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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Powerful Audio

In my journeys to and around Philadelphia in the last month, I got to listen to some powerful audio recordings:

First, D. A. Carson delivered three addresses at the 2008 Desiring God Conference for Pastors:
  1. The Pastor as Son of the Heavenly Father (MP3)
  2. The Pastor as Son of an Earthly Father (MP3)
  3. The Pastor as Father to His Family and Flock (MP3)
These were even better than I expected (and I had high expectations), and go along with his book about his father.

Second, John Piper's biographical message on the life, ministry, and martyrdom of William Tyndale: Always Singing One Note--A Vernacular Bible (MP3).

I was particularly struck by the historical inaccuracy of a terrific movie we had recently watched--A Man for All Seasons. Piper says to not get our history from movies. After listening to Piper I begin to think that Thomas More didn't love Jesus at all. He burned people who translated the Bible into English--and who even read the Bible in English--and he did it with jocularity. I doubt he was anything like the great man the movie portrayed.

And third, I got to listen to a great series of messages on a theology of marriage, derived from 1 Corinthians 7. These were from Pastor Mike Bullmore (of whom I hope to write a Whence Matt post sometime soon).
  1. Marriage in God’s World (April 13, 2008)
  2. A Oneness That Glorifies God (1 Cor 7:1–7) (April 20, 2008)
  3. Glorifying God in Challenging Marital Situations (1 Cor 7:8–16, 39–40) (April 27, 2008)
  4. To Marry or Not to Marry: Singleness and the Glory of God (Part 1) (May 4, 2008)
  5. To Marry or Not to Marry (Part 2) (May 18, 2008)
In December of 2006, I attempted to make sense of this passage of Scripture and studied for 2 weeks before delivering this message.

These messages from Dr. Bullmore are exactly what I wish I had said then. They are a model of clarity, lucidity, carefulness, and power.

Holy

Dan Ledford on God's holiness.

He has a list of ways for us to grow in our holiness, too. Here's how it ends:

When the Ledford family goes somewhere our girls will often – in excitement (or distraction) – get ahead of us. And we’ll say, “Who’s your leader?” And they’ll say, “Mom & Dad!” And we’ll say, “It doesn’t look like it.”

“Dan, who’s your leader?”

“Jesus is.”

“It doesn’t look like it – you’re not following him; you keep trying to go on ahead of him.”

Verse 4 – “Take time to be holy, be calm in thy soul [Be still and know that I am God]/Each thought and each motive beneath his control/Thus led by his Spirit to fountains of love/Thou soon shalt be fitted for service above.”

May you take time to be holy by taking time to be with the Lord.

Read the whole thing.

New CCEF Booklets

The wise folks at CCEF have been publishing helpful booklets for a number years. Our church has kept a stock of them in the foyer for last 5 years.

This Summer, in conjunction with New Growth Press, they have just put out 21 new titles:
[HT: James Grant at JT's blog, clicking through the links above will give him credit from your purchase.]

Here's some info copied from their press release:
The booklets are designed for use in a variety of settings. Pastors and counselors are encouraged to utilize them in conjunction with regular counseling sessions. The concise format, affordable price, and contemporary, compelling cover art make these materials ideally suited for the check-out area or gospel tract section of a bookstore or a free display in a church lobby. "So many of the issues addressed in this series are associated with deep shame, and many people haven't yet summoned the courage to talk to someone about their problems," Teears reflects. "The simple act of reading a booklet can be the first step toward confronting and dealing with their sin."

Though each of the 21 topics included in the scope of this series was chosen to speak directly to known issues within the body of Christ, several are of particular need in churches today.
In an era in which divorce has become as common within the body of Christ as in the secular world, the release of Divorce Recovery by Winston T. Smith could not be better timed. Smith offers biblical advice on how to forgive an ex-spouse, help children cope with divorce, and begin the process of starting over again. He also explores the biblical issues surrounding remarriage.
Single Parents by Robert T. Jones speaks directly to the needs of a growing segment within the church population who often feel out of place and marginalized by the rest of the congregation. Jones instructs single Single Parents - by Robert T. Jonesparents to embrace their identity as Christians rather than attempt to fit in either the "singles" or "parents" categories. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding their single parent status-whether they are divorced, widowed, or have never been married-readers will be encouraged to discover that God's heart breaks for the widow and the fatherless, and he has extended some special promises just for them.
Every parent-whether they are single or married-will experience moments when their children push them to the limit. How Do I Stop Losing It with My Kids? by William P. Smith offers readers a new perspective on effective discipline. The booklet examines the real reasons parents often lose control of their own emotions when dealing with misbehavior and reveals the most effective methods of winning a child's heart. This ultra-compact guidebook delivers specific, workable suggestions for frazzled parents.
Unfortunately, when adults lose control, children are often the ones who pay the price. For anyone who has ever suffered from verbal, physical, or sexual abuse, David Powlison's Recovering from Child Abuse presents an encouraging message: Abuse is not the last word of your life story. God is at work in you, and he can Recovering from Child Abuse - David Powlisonredeem even the most painful and unfair moments of your life to accomplish his purpose for you. Because the formative nature of child abuse causes deep wounds that often carry over into adulthood, the booklet includes practical strategies that will help abuse victims learn to trust others again, release bitterness, build healthy sexual relationships with their spouses, discipline their own children in appropriate, loving ways, and learn to deal with conflict.
This one: Jones, Single Parents: Daily Grace for the Hardest Job is written by my friend and former EFCA Allegheny District pastor, Robert Jones (author of Uprooting Anger).

I can't wait to get my hands on these and put them in others' hands!

Sane Faith

More Richness in Biblical Counseling from David Powlison:

"Sane Faith"

Matt's Messages "The Eyes of the LORD"

“The Eyes of the LORD”
August 31, 2008
Proverbs 15:3

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

I’m really glad to get back to preaching! I haven’t had the privilege of bringing the Word since August 10th when I was leaving for my doctoral classes in Philadelphia.

So, I’ve been excited about the chance to prepare a message and give it to you.

Today’s message is on one verse, a proverb.

A proverb is a special kind of biblical writing. It isn’t like other kinds of writing in the Bible. It’s not like an epistle. It’s not like Law or History or a Psalm or a Gospel.

A proverb is its own thing.

A proverb is a pithy saying in just a few lines, often just one sentence, that gives wisdom for living skillfully in God’s world.

It’s a short saying that is meant to make a person think about biblical living in the world that God rules.

And here’s a real key to understanding and using the Proverbs:

Treat them like a piece of gum. [Take out Wrigley’s Doublemint. Start chewing.]

Proverbs 15:3

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

It’s best to memorize a proverb and then just chew on it all day long. It actually won’t lose its flavor!

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

King James:

“The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.”

Let’s chew on this for a while.

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

How does that make you feel when you first hear it?

How does that make you feel when you hear it the second time and the third?

