’t want it all over the kids’ Monkey Tower and tracked into the house!

Well, my wife informs me (and I suspected it all along), that there is no chicken breed that doesn’t do its business wherever it pleases.

And we’ll just have to clean and clean and clean our Hen House.

What kind of chicken-do is in your heart and life?

The Holy Spirit wants to clean it up. And He will do all of the hard work, but He wants you to cooperate in a clean-sweep.

Here’s why it’s so important.

#3. This truth MAKES US HOME.

The truth of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling makes us “a home” for Him.

Verse 17. “[He] will be in you.”

What do you call “a home for a god?”

“A temple.” Turn with me quickly to 1 Corinthians chapter 6, starting in verse 12.

Paul is answering problems that had cropped up in “super-spiritual Corinth.”

One of the problems was sexual immorality. They thought that because they were “spiritual” people that what they did with their bodies wasn’t important.

But Paul says: “‘Everything is permissible for me’–[probably one of their phrases] but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible for me’–but I will not be mastered by anything. ‘Food for the stomach and the stomach for food’–but God will destroy them both. [Now, he gets to the point] The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body [There’s a connection between the Lord and our bodies]. By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. [We’re going to come back to that–but the point here is that our bodies are important. V.15] Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, ‘The two will become one flesh.’ [There is a mysterious oneness that sex always creates!] But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit. [v.18] Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. [And now here’s the kicker...] Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”

Our bodies are not our own. They were bought by the precious blood of Christ.

And what we do with our bodies is important because they are temples.

Turn to the person next to you and say, “I am a temple.”

And that means that our bodies are not unimportant.

Sometimes, we Christians think that our hearts are all that matters. That our spirits are the whole show.

Well, our hearts are the control-centers. We do live out of our hearts. They are incredibly important in God’s thinking.

But our bodies are important, too.

It’s with our bodies that we either honor or dishonor God.

Our bodies carry out what our hearts choose.

And they give expression to what is in our hearts and show off WHO is in our hearts.

So when we use our bodies in unrighteous ways or misuse our bodies, we are dishonoring He who lives within us.

Listen to how shamefully Paul talks to the Corinthians:

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”

He Makes Us Home! So we should honor Him with what we do with His Temple.

Now the application for sexual immorality is obvious and plain here in the text.

Keep sex within God’s good boundaries–a loving and lasting marriage covenant.

Everything else is dishonoring the Temple of the Holy Spirit.

Do you need to hear that this morning?

You are not your own. It’s not your body! It’s His home! He bought it with His blood!

But I think there are other applications that aren’t on the face of the text.

This reminds me that what I eat and (especially) how much I eat reflects upon the Holy Spirit’s dwelling place, as well.

What are we doing with the “temple?”

You know that this building here is not “God’s house,” right?

Sometimes, we make the mistake of calling this building, “God’s house.” “Don’t run in God’s house!”

This is not God’s house, as helpful a ministry-tool as it is.

This is not God’s house.

This is.

What are we doing with this?

Now, we’ll see in future weeks that this applies corporately, as well. That we together are a temple of the Holy Spirit, as the Church.

But this verse applies to my individual body. What am I doing with that?

Am I honoring or dishonoring its Holy Inhabitant?

Do you see what a great blessing it is to be indwelt by the Spirit and what a great responsibility it creates?

It Makes Us Happy
It Makes Us Holy
It Makes Us a Home for the Holy Spirit

And #4. This truth MAKES US HOPE.

I don’t know whether you caught it or not, but there is a note of RESURRECTION in each one of the passages that I’ve quoted today.

In the first one, it said that the Holy Spirit would be with us FOREVER.

In Romans 8 (v.11), it said that the Holy Spirit raised Jesus from the dead and is living in us.

And in this last one (1 Corinthians 6), it said, “By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.”

Because the Holy Spirit lives inside of us, we are guaranteed resurrection bodies.

Some day (and some day soon), we will be given new indestructible bodies to be permanent housing for the Holy Spirit.

Last week, we celebrated Resurrection Sunday. And this morning, we sang, “Because He Lives.”

And Then One Day I’ll Cross the River
And I’ll Fight Live’s Final War with Pain
And Then as Death Gives Way to Victory
I’ll See the Light of Glory and I’ll Know He Lives

That’s awesome!

But there’s even more!

We don’t just go to heaven when we die.

No, one day, we will get new bodies to live in a New Heavens and a New Earth.

New Bodies Like Jesus’ Body.

1 Corinthians 15 calls it a “spiritual body,” and that doesn’t mean immaterial, it means controlled by and enlivened by and eternally home to the Holy Spirit of God!

And that, friends, is our hope!

Because He Lives, We Too Shall Live!

And it’s worthy living for and (even) dying for.

Where is your hope right now?

What are you hoping in?

Is it the Resurrection?

This last week, one of our fervent prayers was answered.

It appears that my son, Peter David, has become what we call “a found sheep” that He has trusted Jesus Christ as His Lord and Savior.

Heather had the privilege of asking Him about His trust in Jesus’ death and resurrection and leading Him in a prayer to receive Christ.

We are so excited for Peter. And for His new hope.

Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay for the sins of all who will turn and trust in Him.

And when we do, the Holy Spirit Comes to Dwell Inside Of Us.

That truth makes us Happy. Or at least it should.
And that truth makes us Holy.
Because we have been made a Home, a Temple for the Holy Spirit.
And that truth makes us Hope in the Resurrection still to come.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Indwelling

On Sunday, I will be preaching on the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit which has been a glorious truth to meditate on.

To prepare, in addition to the other things I'm reading, I found these two articles by Dr. Jim Hamilton really helpful (especially for sorting out some of the opinions about how much the Holy Spirit indwelt believers in the Old Testament):

Old Covenant Believers and the Indwelling Spirit: A Survey of Opinions

Were Old Covenant Believers Indwelt By the Spirit?

Hamilton has written a book-length treatment on this that looks really good.

He also has a blog: For His Renown. Good stuff and highly recommended.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Whence Matt: D.A. Carson

Andreas Kostenberger has posted a biographical sketch of D.A. Carson a former professor of mine at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. It seems very accurate to me (including some of the less flattering items). I am currently reading Carson's tribute to his father: Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor.

Reading it this morning was a good reminder of the mentoring effect Carson's example and writings have had on me, personally.

Kostenberger's description could be, in many ways, a description of what I've tried to be and do in my "patch" (as Carson would say). No one can or should be "another Carson," but a lot of the principles that drive him (unswerving gospel-centeredness, biblical scholarship driven by a belief in Scripture's inspiration, inerrancy and authority, lucidity and clarity in interpretation and exposition, pastoral passion for the church, etc) are a wonderful example for others. He is one of a select group of Christian leaders who forge a workable (though messy at times) middle-way between fundamentalism and liberalism--those leaders are one of the biggest reason that I carry the label "evangelical."

I remember Carson speaking on Psalm 1 in chapel at Moody Bible Institute, long before I knew who he was. That day, I wrote in my Bible, "Lord, make me a Psalm 1 man." And that's still my prayer.

