Sunday, May 20, 2018

Resources for Digging for Wisdom in the Proverbs

Digging for Wisdom is Necessary. Shovels Are Optional.
Miracle Mountain Ranch
My boys and I just got back from Miracle Mountain Ranch's 2018 Father/Son Retreat. We had a great time at "Man Camp" where they shoot stuff, eat stuff, ride horses, and study our Bibles together. The folks at MMR do a wonderful job of putting a classy event each year.

I had the privilege of speaking 3 times on "Digging for Wisdom in the Proverbs," and I showed the guys how I use the Proverbs each week to uncover treasures of wisdom in our Youth Boys' Class at Family Bible Night. I believe that Proverbs are written as they are as a divine gift, especially to fathers, to disciple their sons. I was encouraged to hear from several of the dads that they are going to begin studying Proverbs together with their sons after learning how this weekend.

I promised the guys a list of some of the best resources out there on the Proverbs, so here it is:

1. Pass It On: A Proverbs Journal for the Next Generation. This unique resource was created by my friend Champ Thornton for Dads to dig into the Proverbs themselves and then transfer what they've learned to their children. The introduction itself, "A Bird's-Eye View of the Proverbs" is worth the price of the book--and right now you can get it for free by downloading the samples at Westminster Bookstore!.

2. After Thornton, the next level book I'd recommend is Derek Kidner's commentary on Proverbs. Every time I teach on Proverbs, I consult Kidner's precise, concise, and incisive words.

3. I first learned how the Proverbs worked by taking a class from Ray Ortlund at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. In his commentary, Dr. Ortlund gives a master class in both understanding and applying the message of the book.

4. When I was writing Resisting Gossip, my constant companion at my right hand was Bruce Waltke's magisterial two volume commentary on the Proverbs. I probably quoted Dr. Waltke (one of the translators of the original NIV including the Proverbs) more than any other commentator for my doctoral project. As I told the guys this weekend, if your pastor doesn't have it already, then splurge and buy him volume one or volume two ... or both!

5. And if you are an audio learner, Dr. Waltke has recorded a series of lectures available for free at Biblical Training. This is top-shelf stuff.

Ok. No excuses now. The resources are all there. Let's get digging.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Passing on the Wisdom of the Proverbs

This weekend, I have the privilege of speaking at the Father/Son Retreat for Miracle Mountain Ranch on the subject of digging for wisdom.

My goal is to help the boys and men to ransack the book of Proverbs for themselves. Pray for me!

To prepare, I've been re-reading this excellent little handbook from Champ Thornton Pass It On: A Proverbs Journal for the Next Generation.

A few months ago, I got to interview Champ about this book. It's full of some really good stuff.

The opening chapter, "A Bird's Eye View of the Proverbs" is one of the best introductions I've ever read to this book in our Bibles. WTS Books has it up as a free downloadable sample chapter right now. Don't miss it!

My endorsement from last year still stands:
In Pass it On, Champ Thornton has created another unique resource for assisting Christian parents to extract the precious wisdom from the endless goldmine of the Book of Proverbs and impart its righteous riches to their children. I will be using it with my kids and urge others to dig in, too.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Book Review: "iGen" by Jean Twenge

iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy--and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood--and What That Means for the Rest of UsiGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy--and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood--and What That Means for the Rest of Us by Jean M. Twenge

A well-researched, well-written and thoroughly terrifying book.

Jean Twenge understands my kids’ generation, and she’s good at explaining them. The iGen (or GenZ or Founders Generation or whatever name eventually sticks) is different from the Millennials you’ve heard so much about. These are the young people who haven’t just had the internet all of their lives–they’ve just about always had a powerful smartphone in their hands. And just as or maybe even more significantly, they have been super-protectively parented.

Twenge is a professor of psychology who has combed through the mountains of social science data of the generation coming of age today and draws out fascinating generational trends. For example, this generation is growing up more slowly and is constantly connected to their friends (but not necessarily with them in person). They are insulated which ironically makes them generally insecure, anxious, and focused on making money (for security, not for shopping). They are largely putting off key markers of adulthood–sex, driver’s licenses, marriage, children. They are socially inclusive (think LGBT and racial issues) and politically independent (think Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump). And they are largely agnostic or irreligious. In fact, many would self-describe as not only “not-religious” but also “not-spiritual.”

For all of these features, there are many exceptions, of course. These are only generalities not particularities, but both the data points and anecdotal evidence seem to bear them out. (One of the things I found most interesting was the differences between Millennials and iGen young people. They are decidedly not the same.) Twenge tries hard to be objective and not judge some aspects of these young people’s behavior as “good” or “bad.” But she’s the mother of three iGen daughters, so she can’t help caring a lot, and it’s clear that she has her own opinion about right and wrong.

And it’s in the realms of morality and reality that the book concerns me the most–the realms most directly addressed by Christianity. If we are going to reach this new generation, we will need to tailor our methods to their particular profile, problems, needs, and strengths. And speaking as a GenXer, it seems like a bewildering task. They seem like such strange creatures to me! I have four of them in my house–17, 16, 15, and 14. And while mine might buck a number of the trends (due to their particular circumstances), I see the patterns come true in some of their peers. For example, they don’t read books! “By 2015, one out of three high school seniors admitted they had not read any books for pleasure in the past year, three times as many as in 1976.” What to do?! Twenge isn’t interested in helping make disciples of Jesus even though she ironically has a concluding chapter titled, “Understanding–and Saving–iGen” so we’re going to need some fresh missiological thinking.