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

The first thing I think about are these eyes.

Does God really have eyes?

No, not in the sense that there are these great big heavenly eyeballs with divine retinas and corneas and pupils and optic nerves.

Saying “The eyes of the LORD” is using anthropomorphic language to help us to understand God.

“Anthropomorphic” is just a big word that means to use human (anthropos) traits on our level to explain some facet of God’s traits on His divine level.

And we have to stretch our human categories up to understand His categories.

He sees.
He looks.
He knows.
He has vision.

What we do when we look with our eyes, on our own level, He does when He looks with His “eyes” on His level.

“The eyes of the Lord.”

He is the God Who Sees.

“El Roi” in Hebrew (Genesis 16:13).

The God Who Sees.

Where are these eyes?

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

Everywhere.

Let’s chew on that for a little bit.

Everywhere.

Right here in this room.
And outside.
In every room in this building.
In every room in your house.
The living room.
The TV room.
The kitchen.
The den.
The bedroom.
The bathrooms.
In the medicine cabinet.
The closet.
The laundry room.
The porch.
The garage.
The shed.
The chicken coop.
The dog house.
Back in the woods.
In your neighbor’s house.
At school.
In the lunchroom.

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

At your locker.
In your desk.
In your backback.
On the football field.

Sometimes we say, “The LORD must have been watching me!” And He was. But not just then and not just there.

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

On the school bus.
In the backseat.
In the corner.
In the principal’s office.
In the computer lab.

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

When I was chewing on this earlier in the week, I had this image come to mind of turning on the computer and seeing these big eyes looking back at me through the screen!

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

Everywhere.

At work.
In the boardroom.
At the reception desk.
In the shop.
In the truck.
In the driver’s room.
In your office.
In the hallways.

At the doctor’s office.
At the restaurant.
Out on the open road.

In the halls of power.
In the back rooms where things get decided.

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

Have you ever used Google Earth? Do you know what I’m talking about?

There is this computer program attached to Google that allows you to go just about anywhere on the planet and view composite satellite pictures of just about any spot on God’s green Earth.

When the Somsel’s were here, Paul showed us where they live and work in Pakistan.

It’s not in real-time, so you don’t see people walking around and everything, but it’s pretty amazing how you can zoom in and see millions of places in the world–firsthand!

But there are places you cannot see. And right so!

But God sees it all.

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

Does anyone here know where Osama Bin Laden is hiding?

People think he’s somewhere between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Probably hiding in a cave somewhere.

He has outwitted the military intelligence of the United States of America for decades.

But God knows where Osama is. God is watching him right now.

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

Is that mind-blowing? It should be.

It should lead us to worship God.

The theologian word for this is omniscience. God is omniscient. He knows everything. He sees everything.

Nothing is hidden from Him.

Hebrews 4:13 says, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

This should cause us to worship. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. And it’s the beginning of worship, too.

To realize that God is God like that, should direct our hearts to revere Him.

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

Now, remember, this is a proverb.

It’s not just a statement of fact. It’s a statement of wisdom.

It’s not just here to inform us, but to transform us–to make us wise.

How are we supposed to be changed by Proverbs 15:3?

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

Let’s chew on that for a little bit.

Notice that Solomon divides people up into two categories: wicked and good.

The good guys and the bad guys.

The people who are against God and the people who are God’s people.

There are two paths, two ways to live.

That’s a common theme in the wisdom literature.

Now, we all know that there is a little good in all bad people (we call that common grace) and that there is still a good deal of bad in all of the saved people (we call that indwelling sin).

But there are, ultimately, just two paths, two ways to live, two kinds of people.

And God “keeps watch” on both of them.

So, I think that meditating on Proverbs 15:3 will probably create a least 2 different applications, depending on which path you are on, or which path you are acting like you are on.

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

How you encounter this verse may say something about your conscience.

When I first read it, I was made uncomfortable by it.

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere...”

Even when I’m 225 miles from home, taking doctoral classes in Philadelphia?

Almost nobody there knows me.

I can order 2 suppers at Chik-Fil-A and nobody need to know!

When I came home, my wife went through my receipts for me and put them in order and in our envelope for receipts, and she clucked at my little forays into gluttony. Two chicken suppers. Two sandwiches at McDonalds. A late night snack of a PapaBurger meal at A&W. I’m glad that she kept me accountable.

Because I felt at the time like nobody was watching.

One of my professors told a story last week about heading off to an airport in a foreign country and being accosted by the pornography in the bookstore of the airport while he was waiting for his plane to take off.

He said that there are no plastic wrappers, no fences to keep the porn away from people to make it hard to buy. It’s just right there beckoning you to take it. And here he was in a foreign country, done with teaching his classes, nothing to do and no one anywhere that knew him to keep him from doing something that he shouldn’t.

My professor, reminded himself that God is everywhere. And he walked right on by it and found his seat by a window to wait for his plane.

And then, you know what happened? The class he had been teaching had decided to all come to the airport to find this professor and see him off.

What a terrible thing it would have been for them to find him leafing through the pornography in the bookstore instead of quietly reading his book in the gate!

But whether or not the class came by, God was there!

And He’s the most important person in the universe!

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

This proverb is meant to build some of the fear of the Lord in us.

Especially if we are being wicked.

We like to think that we can hide, that we can get away with something.

But the Bible says that we can be sure that our sins will find us out.

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

Friends, there is no such thing as secret sin.

Perhaps, there is something you have done that nobody but you knows about and you hope it stays that way.

But there is at least One other who knows. He watches. He sees.

And there will be accountability.

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

The more that I chew on this proverb, though, the more I realize what good news it is!

At first it felt intrusive. That was my sinful first response.

But it’s becoming more and more comforting to me as I respond in faith.

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

Keeping watch on the righteous.
Keeping watch on God’s chosen.
Keeping watch on God’s children.

These are my heavenly Father’s eyes.

These are the eyes of the LORD. Capital L-O-R-D.

Whenever you see those capital letters for LORD, what you have untranslated is the covenant name for God–YHWH.

This is God’s special name to declare His covenant faithfulness to His people.

"The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, and abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.”

That’s Whose eyes are everywhere!
My heavenly Father’s eyes.

They are caring eyes.
They are loving eyes.
They are concerned eyes.

They are eyes that are fixed on my good!

That changes things doesn’t it?

For His children, He’s watching to help.

Are you afraid right now?

Are you attacked by all kinds of fears?

Worry, anxiety, panic attacks, spousal attacks, attacks at work–fears for yourself, your family, your job, your financial security, your health?

Hear this proverb:

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

Maybe you’re under a heavy load right now. Maybe you’re experiencing some persecution. Some trouble on the job. You’re being hurt by someone.

1 Peter 3, quoting Psalm 34: “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, ‘Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.’”

He sees. And He hears. And He will act.