For those of us who need heroes in the gospel (flawed as all of us may be), I think that Carson is a worthy choice, and I am extremely thankful for him.

[HT: JT]

Note: One of the best one-stop places for listening to lectures and sermons from Carson is this page maintained by Andy Naselli.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Matt's Messages "Eyewitness"

“Eyewitness”
Resurrection Sunday
March 23, 2008

I am an eyewitness.

My name was Simon, but the Master changed it to “Peter.”

My father’s name was Jonah, and he was a fisherman. And so, I was a fisherman, too, with my brother, Andrew, and our friends, James and John.

Until we met the Master.

One day, we were casting our nets into the sea of Galilee (Matthew 4), and the Master came upon us and said, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

And, I’ll tell you, we dropped our nets right there and took up a new line of work.

We became disciples/students/followers of Jesus.

You’ve heard of Jesus, haven’t you? I know you have, I was listening to you sing about Him.

Well, I know Him personally.
I was an eyewitness to His life and ministry.
An eyewitness to His death and...resurrection!

I walked with Jesus on dusty roads.
I watched Him heal the sick and give sight to the blind.
I listened to Him teach about the Kingdom of Heaven.

There was nobody like Him. Nobody!

I remember when it first dawned on me who He really was.

We were in the region of Caesarea Philippi, and He asked us, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” (Matthew 16).

We said, “Well, some say, John the Baptist (come back from the dead); others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

As I understand it, that’s what a lot of people think about Jesus in your time, too. That He’s just a good man sent from God, a prophet, a good teacher of morality.

But Jesus looked at me and said, “But what about you? Who do you say that I am?”

And it was just there! I said, “You are the Christ, the Messiah, the Promised One, the Son of the living God!”

And I was right!

The Master beamed a smile at me and He said, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this “rock of your confession,” I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”

Wow! The Master renamed me “Rocky!” “Peter, the Rock!”

And I liked that because I’ve always thought that, “I rock!”

But as much as I thought I understood, I really didn’t have a clue! The rocks were in my head!

Because right then, the Master began to explain that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

Well, I didn’t believe Him. I thought He must be wrong!

I grabbed Him and took Him aside and began to...rebuke Him!

“Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you!”

Can I give you a piece of advice? Don’t ever say, “Never, Lord!” to Jesus. It’s NOT a good idea!
He had just called me, “Rock.” Now, He used another name!

He said, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in the mind the things of God, but the things of men.”

Yikes! That should teach me to rebuke Him! And it really made me think.

It was just a week after that when I saw...His glory!

The Master took James, John, and me up on a high mountain. And there, He was–I don’t know what to call it!–metamorphosized/changed/transfigured before us.

His face shone like the sun! And His clothes became as white as the light. You couldn’t look directly at Him!

And Moses (the lawgiver) and Elijah (the prince of the prophets) appeared with Him. They were saying that He was everything that they had been pointing to!

And I, well, I’ve got this disease called “foot-in-the-mouth disease.” I don’t always know what to say, but that doesn’t stop me from saying it!

I told the Lord that I would put up some tents for everybody, I was so excited!

And then God interrupted me! He spoke from Heaven–and He said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him!”

I was so scared, I thought I was going to die!

But Jesus touched me and said, “Don’t be afraid.” And when I looked up, there was noone else there, except Jesus.

I am an eyewitness.

In the second letter that I wrote...You have read it, haven’t you? You call it “2nd Peter,” I think.

In that letter I wrote, “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.”

I am an eyewitness. I saw it with my own eyes!

But that’s NOT the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen!

No, that came later.

We had been with the Master for almost three years. We had seen a lot!

Now, it seemed like things were coming to a head.

Our Lord had been in constant trouble with the authorities. They didn’t like anything He said. And they were worried about His power.

And I didn’t know it then, but one of our circle of Twelve was a traitor. Judas Iscariot. It makes me sick just to think of him (Matthew 26).

He had gone to the chief priests and asked them what they would be willing to pay him to hand the Master over to them. It turned out that Judas valued Jesus at just 30 silver coins.

It was Passover week, and we had arrived in Jerusalem and found our way to an upper room.

The Master seemed more troubled than usual. And that made us troubled.

He taught us many things that night, things I didn’t really understand until much later.

And He broke bread saying it was His body.
And He poured out wine saying it was His blood.

I didn’t know what He meant.

And then He said something to me that I’ll never forget (Luke 22).

He said, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

Oh, I didn’t like the sound of that.

I’m glad that the Master had prayed for me.
But “sifting like wheat” by Satan?
And “after you turn back?” I’m not going anywhere!

So, I did it again. I told the Lord that He didn’t know what He was talking about!

I said, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!” And I meant it.

But He knew better. He said, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”

It’s all blur now, and yet, I remember every detail.

We went up to the Mount of Olives to a garden called Gethsemane.

And the Master was overwhelmed with sorrow and prayed desperately to His Heavenly Father about some “cup” that He was going to have to drink.

I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I kept falling asleep. I’d never seen the Master so upset, and yet, I couldn’t bring myself to even pray for an hour.

And then, a long line of torches came winding up the mountainside from the city.

And there was Judas.

He came right up to the Master and kissed Him on the cheek.

It was obvious what was going on!

And I was furious!

I grabbed a sword and swung at one of His enemies.

I wanted to chop off his head, but all I got was an ear.

And then...they grabbed Him.

Every other time they had tried to grab Him, they couldn’t hold onto Him.

But now, they grabbed Him, and they led Him away!

And I lost it. I took off running.

I ran away from Jesus!

But I couldn’t stay away. I had to see what happened to Him.

I followed a distance. They took Him to the house of the high priest.

And that’s where I denied Him.

I was in the courtyard warming my hands. And a servant girl saw me there in the firelight. She looked at me too closely knew who I was.

She said, “This man was with him.”

And that was my chance to do what I said I would do.

To be a fisher of men.
To tell people that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
To be an eyewitness of the Majestic Glory I had seen on the mount of transfiguration.

To keep my word and go with Him to prison and death.

But instead, I said, “Woman, I don’t know him.”

And then a little later, someone else saw me and said, “You also are one of them!”

“Man, I am not!” I lied.

Another hour later, another one took notice of my Galilean accent and accused me of being a follower of Jesus.

So I let out a string of curse words that I can’t repeat here.

And I said, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!”

And then, the rooster crowed.

And the Master...turned and looked straight at me.

And all I could do was go outside and weep bitterly.

My tears felt like acid on my cheeks.

I had denied that I even knew Jesus!

I think you know what happened next.

They put Jesus on trial–He Who should have tried them!
And then they tortured Him–He Who never did anything wrong.
And then they killed Him.

He hung on a Cross–the worst kind of death imaginable in every way.

It was the darkest, worst day of my life–no, the darkest, worst day there ever was.

And I was an eyewitness.

After they buried the Master, the other disciples and I, minus Judas who had committed suicide over his treachery, the other disciples and I tried to lay low.

The rest of Friday passed.
Saturday went by.

And then, Sunday!

There was a banging on the door of the place where John and I were hiding (John 20).

It was Mary Magdalene.

She said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put Him!”

John and I took off running together, but he beat me there.