Thankfully, there are some good and faithful minds who are doing just that. At the top of the list, I recommend this 5 part blog series by the EFCA’s Shane Stacey that takes the generational markers and provides help and hope for reaching iGen for Jesus Christ. And even more importantly, I believe Jesus deeply loves this generation and has promised to build His prevailing church in them, with them, and through them (Matthew 16:16-18). So let’s not expect them to be like us (or like any other generation), but that’s a good thing! Let’s let them be themselves and also minister to and with them for Jesus’ sake.

View all my Goodread reviews.

The Most Helpful and Hopeful Thing I've Read on Reaching Generation Z

I'm so thankful to be in an association of churches that takes student ministry seriously. Instead of just having rah-rah youth rallies, we have something uniquely theological and deeply missional called Challenge. And instead of focusing on techniques for (and critiques of) youth ministry, we have thoughtful missiology for reaching the next generation.

Last year, Shane Stacey, the national director of ReachStudents, wrote an excellent 5 part series on Generation Z and the world they inhabit. This is my kids' generation, and I keep coming back to Shane's articles to frame my thinking about reaching their peers for Christ.

"Generation Z: The hand they’ve been dealt"

1. How Has the Recession Impacted Our Youth?

2. How Is Technology Shaping the Next Generation?

3. Our Youth Possess a Wonderful Multiracial Priority

4. Our Youth Are Swimming in a Sexually Fluid Culture

5. Our Hope for the Next Generation in a Post-Christian Culture

Sunday, May 13, 2018

[Matt's Messages] “In Secret”

“In Secret”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
May 13, 2018 :: Matthew 6:1-18 

We are still in the Gospel of Matthew, and we’re still in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  But today we are turning the corner from chapter 5 which had in it the Beatitudes and the “But I Tell You’s” into chapter 6.

Our King is telling us how He wants us to live in His kingdom.

He started us by telling us what kind of people He wants us to be. And if we live the good life that He lays out (no matter how upside-down it sounds to our ears), we will both flourish and bring glory to our Father in Heaven.

And then He told us that He wants us to live out a greater righteousness than the scribes and the Pharisees, the religious leaders of the day. A greater righteousness.

A righteousness that surpassed the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees.

And in chapter 5, He gave us 6 examples of what that would look like. Six examples of how the scribes and the Pharisees had misunderstood and misapplied the teaching of the Torah and what we should do instead.

Do you remember this?

Our Lord Jesus has come not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it and to give it the true Messianic meaning and application now that He has come.

And our Lord has shown us that this is greater righteousness comes from the inside out. It’s not just upside-down from what seems normal to us, it’s also inside-out.

From the heart.

Chapter 5 ended by Jesus saying, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

And that we saw that that word “perfect” means “whole” or “complete.” It’s emphasizing not just perfection as in flawlessness but perfection as in wholeness. The same thing on the inside as on the outside.

Not just the outside but the inside. The whole person.

“Be [whole], therefore, as your heavenly Father is [whole].”

He’s the same on the inside as the outside.

So, it’s not good enough for our Lord Jesus that we not murder. He doesn’t want us to be sinfully angry.

It’s not good enough for our Lord that we keep from committing adultery. He wants us to not even lust.

It’s not good enough for our Lord that we keep our promises when we use His name. He wants us to be trustworthy and faithful from the inside out.

It’s not enough to just want justice for ourselves. He wants us to be generous even with those who don’t deserve it.

He even wants us to love our enemies!

It’s not enough to just love those who love us. We need to love those who hate us.

That’s what our King requires.

And now, He’s going to say even more about this greater righteousness.

Specifically, He’s going to tell us how to practice our righteousness or to do our acts of righteousness.

And by now we should know that He’s going to be driving towards our hearts.

It’s not enough to just do our acts of righteousness on the outside. King Jesus will require us to do our acts of righteousness from the inside to the outside.

Because He wants us to be whole.

This morning, we’re going to study verses 1 through 18. That’s a bigger chunk than we have been taking for the last several messages, but I think it helps to see that this section all hangs together.

In verse 1, Jesus introduces the problem and then in verses 2 through 18, He gives us three examples.

And they all follow the same 4-part structure to make the same major point. Remember how the Beatitudes all had a structure and all of the But I Tell You’s had a structure? Well, these three examples all follow the same 4-part structure, as well.

First, Jesus tell us what not to do which is to parade our acts of righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. That’s really important. It’s not that we can’t do acts of righteousness or acts of piety in front of others, but we aren’t allowed to do them for the purpose of human applause. It’s the heart of the thing.

Then second, Jesus tells us that if someone does go and do that, then they will have already received their reward. That’s it. No more.

Then third, Jesus will tell us how to do it instead. And basically, He uses these two words over and over again, “In Secret.”

Not so much that it isn’t public but that it is done for God and for God alone.

And then the fourth element that occurs in all three examples is a promise of the reward of God. And He says it in the same way each time. “Your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

And of course, there are some surprises and some twists and turns in there, too. Because Jesus always wants to keep our attention and to keep us focused on His coming Kingdom which is like nothing that we’ve ever seen or heard.

All three of these examples are the classic acts of piety that a good Jew would perform. All of the scribes and the Pharisees did these three things all of the time.