It might not look like the kind of action that you want or expect, but it will be right on time and best for you and me.

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

Maybe what you are struggling with seems small.

Maybe it’s a little decision that you need to make and you don’t think it’s worth God’s time to bring it up. So you’re just going to worry about instead.

He knows. He sees.

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

Nothing is too small for Him. He’s watching things on the microbe level. At the sub-atomic level right now.

“The eyes of the LORD are [at the subatomic level], keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

You know, recently, my older kids have been begun to branch out on their bicycles, and we’re letting them go further on their bikes than we can see them.

And that’s not that easy for Dad!

I want to keep my eye on them. I want to be able to call their name and they come back into view.

But they’re getting old enough, Robin and Drew, at least, that I need to allow them to spread their wings a little more.

This helps me as I chew on it.

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

I can’t be everywhere.

I can’t keep up with everything.

I can’t see it all and control the information and the context and the setting and the details.

And that’s right. I’m just a man.

But God can. And I can trust Him with them.

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

Let’s put this into 2 direct points of application this morning.

Two take-homes:

#1. REPENT.

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

So, repent.

If you and I are wicked or are acting like the wicked, we need to be called up short and turn from our wicked ways.

He sees us. And we won’t get away with it.

Sometimes, we like to pretend in our vain imaginations that there are places where God does not show up.

But “The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

If you have been giving in to secret sin, this proverbs is a call to repentance.

It is wisdom!

Turn.

And turn to Him.

Don’t just turn away from secret sin. Turn to the Savior.

Confess your sins to Him. He knows them already. You’re just going to be agreeing with Him about what they are.

And ask for help. Ask for grace to cut off your love affair with your secret sin and live righteously!

He’ll give it! He delights to give it.

This require faith in Jesus.

If you have not yet placed your trust in Jesus as your Savior and your Lord, now is the time to do so.

You see, God’s eyes were on Jesus, too.

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

And everything God saw Jesus do was GOOD!

Jesus lived a perfect life before the face of God!

And then, God laid upon Him our sins, our transgressions, our iniquities, our secrets, our wickedness.

And, then He poured out His punishing wrath on His One and Only Son–in our place!

He absorbed the justice that we deserve.

So that everyone who turns from their sins and puts their faith in Jesus are forgiven and made righteous in God’s sight. They become “the good.”

So that the eyes of the LORD keep fatherly watch over them. Not storing up wrath for them on the day of judgment.

But, make no mistake, if you do not trust Jesus as your Rescuer and King, then that’s exactly what the eyes of the LORD are doing. They are watching your life and preparing the justice that you deserve.

Repent!

And #2 (and last): TAKE HEART.

If you belong to Jesus, then Proverbs 15:3 is gospel-goodness for you. It’s good news.

Your Heavenly Father is watching over you.

You are not an orphan.

Sometimes we act as if we’re all alone in the universe.

I felt alone a number of times when I was away in Philadelphia. I’m used to 5 other inhabitants in my life–my family, especially my wife.

But I was away from them for 10 days.

But was I really alone? Ultimately alone?

No.

“The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

Take heart, believer! Your Father is watching.

Chew on that. Turn it over in your mind, again and again and again.

Let it sink into you.

One my favorite Old Testament verses is 2 Chronicles 16:9. Where God tells King Asa, “The eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”

I get this picture of these eyes ranging through the ear, searching, looking into every nook and every cranny, every heart. And then strengthening those whose hearts who are fully committed to Him.

Let that be us!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Doing Battle Before Meals

Dan Ledford continues his study on mortification of gluttony by encouraging us to aggressively pray before meals:
Perhaps our prayer before meals should be more than simply "Saying grace." The glutton should spend time in prayer drawing near the throne of grace, asking the Holy Spirit first to mortify any gluttonous temptation. Then we are in a position to "give thanks" for the food God has set before us - and, with the Spirit ruling our hearts, eat an appropriate portion.

I am going to attempt to pray before I even come to the table - praying for the Spirit to mortify - and then pray again at the table - giving thanks.
Good thinking. (Especially as I'm headed to a late Summer picnic in a few moments...)

Read the whole thing.

Proverbs 15:3 - Charles Bridges

Tomorrow I get to preach on Proverbs 15:3.

The Puritan Charles Bridges writes:

3. The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.

Adored be this All-seeing God! His inspection of the universe so minute, exact, unwearied!10 The first mark of the apostacy was a dread of his presence. The ungodly try to forget it, and often succeed in banishing him out of their thoughts. (Ps. x. 4.) Yet in despite of all their efforts to hide, he does see them. His eyes are in every place. Heaven, hell, the secret places of the earth, are all open before him. He beholds the evil; whether the king on his throne; or in his palace; or the servant indulging his secret sin. Yes—he may shut out the sun from his retreat, but he cannot shut out the eye of God, "from whom the darkness hideth not." Reckless indeed is he to do or think what he would hide from God; and then—such is the secret root of atheism! —thinking he can do so. (Isa. xxix. 15.)

But his eyes also behold the good. He sees them in outward destitution, in secret retirement, in deep affliction. He pierces the prison walls. He "covers their heads in the day of battle." He is with them in the furnace, and in the tempest. His eye guides them as their journeying God, and will guide them safe home; full of blessing, protection, and support. ‘He fills hell with his severity,heaven with his glory, his people with his grace.'

But how shall I meet these eyes? As a rebel or as a child? Do they inspire me with terror, or with love? Do I walk carefully under their lively impressions? (Gen. xvii. 1.) Conscious corruption leads me to shrink from the eyes of man. But oh! my God! I would lay myself naked and open to thee. Search me; try me; shew me to myself. Bring out my hidden iniquities, and slay them before thee. (Ps. cxxxix.24.) How is the overwhelming thought of this piercing eye more than counterbalanced by the view of the great High Priest, who covers and cleanses all infirmities and defilements, and pleads and maintains my acceptance notwithstanding all discouragement! (Heb. iv. 13, 14.)

Friday, August 29, 2008

New EFCA.ORG

The EFCA's website, efca.org, just got a total makeover, including a dedicated URL for our magazine: efcatoday.org.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Big City Sophisticate

It sure feels good to be home. The Country Bumpkin returns and thinks he's a big city sophisticate!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Faith Beneath the Ashes

“The root of faith can never be torn from the godly breast, but clings so fast to the inmost parts that, however faith seems to be shaken or to bend this way or that, its light is never so extinguished or snuffed out that it does not at least lurk as it were beneath the ashes.”

—John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 3.2.21

[HT: Of First Importance]

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Wednesday Wanderings

Here's some links to check out:

Great Olympic Moments on YouTube [HT: AP]

Milk Reviews on Amazon? [HT: Bob Blog] Our family is milk snobs, only like real milk from the Meyer Dairy, but this goes further than we do!

Grange Fair! Our family is going this year for the first time.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Quietness of Heart

I am not a Sabbatarian, but I resonate with RCO's point here.

