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Sunday, February 28, 2010

[Matt's Messages] "Following Jesus"

“Following Jesus”
Certain of Jesus:  The Gospel of Luke
February 28, 2010
Luke 9:37-62

This our 20th message in the Gospel of Luke, and as I said last week, this chapter is the turning point chapter of the book.  Where the emphasis changes from the northern Galilean phase of ministry where the main question is “Who is Jesus?” to the march towards Jerusalem, more teaching, and the main question is “What Does it Mean to Follow Jesus?”

Last week, in verses 21 through 27, Jesus began to clearly teach that he would suffer, be killed, and rise again.  And He issued a clear call for people to follow Him.

V.23 “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

Following Jesus.

Do you want to be a follower of Jesus?

I do.  And I want to help people to be followers of Jesus.

But before we go to far down that road, we might want to find out a little more of what that means.

What does it mean follow Jesus?

Luke provides some of the answer to that question in the second half of chapter 9.

Last week, we left Jesus up on top of a mountain where He had been transfigured–Peter, James, and John had seen Jesus’ glory with their own eyes–as long as they could look at Him!

And the voice of God had said, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen.  Listen to him.”

Let’s see what happened next, when they came down from the mountain.  V.37

“The next day, when they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met him.  A man in the crowd called out, ‘Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child.  A spirit seizes him and he suddenly screams; it throws him into convulsions so that he foams at the mouth. It scarcely ever leaves him and is destroying him.  I begged your disciples to drive it out, but they could not.’” Let’s stop there for a second.

This is terrible.  This poor boy, the man’s only child is plagued by a demon.  And it is destroying him.

Demons are pure evil.

And the disciples, presumably the other 9 left behind from this mountain trip, couldn’t drive out this demon.

They had power and authority to drive out demons in verse 1 of this chapter. We saw that last week.  But they weren’t able to do this one.

It appears, from Jesus’ response, that it was because they didn’t have faith.  V.41

“‘O unbelieving and perverse generation,’ Jesus replied, ‘how long shall I stay with you and put up with you? Bring your son here.’  Even while the boy was coming, the demon threw him to the ground in a convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the evil spirit, healed the boy and gave him back to his father.  And they were all amazed at the greatness of God.”

Here’s what it means to follow Jesus:

#1.  FACING EVIL WITH FAITH.

If you are going to follow Jesus, you are going to be confronted by evil.


Now, it may not always or often be overtly demonic evil like this was.

But Jesus’ followers face evil every day.

We are not immune to evil.

We are sinned against.
We are still sinners.
We live in a fallen world with evil people, evil spirits, and brokenness everywhere we turn.

Our family was touched by cancer this week.  Heather’s mom was diagnosed with it.  She’s flying tomorrow to Calgary to go spend some time with her.

There was an 8.8 on the Richter Scale earthquake yesterday?

Do cancer and earthquakes and murder and abuse only happen to unbelievers?

No, Jesus’ followers face evil every day.

But they face it with faith.

At least, they’re supposed to.  Jesus’ words are so strong in verse 41 because He knows that God is worthy of our trust and that it’s perverse to not trust Him.

Following Jesus means facing evil with faith.

What kind of evil are you looking in the face these days?

It might depression.
It might even be demonic oppression.

It might be some way that others are sinning against you, and it feels overwhelming.

Maybe its some physical evil, some mark of the curse on this world.

Maybe it’s a loved one who is hurting.

Maybe it’s the effects of our your own wrong choices.

Jesus calls us, in no uncertain terms, to face these evils with faith.

Not to call evil good, but to trust God in the midst of them.

I think that Jesus was disappointed in His disciples because they had subtly shifted from trusting God to trusting in their own ways and means.

But Jesus wants us to trust God and trust Him in the face of evil.

And the result?  V.43, “And they were all amazed at the greatness of God.”

Jesus trusted God in the face of evil.

The most evil thing that ever happened was the sinless Son of God suffering at the hands of evil men and dying on the Cross for our sins.

Jesus looked into the face of evil and trusted God all the way through.

1 Peter says, “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:23-24).

It was this suffering that Jesus took His disciples aside and tried to tell them about. 
Look at the second half of verse 43.

“While everyone was marveling at all that Jesus did, he said to his disciples, ‘Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you [Listen!]: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men.’ But they did not understand what this meant. It was hidden from them, so that they did not grasp it, and they were afraid to ask him about it.”

At this moment, Jesus’ followers weren’t able to look this kind of evil in the face.

But Jesus was.  He knew what was coming.

And He walked right into it.  In fact, He chose it.

He chose it for you and me.

And because He did, we can trust God ourselves and face terrible evil.

Following Jesus Means Facing Evil With Faith.

#2.  HUMBLING OURSELVES TO BECOME GREAT.

Now, I find this next paragraph completely shocking.

Jesus has just told them that He is going to suffer.  And they can’t handle that, and instead get into a fight about which of them would be the greatest!

This is incredibly stupid and prideful.

But I know that I have done equally stupid and prideful things myself.  V.46

“An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest.   [Which of us is the GREATEST follower of Jesus?!]  Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him.  Then he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all–he is the greatest.’”

Isaac, would you come up here?

In Israel, children might be beloved but they weren’t seen as great.

In America, we make out children to be amazingly great.

But, children weren’t considered to be amazing. They were small, dependent, needy, powerless. 

You didn’t get ahead in the world by making friends with kids!