Jesus is not telling His disciples to stop doing any of these things. But He is saying that we should not do them like the Pharisees do. We must have a greater righteousness, one that comes from the inside-out.

And of course, everything He says here could be applied to any other acts of righteousness that we are called to do. Not just not these three. But definitely these three. Let’s look at the first one. V.1

“Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Do you see the pattern?

First, what not to do.

I almost titled this sermon, “How Not To Be A Christian.”

He assumes that His followers are going to giving to the needy. Everybody did in that culture. It’s a good thing to do. Not just to give to the church, but to specifically help people with needs.

The question isn’t whether or not to do it, but how to do it.

Jesus says don’t blow the trumpet when you do.

I don’t know if anybody actually blew a trumpet before they gave. I think that Jesus is just being funny. Because He knows that’s how some people do it.

They roll up and they “toot their own horn” as they give their gift.

“Hey, check me out! I’m giving my gift!”


Jesus calls them “hypocrites” which was a word that originally was used for actors who put on outward show. They play-acted a character and projected certain feelings and attitudes that they didn’t necessarily have themselves.

“I am so generous!”

“Believe me! Just look at me. I am so generous.”

Jesus says, “Don’t do that.”

He says (part two) if you do, then (v.2) “they have received their reward in full.”

What’s that?

It’s the attention. It’s the praise of men, if they get any.

It’s the appearance of godliness.

That’s all of the reward that they get.

Then Jesus says what to do instead. That’s the third part. V.3 again.

“But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret.”

Now, our hands don’t “know” anything. Jesus is using a figure of speech, isn’t He?

We say, “Don’t pat yourself on the back.”

Don’t get impressed by yourself and your generosity.

Don’t replay your gift over and over again in your mind.

Just do your giving and get on with it.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t keep a record of charitable giving for tax purposes or that you aren’t supposed to track giving in your budget so that you don’t know what you’ve done.

“I don’t know? My left hand spreadsheet doesn’t know what my right hand checkbook is doing!”

I don’t think so. I think He’s just using colorful language to say that you shouldn’t get impressed with your own generosity.

You not only keep it to yourself but you don’t dwell on it yourself.

I know people who know every cent that they’ve ever given, and they are pretty proud of it.

The fourth and last part is that promise. If you give in faith in secret, then you will be rewarded. Verse 4 again.

“Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

That’s an amazing statement.

First that we would see God as Father. We’re used to that, but really that’s new with Jesus. To see God as both divinely authoritative and relationally intimate is amazing.

That’s what we mean by “Father” right? Both authority and intimacy perfectly bound up together in a Person who has given you life.

We all have earthly Fathers who exhibit authority and intimacy and life-giving. Some of them have done it well and others poorly.

But we all know what a Father is supposed to be. And Jesus says that God is that. God is our Father perfectly.

Jesus calls God our Father ten times in these 18 verses!

And He says that our Father “sees what is done in secret.”

He knows what’s actually happened. He knows what the bank account actually said. He knows how big the gift actually was.

And He knows what was going on in our hearts.

“Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

And don’t miss that bit about reward.

We are supposed to live for the reward.

Sometimes we think that we shouldn’t care about rewards.

But our Father loves to give rewards, and we will enjoy those rewards, so we ought to be motivated by them!

I don’t know all of what those rewards are, but I know they’re good.

They won’t get in the way of our enjoyment of Jesus.

That’s where we have to be careful of rewards if we want them instead of Jesus.

But these are rewards that come from Jesus and help us to enjoy Jesus.

We want these rewards.

And who do they come to? They come to those who give in secret. Where only God knows what’s truly going on.

These rewards come to those practice their righteousness for God alone.

The second one is about prayer. And it follows the same fourfold pattern. V.5

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. [That’s what not to do.] I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. [They’ve been seen by men. That’s what they wanted. That’s what they got.] But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Now, this is not saying that Christians should never pray in public. Jesus prayed in  public. His disciples all prayed in public. We’ve been praying in public today.

But He is looking at our hearts, isn’t He?

Don’t pray to be seen by men.

I’ll tell you, as a pastor that can be a real temptation to me. I want to impress you. I can pray, to my shame, for your applause. “Oh that was a good one, Pastor Matt!”

What is your heart in prayer?

That’s why Jesus says that we have to get alone and pray there. Where nobody knows what you’re praying or how you’re praying or how long you’re praying...except your heavenly Father!

Because that will show if you are real.

If there is no one to impress.

Do pray alone with God?

Or do you only pray here or in prayer meeting or at the dinner table or in front of your spouse or your girlfriend or boyfriend or only in front of your pastor?

Do you pray in secret?

Because what you are with God when you are alone is what you are with God.

It’s okay to pray in public. It’s okay to pray with people.

We’re supposed to pray with others!

But that needs to come from what is inside and not be a show.

I struggle with that.

But Jesus says that we need to keep it real.

Now, here in verse 7, Jesus expands on this point and goes in a little different direction. He gives another way not to pray and then tells us another way to pray. V.7

“And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

So on top of not praying ostentatiously for the attention of others, we’re also not supposed to pray mindlessly to try to get God’s attention either. Prayer is not magic. It doesn’t work more if you pray more. Prayer is not magical like figure out the right words to use as an incantation and then repeat them over and over again until you’ve talked God into something.

God will not be used.