He looked in the tomb, but didn’t go in.

Then I came up behind him and went right in.

There were the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen.

And John came in behind me, and he believed that something miraculous had happened.

I didn’t know what to believe.

I am an eyewitness. But I didn’t know what to make of what I saw.

His body wasn’t there. But where was it?

I found out that night!

We had all huddled back together again with the doors locked for fear of the Jews and, the Lord Jesus...appeared and stood before us and said, “Peace be with you!”

And it was Him!

He was alive!

He showed us His hands, where the nails had gone in.

He showed us His side, where the spear had pierced His flesh!

And I was overjoyed!

I had seen the Lord!

He is alive! I’m an eyewitness. I saw Him with my own two eyes. He’s alive!

THAT is the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen!

He didn’t stay with us then, but He appeared to us many times over the next several weeks–each time, convincing us that what we saw was real.

One time, I had gone North to go fishing again.

My father, Jonah was a fisherman, and I had been a fisherman, so I thought maybe I’d be a fisherman again.

Even though Jesus was alive, I wasn’t sure that He wanted anything to do with me.

Because I had denied Him three times.

We were out in the boat that night. And we hadn’t caught anything. Do you know how that feels? Miserable.

It was getting on about morning, and I saw someone standing on the shore. He had a fire going and something cooking on it.

He called out to us, “Friends, haven’t you any fish.”

No.

He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” And when we did that, we couldn’t haul the net in for all the fish!

John was with me, and he said, “It’s the Lord!”

And I just jumped out of the boat and swam towards Him.

Yes, it is the Lord!

Oh, what a feeling that was!

And we had breakfast on the beach with Him.

And then, He broke my heart.

He asked me if I loved Him.

Did I love Him?

I thought I did. I had tried to, but I hadn’t been very good at it.

I had failed Him again and again and again.

I had denied Him three times.

I said, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

And He asked me that question three times.

And each time, He accepted my answer. He was forgiving me.

He was reinstating me. Each time, He told me to feed His sheep. He was giving me a new job to do. To shepherd God’s people.

Not just to be a fisher for men, but also a shepherd.

And then He told me that I was going to die for Him.

He said, “I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go...Follow me!”

I am an eyewitness to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

And I had to be willing to die for it.

And I did.

Thirty years later, I was a witness in Rome boldly telling people about Jesus and His resurrection.

And the Roman emperor thought it would be a good idea to crucify me for witnessing about Jesus.

And I refused to be crucified like my Lord.

I asked if I could be crucified upside down because I am so unworthy even to die like Jesus died.

There are people today in your world who say that Jesus never rose from the dead.

That it was just a story.

But I am an eyewitness who was willing to die for the Truth.

All I had to do was to admit that it was just a story, and I could have gone free!

But I am an eyewitness.

Jesus is not still dead. He’s alive!

And it’s worth dying to share that good news!

I’d like to give you two suggestions for how to respond to my testimony.

#1. BELIEVE THE GOOD NEWS OF THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS.

Do you believe my eyewitness testimony?

It’s written in your Scriptures for you to read and to understand and to trust.

When you believe in the good news of the resurrection, something amazing happens inside of you.

It’s called “new birth” and it’s awesome!

You’ve heard about it in the lives of Charlene and Mark.

I wrote about it in my first letter: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead!”

Isn’t that awesome!

New birth into a living hope!

That’s what the resurrection does in our hearts and lives.

Praise God for that!

Do you believe it?

You see there was something mysterious happening when Jesus died on that Cross.

I’ve said this about it: “He himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by His wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24).

All the times that I failed Him–He paid for them with His wounds.

All of the time that you have sinned–He bore those sins in His body on the tree.

So that you don’t have to pay for them.

And now that He’s alive, every debt has been forgiven, and He gives us new birth into a living hope!

Our part is to believe.

To turn from our sins and trust in Jesus and what He did for us on the Cross.

And that He is no longer dead, but risen and giving us new hope.

If you are a leader in this church who knows and believes the good news of Jesus’ resurrection, would you please stand?

If you are not yet a full believer in Jesus, I encourage you to seek out one of these people, maybe today!, and talk with them about what it means.

They stand ready to pray with you and help you to begin a new life of faith in Jesus Christ, new birth into a living hope because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

And here’s the other response, one for everyone here.

#2. BE A GOOD WITNESS TO THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS.

I am an eyewitness. I saw Jesus alive again with my own two eyes.

You aren’t an eyewitness like that.

But you do know what Jesus has done in your life. And you can witness to that.

I’m sure it wasn’t easy for Charlene and Mark to get up here and tell their stories.

But they were being faithful to witness to God’s work in their lives.

Where can you be a witness?

Who can you tell?

Jesus is alive, and the world needs to hear it.

It’s going to be hard.

But what’s the worst that can happen to you?

No, wait; I’ll tell you. You might be crucified upside down.

But He’s worth it! Friends, He’s worth it!

Take it from me.

I’m Peter, and I’m an eyewitness to His resurrection.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Guess Who?

Posted by Picasa

Come Weary Saints

This is a CD I'm ready for: Come Weary Saints, the latest worship album from Sovereign Grace Music. It's about persevering in faith through suffering because of the grace we know in Christ.

Here's Bob Kauflin explaining the motivation for the album.

Can't hardly wait.

EFCA Bloggers

I'm one of a growing number of EFCA folks who blog.

Paul Oyler of Justified By Grace Web Services, the company that created our church's simple and sweet website has just finished crafting the website for one of our sister districts: the Southeastern District of the EFCA.

He alerted me to a page on their site that lists as many EFCA Bloggers as he could find. Paul says that if you have a blog and would like to be included in that list, to contact him at paul.oyler AT gmail.com. Good idea!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Next on My List

Just finishing up Running Scared. Excellent book! I hope to write more about it soon.

Next, I'm looking forward to diving into D.A. Carson's book about his father: Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor.

Here's a review of it by Owen Strachan. Can't wait to dig in.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Matt's Messages "This Cup"

“This Cup”
March 16, 2008
Matthew 26:36-46

We’re going on a slight detour from our series on the Holy Spirit for the next two Sundays.

Today is Palm Sunday and next Sunday is Resurrection Sunday, and then we’ll return to our examination of the Holy Spirit’s major ministries to and through us.

Today, even though it’s Palm Sunday, we’re going to fast-forward beyond the Triumphal Entry and even beyond the Last Supper into Jesus’ prayer time in the Garden of Gethsemane.

It is the night before the Cross, and the Lord Jesus and his disciples have shared an intimate dinner full of teaching about His departure, the coming Holy Spirit, the new commandment to love one another and the Lord’s Supper.

Now, Jesus and his disciples have sung a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives, a familiar place Jesus had often disappeared to.

And there, Jesus found a special spot in a little garden to pray.

But this was no pleasant prayer time comfortably nestled in nature.

No, in this garden, Jesus was confronted with a cup.

“This Cup.”

And He had to pray about whether or not to drink it.

WHAT WAS IN THIS CUP?

What was Jesus staring at that made Him feel this way?

In verse 36, Jesus took all of his disciples to the garden of Gethsemane which basically means the “Olive Garden” but they weren’t here to enjoy the salad and pasta!

