Follow Along

Get new posts by email:

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Medicine of Humiliation

"Think greatly of God's greatness. Thoughts that reach up toward the excellency of God's majesty are beautiful and delicious to the soul, but they come with unpleasant side effects. Even a hint of his greatness shows us up as grasshoppers, dust, and "less than nothing" in comparison (Isaiah 40:12-25). No one wants to go out of his way to feel small, weak, and defiled; but this strong medicine gives us hope against sin. In this humiliation our sin withers.

We have a helpful problem in thinking of God's greatness: we can't do it! He is too much. Our puny minds can't take him in. And that helps, because it humbles us before him. Think of how little you know God. Can you walk up to the edge of infinity and not feel vertigo? Can you stare at the sun and not go blind?"

[The Enemy Within, pg. 129, emphasis added.]

Monday, May 29, 2006

The Spirit of Christian Prayer

"The Spirit alone supports us when we cry out to God in distress over sin. Many people talk about the power of prayer as if our words or will could move God. The Scripture say the Spirit is the real power of prayer, giving life, vigor, and strength to our prayer, and making it persuasive to God. When we can't drag ourselves out of bed, he enables us to pray with 'groans that words cannot express' (Romans 8:26)."

[The Enemy Within, pg. 149, emphasis in the original.]

True Christians Pray

"The flesh is a cat that gets our tongue. The greatest destroyer of first-love fire is the neglect of private communication with God. In Isaiah 43:22 God says, "You have not called upon me, O Jacob, you have not wearied yourselves for me, O Israel." Two lovers who never speak to each other are not two lovers. A husband who avoids his wife, who reads the paper when she wants to talk to him, who takes up hunting or reading to busy himself so that he won't have to commune with her, simply doesn't love her. Period.

The person who calls himself a Christian, who says he loves God yet does not seek his company and delight in it, can't be a true lover of God. His own flesh has deceived him. If he doesn't daily give his heart to God and receive God's heart in return, if he doesn't daily renew his hatred of his own sin and his delight in God's mercy, he has no relationship to God."

[From Kris Lundgaard's excellent (and devastating) little book on the doctrine of indwelling sin The Enemy Within, pg. 118-119, emphasis in the original.]

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Matt's Messages - The God of Hosea

“The God of Hosea”
May 28, 2006
Hosea 1:1-2:1


I invite you to turn in your Bibles with me to the Prophecy of Hosea. The Prophecy of Hosea. The Book of Hosea is in your Old Testament, to the right of the Psalms, just after the Book of Daniel. Hosea is the first of what are often called the Minor Prophets–not because they are “minor” books, but because they are shorter than the Major Prophets. Hosea is only 14 chapters long compared to something like Isaiah which is 66 chapters long. Hosea is the first of the Minor Prophets also called the Twelve Prophets. You can find Hosea starting on Pew Bible page #889. Pew Bible 889, Hosea chapter 1. Get out a bookmark and put it here; we’re going to be in Hosea most of the Summer.

Hosea is an amazing little book tucked into the back of your Old Testament. The first three chapters tell the story of a very unhappy prophetic family. Then the rest of the book more fully explains what their shocking story means.

Today, in chapter 1, we’re going to be introduced to the main characters in the book of Hosea.

Who do you think is the Main Character of the book of Hosea?

You might guess Hosea since the book is named after him.

If you knew about his family, you might guess one of his oddly named children, of whom we are about to learn. Or you might have guessed his difficult wife, Gomer.

But I’ve asked that question enough times for you to get it right in a pop quiz.

The answer is God. God is the main character of the book of Hosea.

And in chapter 1, we are introduced to the major themes of the book as they reveal the character of the person of God–“The God of Hosea.”

And the God of Hosea is the God whom we Christians worship today.

Hosea begins with a word of historical context. Chapter 1, verse 1.

“The word of the LORD that came to Hosea son of Beeri during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and during the reign of Jeroboam son of Jehoash king of Israel:”

Hosea was God’s prophet to the northern kingdom of Israel. You remember that after King Solomon died, the nation was divided into two. The southern kingdom called “Judah” was a little more godly than the northern kingdom called “Israel.” Four kings from Judah are mentioned in verse 1 whose reigns spanned from 792 to 686 BC. One northern king is mentioned, Jeroboam II (the second king by that name) who reigned from 793-753 BC. Some of these kings overlapped.

Hosea prophesied during the 8th century BC mostly to the northern, more wicked kingdom.

The “Jeroboam II Years” were very prosperous for Israel, but the leaders and the people had strayed from God. And Hosea had a message of judgment for them to hear...and to see. V.2

“When the LORD began to speak through Hosea, the LORD said to him, ‘Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the LORD.’”

This is the key verse to understanding the book of Hosea.

God here did something almost unthinkable.

He ordered His prophet to act out a prophetic object lesson.

Now, that’s not that strange by itself. God does that in other parts of the Bible. God has His prophets do some pretty crazy stuff to send a clear message.

But this one takes the cake!

God tells His prophet, Hosea, to marry an adulterous woman. A harlot. A prostitute, a whore, a sexually promiscuous woman.

The King James Version makes the scandal of this verse very clear. It translates verse 2: “And the LORD said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the LORD.”

And it means just what it says.

Hosea’s public ministry began with God telling him to get a wife that he knows in advance is going to be unfaithful to him.

We don’t know if she was already a promiscuous woman or if God was just revealing to Hosea that she would be. But she would be!

And here’s why. V.2

“...because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the LORD.”

The “land” here is the people of Israel who were living in the LAND that God had promised them back in Genesis chapter 12.

And though they still claimed to be the people of God, they had in actual fact departed, left, forsaken the LORD.

The people in the northern kingdom had become ensnared by idols. They had begun to also worship the “Baals”–local deities that were thought of as “lords” or “Baals” of each locale.

Israel had broken her covenant fidelity to the LORD, and He calls it “spiritual adultery.”

The LORD says that Israel has been “in bed” with other gods.

And he’s mad about it! Rightfully so.

Point #1. THE GOD OF HOSEA IS JEALOUS.

Now, you might think that jealousy is a bad thing. And it sometimes is, when we are jealous or extremely desirous of something that is not rightfully ours.

But jealousy is a good thing when it is an extreme desire for what rightfully belongs to us.

And the greatest human example of this is the jealousy a husband rightfully has for the affections of his wife.

That’s one of the reasons why God chose this shocking object lesson to communicate this spiritual truth.

Because God is rightfully jealous of the affections of His people.