Now, this doesn’t mean that we can’t pray long or hard or never repeat ourselves. Jesus prayed long. Jesus prayed hard. And Jesus repeated Himself.

But prayer is not magic and God is not a genie in a bottle. We don’t make God do things we want by rubbing His lamp and saying, “Abracadabra” over and over again.

Or any other prayer over and over again. No matter how good the prayer.

God already knows what we need before we ask. We aren’t filling Him in even as we ask. He wants us to ask! But He doesn’t want us to babble.

The Greek word for babble is “battalegeo.” And it’s like babble. It means like it sounds. Say to your neighbor, “babble, babble, babble.”

That’s not what our prayers should sound like.

God wants not our many words but our many hearts! V.9

“This, then, is how you should pray: 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”

Does that sound familiar? I hope so.

We call that the Lord’s prayer. And it’s at the center of the Sermon on the Mount.

It’s a Kingdom Prayer.

It’s a Model Prayer. It’s not that we are supposed to pray these particular words over and over again. That’s exactly the opposite of what Jesus just said.

We are supposed to use it as a model for our prayers. “This, then, is how you should pray...”

And look at those first two words, “Our Father.”

God as Father, what a concept!

You know that’s only possible if you have trusted Jesus as your Savior. The only people who can pray this prayer and truly mean it are those whom God is their Father through faith in His Son.

And notice that it’s not just “My Father,” it’s “Our Father.” This is a model prayer for the Church, for all Christians together. See, we are supposed to pray with one another!

And the first half of the prayer is about God’s glory.

His name, His kingdom, His will.

How often we forget to pray for those things. But Jesus puts them first.

Holy and honored and reverenced be your name.
Your kingdom come. It’s not here yet in its fullness, but we want it.
Your will be done, fast and full like it’s done in heaven.

And the second half of the prayer is about our good. God’s glory and our good.

Give us what we need to today. Like manna in the wilderness.
Give us what we really need down deep, which is forgiveness.
Give us what we need to stay out of sin and snatched away from Satan.

Moms, let me give you a piece of counsel that probably most of you already do.

Pray this prayer for your children.

I’ve been doing that recently with my boys when I pray for them at night.

Most nights, Heather prays for Robin right before bed.

I pray for my boys right before bed.

I’ve begun praying this for them.

Our Father in heaven, may your name be holy in my boys’ lives. May your kingdom come in their lives. May they do your will like it’s done in heaven.

Please give them their daily bread. Please forgive their sin debts as they forgive those who sin against them. Please led them through and away from their temptations and deliver them from the evil one.

Moms, make that your prayer for your kids. And don’t stop until you die.

Jesus explains a little bit more about that forgiveness thing. Again, He’s keeping it real. V.14

“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

That’s not a way of earning your forgiveness. That’s not how it works. That’s not what Jesus teaches elsewhere.

But it is the same thing Jesus teaches elsewhere. We’re going to come up to this kind of teachings again in chapter 18.

The point is that forgiven people are forgivers.

And if you are a forgiver then you aren’t a forgiven.

The two always go together.

So don’t go asking for forgiveness if you aren’t willing to forgive others.

That’s just putting on a show.

And Jesus wants us to be whole from the inside out.

So He gives one more. And it’s on the same lines. V.16

“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting [Don’t be like that.]. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full [They got the attention.]. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face [look like normal so they can’t tell], so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Let me ask some diagnostic questions to apply this to our lives today.


If so, how? In what ways?

I think a lot of people want to live out their Christianity on social media.

But they just doing it for the “likes” and “shares.” Right?

Just doing it for the re-tweets and the “favorite” button.

Ask yourself am I doing this to get the applause of people?

Then that’s all you’re going to get.

There’s this thing on social media called “The HumbleBrag” have you heard of it?

It’s when you say something like, “I am so humbled to have gotten this award.”

And if you are, that’s fine to say. But ask yourself why you are saying it. Why are you telling people?

Are you just Faceboasting or are you truly giving the glory to God?

Am I trying to impress people with my righteousness?


Am I doing this in secret?

It’s okay to do it before others, too.

But is it real?

The only way you know it’s real is if you don’t get credit for it somewhere else.

And number three.


What changes do I need to make in my giving, my praying, my fasting and whatever else I do to live out my Christianity?

And if you can’t think of any changes you need to make, you’re doing it wrong.

How about with prayer in particular. Are using the model that Jesus gave us?

Are you praying for God’s glory and for your good?

Are you forgiving those who have sinned against you?

What changes do you need to make?

Because Jesus wants us to be perfect, to be whole, to be the same on the inside as on outside.

And that requires change. That requires repentance.

To be perfect means to be changed from the inside-out and to be made new.

To live out a greater righteousness than the scribes and the Pharisees.

A real righteousness that is the same, not just in public, but in secret.

And when it is...your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.


Previous Messages in This Series:

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Book Review: "Fallen Into the Pit" by Ellis Peters

Fallen Into the Pit (Felse, #1)Fallen Into the Pit by Ellis Peters

For my birthday this year, my family bought me a copy of each of the Felse Family Investigations, and I’m reading through them again in order. What a delight!