Of course, practicing it well is another thing entirely.

God in the Storm

Byron Harvey on God's grace to and through Paul in a Mediterranean storm.

And you've gotta love the 60's pop culture references!

Monday, August 18, 2008

This Is the Kind of Thing I'm Getting All Day For 2 Weeks

David Powlison is one my professors for my CCEF classes last week and this. Today, he is going to lead us through a case-study of "Anne" a person who is suffering from major panic attacks and is wondering if she is going crazy.

Does the Bible speak to her? You bet it does!

Dr. P is showing up and more in the blog-world. A few weeks ago, he co-wrote a great article on passing on bad reports about people.

This morning there is a new interview with him on Bible application, including a .pdf of a superb article he has written for the soon to come out ESV Study Bible.

This is the kind of sweet thing that I'm getting all day, every day for 2 weeks. I am blessed.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Bumpkin Has Landed

I'm back in Philly for Round #2 of my doctoral classes. The Country Bumpkin made it in this time with no problems, but, boy, was it hard to leave my family!

This week: Counseling Problems and Procedures & Counseling and Physiology.

Good stuff!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Country Bumpkin

Traveling out to Philadelphia on Sunday and navigating the metropolis has convinced me that I've become something of a country bumpkin.


This city's roads don't make any sense. The names of the streets don't stay the same from section to section. Some streets cross others, some don't. Sometimes a street name will disappear and then reappear again miles from where I thought it would.

Of course, silly me, I didn't bring a map (just some Google directions) and my dome light in the car doesn't work--I never noticed how important a dome light was until I tried to read my little direction sheet held up to the headlights of the cars behind me!

I know that I was a little confused at first when we moved to our current country home--especially by the way that roads curve instead of going in just one direction. But this is bewildering. I think it's more confusing than Chicago was. And I've lost a bunch of my skills from when I lived in the Windy City.

I'm sure I would learn how to navigate this place if I lived here, but I won't be here long enough this week and next to get my skills up to competency.

It's only Wednesday, but I find myself pining already for central Pennsylvania country roads.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

From My Dear and Loving Wife (To Me in an Email)

To My Dear and Loving Husband

If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were loved by wife, then thee;
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me, ye women, if you can.
I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold
Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
My love is such that rivers cannot quench,
Nor ought but love from thee, give recompense.
Thy love is such I can no way repay,
The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.
Then while we live, in love let's so persevere
That when we live no more, we may live ever.

--Anne Bradstreet


Monday, August 11, 2008

Six Unavoidable Facts (From My Classnotes in Counseling and the Local Church)

Six Unavoidable Facts

1. Someone had a problem in your church this week.

2. We have everything we need in the Gospel to help that person (2 Peter
1:3).

3. People seek help first from friends, family members, or pastors
before professionals.

4. That person either got no help, bad help, or biblical,
gospel-centered help.

5. If they don't get meaningful help, they will go elsewhere.

6. Whatever "help" they received, they will use to help others!

Singing Songs to A Heavy Heart

One of my takeaways today was an offhand quote by a professor, describing our attempts to make somebody act happy when they really need sympathy and empathy. He quoted the end of Proverbs 25:20, which wasn't very familiar to me, but I'm trying now to commit it to memory:

"Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on soda, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart."

Like many proverbs, it's both pithy and profound. How true. And how hard it is sometimes to know when to apply which truth!

CCEF Class Update - On Site

The first day of class is over, and it went well.

We studied Marriage Counseling with Winston Smith and Counseling and the Church with Tim Lane.

A lot of the material has been foundational, basic, and review today, but it's great stuff.

I'm meeting some great folks and enjoying just being here.

Sunday Sermons

From Byron: Crazy Christians (like Paul)

From Dan: God Is.

Applying the Gospel: The Message of Titus

1. To Titus [1:1-4]

2. True Elders & False Teachers [1:5-16]

3. Applying the Gospel [2:1-10]

4. Grace Has Appeared [2:11-15]

5. He Saved Us [3:1-7?]

6. Devoted to Doing Good [3:8-15]

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Matt's Messages "Devoted to Doing Good"

“Devoted to Doing Good”
August 10, 2008
Titus 3:1-15

Titus had been left by Paul on Crete to identify true elders and to combat false teaching and to provide gospel-applying instruction to the believers on Crete so that their lives matched their doctrine.

Last week, we looked at the first 7 verses of chapter 3 which highlight the glorious gospel of grace–that “He Saved Us.” And that led us to a table of kindness, love, mercy, grace, and hope.

Today, I want to read the entire third chapter and especially focus on verses 1 and 2, and verses 8 through 15. These are, again, the practical outworkings of the gospel. They are “applying the gospel” to all of life.

And there is a particular phrase that appears three times in the English translations in this chapter that I think sums up the burden of this passage. “Doing What Is Good.” Or King James, “Good Works.” Listen for that phrase, as I read it. Especially with the phrase, “Devote themselves” in front of it.

Paul wants Titus to teach the church in such a way that the believers learn to devote themselves to doing what is good. So our title for today is “Devoted to Doing Good.”

I have four points that I want to make this morning, each of them explaining more fully what Paul means when he calls the believers to be “Devoted to Doing Good.”

We should be devoted to doing good... #1. IN SOCIETY.

I get this from verses 1 and 2. He starts with following our leaders. Look at verse 1.

“Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good...”

Paul instructs Titus to remind the church to be submissive to government, obedient and ready to do the right thing.

That word “good” here is the Greek word: AGATHOS. And it has the flavor of doing the right thing. The good thing in any given situation.

Notice that Titus had to remind the believers of this. They don’t necessarily do it automatically. They have to be reminded. “This is how a Christian acts.”

Submissive. Obedient. Devoted to Doing Good.

It doesn’t sound so hard until the sign says to go 55 and you feel like going 70. Right?

We all think that we’re fine upstanding citizens until we realize that we are confronted with big AND SMALL ways of being unsubmissive to authority.

Some of us may be tempted to cheat on our taxes. Others of us might be tempted to park where we are not allowed.

Titus was supposed to teach the people that Christians are subject to authority and obedient and ready to good whatever is good.

Do you need reminded of that this morning? I needed that.

We need to be devoted to doing good in society, with our leaders and with all of our neighbors. Look at verse 2.

“...to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.”
There’s not a lot of wiggle room in that verse is there?!

This is what Christ-followers do.

They don’t slander anyone. They don’t tell falsehoods, or half-truths about someone else and damage their reputation with anyone.

They are peaceable and considerate. Christ-followers love peace and unity and don’t go stirring up trouble where it doesn’t need to be! And they think of other people ahead of themselves.

Christ-followers show true humility (some translations have “courtesy” here) toward everyone.

They don’t think of themselves as better than others and they treat people like don’t!

Do you need constant reminding of these principles, too? I do.

