Monday, September 16, 2019

"J-Curve" by Paul Miller

This morning I finished reading J-Curve by Paul Miller. It was one of the most profound things I've absorbed in the last several years. Highly recommended.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

"Acing the Test" [Matt's Messages]

“Acing the Test”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
September 15, 2019 :: Matthew 22:23-40

This is Crucial Week for Jesus.

On Sunday, He rode into town on a donkey signaling His kingship and humility at the same time.

On Monday, He tossed tables in the temple, protesting the profiteering going on His Father’s house.

Here on Tuesday, He has been tousling with the Jewish Religious Leaders.

They have been trying to stump Him and stop Him.

Asking by what authority He is doing these things.

And He answered their question with a question.

He answered their stumper with a stumper so that they didn’t want to answer.

And then He told three parables that made it clear that is doing all this all on the authority of Who He is as the Son of God.

But they haven’t stopped trying to stump Him and stop Him.

They asked if it was right to pay taxes to Caesar.

Trying to put Jesus between a Rock and Hard Place.

But Jesus doesn’t stop when it gets hard.

And He answers their question with a question.

“Whose image” is on that coin?

So “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s?”

And whose image is stamped on you and me?

I want to title this sermon, “Acing the Test.”

Because that’s what Jesus is doing, isn’t it?

Every question they come at Him with, He answers.

Often with a bigger and better question!

Jesus is acing the test.

And, as it turns out, is giving a test right back as He does.

Last week, the question came from the Pharisees and the Herodians, an unlikely combination, but politics makes strange bedfellows.

Neither the Pharisees nor the Herodians wanted Jesus to be their Lord.

The next question is going to come from another group, one we’ve heard about already in the Gospel of Matthew back in chapter 3 and chapter 16.

It’s the Sadducees.

The Sadducees were a group within the ruling class of Israel that had a distinct set of beliefs.

They only believed in the first 5 books of the Old Testament. What we call the Pentateuch or the Torah. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

That was their Bible.

They didn’t accept the rest of the Old Testament as inspired and authoritative for today.

And they also didn’t believe in the doctrine of the resurrection. V.23

“That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question.”

The Sadducees did not believe that there was going to be a resurrection from the dead.

And so, as the saying goes, they were “Sad, You See!”

Actually, they were not very sad in general. They were rich and successful and powerful. So they were often earthly happy.

And they scoffed at the idea of the resurrection.

In fact, they thought that anyone who believed in the resurrection was ridiculous.

They said that the resurrection wasn’t taught in the Torah, and therefore it didn’t exist.

And they went further than that. They actually didn’t believe in the immortality of the soul.

They thought that when you die, that was it.

Those were the Sadducees. And it’s their turn to take a swipe at Jesus.

They come up to Jesus to play stump the chump.

They want Jesus to be laughed at and mocked and discredited.

So, they bring their best game. Their best stumper of a question.

This is a question that has always worked for them so far. They’ve used it to stump the Pharisees before. They think it’s a killer question.

And they think that it will stump Jesus.

Let’s read the question, and then we’ll pray before we see how Jesus answers. V.24

“‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and have children for him. Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. Finally, the woman died. Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?’”

There’s the test.

You know that Jesus is going to ace it.

How will He do it?

Have you ever had anyone scoff at what you believe?

Have you ever had someone treat your beliefs as ridiculous, as absurd?

It can really make you feel bad.

It can make you feel like there is something wrong with you.

That maybe you’re missing out on what everyone else knows.

Maybe it’s your view of creation.

Maybe it’s your understanding of marriage.

Or maybe it’s even more basic. Just that you believe the Bible.

And someone has scoffed at you as ridiculous for believing that stuff.

Do you really believe everything in that book?
Don’t you know that it was written a long time ago?
Don’t you know that science has disproved all of that?
Do you really believe all of that sin stuff and miracles stuff?

That’s why a lot of us are reading that Confronting Christianity book right now.

Because the questions that people are asking out in the culture these days presuppose that Christianity isn’t just false but harmful.

And that there must be something wrong with you if you believe in it.

You believe there is a God who made everything?

“Well, then who made God?”

As if that question really was a stumper.

Have you ever been tempted to disbelieve what you believe because of a scoffer?

How about the resurrection?

Do you believe there is a resurrection to come?

Do you believe that one day those who have died will come back to life?

Do you believe that?

The Sadducees did not.

And they thought they had a stumper of a question to PROVE it.

To make it seem as ridiculous as it clearly was to them.

Look at their test again in verse 23.

“‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘Moses told us [in Deuteronomy 25] that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and have children for him. [That’s called Levirate marriage, and it was part of the Torah, the law. The point was to preserve the family name]. Now a hypothetical test question.] Now there were seven brothers among us [1,2,3,4,5,6,7]. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother [Levirate marriage]. The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. [2,3,4,5,6,7. You say, “What sad thing for that woman.” Or maybe you say, “How come all of her husbands died?” That’s a deadly woman!] Finally, the woman died. Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?’”

Do you understand the question?

I’m sure that they think their hypothetical test question has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is no resurrection.

Resurrection is ridiculous!

You just die and turn to dust, and that’s it.

The end. Finis.

Resurrection is ridiculous.

I mean, either there is no resurrection or in the resurrection, there will be rampant polygamy and confusion.

No, resurrection is ridiculous.

Now, how would you answer them?

Would you answer them?

Would you be tempted to just give up on the resurrection?

“Yeah, maybe it’s not true after all.”

“It does kind of sound far fetched.”

Or maybe you would say, “Well the resurrection is taught in the rest of the Old Testament. It’s really clear in Daniel 12, verse 2. ‘Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.’”

Or maybe you’d just say, “I don’t care what you think” and walk away.

Or you’d be silenced and not know what to say.

How would you answer this test?

How do you answer people and think about things when what you believe is under attack as ridiculous?

Well, our Lord Jesus was not intimidated by the Sadducees in the slightest.

In fact, in acing this test, Jesus basically says, “That’s a dumb question. You don’t even know what you’re talking about.” v.29

“Jesus replied, ‘You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.’”

Man, how would you like to hear that from the Lord?

I know that I wouldn’t!

In fact, let’s make that our first application point this morning.

Let’s do the opposite of these Sadducees:

#1. KNOW THE SCRIPTURES AND THE POWER OF GOD.

Jesus says that’s where they went wrong, and we don’t want to follow them.

Do you know the Scriptures?

I’m amazed at people who say they want to be Christians but are happy to be ignorant about what the Bible actually says.

We believe that this is God’s Word.

That’s why we have Sunday School classes and Family BIBLE Night. We had a great first night for Family Bible Night on Wednesday, but we were missing a bunch of kids.

We want all of the kids in preschool and elementary and youth to come out on Wednesday Nights for ABC Kids, Kids for Christ, and Youth Class.

And the adults, too. That’s why the adults study the Bible. Joel is going to lead a study this Fall on the attributes of God. What is God really like? Come to Prayer Meeting to find out.

And that’s why we have Link Groups. And why there is Bible at Link Groups.

That’s why we encourage everybody to own a Bible and read their Bibles.

Because Jesus says we need to know the Scriptures and the power God.

Have you been in your Bible this week?

Do you know what it says?

Are you memorizing 1 John 5:11, 12, and 13?

No wonder we are weak when people call us ridiculous if we don’t know our own Scriptures, God’s Word to us.

If you don’t know where to start, talk to me after church. I’ll get you started.

The fact is their Bibles taught the resurrection.