He said so back in Exodus chapter 20 when He gave the 10 Commandments. The second commandment says, “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God.”

He cannot stand unfaithfulness.

He wants the full affections, the full love of His covenant people.

That is the basic underlying message of the book of Hosea and its spiritual truth has not changed today.

God is jealous for the hearts of His people.

It says so in the New Testament, as well. James chapter 4. “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. [What’s James say about that?] You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely?” (Vv.1-5) New American Standard: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us."

God is jealous. He wants all of you. He wants to be first and foremost in your heart.

Application: REJECT ALL OTHERS.

Which is another way of saying “Worship God alone.”

What has, this week, hijacked your heart?

What other thing has taken God’s place? That’s an idol.

And God won’t have any rivals for your heart.

We’re going to come back to that again and again this Summer. I believe that God wants to root out some idols in our hearts this Summer that maybe have been ruling there for some time.

We are called to reject them. Because the God of Hosea is jealous.

Israel had committed spiritual adultery and so God sent Hosea into a sexually adulterous marriage to picture for Israel what their sin was really like–the breaking of a sacred covenant.

All through the Bible God uses marriage as a picture of His relationship with His people. It’s actually one of the chief reasons why He created marriage in the first place (Eph 5:31-32).

Well, here is pictures what happens when our relationship with God goes wrong.

When what should be our first love gets taken advantage of.

God has to bring discipline. And He has to bring judgment.

Point #2. THE GOD OF HOSEA IS JUST.

The God of Hosea is holy. And He cannot let Israel’s infidelity go unpunished.

And He won’t. This shocking object lesson is intended to demonstrate both the jealousy and the justice of God. And the justice comes out in the names of the children. In verse 3 Hosea obeys.

“So he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.”

“Then the LORD said to Hosea, ‘Call him Jezreel, because I will soon punish the house of Jehu for the massacre at Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of Israel. In that day I will break Israel's bow in the Valley of Jezreel.’”

Now, Hosea has to name the three children in his home strange names. The first is a boy that they call “Jezreel.”

It’s like naming your son “Auschwitz.”

This is my son, “Auschwitz.”

That’s a real conversation starter!

Jeroboam II was a descendent of Jehu who had massacred both the king of the north and the king of the south and a whole bunch of other people to get his murderous hands on the throne. You can read about it in 2 Kings 9 and 10.

And because of Jehu’s sins and how Israel had never repudiated them, Israel was going to fall. V.4 again.

“‘Call him Jezreel, because I will soon punish the house of Jehu for the massacre at Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of Israel. In that day I will break Israel's bow in the Valley of Jezreel.’”

This happened in 752 BC when the house of Jehu fell and in 724 BC when Assyria, the major world power of the day, destroyed the military might of Israel on the plains of Jezreel and two years later there no longer was a northern kingdom.

It’s like naming your son, “Coming Judgment.” God is just.

But it got worse. Next child, a daughter. Verse 6

“Gomer conceived again and gave birth to a daughter. [Notice that it doesn’t say that this daughter is Hosea’s. We don’t know. It’s possible that she doesn’t belong to him.] Then the LORD said to Hosea, ‘Call her Lo-Ruhamah, for I will no longer show love to the house of Israel, that I should at all forgive them. Yet I will show love to the house of Judah; and I will save them–not by bow, sword or battle, or by horses and horsemen, but by the LORD their God.’”

Lo-Ruhamah means “Not Loved” or “Not Pitied” or “No Compassion For Her.”

How sad to have to name your daughter “Unloved.”

What kind of life would she live with that kind of a name?

God has chosen to do this to warn the people of Israel that their playing around with other gods cannot and will not be tolerated any longer.

Up till now, they have been shown mercy, but they have done nothing but take advantage of it. And Gomer’s daughter is a billboard that screams “The mercy is about to end!”

God is just!

And just to make it clear, God will show compassion to the less wicked nation to the South. They, too, will not survive forever, but they will get compassion. They will be shown more covenant mercy.

Assyria will not conquer them. V.7 “I will show love to the house of Judah; and I will save them–not by bow, sword, or battle, or by horses and horsemen, but by the LORD their God.”

Do you know how God fulfilled this prophecy? Read 2 Kings 19 or Isaiah 37. In the middle of the night, God wiped out 185,000 Assyrian soldiers all by Himself.

But He didn’t spare Israel. The time for being merciful had run out.

God is just. And it got even worse. Third child, verse 8.

“After she had weaned Lo-Ruhamah, Gomer had another son. [In other words, time has passed and nothing has changed. The girl is at least 2 years old, maybe 3 and Israel has not repented. So God goes to the furthest stretch. V.9] Then the LORD said, ‘Call him Lo-Ammi, for you are not my people, and I am not your God.”
This son might not be Hosea’s biological son, either.

And it would really sting for him to have the name, “Not My People.” “Doesn’t Belong to Me.”

This signals that the covenant has been broken.

The most basic truth of the covenant was that they were God’s people and God was their God.

But God says, “No. It’s over. We’re as good as divorced.”

This is what the Law referred to as the covenant curses. You know that there were covenant blessings for faithful obedience to the Law. Well, there were also covenant curses for departing from the LORD.

And after 700 years of patience and longsuffering with the people of Israel, God determines that He must bring those curses to bear.

He must bring justice. He must bring judgment.

And He says that, for all intents and purposes, this covenant is broken.

“Call him Lo-Ammi, for you are not my people, and I am not your God.”

God is just. Application: REPENT OF TRIFLING WITH HIM.

God must be taken seriously.

God will be taken seriously. He is not a laughing matter. God is not a joke.

Israel must have thought so. They must have thought that they were getting away with something by playing the harlot under every green tree.

Jehu thought he was getting away with something. That judgment would not catch up with him.

We often act like God is not a big deal.

But God will not be trifled with.

He is serious. He is weighty. He is indescribably important.

Do you live like that?

Perhaps you are not yet a follower of God by faith in Jesus Christ. You think that you can live like you want and give God the nod every once in a while.

“And God will forgive, that’s what God’s for, right?”

God does offer to forgive sinners, but He forgives sinners who repent and place their trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Have you been trifling with the Living God?

Repent.

Maybe you are a Christian whose been playing around with “little sins.”

“It’s no big deal.”

“God’s got bigger fish to fry than this.”

Have you been trifling with the Living God?

Most American Christians have a skewed view of God. They picture Him (when they picture Him at all!) as an old doddering, indulgent, lenient, easy-going grampa type.

But this is the biblical God! A God who gives these kind of names to children to send this kind of a message to His people.