But, but, but...what if someone slanders you?

“To slander no one.” Not even those who drag your name through the mud.

What if they aren’t courteous? “To show true humility toward all men.”

This is how a Real Christian operates in society.

And it looks very different from the way the world works, doesn’t it?

What if all of the people who claimed to be Christians lived out just verses 1 and 2 of Titus 3?

What would happen to our witness?
What would happen to our society?

It would be changed. Because of changed people.

We should be devoted to doing good in society. That means to other people.

Is there a situation right now that you’re involved in where you have been running against verses 1 and 2? It’s time to ‘fess up and devote yourself to doing good.

Why?

#2. BECAUSE OF THE GOSPEL.

We should devote ourselves to doing good because of the gospel of Jesus Christ. V.3

“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures [We lived like the world!]. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”

We talked about this at great length last week. Isn’t it glorious?

Now, see what Paul does next with that gospel. V.8

“This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.”

See what Paul is doing?

He says that verses 3 through 7 are a trustworthy saying. The gospel is true. It can be trusted.

And Paul says that Titus needs to stress the gospel with the church–why?

“...so that those who have trusted in God [that is, those who have believed the gospel] may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good.”

“...those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good.”

Again, this is applying the gospel.

Christians don’t devote themselves to doing what is good because they are good people in and of themselves.

If someone asks us how we’re doing, we says, “Better than I deserve.”

If someone says, “You’re a good person,” we know better! Right?!

Christians don’t devote themselves to doing what is good because they are good people in and of themselves.

Christians devote themselves to doing good because of the gospel!

We do devote ourselves to doing good, but not because we’re good or because our good works somehow balance out our bad works or add up to our salvation–no because we have been saved to serve. Blessed to be a blessing. Rescued to reach out.

Because Jesus died for me, I can now devote myself (notice that strong word–DEVOTE myself) to doing what is good.

And everyone benefits.

V.8 says, “These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.”

Now, we can’t see it in our English versions, but there is a different word for “good” in verse 8 than there was in verse 1. This is the word “KALOS” and it has the flavor, not just of doing the right thing, but doing the morally beautiful thing.

It involves not just “not doing bad” (negatively), but positively doing good. Doing something, taking action that is morally praiseworthy and beautiful.

And here, I think it emphasizes that we do good works that help other people. It’s profitable for everyone. It’s good for others.

We could make a long list of things that would fit that category:

Feeding the hungry
Showing hospitality
Giving directions to someone who is lost
Sacrificing for a family
Guarding someone’s reputation
Speaking positive-gossip about someone in the community
Volunteering in a ministry at church or in some other area of society
Raising funds for a good cause

The list could go on and on and on.

And it all comes from the gospel!

Christians are devoted to doing good, not because they are good. But because they are believe the good news!

Good Works Come from the Good News!

Titus, “I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good.”

Now, of course, the big application question is, are we devoted to doing good?

I know that I like to think of myself as being devoted to doing good.

But am I?

Or am I just sitting on my rear end, thankful for the gospel, but not letting it move me one inch?

How about you? Are you devoted to doing good?

It will probably cost you something, if you are.

For almost a year now, I’ve volunteered with Meals on Wheels (you can see a little ad in the bulletin that they’re still looking for more volunteers).

I like doing it, but Thursdays roll around and I always have something important that I’m working on that takes a backseat to going over to home, and picking up one of my children, and then running out to Kylertown and running all over the countryside delivering meals to wonderful older folks, many of whom have yappy little dogs that delight in chasing me and making me wonder if I’ll still have heel when I leave!

And I’ve been coming up on a year and having to decide if I’m going to re-up my commitment or let it slide.

I hear Paul saying to me, “those who have trusted in God [must] be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good.”

What about you? Are you devoted to doing good?

These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

And we do them because of the gospel!

#3. IN SPITE OF THE FALSE TEACHERS.

Remember them from chapter 1? They’re still there and causing trouble. V.9

“But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.”

It seems like this must have been what the false teaching was focusing on at Crete at that time: controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law.

Paul tells Titus not to get caught up in it. “Avoid!” “Unprofitable, useless.”

Of course, he’s not saying to not engage in controversy at all. The elders actually had to be equipped to refute this false teaching, remember that from chapter 1?

But somehow Titus and the other leaders were to steer clear of getting embroiled in it so that it took up their minds and their ministries.

And they sure weren’t supposed to adopt these teachings and arguments!

And when someone came around with them, they were to be treated strongly.
Look at verse 10. “Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.”

Remember, doctrine matters. It affects life.

And if someone is teaching something heretical and trying to divide the church over it, they need to be confronted, taken through a process of confronting, and then disciplined. Church discipline, rightly practiced, is love for the offending party, love for the church, and love for the Truth.

And Titus and the elders at Crete needed to practice it.

If not, the church would get infected.

So, surgery was needed on the Body of Christ.

This is not popular these days. Everybody just wants to get along and be nicey-nicey, except for some people who just want to fight.

But Titus wasn’t allowed to do either of those. He was supposed to avoid the fighting and put the divisive and the heretical out of the church.

So that they could devote themselves to doing what is good.

In spite of the false teachers.

Because there is good work to be done.

#4. TO LIVE FRUITFUL LIVES.

Paul has some last minute instructions that were specifically for Titus in the last four verses. But they all emphasize the same main idea. V.12

“As soon as I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, because I have decided to winter there.”

Apparently, Titus was going to be relieved at some point and was supposed to join Paul in Nicopolis the for the winter. V.13

“Do everything you can to help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way and see that they have everything they need.”

Now, the most surprising thing about this verse is that really is such a thing as Christian lawyers, did you know that was possible? [Just kidding!]

Apparently, Zenas and Apollos were carrying this letter to Titus and Titus was supposed to look after their needs and support them and send them on fully supplied.

He was to care about them and take care of them. And then see how Paul follows that. Verse 14. He says again:

“Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessities [like Zenas and Apollos?] and not live unproductive lives.”

The King James has “unfruitful.” I think that’s great.

We need to learn to devote ourselves to doing what is good, so that we are fruitful!

So that our lives are productive. So that they produce good things.

So that there is fruit.

We are, as Christians, saved to bear fruit.

People should look at our lives and say, “What has gotten into that person!” They are so good! So good to be around. So productive. So fruitful. So much a blessing for others.

A year ago, I asked this question of our church. What would the community say if our church disappeared?

Would they notice?

Would they bemoan the fact that the Ark Park got taken down and shipped off?

Would they feel it at all that our little Jesus-worshiping, disciplemaking community was gone?

Would they weep?

Would they say, “Oh, that church has been a total blessing to our community. I’m so sorry to see it go.”

Would they feel like some of the fruitfulness had been sucked out of our community?

We’ve seen how communities feel when jobs leave with companies.

What would happen if our church left this community?

Would they feel it?

