Sunday, April 30, 2006

Matt's Messages - It's Our Middle Name

“It’s Our Middle Name”
Romans 1:16
April 30, 2006

I said last week that before we start another sermon series, I wanted to take a few weeks to preach on some concerns I have for us as a church.

Last week, we talked about seeking godly counsel. I’ve noticed some hesitation among us (including me) to give and to receive godly counsel in a humble and happy way. So we talked about seeking godly counsel.

This week, I’d like to talk about sharing the Gospel.

I love it when I hear stories from you about people with whom you’ve shared the Gospel. And I’ve heard a few in the last week or so and that makes me very happy as your pastor.

But I’m concerned that you and I (and I’m including myself in this big-time!) haven’t had many stories to tell about sharing the Gospel recently.

And I want to challenge and inspire us to share the Gospel with boldness.

Because...“It’s Our Middle Name!”

Lanse EVANGELICAL Free Church.

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, it is.

Evangelical means “Gospel Oriented.”

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

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

Gospel is our “Middle Name.”

And it should be the foundation and the structure and the trim on the building of our church.

“It’s Our Middle Name.” [Whether or not we can say the big E-Word.]

But sometimes, the Gospel gets marginalized.

It can happen to a Christian church.
It can happen to a Christian family.
It can happen to a Christian individual.

The Gospel can get marginalized. Not necessarily denied, but not central like it should be.

It should be our middle name. All of us.

Matt “Gospel” Mitchell.
Blair “Gospel” Murray.
Sue “Gospel” Swisher.
Tina “Gospel” Keller. Etc, etc, etc.

This was true of the Apostle Paul. Gospel was his middle name.

And this is what he says so memorably in Romans chapter 1, verse 16.

“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.”

His name was Chuck. And I’ll never forget that moment.

I was a student at Moody Bible Institute. And Moody is at the heart of Chicago, a great world-class city. And cities are full of street-people. And street-people often wander onto campus wanting a handout. And one afternoon, after my classes were over, I was sitting on the Alumni Plaza, enjoying some R&R, when I was approached by a scraggly looking man who made a bee-line for me. His clothes were tattered, his hair was a mess, and I thought to myself, “Oh, no, here we go again. I hate saying ‘no’ to people.” I thought he was after some money.

But that’s not what he was after. He was after God. He said to me (I forget the exact words, something like this) “Can you tell me about God?” Now, I shouldn’t have been all that surprised; it was, after all, the campus of the Moody BIBLE Institute. But here, standing in front of me was a man who wanted to know about God. This was an open door, an opportunity to share the Gospel.

So, after exchanging names, (mine was Matt, his was Chuck) I began to explain that God created us to glorify Him in a continuous, glorious love-relationship, but that we, all of humanity, had all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We had not obeyed God. We had not trusted God. We had not cherished God as God. And because of our sin, we are therefore alienated from God, estranged from God as enemies, separated from God.

And here was the moment—I was illustrating this story with my hands. This hand was God, and this hand was us–separated because of sin. And Chuck leaned forward and grabbed my hands. This street-person grabbed my hands! And he said, “That’s it. That’s what I feel. This is me and that is God! How do I get it like this?” And he forcibly put my hands together.

“That’s it! How do I get it like this?”

I’ll never forget that moment. Chuck wanted to know the Gospel. And I was the person in place to take the plunge. I was the evangel-ist. I was the one called to walk through the open door of opportunity. I had the privilege of telling Chuck about Christ. I got to give Chuck the Gospel.

I think that was one of the first times that I ever experienced the power of the Gospel.

Paul says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.”

Notice why Paul is not ashamed of the good news.

It’s because the gospel is power. It’s God’s power!

And it is not just raw divine power–it’s awesome divine power for a purpose.

The purpose is to save.

“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.”

That’s power! Anyone who believes this message experiences the power of God to save them.

It came to the Jews first, and then it came to the rest of us.

But it’s the same power for all of us.

It’s the power of salvation.

There is only one force on Earth that can save. And it’s the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

And “It’s Our Middle Name.”

Now how does that work? Look at verse 17.

“For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
Those are theme verses of the Book of Romans. And they should be theme verses of our lives.

The Gospel reveals the righteousness of God [the right-standing with God] that is needed to cover our sinfulness. The Gospel tells us of Christ’s atoning death for our sins. The Gospel tells us that if we repent and believe–a righteousness that is by faith from first to last–is credited to our account.

The good news is that you and I don’t have to save anyone! We don’t have to atone for anyone’s sins. We don’t have to go to the Cross. We don’t have to be resurrected. We don’t have to save anyone including ourselves. The Gospel provides that saving power for those who believe it.

Let me give you another verse for this. 1 Corinthians 1:18, “For the message of the Cross (that’s the Gospel!) is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (The dunamis theou.) The Gospel is powerful. It is what people need. Every person.

It’s what Chuck needed.

He said, “That’s it. That’s what I feel. This is me and that is God! How do I get it like this?”

What did Chuck need? Chuck needed the Gospel. He didn’t need me. I can’t save him. But the Gospel can when believed. Because the gospel is the message of the Cross, the word of Jesus Christ, which James says “is planted in you, which can save you” (James 1:21). The Gospel is the power of God for salvation.

And it should be our middle name.

But sometimes, it’s not. Sometimes we get ashamed of it.

We think it’s a good thing to talk about at church, but not at home.
We think it’s a good thing to tell our children, but not our co-workers.
We think it’s a good thing to think about during our “quiet-time,” but we forget it when we are out to eat.

Especially when other people are around, the gospel gets marginalized and we end up acting ashamed of it.

But Paul says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes...”

This week, I tried to think of what we should be doing as individuals and as a church together to make sure that we are “not ashamed of the Gospel.”

To make sure that the Gospel remains at the center of our church and our lives.

To make sure that the Gospel is our middle name.

And I thought of three things.


It starts by our being gospel-centered in our own lives.

Remember this? The Main Thing is to Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing. And the Main Thing is the Gospel.

The Gospel should be the central theme of, the essential message of, of first importance in our lives.

Love the Gospel.

Our leadership here from the board to the worship team has tried to make sure that our worship celebrations, for example, are centered on the Gospel.

We sing about Jesus and His sacrificial death and glorious resurrection every week. We try to keep our songs Gospel-centered to stir up love for the Gospel in all of our lives.

What do you do every week and every day to deepen your love for the Gospel?

The Gospel can be taken for granted. We need to take it deeper.

Remember that little book by C.J. Mahaney, The Cross-Centered Life?” I recommend getting that little orange book out again this week and reminding yourself of how central the Gospel is to your life. And start to follow some of his suggestions for loving the Gospel.

In chapter 6, he quotes John Stott as saying, “The cross is the blazing fire at which the flame of our love is kindled, but we have to get near enough to it for its sparks to fall on us.”

And then he suggests 5 ways to draw near to the sparks of the Cross each day.

#1. Memorize the Gospel. Take a portion of Scripture that explains the Gospel in a nutshell and go over it again and again and again and again.

#2. Pray the Gospel. Include the Gospel in all of your prayers. Thank the Lord daily for your salvation. For bringing you to Him. For giving you access to God through the Cross. Remember the Gospel in all of your prayers.

#3. Sing the Gospel. Not just here on Sundays but on Mondays in the truck.

#4. Review How the Gospel Has Changed You. Preach your testimony back to yourself and give the glory to God and His Gospel.

#5. Study the Gospel. Mahaney says, “Never be content with your current grasp of the gospel. The gospel is life-permeating, world-altering, universe-changing truth. It has more facets than any diamond. Its depths man will never exhaust" (pg. 67).

And when we do that, I think we’ll have less and less chance of it being relegated to a back room somewhere and eventually be ashamed of.

Instead, it will be center-stage and our middle name.

Love the Gospel.

It’s the power of God for your salvation!

Unless you aren’t saved yet.

Maybe all of this Gospel talk is foreign to you. Or you don’t really know if you’ve ever put your faith in this message.