Jezreel. Judgment is coming.
Lo-Ruhamah. Compassion is coming to an end.
Lo-Ammi. You are no longer my people. I am no longer your God.

Repent of trifling with God.

Do you need to hear that?

I do.

I talk about God all the time. But I can easily lose my sense of the weightiness of God and take Him for granted. Act like He’s in my back pocket.

God is in no one’s pocket.

When are you going to get serious about God?

Repent of trifling with Him.

That is one of the major messages of Hosea. And we’re going to come back to it again and again as the holiness and jealousy and justice and judgment of God is announced again and again in the book.

But that’s not the whole story!

God is jealous. And God is just. But even here in the first chapter, God can’t help but give us an astonishing glimpse into the “rest of the story.” An astonishing glimpse into a whole other side of His glorious character.

A glimpse into His amazing grace!

#3. THE GOD OF HOSEA IS GENEROUS!

He is jealous. He is just. And He is generous.

He is gracious beyond our understanding! Look at verse 10.

He has just pronounced the worst judgment ever on Israel. And then He doesn’t even draw another breath. V.10

“Yet the Israelites will be like the sand on the seashore, which cannot be measured or counted. In the place where it was said to them, 'You are not my people,' they will be called 'sons of the living God.' The people of Judah and the people of Israel will be reunited, and they will appoint one leader and will come up out of the land, for great will be the day of Jezreel. Say of your brothers, 'My people,' and of your sisters, 'My loved one'” (1:10-2:1).

There will be a complete reversal of this judgment some day.

God’s promise to Abraham of “sand on the seashore” descendants will be kept.

In the very place where they were disowned, God will re-own them.

And better, they will be rejoined to Judah and they will have one ruler over them. Guess Who that is!

And they will come out of exile or spring up out of the Land.

And the name “Jezreel” will have the opposite meaning as it does now. It will mean “God scatter-plants seeds that grow” instead of “God scatters into nothing.”

God, in His generous grace, is ultimately going to turn this all around.

Do they deserve it?

Absolutely not.

But God is generous. And where there is no hope, He gives hope.

God is amazingly gracious.

He turns around the fortunes of His people.

And He’s doing that today.

When we deserved Hell, He sent His Son to die to give us Heaven!

Isn’t that amazing?!!

And we are all included in this now by faith in Jesus.

This verse is repeated twice in the New Testament. And both times it is applied–not just to Jews, but to people like you and me–Gentiles.

In Romans 9:26, Paul says that God has called Gentiles. And then he quotes this. He says, “As he says in Hosea: ‘I will call them 'my people' who are not my people; and I will call her 'my loved one' who is not my loved one,’ and, ‘It will happen that in the very place where it was said to them, 'You are not my people,' they will be called 'sons of the living God.'" He’s talking about us.

Peter did to in 1 Peter chapter 2. He’s talking about us and he says, “Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

That’s God! He is so generous.

What should we do about it?

Rejoice! REJOICE IN THE HOPE OF HIS GRACE!

That’s what Hosea told the people that they should do. Chapter 2, verse 1 again.

“Say of your brothers, 'My people,' and of your sisters, 'My loved one'”

In other words, act like it’s real.

Repent, yes. But then look forward to the grace that is coming and live like it is on the way.

Talk to each other like it’s already here.

“Say of your brothers, 'My people,' and of your sisters, 'My loved one'”

Rejoice in the hope of His grace.

God has been so good to us, brothers and sisters! We need to rejoice in it!

The Cross is the greatest thing in all of the universe!

And for all of eternity, we can rejoice in the grace that it has unleashed in our lives.

Rejoice in the hope of His grace.

Tell somebody today how glad you are to be saved.

How glad you are to be a recipient of God’s amazing grace.

We’re going to see in the next few months that God’s jealousy leads Him to win His people back to Himself at great cost to Himself.

His jealousy issues into justice and judgment. He wouldn’t be righteous if it didn’t. And we need to reject all others and repent of trifling with Him.

But His jealousy also spills over into a generosity that says, “Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

“Say of your brothers, 'My people,' and of your sisters, 'My loved one.'”

Rejoice in the hope of His Grace.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

New "Evangel Sharing" Commitments

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

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

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

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

#5, I'm going to try to pray that God would give me a heart for the lost.

[A personal reminder from my message last month, It's Our Middle Name.]

Prayer Catechism Question #9

Q. Does God get tired of listening to me?

A. No. God never tires of listening to His children’s prayers.

God never gets tired (Isaiah 40:28, Psalm 121)! When we ask this question, we might be assuming a faulty understanding of our relationship with God. We are God’s children through faith in Christ Jesus (1 John 3:1). How could God the Father tire of communicating with His children who are in His beloved Son (Ephesians 1:3-6)? Does God get tired with Jesus?

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Prayer Catechism Question #8

Q. Why do we pray to an omniscient God?

A. We pray to an omniscient God because we can tell Him anything.

W. Bingham Hunter has pointed out that the Western mindset says that we need not bother to tell anything to a God who knows everything. The biblical mindset, however, is that an omniscient God knows everything already so there are no barriers to our sharing anything with Him. Because of Christ, we need not fear sharing our hearts with God. He knows them already (1 Samuel 16:7, Luke 16:15, 1 John 3:20, etc). The Bible assumes and encourages prayer to an omniscient God (Psalm 139:1-23, especially v. 4).

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Prayer Catechism Question #7

Q. Does prayer change God’s mind?

A. No, prayer does not change God’s mind, but mysteriously, God responds to our prayers.

The relation of God’s plans to our prayers is one of the deepest mysteries of the Bible and must be held in trusting tension. The “secret will” of God is unchanging and immutable (Num. 23:19). But on the level of our divine-human interaction, God is responsive to the prayers of His people (ex. Exodus 32:9-12, 2 Chron. 7:14, 1 John 1:9). Amazingly, God has designed His world in such a way that He remains unchanging and responsive at the same time (Romans 11:33).

Lilac Lane



My father-in-law (and his helpers) put up our new road sign this week. (Thanks, Andy, for the sign, hardware, and post. We finally got your Christmas '04 present up!)

The Zoo With Isaac...



...what could be nicer?

A Mouthful of Donuts



Yum. Dunkin Donuts was the mainstay of our breakfasts while we were on vacation.