We mentioned Daniel 12. But it’s in Job and Isaiah and the Psalms, too.

And Jesus says, “It’s implied in the Torah, too.”

“You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.”

Something’s absurd around here, but I don’t think it’s the resurrection.

It’s your assumptions. Your test is absurd.

God has the power to change everything and to bring back the dead to life!

V.30

Jesus says, “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.”

You’re assuming that nothing is going to change.

Things are not going to be just like they are right now.

The age to come is going to be different.

I just listened yesterday to Jim Panaggio’s message from Back 2 School Sunday. That was good stuff, wasn’t it?

This age and the age to come.

The age to come is going to be different because of the power of God.

The resurrection is going to come, and it’s going to change nearly everything.

There will be no more marriage.

“At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.”

News flash: There will be no more marriage in the new heavens and the new earth.

Everything that marriage is supposed to be a foretaste of now will be fulfilled by then.

And while there will be no marriage, it will be better than marriage.

So, don’t worry folks who have not yet been married. You will not miss out on a partner for eternity. There are no partners for eternity.

And don’t worry if you’re in a bad marriage. This life is short, and you won’t be married in the world to come.

And don’t worry if you have a fantastic marriage. The resurrection will be so much better!

And don’t scoff at that like the Sadducees did.

They couldn’t imagine a world without marriage–and certainly couldn’t imagine it being better.

But that was their problem. No more marriage.

Life will be very different in the resurrection because of the power of God.

Do you believe in the power of God?

Do you know the power of God?

At a funeral a couple of weeks ago, I was talking to a younger man afterwards, and he said, “I’m afraid to die. I’m not afraid of dying, but I’m afraid of being dead.”

And I said, “I have the exact opposite problem. I don’t want to go through dying, but I’m not scared of death.”

He said, “Why, not?” And I was able to briefly share the gospel with him.

That because Jesus died for our sins and then rose again, and I trust in Him, I don’t have to worry about what it will be like when I’m dead.

He said, “But just laying their in the ground.”

And I said, “My body will lay in the ground, but the Bible says my soul will go to be with the Lord. And then one day, my body will get back up and be united with my spirit, and I will be resurrected.”

And he thought I was talking about reincarnation, but I was like, “No, not as somebody else, but as me, raised and transformed to be like Jesus.”

I’m not sure he could follow me in that.

But that’s what Christians believe.

It is not absurd if you know the power of God.

V.31. Jesus takes it even further.

“But about the resurrection of the dead–have you not read what God said to you [in the Torah], 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.’”

Know the Scriptures!

Jesus uses Exodus here. Chapter 3 at the burning bush.

That’s in the Torah.

What did God say?

'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'?”

He didn’t say, “I was the God of Abraham.”

“Abraham had been dead for hundreds of years by the time God met Moses at the burning bush.

But God says, “Abraham? Yeah. He’s right here. Yep. And I’ve got eyes on Isaac and Jacob, too.”

“'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.' “He is not the God of the dead but of the living.’”

And He’s promised to bring the dead back to life.

So they will rise.

Abraham will rise.
Isaac will rise.
Jacob will rise.

All of the dead in Christ will rise.

And live forever.

Because of the power of God.

Do you know the power of God?

Just yesterday I listened to Abe Skacel’s message on Psalm 40.

Wasn’t that good?

“We are dependent on a dependable God.” That’s what he said.

“We are dependent on a dependable God.”

So we can trust Him.

He’s good and powerful enough to keep all of His promises.

Do you need to hear that today?

Know the Scriptures and the power of God.

V.33  “When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching.”

Jesus had aced the test.

He did it by basically refusing to take the test!

Now the Pharisees were probably happy that the Sadducees had been put in their place on the resurrection because the Pharisees believed in the resurrection.

But I’m sure they were unhappy that it was Jesus who silenced the Sadducees because they did not want Jesus to be their king.

So they muster up courage to come at him one more time. V.34

“Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’”

I’m not sure why they think that this will stump Jesus.

Maybe they are hoping He will say something that gets Him into trouble with the Law. Maybe saying that something in the Law was not important.

Or maybe it’s just because they have always thought that this was as stumper themselves.

There are like 614 commandments in the Law.

Which one is the most important?

We know the answer to that one, but I read this week that nobody had ever put this together like this before Jesus.

He knew His Bible, and He knew what it said and what it meant, and how it all comes together.

So He just simply aces the test. V.37

“Jesus replied: ‘'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’”

#2. LOVE YOUR GOD AND LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR.

That sounds simple, but it’s really profound.

And the Pharisees hated to hear it.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”

In other words, with everything within you.

That’s from Deuteronomy 6:5. The Sadducees would’ve had to accept that, too.

That’s the first 4 commandment of the 10 commandments.

Love the Lord your God.

Notice that little word, “your.”

That’s an important little word.

We are not called to love just any God.

But the God of the Bible.

And we’re supposed to make Him ours.

To belong to Him personally.

Is God, “your God?”

Personally?

And do you love Him?

That means, does He come first.

Because it’s the first and greatest commandment. It’s what we are called to do with our lives.

Love Your God.

And the second is like it, “Love your neighbor.”  Like you love yourself.

Do you love yourself?

Yeah, you do.

Even those who “hate themselves” do so because they have a twisted form of corrupted self-love.

Jesus puts these two together as vitally connected.

Love God and love your neighbor.
And then He says that the whole Bible. The whole Old Testament (Law and Prophets) can hang off of these two commands.

All of ethics can be boiled down to that irreducible core.

Love Your God and Love Your Neighbor.

It’s not easy.

It’s not always simple.

It’s not always clear what love is calling us to do in some situations.

We need the rest of the Bible to flesh it out for us.

But this is the core.

Love your God and Love Your Neighbor.

How’re you doing at that?

Where are you falling short?

How can you grow?

I’ve run out of time, but I’ll mention one place that I think we can grow in our love for our neighbors, and that’s in how we talk about them online.

I see lots of rants. Lots of complaining. Lots of ridiculing of various people, especially politicians, on Facebook.

Who is your neighbor?

James says, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness.”

Like we learned about last week.

God’s image.

We are made in God’s image.

And how we talk about each other shows whether or not we love those who are made in God’s image, and whether we love the One in Whose image we are made.

Where do you need to grow?

Love Your God and Love Your Neighbor sounds great until you have to do it.

Especially when your neighbor turns out to be your enemy.

What about then?

That’s when we find out that we need a Savior.

We find out that we will never ace this test on our own.

We need someone who has aced it for us and gives us His perfect score.

The One Who shouldn’t have been getting tested, and certainly shouldn’t have been put on trial and crucified.

But was and aced the test and came back from the dead to give us life.

We need Jesus.

And praise God, we have Him!


***

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

Sunday, September 08, 2019

“Whose Image?” [Matt's Messages]

“Whose Image?”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
September 8, 2019 :: Matthew 22:15-22

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

As we’ve studied it together these last two years, we have kept our eyes on the ball and learned about Who Jesus really is and what that means for us as His followers.

We’ve learned about His amazing genealogy. We’ve learned about His miraculous birth. We’ve learned about His baptism under John and the words spoken by the Father over Him, “This is my Son whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

And we’ve seen Jesus begin His ministry by proclaiming (like John did), “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

He starts talking about this kingdom, and we learned through His teaching what that kingdom is like.

It’s a surprising kingdom. It’s an upside-down and inside-out kingdom that you may not have seen coming, but it’s full of blessing and flourishing.

And we’ve seen Jesus do miracle after miracle as a foretaste of the glories to come.