Jesus died on the Cross to save sinners like you and me. He paid the just penalty for our sins. And if we put our trust in Him alone, we get His righteous.

He took our sins, and He gives us His righteousness!

That’s the Gospel. And it has the power to save you if you believe it.

To be saved, you need to put your trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior and believe His Gospel and begin to follow Him by faith.

I am not ashamed to say that this Gospel is powerful enough to save you! Today.

Believe the Gospel today.

And Love the Gospel.

#2. The second way to keep the Gospel as our middle name is to PRAY FOR THE GOSPEL.

Now, I already said to pray the Gospel. Here, I mean pray for the Gospel to bear fruit.

Paul asks for that in lots of his books.

For example, Colossians chapter 4, verse 2.

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.”

Paul asks that we pray for open doors.

Some of those doors will be like Chuck’s. They will open without me ever asking. He just walked up to me.

But other ones need to be prayed open.

Some of you are really good at this. Many of you have taught me a lot about how to pray for the lost.

Persistently taking unbelievers before the throne.

Our Men’s Basic Training encourages each man to pray every day for 2 other men to come to Christ.

Do you have a prayer list of Gospel-needing people that you pray for every day?

If not, what is stopping you?

This week, I ran across this amazing quote from the great 19th century preacher Charles Spurgeon. He was never at a loss for words.

I thought this was inspiring and challenging, and I have to share it with you.

“Those who are short of breath in soul winning will never be successful. If they are not saved after twenty years of prayer, follow them up to the gates of hell! If they once pass those gates, your prayers are unallowable and unavailing, but to the very verge of the infernal pit follow them with your prayers. If they will not hear you speak, they cannot prevent your praying. Do they jest at your exhortations? They cannot disturb you at your prayers. Are they far away so that you cannot reach them? Your prayers can reach them. Have they declared that they will never listen to you again, nor see your face? Never mind, God has a voice which they must hear. Speak to him, and he will make them feel. Though they now treat you despitefully, rendering evil for good, follow them with your prayers. Never let them perish for lack of your supplications.”

And he also said, “If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies. And if they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay. If hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for.”

Those are strong words but I don’t think too strong.

We need to pray for the Gospel in lost people’s lives.

And then to keep the Gospel our middle name, #3. We need to SHARE THE GOSPEL with the lost.

And here’s where I think we need the most work.

We aren’t ashamed of the Gospel when it comes to loving it or praying for it.

But when we have to get bold and share it, then it can get marginalized pretty quick.

But Paul says in Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.”

So, we need to share it.

Because without the Gospel no-one gets saved.

Romans 10, verse 13, “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. How then, can they call on the one the have not believed in? (They can’t!) And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? (They can’t!) And how can they preach unless they are sent? (They can’t!) As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news! (that’s the gospel!)” We must share the gospel. That’s where the power for salvation is.

So, when was the last time you shared the Gospel?

I’ve been very convicted recently of my lack of love for the lost and my lack of boldness in sharing the Gospel with unbelievers out in the world.

Here’s some things I’m committing to do to increase my evangel-sharing. I hope that they’ll be helpful to you.

#1. I’m going to try to see people as eternal souls.

The other day I was up at the Kwik Fill getting some gas, and I had been meditating on this subject, and I noticed the guy pumping my gas and behind the counter. Like I’ve never noticed him before.

Instead of being someone to navigate, I saw him as someone who was eternal. He is going to live forever.

And I prayed for him right there and struck up a conversation. We didn’t get to the gospel this time, but I saw him and that made a big difference.

#2. I’m going to try to find opportunities to serve the lost around me.

Invite lost people over for dinner. When was the last time you opened up your home for an evangelistic get together?

I’m not sure the last time I did it. I have Christians over all the time. Christians are fun! And I love getting together for fellowship.

But we need to open up our home to unbelievers to include them in our lives.

I have a friend who tries to serve the lost in restaurants–especially servers. He says, “We’re going to pray here in a minute. Is there anything we can pray for you?” What a great conversation starter! It’s serving someone by praying for them. And you never know what might come of it.

How can we serve the lost? People think that church is out to get people’s money. And some churches probably are.

But we need to think about how we can spend our money on the lost!

#3. I’m going to try to always have a gospel tract on hand.

Or at least to have a gospel presentation memorized. But I think that a tract is a good idea. And we have a bunch of those in the foyer.

I also think (less importantly) that it would be good for us to always have an invitation to our church on hand. And we’re going to be printing up some nice ones that everybody can carry with directions to church, etc, on them.

I used to do this and always have a tract ready, but I’ve grown lazy about it, and acted as if I’m ashamed of the gospel.

Heather’s grandfather is the best at this that I know. His breast-pocket is always stuffed full with a good Gospel tract. And he leaves them everywhere and hands them out wherever he goes.

Anyone can do that!

#4. I’m going to just take the plunge and say something.

Sometimes in pieces. Sometimes we only get a chance to share a little bit of the Gospel.

Sometimes the whole thing.

I know that what they need is the Gospel. So I need to just jump in and share it.

Did you know that I have a degree in Evangelism?

I actually majored in Evangelism in College.

But I still get scared to do it.

And I’m a pastor! I’ve been in the vocational ministry for 11 years!

I’m not that scared when Chuck comes in off the street and asks.

But I’m scared when I have to talk to someone who hasn’t asked.

But what do they need? What power will save them?

Only the power of the Gospel!

“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes...”

The professor who taught me the most about evangelism in college was named Dennis Fisher. And Dr. Fisher had a saying that he would use, “When in doubt, whip it out!” When in doubt, whip out the Gospel.

Not, when in doubt, stay silent.

When in doubt, whip it out. And share the Gospel.

Nike would say, “Just do it!”

And last but not least, (#5), I’m going to try to pray that God would give me a heart for the lost.

And I’m praying that for our church as well.

This was a Charles Spurgeon week for me. I was introduced to this quote, as well. And it has really sunk into me.

Spurgeon said, “The Holy Spirit will move them [unbelievers] by first moving you. If you can rest without their being saved, they will rest too. But if you are filled with an agony for them, if you cannot bear that they should be lost, you will soon find that they are uneasy too. I hope you will get into such a state that you will dream about ...your hearer perishing for lack of Christ, and start up at once and begin to cry, ‘O God, give me converts or I die.’ Then you will have converts.”

I realized this week that I have not been praying like that.

I have not been moved like that. And it’s probably one of the reasons why we have not had a baptism here in the last year.

I’m sorry for failing you by not praying for such a heart for the lost as that for me and for you.

I want Gospel to be our middle name here. Not just on the sign, but in how we love the Gospel of our own salvation, how we pray for the Gospel (for the lost near and far), and how we share the Gospel with those who need to hear it most.

That we would tell people how to get to God.

[I was really helped this week by a message by Jim Donahue on "How To Build an Evangelistic Church" (free .pdf of the outline at this link) from the 2005 Sovereign Grace Leadership Conference. More than anything, it was convicting! But there were a lot of thoughts in that (including the Spurgeon quotes) that made it into this message. I am in Mr. Donahue's debt.]

Friday, April 28, 2006

Whence Matt? - EFCA

Today, we're off to the Allegheny District of the EFCA for our annual conference of churches.

I've been around the EFCA now for about 15 years. When I went off to Moody Bible Institute in 1991, I began attending First Evangelical Free Church of Chicago and loved it! The expressive but God-centered worship, biblical preaching, and emphasis on relationships was wonderful. Even though I was a student and couldn't be too involved in church during the week, First Free was the first church I felt was "home" for me as an adult.

Four years later, when it was time to pick a seminary, Heather and I looked high and low and decided upon Trinity Evangelical Divinity School which is owned and operated by the EFCA. One of these days, I'll blog on my experience there.

During my seminary experience, I was a youth pastor at an independent Bible church in Zion, Illinois, half and hour north of Trinity. Beach Bible Church was then pastored by an EFCA ordained man, Randy Christie. Randy has since moved to New Mexico, but Beach Bible has been adopted into the EFCA. Someday, I'll blog on some of my experiences there, too.