Prayer Catechism Question #6

Q. Why do we pray to a sovereign God?

A. We pray to a sovereign God because prayer is one of the ways God expresses His sovereign rule over His creation.


Because God is sovereign, prayer makes sense. Why pray to someone who can’t accomplish His will? Because God rules everything, it is appropriate to ask Him to do things (Ps. 5:2). God does not rule His creation, however, in such a way that our prayers are not necessary. God has ordained that our prayers are one of the means He uses to effect His sovereign will. He has given us the dignity of being a causation of what happens in His world. Therefore, our prayers to the Sovereign Lord are very significant and accomplish much (James 4:2, 5:16, Luke 11:9-10, etc).

Monday, May 22, 2006

Prayer Catechism Question #5

Q. How should we approach God?

A. We should approach God with reverence and awe, as well as confidence and boldness.

God is holy and should not be trifled with (Eccl. 1:5-7, Hebrews 4:13). “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire’” (Hebrews 12:28-29). The priestly work of Jesus Christ, however, assures us of access to God and answers from God (Hebrews 4:14-16). Both attitudes of reverence and confidence should characterize our prayers simultaneously.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Great Mitchell 2006 Eastern PA/South Jersey Vacation

Day #1: We drove to Cherry Hill New Jersey and got to hold a newborn baby of our friends Scott & Katie Faris. We set up shop at the Cherry Hill Holiday Inn. All the kids in one room and all the adults (Heather's folks flew in that night from Western Canada) in another.

Day #2: America's First Zoo in the morning and the pool in the afternoon. It's a good thing we had an adult for each child.



Day #3: The historic Strasburg Railroad near Lancaster, PA.


Then we drove north and east to the beautiful Lafayette Inn in Easton, PA.

Day #4: We got to enjoy a delicious breakfast before heading to the Crayola Factory for a crayon extravaganza!

And, did I mention that we got to enjoy some playgrounds?




A good time was had by all!

Zoo Shots



America's First Zoo



Elephants!




Pretty as a Peacock



You never know what strange animals you might find at the zoo.

Philly Zoo Adventure



Me and my brood on top of a polar bear statue at the Philadelphia Zoo.

Matt's Messages - Stake Your Life!

“Stake Your Life!”
Graduation Sunday
May 21, 2006
2 Timothy 3:14-16

Thank you to everyone who has been praying for me these last few weeks while I have been thinking about what to preach on next. I have decided that we are going to go back into the Old Testament and study together the prophecy of Hosea. Hosea, starting next Sunday, Lord-willing. It’s only 14 chapters, very poetic. You could read it easily this week several times before we come together next week to begin to work our way through this Minor Prophet. Hosea, starting next Sunday.

But this Sunday, we are going to 2 Timothy chapter 3.

As I was thinking about these graduates whom we’ve recognized today, I was thinking about last year’s graduation and baccalaureate, at which, I had the privilege of giving the baccalaureate sermon.

Does anyone remember the title of my message from last year’s baccalaureate? I stole it from John Piper’s book: Don’t Waste Your Life!

I told last year’s graduates that we’ve only got a short time to live on this Earth and we shouldn’t squander it. “What does it profit a graduate to gain the whole world and yet lose their soul?” Don’t Waste Your Life.

Well, this year, I thought I would say something about what our graduates (and the rest of us, of course) ought to do with our lives. We shouldn’t waste it. What should we do?

My message title, therefore, is “Stake Your Life!”

Stake Your Life on the Word of God!

That’s what Paul was telling Timothy.

Paul was leaving this life, headed towards the “ultimate graduation” before the Lord of the universe. This is his last letter in the Bible.

And Paul, in his last letter, was encouraging Timothy to stay faithful in the gospel ministry.

And this is his instruction for Timothy (that graduates and all the rest of us need to hear). 2 Timothy 3:14.

“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (NIV)

This is one of my favorite passages in the Bible.

It’s one of those passages that everyone should have memorized because it says so much about what the Bible itself is and what it is for.

There is only one command in this passage (v.14), “continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of...”

The command is to continue in the teachings that Timothy has received and built his life upon. And these teachings are found in God’s Word, the Bible.

My phrase for this is, “Stake Your Life on the Word of God.”

Build your life on the Bible.
Build your life on the teachings that you have received from the Bible.
And don’t leave them.
Don’t depart from the teachings of the Bible.
Continue in them.

Stake Your Life on the Word of God.

Why do we need to do this?

You’ll notice that verse 14 begins with a “But as for you...”

There is a contrast here. Timothy is supposed to stake his life on the Bible in contrast to the false teachers that he stands in opposition to.

There are all kinds of other things out there to stake your life upon.

Jump up to verse 1 of chapter 3.

Paul says, “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days [Which have begun with the ascension of Christ.] People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God–having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.”

Notice all of the alternative things that you can stake your life upon.

That’s what Paul is contrasting when he says in v.14.

“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of...”

Don’t stake your life on those things. They won’t satisfy. They aren’t true. They aren’t lasting. They aren’t satisfying.

Stake Your Life on the Word of God.

Why? V.14

“Because (#1) you know those from whom you have learned it...”

Who’s that? Well, in Timothy’s case it was first his mother Lois and grandmother Eunice. Chapter 1 verse 5 says that those two godly women were full of faith before Timothy was and passed it down to them. [That’s a great encouragement, by the way, for those who are unequally yoked and still trying to raise Christian children. It can be done.]

And then, secondly, it was Paul who taught Timothy the faith. Look up at verse 10.

“You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings– what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured.”

Timothy, you know me. You know that I am the real-deal and you know what I’ve taught you is real.

Stake your life on it!

Put down roots in it and never leave.

And not just because you know those who have taught it to you. You (#2) know the Scriptures themselves. V.15

“[C]ontinue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

Timothy, you know your Bible. And you know what’s in it.

You were taught it at your mother’s knee.

Stake Your Life On It!

I remember the time at Moody Bible Institute when I decided to do this. I had struggled with the reliability of the Scriptures and whether or not I was going to submit to their authority over my life. It was a crisis point. I had always had a general knowledge and respect for the Bible, but I hadn’t really ever put myself completely under its authority and staked my life on it, come what may.

But I reached a point where I decided that I would believe it and live it and if God would allow me, to teach it.

I staked my life on it. And I have to regularly come back to that commitment.

“[C]ontinue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

Stake Your Life on the Word of God.

#1. AS THE TRUE PATH TO SALVATION.

Notice that Paul reminds Timothy that the holy Scriptures (v.15) are “able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

Now, interestingly, except for this and possibly a few other letters, there weren’t yet any New Testament Scriptures for Paul to be referring to. He was primarily referring to the Old Testament.