And He took His inner circle of three: Peter, James, and John along with Him deeper into the garden. And then He began to break down.

Verse 37 says that he began to be “sorrowful and troubled” and it doesn’t mean that he began to frown!

He began to be in deep distress and anguished. He says to Peter, James, and John (v.38), “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.”

And Jesus doesn’t exaggerate!

He feels so overwhelmed with sorrow that He’s just about to die with it! He feels like He’s going to die!

I’m sure He was crying. He was, perhaps, sobbing. I’m not sure what this means.

The Gospel of Luke tells us that when He prayed, his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground–He was that intense!

Verse 39 says that this almost overwhelmed Jesus went a little further and then fell with his face to the ground!

He can’t even stay on His feet, He’s in such agony!

Over what?

Over “This Cup.”

His Father has placed this cup in front of Him and bid Him to drink it.

And the very thought of this brings Him anguish of soul!

This is very different than how Jesus normally acts, isn’t it?

In four gospels full of information about Jesus Christ, He is seldom overwhelmed!

No, instead He normally is the master of whatever situation He is in.

Healings, Resurrections, Debates, Teachings, Miracles...

These all seem to be natural for Jesus. Even when they’re trying to stone Him, He just walks right out of the crowd! No problem.

But here, we see a different Jesus. In all of His humanity, struggling with “This Cup.”

What was in “This Cup?”

What would cause Him to pray like He does in verse 39?

“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Whatever is in this cup, He doesn’t want it! He doesn’t want any part of it!

“May this cup be taken from me?”

Perhaps, in His incarnation, He didn’t know just like He didn’t know the timing of His eventual return.

So, He asks: “May this cup be taken from me?”

In fact, He asks three times! V.39, verse 42, and verse 44.

We’re so used to stories that come in threes that we expect there to be a different answer the third time. Like the three little pigs.

But Jesus gets the same answer all three times.

“You Must Drink This Cup.”

What was in “This Cup” that was so abhorrent to our Lord?

I don’t know what words to use. Can you be fearful and not sin?

Jesus never sinned, but He seems almost afraid of “This Cup.”

He’s going to die, He’s overwhelmed by its contents.

He doesn’t want to drink it, unless the Father says that He must.

What was in “This Cup?”

You need to understand that there was no literal cup sitting in front on Him like there is here in front of me.

A “cup” was a way of talking about an experience that must be experienced.

The Father had put in front of Jesus something that He had to undergo.

A “cup” that He had to drink.

Not just something to agree with, but something to choose to go through.

An experience that He had to experience.

And “This Cup” was the “The Cross.”

We can get so “used to” the Cross. We talk about the Cross as if it were a small thing!

We all have our “crosses to bear.”

We wear them around our necks for crying out loud!

But for Jesus, the Cross was “This Cup.” V.42

“My Father (the Gospel of Mark says that Jesus called Him “Abba” here–Daddy), if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

What intimacy and agony in the same prayer!

I think this was, perhaps, the toughest moment in Jesus’ life.

I think that Satan was present and tempting like he hadn’t tempted Jesus before.

Remember when Satan and Jesus squared off in the desert and Jesus used the Word of God against Him. Satan disappeared until a more opportune time.

I think that’s right here.

Satan was tempting Jesus to go around the Father’s will and to try to save His people without going through the Cross. Without drinking from “This Cup.”

What was in “This Cup?”

More than we can understand!

More than we will ever know.

But at least these three things:

#1. Torture.

Physical torture.

If Jesus drank this cup, He would go through a terrible whipping, a crown of thorns pressed down on His head so that it bled, battering, shameful mistreatment, spitting on His face, nails driven into His hands and feet, and then slow suffocation.

Pressing down with His feet in excruciating pain so that he can open His chest enough to breath and then falling down again and losing breath for six hours!

This was a cup of torture that the Father had placed in front of Jesus to drink.

But worse than the torture was the abandonment.

#2. Abandonment.

If Jesus drank “This Cup,” He would be abandoned.

He was left by all of His friends.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter, James, and John keep falling asleep on Jesus.

They can’t keep their eyes open and leave Him by Himself three times.

Peter had boasted that he wouldn’t fall away even if everybody else did!

But Jesus knew where the road led that was paved with good intentions.

He said, “The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” “You talk a good fight, but it won’t be there when it counts. You will all fall away.”

Much worse than falling asleep is that they all ran away.

Well, all but one of them. One of the Twelve, Judas Isacariot didn’t run away, he walked right up to Jesus and kissed Him on the cheek.

He singled Jesus out to the Romans as the one to crucify.

Jesus was betrayed.

And then He was insulted and forced to go through a travesty of justice–a completely illegal and unjust trial.

He was abandoned by people.

But even worse, He was abandoned by His Heavenly Father!

I think this is what made the cup so odious!

When Jesus hung on the Cross, He cried out with the words of Psalm 22, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”– which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Jesus experienced that question! And He never should have.

He had enjoyed an eternity of uninterrupted fellowship with God the Father!

And now the Father turned His back on the Son.

And, worse yet, poured out His wrath on Him.

#3. Wrath.

If Jesus drank “This Cup,” He would experience the wrath of God.

This language of a “cup” is drawn from about a dozen places in the Old Testament when God promised to bring righteously angry judgment upon the wicked for their sin.

Listen to Psalm 75, verses 7 and 8, “It is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another. In the hand of the LORD is a cup full of foaming wine mixed with spices; he pours it out, and all the wicked of the earth drink it down to its very dregs.”

This is the cup of the wrath of God brought in perfect justice for those who deserve it to drink!

But, paradoxically, it is not the wicked who is being asked to drink it here.

It is the Sinless One!

The Father has set This Cup of His Righteous Wrath in front of His Sinless Son and asked Him to drink it...for us. In our place.

To experience what Hell is for–the justice of God punishing the ungodly.

That’s what Jesus is staring at that causes His soul to be “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.”

Torture, Abandonment, and Wrath.

What I deserve for my sinful rebellion against a Holy God.

That’s what’s in “This Cup!”

...And He drank it...

He drank the whole thing.

As we just sang, “He drank the bitter cup reserved for me.”

He drank “This Cup.”

The Father had placed it before Him.

And Jesus asked three times if there was another way possible.

But each time, He said, “Not my will, but yours be done.”

Just as He taught us to pray, “Your will be done.”

He prayed, “Your will be done!” He surrendered to the Father.

And He drank “This Cup.”

All of it!

All of it! He didn’t leave any of it behind for us to drink. There is no condemnation, no purgatory, no limbo, no wrath, no cup-drinking for those who are in Christ Jesus!

He drank it all for us.

When He got up the third time, the anguish of soul seems to be over.

In verse 45 and 46, He knows what the Father’s answer is and He is submissive to it.

He is ready to drink, and He says, “Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer.”

And He goes out to meet Judas, confident that He is doing what God wants.

“He drank the bitter cup reserved for me.”