And all along, Jesus has been calling people of all walks of life to come and follow Him. To be His disciples. To put our trust in Him and follow Him with our lives.

He called a tax-collector named Matthew to do that. And He’s calling us to follow Him today.

In fact, He’s sending us out to call others to follow Him. There is a major missionary theme running through the gospel of Matthew. Followers making new followers.

To follow the Lord of the Harvest.
And the Lord of the Sabbath.
And the Lord of Marriage.
And the Lord of All.

And all along, Matthew has kept his eye on the ball and showed us Who Jesus is.

And it all came to a head in chapter 16 when Jesus asked them the question, “Who do you say that I am?”

And the answer was, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

And from that time on, Jesus has been heading towards Jerusalem and this last fateful week. Holy Week. Passion Week. The Crucial Week where Jesus is on an unswerving course to the Cross.

The One Who was transfigured, and the Father said it again then, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

This One Who was transfigured was going to be disfigured.

This One Who healed others was going to suffer under shame.

This One Who saved others would not save Himself.

This One Who should be served instead serves and gives life as a ransom for many.

We’ve seen that Jesus knows what is coming.

Jesus is choosing what is coming.

That’s why on Sunday, He rode into town on a donkey.

And they were shouting for the Son of David! “Hosanna!”

Then on Monday, He was tossing tables in the temple, protesting the profiteering going on in His Father’s house.

And then He’s doing a miracle of destruction (one of the very few) and withering the fig tree because it wasn’t producing its expected fruit. And that’s a picture of the fruit that He expects from us.

And then on Tuesday, this story today also takes place on Tuesday, Jesus begins to wrestle in public with the Jewish Religious Authorities.

They want to know by what authority He is doing what He does.

And Jesus answers them by asking questions that revealed their bankruptcy.

“John’s baptism–where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or from men?”

Remember that?

He kind of put them between a rock and hard place, didn’t He?

They said, “We don’t know.” Because they didn’t want to know.

And then Jesus basically answers the question with three parables that all show that His authority comes from God.

Parables that call people to repent while there is still time.

Because time is running out.

And the kingdom is coming because the king has arrived.

Well the Pharisees are not yet done.

They are not happy about how this is going, but they are not giving up.

In today’s story (verses 15 through 22), they try to spring a trap on Jesus.

They try to put Jesus between a Rock and Hard Place.

{Pro-tip, never try to put Jesus between a Rock and Hard Place. It never goes well for you.}

But these folks have not yet learned that lesson.

Jesus silences them, basically with a question. He turns the tables on them with a simple question and a simple statement, but very profound.

It’s boils down to this, “Whose Image Is This?”

“Whose Image?”

They think they’ve got Him cornered.

They don’t like what He’s been saying.

They especially didn’t like that part where He told the story about the Son who was killed by the wicked tenants and how the owner of the vineyard came back and killed those who killed His Son.

And they especially didn’t like the story when the king destroyed the city because they had rejected His Son and refused to come to His wedding banquet.

They didn’t like where this was going, and they had to get rid of Jesus.

So they lay a trap. Verse 15.

“Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. ‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?’”

There’s the trap.

First off, notice who is there trying to lay the trap.

The Pharisees and the Herodians.

Those two are not natural allies. They are natural adversaries.

The Pharisees were known for being very nationalistic and very religious.

The Herodians wanted the family of Herod which was placed in power by the Roman Empire to prosper.

Those are two very different goals.

But neither of them wanted Jesus to be their king.

And so they bring a “gotcha” question to Jesus.

First, they start by trying to flatter Jesus which is really funny.

Because He is immune to flattery, and yet everything they say about Him is actually true.

They don’t mean it, but it’s true!

We know that “[y]ou are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are.”

That’s true.

Jesus is not impressed by status or reputations, and He more truthful than the day is long.

So He’s not thrown off when they throw out the trick question:

“Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

What’s the answer to that one?

I know what I want to be the answer!

I don’t like paying taxes.

Do you see why this is a trap question?

What is the Rock and what is the Hard Place?

If Jesus answers that paying taxes to Caesar is wrong, then He’ll get into trouble with Caesar. With Rome.

The people will love it.

But the Empire will not.

And Jesus will get in trouble.

The Herodians would report Him to the Romans.

But the Hard Place?

If Jesus says that it is right to pay taxes to Caesar, the Pharisees will report Him to the people.

And He’ll lose popularity as being in league with Rome.

And that’s exactly what they want.

They want Him to lose popularity.

They could do something about Him if He wasn’t so popular.

But did you hear those people when He came in on the donkey?

The Pharisees care so much about popularity.

They don’t really care about truth.

So, they think they have Him.

But they never have Him.

“Is it right for to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

What is the answer to that one?

What if we don’t like what Caesar does with our taxes?

Well, Jesus sees right through them.

He knows that they are trying to flatter Him and butter Him up.

Jesus never goes for that.  Don’t try it with Him.  V.18

“But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, ‘You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me?  Show me the coin used for paying the tax.’ They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, ‘Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?’ ‘Caesar's,’ they replied. Then he said to them, ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's.’ When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.”

Jesus says, “Give me a coin.”

Interestingly, they have one. Right? They have already answered their question for themselves. They carry around these coins.

These are Roman coins.

This is a picture of one.

This is one minted during the reign of Caesar Augustus.

During Jesus’ day, Tiberius was Caesar. And his coins said in Latin on them, “Tiberius Caesar, Augustus, son of divine Augustus.”

How do you think the Jews would have felt about coins like that?

But they had ‘em.  They used ‘em.

They paid their taxes with them.

This tax is specifically the poll tax. It wasn’t the taxes that the tax-collectors picked up, these were just the “privilege to breath” taxes that went right to the Caesar.

“Privilege to Live” taxes.

And they normally cost one denarius. Which is what Jesus now held in His hand.

And asks, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?”

The 2011 NIV has “image” instead of “portrait.” The ESV says, “likeness.”

The Greek word is “eikon.”

Image.

“Whose image?”

They probably hated to spit out “Caesar.”

But Jesus has no problem saying one of the most profound sentences ever uttered:

“Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

And that’s our two application points for this morning.

#1.  GIVE TO CAESAR WHAT IS CAESAR’S.

Now, this does not mean that Caesar (or Rome or any government) owns all of the money and God does not.

Just because your face is on something, that doesn’t make you the owner of everything your face on.

Ultimately, we know that God owns everything.

But it does mean that Jesus thinks that the “state” is legitimate and has a legitimate claim on our submission.

We should pay our taxes.

Paul takes this idea and fleshes it out more fully in Romans 13 where He say:

“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.  Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.”

Of course, that doesn’t answer all of the questions we have about relating to civil authorities, but it’s pretty clear in the main.

Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.

We, as Christians, should be making every effort to pay what we owe.

One “conscience-stricken taxpayer” wrote the IRS, “Dear Sir, My conscience bothered me. Here is the $175 which I owe in back taxes.  P.S.  If my conscience still bothers me, I’ll send the rest.” [Hughes, pg. 268]

And, of course, it’s bigger than taxes. Jesus is saying that we need to be submissive citizens to our government.

Not if the government asks us to worship it.

Only Jesus is Lord.

And not if the government asks us to sin.

We must obey God rather than man.

But even if the government is wicked, we must submit to its authority.

Pay your taxes, drive the speed-limit, obey the laws–even the ones you don’t like.

When Paul wrote what I just read to you in Romans 13, the Caesar was Nero.

Nero was thoroughly wicked.  He was Hitler-level wicked.