Reading this masterpiece for probably the fourth time, I’m amazed that Ellis Peters (nom de plume of Edith Pargeter) was seemingly able to create it out of whole cloth. It’s a stunning masterpiece–so hard to believe it was the first of this incredible series. I know that EP had written other good mysteries before this to perfect her craft, but you don’t expect the first in a series to have everything–fascinating characters, unsolvable twisty mystery plot (yet all the clues are there), thoughtful dialogue, hauntingly beautiful English setting–all sprung fully formed like Athena from Zeus’ head.

I wouldn’t want anything changed, and even though I already know what’s going to happen, I can’t wait to read what George, Bunty, and Dominic are going see, say, and do next.

View all my Goodreads reviews.

Sunday, May 06, 2018

[Matt's Messages] "But I Tell You (3)"

“But I Tell You (3)”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
May 6, 2018 :: Matthew 5:38-48 

We took a break last week to hear from Pastor Peter Bors about Apex missions and our calling to have beautiful feet as we’re sent out with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

But today we return to following Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew and specifically in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

Do you remember what we’ve learned so far?

Jesus is teaching with extraordinary authority. He has gone up on a mountainside and has begun rocking the world of His listeners by teaching them about the kingdom of heaven.

We’ve said that Jesus is turning our world upside down. Because He’s teaching us what God truly values and what God truly wants from us. So really, He’s turning our upside-down world right-side up.

But it sounds strange to us.

For example. What is the good life? What does it mean to flourish?

According to Jesus the flourishing are those who are needy, sad, lowly, unsatisfied, and even persecuted.

And yet they change the world by living as salt and light and bringing glory to their Father in Heaven.

And now Jesus is teaching us how to live out a righteousness that is greater than the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law.

Jesus says that He has not come to abolish the Law but to what? To fulfill it. Every jot and tittle. Every last word.

Jesus says that He has come not just as the ultimate interpreter of the Law. Which He is. A New Moses. But He has come as the ultimate fulfillment of the Law. He is the whole point of the Law. He is the goal of the Law. Where the Law has always been headed.

And now Jesus calls His followers to live out a greater righteousness than the righteousness that the Jewish religious leaders were living out before them.

And He has given us 6 examples of that.

Six illustrations of both how He fulfills the Old Testament and how He wants us to live out a greater righteousness.

Scholars called them the “6 antitheses.”

But I call them the 6 “But I Tell You’s.”

And I promise that next week, I’ll come up with a fresh title.

But this one is just “But I Tell You (3)"

The sequel to the sequel! The last in this trilogy of sermons walking through the “But I Tell Yous” of Matthew 5:21-48.

“But I Tell You.”

What word carries the most emphasis?  “I”

The Greek is “ego de lego.” And the word “Ego” is the I.

Six times He says it.

“You have heard it said...but I [Jesus] tell it really is now that I have come on the scene.”

Now, do you remember the pattern?

Do you remember that there three parts to each “But I Tell You?”

In the first two messages we looked at the first four teachings. And they basically each have three parts to them. Do you remember what they are?

First, Jesus quotes from the Torah.

Then, He gives the authoritative explanation of that quotation with all of its Messianic meaning. And in that interpretation, He explodes the myths about the popular interpretations that these people had always heard and believed. What they had been taught often erroneously. Jesus corrects those and sets everything straight.

And really, He’s picking a fight with the Pharisees over each one.

And then third and lastly, Jesus gives a practical application of this teaching to daily life which is really an antidote to whatever the problem is He’s addressing.

He quotes from the Law. He gives the Messianic meaning. And then He gives a practical application to daily life. What it looks like to live out this greater righteousness in real life.

And He does it with a twist. Always with a twist. He keeps us on our toes and a little off balance to send us into a new direction.

And He’s always driving at our hearts.

Right? Have you seen that each week?

Jesus turns us right-side up by changing us from the inside-out.

And so that our insides and our outsides match.

Because the Pharisee’s didn’t.

They had some of the outside but they were missing the inside, which is the greater point!

Well, today, we’re going to finish this section of Jesus’ sermon. We’re going to look at the last two of the “But I Tell Yous.”

And they are very closely connected to one another.

So far Jesus has told us to repent our sinful anger as quick as we can, to resolve our conflicts as quick as we can, to do whatever it takes to defeat sexual sin, to stay faithful to our spouses if we have them, and to keep all of our promises.

You can see how focused He is on our relationships.

Just because He’s looking at the heart, doesn’t mean that it stays in the heart. The way Jesus wants our hearts to be will inevitably affect our relationships with others...including our enemies. Our opponents, our adversaries. The people who are against us.

In these last two “But I Tell Yous” Jesus cranks it up to 11.

This is how Jesus wants us to be.

You’ll notice that they follow the same pattern. 1-2-3.

Let’s look at the first one. Verse 38 has part one.

“You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.'”

Where is that from? Is that from the Bible? Yes, it is.

That’s actually taught in at least 3 books in the first 5 books of the Bible, the Torah.

Exodus 21:24, Leviticus 24:19&20, and Deuteronomy 19:21.

“Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.”

Now, the big words for that are the “Lex Talionis” or the “Law of Retaliation.”

And a form of it appears in other ancient law codes like the Code of Hammurabi (though in that law code it only applied to social equals, those in the same class of society).

But the is an “eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.”

And is that a good thing or a bad thing?

It sure was a good thing!

It was God’s law!

It communicated justice commensurate with the offense.

And no more.

This kind of law presented a line drawn in the sand that prohibited escalation and blood feuds.