So that I get grace when I deserved judgment.
So that I get forgiven when I deserve to be condemned.
So that I get adopted as God’s child when I should have been cast off.
So that I get comforted when He was forsaken.
So that I get set free when I should have been imprisoned.
So that I get conformed to His image when I should have been annihilated.
So that I get restored to what I should have been before the Fall into sin.
So that I get Heaven instead of Hell.

He drank everything that I deserved so that I would get everything that He deserves!

“May your will be done,” Jesus said.

And He drank the bitter cup reserved for me.

Let me suggest four responses to “This Cup” for our lives:

#1. BELIEVE.

I call upon you today to turn from your sins and to trust in the Savior.

He drank the bitter cup reserved for you!

Jesus endured the Cross to pay for the sins of those who would believe in Him.

I urge you today to repent and to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.

I must tell you that if you do not, there is another cup waiting for you to drink.

The Bible says that “the cup filled with the wine of the fury of His wrath” will be poured out for unbelievers to drink forever.

And they will deserve it. Because they have spurned the glory of God.

But you don’t have to drink that cup.

He drank the whole thing put in front of Him so that you and I don’t have to.

Believe it!

#2. BE THANKFUL.

That’s why we sang, “Jesus, Thank You!” today.

Because we have nothing greater to be thankful for than the Cross!

In a minute we’re going sing, “It Is Well With My Soul.”

Verse 3 says:

My Sin–O The Bliss of This Glorious Thought
My Sin–Not in Part But the Whole
Is Nailed to the Cross and I Bear It No More
Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord, O My Soul!

Be Thankful, Christian.

Because He drank the Cup of Wrath, we get to drink the Cup of Salvation!

In fact, the cup that we drink from during the Lord’s Supper is called “The Cup of Thanksgiving” in 1 Corinthians 10.

Be Thankful! He drank the bitter cup reserved for you!

3. BE HOLY.

He didn’t die for these sins so that we would just run around doing more and more of them!

Listen to 1 Peter 2:24. Every one of us should have this one memorized:

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness...”

Be Holy.

Jesus drank from “This Cup” so that we would grow in holiness. So that we would die to sins and live for righteousness.

The reason why “This Cup” was so odious, so abominable, so detestable was because of our sin and what it deserved.

Now that Jesus has drunk it down, we are free to live for righteousness and to live for His Glory and to live holy lives.

That mean some changes need to happen.

What sinful habits are we trapped in? What needs to go?

It’s time to get serious about our sin and count ourselves dead to is and grow in righteousness. Not perfectly, but truly.

Be Holy.

And #4. BE BOLD.

Tell someone about the Savior and about “This Cup” that He drank.

It’s the best news in all the world, and it needs to be shared!

“He drank the bitter cup reserved for you!”

Tell the people in the Fishbowl.
Tell the people at work.
Tell the people at home.
Tell the people in your neighborhood.
Tell the people on the street.
Tell the 12 million lost people in our Awesome Allegheny District.
Tell the nations.

Jesus said, “Not as I will, but as you will,” and He drank “This Cup!”

Be Bold!

What do we have to lose?

We have gained everything!

Because He drank “This Cup.”

[I am gratefully indebted to C.J. Mahaney for his exposition and insights into Jesus’ experience in Gethsemane in his message “The Cup” available for free at Sovereign Grace Ministries.]

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Not My Will But Yours

In the first garden "Not your will but mine" changed Paradise to desert and brought man from Eden to Gethsemane. Now "Not my will but yours" brings anguish to the man who prays it but transforms the desert into the kingdom and brings man from Gethsemane to the gates of glory.

- D.A. Carson The Expositor's Bible Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, pg. 545, explaining Matthew 6:42-44.

Friday, March 14, 2008

A T.V. in a Child's Bedroom?

Al Mohler on one of our culture's worst blind-spots: television and its effect on children.

When I was younger, we heard a lot about this as a problem--and to tell the truth, I never saw it as that bad.

I have since learned that it was because my parents were responsible parents who guarded our eyes and watched our intake.

By and large, television has won the culture war with America. There are few that resist.

Used indescriminatingly, television is like pumping "the world" into your house to disciple your kids. Yikes!

The implications are down right scarey. May God have mercy on us.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Two Great Articles!

Wisdom from CCEF:

Divorce Recovery by Winston Smith

Sexual Sin and the Wilder, Deeper Battles by David Powlison

Love Abounding in the Local Church

Greg Gilbert says that the reason we don't have enough love abounding in the local church is that, too often, we have our switches set to "intake." Good insight!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Resurrection Sunday is Coming!

John Piper with fantastic Results of the Resurrection.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Matt's Messages "The Shepherd Is Near"

“The Shepherd Is Near”
Guest Preaching at Crossroads Community Church in Duncansville, PA
March 9, 2008
Psalm 23

It is a joy and a privilege to be with you all again this morning.

It was a hot and rainy day in July when we were here last, and it’s now a cold and blustering day in March!

I want you to know that our church has been praying for you for the last couple of months–and especially over the last few weeks as you’ve been working through the candidating process.

We’ve been praying that you would be encouraged and strengthened and excited about what God is doing in your midst.

Up at church, we believe that your church has a strategic role in God’s Kingdom in Central Pennsylvania–and we’re excited to partner with you in achieving that role.

I’ve not yet met your candidate, but I’ve heard good things–and I am sure that God has a good and wise and loving shepherd for you.

And do you know why? Because God Himself is a good and wise and loving shepherd. In fact, that’s what I want to talk about this morning. From Psalm 23.

I invite you to turn in your Bibles to the 23rd Psalm. Probably the most famous psalm in the whole Bible. Psalm 23. And yet, very few of us have actually heard a sermon that actually unpacks the meaning of the psalm.

This psalm is so celebrated because it so beautifully expresses what our hearts truly long for–an intimate, all-satisfying relationship with a perfectly trustworthy, care-giving God.

The images are clear, unmistakable, simple, elegant, and absolutely appealing. This is our hearts’ desire. Let’s read it slowly, carefully, and twice. Listen closely as the metaphor unwinds, develops, changes, and comes near to your heart. Psalm 23.

[scripture reading, prayer]

When you and I bring ourselves to admit it, this is what we want. Deep down, this is our hearts’ desire–to know a God like this. To belong to a God who is completely trustworthy, completely satisfying, completely intimate, completely care-giving, completely safe–the perfect answer for every one of our needs.

When David wrote this psalm, he understood in perhaps the clearest way possible to whom he belonged. He says, “the LORD is my shepherd.”

The LORD. The God who made everything. The God who holds the world in the palm of His hand. The God who is sovereign on the throne of the universe. That God is the personal shepherd of David.

Did you catch the personal words in this psalm? My shepherd. He. Me. I. You. These are the words of personal relationship. David had an intimate relationship with the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. A shepherd/sheep relationship.

This world that you and I live in can be so scarey. So confusing. So chaotic. So frightfully meaningless and terrifying. A world of uncertainty and turmoil.

What you and I long for (even if we don’t always admit it) is Someone to guide us through this scarey world. We long for Someone to care for us, Someone to watch over us, to steer us through the maze of choices and trials and hardships that make up our life. To provide for our needs and to draw intimately close to us at each step.

We all long for a Shepherd.