That’s what Timothy would have been taught from his childhood and what he would have had to read.

And Paul says that those Scriptures are able to point towards salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

The Old Testament points towards Jesus.

And it does so faithfully, reliably, dependably.

The Holy Scriptures “are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”
Do you want to be saved?

You need to know this. [Bible]

This is where we find out the true path to salvation.

This is where we are made wise to get saved–the Bible.

There are a lot of false teachings out there about how to get saved.

Even about whether or not we need saving.

The Holy Scriptures teach us the true path to salvation.

And the name of the path is Jesus Christ.

And the way of that path is faith in Jesus Christ and His CrossWork.

The Bible says that trusting in Jesus is the only way to salvation.

Do you know that?
Have you done that?
Are you trusting in Jesus Christ as the only way to salvation?

The beginning of staking your life on the Word of God is staking your life on the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The good news that the perfect Son of God became a sin-bearing man who sacrificially died for sinners like you and me and was raised to new life to save them from their sins and give them eternal life to His glory.

That’s the central message of the Bible.

And anything else is a load of hooey.

You’ve got to stake your life on that message.

Stake your life on the word of God as the true path to salvation.

#2. Stake your life on the Word of God AS GOD-BREATHED. V.16

“All Scripture is God-breathed...”

There is so much in that little propositional statement.

“All Scripture is God-breathed...”

All Scripture is “inspired.” That means more than just “inspiring.” It means that the Scriptures are sourced in God. They come from God.

The Scriptures are God’s Word.

You can stake your life on the Bible because it comes from God Who knows everything and has revealed Himself and His plan beautifully through His prophets and apostles and other Scripture writers, and can be trusted completely.

The Scriptures are God’s Word.

Now, that doesn’t mean that God didn’t use men to write the Bible. He did. At least 40 authors over a 1400 year period. The Bible was written by Godly humans utilizing their personalities, situations, and thoughts.

But God did it in and through them. God superintended the whole process so that what was produced is in fact God’s Word and not just the Word of Man.

2 Peter 1:21 says, “[M]en spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

The Greek word there for “carried along” is the same word as the wind filling the sail of a boat. The Holy Spirit filled the sails of the scripture-writers to take them to the destination that He desired.

God-breathed!

That’s what this is. God-breathed!

Stake your life on it.

That is not what the world says.

We’ve seen this last weekend that The DaVinci Code book and movie claim that the Bible is merely a human product of fallen men which actually hides the truth.

In chapter 55 of the DaVinci Code one of the main characters teaches, “The Bible is a product of man, my dear, not of God...Man created it as a historical record of tumultuous times and it has evolved through countless translations, editions and revisions.”

That’s what the world says. Of course, it’s a lie.

But many people want to believe a lie. Even people in the church.

Chapter 4 says (v.3), “The time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” That’s what we have in the DaVinci Code, isn’t it?

Stake your life on the Word of God as the truth path to salvation and as God-breathed.

And third, stake your life on the Word of God (#3) AS USEFUL FOR ALL OF LIFE. V.16 again.

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful [King James: profitable] for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

I love this passage of Scripture because it tells us how practical the Word of God really is.

It is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.

What is righteousness?

It is rightness. It is uprightness. It is what is good and pleasing to God.

We cannot be righteous on our own. We need Christ’s righteousness imputed to our account.

But after we come to Christ and get His righteousness as a gift, He begins to work out His righteousness in our lives.

What is true of us positionally becomes increasingly true of us practically.

And the Bible is one of the God-appointed means of growing in practical righteousness.

In other words, the Bible tells us how to live.

The Bible tells us how live lives that work.
Lives that please God.
Lives that are wise and righteous.

It’s practical. It tells us the most important things that we need to know.

It’s useful so that (notice this, v.17) “so that the man of God (you and me) may be thoroughly equipped (not just kinda equipped) for every (not just some) good work.”

You know we’re supposed to do good works, right?

Not to earn our salvation but flowing out of it.

How do we get ready to do those works? Bible.

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

This is what we call the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture.

It doesn’t say everything that is true about everything. 2+2=4 isn’t in the Bible.

But it tells us the most important things we need to know about everything that we need to know.

The Bible is sufficient.

It is useful for all of life.

Notice the 4 ways here that Paul says it is useful. V.16 again.

“For teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.”

Teaching is laying out the path.

How a Christian should talk, relate to others, do their work, and so forth.

Rebuking is stopping us when we’ve gotten off of the path.

The Bible rebukes us when we need it, praise God!

Correcting is showing us how to get back onto the path.

It doesn’t just say, “Don’t go there.” It says, “Get back here through this way.”

And Training is showing us how to stay on the path.

How to stay righteous and stay moving in righteous directions.

The Bible is sufficient. It is useful for all of life.

So many people don’t seem to believe this!

So many Christians don’t!

If you have a problem, do you run to the Bible for answers?

Or do you run somewhere else?
Pop psychology?
Oprah or Dr. Phil?
Doctor anybody!
The Government.
Your unbelieving friends?

Christians stake their lives on so many other things than the Word of God!

We need to repent of that and begin to build our lives on the sufficient Word.

So, here are three points of application.

And they were true for Timothy.
They are true for our graduates.
And they are true for all of us.

#1. Read the Word.

If we are going to stake our lives on the Word of God as the true path of salvation, as God-breathed, and as useful for all of life, then we need to know what it says.

Read the Word.

And I don’t mean just a little verse or two a day.

We need to read and re-read and study the Word of God.

Notice that Paul calls Timothy to continue in it. And he says that Timothy knows it. He knows that Timothy knows it. He’s known it since he was an infant!

Do you know it? Do I?

So often I feel so weak in the Scriptures. Like I’m just starting out.

We need to get the Bible into us so that we are full of it!

Read the Word.

Read all of it! Notice that it says, “All Scripture is God-breathed.”

That means Old and New Testaments. Not just the easy parts.

Are you involved in regular, systematic reading and studying of the Bible?

If you aren’t, you aren’t growing. Guaranteed.

This is one of the reasons why we are going to Hosea next Sunday. We are going to get into a prophecy that shows us Who God is from the Old Testament. And we’re going to see the love of God through the lense of Hosea. And the grace of God. As well as the holiness of God. And we’ll be pointed towards “salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” as do it.

And it will be useful for our lives.

Because it is God’s Holy, Inspired, Inerrant, Sufficient, Authoritative Word!

What plan do you need to put in place this week to begin?

Read the Word.

#2. Heed the Word.

Don’t just look in the mirror and then walk away.