When graduation from TEDS came around, Heather and I met with the district superintendents of the EFCA at a week long conference on campus. We were introduced to LeRoy Glover, the DS for the Allegheny District. He mentioned that he had 7 churches looking for pastors (out of 30!) in my old stomping grounds--Eastern Ohio and Western Pennyslvania (even my beloved Cook Forest is in the Awesome Allegheny District!). Heather and I said, "Sign us up!" And (another blog story sometime), we were called to Lanse EFC in 1998.

I really enjoy the EFCA. We have a real committment to sound doctrine, especially the inerrancy of the Bible and the centrality of the Gospel, but there is also a freedom to disagree on secondary things. And there is a lot of life and passion for Christ!

In the last year, the EFCA has begun a process of potentially revising our 12 point Statement of Faith. It's an attempt to continue to be faithful to the Scriptures, improving some perceived weaknesses in the document, strengthening our stands on evangelical doctrine, and possibly broadening our stances on a few secondary doctrines. It's been interesting to see it play out as the changes have been proposed and now discussed.

I'm generally in favor of the changes and think that they will be healthy for our movement. I'm sure that all involved would appreciate your prayers for this process. It's pretty important that we do it well. Today, during the conference, we're going to hear a presentation from our EFCA president, Bill Hamel, and our director of biblical theology, Greg Strand. I'm very interested to hear what they have to say.

Our district is now led by Superintendent Jeff Powell. He's my pastor and my kids call him, "Super Jeff!" I'm looking forward to being with him and all of our district friends today.

Part of an ongoing series about major influences on my life, thought, and ministry. "Whence" is an old English word that means, "From Where?"

Thursday, April 27, 2006


Saturday, April 22, 2006

Matt Messages - Help!

April 23, 2006
Proverbs 15:22, 27:6 & 9

Since we’ve now ended our almost five month study of the Gospel of Mark, I would like to take a few weeks to preach on a couple of items which have been recently laid upon my heart for our church family.

The first item I want to take up is the Bible’s call for us to humbly seek the godly counsel of others.

I’ve noticed in my own heart and life and in the lives of many in our church family a reticence, a hesitance, and even a resistance to seeking godly counsel.

So I want to address that from the Bible and apply the Bible’s teaching on this topic to our lives.

I’ve entitled the message today, “Help!”

And let’s begin by asking God for His help. Let’s pray.


I will have 3 applicational points this morning. The first is this:


Proverbs chapter 15, verse 22 says very simply: “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”

Proverbs are general truths that explain how things work in God’s world. They are not straight promises or “case law.” They are general explanations of how God has “wired His world” so that those who learn these proverbs can successfully navigate God’s world.

And this proverb says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”

Now, the general point of this proverb is clear. Seek counsel to get success.

What kind of counsel? Well, what kind of plans?

“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”

It doesn’t say. I love how this proverb doesn’t say what kind of plans are in view.

Other similar proverbs talk clearly about military plans.

Proverbs 20:18, “Make plans by seeking advice; if you wage war, obtain guidance.”

Or the plans of a ruler or a nation.

Proverbs 11:14, “For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advisers make victory sure.”

So, probably there are military plans in view here, but it doesn’t say that directly in Proverbs 15:22.

I think that this refers to just about any kind of plans.

“Plans [in general] fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”

Do you catch what I’m trying to do by reading it to you again and again? I’m trying to get us to memorize it. Proverbs are great for memorizing.

And then for chewing on.

What kind of plans might you seek counsel on?

Military Counsel, of course.

How about Financial Counsel? Should we take out another loan? Should my wife go back to work? Should we buy that piece of ground?

How about Marital Counsel? How do we work out our conflicts? How do we increase intimacy in our marriage? How do we work out our sexual problems? How do we grow closer together spiritually?

How about Pre-Marital Counsel? How do we prepare for marriage? What do we need to be getting ready for? What’s around the corner?

Or how about Pre-Engagement Counsel? It seems like almost nobody ever seeks that out. Should we get married? Do you think we are compatible? Is this a good match?

Or how about Parenting Counsel? Do you think we’re doing the right thing with little Johnny? Do you think we are too harsh or too lenient with young Sue? How should we relate to our grown kids?

What about Vocational Counsel? Is this job a good fit for me? What should I do about my relationship with my supervisor? Am I doing the right thing with my employee here?

How about Interpersonal Counsel? Family conflict. Neighbor conflicts. What are my responsibilities in this relationship? What should I be doing?

How about just plain old Personal/Spiritual Counsel? My wife has recently counseled me that I have some glaring problems with a perceived lack of joy and humility in my life. And they sometimes get in the way of my seeming approachable as a person.

I need that kind of counsel.

“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”

Now, we’ve listed some of the kinds of plans that we might need counsel for.

Here’s a big question, “Why don’t we ask for counsel?”

Is it because we want to fail?

Why don’t we seek godly counsel on these issues?

There can be some good reasons for not seeking godly counsel.

You don’t know someone who is godly.
You don’t know someone who seems to have any expertise in a given area.
That sort of thing.

But the biggest reason we don’t is pride.

That’s why I said that point #1 is Ask for Help Humbly.

It takes humility to ask for help.

In military counsel, a general has to stoop to listen to some other person give their opinion.

In financial counsel, you have to divulge your financial situation to someone else. That gets in the way of your pride. Right?

Last year, Heather and I were struggling with a cash-flow problem that tends to show up about the same time every year. And I was struck by this and similar Bible passages that the reason I hadn’t solved our problem yet was that I had been too proud to ask for help. So I called Keith and asked if I could lay out our financial situation in front of him and have him give me some counsel.

That was hard to do! I know Keith loves me, loves the Lord, and has some expertise in that area. But it was still hard to open up my books and show him how I go about doing cash-flow.

It was helpful, though! Just doing it was helpful even if he didn’t ask me good questions and give me good advice! Which he did.

Marital Counsel. When do people go to see a marriage counselor? When it is almost too late.

Why? “We thought we’d try to work it out on our own first.”

9 times out of 10 that’s pride speaking.

More people do Pre-Marital Counseling, but that’s because it’s fun and lots of pastors require it.

Unfortunately, almost no one seeks out Pre-Engagement Counseling. Tom and Stacey, however, were a wonderful exception to that general rule and sought out advice from multiple godly counselors in their courtship stage before they decided to get married. Very wise.

“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”

It’s pride that gets in the way of Parenting Counsel, too. Who wants to possibly be told that they are doing something wrong? I don’t enjoy that myself.

What will people think if they find out that “The Pastor” doesn’t know what he’s doing with his kids?

I can get too worried about what people think and not about what is wise.

Vocational Counsel, Interpersonal Counsel, and Personal/Spiritual Counsel all suffer from the same pride problem, as well. We don’t seek out godly advice about our work, our relationships, and our character because we think we know what we’re doing.

Americans value their independence. We don’t like people telling us what to do. And we don’t like admitting weakness.

But guess what? We are weak! We all have limitations. We all have different giftings and different abilities. We are all fallen, finite creatures. We are sinners, for crying out loud!

We need help!

And not just God’s help. We need each other. That’s how God designed us. That’s why He designed this thing we call “the church!”

We need to humble ourselves and to ask for some help.

Even in areas where we are already strong, we can use help.

“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”

Now, let’s make this personal. Which of the areas I’ve gone over is an area in which you have some plans or you need to make some plans and you should seek out some godly counsel?

Maybe it’s not an area I’ve mentioned. But you know what it is.

I’d like to ask you to write it down on the back of your bulletin.

And I’d like for you to list a few people that you might ask for their advice.

Did you notice that the verse is plural?

“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”

Write down something you should be asking a godly person or three for advice on and what godly persons you might ask.

And then, pray that God would humble you to do it.

And don’t fall that false-humility that says, “Oh, I’m not worthy of their time!” That’s just pride in another dress.

“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”

Ask for help humbly.


Turn over to Proverbs chapter 27 and look at verse 6. Proverbs 27, verse 6. Pew Bible Page #652.

“Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” (3x)

That’s a good word.

This is not always easy, but it’s good.