David knew that sheep are the most helpless creatures on Earth. They need constant care and attention.

Did you know that sheep can get lost in a garage. They wander in–it looks harmless enough, but then they get to the back wall–and they're lost. They don't have the sense to turn around and come back out the way they came in.

Sheep can lose their sense of balance, fall over, and not be able to get back up again– because they can't figure out how. It's not that they don't have the ability to stand up, with weak knees or something, they just can't always figure out how to shift their center of gravity again to get their legs under them.

Sheep, if not tended, can walk right into a fire. And not be able to get out of it because they are so bewildered. They can walk right into a fire and have to stay there and cook unless someone helps them.

Sheep, in a word, are helpless.

And David, from his long experience with sheep, knew that.

And David knew himself. David knew that he was exactly like a sheep–helpless and needy in every way.

And David knew that, in the LORD, he had found the perfect Shepherd.

That’s why he says, “I shall not be in want.” That means that this Shepherd never fails to provide everything that His sheep need.

What a sentence! What confidence! “I shall not be in want.” In the LORD, there is a provision for every one of our needs–if we will trust Him for it.

When David wrote these words, he had come to trust in the LORD for everything.

WHAT DO YOU NEED TODAY?

Is the LORD your shepherd? Trust Him and you shall not be in want.

This Shepherd is perfect and flawless in His provision. V.2

“He makes me lie down in green pastures.” It turns out that sheep will not lay down unless they are perfectly content. Sheep won’t sleep unless they are fed, watered, and feel safe. They have no natural defenses and the slightest thing can get them upset, scared, and sleepless. [Does that sound like you? It sounds like me!]

David is saying that the LORD is such a perfect shepherd that he can rest in His watch-care. He says, “He leads me beside quiet waters.” This is the only kind of water from which a sheep will drink–a serene pool. “He restores my soul.”

Do you need that? I do. “He restores my soul.”

In the harried, hurried, busy, stressful, confusing world which we live in, God is an oasis. He brings rest and peace and restoration to the hearts of His people.

David is saying that living in relationship with this Shepherd is the ultimate human experience. Every need is provided for. No matter what comes, you can rest in His care.

And He has wonderful plans for us. V.3

“He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”

God leads David toward righteousness, toward holy living; he guides his steps towards good choices, right-living, and holiness. Why?

For His glory. “For his name’s sake.” This Shepherd is out to make a name for Himself. He never leads towards sin or shame. He leads His sheep perfectly and when they step where He guides, He gets the credit, the glory as the greatest Sheep-herder ever.

He is committed to these sheep. They WILL walk in paths of righteousness because His name is on the line. Not perfectly, but consistently better as they reach the glorious, destination the Shepherd has in mind.

WHAT PATH ARE YOU ON TODAY?

The Shepherd wants to guide your feet towards holiness. Away from that temptation. Away from that nasty habit. Away from that damaging relationship. For His name’s sake–for His glory in your life–the LORD wants to guide you in paths of righteousness.

Let him. Allow Him to guide you to holiness. Watch where He puts His foot and place yours there, too. Stick close to the Shepherd. Hug His leg. Go His way.

Even when that way leads through trial and tribulation. Even when the path He chooses is suffering. V.4

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me...”

That dark valley is the valley of trial. It may lead to death, it may lead through great suffering. It may mean cancer. It may mean a disastrous relationship. It may mean a difficult and trying marriage. It may mean family problems, church problems. It may mean hardship on a strange mission field. It may mean confusion and not understanding what is happening to you or to someone you love.

But if the Shepherd is present, it is the best place in the world to be.

You see, this psalm is not a pie-in-the-sky kind of promise. It is not “all fun things all the time.” David recognizes the dark places of life. The frightening places. The shadow of death.

But he does not give in to fear.

Not because David is so bold. Not because David is so strong. Not because David has all the answers.

No.

Just because the Shepherd is near. He is bold. He is strong. He has all the answers. And He is near.

Notice how David’s song about the Shepherd becomes a prayer to the Shepherd when the dark valley presses in? “I will fear no evil for...You are with me.”

The path of righteousness leads through the valley of the shadow of death. But when the Shepherd is near, green pastures, quiet waters, and a restored soul are certainties for the trusting sheep.

WHAT ARE YOU FEARING TODAY?

What are you anxious about? Concerned about? Worried about?

Does it hurt? Is it death?

Jesus said to those who make disciples of all nations, “I will be with you always.” Hebrews says that Jesus will never leave us or forsake us.

The Shepherd is near. Trust Him!

David says, “Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

The rod is comforting because it keeps back all the enemies of the sheep. The Shepherd has a strong arm that can whack the head off of a coyote or a cougar or a mangy dog. The safest place on earth is near the Shepherd.

The staff smarts when it crooks around the neck. And discipline is always painful for a time. But it is comforting to know that the Shepherd will keep me on track. It’s comforting to know that the Shepherd cares enough to discipline me to stay on the path.

It’s dark in this valley! And though I’m prone to wander, Lord I feel it, it is comforting to know that the Shepherd is committed to keeping me near to Him–even if His methods hurt a little.

DOES GOD’S DISCIPLINE HURT TODAY?

He is protecting you from something much worse. Learn from His staff. Come back. Draw near to the Shepherd.

David changes his metaphor here in verse 5.

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”

David is no longer a sheep in this picture. He is now seated at a lavish, festive table. Food is piled upon food. And the cup placed before him overflows with juicy, satisfying liquid. His head is anointed in welcome by his Host.

And it is the Host whom David delights in. The Host is God Himself. (Still in the 2nd person.) “You prepare a table before me...”

Wow!

I should serve you! You are the King of Kings. You are the Sovereign Ruler of the Universe. Mountains bow down and the seas roar at the sound of your name! And you lay out a spread for me?

God is the most gracious host in the world! Blessing upon blessing upon blessing upon blessing upon blessing flows from Him. “My cup overflows.”

My wife is a tea-snob. Hot tea, not iced-tea. She loves imported teas with funky names like: Earl Grey, Jasmine Dragontears, Lapsang Souchong.

And with a tea-snob, you try not to overflow the cup or the tea will get on the saucer.

But this isn’t tea he’s drinking! And the point is not the mess–it’s the abundance!

The picture here is of a fully-satisfying meal provided by the most gracious of hosts.

And nothing stands in the way of it. David says, “In the presence of my enemies.”

Satan. Demons. Death. Suffering. All my foes are powerless to stop God from blessing me. The world cannot take away God’s blessing.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? ... No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39)

Do we have enemies? Oh yes. But when we (by faith) sit down to the banquet table prepared by our Lord, they must look on with abject horror on their faces. And realize that they are ultimately defeated by our gracious Host’s powerful hands.

Jesus defeated all of our enemies at the Cross.

His death paid for our sins and forever defeated Satan.

If we turn and trust Him, we get all the blessing the world and no enemy standing in the way of it!

WHAT ENEMIES ARE YOU FACING TODAY?

Look behind them. Raise your eyes. You have a big God.

Trust Him. He prepares a table for you in their presence. As they stomp their feet and scowl at you, they can do nothing more than look on as God blesses you. Trust Him. Your cup will overflow.