But Jesus, as usual, turns everything on its head.  He says, “See this little guy?   Whoever humbles themselves and makes friends with the lowly, the little guys, they are making friends with me.  And if you make friends with me, you are making friends with my Father, God Himself!”

For whoever is least among you–he is the greatest.”

Thanks, Isaac.

Following Jesus means humbling ourselves to become great.

There is no other way.

How are you going to apply that to yourself?

Let me tell you how I applied this to myself as I was preparing this message.

Last week, was the district theology conference, Stay Sharp.  And I am privileged to be the main organizer for it.  I work with the speaker, I arrange for the promotional materials, I pick the books for the booktable, and so on.

And, this week, I finished my “abstract” for my doctoral project.  That’s a 2 page paper that outlines what I want to do with my project.

And, as Keith mentioned earlier, I have been asked to speak at our district conference in April.

Because of these honors and quote-unquote big things that I’m getting to do, it would be very easy to get a big head about myself.

To think that hobnobbing with the speaker and getting to hang around with my professors and write a big paper and get to be called “Doctor” is true greatness.

But true greatness is listening to my son Isaac when he wants to tell me something.

True greatness is tying someone’s shoe.

True greatness is doing something for someone with no applause.

True greatness is not my preaching to those at the nursing home this afternoon.  It’s those who go along and just hold their hand or look into their eyes.

“For he who is least among you all–he is the greatest.”

How do you apply that to yourself?

Are you humbling yourself to become truly great?

The disciples had another opportunity to learn about humility in verse 49.

“‘Master,’ said John, ‘we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.’” Literally, “He is not following with us.”

His name is not on our approved list of disciples!

He is not part of the EFCA!

He is not one of us.

We are the standard. We are the Disciples, with a capital D!

You see the irony here, don’t you?  What was the miracle that they just couldn’t do a few verses ago (v.40)?   Uh huh.

V.50.  “‘Do not stop him,’ Jesus said, ‘for whoever is not against you is for you.’”

He is casting out demons in my name, and you’re trying to stop him?

He’s doing it right?  He’s just not YOU?  Leave him alone.

He’s really on our side.

It takes humility to recognize true greatness in someone else.

To recognize that someone else is doing truly great things in Jesus name and it doesn’t have anything to do with us.

Now, I believe in being on a team.  I believe in being a real functioning part of a local church.

And I believe in being a part of a family of churches.  A meaningful, functioning part of a family of churches.  A team of churches!

But ours is not the only team of churches.  There is a bigger team–called The Church!

And if you aren’t playing for our opponent’s team, then you’re on our team, and that’s gotta be okay with me, too.

Humility.

Now in verse 51, Jesus sets His face towards his fate.  Look at verse 51.

“As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.”

Jesus knows that His time of suffering is coming, and He chooses it for you and me.  He resolutely set out for Jerusalem.

The rest of the book is going to be darker and harder because of what Jesus is wading into.  But He’s wading into it for us.

It starts with some rejection.  He is rejected on the way to Jerusalem by some Samaritans.  V.52

“And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem [because He was headed for our salvation!].  When the disciples James and John saw this [rejection], they asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?’  But Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they went to another village.”

I wish it said more about this event.  I’m not sure if He rebuked them because it wasn’t time for judgment, or because they had the wrong attitude, no mercy, towards the Samaritans, or because they just hated them for being Samaritans.

Probably, it had to do, again, with humbling themselves.  They had probably gotten too big for the britches again, and wanted to show off their powers like an Elijah who called down fire.  Instead of loving God and loving people with the truth.

Either way, Jesus rebukes them and sets off for another village on His way to Jerusalem.  On His way to suffer for our salvation.

And as He travels, He is still looking for followers. But He’s going to be very clear about what that means.  The next section has three interactions that teach us what following Jesus really means.  V.57

“As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’  [Sounds good!  Here’s a volunteer!  But Jesus warns him.  V.58]  Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.’”

Following Jesus will mean hardship.

Ever since He was born, and except for a brief childhood in Nazareth, Jesus has experienced homelessness.

And He’s homeless now.

If you follow Jesus, it won’t necessarily be easy.  V.59

“He said to another man, ‘Follow me.’ But the man replied, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ [We don’t know if the man’s father was dead yet or if this guy was saying, “I’ll do that ‘down the road’ when my other more important family responsibilities are met.’  Either way, v.60]  Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’”

Jesus is not against funerals.  But He is against anything that gets in way and anything takes a higher priority than following Him.

He calls it in the next few verses, “looking back.”  V.61

“Still another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.’ [Sounds almost reasonable.  And maybe it was okay.  But that “BUT” doesn’t sound quite right to Jesus.  So v.62]  Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’”

Anybody here ever plow a field or a garden?

Anybody do it with a team of oxen?

What happens if you don’t keep your eye on the end of the field where you are going?

You get a very curvy field, don’t you?

The song says, “No turning back, no turning back.”

Jesus isn’t against loving our families, or doing our duties.

But He is against anything that turns us away from following Him.

Sometimes the good is the enemy of the best.

Sometimes God’s gifts get in the way of following God.

And we have to fix our eyes on Him and not turn back.

Not for all the gold in Fort Knox.

Following Jesus Means Facing Evil with Faith
Humbling Ourselves to Become Great

#3.  NOT TURNING BACK.

Let me tell you about a man named William Borden.