You know if someone from my family knocked out your tooth, you didn’t get to knock all of the teeth out of my whole family’s mouths.

And we didn’t have to answer with breaking all of your kneecaps.

Which you then answered get the idea.

This law was good.

And it was supposed to be administered by the judges of Israel.

This was not for establishing a personal vendetta and carried out with a vengeance.

But that’s exactly what they had done with it.

They had used these words to justify vindictiveness.

“Get your eye!”
“Get your tooth!”

“Let’s get what you’ve got coming to you!”

And it was all perfectly legal.

Except that it wasn’t perfect. And it wasn’t what the Law was ever intending to do.

Do you see how the Pharisees thought that the Law was easy here to follow?

“Do not murder. Do not commit adultery.”

“And take what is coming to you. If someone takes something from you, demand that they lose the same thing.”

“Boy, this righteousness is easy!”

Was that what God’s Law was driving at?

Not according to the Messiah. V.39

“But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person.”

The Messiah, the whole Point of the Law, has arrived, and He says to not retaliate. To not resist. To not fight ‘em and get yours back.

Here’s point number 1 (of 3 this morning):


That’s a surprise, isn’t it?

You know that there are givers and there are takers in this world?

Well, Jesus says that you and I are supposed to be givers.

Even to the takers.

Does that sound wrong?

That’s because we’re upside down.

And it’s also because it’s not the whole picture.

I don’t think that Jesus means that we ought to neglect seeking justice.

I don’t think He’s saying that there never is a time to resist someone who is evil. Jesus resists evil people Himself. Paul resisted Peter (same word) to his face in the book of Galatians and that was a good thing at that point.

Just like when He said in verse 34 that we shouldn’t take an oath if we’re going to do it that way but He really wasn’t forbidding all oaths, I think the same thing is happening here.

Jesus is going after our hearts.

And the kind of hearts that He wants us to have are generous ones.

Super generous ones.

Gracious hearts.

Hearts that go above and beyond what is just and fair.

Give to your takers.

Our impulse even when we’re wronged should be generosity.

That’s the greater righteousness.

It’s more than just “Don’t retaliate against them.” It’s “Seek their good.”

The Pharisees thought it was “Return evil for evil.”

But Jesus said, “No. No. Return good for evil. That’s how we’re going to do it in my kingdom.”

And then He gives four illustrations. This is the third part where He gives practical application. Jesus gives them 4 illustrations of this principle of super generosity.

I don’t know how literally we’re supposed to take them. But we’re supposed to take them all very seriously. V.39

“If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

Now, that’s not a fight. That’s an insult.

Probably a superior giving a subordinate a backhanded cuff.

Right hand to right cheek.

Probably legal but very shaming.

How do you feel like responding?

I saw a cartoon yesterday on Facebook. It had a teacher asking the students, “If you have 10 cookies and someone takes away half of them, what will they have?”

And the answer was, “A broken hand.”

That’s what we feel like doing!

But Jesus says, “Smile and show him the other cheek.”

He probably won’t know what to do with it!

Be the bigger person. Don’t descend to their level.

Do you see how this takes a strong person, strong on the inside to do?

This isn’t saying to be a doormat and just put your head down and let people abuse you. This isn’t saying that at all.

This is saying where you could retaliate in kind, go out of your way to be generous.

Don’t get even. Be a blessing! V.40

Jesus says, “And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.”

You owe him money. And he wants to take the clothes off your back. Go ahead and give ‘em all your clothes!

I don’t think he’s being literal here. He’s using hyperbole and humor, but He’s really serious in His point. Go beyond what you have to do.

Yeah, so this guy is a taker. So what?

Go ahead and give it to him. V.41

“If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.”

Who could do that?

A Roman soldier. The occupying force.

They could commandeer a Jew to be a pack mule for a mile.

Jesus says, “So you owed him a mile...Give him two! That’ll teach him!”

Don’t stand on your rights.

Don’t be spiteful and bitter but helpful.

Kids, somebody grabs your toy out of you hand. Find the matching set and give it to them. Overcome evil with good!

Be large-hearted, not stingy. V.42

“Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”

Even if they don’t deserve it?

Sure. Go ahead.

Even if you don’t think you’ll get it back?

Can you afford it? Go ahead.

Even if they are your enemy?

Don’t be always asking, “What’s in it for me? What do I get out of this transaction?”

Just be generous.

Now, I know this raises all kinds of questions. I was up late last night writing this message because I kept asking all of those questions all day long.

And Christians have debated how this plays out for two thousand years.

Some have taken Jesus’ words very literally.

And that has born some really good fruit.

And also created some difficult situations.

I don’t think that we’re supposed to use these as a new law to follow as if we can give just one more cheek and then insult back, or one set of clothes and then say no more, or one more mile but never two, or always always give to something to taker.

These aren’t absolutes but a direction.

Jesus is pointing us in a direction.

He is aimed at our hearts.

And instead of having hearts that are bitter and angry and vengeful and bent on getting our vindication, Jesus wants us to have super-generous hearts that go above and beyond what is necessary.

Because that’s the kind of heart He has!

So this isn’t saying that we can’t take evasive or defensive action.
This isn’t calling anyone to submit to physical abuse.
This isn’t saying that we don’t get the authorities involved if there is threat or a crime.
This isn’t saying that we don’t exercise discernment in whom we would give gifts or loans to. Jesus doesn’t just do whatever anybody asks. He knows how to say, “No.” And Paul told the church to not just give money to people who wouldn’t work.