An enemy might look good on the outside and make you feel good by the way that they talk to you and “kiss you.”

But they are just buttering you up. They are your enemy.

But a friend might say something that hurts but they are doing so because they love you.

“Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”

So, if you have a friend, be glad and receive their help happily.

It may not always hurt! Lots of good, godly counsel isn’t a “wound!”

But even if it does hurt, be glad and receive your friend’s help happily.

This last week, I got a call from Wally Kephart on Tuesday. And he said, “Matt, are you free for breakfast on tomorrow? I’d like to get together with you. Have a few things I want to talk about with you.”

But he didn’t say what!

I said, “Sure, I think I could do that. What are we going to talk about?”

And Wally says, “Oh, I have a personal matter I want to talk to you about, and a few other leadership details we need to cover.”

Okay. I said, “Is there anything I need to do to prepare for our meeting?”

“No. It’s nothing earthshattering, don’t worry about it. See you tomorrow.”

So, of course, I did worry about it for a day or so and then we got together for breakfast on Wednesday morning. And he paid, by the way!

Wally needed to rebuke me on something I had said and how I had said it.

I had spoken rudely and bossily to a group of people the other day and possibly offended them, and Wally wanted me to know what kind of an effect my words had had.

And he was right.

It hurt to admit it. It was a wound. But it was right.

It was a faithful wound. And Wally, I am thankful that you gave it to me.

And for the gentle and loving way that you delivered it. Thank you.

“Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”

Skip down 3 verses to verse 9.

“Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of one's friend springs from his earnest counsel.”

What makes a good friend? Earnest counsel. Loving advice. Painful at times, but you know that they love you.

It’s like perfume and incense. It’s sweet and joy-giving to have a friend that cares so much that they will give you earnest counsel.

Be happy if you have godly friends that give you godly advice.

Even if it’s stuff you don’t want to hear.

Kids, this applies to you when your parents give you counsel. Be happy that they do!

Adults, this applies to you, too, whenever a godly friend, parent, pastor, elder, teacher, supervisor, roommate, whoever gives you some counsel. Be happy that they do!

Receive Help Happily.

I mentioned earlier that my wife has been telling me that I sometimes come off as depressed and proud.

Man! Not what you want to hear about yourself.

I’d rather she just gave me kisses! And told me how wonderful I am.

But would she be my best friend if she did?

“Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”

[We kiss, too, don’t worry!]

I have no one in my life more pleasant, more to be happy about than my wife.

“Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of one's friend springs from [her] earnest counsel.”

Have you received some counsel recently that you have been unhappy about?

Take some time right now to repent of that sulking and that pride and rejoice that you have a friend who would love you enough to speak into your life.

O! That our church would marked by the humility of seeking and receiving godly counsel with joy!

O, that my life would be the same.

#3 (and last). OFFER HELP LOVINGLY.

This is the flip-side of the other two.

If we are going to be seeking out godly counsel about finances, marriage, parenting, relationships, work, character, etc, we also need to be willing to offer counsel to others, as love.

Are we pleasant enough as friends to give earnest counsel?

Do we love others enough to deliver a faithful wound?

Do we love others enough to speak the truth in love?

Those two things have to go together. Truth and love.

We can fall into the ditch of truth without love which is harsh and offensive and wounding without healing. And it’s not really truth without love.

Or we can fall into the ditch of love without truth which is soft and “caring” but doesn’t help the other person where they really need it. And it’s not really love if it doesn’t have truth.

We need to speak the truth in love for others.

And offer them counsel, advice, and help.

Is there someone in your life where you see a need of theirs for godly counsel?

Is there a chance that you are the one God has in mind to talk with them?

It may not be a hard discussion. It might, though.

Do you love them?

“Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of one's friend springs from his earnest counsel.”

We need to be real friends with real pleasantness.

We need to speak into others’ lives truth with love.

That’s what God did isn’t it?

God gave to us the gospel, the good news.

But the good news came, at first, with bad news.

We are sinners deserving of the wrath of God.

But Jesus Christ died on the Cross to save us from our sins and bring us to God.

Imagine if God had not told us this good news!

Imagine if God had not counseled us that we need to turn from our sins and turn to Jesus Christ as our Savior and our Lord.

If you don’t know Jesus as your Rescuer and King, you need that good news right now.

The Lord Jesus is inviting you to turn and trust in Him and what He did on the Cross for the forgiveness of your sins and for eternal life.

And all of us here who claim Jesus as our Lord are being called by Him, as well, to:

Ask for Help Humbly

“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”

And Receive Help Happily.

“Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”

And Offer Help Lovingly.

“Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of one's friend springs from his earnest counsel.”

Speaking the truth in love.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Easter Lily (and Her Happy Husband)

My beautiful bride Heather and I yesterday on Resurrection Sunday.

"Like a lily among thorns is my darling among the maidens." (Song of Songs 2:2)

Prayer Request for Prayer Paper

I'd appreciate prayer for my post-course assignment for my class on prayer. I hope to work on it from early tomorrow morning until noon.

Thanks for praying!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

New Feature

When I finish a sermon series like I did today, I'm going to create an index page for that series that groups all of the sermon links together in one post.

I've back-dated index posts for my sermons on Forever and the Local Church.

Hope that helps to make Hot Orthodoxy a better resource for spiritual growth.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Mark's Introduction to Jesus

Seventeen "Matt's Messages" on the Gospel of Mark.

1. 1:1-15 Introducing Jesus

2. 1:14-45 With Authority

3. 2:1-12 Who Can Forgive Sins?

4. 2:13-3:6 More, More About Jesus

5. 3:7-35 True Disciples

6. 4:1-34 Seeds, Soils, and Secrets

7. 4:35-6:6 Desperate

8. 6:8-56 Don’t Be Afraid

9. 7:1-30 Inside Out

10. 7:31-9:13 Opening Eyes

11. 9:14-10:31 Christ-Followers

12. 10:32-52 Servants

13. 11:1-12:12 King Jesus

14. 12:13-44 Coins, Questions, and Christ

15. 13:1-37 Watch!

16. 14:1-15:47 Abandonded

17. 16:1-8 This Changes Everything!

Matt Messages - This Changes Everything

“This Changes Everything”
Resurrection Sunday
April 16, 2006
Mark 16:1-8

Since before Christmas, we have been studying together the short, action-packed biography of the world’s most important Person written by Mark the Evangelist. And today on Resurrection Sunday 2006, we have reached the end of the Gospel of Mark.

It is a short ending, just eight brief verses, but what a message those eight verses contain!

The Gospel of Mark ends abruptly at verse 8. It seems that what is printed in many of our New Testaments as verses 9-20 is a later addition by another faithful Christian to fill out the story that Mark leaves off so abruptly. The earliest and best Greek manuscripts do not have verses 9-20, and I don’t think it sounds like the rest of Mark when you read it, so I don’t believe that 9-20 is Scripture though I’m certain that it is full of good Christian history and the basic facts in it are true, regardless. It doesn’t affect basic Christian teaching one bit. If anyone has a question about that, I’d be glad to go into that more with you another time.

But today, I just want to focus on verses 1-8. They tell what Paul Harvey would call, “the rest of the story,” and the truth they contain is life-altering, life-changing, life-transforming.

Would you pray with me?


Have you ever had one of those experiences where something comes into your life and you have say, “Well, this changes everything!”

I’m sure you have.

Maybe you’ve been given a piece of information that you didn’t have before.

Maybe you made a big decision–or you were going to make a big decision–based upon a certain amount of information, and then one new piece of information comes in, and you have to say, “This changes everything.”

Or maybe it’s a relationship.

You’re going down one path in your life and then someone comes into your life and so influences you, so impacts you, so affects you, that that relationship makes you say, “This changes everything.”

Or maybe it’s a loss.

When Heather and I lost our first child to stillbirth 7 years ago today, I remember thinking that, overnight, my entire course of life had changed. “This changes everything.”

That’s what the truth of Mark 16 does to the story of Jesus Christ.

It changes everything.

Last week we read chapters 14 and 15 which told the story of the abandoning of Jesus.