David changes the metaphor once again. V.6

“Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life...”

David is confident of these blessings. They will go wherever God leads him.

The word for “follow” here is a much stronger one than we normally think of. It often means to “pursue, to persecute, to chase.”

David is saying, “As I enjoy this kind of a personal, intimate relationship with God, He hunts me down with good things. With his love. With his loving-kindness, or mercy. God is hot on my heals with grace.

And David was a man who knew what it meant be chased. Saul hunted him for years.

But now He understands that this Shepherd is tracking Him down to give Him good things. Things he doesn’t deserve but he desperately needs.

ARE YOU RUNNING TODAY?

If you belong to Jesus, He is hot on your heals with grace, too. Things you don’t deserve but desperately need are right behind you. Stop running. Turn to Him. And enjoy the goodness and love that will follow you all the days of your life.

Because the Shepherd is near. That’s David’s point in the last sentence.

“And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”

Not only does He invite us for a dinner of blessing in the presence of our enemies, this gracious Host wants us to stay around!

This relationship is permanent, lasting, enduring, eternal.

God wants us to draw close to Him and dwell with Him. Abide with Him. Enjoy this Shepherd/Sheep relationship for all eternity.

Death will not end it. Time will not tarnish it. Eternity will not diminish it. This relationship is forever!

ARE YOU SINGING A SIMILAR SONG TODAY?

A shepherd song?

A joyful song of a God who is your perfect care-giver, who meets every need so that you can rest in His arms. A hopeful song of a God who is committed to guiding you into holiness for His glory. A thankful song of a God who is completely trustworthy through the darkest times of your life even if He must discipline you to stay close to Him. A celebratory song of a God who blesses you unfailingly in the face of deadly but defeated enemies. A powerful song of love to a God who dogs your heals with grace, goodness, and love forever. A song of a shepherd who is near.

The shepherd is near. Forever.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

New Peacemaking Blog

In case your RSS Reader still has some space in it...here's a new blog that is sure to be worthwhile.

Ken Sande and the folks at Peacemaker Ministries have been providing the church for many years with valuable resources for navigating conflict. I can't recommend their stuff highly enough.

Now Ken and his staff have a blog--sure to be some edifying (if eviscerating at times!) stuff.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Matt's Messages - The Holy Spirit Guides Us Into Truth

“The Holy Spirit Guides Us Into Truth”
The Fellowship of the Holy Spirit
March 2, 2008
John 16:12-15

Today is our fourth message in our series on the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit.

The first message was about Who the Spirit is. We learned 4 things that we’re are seeing again and again:

The Holy Spirit is God, worthy to be worshiped.
The Holy Spirit is a Person, Someone we are able to be relate to, to fellowship with.
The Holy Spirit is Mysterious, beyond our comprehension and out of our control.
And the Holy Spirit is Christ-Centered, focused on “spotlighting” the Lord Jesus Christ.

And then in the last two weeks, we began to talk about what He does. His precious ministries to us.

And the first was: The Holy Spirit Brings Us to Christ.

If it wasn’t for the Holy Spirit, we wouldn’t have a relationship with God in the first place.

And the second was that: The Holy Spirit Assures Us of Our Relationship With God.

He Assures Us Of Our Ownership
He Assures Us Of Our Inheritance
And He Assures Us Or Our Adoption.

Is it becoming clear just how important the Spirit is to every Real Christian?

His ministries are vital and life-giving!

That is especially true of today’s:

THE HOLY SPIRIT GUIDES US INTO TRUTH.

That’s what Jesus said that He would do when He promised the Holy Spirit in the Upper Room.

We were in John 16 two weeks ago, but we stopped at verse 11. Today we pick up at verse 12. John 16:12-15.
I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.
I can’t really imagine what it was like to be in the Upper Room with Jesus. Can you?

I can’t really imagine what it was like to be with Jesus on that night. The night that He was going to be betrayed. The night before His crucifixion.

Jesus was emotional–and the disciples were emotional. They were bewildered!

Jesus had been telling them that He was going away, that He was going to die, that He was going to send Another to take His place–a Spirit.

And in verse 12, He says that He would like to tell them more, but they just couldn’t handle it right now.

“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.”

But the Holy Spirit whom He is sending will more than make up for that. V.13

“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, [notice that name for the Holy Spirit–the Spirit of Truth] he will guide you into all truth.”

Not only does the Spirit bring us to Christ.
Not only does the Spirit assure us of our relationship with God.

The Holy Spirit also guides us into truth.

Do we need truth?

Absolutely!

We need to know what is true in this mixed up, screwy, old world!

Our world is awash with lies, falsehoods, and half-truths (which are really no truths at all).

The devil has been lying to us from the beginning.

The world doesn’t tell it like it is.

And our flesh wants to lead us astray.

We have a desperate need for truth.

And as faith-followers of Jesus Christ, we have been given the Holy Spirit to guide us into the truth we so desperately need.

Isn’t that good news?!

The Holy Spirit Guides Us Into Truth.

I want to point out three main ways that the Bible says that He does this.

The first is an historical one:

#1. THE SPIRIT INSPIRED THE TRUTH OF THE BIBLE.

Notice the same letters in “spirit” and “inspired.” That’s on purpose.

The Spirit Inspired the Truth of the Bible.

I think that’s the main fulfillment of the promise in verse 13:

“When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. [Who is Jesus talking to? The apostles! The ones who would be the primary writers of the New Testament and the ones who would approve the message of all of the New Testament.] He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.”

Meaning, the Spirit would give the apostles the rest of the New Testament.

I think that “what is yet to come” is both the significance of what was just about to happen to the Lord Jesus in His death, burial, and resurrection and what was going to happen to the New Covenant Church and the fulfillment of all of God’s promises in the consummation of all things.

In other words, the Spirit would inspire the rest of the Bible.

He inspired the whole Bible.

Who has 2 Timothy 3:16 memorized?

What does it say? “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.”

All Scripture is God-breathed.

The Greek for God-breathed is: “theopneustos.” Do you see God-breathed?

Do you see the reference there to the Spirit in the “pneuma” word-group?

The King James has “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.”

The Spirit Inspired the Bible.

It’s mysterious just how He did it, but we’re starting to become used to Him being mysterious!

Somehow, He superintended human authors so that using their own individual personalities, experiences, and word choices, they composed and recorded–without error–God’s exact revelation to us!

This is what Peter said about it. In 2 Peter chapter 1, verse 21.

“[Biblical] prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

“Carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

The Greek phrase here is also used of wind filling the sails of a ship.

The Bible writers were “carried along” by the wind of the Spirit filling their sails and taking them where He wanted them to go with their writings.

And so, we have the Scriptures!

Isn’t that exciting?!

This is no ordinary book!

This is a Spirit-book!

God blew on the authors and now we have this inerrant, infallible, totally trustworthy, inspired (in-spirited) Bible!

And it’s our source of truth.

What’s the application: WE NEED TO READ OUR BIBLES!

More than that, we need to know our Bibles.

Not just read it but devour it.

Remember the message on delighting in God’s Word this Fall?