But Paul urged the Christ-followers in Romans 13 to be submissive to the government authorities whenever they could in good conscience.

Give to Caesar What Is Caesar’s.

That was a very unpopular thing for Jesus to say.

Jesus was getting close to Hard Place, steering away from the Rock.

But He was unafraid of doing the right thing, of saying the right thing.

And that’s not all He said.

He didn’t just say “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” did He?

No, He was much more profound.

I think that second part of His statement is bigger and more important and deeper and more meaningful.

#2. GIVE TO GOD WHAT IS GOD’S.

He’s talking about us.

This is a US quarter, a 25 cent piece.

It has George Washington’s face on it.

Give to Washington what is Washington’s.

Jesus asks, what IMAGE (that’s an important biblical word, isn’t it? what IMAGE) is stamped on YOU?

The image of God, right?

Genesis chapter 1. The Imago Dei.

“So God made man in His own image.”

We are the image of God.

Is that image lost with the Fall?

No. It’s cracked. Like a throwing a rock into a mirror. It’s still there.

It’s not what it’s supposed to be. But through Christ it’s being restored. It’s still there.

Whose image is stamped on you?

So what does God want?  He wants you and me.

Give to God what is God’s.

And I think that’s what amazed the people when Jesus answered like this.

Not only did He give a straight, unpopular answer to the question, but He took the answer in a direction that forced people to consider whether or not they were giving themselves to God as He deserved.

Rome may deserve some taxes for providing good roads and building aqueducts and providing some protection from outside forces and minting useful money.

But God deserves so much more!

Do you think of yourself as devoted to God? Belonging to God? God’s rightful possession?

I think that one of the major mistakes in our thinking, especially as Americans, is that we often think of ourselves as our own possession.

“It’s my body.”
“It’s my bank account.”
“It’s my bonus.”
“It’s my car.”
“It’s my computer.”
“It’s my thought-life.”
“It’s my relationship.”
“It’s my life.”
“It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to.”

But that’s ultimately not true.

All humans (even nonChristians) are stamped with the image of God.

“Give to God what is God’s.”

So here’s the application question for today:

What are you holding back from God?

If you had to write it down. Maybe it’s just one thing.

Or maybe there is a long list.

What are holding back from God in yourself?

Give to God what is God’s.

You’ve got His image.

He wants you.

He wants a life-changing relationship with you.

He loves you.

And He wants you to love Him back.

To trust Him and obey Him and want His glory to be magnified.

He wants YOU.

And you owe Him.

Because you, if you are a Christian, are double-stamped.

Not just stamped at creation with the image of God, but stamped with redemption.

Because Jesus bought you back.

Give to God, what is God’s.

You are double stamped.

Because Jesus paid your debt.

And it wasn’t just a little denarius tax.

It was the whole enchilada.

It was all of your sin and all of my sin and all our shame heaped upon Jesus.

And He paid the penalty.

“For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.”

Give to God what is God’s by ownership and by redemption.

Give yourself to God.

Don’t hold anything back.


***

Previous Messages in This Series:

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

Saturday, September 07, 2019

Escaping Bitterness

"Almost everyone I've seen who has been trapped by bitterness has focused on the big dying and been blind to multiple mini-resurrections in their lives. Almost counterintuitively, the most thankful and happy people I know are confined to wheelchairs. The very deep J-Curves, in my experience, force you (if you take that path) so deeply into Christ that you emerge from them singing in prison.

During some of my lowest years, I tuned myself into the 'resurrection channel' by beginning the early morning habit of reviewing the previous day and thanking God for little mercies, little resurrections. When everything was dark, the Spirit prompted me to hunt for life. People cultivate bitterness by retelling the story of what life has done to them. We can cultivate joy by watching for the Spirit to re-enact the story of Jesus's dying and rising."

- Paul Miller, J-Curve: Dying and Rising with Jesus in Everyday Life pg. 238-239

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

6 Years of "Resisting Gossip"

Rejoice with me! 

Resisting Gossip has been out now for six whole years.

I am filled with gratefulness as I think about all of the places it’s gone and how it has helped people to win the war of the wagging tongue.

Audiobooks!

The biggest news from the last 12 months has been the production and release of the audiobook version of Resisting Gossip. I first recorded the chapters in the Fall of 2013 and Spring of 2014, but we never got it edited and produced into an audiobook until this last year. 

I’m thankful for everybody who helped get it out there and for its initial reception from folks like Todd Hardin:

Potato Heads?

The strangest story about Resisting Gossip from the last year was discovering how this pastor from down-under has created a set of potato-heads to illustrate the five kinds of gossips from chapter 3. How creative!

Articles and Interviews.

I didn’t do very much writing about gossip this last year. There is more to be said, of course, but I haven’t felt called be the one to say it. But I did publish a short piece of how NOT to use the book (and why I wrote it like I did) and also did two interviews with the folks at CLC Publications, one that surveys the last several years (including links to the 6 languages its currently in) and one that focuses on the release of the audiobook.




But Most of All Readers.

The best part of being the author continues to be hearing from people whom the book has helped. When I Google the title, I still find it being used in small groups and Bible studies and referred to in sermon series and edifying articles. And every once in a while I get an encouraging note like this one from Allison, a librarian from the suburbs of Chicago:
"Resisting Gossip is a book I re-read every 1-2 years, and each time, I glean important reminders. I just completed it from my summer 2019 reading list, and I continue to learn and be convicted by it. This time, I wrote, 'I don't have to say everything I think!' in my planner. Thank you again for writing a book that equips Christians to live in a way that 'goes against the tide.'"
I praise the Lord that my work gets to be used like this in people’s lives.

And Some Quotes and Pictures.

The team at CLC also created some sharp looking graphics for sharing more broadly:



Sunday, August 18, 2019

“Are We There Yet?” [Matt's Messages]

“Are We There Yet?”
Good News Cruise 2019
August 18, 2019  :: Philippians 3:12-4:1

I know it’s a little weird to just parachute into the middle of a New Testament letter like that, but this verses 13 and 14 have been our Hide the Word memory verses for the last two months as we’ve had our car-themed Family Bible Week and our car-themed Good News Cruise.

And I thought I’d round off our time together this Summer memorizing this passage to preach a little bit on what this passage means and what it means for us today.

“Are We There Yet?"

Have you ever heard that question when you’re a road trip?

It floats up from the backseat in a little voice, “Are we there yet?”

And depending on how patient the driver is the answer is often “Not yet little smurf.”

“Just a little bit longer.”

Or “No! And don’t ask me again!”

Well, that’s just the question that the Apostle Paul is answering in a spiritual way in this part of the book of Philippians.

In the first part of this chapter, verses 1 through 11, Paul gives his testimony and a short statement of the gospel of grace.

Paul warns the Philippians about false teachers who would want them to try to believe a false gospel of legalism and works-righteousness, that is, putting your confidence in your flesh, in your own self efforts and in your own performance.

Paul talks instead about being saved by a righteousness that comes from God and is by faith–a righteousness that makes it possible to know Christ–which is better than everything.

Paul says the core of Christianity is not putting your faith in your flesh (we are to put no confidence in the flesh–our self efforts, our performance, our achievements no matter what they are)–it is to put our faith in Jesus Christ and what He did on the Cross on our behalf. And then because of that faith and because of that righteousness, we are able to consider EVERYTHING a loss COMPARED to knowing Christ. The power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings. Knowing Christ.

That’s our purpose as a church.

To bring people into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ.