He was betrayed by one of His twelve closest followers.
He was deserted by all the rest.
He was denied by His closest follower three times in one night.
He was arrested, tried in a mockery of justice, tortured, and killed in one of the most gruesome ways ever imagined. And He was all alone.
His corpse was not properly anointed for burial and was quickly wrapped and placed in a tomb sealed by a large stone.

And if that was the end of the story, we would be foolish to be here this morning.

But that’s not the end of the story. Mark chapter 16, verse 1.

“When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus' body.” Stop there.

These are some of the same ladies who saw where Jesus had been buried in chapter 15, verse 47. They were eyewitnesses of His burial.

When Jesus died, there wasn’t enough time to properly anoint Him. The Sabbath was coming on. But on Saturday night, when the Sabbath had passed, these ladies went into the marketplace and bought some spices that they hoped to use to anoint Jesus’ corpse.

And they set Sunday morning as the time to try to do it. V.2

“Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, ‘Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?’”

They had spices, but they had no crowbars, and they had no men. They were worried. They were leaving it up to luck to see if they could get into the tomb to anoint His body.

Notice what they weren’t expecting–they weren’t expecting to find an empty tomb!

But that’s exactly what they did find! V.4

“But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away.”

Something’s going on here! This is a God-thing! They had to go in and see. V.5

“As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. [Luke tells us that this was an angel. No wonder they were alarmed!]

‘Don't be alarmed,’ he said. ‘You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.”

This is the greatest news ever! And it changes everything!

“‘Don't be alarmed...You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified [Yes, He was crucified! But]. He has risen! [Literally, He has been raised!] He is not here. See the place where they laid him [with your own eyes].” V.7

“But go, tell his disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.'’ Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”

This changes everything!

Everything seemed one way on Friday and Saturday.

But then everything was different on Sunday!

This changes everything...for everyone.

I want to talk to three different groups of people who are probably among us this morning. And I want to apply these verses to each of us.

Because this changes everything for everyone.

This changes everything FOR THE SKEPTIC.

You need to figure this one out!

Is Mark chapter 16 true? You need to do your research and figure that out!

Because if Jesus Christ was Who He said He was in Mark chapters 1 through 15 and then did what Mark chapter 16 says He did, then that makes a big difference in how we should live our lives!

Perhaps you are skeptical of the truth of Christianity.

There is a lot of skepticism in the world today about Christianity. Silly things like the DaVinci Code and the recently released so-called “Gospel of Judas” feed a lust for conspiracy theories that people love to believe.

Maybe you have a hard time believing in the claims of Christ.

Mark 16 calls you to do your homework and figure out what you really believe.

Because there is a lot on the line here.

Notice the attention to eyewitness accounts. People are named in Mark 16, they saw with their own eyes the place where Jesus had laid–and He wasn’t there any longer.
And He still isn’t! The tomb is still empty!

One amazing feature of this eyewitness account is that it is women who give it! If you were a Jew in the first century making up a resurrection story, you wouldn’t have a bunch of women as your chief witnesses! We know that women make great witnesses, but the Jews didn’t believe that. And so, for the story to be that His tomb was first seen as empty by women (and the other gospels tell us that the first eye-witnesses of His actual resurrection body were women, too)–just adds to the credibility of this story. Nobody in the first century would ever make that up!

And the New Testament documents, more historically substantiated than any other comparable documents in human history, indicate that Jesus’ tomb was empty on Sunday morning, and that, over 50 days, the resurrected Jesus appeared to over 500 of His followers. There is more historically substantiated documentary proof of that than that Julius Caesar ever lived!

So, skeptic, I’m glad you are here today. I’ve been praying for you this week.

You need to get this figured out. Now.

You need to do your own research and decide whether or not you believe what Mark 16 says happened.

I have a stack of books in my office that I’d be glad to recommend to you with the facts in them that you need to consider.

I’ll tell you about two of them.

One is called, Who Moved the Stone? by Frank Morison. Morison was a skeptic himself. And He set out to prove that Jesus never rose from the dead.

Who Moved the Stone? is the story of what He found out to be true.

The second book is The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel. Strobel was a skeptic, too, and an investigative journalist for the Chicago Tribune. In the Case for Christ, Strobel documents his own journey to faith through the evidence, as well as, hard-hitting interviews he conducted with leading scholars in a host of disciplines who lay out the Case for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
And there are many others. But you need to figure out what you believe about this.

Because this changes everything.

I was a skeptic once myself. But doing my own research and forming my own conclusions strengthened my belief that Jesus is Who He said He was and did what He said He was going to do. I believe He is risen from the dead or I wouldn’t be up here before you today.

This changes everything.

If you come to believe that Jesus is alive and you put your trust in Him and on what He did on the Cross that Friday–paying for your sins–then you will be saved from your sins and enter into an eternal love relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

That’s what’s on the line. Eternity with God.

This changes everything...FOR THE FENCE-SITTER.

Maybe you are sitting out there and you believe with your head that Jesus is alive today. Maybe you even enjoy coming to church and singing songs about it.

But you are not a committed Christ-follower.

You are a fence-sitter, someone watching from the sidelines, but not in the game.

Your life outside of church doesn’t look any different from the people around you.

You talk a good talk while you are here, but you aren’t walking the walk out there.

Some peolpe are only “committed to Christ” on a couple of holidays–Christmas and Easter and maybe Mothers’ Day.

Mark 16 changes everything for you, too.

Do you believe that He has risen from the dead?

If you do, then He is making demands on you today. He’s calling you to follow Him.

In Mark chapter 8, when Jesus predicted His crucifixion and His resurrection, He gave a condition for those who would call themselves Christians. He said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels.”

Mark 16 says that the Jesus who said that has risen from the dead!

And He is saying that to you today.

You need to make a commitment.

You need to take up your cross and follow Him.

Mark 16 forces a decision.

If Jesus was still dead, then it wouldn’t matter much. You could follow His principles or not–the way that people follow Mohammed or Buddha or whoever. Those guys are dead even if their ideas live on.

But Mark 16 forces you to decide. He’s alive. Are you going to follow Him with your life or not?

Fence-sitter, you need to make a commitment. Because, ultimately, there are no fence-sitters–it’s either this side or that side, either all or nothing.

The Risen Jesus is calling you to take up your cross and follow Him.

I was a fence-sitter once myself. Most of us here were at some point or another.

But the Risen Jesus wouldn’t let me stay quiet on the pew. He has moved me into commitment, prayer, Christian fellowship, spiritual growth, church involvement, and ministry.

It won’t look the same for all of us, but we are all called to get off the fence and start following Christ.

Do you believe that Jesus is alive today? If so, it changes everything.

What changes need to be made in your life?

Some of you need to start a daily Bible reading and prayer time.
Some of you need to get into a Link Group or another Bible study.
Some of you need to start going to Sunday School.
Some of you need to start up family devotions.
Some of you need to get involved ministry.
Some of you need to come out from hiding and speak up about Christ with your friends and family.
Some of you need to join the membership at church for your own spiritual growth and the good of the Body.
Some of you need to figure out what your spiritual gifts are and start using them.

What changes need to be made in your life so that you are no longer sitting on the fence?

Are you going to live for Him? I hope so. I’m here, we’re all here, to help you to follow Him.

Because this changes everything...FOR THE CHRIST-FOLLOWER, too.

The resurrection changes everything for those of us who follow Christ by faith.

The resurrection brings us GRACE.

Look again at verse 6. This struck me for, I think, the first time ever this week in my study. V.6

“‘Don't be alarmed,’ [the angel] said. ‘You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.”

Now stop for a second and think about what might be in the minds of the disciples when they hear this.

I don’t think I ever thought about it this way before. But they might have been afraid. After all, they had just abandoned Him three days ago.

A risen Jesus might have gotten back up angry and ready to take it out on those who had deserted Him!

But look at v.7: “But go, tell his disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.'’”

The original plan is still on. The relationship is still there. Jesus is not angry. He is gracious. Jesus has not risen to take vengeance on those who left Him. He has risen to love them and continue to fellowship with them forever!