We need to trust the Word and obey the Word and bank on the Word and live out what we read in the Word.

Or it’s no good.

If we just read and don’t heed, then we’re building on sand.

We’ve got to do what it says.

That’s what it means to stake your life on the Word of God.

Heed it.

And #3. Speed the Word.

Share it. Spread it. Preach it. Give it away.

In the very next sentence, Paul says, “I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction” (4:1-2).

Don’t just read it. Pass it on. Share what you’ve learned with others.

They need just as much as you.

They need to know that God’s Word is the true path to salvation.

How are you doing at sharing the Gospel with others?

We were on vacation last week, and I am so ashamed to report how few times I took opportunities to share the Gospel like I’m trying to learn to do.

They need to know that God’s Word is the true path to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

And they need to know that God’s Word is God-breathed. From God. Trustworthy, Accurate, True.

Our kids just learned a new catechism question. “How can I discover what pleases God? Answer: God tells me what pleases Him in His Word, the Bible.”

And they need to know that God’s Word is useful for all of life. Sufficient. Helpful. Practical. Stake-worthy. Worthy of staking your life on it.

So, graduates and all of us, let’s believe it and build our lives on it and help others to do the same.

Don’t Waste Your Life. Stake It On the Word of God.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Groaning

"You may judge of a man by what he groans after." - C.H. Spurgeon

Friday, May 19, 2006

Prayer Catechism Question #4

Q. How can I approach a holy God?

A. I can approach a holy God only through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.


The Gospel of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection is what makes Christian Prayer Christian. We can now approach God in prayer through the one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 2:5). All real Christian prayer is, therefore, “cross-centered.” Through Jesus Christ alone, we now have access to the Father by one Spirit (Ephesians 2:18).

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Prayer Catechism Question #3

Q. What is the most important priority in Christian Prayer?

A. The most important priority in Christian Prayer is to know God.


Prayer does not exist to tell God what we need or to twist His arm into doing it (Matthew 6:8). Prayer is primarily a means of relating to God (John 4:19-24). God is the greatest Person in the universe–worthy of all of our attention (Rev. 4:11, 5:12). The Ruler of the Universe has invited us to communicate with Him and grow in our conscious dependence on and love for Him. Prayer is a means of knowing God in Christ (Phil. 3:8-11).

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Prayer Catechism Question #2

Q. Why should a Christian Pray?

A. God wants all Christians to pray and uses our prayers to grow our relationship with Him and accomplish His will in the world.


Prayer is not optional. It is commanded and expected of all Christians (ex. 1 Tim 2:1-2, Col. 4:2, 1 Thess. 5:17, etc.). In fact, prayer is described in the Scriptures as a mark of being a genuine Christian (ex. Acts 9:11). Prayer is used by our Heavenly Father to increase our dependence and trust in Him, as well as our love for and fellowship with Him. Prayer is absolutely good for us! And it is good for the world because God allows our prayers to be used in carrying out His kingdom purposes (ex. Luke 11:2).

Monday, May 15, 2006

Prayer Catechism Question #1

Q. What is Christian Prayer?

A. Christian Prayer is personal communication between a Christian and God.

Christian Prayer is not getting God to do what we want. It is talking with God about the whole of our life and concerns and receiving the best answers from God, in God’s timing, and in God’s wisdom. W. Bingham Hunter says, “Prayer is an offering up of our desires to God for things agreeable to His will, in the name of Christ, by the help of His Spirit, with confession of sins, and thankful acknowledgment of His mercies” (From class notes on the “Theology and Ministry of Prayer;” an amalgam of the Westminster Larger & Shorter Catechism answers to the questions on prayer.) Bob Bakke says, “Prayer is essentially communion with God” (The Power of Extraordinary Prayer, pg. 17).

Coming Soon to A Blog Near You

Blogposts on the way...

  • Pictures from the Great Mitchell 2006 Eastern PA/South Jersey Vacation
  • Prayer Catechism Questions
  • Updated Best Books List
Stay tuned...

Mother's Day 2006




One year of growth for tree, kids, and mother alike.

Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: "Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all." Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. (Proverbs 31:28-30)

Friday, May 12, 2006

Richard Baxter on Hot Orthodoxy

Your first question must be, Whether you are in the right way? and your second, Whether you go apace? It is sad to observe what odious actions are committed in all ages of the world, by the instigation of misguided zeal! And what a shame an imprudent zealot is to his profession! While making himself ridiculous in the eyes of the adversaries, he brings his profession itself into contempt, and maketh the ungodly think that the religious are but a company of transported brain-sick zealouts; and thus they are hardened in their perdition. How many things doth unadvised affection provoke well-meaning people to, that afterwards will be their shame and sorrow.

Labour therefore for knowledge, and soundness of understanding; that you may know truth from falsehood, good from evil; and may walk confidently, while you walk safely; and that you become not a shame to your profession, by a furious persecution of that which you must afterwards confess to be an error; by drawing others to that which you would after wish that you had never known yourselves. And yet see that all your knowledge have its efficacy upon your heart and life; and take every truth as an instrument of God, to reveal himself to you, or to draw your heart to him, and conform you to his holy will. A Christian Directory, Part I, Chapter II, Direct. II.

[HT: Keith Plummer]

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Ready to Go



We got the van ready today for our road-trip vacation to the Philadelphia area.

Yes!

I got my prayer paper done this weekend. Hooray!

The bulk of it is a catechism for training disciples (young & old) in a biblical theology of prayer. Over the next month, I'll be posting questions & answers from it.

Thanks to all who prayed for it!

Birthday Wishes

Here are a few of my favorite "birthday cards" this week:

From my brother Andy with a picture of a delicious birthday cake.

And from my friend, Tom Fisch, with a very silly birthday song.

Matt Messages - Time to Grow

“Time to Grow”
May 7, 2005
2 Peter 3:18

“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.”

Lord willing, this will be our last transitional week before we begin a new series of messages. And I would appreciate your prayers for LeRoy Glover as he prepares to bring the message next weekend and for me as I prepare our next sermon series.

I began last week’s sermon by telling you the story of a street person named Chuck who accosted me for the Gospel one day at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. He wanted to get together with God.

Chuck needed the Gospel like a thirsty man needs water! Have we made any progress this week in our attempts to love the Gospel, pray for the Gospel, and share the Gospel? I hope so. I found myself a few more times this last week being motivated to share the Gospel with others. I hope you have, as well.