“William W. Borden was the heir of a wealthy Chicago family. In 1094 and 1095, at the age of seventeen and eighteen, he traveled around the world.  This was followed by a brilliant education at Yale and then Princeton Seminary, where he committed his life to seek and win the Muslims in China to Christ.  Before he left, Borden gave away some $500,000 (equivalent to at least $10,000,000 [today]) and served at the age of twenty-three as a trustee of Moody Bible Institute. In 1913, in his twenty-sixth year, he left for Egypt and never looked back.  It was the final year of his life, because in Cairo he contracted cerebral meningitis. As he lay dying, he scribbled this note: ‘No reserve, no retreat, no regrets’” [That You May Know the Truth by R. Kent Hughes, pg. 374].

Following Jesus Means No Turning Back.

Most of us don’t have great fortunes that we’re turning away from to follow Jesus.

But we all have things that we’re tempted to love more than Jesus, to look over our shoulder at like Lot’s wife.

What are those things for you?

Are you able to say today, “No reserve, no retreat, no regrets?”

If you are, then you are following Jesus.

_________________________
Messages So Far In this Series:

Certain of Jesus
The Back-Story of Jesus
The Birth of Jesus
Jesus - A Very Special Child
Preparing the Way for Jesus
Jesus Is the Son of God
Jesus in Galilee
Jesus and the Sinners
Jesus Brings Real Joy and Rest
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part One
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Two
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Three
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Four
Amazing Jesus
Disappointed with Jesus
Loving Jesus Much
Jesus' Real Family
Jesus Is Lord
Who Is Jesus?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Jesus and Water

"Jesus and water.  He made. Calms it.  Walks on it.  And turns it into wine."


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Queen's Thief Series by Megan Whalen Turner

Heather and I have discovered a new writer and new series of novels to enjoy.

The writer is Megan Whalen Turner [You can read her bio on her website.]

The series is called "The Queen's Thief," and it has 3 books in it so far:

The Thief

 

  

  
The books are very well written.  Suspenseful, action-packed, and most of all, surprising.  Mrs. Turner knows how to weave a tale!  

Just when you think you know what's going on, she flips the whole thing around for a new perspective--and a whole other tale.  Very enjoyable.

Supposedly, the books are "Juvenile Fiction," so call me "juvenile!"  I loved them. And my not so juvenile wife does, too.  In fact, she was the first to read one and recommend them to me.  When I had burned through the first three, I re-read the third out-loud to her.

I've found them hard to describe.  They are part fantasy, part parable, part caper, and wholly fun.

We were excited to find out that there is another due out in May:

A Conspiracy of Kings















We can't hardly wait.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

[Matt's Messages] "Who Is Jesus?"

“Who Is Jesus?” Certain of Jesus: The Gospel of Luke
February 21, 2010
Luke 9:1-36


The name of the sermon series that we have been in together now since school started, this is the 19th message in it, the name of our current series is “Certain of Jesus.”  

Luke wrote his gospel to help people like “most excellent Theophilus” and most excellent Lanse Free Church, to be certain that they know Jesus.

All along Luke, with his stories about Jesus’ life and ministry, has been answering the question that is the title of today’s message, “Who Is Jesus?”

What is Jesus’ true identity?

Who is this person that this gospel is all about?

“Who is this Jesus?”

In chapter 9, Luke presses home that question and provides a very clear answer.  In many ways, it is the culmination of what we’ve seen so far, and it’s also the turning point in the book, the turning point in the book.

“Who Is Jesus?”

Luke chapter 9 begins with a short-term missions trip.

Jesus sends out his apostles on a short-term missions trip.  Verses 1 through 6.

“When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.  He told them: ‘Take nothing for the journey–no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic.  Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. If people do not welcome you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave their town, as a testimony against them.’  So they set out and went from village to village, preaching the gospel and healing people everywhere.”

Now, this was a different kind of short term missions trip than the ones that we normally go on today.

For one thing, Jesus Himself sent them with power and authority to drive out demons and cure diseases.  I’m not sure exactly how that worked, but it was particularly apostolic!  They had 2 parts to their mission–preach the kingdom and heal the sick.

And what were they allowed to take with them?  Not much!

No staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no cell phone, no passport, no extra tunic.

Travel light.  Go as you are.

Why?

Well, for one thing, this was supposed to be a quick missions trip.  Very quick.  They were to go out and then come back.  This was “short term” for real!

Second, it caused the Twelve to have to trust God, didn’t it?  They were going to have trust people, staying in their homes, and trust God to provide at each step.

And everywhere they went, they were to supposed to talk about the Kingdom of God and the Gospel as they healed people.  And they were also calling for decisions.

There is no neutrality.  You either receive them and their message or you reject them and their message.  And when they were rejected, they were supposed to mark that rejection by shaking the dust off their feat.  “Good riddance.

You’re either in or out.

Now, this short term missions trip had the effect of getting the word out on the street about Jesus.

In fact, the word spread so fast and far that it got all the way to Herod.  V.7

“Now Herod the tetrarch [son of Herod the great whom we learned about when Jesus was born early in this book, Herod the tetrarch] heard about all that was going on. And he was perplexed, because some were saying that John had been raised from the dead, others that Elijah had appeared, and still others that one of the prophets of long ago had come back to life.  But Herod said, ‘I beheaded John. Who, then, is this I hear such things about?’ And he tried to see him.”

“Who Is Jesus?”

That’s the question of the day.  It’s the same question that His own disciples were asking last week when then saw in that boat what He could do to that storm.

“Who Is Jesus?”