That was the whole point of yesterday’s event, and that’s the whole point of this morning, and that’s the whole point.

It’s a powerful passage. I wish I had time to preach verses 1 through 11, as well.

Listen to just to verse 7 and verse 8.

“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.”

Wow. Powerful words, huh?

“The surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”

And so as we come today to v.12, Paul doesn’t really started a new thought.

What he has to say now flows right out of what he’s been saying so far in chapter 3. And he basically says, that as powerful and passionate as his testimony was (from legalistic, Pharisaical, Hebrew of Hebrews to considering that all of that rubbish compared to simply and gloriously knowing Christ)–as powerful and passionate as his testimony was–Paul himself had yet not arrived.

He was “Not There Yet” himself.

Paul was “Not There Yet.”

And neither are we.

Let’s see how he puts it and what he says to do about it.

I’ve only got 2 short points this morning. I think Paul’s teaching here can be divided into two parts. Two points with one application each.

Here’s number one.

#1. WE ARE NOT PERFECT YET.  V.12 again.

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”

Paul has just given his testimony. And it was passionate and powerful! He had gone from putting his confidence in his law-keeping flesh to considering that as worthless as dung and desiring to KNOW CHRIST in the most powerful and intimate way possible.

But even the great apostle Paul was “not there yet.” He had not obtained all this.  That is–he hadn’t arrived yet. He (v.12) had not “already been made perfect.”

V.11 talks about attaining to the resurrection from the dead. That hadn’t happened yet for Paul. And he had not been perfected yet.  He was still as we say “in process.”

He was not yet perfect. And he says so.

In fact, he says it again in verse 13!

“Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.”

Paul is stressing that he has not yet arrived. He is not perfect yet. He is being perfected. But he is not yet perfect.

He has Christ’s righteousness–a righteous standing with God because of Christ and His Crosswork. But He is not yet fully righteous himself.

In theological terms, Paul is fully justified. But He is not fully sanctified.  Because He is not fully glorified.

He’s not there yet! The great apostle Paul. Arguably the most mature Christian ever to follow to Jesus–had not yet become perfect.

Brothers and Sisters and Friends, We Are Not Yet Perfect.

Little test to prove this.

Raise your hand, if you are perfect.

If you raise your hand, you don’t belong here.

This meeting is for non-perfect people. People who have not arrived yet.

Yesterday, Lonnie and I were putting up a canopy together out there, and I wasn’t doing a great job, and Lonnie said, “It very encouraging to me, Pastor, that you aren’t you aren’t perfect yet.” And I said, “I got lots of encouragement for you then! Because I am very far from perfect!”

Paul was very aware of his im-perfection.  And he made it clear to his Philippian friends.

He said it 3 times. “Not that I have already obtained all this” (V.12). “Or have already been made perfect” (V.13). “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.”

Paul was not yet perfect.

And neither are we.

So, what are we going to do with that?

Well, one thing we could do with that is to take comfort in it. If the great Apostle Paul didn’t reach perfection, then it’s probably okay on some level that I’m not there yet, myself.  We could do that.

And there’s probably something to that that we could take home with us. And we could definitely cut some other people in our lives some slack realizing that they’re not there yet either. That would probably be a good thing to do with this truth.

But Paul does something else with that, doesn’t he?

And I think what Paul does with it needs to be our main application.

We Are Not Perfect Yet, So...What?

- PRESS ON!

Listen to v.12 again.

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect [so I just give up. No!], but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. [So I just give up. No.] But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

That’s what we were teaching the kids at Family Bible Week.

We Are Not Yet Perfect, So We Need to Press On!

We need to strive towards that perfection.
We need to run towards sanctification.
We need to pursue spiritual growth.
We need to discipline ourselves for godliness.
We need to chase after Christ-like-ness.

We need to put the pedal to the medal.

We Are Not Yet Perfect, So We Need to Press On!

“I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”

Did you catch that?

Why did Jesus take hold of us? To make us like Himself. To create worshipers that reflect His image. To create a people who are zealous for good works and for His name.

Notice Who has done the initiating!

“Christ Jesus took hold of me.”

So I press on to take hold of that for which He took hold of me. He has done the hard work. He’s gone to the Cross! I am called to just live out the implications of that work.

Notice the same thing in v.13.

“I press on toward the goal to win the prize [that almost sounds like works, doesn’t it?  Legalism. To earn my righteousness by my flesh. But Paul just got done saying that that route is dead end street. Paul is not teaching legalism. This prize is a prize that I am already called to! V.13 “the prize”] for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

God has called me heavenward, and I’m heading there because of Christ Jesus [“in Christ Jesus.”] Now, I strain [because of that] to win the prize.

Paul never gets that order wrong. He always puts work Christ first and our work second flowing out of His.

I Press On.

Notice what Paul doesn’t say!  He doesn’t say, “I have not arrived yet and until Christ comes I will not arrive. Therefore, I need not do anything. I can just rest on my haunches and not change. And not become like Christ. And not become conformed to his death. I can just sit here and wait for Jesus to come get me. ‘Once saved, always saved’–so now I can just live like the devil. I’ll never be perfect, so why bother?”

No! Paul says, “This one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on. I press on. I press on!

What’s he talking about in v.13 when he says “what is behind?”

What is behind Paul now?

I’m sure that it’s the things that he used trust in (the things he lists in verses 4 through 6).

Paul has put everything that he used to trust in behind him now. This is not talking about “let bygones be bygones.”

This is talking about “let flesh-confidences be bygones! Let everything that I once considered greater than Christ be bygones. Let the rubbish that passed for greatness and significance and meaning and righteousness and fulfillment be now bygones.  Let my old way of life be bygones.”

“I leave it behind.” And now, (v.13) “straining toward what is ahead, I PRESS ON.”

I press on!

Are you pressing on?

Are you running the race?
Are you striving towards perfection?
Are you running towards sanctification?
Are you pursuing spiritual growth?
Are you disciplining yourself for godliness?
Are you chasing after Christ-like-ness?

Are you pressing on?

Or are you just sitting there?

Are you growing?

We Are Not Yet Perfect. But that is no excuse for spiritual laziness.

Instead, it is a call to the zealous pursuit of perfection.

It is a mark of maturity to realize that you have a long way to go.

The most mature people I know have a good sense that they have not yet arrived.

But that maturity is only real if it gets us off of our behinds and into the race of following Christ.

Are you pressing on?

Kids. This is for you. This is not just for grown-ups. Are you pressing on? Do you claim to be a Christian by faith in Jesus? Press on. Pursue godliness. I would love to say that Lanse Free Church has the godliest children that I know.

Teenagers. This is for you. This is not just for when you graduate from school. This is for right now. Today. Press on! Chase after Christ-like-ness. Put your old way of life behind you and strain towards what is ahead!Yes, you’ll look a little crazy to your classmates. But you won’t look crazy to God! Chase after Him. Put the adults in your life to shame by your zeal!

Young Adults. This is for you. This is not just for when you get married or when you have kids. This is for right now. Press on! Run after sanctification. Get in the race.  Take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of you. Press on. Chase after godliness. Press on.

Parents. This is for you, too. This is not for when the kids grow up and you have time again to focus on a relationship with Christ. You have to MAKE TIME right now.  Press on. Get in the race. Toward the goal to win the prize God has called you heavenward.  Discipline yourself for spiritual growth.

Will this cost you?

Will this mean sacrifice of time and energy and earthly pleasures? Yes!  It will. But (v.7, v.8) it’s worth it! Christ is worth it! Press on!