Well, just across the plaza from where I talked with Chuck, was a huge stone engraving of 2 Peter 3:18. And whenever I think of this verse, I think about that engraving, larger than a person, on the wall of Culbertson Hall. I used to read it every time I went into and out of my dorm. And it has stuck with me. Something of theme verse for me.

When Kathy Moore was creating our worship banners for this auditorium, she asked me for Scripture texts to include throughout the room. And one of the first ones to jump to my mind was 2 Peter 3:18. It’s right here on the wall behind me. “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.”

[prayer]

It’s “Time to Grow.”

Our Lord does not want us to stagnate.
Our Lord does not want us to be stunted.
Our Lord does not want us to stay where we are.

He wants us to grow.

It’s Time to Grow.

I’ve mentioned the last few weeks a few of my pastoral concerns for our church. The first was that we learn to humbly and happily give and receive godly counsel. The second was that we grow in gospel boldness. Today, I want to encourage us all to be
growing Christians.

God does not just save us and then leave us where we are.

He loves us right where we are, but He loves us too much to let us stay there.

He wants us to grow. 2 Peter 3:18

“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.”

Notice that this verse starts with a “but.” Most of 2 Peter has been full of warnings against false teachers and false teaching that threatens to unsettle, and if possible, unseat Christians. Chapter 3, for example, has been all about the second coming of Christ and how unbelievers scoff at the idea of Jesus’ return. And Peter has referred again and again to the Holy Scriptures as the way to not get unsettled or unseated because of the false teaching. Verse 17.

“Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. But...”

That is, instead of getting carried away, instead of falling from your secure position, instead of being unsettled and unseated “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.”

It’s important to grow.
It’s a non-negotiable to grow.
It is not optional to grow.

Without growth we become unsettled and possibly unseated.

It’s time to grow.

Are you a growing Christian?

How do you know?

Well, what are we supposed to grow in?

In what ways are we supposed to grow? Verse 18 again.

“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.”

We are to grow in grace and grow in knowledge.

#1. Grow in Grace.

What does that mean?

Well first, notice that it is the grace...of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This is God’s grace given to us in Jesus. It’s Jesus’ grace.

What is grace?

Grace is unmerited favor.

It is not getting what we deserve and getting what we do not deserve.

It is not getting the bad things that we have earned and is getting the good things–that we could never have earned–as a free gift.

That’s grace.

Salvation is a gift of grace.

Paul says, “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Grace is the way that we get into the family of God. It’s the way that we get saved.

If you are saved today, it’s because of God’s free gift of grace.

If you are not yet saved today, God is offering His grace to you to receive by faith.

But grace is not just for us at the beginning of the Christian life. It is the road of the Christian life. It is the path that we walk on.

And we are to grow in it.

We are to grow in grace.

That means to understand the grace more.
It means to appreciate Jesus’ grace more.
It means to rely on Jesus’ grace more.
It means to appropriate more of Jesus’ grace.
It means to grow spiritually because of Jesus’ grace more and more.

Peter has been talking about growth in grace all the way through this letter. I should have started that beginning, but I wanted to get across what is at the end.

But in chapter 1, verse 3, Peter says “[God’s] divine power has given us [That’s grace!] everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. [That’s growth.] For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure [That’s growth!], they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

That describes growth in grace.

Spring time is a great time to talk about growth. Because you see it everywhere around you.

Trees are budding. Flowers are blooming. My grass is growing. I’d like to get around to cutting that, thankfully my father-in-law is coming for at two visit. Maybe he can do something about it!
But growth is all around us.

Are you growing in grace?

Last Mother’s Day, I bought Heather a flowering crab apple tree. It’s a little dinky thing with like a 3 inch trunk. Over the winter, you wonder whether or not it’s going to make it. But there are blooms on it this week, and it is definitely growing.

Those graces in chapter 1 are blooms that show us whether or not we are growing.

Faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, love.

Do you have flowers like that growing on you?

“If you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

I’m afraid that many Christians are ineffective and unproductive in their Christian lives.

It’s a major concern of mine that many Christians don’t seem to be growing.

Now, hear me. I’m not saying that you do these things to earn your salvation. No. This is based on grace. It’s growing in grace. The amazing, unmerited favor of the Lord based on nothing worthy inside of me.

But it is not optional.

We need to grow in grace.

Have you made progress in your Christian life?

Are you somewhere different with Jesus than you were a year ago?

Don’t compare yourself with someone else. It’s easy to look at another Christian and either get really proud or really down.

Compare yourself with where you have been and where you need to go–Christlikeness.

Have you made any progress?

Sometimes its leaps and bounds. Sometimes its baby-steps. And sometimes, it’s just still facing the right direction.

But we need to make progress. We need to grow.

Faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, love.

By the grace of God, I believe I’ve grown some in godliness these last two months. For my Prayer Class, I had to covenant with my professor to pray a certain amount of time each day from when the class ended to when my paper was turned in.

And getting to this level of prayer has been difficult for me. Especially on very full days–full of ministry and family responsibilities.

But I have grown some in my ability and discipline to pray. I can tell that I have–even though I am far from where I want and need to be.

Are you growing in grace?

Katie Faris had her baby this Thursday on my birthday! 8 lbs, 10oz, 21" long. That’s a pretty big baby. What if Elijah Faris was still 8 lbs, 10 oz, 21" long next May? There would be something wrong wouldn’t there?

Drastically wrong.

Some Christians are like that. They never get past infant stage. Peter calls them “nearsighted and blind and [have] forgotten that [they have] been cleansed from [their] past sins.”

It’s time to grow.

But Peter says, “If you possess these qualities in increasing measure [if you grow!], they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Notice how Peter connects grace with knowledge. He does that at the beginning of the letter and again at the end where we are studying. Chapter 3, verse 18.

“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.”

We are to grow in grace and knowledge.

We are to grow in knowledge.

But this is not just knowledge about something.
It’s knowledge OF something.

Personal acquaintance with the subject.

And the subject here is a person.

This is knowledge of Jesus.

#2. We are to grow in knowledge of Jesus.

“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Notice that this is not just information, not just data-gathering about Jesus.

This is a growing knowledge OF Jesus.

This is personal.

Jesus is a person and we are to grow in our knowledge of this person–personally.

Around here, we use the catch-phrase “a love relationship with Jesus Christ.”

That’s what we are to grow in. Knowing Jesus better.

That was Paul’s desire, was it not?

“I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:8-11).

“[G]row in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Are you growing in your knowledge of Him?

Do you know Him better now than you did a year ago?

Now, you can’t do that without your Bible.
You can’t do that without learning about Jesus in your Bible.