We know that He’s called Jesus, but who is He?  He sounds supernatural.  Is John back from the dead? Is He Elijah who was predicted to come?  Is He one of the Old Testament prophets come back?  Isaiah?  Jeremiah? Joel?  Daniel?  Ezekiel?

Who is this Jesus?

That’s a question that everyone has to answer for themselves.

Who do you think Jesus is?

Because, what you think about Jesus will determine what you do with your life.

If you think that He is insignificant, you will run your life one way.

If you think that He is all important, you will run your life a whole other way.

If you think that Jesus is a cruel taskmaster who wants to rob you of your joy, then you will live your life a certain way.

If you think that Jesus is the great thing ever then it will change your life.

Who Is Jesus?

Luke goes straight from that question to a miracle story that gives a dramatic demonstration of the answer.  V.10

“When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done. Then he took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida, but the crowds learned about it and followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.”

More of the same thing that He had had His disciples do.  Ministry of the word and deed.

And it went on and on all day.  V.12

“Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to him and said, ‘Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here.’ [They are out in the middle of nowhere. And there is nothing to eat..]  He replied, ‘You give them something to eat.’ They answered, ‘We have only five loaves of bread and two fish–unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.’”

Now, we all know this story. If you don’t know this story, I’m impressed!

This is the only miracle, other than the resurrection, that appears in all four of the gospels.  So, it’s really the most famous miracle of Jesus’ outside of the resurrection.

What’s it about?

What’s He going to do?

He’s going to feed them, isn’t He?  All of them?  V.14

“(About five thousand men were there.[Not counting women and children!]) But he said to his disciples, ‘Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.’  The disciples did so, and everybody sat down.  Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them. Then he gave them to the disciples to set before the people.  They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.”

What is this story about?

It’s not a story, primarily, about “sharing.”  Yes, we know from John’s gospel that the five loaves and two fish were from a little boy who shared his lunch.

That’s great, but it’s not the main point.

It’s not a story, primarily, about “praying before meals.”  Yes, Jesus does that.  Yes, it’s a good idea.  I recommend it. 

But that’s not the main point.

The main point of this story is giving a dramatic demonstration of “Who Jesus Is!”

“Who is Jesus?”

Well, Who is the One that provides bread in the wilderness for God’s people?

Does this story remind you of any other stories?

Food in the wilderness?  In case we missed it: Twelve basketfuls.  Twelve.

This is about Someone Who provides for the needs of God’s people, miraculously!  Out of almost nothing!  Creating food!

Who is Jesus?

Well, that’s the question that Jesus Himself asks in verse 19.

“Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, ‘Who do the crowds say I am?’”

Jesus says, “Let’s take an opinion poll.  What do the crowds say?  Who am I?”

V.19 “They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.’”

Does that sound familiar?  That sounds like what the people were telling Herod.

That’s the word on the street.

What is the word on the street in 2010?

Who Is Jesus?

Maybe a religious leader?
Maybe a great teacher?
Maybe a legend, someone who never actually lived.  It’s all made up.
Maybe the husband of Mary Magdalene, if you believe Dan Brown and the Da Vinci Code books?

Who do the crowds say Jesus is?

Every Christmas time and every Easter season, Jesus makes it onto the cover of Time or Newsweek or a magazine like that, and there is some new theory on Who He is.

The most recent one I remember said that Jesus was as a very rich man, very prosperous, a billionaire by today’s standards who, of course, wants His people to be rich, as well!

Who do your friends think Jesus is?

A good person who did good things?

A magical person who sometimes shows up now and does magical things, but has little direct connection with our lives today?

If you were to ask the person at the desk next to you at the office, the locker next to you at school, across your neighbor’s fence, what would they say?

Who Is Jesus?

I read about a recent “man on the street” interview with a number of regular people asking them who they thought Jesus is:

Here are some of their answers:

    I don’t really have an opinion of Jesus I believe that religion was created to control the masses.


    He was a dude lived back in the day pretty awesome he had a beard.


    I think that he is a pretty cool guy he had a peaceful philosophy I think he’s misinterpreted by a lot of people.


    I don’t know because I don’t really believe in him so I don’t really think anything of him.


    I mean he could have been a real person I mean I am sure he was I mean I am sure he was just good at what he did or something.


    I kind of feel that Jesus is a modern day scapegoat.


    Jesus is God I think, yeah, I just learned that.


    Jesus was a man from what I figure.


    He was just kind of a guy with a really unique positive message that kind of gave a lot of people a lot of hope.


    He probably existed but I don’t believe he was the Son of God or anything.

Who Is Jesus?

Jesus makes it personal in verse 20.

“‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’”

That’s the real question, isn’t it?  “Who do you say I am?”

“Peter answered, ‘The Christ of God.’”

#1.  THE CHRIST OF GOD.

The Messiah.  The word Christ is the Greek word for Messiah.

The Promised One.  The Anointed One.

The Christ of God!

Peter got an A+ for this answer.  He had finally been able to put a few things together (like 12 basketsful, like wind and waves obeying Him, like the miracles and all of the fulfilments of Old Testament promises), and he says it right.

Jesus Is the Christ of God.  The Christ from God.

V.21 “Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone.”

What?

Why?

Here’s why.  Because they didn’t yet understand what that meant.  What “Christ of God” meant!

They had an idea of a Messiah that isn’t all wrong.  But it was missing the most important thing.

Jesus is the Christ of God SENT TO SUFFER DIE AND RISE AGAIN.