Christ-Followers, the resurrection guarantees grace for us!

Notice that Peter is singled out! “Tell His disciples AND Peter.” Make sure Peter gets this. There is grace.

Christ-Follower, do you need grace? I know you do. I do.

You haven’t blown it past His grace. He has grace for you beyond your imagining.

The Cross releases a downpour grace on His followers.

Hell cancelled and Heaven guaranteed.
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.
Blessings all mine and ten thousand beside!

The resurrection guarantees us grace.

And it brings us TRUTH.

Notice that it is happening (v.7), “just as he told you.”

The resurrection validates everything that Jesus has said already in the Gospel of Mark.

He said that He would rise from the dead. If He did, then everything else He said will happen.

Flip through the pages of Mark this week and write down all of the promises.

They are all true.

Every last one. Since Jesus rose from the dead, we can count on every last one.

Everything He said about Himself. About paying a ransom. About coming back for us, about forgiveness through His blood–all of that is true. And we can bank on it.

Christ-Follower, do you need a dose of truth? I know you do. I do.

Jesus’ resurrection guarantees everything that Jesus has ever promised us.

Doesn’t that change everything?

It sure does. And it brings us POWER.

What kind of power does it take to raise a dead person to life?

The women were worried about the big stone. But rolling that away was nothing compared to defeating the power of death and raising Jesus to new life!

The Bible says that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in those who believe in Him.

You may not feel like it, Christ-Follower.

You may feel like the Red Moshannon.

But you actually have a Niagra Falls at work within you.

That changes everything.

And it gives us a MISSION.

The “young man” told the women (v.7), “Go, tell...”

This is good news. It is gospel. It needs to be shared.

The women didn’t at first. The gospel of Mark ends (strangely enough) with them being afraid and silent. V.8

“Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”

Well, that wasn’t the right response.

But we know that it wasn’t their final response. I have a feeling that Mark intended to write more (and perhaps he did and it was lost early on and that’s why somebody felt the need to attach the longer ending).

But we know from the other gospels (and even the extended ending of Mark) that these ladies eventually shared the message about Jesus’ resurrection and that He began to appear to them and to the other disciples and then He gave them the Great Commission–to go into all the world and share the Gospel.

This changes everything.

The resurrection gives us a mission to accomplish.

We can’t keep quiet about it!

We can’t just go home to our nice Easter dinners all happy about the songs and the worship service and not share the news this week that Jesus Christ is alive!!!!

I think one of the reasons why God the Holy Spirit allowed the Gospel of Mark to end like it does in verse 8 is to kick it back to us to finish.

We need to carry the message on.

Christ-Followers, we need to persevere in following Jesus by faith.

We need to stick to it.

All of the grace, all of truth, and all of the power we need to fulfill His mission is given to us in the resurrection.

We need to stick to it.

One of my favorite verses on the resurrection is the “So What” verse at the end of the great resurrection chapter–1 Corinthians 15.

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul goes all over the place showing how important the resurrection is to our faith now and how it guarantees our resurrection some day.

And at the very end, he says, (v.50) “I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed–in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality [Resurrection!]. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. [Through His Resurrection! And here it is, verse 58:] Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

The resurrection changes everything.

Stand firm. Let nothing move you, Christ-follower. Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

This changes everything.

It changes the way we live, the way we think, the way we act, the way we interact, the way we relate to each other–everything.

Christ-Follower, stick to it. All the grace, all of the truth, and all of the power you need to accomplish His mission for you is available to you in the resurrection.

Fence-Sitter, take up your cross and follow Jesus. You can’t stay un-committed.

Skeptic, you need to decide.

Because this changes everything.

This week, my son Isaac, was sick and he had us up literally all night on Thursday night. And I was scheduled to get this sermon done on Friday, and it didn’t look possible. I had strung together about 2 hours of sleep.

But I drew strength from the fact that Jesus was alive. And that He had called me to be a herald of the good news of His resurrection to you this morning.

And Jesus met me in my study with grace (cause I needed it after the week I had had) and truth (His promises were very real to me), and power–the same power that raised Jesus from the dead.

And I got this message done by the end of the day on Friday.

His resurrection made all the difference.

It changed everything.

And it will for you, too.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Good Thoughts for Good Friday

Mark Dever writes in Christianity Today about the centrality of the cross of Christ in theology and the Christian life.

[HT: JT]

Thursday, April 13, 2006

One Year Old

Today is the first birthday for Hot Orthodoxy.

Overall, I think it's been a good thing for me to blogcast some of my thoughts. I've definitely learned a few things along the way, especially about the power of the tongue (James 3).

In the next year, I hope to continue to post book reviews, links to helpful places, my Sunday morning messages, pictures of our big/little family, and other things that come to mind that I think would serve a wider readership. I hope that all that I say here would bring glory and pleasure to the Lord Jesus Christ because He is so worthy of it (Colossians 1:9-12)!

The DaVinci Code: A Pastor’s Perspective

The DaVinci Code: A Pastor’s Perspective

By Pastors Dan Ledford and Matt Mitchell

Everybody loves a conspiracy; or at least talking about one. The upcoming movie release of Dan Brown’s best-seller The DaVinci Code will raise conspiracy talk to a fever pitch. Many have already given a detailed breakdown of the errors and misleading “facts” presented by Brown – and will continue to do so (see the SGM recommended resources in this issue).

We seek to give a pastor’s perspective – we want to fulfill our call “to equip the saints” (Ephesians 4:12) with an appropriate response when someone asks, “What do you think about The DaVinci Code?”

We offer you this perspective now and will provide a follow-up perspective after the movie’s release.

Let us first suggest that we should be careful not to give the two true but less-helpful responses – the most common of which is an angry: “It’s heresy!” While this is true (It really is heresy!), the problem is that whenever you are responding to controversy/conspiracy, the more flustered you are, the more convinced the skeptic is of the conspiracy. You may find that the exclamation, “It’s heresy!” is followed by the skeptic saying, “I thought you would say that.”

The other less-helpful response would be answering the question with a long, involved speech that breaks down the details of each point of the faulty logic and ludicrous historical claims of The DaVinci Code. Unfortunately, the post-modern mind operates on sound bytes and is likely to stop listening after the first sentence of our response. Our first sentence, therefore, must cause the questioner to seek a second sentence, and then a third…

We need to avoid these true but less-helpful responses. We’d rather people not walk away from us rolling their eyes and muttering, “I figured you would say that.” or “Sheesh – I didn’t ask for a lecture.”

So how should Bible-believing, Christ-centered, Church-loving pastors and parishioners respond to the proposals of Dan Brown and The DaVinci Code?

The best initial response may be along the lines of, “The book’s suggestions are so ridiculous that they would be laughable if so many people weren't being taken in by them.” Or maybe, “Monty Python’s The Holy Grail is closer to the truth!” Or simply, “The DaVinci Code is good fiction; but it is just that – fiction. The problem is that the fiction is portrayed as fact.”

The facts are that Jesus was never married to Mary Magdalene (or anyone else for that matter) and the canonical books of the Bible were accepted by Christians long before the Council of Nicea – anyone who says otherwise has never accurately studied history. For example, the historian Eusebius – pulling from eyewitness accounts – reports that Christians had almost universal agreement on the canon, distinct from the heretical writings (cf. Eusebius’ The History of the Church. III, 25). Eusebius published this work in 324 A.D. before the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D.

Dan Brown’s flawed understanding of Christianity is typical of the post-modern, humanistic, pluralistic culture in which we live. On his website, Dan Brown answers the question, “Are you a Christian?” with a “Yes,” but goes on to say, “By attempting to rigidly classify ethereal concepts like faith, we end up debating semantics to the point where we entirely miss the obvious--that is, that we are all trying to decipher life's big mysteries, and we're each following our own paths of enlightenment. I consider myself a student of many religions. The more I learn, the more questions I have. For me, the spiritual quest will be a life-long work in progress.”