Middle Aged People. This is for us, too. This is not for when you retire and have time to get involved again in your spiritual life. This is for now. Press On!

Retired People. This is for you. Now is not the time to slow down spiritually. Now is the time to rev up your spiritual life! Zealously pursue perfection.

You have not arrived yet. You have a ways to go. So press on. Press on. Press on.

Don’t just sit there.  Press on.

V.15. This is for all of us. V.15

“All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. [If you are mature {a little play on words here, that’s the same Greek word for perfect.} If you are mature then this is the way to see yourself–not there yet but pressing on.] And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.”

If you are immature, then as you press on, you will begin to see it more clearly. V.16

“Only let us live up to what we have already attained.” As much as we understand of this, we need to live it out.

We Are Not Yet Perfect. So We Must Press On.

I long to see more spiritual fervor in our whole church family. Don’t you?

I want it for myself, and I want it for all of us.

We all need to become like Paul. He knew that He wasn’t there yet. But He was getting there. He was committed.

He was pursuing perfection with a passion! He was pressing on.

And He calls us to follow Him. V.17.

“Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.”

Paul is saying, “Follow me! And follow men and women like me.” Not those who have arrived. But those who are running on the right track.

Do you know who those people are in your life?  Do you know who is running on the right track so that you can follow them?

Everybody is following somebody.  Did you know that?

Everybody is following somebody. Who are you following?

Paul is saying follow him as He follows after Christ.

And he’s saying, “take note” of those who are also following after Christ. And follow them. Earlier in Philippians he gave somee good examples in Timothy and Epaphroditus (check back in chapter 2). But he means more than them. He means whomever is following the pattern of gospel living that Paul set out for them when he was with them.

Who are you following?

Who is running ahead of you on the race of discipleship and you’re caught in their draft? Paul says to get intentional about whom you are following.

I realized this summer that I still have mentors in the faith.

That’s really good because sometimes when you reach middle age many of your mentors are dead or falling out of the race.

I have mentors who have gone before both in great books and personal relationships. I am reminded every week of something that Blair Murray taught me. And my counselor instructor David Powlison who died this last June.

But I have mentors that are still living, as well. Some are in this room.

And I’m thankful for Super Jeff and for Greg Strand who have taken me under their wing, and not just encouraged me as a brother but shown me the way as a Paul to a Timothy.

Who are you following?

Maybe a better question is who are you leading? You can turn v.17 on its head and realize that if everyone is following someone, then someone is probably following you!

Who is following you?

Dads, this one is especially for you. Whatever you are doing in your Christian life is what you are discipling your kids to do. Especially your sons. Whatever they see you doing, that’s what they will probably do. Unless God intervenes.

If you are making Christ and His church a priority, they will be discipled by that. If you are not, they will probably not. You are a spiritual thermostat in your home. You set the temperature. And you set it in a way that even your wife cannot. If you leave the spiritual leadership of your home up to your wife, you are discipling your sons to abdicate their spiritual responsibilities, as well.

Who are you leading? You are what they are becoming.

Moms, this is true for you, too. Those kids are watching.

And church leaders. This is for all of us.

Sunday School Teachers, Youth Group Leaders, Kids for Christ Leaders, Link Group Leaders. Deaconesses. Facilities Team. Hospitality Team. Missions Ministry Team. Elders. You are setting the temperature. Are you following the pattern? Are you pressing on?

The church family will (v.17) “take note of [leaders at Lanse Free Church] who live according to the pattern that [Paul gave us.]” Are we pressing on?  This church will not be more spiritual than we are as its leaders.  And I am saying this to myself most of all.

This stuff is caught much more than it is taught.

We are not there yet! So we must press on. And people will follow us.

Because everybody is following somebody.

That’s why Paul warns them against following those who don’t press on in v.18.

“For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears [this chokes him up!], many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.”

I believe that Paul is talking about people who THINK they are Christians but they do not live like it.  They have given lip-service to Christ, lip-worship to Christ, but they have not trusted in Him for their righteousness in such a way that it leads to knowing Him and pressing on.

They THINK they are Christians [and this makes Paul cry!] but they are really, functionally, enemies of the Cross.

They make the Cross seem like nothing by the way that they live.

Don’t follow them!  “Their destiny is destruction.” They’re lost!

“Their god is their stomach.” They are driven by their desires, their lusts, their motives, their passions that are not godly.

“Their glory is in their shame.”  They claim Christ, but they live shamefully and glory in it.

And ultimately here’s where they have gone wrong, “Their mind is on earthly things.”

“Their mind is on earthly things.”

They act and behave and talk and really believe that this world is really what is important.

What they don’t realize, what they don’t believe, what they only give lip service to is truth number two.

#2.  WE ARE NOT HOME YET.

“Their mind is on earthly things.” And it is their destruction.

But we are not home yet. V.20

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there [from heaven], the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”

We are not home yet.

But Jesus is coming soon to take us home and make us like Him.

We are not home yet.

But so often we act like it!

How many of us actually act as though our citizenship is in heaven?

How do we think about ourselves?

I think that a lot of church people in the US think about themselves as Americans first and Christians second.

Their primary identity is American.

Some even make the mistake of thinking that if you are an American that means you are a Christian. As if the two things are the same.

But that’s not how it works.

Look at how Paul saw himself.

Where is Paul a citizen?

We know that he had Roman citizenship.

But what does he say here? V.20

“But our citizenship is in heaven.”

If we are Christians our TRUE citizenship, our DEEPER, more IMPORTANT citizenship–a citizenship that should affect how we view and how we use our American citizenship is our citizenship in heaven.

We don’t pledge allegiance (ultimately) to the United States of America. We pledge allegiance to the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. And those two things are not the same.

Sometimes, we can get them confused. And then our eyes begin to creep down to looking only at earthly things.

But the Bibles says that our citizenship is in heaven. Not Rome. Not Israel. Not the United States of America. Not ultimately.

Our citizenship is in heaven. And that should affect everything we as Christians do and say in America.

We’re actually on foreign soil where it counts the most.

So we shouldn’t get too comfortable here.

We Are Not Home Yet....So, we need to:

LOOK UP. V.20

“Their mind is on earthly things...But our citizenship is in heaven. [And what do we do about it? We’re not there yet!] And we EAGERLY AWAIT A SAVIOR FROM THERE, the Lord Jesus Christ!”

We look up!

We get our mind off of just earthly things. What we can see, what we can touch, what we can feel. What seems important but isn’t really.

And we look up. We orient our lives around what is coming. And Who is coming!  A Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under His control (sovereign resurrection power), will transform our lowly bodies (these dust-formed, earth-suits) so that they will be like His glorious body (the power of His resurrection unleashed in new glorious bodies.)

That becomes our focus. That becomes our lens. We begin to live NOW with THEN in our view.

And chapter 4, v.1.  “Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!”

You want to know how to stand firm in the Lord?

Look up! Eagerly await a Savior from heaven.

You say, “Wait a second! Isn’t that just wishful thinking? Isn’t that just pie-in-the-sky-by-and-by kind of talk? Doesn’t that make you so heavenly-minded, you are no earthly good?”

Paul says, “No!”  you can’t be too heavenly minded. Because that’s where everything is moving. And that’s where our Savior is and is coming from. And we need to orient our lives around the future and what and Who is coming for us.

Peter said,“Set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.”  (1 Peter 1:13)

You can be too earthly minded to be any earthly good!

Paul says that that kind of living is animosity towards to the Cross.  Their destiny is destruction.