They didn’t yet understand what Jesus is about to explain in verse 22. 

This is the first time in Luke’s gospel when Jesus makes His mission crystal clear.

They don’t get it yet, but He makes it crystal clear with these words (v.22):

“And he said, ‘The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.’”

Now, that doesn’t surprise us because our church loves the gospel of Jesus Christ.  We love that story because we know our salvation comes from it!

But this “did not compute” for the disciples.

They could not wrap their minds around the idea of a suffering messiah.

The Christ of God had to suffer?

I thought that The Christ of God was going to make others suffer!  Like those stinking Romans! Like that foxy Herod?

The Christ of God had to be rejected?
The Christ of God had to be killed?

I don’t get it.  Why would He have to be raised to life?

Why would He have to be killed in the first place?

That’s why they weren’t supposed to tell anyone that Jesus was the Christ of God.

He is the Christ of God, but they (and those they would tell) wouldn’t be able to truly understand what that means.

This is the turning point in the book of Luke.

From now on, there is going to be a steady march towards Jerusalem and fulfillment of this prophecy and living out of this mission.

The Christ of God Sent To Suffer, Die, and Rise Again.

Is that Who You Say Jesus Is?

If so, how do you respond with your life?

Two points of application:

#1.  Trust in the Christ of God For Your Salvation.

This suffering is for a reason.  It’s to save people from God’s wrath against their sin.

This rejection was to serve the purpose of salvation.

His death is substitutionary. He took our place!

And He came back to life to give us life.

Trust in the Christ of God for your salvation.

I say that every week.  You know why?

Because it’s true.  And because we all need it.
               
Jesus wasn’t just a good man with a beard.

He wasn’t just a good teacher.

He is the Savior!  And He wants to save people like you and me!

Trust in the Christ of God for your salvation.

More than that: #2. Unashamedly Follow Him in Daily Death

Listen to verses 23.

“Then he said to them all: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

Jesus isn’t just looking for believers.  He is looking for followers.

And followers who die a little bit every day. 

They deny themselves and their own agenda.

They put down their agendas and take up His.

And sometimes, often, it feels like a little bit of death.

Like a daily crucifixion. But that’s where life is!

Paradoxically, life comes from this kind of death.  V.24

“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.”

If you try to hold onto your life and your plans and your agenda and your schedule and your possessions and your little idols, you will lose them.

But if you put that aside and follow Him, take up a cross, then you will save your life!

Verse 25.  “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?”

No good at all!

This is where life is at.

It doesn’t seem like it.  It will feel at times, regularly, that you are dying.

But that’s how Jesus got His life!

Unashamedly Follow Him in Daily Death.

Unashamedly.  V.26

“If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”

That’s what’s on the line here.

Do you want Jesus to be ashamed of you when He comes in glory?

Don’t be ashamed of Him now.

Trust Him for Salvation.
And follow Him into a daily death.

Death to self. Death to sin. Death to selfishness.

Life in Him.

Jesus is the Christ of God.

I don’t know what that daily death might look like for you.

Maybe it’s repentance from some very tempting sin.
Maybe it’s choosing love over hate in a relationship that doesn’t look like it’s going to change any time soon.
Maybe it’s just getting up and doing it all over again today.  Being faithful in the little  mundane things.

Whatever it is, He’s calling you to it.

The Christ of God is calling you to unashamedly follow Him in a daily death.

He died for you!  Will you die for Him?

In verse 26, Jesus talked about His glorious return when the Kingdom comes in its fullness.  What a day that will be.

In verse 27, Jesus says that some of His disciples would see it with their own eyes.  V.27

“I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.’”

And, I think that the last story in this section (verses 28-36) are the fulfillment of that prediction–at least in preview.  V.28

“About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray.  As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.  Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure [literally “His exodus”], which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem.  Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him.  As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters–one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ (He did not know what he was saying.)  While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud.  A voice came from the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.’  When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves, and told no one at that time what they had seen.”

Who Is Jesus?

#2.  JESUS IS THE SON OF GOD.

Jesus is the Christ of God sent to suffer, die, and rise again.

But more than that: Jesus is the Very Son of God.

God said so Himself.

This is an amazing story!

Jesus goes up on a mountain to pray and He is transfigured.

He is metamorphasized.

He is changed.

And what do they see?  They see His glorious splendor.

His face shines like lightning.

They can’t even handle what they see–they fall asleep.

He is visited by Moses and Elijah?  Why them?

Moses is probably the Law. And Elijah is the Prophets.

THE SON OF GOD IS SENT TO FULFILL THE WHOLE OLD TESTAMENT.

Again, what are they talking about? Jesus, Moses, and Elijah?

The gospel. The coming “departure” in Jerusalem.

His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension.

Peter doesn’t understand and tries to set up some tents.

And then a cloud appears and envelopes them. And they are up on a mountain in a cloud.

Does that sound familiar to you?

Moses back on Mount Sinai?

God is going to speak.  He is going to give the 10 Commandments again?

No, He’s going to say, “This is my Son. Listen to Him.”

Here are two applications.

#1.  Worship the Glorious Son of God.

As I was meditating on this passage this week in preparation for this message, this is what struck me the most:

This glory that came from Jesus, was His glory.

This is was what He really is shining through!

He is glorious!   And worthy of our worship.

Worship in singing!

And Worship in taking up our crosses and following Him.

Worship the Glorious Son of God.