[These qualifications are helpfully suggested in greater detail in Charles Quarles’ discussion in his excellent book on the Sermon on the Mount.]

Jesus isn't saying any of that.

But don’t use those qualifications as loopholes to get out of obeying Jesus. Don’t be a Pharisee now with Jesus’ teachings either!

Jesus wants us to be super generous.

Even to people who don’t deserve it.

He wants us to trust in God’s justice and not go grab justice on our own.

I had two fears in preaching this passage. One is that some of you would feel convicted when you shouldn’t. And the other is that some of you wouldn’t feel convicted when you should.

What is your heart saying today?

Some of your hearts are saying, “I don’t get mad. I get even.”

But some of your hearts are saying, “I want to give, even to the takers.”

I don’t want to do it wrong. I don’t want to give to someone in a way that would be bad for them. And I do want justice! I do want things to be as they should be. I want  things to be made right again. And what has been taken from me hurts. Truly and rightly it hurts.

But I don’t want to be bitter. I want to be bigger.”

And I want to be gracious. Because that’s how Jesus is.

And I want to enemy.”  V.43 Last one.

“You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'”

Where is that in your Bible?

Well, “Love your neighbor” is Leviticus 19:18.

But where does it say, “Hate your enemy?” Where is that command?

It ain’t in there.

It’s natural.
It feels good.
It feels right.

But it’s not a command in the Bible.

They had added that one.

“Love your neighbor [only!]” they assumed.

And what did the Pharisees say? “Check! We’ve got that down. We love our Israelite neighbors. We love our families. We are so friendly.”

But those Romans? [Spit!]

Now, of course, they didn’t really love their neighbors, did they?

“Who is my neighbor? I mean, how far do I have to take this?” v.44

“But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”


The Messiah who is the point of the Law says, “But I tell you: love your enemies.”

It’s not good enough to just coexist.

It’s certainly not good enough to just hate those hate you.

But it’s also not good enough to just coexist with them.

You and I are called to love them. To love those who hate us.

I think that’s the hardest thing Jesus asks us to do. Ethically.

He’s saved the hardest one for last.

We are called to love our enemies, our opponents, our adversaries.

Those who are out to get us.

Now, that doesn’t mean that we will always like them.

In fact, it doesn’t mean that we will always act the same way towards all of them at all times.

We are still supposed to be wary of our enemies! We are to be shrewd as serpents around them. But also harmless as doves.

We are called to wholeheartedly seek the good of those who want bad for us.

That’s what it means to love someone.

It means to be for them. To actively seek what’s best for them.

That doesn’t mean to always give them what they want.

But it does mean to seek what’s best for them.

To do 1 Corinthians 13 to them.

Even if they don’t do it to you!

“But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

That’s really really hard! But look at what it does. V.45 so “that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.”

It doesn’t make you a child of God, but it shows that you are because you bear the family resemblance. This is how God treats His enemies. V.45

“He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

I love it that He says, “HIS sun.” The sun belongs to God!

And in this time, while He’s being patient with us, He causes it to shine on the evil as well as the good. Same thing with His lifegiving rain.

We call that common grace. God is loving in many ways even to those who are not His children.

He’s show us the way every day.

And He wants more out of us. V.46

“If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? [The extortionists who work for Rome and then shake you down for even more. They love those who love them. Other tax collectors and their mom’s at least!] And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?”

See how He’s going for the greater righteousness?

He’s telling the Pharisees that their righteousness is at the same level as the most notorious sinners in their town.

And Jesus is calling His followers to love more. To love deeper. To love those who hate them.

And not just in words, but in actions. Like prayer and greetings and a whole host of other things.

How are you doing at this?

Who are your enemies and are you loving them appropriately?

Let me apply this to politics today.

Some of you think that President Trump is an enemy. He is against you and you are against Him. I’ve read your social media.

Others of you think that the Democrats are your enemies. The word “liberal” is a bad word to you. You are against them and they are against you. I’ve read your social media.

And both kinds of you are in our congregation, and I’m glad.

I love that the church of Jesus Christ can transcend human politics!

I’m not going to argue with either of you today. About who is the true enemy. If either. And I’m not going to try to get either of you to politically support the other.

I’m just going to ask if you are praying for your enemy.

Whomever you consider them to be.

They might hate us, but we Christians do not have the option of hating back.

We are called to love our haters.

And that goes way beyond politics.

In goes into every area of life.

Who are you enemies and are you praying for them?

Because we are supposed to be the image of our loving heavenly father. V.48

“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

And that really is the punchline of all of these. All 6 of the “But I Tell Yous.”

The Lord has set the standard for us. And it is perfection.


This is a play on the phrase from Leviticus, “Be holy for I, the LORD, am holy.”

But here Jesus used the word “perfect” which means “whole” or “complete.”
He’s driving at that inside-out thing again.

Jesus wants us to be the same on the inside as the outside. Not like the Pharisees.

Loving on the inside.
Pure on the inside.
Faithful on the inside.
Generous on the inside.
Gracious on the inside.

So much so that it spills out to our outsides and to all of our relationships.

How do we do that?

By looking at the Father. Our heavenly Father. What a phrase!

And by looking at Jesus Himself.

Because He lived all of this out perfectly.

Jesus was struck on the cheek. And so much more.