But our citizenship is in heaven.

We are not home yet. But Jesus is coming to take us there and make us like Him.

So Look Up.

Orient your life around Lord Jesus’ Return.

Live with eternity’s values in view.

Don’t follow those who claim to be Christians but are only concerned with this world and what it offers.

Look up. And eagerly await a Savior from your true Homeland.

At lunch today, I want you go around the table and ask these questions and then follow up with the answers.

#1. Are you pressing on? Are you pursuing godliness with a passion for Christ?

#2. Whom are you following? Who is discipling you? That could be a significant discussion today around your table. Who’s in the lead? Is that good or bad?

#3. Are you looking up? Is your mind on earthly things?  Is your god your stomach?  Or are you eagerly anticipating and living like Jesus is on His way to get you? What are you acting like is your home?

No, We Are Not There Yet.

We Are Not Perfect Yet. So We Must Press On.
And We Are Not Home Yet. So We Must Look Up.

And, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and my crown, that is how you can stand firm in the Lord, beloved.


Saturday, August 17, 2019

"Look any enemy in the face"

"Paul's resurrection realism avoids the depression of pessimism and the denial of optimism. A resurrection lens allows us to live truly victorious lives that can look any enemy in the face--cancer, slander, or depression. Jesus's past resurrection means we experience present real-time resurrections as we wait for the future big one, when all creation will be resurrected."

- Paul Miller, J-Curve: Rising and Dying with Jesus in Everyday Life (pg.204, emphasis his)

Thursday, August 15, 2019

"A life of reflexive joy"

"Jesus's resurrection transforms how Paul processes life. His reaction to being imprisoned with a death sentence hanging over his head reveals a remarkable vision of life, one that promises to undermine our modern commitment to anxiety and to free us for a life of reflexive joy."

- Paul Miller, J-Curve: Dying and Rising with Jesus in Everyday Life (pg. 186)

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

"His resurrections are always better than mine."

"Attempting to create our own resurrections is a great temptation of the Christian life. For instance, if someone has slandered me, I'm tempted to create a mini-resurrection by boasting. They deflated me, so I inflate me. Silence keeps me on the dying side of the J-Curve. it's an act of surrender to let my Father vindicate me rather than to try to do so myself. His resurrections are always better than mine. We wait for his wonders."

- Paul Miller "J-Curve" pg. 181

Sunday, August 11, 2019

"Come to the Wedding Banquet" [Matt's Messages]

“Come to the Wedding Banquet”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
August 11, 2019 :: Matthew 22:1-14

So we’ve reach Matthew 22, but nothing has changed since last week.

It’s still Tuesday of Jesus’ Crucial Week.

Jesus is still standing in the temple courts arguing with the chief priests and the elders of Israel.

In fact, He just finished giving them two parables, and now He’s about to give them a third with pretty much the same point.

If you remember on Sunday, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey to the shouts of “Hosanna to the Son of David."

And on Monday, He turned over the tables in the temple, mad about what they were doing with His Father’s house.

Then on Tuesday, this day, he pointed to a fig tree that had no figs. It was pretending to have figs, but it was all leaves and figs. And Jesus cursed it as illustration of both great faith and His rightful expectation of fruit from our lives.

The chief priests and elders asked Him by what authority He was doing these things, and Jesus asked them a question right back. Was John’s baptism from heaven or from men, and they didn’t like either of those options, so they said they didn’t know.

Which made it clear what the answer really was, so Jesus said He wasn’t going to answer their question and then told them to stories.

Both stories highlighting His own authority.

In the first story, there are two sons. And one says he’s not going to work but changes his mind and does. And the other looks good on paper saying that he is going to work but then doesn’t show up.

It’s not those who say they are righteous but those who are repentant and bear fruit in keeping with repentance that are righteous.

And then the second story was more involved. It was about a man who had vineyard and left some tenants in charge of farming it while he was away.

And he sent servants to collect the rent in expected fruit, but the tenants rejected the collectors.

And he patiently sent some more. And then he sent his son! And they killed his son.

And everybody knew that he was going to bring those wretches to a wretched end and give the vineyard to other tenants who will share their crop at harvest time.

And the chief priests and the Pharisees realized that these parables were about them and they looked for a way to arrest Him, but they were afraid of the crowds.

It’s right after that that Matthew gives us a third parable from the lips of Jesus.

And it’s also about the authority of Jesus and the dignity of Jesus.

And, because this is the Gospel of Matthew (keep your eye on the ball!), it’s also about the identity of Jesus.

Because it’s always about the identity of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew.

“Who is this Jesus?”

And when you know the answer to that question, you are compelled to follow Him.

All we’re going to do today is look at this parable.

Just verses 1 through 14.

And I’m going to title the message from the command in verse 4, “Come to the Wedding Banquet.”

Because that’s the point of the story, “Come to the Wedding Banquet.”

Remember, parables are stories with a shove.

So if we read this parable, and we don’t feel at least a little bit shoved, we’re doing it wrong. Because Jesus certainly did it right. V.1

“Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son.”

Stop there for just a second.

There’s a lot there in that first sentence.

This is what the kingdom of heaven is like.

Remember, the kingdom is Jesus’ favorite things to teach about. The kingdom of God is His favorite subject.

And here we have an analogy to the kingdom of heaven.

It’s like a time when king prepared a wedding banquet for his son.

Now, I think that all three of those things in the story stand for something in reality.

The king is like God the Father.

And the son of the king is like God the Son.

Now, this Son we know is Jesus, but they haven’t put all of that together yet.

And the Son only gets mentioned in this verse (v.2), but He’s really important to the whole story.

The King is the main character. We get to see what He does.

But we know from verse 2 WHY He does it. It’s “for his son.”

And the wedding banquet. What is that?

I think it’s clearly a picture of the messianic banquet promised in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the kingdom of God.

It’s heaven!

It’s the enjoyment of the new heavens and the new earth.

It’s the kingdom!

The kingdom of God is a party.

It’s joy-filled jubilant flourishing enjoyment of the Messiah.

Who is the son of King.

Now, if that is all I we knew about this story, how do you think it will end?

It sounds like a good story, doesn’t it?

This king is putting on a lavish joyful sumptuous wedding banquet for his son.

Who wants to go to that? That sounds great!

And verse 2 will tell us that he’s sent out “Save the Date” invitations. There are people who have been told that this event was going to happen.

And now they are going to be told that all the preparations are finished, and it’s time to party. V.3

“He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.”

You never know what’s going to happen in one of Jesus’ stories!

These people say that they don’t want to come to the king’s party.

There is a word for that: treason.

Assuming that they are subjects of this king, why would they not want to come?

I don’t know.

It’s stupid.
It’s rebellion.
It’s dangerous.

We are not told here why they refused to come.

Perhaps they had thought the king was getting weak.

Perhaps he has a political rival, a neighboring kingdom that they were hoping would soon take over.

We are not told. But we can see from here that it’s a bad idea to refuse. V.4

“‘Then he sent some more servants and said, 'Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.'”

It’s amazing how patient the king is. Isn’t it?

A lot like the last story, right? When the king kept sending those servants to collect the fruit.

Those servants were the prophets, and I think these servants are, as well.

Maybe these servants are the apostles. John the Baptist and Jesus’ disciples.

Because everything is ready. The kingdom of heaven is near.

“Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.'”

Who’s banquet is it?

It’s the banquet of the son.

Here’s application point #1. It’s very obvious.

#1. COME TO JESUS.

He is the whole point of the banquet.

He is the whole point of the kingdom.