And...just like His father said, "Listen to Him."

Whatever He says is what is true.
Whatever He asks is what we give Him.
Whatever He offers is what we receive.

Listen to Jesus.  He is the Son of God.

_________________________
Messages So Far In this Series:

Certain of Jesus
The Back-Story of Jesus
The Birth of Jesus
Jesus - A Very Special Child
Preparing the Way for Jesus
Jesus Is the Son of God
Jesus in Galilee
Jesus and the Sinners
Jesus Brings Real Joy and Rest
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part One
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Two
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Three
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Four
Amazing Jesus
Disappointed with Jesus
Loving Jesus Much
Jesus' Real Family
Jesus Is Lord

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Improving the Olympics?

Our family is enjoying the Winter Olympic highlights on NBC.com--Heather especially as they occur in her native land.


I laughed out loud at this one:
Add rifles into events other than the biathlon. I’m not sure who decided that skiing and shooting a rifle would be a good idea, but it seems like it might work in other events too. Speed skating seems like a sport ready for rifles. So does figure skating, for that matter.
[HT: JT]

Friday, February 19, 2010

Stay Sharp 2010

Today I am at our district theology conference: Stay Sharp!

We've been enjoying rich teaching on the doctrine of Scripture from Greg Strand, the EFCA director of biblical theology and credentialing.

He's been teaching on Article Two of the EFCA Statement of Faith and about current attacks and challenges on the doctrine of the Bible.

The slide presentations of Greg's talks and a helpful list of links are available on the Waterdam Church website, our gracious hosts.  Thanks, Waterdam!






Sunday, February 14, 2010

[Matt's Messages] "Jesus Is Lord"


“Jesus Is Lord”
Certain of Jesus:  The Gospel of Luke
February 14, 2010
Luke 8:22-56


What have you learned so far about Jesus from the gospel of Luke?

What stands out for you about the Jesus that you find in Luke’s gospel?

Jesus is often surprising.  He is not always what we expect.

What has surprised you so far about Jesus?

This the 18th message in this series.  We’ve learned a lot about Jesus: His birth, His forerunner, His teaching, His message, His miracles, His mission.

One thing that stands out for me is how authoritative Jesus is.

Sometimes we make Jesus out to be kind of a wishy washy soft warm and fuzzy kind of a guy. 

I mean, we talk a lot about Jesus’ love, and especially on a day like Valentine’s Day, we can get a wrong impression about Jesus’ love that it’s all warm and gushy and sweet and comfortable.

But even though we’ve seen how much Jesus loves us–and we’ll see it more today–Jesus is anything but comfortable.

He may comfort us but He is not out to make us comfortable.

He is unsettling, authoritative, and seeks to change us.

“Jesus Is Lord.”

In the last half of chapter 8, there are four miracles in a row that show off Jesus’ kingly authority.

And they highlight His kingly identity.

Jesus is Lord.

What Luke wants us to see and feel this morning, is Jesus’ kingly authority, power, and identity.

Jesus is Lord of all.

Luke chapter 8, verse 22.  A story in a boat.

“One day Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Let's go over to the other side of the lake.’ So they got into a boat and set out.  As they sailed, he fell asleep.” 

Stop there for just a second.

Jesus is human.  He sleeps.  I think that’s a beautiful picture of Jesus’ human frailty. Jesus was a sleep.  V.23

“A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.”

This is the Sea of Galilee which is shaped kind of like a bowl, and the conditions are such that a storm can appear out of nowhere.

And this is a terrific storm.

How many here have been out to sea?  How many have been at sea in a storm?

Is that scarey?  The Bible says that they were taking on water and were in great danger.  This is not a metaphor of the storms of our lives.  This was a real storm with thunder and lightning and gusting wind and waves coming over the boat.

And what did Jesus do?

He kept snoring! V.24

“The disciples went and woke him, saying, ‘Master, Master, we're going to drown!’ He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm.”


And it was immediate.  It’s not like it died down in piece, slowly.

Jesus rebuked the wind and it stopped in its tracks.

“All was calm.”

“‘Where is your faith?’ he asked his disciples. In fear and amazement they asked one another, ‘Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.’”

The disciples are forced to ask the question, “Who is this?”

“Who is this?  He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”

The obvious answer is–Jesus is Lord.

#1.  JESUS IS LORD OF CREATION.

Jesus is doing here what only God can do.

He is Lord of Creation.

Wow!

Creation does Jesus’ bidding.

Creation follows Jesus’ orders.

Creation has to do what Jesus says.

He is its Lord.

Jesus does what only God could do.

God, the Creator and Lord of all things.

What does this mean for you and me?

It means that we should trust and worship Jesus!

Jesus expected trust, didn’t He?  In verse 25, He takes the disciples to task for having no faith: “Where is your faith?”

“Who did you think you had in your boat?

Don’t you think you can trust me?

I know what the waves looked like!  But Who did you have in your boat?

Where is your faith? Trust me.”

And more than that: worship Jesus.

A person who can do that to a storm–the person who reigns over creation deserves our worship.

Of course, it doesn’t just go for rainstorms.

It includes snowstorms, too.

We’ve had a couple of those recently, haven’t we?

Who is Lord of those?

Listen to Job chapter 37, verses 5 & 6.

This is wise Elihu talk about God.

“God's voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding. He says to the snow, 'Fall on the earth...'”

Jesus is Lord of Creation.