“You words came and I ate them. They were my joy and my heart’s delight. For I bear your name, O Lord God Almighty!”

Do you want to know what is true?

Open this book and devour it!

You should have some kind of a plan for Bible reading, Bible study, and Bible memorization going.

What is your plan?

What is your plan for reading?

Are you reading it in a year? Two years? Or something different? Maybe a book at a time. What is your plan for reading?

What is your plan for study?

Not just for reading it, but for thinking about what it means and maybe getting some outside help for that.

Are you in a Bible study? A Link Group? A Sunday School Class? Are you doing Bible study with your family? Are you taking notes?

I highly recommend that every time when you study the Bible you keep a journal with 3 sections: What does this passage teach me about God? What does this passage teach me about people? What questions do I still have about this passage?

And take that last section to your Link Group Leader, you Sunday School Teacher, or your Pastor!

What is you plan?

What is your plan for Bible memory? The psalmist writes, “I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against You!”

Not everyone can memorize the same way, but everyone can memorize. Take a small chunk and commit it to memory. You need a plan.

Because this is no ordinary book. This book is Inspired! This book is Spirited!

Just like Jesus promised: The Holy Spirit Inspired the Truth of the Bible!

And it’s even better than that!

#2. THE SPIRIT ILLUMINES THE TRUTH OF THE BIBLE.

That word “illumine” is a theological word that refers to the Holy Spirit’s ministry of making the truth of the Bible understood and received by God’s people.

It’s what Paul was praying in Ephesians 1:17 when he said, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.”

It’s what Jesus was saying just two chapters before this one (chapter 14, verse 26), when He promised “[T]he Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

Now, the first application of that was to the disciples. They needed those reminders so that they got the message right when they began to share it with the world.

But this promise also shows us that the Holy Spirit has a teaching ministry to all of us.

He is bent on helping us to receive and understand the truth.

Turn with me quickly to 1 Corinthians chapter 2.

We don’t have time for a full treatment of this passage, but there’s things I want you to see here.
Paul begins the chapter by saying that his preaching focused on the Cross. V.1

“When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. [The gospel!] For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. [That’s the gospel! Paul was gospel-centered!] I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. [We don’t think about Paul like that, but that’s also true of Paul–weakness and fear.] My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words [like you’d find in the world], but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power. [I think that refers to their conversion! The Spirit Brings Us to Christ. V.6]

We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written [in Isaiah]: ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him– but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. [He’s talking more about the truth of the gospel! It comes by the Holy Spirit. How did the Spirit get it?]

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? [Do you get that? Does anyone know what you think down deep inside of you except yourself, your-spirit?]

In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, [here it is!] that we may understand what God has freely given us. [This is what we call “illumination” or the Spirit’s teaching ministry to us. We have been given the Spirit from God “that we may understand what God has freely given us.”]

This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. [The Scriptures!]

The man without the Spirit [an unbeliever] does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. [You have to have the Spirit to fully understand and to accept and receive the spiritual truth of the Scriptures.]

We’ll stop there.

Do you see what I want you to see?

You have a Teacher (with a capital T) living inside of you. And He has been given to you to help you to fully understand, accept, and receive spiritual truth.

Here’s the application:

WE NEED TO READ THE BIBLE WITH THE AUTHOR!

The Holy Spirit Guides Us Into Truth.
The Holy Spirit Inspired the Bible.
We need to read the Bible.

And we need to read it with the Holy Spirit!

Bible reading is not a Lone-Ranger task.

I have made that mistake so often in my years as a Christian.

To read without prayer.

To try to understand without divine assistance.

Stupid!!

Why would we try to read a book by ourselves if we could read over that same book with its Author?

Have you ever been like me and “forgot” to pray before and during and after your Bible reading?

Something as simple as a sincere, “Open my eyes, Lord, that I might see wonderful things in your Word,” could make such a difference!

And what if we prayed as we read? As we saw things in the Scriptures, having a running dialogue with God about what we read?

Do we really believe that we have the Spirit?

Do we really believe that He wants us to understand and embrace the truth of the Bible?

Why wouldn’t we invite Him to do that at every opportunity?

We Need to Read the Bible with its Divine Author!

And if we do, what are we going to find?

Turn back to John 16.

If we read the Bible with its Author for its truth, what are we going to see?

We’re going to see Jesus!

#3. THE SPIRIT AMPLIFIES THE TRUTH OF THE SON.

The Spirit Amplifies the Truth of the Son of God. Let’s read the whole text again.

“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. [What kind of truth?] He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. [The Spirit isn’t going to branch off onto His own truth. V.14] He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.”

Remember, the Spirit’s main focus is “spotlighting” the Lord Jesus Christ.

He doesn’t aim to glorify Himself but to glorify Jesus.

“He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine (Jesus Truth) and making it known to you.”

The Spirit Magnifies, the Spirit Glorifies, the Spirit Amplifies the Truth of the Son of God.

And the truth of the Son is the truth of the Father. V.15

“All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.”

When I preached this passage eight years ago to you, I called this “Trinity Truth.”

The Spirit guides us into Trinity Truth.

It’s the same truth for the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

And it’s truth about Jesus.

Jesus said that He is the way, the truth, and the life. And that no ones comes to the Father except by Him.

What was the message that Paul preached by the Spirit’s power in words taught by the Spirit for spiritual people?

“Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

The Spirit is bent upon us knowing Jesus and Him crucified.

He wants us to know and believe and receive and embrace the gospel of our sacrificial Savior.

Do you know Jesus Christ as your Sacrificial Savior and Your Commanding King?

The Spirit wants you to know Him like that!

WE NEED TO KNOW THE TRUTH OF JESUS.

He wants you to know wisdom of God–that God’s Son Himself would come to Earth as a human and die on the Cross as our substitute–in our place.

And He wants you to know that our Sacrificial Savior died for our sins, the just for the unjust to bring us to God.

That’s the Truth! And it’s the Truth with a capital T.

Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. And no one comes to the Father except by Him.

Have you come to the Father through Jesus Christ?

You are invited right now to do so.

Turn from your sins and trust in the Savior and His sacrifice on your behalf.

Invite Him to be your Rescuer and King.

And you will be believing the truth that the Spirit is guiding you into.

Worship at the Lord’s Table

Would the men come forward to help me serve the meal?

If you know Jesus as Savior and Lord and are walking in fellowship with Him, you are invited to eat and drink this memorial meal with us.

If you don’t, you don’t have the Spirit and you can’t truly discern what is going on here, so we ask you and warn you to let the bread and cup pass you by.

But if the Spirit has made the Truth about the Son known to you, then you are invited to eat and drink with us.

And here’s what I want you to meditate on as you eat and drink:

The awesome gift of the Spirit in guiding you into all truth.

The Spirit didn’t just bring you to salvation and then leave you there.
And He doesn’t just assure you that you are God’s child and then leave you alone.

It’s more than that!

He inspired this Spirit-Book, this Bible.

And He wants to teach it to you, to illuminate its truth in your heart.

And as we read it with Him, He will show us how it all points to God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ–the center of the Bible and it’s central character.

And we will grow in our love and trust and worship of Him–forever.

What a gift!