He is the whole point of everything!

Come to Jesus.

Put your faith in Him.
Put your trust in Him.
Put your hope in Him.

And begin to follow Him with your life.

He is where the life is.

I love the image of the big barbeque here. Oxen, fattened cattle.

Everything has been basted and marinated and is hot on the grill.

It’s summertime, grill time. That’s what it means to know Jesus as your Lord and Savior now and forever.

It’s to enjoy Him forever.

That’s what the kingdom. The kingdom is a party.

Have you come to Jesus?

Because, sadly, many people simply refuse to do so. V.5

“But they paid no attention and went off–one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them.”

You never know what’s going to happen in one of Jesus stories!

It’s strange that these people are so apathetic. So indifferent to the kingdom.

They heard the servants say, “Come to the wedding banquet,” and they paid no attention and wandered off, one to his field, another to his business.

In a similar story that Jesus told in the Gospel of Luke, they make lame excuses as to why they are skipping the party.

Catch this: Every lame excuse is an affront to the dignity of the son of the king.

These folks just can’t be bothered to come to the wedding banquet of the son of the king!

That’s crazy!

You know sin is irrational.

It doesn’t make sense when you look at it under the microscope.

Why would anyone reject Jesus?

Why would anyone not come to Jesus?

But what kind of apathy do we see out there all over the place today?

Have you come to Jesus? Or are you making excuses?

These folks that Jesus was talking to were in the process of rejecting Him, most of them.

They should have been gladly running to Him and bowing the knee before their Messiah and King.

But they were turning up their noses, and worse. V.6

“The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them.”

“Come to the wedding banquet.”

“No way. You’re dead!”

They are trying to overthrow the king.

That is shocking behavior.

But it’s what Israel had been doing for so long. V.7

“The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.”

Now, that’s a least a picture of judgment and Hell.

That is what is in store for all who reject Jesus.

But it’s probably also predicting the fall of Jerusalem in 70AD.

We’ll think some more about all of that when we get to chapter 24.

Because Israel was rejecting their Messiah, they were going to face rejection themselves.

Come to Jesus before it’s too late.

Do you think that the king was over-reacting?

Obviously, they had mistreated and murdered some of his servants, so a judicial response was required.

But there is something greater than the servants that was being mistreated, wasn’t there?

The son!

They were rejecting his son. And what is the proper response to that?

Come to Jesus. Don’t reject the Son.

I was just reading Psalm 2 this week.

It warns the kings of the earth. It says, “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.”

If you don’t receive the Son, there will be Hell to pay.

But there is blessing for those who take refuge in Him.

Come to Jesus.

But there is still a barbeque on.

The city is burning, but there is still a party waiting to happen at the king’s palace. V.8

“‘Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.' So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.”

#2. INVITE OTHERS TO JESUS.

He’s too good to keep Him to ourselves.

The King says, “Go out and invite others to the banquet.”

Who does he want to come?  “Anyone you find!”

Hit the streets!
Beat the bushes!
All around town and out in the country.

What is this?

This is the Great Commission.

This is the Good News Cruise.

This is our calling to invite people to come to Jesus.

Any one we can find.

Are we supposed to look for people who are like us?

Sure. But not just them.

Are we supposed to look for people in the same social and economic level as us?

Sure. But not just them.

Are we supposed to invite people from other countries?

Yes! And from around here.

This is a general call to tell everybody about the wedding banquet.

So that the wedding hall gets filled with guests.

Whom have you invited to come to Jesus?

Whom have you told about the kingdom of heaven?

What are we doing to populate the wedding hall with the guests of the son of the king?

Yesterday at the Men’s Breakfast, one of the men told his story of coming to faith in Christ.

He came from a Christian family and looked on the outside like a believer.

I thought he was. I didn’t know he wasn’t.

But he was resistant.

And the Lord was calling him to Himself.

And Blair saw through his mask and went after him and invited him to come to Jesus.

And it didn’t happen right away. Ask him about how it happened.

But then the dam broke, and he came in to faith in Christ.

I think it’s interesting that Jesus say in verse 10 that the “good and bad” both came in.

I think that means that there is hope even for the religious if they will repent. Guys like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea.

But Jesus is looking for the bad, too.

I love it that that this church is not afraid to go after the last, the least, and the lost.

And the hardened and even the scary.

That the Wild Game Dinner has some scary looking hombres.

And the Sons of God reach out to the harder MC’s.

And who knows who might drive up this coming Saturday or come to look at all of the beautiful cars?

We need to invite them to come to Jesus.

To not chicken out. The king is sending us!

He has room at the banquet, and we’re His servants running with the wedding invitation.

Who are you inviting to the Good New Cruise?

Who are you telling about Jesus?

Who are you telling about the kingdom of heaven?

So that the wedding hall is full to overflowing.

You never know what is going to happen in one of Jesus stories!

You might think that this story is over and it’s a happily-ever-after story.

And it is for those who came the right way to the wedding banquet.

But not everybody did. V.11

“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 'Friend,' he asked, 'how did you get in here without wedding clothes?' The man was speechless. ‘Then the king told the attendants, 'Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' ‘For many are invited, but few are chosen.’”

You never know what is going to happen in one of Jesus’ stories!

This guy is at the banquet.

He didn’t refuse to come.

But he’s not wearing wedding clothes.

That might mean that he didn’t wash before coming. He’s dirty as all get out.

Or the king might have provided clothing for the wedding. Not just food but clothes.

That’s possible.

Either way, this guy has refused to come presentably to the wedding.

Do you know what he’s doing?

He’s insulting the king and His son.

He’s showing contempt for the king and His son.

When they confront him, he has no excuse. He is speechless.

Not because the king is being unreasonable, but because he has no good reason for being at this wedding in such an unpresentable way.

He was happy to eat the food, but he wasn’t about to change.

Here’s application point #3.

#3. CHANGE FOR JESUS.

This guy was not willing to change.

I’m not exactly sure what the wedding clothes represent in this parable.

They might be salvation.
They might be faith.
They might be Jesus’ imputed righteousness placed on our account.

Those are all good possibilities with biblical precedent.

I tend to think they stand for repentance.

Like John the Baptist was preaching.

This guy thought he could get in without repenting.

He thought he could get all of the benefits of the kingdom without actually entering the kingdom.

He thought He could thumb his nose at the son of the king and still be okay.

But now he stands exposed and condemned with no excuse.

Are you willing to change for Jesus?

Whatever He wants, that’s what He should get.

What do you need to change for Jesus?

An attitude?
A habit?
A relationship?
A priority?

Let me ask you a question. Do you think the king was over-reacting here?

I mean, the guy actually came to the wedding!

Why is he being tossed out into what amounts to Hell?  Handcuffed and thrown outside into the darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Keep your eye on the ball.

It’s because of the insult it was to the Son, isn’t it?

It’s like he was wearing a t-shirt with an ugly word on it and a picture of the bridegroom.

That’s what it’s like when we claim to love Jesus but refuse to allow Him to change us.

Remember, Jesus is expecting fruit.

Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.

V.14. “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

Many hear the outward call but not all of them respond in faith.

Many, in fact, are apathetic.
Many, in fact, are hostile.

And some play act like they are “in,” but you can tell by looking at them that they most certainly are not.

How do you know if you are chosen?

You repent and you come to Jesus and you allow Him to change you.

And you honor the Son.

You kiss the Son.

You bow before the Son.

You exalt the Son.

And you enjoy the Son forever.

Because you come to the wedding banquet.

***

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