But just learning facts about Jesus in your Bible doesn’t do it either.
You have to meet Jesus over and through your Bible.

“[G]row in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Let’s just take a few minutes and meditate on Jesus’ name and titles here in this verse.

First, notice that He is “our” Jesus.

“[G]row in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

We belong to Him. He is ours. Not that we own Him, but that we are owned by Him.

We belong to Jesus.

And belong to Him together. He’s not just “my” Lord and Savior.

He’s “our” Lord and Savior.

There is a community aspect to growth in grace and knowledge.

We grow together!

Are you linked with other Christians to grow together?

Some people think that they can be “Lone Ranger Christians” who do spiritual growth without community, without fellowship, without the rest of the Body. But the Bible doesn’t recognize anything like that.

We need each other. That’s why we have created ministries like Sunday School, Prayer Meeting, and Link Groups.

We grow together. Because He’s “our” Savior. Yes, He’s “my” Savior. But He’s not just mine. He’s “ours.”

Are you growing together with others in community?

Second, notice that He is called “Lord” here. “[G]row in the grace and knowledge of our Lord...”

Lord means Master.
It means King.
It means Sovereign.
It means Boss.

It means that He is in control and in charge.
Whatever He says goes.

And His Lordship is not to be divorced from His Saviorhood.

Sometimes, we get to thinking that we can just be saved by Jesus and then live any old way we want.

But He is not just our Savior. He is our Lord. He’s in charge.

We need to do things, His way.

I’ve noticed in 8 years of pastoral counseling, that most problems in people’s lives (and also my own) come down to a failure in Lordship. A failure to recognize and submit our lives to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

He says one thing and we disagree and we go our own way.

And there is only danger in that direction.

We teach our children, “With obedience comes blessing, but with disobedience comes danger.”

Jesus said in Luke 6:46, "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?” The very definition of following Jesus as Lord is doing what He says.

Are you growing in your knowledge of Jesus AS LORD?

Or are there areas of your life that remain un-submitted to the Lordship of Christ?

But, third, He is not just Lord. He is also Savior. V.18 again.

“[G]row in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Jesus is our Savior.
He is our Rescuer.
He is our Redeemer.

We need to grow in our knowledge of His saving work.

That’s more of what we talked about last week in not moving from the Gospel and growing deeper in love with the Gospel.

It’s knowing the Savior and knowing better what He has accomplished on our behalf.

I make no apologies for making the Main Thing the Main Thing again and again. If you are tired about hearing about the Cross and the glorious Gospel of grace, then you are in the wrong church with the wrong pastor.

We can’t talk about it enough. Certainly, we need to talk about it in new and fresh ways and see how it applies to every single thing in the world, but we need to be Cross-Centered.

We need to grow in our knowledge of Jesus as Savior.

That’s one of the chief reasons why we eat and drink at the Lord’s Table.

We are reminding ourselves of Jesus’ great rescuing sacrifice.

And we take this time to commune with Him and thank Him for what He did for us–the victory He gained on that Cross. We commune with Him as Savior. That’s why this is called “Communion.”

God uses the Table in our lives to grow us in our knowledge of Jesus as Savior.

That’s what His name “Jesus” means. #4.

The angel that came to Joseph in Matthew chapter 1 said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."

The name “Yeshua” means “God saves.”

And that’s what Jesus was doing on that Cross.

He was saving!

Are you growing in your knowledge of Jesus as Savior?

Are you trusting Him more?

That’s what I think of when I see that name, “Christ.” #5.

“[G]row in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

“Christ” is the Greek word for the Hebrew word “Messiah.”

It means “anointed one” and it refers to the great deliverer promised in the Old Testament.

Jesus’ coming as the Christ was the fulfillment of all of God’s great Old Testament promises.

Paul says that every promise that God has ever made is “Yes in Christ.”

When we see that word Christ, we should think “Promise Kept.”

And we should trust Him all the more.

Are we growing in our knowledge of Jesus as the great PromiseKeeper?

What specific promises of Scripture are you using right now to grow in?

I’ve begun working on James 4:8. “Come near to God, and He will come near to you.” I need to remind myself of that as I go to prayer.

“Come near to God, and He will come near to you.”

What specific promises of Scripture are you using right now to grow in?

Paul says “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ.”

Are you growing in your knowledge of Jesus as Christ?

Notice where all of this growth leads. It leads to glory.

And not glory for ourselves that we have done so much growing.

No, growth in grace always leads to glory for God. Because it is grace that is accomplishing all the hard work. V.18

“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.”

That’s the end goal of all of our growth in grace and knowledge–that God would be glorified.

That’s why our purpose statement says we exist to glorify God by bringing people into a love relationship with Jesus Christ.

We exist to help people grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus.

So are you growing?

It starts by putting your trust in Jesus as your Savior and Lord and becoming a Christian.

You can’t grow if you haven’t started a new life.

And the One who poured out His life for sinners like you and me invites you to trust in Him and what He did on your behalf on the Cross.

He invites you put yourself in His hands and be saved from your sins.

And if you are a Christian, He calls you to grow.

It’s time to grow.

We can’t be complacent, infant Christians, no different now than when we first came to Christ.

It’s time to grow.

It’s time to grow in grace.

Knowing better the unmerited favor of Jesus.

Understanding His grace.
Appreciating His grace
Relying on His grace.
Appropriating His grace.
Growing spiritually because of Jesus’ grace more and more and more.

Faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, love.

And growing our knowledge of Jesus.

Together (our), Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

It’s time to grow.

“To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.”

Thursday, May 04, 2006

33

Today is my birthday and it's been a busy one full of ministry--not much time for rest or celebration. (We've got a lot to do before our vacation starts on Monday.)

But I have had some time for reflection and for thankfulness. I have a LOT to be thankful for! My greatest blessing is my relationship with God through Jesus Christ. After that, I am most thankful for the beautiful (inside & out) wife that He has given me, my terrific kids, and loving church family.

I'm especially thankful this year for the expanded level of usefulness that I've experienced in gospel partnerships and pastoral friendships in the last year or so. I have recently said it this way that if pastoring is "a craft," I'm beginning to feel like a productive member of "the guild."

All praise belongs to the Chief Shepherd for all 33 years of His faithfulness to me!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Thanks

Thank you for praying (those who did) for my prayer class paper. I was able to make significant headway today--a first draft!

Try Try Again

I'm going to try again to write my prayer class paper today. (My last few attempts just didn't happen.) I'd appreciate your prayers.