G.K. Chesterton once said that the purpose of an open mind, like that of an open mouth, was to close it on something solid. Dan Brown doesn’t think that there is any truth meaty enough to clamp onto.

This kind of rampant subjectivism produces faulty interpretation and logic. For example, many skeptics who suggest that Jesus never rose from the dead but that his body was stolen are also willing to believe that Jesus was married and raised a family. Did he do this from the grave?

It might also be worth pointing out that the grail itself is not that important. The Bible doesn’t draw attention to it. Focus on the grail is indicative of sinful idolatry. Christians do not worship a cup. We worship the Triune God who became incarnate in Jesus the Christ.

Finally, we must not get overly alarmed at the attack on Christianity. Getting attacked is what we are famous for! Jesus Himself was mocked and ridiculed, but that didn’t stop Him, nor will it stop His Kingdom. God is not in danger from The DaVinci Code and neither is his Hades-beating church (cf. Matthew 16:11). Don't worry that the sky is falling.

While we do not need to take The DaVinci Code seriously, we ought to take people’s acceptance of it seriously. We ought to be concerned for those who doubt the truth about Christ. The Bible repeatedly warns us of false teachers because of the way they corrupt souls (Matthew 7:15; 1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Peter 2:1 1 John 4:1). A recent, unscientific poll reported that 66% of respondents “think the theme of The DaVinci Code that the church hid a secret marriage between Jesus and Mary Magdalene is highly credible or possible” and only 34% responded that it is “highly unlikely.” People are actually believing these lies. We need to care for the truth and care for people’s eternal souls.

Let’s embrace this book and movie as an opportunity to lift up and study the primary source of truth – God’s Word contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Let’s embrace this media-induced moment as an opportunity to pray for the Gospel to be heard and received. Let’s also embrace the advent of The Da Vinci Code as an opportunity to examine our own hearts for the unbiblical “lies” we are tempted to believe ourselves.

Let’s not be like everybody else. Let’s not love a conspiracy.

[My co-author, Dan Ledford, is the pastor of the Curwensville Presbyterian Church (PC-USA). This article was "reprinted" with permission from the March-April 2006 issue of SGM Magazine. To subscribe, inquire by email at Yearly subscriptions cost $6.00.]

Muppet Ecclesiology

My pastor friend, Matt Brunton, has really got some things figured out.

[Note: "Ecclesiology" is the doctrine of the church. If you don't know what a Muppet is, don't bother reading Matt's insightful post.]

Monday, April 10, 2006

Heather Lily

"Like a lily among thorns is my darling among the maidens." (Song of Songs 2:2)

She is my delight!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Matt Messages - Abandoned

April 9, 2006
Mark 14:1-15:47

We are there: The Passion–the Suffering and Death–of Jesus Christ. Mark’s introduction to the most amazing person in all of human history is nearing its completion. The entire gospel has been relentlessly driving to this point. Numerous times, Jesus has predicted His betrayal, suffering, and crucifixion in Jerusalem. And now it is here–in Jerusalem, in that last week. Jesus is going to be killed.

This morning, I’m not so much going to preach these two chapters as read them carefully and meditate on them with you. I want us to feel the power of these two chapters as Mark tells the story of the last few days and hours of Jesus’ life.

I’ll bring in some application as we go along, but mainly, I want us to simply feel the force of the story press itself onto our souls. You can take notes if you want to, but I won’t be offering “points” like I usually do. You may want to just glue your eyes on the text.

And the one chief thing I want us to see as we go is that Jesus is abandoned. Jesus is abandoned by everyone. He is utterly deserted. Betrayed, mocked, tortured, crucified, forsaken...alone. The title of my message today is: “Abandoned”

I think Mark emphasizes this abandonment theme as he tell the story.

Jesus’ abandonment is what it took for us to not be abandoned. Jesus’ abandonment is what it took for us to have a loving relationship with the living God.

So let’s look to God in prayer and then to God’s Word in wonder at the abandonment of Jesus Christ.


Mark chapter 14, verse 1.

“Now the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some sly way to arrest Jesus and kill him. [They hated Him. They were threatened by Him. He had put them to shame and showed their evil ways. And they wanted to kill Him. V.2] ‘But not during the Feast,’ they said, ‘or the people may riot.’”

Jerusalem swelled with hundreds of thousands of pilgrims during the big Holy Feasts. The Jewish rulers are worried that if they killed Jesus, the crowds would create a riot. So, at this point, they aren’t planning to do anything about Jesus except watch for an opportunity.

While they are planning to kill Jesus, a woman is planning to honor Him. V.3

“While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper [who must be, we need to note, a former leper [!] or they wouldn’t have been able to eat with him!], a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on [Jesus’] head.”

This is an act of extravagant worship! This woman (who we know from the Gospel of John to be Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus) broke the jar (made it unusable) and poured the whole thing out on Jesus–anointing Him. Extravagant worship. But not all were impressed. V.4

“Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, ‘Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year's wages and the money given to the poor.’ And they rebuked her harshly.

‘Leave her alone,’ said Jesus. ‘Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.’”

What they saw as wasteful worship, Jesus saw as beautiful worship. “She has done a beautiful thing to me...She has poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial.”

You don’t normally anoint a person for burial before He has died!

Jesus expects to die a criminal’s death and to not get a proper burial. And he loves this expression of this woman’s love for Him.

He says that it will be talked about throughout the whole world as His gospel progresses. And here we are talking about it 2000 years later in Lanse, Pennsylvania.

Jesus loves this expression of worship. He says, “She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me.”

In essence, Jesus was saying, “I am worth this sacrifice!” He’s not saying don’t give to the poor–Jesus loves the poor! He’s saying right now, you have me, and I am worthy of all of this worship.

Jesus is worthy of extravagant worship.

Jesus is worth pouring out all that we have.

Remember the widow with her two coins, two weeks ago? That was just a few days from this story.

That widow gave all she had, and it wasn’t much. But it was extravagant worship.

This woman gives all the perfume she has, and it was worth much.

And Jesus is worth it all. Jesus is worthy of extravagant worship.

Do you agree?

Now, keep that in mind as we read about this extravagantly worthy Jesus who is abandoned. Not only abandoned...but betrayed. V.10

“Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over.”

The woman gave over her priceless heirloom for Jesus. Judas gives over Jesus for a handful of coins. What a contrast!
In the next section of the story, Jesus is shown to be in charge even on this fateful day. V.12

“On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread [which is Thursday by my reckoning], when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus' disciples asked him, ‘Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?’ [Jesus has a plan.] So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, ‘Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. [Notice the undercover-nature of this mission. Jesus wants to get things set up in a secret way so they can have privacy.] Say to the owner of the house he enters, 'The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?' He will show you a large upper room, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.’ The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.”

They got the unleavened bread, the wine, the bitter herbs, the sauce, and the lamb.

Notice how Jesus is in full control of His destiny. He knows what is swirling around Him. He knows what’s going to happen next. This is all according to plan. No matter how terrible the plan will be for Him.

He knows that it will mean His betrayal. V.17

“When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, ‘I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me–one who is eating with me.’ They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, ‘Surely not I?’ [Surely, not I! Don’t judge them! See yourself in them.] ‘It is one of the Twelve,’ he replied, ‘one who dips bread into the bowl with me.

The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.’”

Notice the interplay of divine sovereignty and human responsibility. Both are completely true. V.22

“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take it; this is my body.’ [What they must have thought when He said that!] Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it. ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,’ he said to them. ‘I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God.’ When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”

We still have the taste from the bread and cup on our tongues.

Jesus won’t taste it again until that glorious return that we talked about last Sunday.

They went back to the Mount of Olives. And Jesus predicted His abandonment. V.27

“‘You will all fall away,’ Jesus told them, ‘for it is written: ‘'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.' [Zechariah 13:7. Who is the I? God will strike the shepherd–Jesus. And the sheep–the disciples will be scattered.] But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.’

Peter declared, ‘Even if all fall away, I will not.’ [I won’t abandon you!] ‘I tell you the truth,’ Jesus answered, ‘today–yes, tonight–before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.’