Last month we sang it:


    Fairest Lord Jesus, Ruler of all nature,
    O Thou of God and man the Son,
    Thee will I cherish, Thee will I honor,
    Thou, my soul’s glory, joy and crown.

Worship Jesus!

#2.  JESUS IS LORD OF DAMNATION.

When the reach the other side of the sea, they encounter evil.  V.26

“They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee.  When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs.”

This is one scarey man.

He is demon-possessed or demonized.  He uncontrollable and dangerous.  He is naked  and dirty and dangerous.  V.29 tell us that he had broken out of jail many times.  Nothing could hold him.  If you came any where near him–you’d run away.

And he is controlled by a demon and lives in a cemetery.

This man seems damned.

He is one scarey man.

Does he scare Jesus?

No. Jesus scares him.  V.28

“When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, ‘What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don't torture me!’  For Jesus had commanded the evil spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.”

This man is scarey, but he’s scared of Jesus.

The demon inside him is, at least.

“Don’t torture me.”

Why does he say that?

It’s because he knows that Jesus has the right to punish evil.

And the purer the evil, the more terrible the punishment.

“Don’t torture me.”  King James, “Torment me not!”

Jesus doesn’t let him go.  V.30

“Jesus asked him, ‘What is your name?’ ‘Legion,’ he replied, because many demons had gone into him.  And they begged him repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.”

So there is more than one demon inside of this man.

How many soldiers, roughly, in a Roman Legion?

6,000

There is an army of demons inside of this man.

Is Jesus outnumbered?

Does Jesus back away feeling overwhelmed?

No!  They beg Him repeatedly not to order them to go to Hell.

Perhaps they’ve been there before, and they don’t like it!

The Abyss is not a happy place–even for demons.

It is a place of torment and punishment and condemnation.

And Jesus is Lord of it.

If He says that they must go there, they must.

Jesus is Lord of damnation.

V.32 “A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into them, and he gave them permission.  When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.”

Now, I’m not sure all of what is going here.  I have more questions than answers.

Why did they want to go into the pigs?  Why did the pigs run into the lake?

I’m not sure.  But there are a few things I am sure of.

First, these pigs were terrible unclean.  Right?  According to the Jews, pigs were unclean animals. What kind of spirits were these?  Unclean spirits!

And this man had been unclean. Where had he lived?  In the tombs.  Were those clean or unclean?

An unclean man, living in an unclean place, with unclean spirits who go into unclean animals.

This is a terrible picture of uncleanness.

And Jesus, with word, changes the whole thing!

Imagine the sight!  The Gospel of Mark tells us that there were about 2,000 pigs.

2,000 pigs?  Running down the hill?  Drowning themselves in the water?

Pigs do not have a herd instinct.  But here they go running down into the water and drowning themselves–squealing the whole way!

One wag has said that this was the first occasion of devil ham.

What I do know for certain is that it all happened according to the order of Jesus.

Jesus is Lord of damnation.

One word from Him and all of that uncleanness is washed away.  Just like that.

Just like the sea became calm–so did this man.  And the hillside was clean.

Other peopled noticed.  V.34

“When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. [This doesn’t happen every day.]  When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus' feet [a disciple!], dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid.”

What has happened here?

Where are the pigs?

Why is that guy put back together?

Whoa. I’m scared!  V.36

“Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured.  Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left.”

They couldn’t handle it.

They couldn’t handle the economic loss of the pigs.

But more than that, they couldn’t handle the lordly power of Jesus.

It frightened them. And they wanted Him to go.  So He did.

The man wanted to go, too.  V.38

“The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, ‘Return home and tell how much God has done for you.’ So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.”

Application:

Fear Jesus and Testify to His Goodness.

If you don’t know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, then you have every reason to fear Him.

The demons were not wrong to fear Him.  He is Lord of damnation.

The townspeople were not wrong to fear Him, though they did the wrong thing in asking Him to go–they should have asked Him to stay and to save them from their sins.

But if you don’t know Jesus as your Savior and Lord, then you have every reason to fear.

Hell is a real place.
And it is the just punishment for sin. 
And the Lord Jesus is the righteous Judge.

In just four chapters Jesus will say, “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.  But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.”

And that’s not Satan.

That’s the Lord.

Fear Him.

But don’t just fear Him.  Turn from your sins and trust in the Savior.

He didn’t come the first time to send people to Hell.

He came, the first time, to save people from Hell!

Jesus died on the Cross to save people from Hell.

Turn from your sins and trust in the Savior–the Lord Jesus Christ.

He paid the penalty with His own blood for your sins so that you don’t have to for all eternity.

Trust Him.

And if you have trusted Him, then talk about it!

Can you imagine what it would have been like to be around this man who used to have an army of demons that lived inside of him.

Who used to be damned but now was saved?

What do you think he talked about all of the time?  V.39 tell us

“The man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.”

Personal testimony.  There are few things more powerful than personal testimony.

When was the last time you testified about the Lord’s goodness to you?

When was the last time you told someone about all that the Jesus has done for you?

We’ve been saved from something more terrible than demon possession!

We’ve been saved from the wrath of God!

We have everything to talk about!  Let’s testify.

One more.  It’s these two stories in one from verses 40 to 56.

“Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him.  Then a man named Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, came and fell at Jesus' feet, pleading with him to come to his house because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying. As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him.  And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years [again, someone unclean, perpetually unclean!], but no one could heal her.  She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.  ‘Who touched me?’ Jesus asked. When they all denied it, Peter said, ‘Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.’ [Everybody touched you!]  But Jesus said, ‘Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.’  Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed.”