Not just that our gospel witness had disappeared (as all important as that is), but if our gospel-produced good works disappeared, what effect would that have?

I’m not sure. I’d love to see our church be an integral part of our community–a city set on a hill. A light on a stand.

A worshiping, disciple-making community that let’s its light so shine before men that they see it and glorify our Father who is in Heaven.

I pray for fruitfulness for our church.

In Society.
Because of the Gospel. Not to earn our way but because He’s given His all for us in His mercy and grace.
In Spite of the False Teachers. Avoiding them where possible and confronting them and discipling them when they get in our midst.
Devoting Ourselves to Doing Good.
To Live Lives that are Fruitful.

What is the application of this message for you this morning?

What do you need to change, to do differently, to start?

Does it have something to do with submission to our government and its leaders?

Something to do with your neighbors?

Some new initiative that you need to undertake to be devoted to doing good, to being fruitful?

Or maybe it’s renewing your commitment to doing something good.

Whatever it is, can do it because of the gospel. You can devote yourself to doing good because of the grace of Jesus Christ.

If you have not yet come to believe in Jesus Christ, I invite you to do it today.

You can turn from your sins and put your trust in what He did for you.

Not righteous things you have done, but the mercy and grace shown to you at the Cross.

His Good News is sufficient to save you and then to equip you to devote yourself to doing what is right and what is morally beautiful, what is good.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

LEFC Bicycle Rodeo 2008

Our church sponsored a free Bicycle Derby at the West Branch Community Days this year. We had a pretty good turnout and a fun time. Blair Murray showed up with a strange flying bike contraption and the Christian Motorcyclist Assocation was there, too, giving away free rides.

Drewby even won the "slow race" for his age bracket.

Fun!

One Year of Monkeyshine

Our Mitchell Monkey Tower is 1 year old this week!

Dear Frankie

I cry a lot.

As I get older, I'm getting softer, I guess. Last night, Heather and I watched another tear-jerker of a movie, and I got to sobbing about half way through. I didn't mean to, but the movie just toyed with my emotions!

The movie was Dear Frankie [official site, wikipedia article, CT review, Amazon page].

I don't know how to describe it without giving away the plot-twists (there are a number and they're well done). Read the reviews if you like the plot spoiled. It's about truth, lies, love, fear, pain, loneliness, happiness, and most of all father-hunger (one of the main problems of western civilization). It takes place in Scotland (was an indy film) and has understated, yet right-on acting [warning: it's PG13 for abusive language, but it's pretty watchable and not dirty].

Powerful and painful and sweet.

Much recommended, especially for sentimental softies.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

To Blog Or Not to Blog - Keller & Powlison

One theme on my blog these last 3.5 years has been whether or not to engage in blogging because of the temptations inherent in the medium for the sins of the tongue.

I finally decided, with the aid of my wife, that godly blogging was possible and have set out to do it at a moderate pace (my goal is to post something worthwhile between each sermon, that's twice a week on average). I have also kept an eye cocked for good advice on how often and how to blog wisely and well (ex: Randy Alcorn on comments, RCO on blogging only once a week).

This week, David Powlison and Tim Keller co-wrote a piece on Justin Taylor's blog which is well worth reading: Should You Pass on Bad Reports? And Powlison has amplified it with some follow-up comments today. Good stuff.

We're nearing our 1,000th post on Hot Orthodoxy (this is #992). I pray that the words of my blog and the meditation of my heart is pleasing in the Lord's sight.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

CCEF Class Update - Ready to Go!

Yes! All of the pre-course work is done for my CCEF classes next week.

Praise the Lord! And thank you, gentle readers, for praying.

CCEF Paper #4: Marriage Counseling


John Gottman doesn’t offer a definition of a successful marriage, but his seven-part counsel for his readers suggests something like this: Marriage, at its best, is equal and affectionate partners in life achieving their dreams together. Couples can do this by increasing their “emotional intelligence” in specific ways.

Gottman believes that science has proven that couples who are dialed into each other’s lives in such a way that they really know their partners (especially their “dreams”), enjoy one another, listen to each other, and resolve at least their easier conflicts will stay together and achieve some measure of happiness (apparently the sunnum bonnum of marriage).

In this scheme, God is almost completely absent, at least in any authoritative sense (Almighty Science has taken His place). The only reason given for a couple to stay together when having trouble is the long term health benefits for them and their children (and that’s only if there is a good chance of the marriage becoming happy)! There is no transcendent quality to marriage beyond the personal dreams and “shared meaning” created by the couple themselves (principle #7).

There is plenty of good advice for growing in the skills needed to love your spouse–turning towards your spouse is a great idea! However, the skillful love required is definitely natural, not supernatural, a few of the suggestions are atrocious (ex. speaking harshly against someone who has had a conflict with your spouse to build solidarity as a couple), and the whole thing assumes that each partner is generally a good person who just needs to work on their relational skills.

“Becoming a dream detective” (part of principle #6) is terrific counsel for understanding what motives underlie a behavior or a conflict. But each dream suggested is described as “beautiful” and equal with any others. No dreams are considered bad, evil, sinful or even simply inordinate. What if these dreams collide? Gottman has no solution for such situations, believing that some conflicts are unsolvable and, probably, that most dreams are immutable.


In direct contradistinction, Gary Thomas believes that marriage is all about God, supernatural grace is needed to truly love your spouse, and some dreams need to die. In Sacred Marriage, Thomas describes matrimony as a covenant relationship before God that is intended to sanctify both partners. The marital sunnum bonnum is holiness, not happiness (though happiness would be an eternal by-product of holiness!).

This book is not full of practical advice for building “love-skills;” rather, it is packed with rationale for leaning into suffering service of your mate to shape your character and grow your relationship with God. Thomas teaches that marriage is a school of agape love, a laboratory for prayer, a classroom for learning to serve, and an mirror to expose sin and reveal God. Most of the chapter subtitles include the word “can,” describing the personal spiritual benefits that can be gained by obedience to God in a marriage (the other chapter subtitles also imply this). For Thomas, failure in marriage means not taking advantage of those sanctifying benefits and dishonoring God.

The book urges Christians to embrace the harder parts of marriage, not only because God says to, but because it will ultimately be good for them.


Leslie Vernick’s book is written in much the same vein as Sacred Marriage, even favorably quoting Thomas’ book numerous times. Her main emphasis, however, is how (and why) to act righteously when your mate is acting unrighteously.

The purpose of marriage in Vernick’s book appears to be the glory of God and the growing holiness of and attendant blessings on the obedient partner. It is very sympathetic to those suffering in difficult marriages, but calls them to always opt for obedience even when (especially when!) sinned against. Marriage is the crucible in which the fire of trial refines the gold of the believer.