Jesus had his clothes taken from Him.

Jesus was forced to carry something for the Romans.

Jesus was asked to give something to those who didn’t deserve it.

Jesus had enemies. O, did they hate Him!

But what did He do back?

He practiced what He preached in His Sermon the Mount.

“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

If you want to know how to love your enemies, look no further than your own Lord.


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

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Book Review: "The Gospel Comes with a House Key" by Rosaria Butterfield

The Gospel Comes with a House KeyThe Gospel Comes with a House Key by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In The Gospel Comes With a House Key Rosaria Butterfield beckons the Church to practice what she calls, “radically ordinary hospitality,” and she and her husband Kent lead the way.

The potency of Butterfield’s book comes from her storytelling. She obviously subscribes to the maxim, “Show, don’t tell,” and does a masterful job at it. Her true life stories of biblical hospitality brim with the raw grace and beautiful mess that is the gospel at work in up-close-and-personal ministry. This is hospitality as generosity, not entertainment. Giving yourself, your resources, your time, your home.

In between the showing, Butterfield does do some telling. She teaches how practicing hospitality has always been a biblical priority (Romans 12:13, 16:23, 1 Tim 5:10, 1 Peter 4:9, 3 John 1:8). But she also explains how important it is now in our “post-Christian” moment in American history, showing Christianity to real, or at least plausible. And she gives many practical suggestions of how to make it happen.

But it’s mostly the stories that do the work. The hospitality that led to Butterfield’s own conversion to Christ. The hospitality they are attempting to show their neighbors. The (apparent) failures. The triumphs. The ongoing sagas. All of the cost and all of the drama. But also all of the (often quiet) glory. I got lost a few times in the early chapters, but regularly had tears from the midpoint to the end. Her writing is salty, in the best sense of the word, and she picks a few fights along the way–all in the name of getting us all going in the right direction.

Butterfield is careful to repeat that her family is not the one-size-fits-all template of hospitality, but at the same time, she is definitely trying to be an example. And she does think that every Christian ought to be practicing hospitality in their own way. She concludes, “That is the nuts and bolts of it, yes? Starting with you and me and our open door and our dinner table and our house key poised for the giving. This is not complex. Radically ordinary, daily hospitality is not PhD Christianity. The gospel coming with a house key is ABC Christianity. Radically ordinary and daily hospitality is the basic building block for vital Christian living. Start anywhere. But do start.”

Hint: Don’t read it if you want to stay the way you are.

View all my Goodreads reviews.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Appreciating CCEF

The Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF) is celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, and I couldn’t appreciative them more.

CCEF has had a profound influence in my life and ministry. When I was a rookie pastor drowning in the difficulties and complexities of shepherding people, my friend Robert D. Jones introduced me the Journal of Biblical Counseling and the ministry of this biblical counseling think-tank based in Philadelphia. I didn’t know it at the time, but Bob had opened the door to some of the richest teaching and wonderful people who would greatly shape my thinking, my spiritual growth, and my whole approach to pastoral ministry–and even shoot me into the world of publishing!

CCEF was used by the Lord Jesus to revolutionize my philosophy of ministry. Actually, they really brought my philosophy of ministry fully home. "Biblical counseling" was simply working out in a practical way all of the implications, entailments, and applications of my theology: progressive sanctification, every-member ecclessiology, biblical anthropology, the sufficiency of Scripture.

I had been taught that biblical counseling was "take 2 Bible verses and call me in the morning," and that it saw every life problem as sin and that if your only tool was a hammer, then every problem would look like a nail. But the JBC told me something different. Every issue was full of true, do-able, timeless wisdom. And it was well-written and hopeful. It was engaging, and it met me right where I needed. It scratched me right where I itched.

Over the years, I went deeper into the ministry of CCEF: training sessions, workshops, books, audio recordings (what we used to call "tapes"), and eventually classes at Biblical Theological Seminary and Westminister Theological Seminary with CCEF faculty–David Powlison, Tim Lane, Bill Smith, Ed Welch, Winston Smith, Mike Emlet.

While at WTS, I had the idea of doing my doctoral project on the problem of gossip–how to biblically recognize, resist, and repent of it. Not only did the faculty encourage this idea, Ed Welch even suggested that I write my project as a book and then agreed to write the foreword when it was published by CLC five years ago.

And then after I graduated with my doctorate in pastoral counseling, the folks at CCEF have continued to encourage and challenge me. They published some of my work in the Journal of Biblical Counseling and on their blog, and they invited me to teach my resisting gossip material at their national conference. It’s a marvel to me that I have been able to contribute in a small way to the very thing that has been such a fountain of nourishment to me for the last two decades.

I don’t know where I’d be without CCEF. I do know that if there was no CCEF that my wife and kids wouldn’t be loved as well, my flock wouldn’t be cared for with as much loving skill, my preaching wouldn’t have as much insight into how the Bible maps onto everyday life, I wouldn’t know where to point people to consistently trustworthy resources for their problems, and there wouldn’t be a book floating around the world called Resisting Gossip: Winning the War of the Wagging Tongue. And most importantly, if there was no CCEF, I wouldn’t know Jesus as well or be as conformed to His image. CCEF has been a wonderful instrument in the Redeemer’s hands in my life. If the Lord tarries, I pray that He gives CCEF another 50 fruitful years of walking with others in wisdom and love.