But Peter insisted emphatically, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.’ And all the others said the same.”

Don’t judge them. Put yourself in their shoes. They are a mirror of our faithlessness. V.32

“They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’ He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled.”

Peter, James, and John all think that they are hot-stuff. They’ll never desert Him and they should have the places on the left and the right of Him in glory. But instead, they abandon Him to sleep while He prays in agony. V.34

“‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,’ he said to them. ‘Stay here and keep watch.’ [Just like He said in chapter 13.] Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him.

‘Abba, Father,’ he said, ‘everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.’

That’s an amazing prayer! Such intimacy and yet such agony at the same time. Such torment over the prospect of the cup of the wrath of God and yet such abandonment to the will of His Father!

And He has to do it alone. V. 37

“Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Simon,’ he said to Peter, ‘are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.’

Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him. [Sorry?]

Returning the third time, he said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!’”

The “hour” has come. It’s time. It’s time to die.

“Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve [!], appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders. [There’s been a warrant put out for His arrest.]

Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: ‘The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.’ Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, ‘Rabbi!’ and kissed him.

The men seized Jesus and arrested him. Then one of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. ‘Am I leading a rebellion,’ said Jesus, ‘that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.’ [Abandonment to the will of God. V.50]

Then everyone deserted him and fled.”

Every single one. Peter (John tells us) was the one who cut off the servant’s ear. But He ran away, too.

Everyone ran away.

Jesus was deserted.
Jesus was forsaken.
Jesus was abandoned. V51.

“A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.”

Many scholars think that this young man might have been John Mark, the gospel-writer himself. I don’t know.

All I know is that everyone left Him. Everyone abandoned Jesus.

Even justice abandoned Jesus. The next section describes in just a few details what His two major trials were like.

The first trial was the Jewish trial before the High Priest and the Sanhedrin. V.53

“They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, elders and teachers of the law came together. [71 of them in total.] Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire. [Maybe he hasn’t abandoned Jesus!] The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. [He was pure.] Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree. Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: ‘We heard him say, 'I will destroy this man-made temple and in three days will build another, not made by man.'’ Yet even then their testimony did not agree.”

You need to understand that this whole trial is massively illegal. They were not to have a trial at night. They were not to have a trial during a Festival. The witnesses must agree, two or three for a charge to stick. This whole thing is travesty of justice. But they don’t care. All they care about is getting rid of the troublemaker. V.60

“Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, ‘Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?’ [Silence.] But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer. Again the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?’

What’s the answer? Peter had said that He was back in chapter 8. We called the highpoint of the gospel at that point. ‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?’

If He is, then they should praise God for sending Him and worship Him!

“‘I am,’ said Jesus. ‘And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.’ [The Son of Man from Daniel 7 is equated with the Messiah of Psalm 110. And He’s suffering like the Servant of Isaiah 53.]

The high priest tore his clothes. ‘Why do we need any more witnesses?’ he asked. ‘You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?’ They all condemned him as worthy of death. Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, ‘Prophesy!’ And the guards took him and beat him.”

This is what He went through for you.

He didn’t deserve it.

“Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, ‘Prophesy!’ And the guards took him and beat him.”

Will Peter come to His defense? V.66

“While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him. ‘You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,’ she said. But he denied it. ‘I don't know or understand what you're talking about,’ he said, and went out into the entryway.

When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, ‘This fellow is one of them.’ Again he denied it.

After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, ‘Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.’ He began to call down curses on himself, and he swore to them, ‘I don't know this man you're talking about.’

Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: ‘Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.’ And he broke down and wept.”

Do you see yourself in Peter?

We have all been like Peter.

And Jesus was alone. Abandoned by justice. The next section is about His Roman trial. Chapter 15, verse 1.

“Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, reached a decision. They bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate.”

They couldn’t legally kill Him. And they probably afraid of the crowd. If they could get the Romans to kill Him, they would keep the people from rioting. So they handed Him over to the Roman governor V.2

“‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ asked Pilate. ‘Yes, it is as you say,’ Jesus replied. [He is the King of the Jews!] The chief priests accused him of many things. So again Pilate asked him, ‘Aren't you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.’ [Silence.] But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.

“He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth” [Isaiah 53:7].

Now, Pilate thought he was a crafty old devil and wanted to use the crowd to his advantage. V.6

“Now it was the custom at the Feast to release a prisoner whom the people requested. A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising. The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did.

‘Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?’ asked Pilate, knowing it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. [Pilate probably thinks that the crowd will overturn the chief priests, Jesus will go free and Pilate will be popular. Jesus seem pretty harmless to him right now. V.11]

But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead. ‘What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?’ Pilate asked them.

‘Crucify him!’ they shouted.

‘Why? What crime has he committed?’ asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, ‘Crucify him!’

Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.”

That was the justice that Jesus got.

That flogging He got often killed its recipients. They had a leather whip with pieces of bones and metal shards embedded in it. And it would have ripped open our Savior’s back. V.16

“The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. [Mocking our Lord!] And they began to call out to him, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.”

He had to carry His own crossbeam. But with the beating He had endured, He could hardly walk. V.21

“A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. [No anesthesia.]

And they crucified him.”

I don’t think we really know what that means...

“Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get. [He’s naked, hanging there, fighting to breath. Dying.] It was the third hour [9am] when they crucified him. The written notice of the charge against him read: THE KING OF THE JEWS.”

“They crucified two robbers with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!’

In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. ‘He saved others,’ they said, ‘but he can't save himself! Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.’ Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.

He was alone. He was abandoned.

“At the sixth hour [noon] darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour [3pm]. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’– which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’”

Jesus was abandoned, even by His Father.

He was abandoned to the wrath of His Father.

Jesus was experiencing the agony of Psalm 22. Read it this week in your devotions. Think about how Jesus felt when the wrath of God was poured out on Him and the intimacy of the Trinity was broken for 3 hours that Friday.

“Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”

Someone thought that he was saying “Elijah, not Eloi.” V.35

“When some of those standing near heard this, they said, ‘Listen, he's calling Elijah.’ One man ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. ‘Now leave him alone. Let's see if Elijah comes to take him down,’ he said.

With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.

The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.

And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, ‘Surely this man was the Son of God!’”

This is what the abandonment of Jesus accomplished.

It ripped apart the barrier between God and man. It opened the way into the Holy of Holies.

And it opened the eyes of a Roman soldier to believe in the deity of Christ.

We don’t know anything else about this centurion except that He saw more clearly than anyone else in this entire gospel Who Jesus was.

And He saw it in His death.

The Cross, which is ugly and difficult to think about, is the clearest revelation of Who Jesus is.

“Surely this man was the Son of God!”

Can you see it?

Can you see the way into relationship with God through the abandonment of God?

This is what to took for you and me to not be abandoned like we should be.

Jesus was abandoned so that we who should have been abandoned can come into loving relationship with the living God.

“[H]e was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” [Isaiah 53:5-6].

“Surely this man was the Son of God!”


“Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there. It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God [a believer], went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus' body. Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead [some crucified men could hang on for days]. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body [the corpse of Jesus], wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.”

There was no mistake. Jesus was dead.

Seemingly, this is the end of the story.

And we will pick up right here next Sunday.

Right now, I just want us to think about the abandonment of Jesus.

Abandoned, betrayed by Judas.
Abandoned in prayer, the spirit was willing but the body was weak.
Abandoned by His followers–no matter how brave they said they would be.
Abandoned by justice, both Jewish and Roman.

Abandoned to torture, mockery, ridicule, scorn, flogging, spitting, beating.

Abandoned to God’s will.

Abandoned by God the Father.

Abandoned to Death.

For you and for me.

How do you respond to the abandonment of Jesus?

Have you taken advantage of the access to God that the abandonment of Jesus affords for you?

The curtain in the temple was torn.

Have you come into a loving relationship with God through the Cross of Christ?

Are you thankful for the Cross of Jesus Christ?

Are you living for Savior?

Are you following the Savior?

He was forsaken so that you will not be.
He was deserted so that you will never be.
He was abandoned so that you and I can relate to God in love forever.

“Surely this man was the Son of God!”