Vernick emphasizes the power to choose to do what is right (flowing from a heart centered on God). Spouses need to choose to respond (not merely react), to choose to guard their hearts, to choose to worship, to choose to grow, to choose to love. Believers are not controlled by the actions of their partners but can (by God’s empowering grace) act in ways that are counter-intuitive and God-pleasing. There are a number of practical suggestions of how to make these good choices while embroiled in a difficult marital relationship (chapter 8 on “Gifts of Love” is especially helpful). I regularly give this book to counselees whose partners have bewilderingly gone off the rails.

Vernick also emphasizes the blessings that come with obedience in the marriage but stresses that these blessings may not always include the positive change of and/or reconciliation with an offending spouse. The marriage does not exist for itself and may die a painful death, and yet even then, it can be successful in God’s all wise eyes.

Taken together, How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong and Sacred Marriage both present a Christian view of marriage–marriage as God-given, God-centered, God-blessed, God-empowered, and God-accountable.


God is strangely missing in David Olson’s book. Even though Integrative Marriage Therapy is part of a Lutheran book series on “Creative Pastoral Care and Counseling,” I didn’t detect even one reference to the Lord. For Olson, apparently, the important parts of marriage are only horizontally oriented.

Olson’s approach comes from a “family systems” understanding of human behavior. “Family therapy focuses on the interaction between people as the principal area for insight and change. By creating changes in the both the structure and the communication of the family, one can frequently resolve problems and achieve a more appropriate sense of equilibrium” (pg. 17).

In this understanding of the family, marriage is seen as an “executive subsystem” necessary for leading a healthy family (pg. 57). The chief goal of family therapy seems to be achieving and then maintaining a sense of family equilibrium sometimes referred to as “homeostasis.” Homeostasis seems to be a worldly counterfeit and echo of the biblical idea of shalom. (Note: At times, Olson also seemed to indicate that homeostasis can be a bad kind of equilibrium that a family unhealthily maintains.) Olson introduces seven different models of therapy within this family systems understanding and then suggests a flow-chart method of integrating them to serve the varying needs of different families to reach a healthy homeostasis (pg. 74, Diagram 4).

There is real truth in this approach. Our behavior as individuals affects the people around us, and their lives affect us. We live in community and are shaped by it. Our families are powerful influences upon us, providing both temptations to sin and (in the best families) encouragements towards righteousness. However, in Integrative Family Therapy, the individual’s responsibility for their own actions seems to be greatly diminished. The system seems to control each of the parts.

There is no definition of a healthy marriage here. Married couples are taught to not “triangulate” (siding with their children over against their spouses) and encouraged to see themselves and how they operate as part of the problem that their children are having. But there is no final standard for deciding if a marriage is itself healthy. Everyone does what is right in their own eyes.

My Own Philosophy of Marriage

My own understanding of marriage would share the same basic principles as Gary Thomas and Leslie Vernick. Marriage is a sacred covenant between a man and a woman before the Lord that exists to glorify Him while sanctifying and blessing them. It is all about God. My wife Heather and I are not the main actors in our life’s play, and our marriage is not ultimately about our marriage but about Him. We are married coram Deo, in the presence of God.

This God-centered reality comes out in my counseling of couples. I try to re-frame their understanding of their marital problems and opportunities into biblical categories such as idolatry and sin, active love (defined by 1 Corinthians 13, not Top 40 radio), forgiveness when sinned against, obedience to God’s design (including husbandly headship and wifely submission), faithfulness to our promises, and God-pleasing desires. The ultimate and greatest good for a marriage is one in which both partners are married to the glory of God. Of course, few of my counselees are looking for that kind of talk. Often, by the time they reach my office, they just want to know if their marriage will survive. I try to both practically help them keep going in healthy directions and to lift their gaze to what their marriage could become.

In addition to what Thomas and Vernick are teaching, I would want to also emphasize marital joy. Marriage is God’s gift, not just for sanctification but also for the pleasure and mutual enjoyment of the couple in themselves and in God. John Piper says, “Marriage is a matrix for Christian hedonism,” and he instructs Christians to find their joy in the joy of their beloved. This is not always possible, but when God grants it, it’s a wonderful thing! While reading for the four books for this pre-course assignment, I was repeatedly amazed at how blessed Heather and I are as we enjoy each other in the covenant of marriage. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places!

CCEF Class Update (Last Week)

Praise the Lord! I've read all of the books for my CCEF Class.

Now, this morning, I have to write the last paper.

The end is near.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Matt's Messages "He Saved Us"

“He Saved Us”
August 3, 2008
Titus 3:1-7

Paul has been instructing Titus in what to teach the new church on the island of Crete. He had left Titus behind to identify true elders to combat false teaching and to provide gospel-applying instruction to the believers on Crete so that their lives matched their doctrine.

The title for our series this last month has been “Applying the Gospel” and could very well describe chapter 3, as well. There is really no good way to break up chapter 3, but I want to take 2 weeks to study it anyway, so this week, we’ll look at verses 1 through 7 and then next week, we’ll look at verses 1 through 15 and take the whole chapter together to see the bigger picture.

What I want us to focus on this morning is the gospel itself.

The theme of the whole letter is applying the gospel, and that’s what Paul is doing here in chapter 3, but verses 3 through 7 in English are one long sentence in the original Greek that basically IS the gospel, and I think God wants us to meditate deeply on it this morning before we celebrate it together at His Table.

The key phrase that the whole passage hangs on is “He Saved Us.”

I hope that we never get tired of talking about the gospel.

I hope that we never grow weary of rehearsing what happened to us when we were rescued from our sins.

I hope that we never get complacent about the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I hope that we are regularly and freshly moved by the truth encapsulated in this little phrase, “He saved us.”

They say that familiarity breeds contempt.

But it didn’t for the apostle Paul. He couldn’t get familiar enough with the gospel.

He repeats it over and over again in his letters.

The gospel is the engine that drives Paul, and it should be for us, as well.

The whole book of Titus is about applying the gospel, and that’s what Paul is doing in verses 1&2.

“Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.”

He’s applying the gospel. These are applications, and we’re going to look at these verses more closely next week.

But you can see just in your first glance, that Paul is continuing to instruct Titus in how to instruct the Cretan believers to live out the implications of the gospel.

They are to live as Christ-followers. To be Christian citizens. To be obey Jesus. To be ready to do what is good. To live as Christian neighbors. To show Christian humility.

Why? Because they have been changed by the gospel. V.3

“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.”

We used to look like the world. And now we are to look differently!

We used to look like the world. And now everything has changed.

We used to be just like the world, and we needed SAVING!

Look at this description of you and me before coming to Christ:

“...foolish [making bad choices], disobedient [transgressing God’s laws], deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures [we gave in and gave in and gave in]. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.”

That’s what folks are like, down deep, before they come to know Jesus.

That’s what I was like, and it’s what you were like, too.

We used to be just like the world, and we needed SAVING!

But!

Verse 4.

“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us...”

He saved us!

We got rescued.

He saved us.

I have 6 brief points this morning, they’re mostly just taken right here from the next few verses.

#1. WHEN THE KINDNESS AND LOVE OF GOD OUR SAVIOR APPEARED.

That’s taken right from verse 4 and it tell us when this salvation came. V.4

“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us...”

When was that?

It was Jesus came.

Notice that word “appeared?” It’s the same word that we saw back in chapter 2, verse 11 last week.

It’s the word that we get our word “epiphany” from.

An appearance, a manifestation, a coming into view.

The kindness and love of God our Savior came into view.

God’s love showed up–in person!

We needed saving. We were lost. We were dead in our trespasses and sins.

And then Jesus showed up! That’s what happened! Jesus showed up!

And He lived a perfect life and then died on the Cross, one of the cruelest deaths devised by men!

Why?

Because of what was in His heart.

What does verse 4 say about His coming? Why did Jesus come?

Why did He go to the Cross?

What are we celebrating at this Table?

“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us...”

Kindness and LOVE. The Greek word is “philanthropia” meaning a love of humanity.

“God so loved the world...” ...That God our Savior Appeared!

Don’t forget that. Don’t miss that.

As we go to this Table this morning, we remember that this is a Table of love. A table of kindness.

God loves us, friends. God loves you. Jesus loves you.

Do you need to hear that this morning? We need to hear it every day, don’t we?

He saved us when the kindness and love of God Our Savior appeared.

#2. HE SAVED US NOT BECAUSE OF RIGHTEOUS THINGS WE HAD DONE.

That’s what verse 5 says.

“[H]e saved us, not because of righteous things we had done...”

That’s the opposite of all of the other religions in the world.

They are all about man trying to reach up to God.

They are all about self-improvement projects.

Earning our blessings.

But that’s NOT Christianity.

Christianity is not based upon our good works.
Christianity is not based upon our righteous deeds.

And any teaching that bases salvation upon our good works is not Christianity!

It’s a false gospel.

The apostles stress this again and again and again.

It’s not what we do.
It’s not what we have done.
It’s not be works of law.
It’s not by righteous things we have done.

Now, we’ll do righteous things! We better. We’ve been changed by the gospel.

That’s applying the gospel, and that’s what this book is all about.

But let’s be clear: we are saved NOT because of righteous things we had done.

No! He saved us #3. BECAUSE OF HIS MERCY.

He didn’t save us because of something inside of us.

He saved us because of something inside of Him!

When we go to this Table this morning, we remember that this is a Table of MERCY.

It’s not a Table that tells us how good we are. We aren’t.

It’s a Table that tells us that we have not been good and not been good enough.

But that God had mercy on us.

Isn’t that wonderful?!?

God had mercy on us.

Verse 7 calls this kind of salvation, “having been justified by his grace...”

Justification is being declared righteous.

To make up a word it is “Righteousification.”

It is declaring us righteous, not on the basis of righteous things we have done, our righteousness, but on the basis of His righteousness.

His mercy and grace giving us the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

Justification by grace.

It’s the only way to live!

It bring Him the most glory, and it’s just what we needed!

Many people are trying to justify themselves in their own power, and they’ll all fail miserably. Paul tried to, and he was really good at it!

But eventually he came to call it all rubbish, in the King James: “dung.”

The only way to live is to be justified by HIS grace.

That’s why He saved us: because of His mercy.

As we come to the Table this morning, we are reminded of how unworthy we are to receive blessing from God and how thankful we are to live under His mercy.

Amen?

And it’s more than simply justification that saves us. It is also the inner work of the Holy Spirit.

#4. HE SAVED US THROUGH THE WASHING OF REBIRTH AND RENEWAL BY THE HOLY SPIRIT.

This is what it says in at the end of verse 5.

“He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior...”

This takes us back to our sermon series from the beginning of the year on the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Verse 6 says that the Holy Spirit was poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior.

What Jesus did on the Cross purchased the benefits of having the Holy Spirit in our lives.

My kids have been learning a Child’s Catechism recently, and one of the most recent questions is “What happens when I trust in Jesus?”

And the answer, “My sins are forgiven and Jesus sends His Holy Spirit into my life.”

V.6 says He does it “generously.” The King James says, “abundantly.”

And this is what He does at our salvation (v.5), “The washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”

Three words: Washing, Rebirth, Renewal.

My sins are washed away.
My soul is given a new birth (a regeneration).
My heart is given a new lease on life.

That all happens when I come to faith in Jesus Christ.

By the Holy Spirit of God.

As we go to this Table this morning, we are going to a Spirit-Table.

Did you notice the Trinitarian nature of this passage? It’s there.

God the Father having mercy. God the Son show up and dying for us and sending God the Spirit to wash us, regenerate us, and renew us.

He Saved Us Through the Washing of Rebirth and Renewal by the Holy Spirit.

To what end? #5. SO THAT WE MIGHT BECOME HEIRS HAVING THE HOPE OF ETERNAL LIFE.

Do you see where this goes?

It goes from the misery and perversion of verse 3 to the joy and hope and glory of verse 7.

We go from “foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved, malicious, envious, hated and hating” to “heirs having the hope of eternal life!”

This is biblical hope here.

It’s not wishful thinking, “Oh, I hope I get a Texas Sheet Cake this week.” Good luck.

No, this is faith in a sure thing–something promised me by God and not based on my righteousness, but on His mercy.

I’m an heir!

An heir!

We are heirs. Everything promised to Jesus is our inheritance.

He took our sin, we get His inheritance.

That’s why He saved us. He saved us to give us everything worth anything!

That’s the gospel, friends. That’s the good news about Jesus.

Do you believe it?

It’s all true for you and for me if we believe it.

We are heirs having the sure hope of eternal life if we turn from doing it our way and trusting in Him and what He did for us in His kindness, love, and mercy.

He saved us: When the Kindness and Love of God Our Savior Appeared.

He saved us: Not Because of Righteous Things We Had Done.

He saved us: Because of His Mercy.

He saved us: Through the Washing of Rebirth and Renewal by the Holy Spirit.

He saved us: So That We Might Become Heirs Having the Hope of Eternal Life.

And #6. HE SAVED US: AND, IN SO DOING, HE CHANGED OUR LIVES FOREVER.

We live differently now.

The gospel changes us.

We don’t live like verse 3 any more. We live like verses 1 and 2.

Not because we’re so good in and of ourselves. We aren’t.

But because “He Saved Us.”

Because “He Saved Us.”

And it’s the greatest thing in all of the world.

As we come now to the Lord’s Table, we gather around a Table of Love and Kindness.

We gather around a Table, not of Our Righteousness, but of His Mercy and His Grace.

We gather around a Spirit Table. A Table of washing, rebirth, renewal.

We gather around a Table of Hope. The sure and certain hope of eternal life.

We gather around a Table of Salvation.

He Saved Us.