“Then he said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.’  While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. ‘Your daughter is dead,’ he said. ‘Don't bother the teacher any more.’  Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, ‘Don't be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.’  When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child's father and mother.  Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. ‘Stop wailing,’ Jesus said. ‘She is not dead but asleep [this death is but temporary].’  They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead.” [Don’t laugh at Jesus.] 

But he took her by the hand [another touch of an unclean person] and said, ‘My child, get up!’  Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat.  Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.”

Wow!

#3.  JESUS IS LORD OF RESURRECTION.

In this miracle story, He encounters disease and death.

And all He has to do is be touched in faith or touch with His power, and health and life come forth!

“My child, get up!”

I think that verse 55 is awesome.

“Her spirit returned...”

I don’t know exactly where her spirit had been, but Jesus’ command brings it back.

“...and at once she stood up.”  That’s a picture of resurrection.

“Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat.”

Dead people don’t eat.

Jesus is Lord of LIFE!

All this is just a picture of what is to come.

For all who are trusting in Jesus have their final and glorious resurrection to look forward to.

This was a temporary resurrection. This girl, eventually, died again.

But one day, Jesus’ people will all rise from the dead and never go back!

Jesus is Lord of Resurrection!

That should fill us with Faith and Hope.  Trust and Hope in Jesus.

Did you notice all of the trusting/believing/faith words in here?
V.48.  Jesus says to the formerly bleeding woman, “Your faith has healed you.  Go in peace.”

V.50.  Jesus says to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

He wants us to trust Him.

And He can be trusted.

Jesus cares!

Do you feel that in this passage?

He is the Lord of ALL, and He cares.

Lord of Creation.
Lord of Damnation!
Lord of Resurrection.

And He cares.  He cares about His disciples.  He cares about a man seemingly damned in this life by an army of demons.  He cares about a woman with a chronic medical condition, a shaming, unclean chronic medical condition.

He cares about parents who are losing their children to death.

Jesus cares.

And He is Lord!  He can do anything!

So, hope in Him.

He is our only Hope.

_________________________
Messages So Far In this Series:

Certain of Jesus
The Back-Story of Jesus
The Birth of Jesus
Jesus - A Very Special Child
Preparing the Way for Jesus
Jesus Is the Son of God
Jesus in Galilee
Jesus and the Sinners
Jesus Brings Real Joy and Rest
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part One
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Two
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Three
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Four
Amazing Jesus
Disappointed with Jesus
Loving Jesus Much
Jesus' Real Family

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Biblical Counseling Movement

This Summer, I read the dissertation behind this upcoming book. I really enjoyed it. This is an interview with David Powlison about the history of the biblical counseling movement. Highly recommended.

"The Romantic Jumper Cables of the Bible"

Kevin DeYoung on "Song of Solomon for This Sunday" (i.e. Valetine's Day)

Monday, February 08, 2010

Classy Ad for Life

Sunday, February 07, 2010

[Matt's Messages] "Jesus' Real Family"

“Jesus’ Real Family” Certain of Jesus:  The Gospel of Luke
February 7, 2010
Luke 8:1-21
                  

Let’s start today at the end.
We normally start at the beginning, a very good place to start.

But today, let’s start with verses 19-21.

“Now Jesus' mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd.”

Verse 4 says that a very large crowd was gathering around Jesus at this point in His ministry.  He regularly draws a large following.  People were coming to Jesus from town after town.  He’s very popular right now.

Verses 1-3 tell us that Jesus has been traveling from town to town proclaiming the gospel–the good news about the kingdom of God.

He’s been traveling with the Twelve (a dozen handpicked apostles that we were introduced to back in chapter 6) and also with a group of wealthy women who were supporting them.

This is unusual.  Women at that time and place were not usually seen as disciples. But these women clearly are and they are even patrons who support Jesus and His apostolic team.

Again, this shows the unusual and inclusive character of Jesus’ ministry.

Jesus is very popular with big crowds of people.

And on this occasion, the crowd is so crowding that Jesus’ own family (Mary and his half-brothers) can’t reach him!

And someone passes on the word to Jesus that his family is here and needs to get a “backstage pass” to see the Rockstar!  V.20 “Someone told him, ‘Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.’”

And that seems like a pretty normal request, doesn’t it?

I does to me.

But Jesus utilizes this moment as a teaching tool.

And He busts out with this surprising statement:

“He replied, ‘My mother and brothers are those who hear God's word and put it into practice.’”

Jesus’ Real Family.

Now, He’s not disowning Mary.

And He’s not disowning James and his other half-brothers.

He still loves them.

As He dies, Jesus makes sure that Mary is cared for.

He continues a relationship with James and his other half-brothers.  They are, in a true sense, His family.

But in a very real sense, they aren’t the most important family to Jesus.

Jesus’ Real Family (v.21) “...are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.”

Wow.  The Real or the True or the Spiritual Family of Jesus “...are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.”

Are you a part of Jesus’ “mother and brothers?”  Jesus’ Real Family?

Here’s the test.  “My [real family]...are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.”

Now, let’s divide that up and take it in two parts.

#1.  JESUS’ REAL FAMILY HEARS GOD’S WORD.

Now, that sounds easy, but there are a lot of obstacles to truly hearing God’s word.

Whether it’s Jesus preaching it like right here in this chapter or whether we’re hearing a preacher today give it, like I’m doing right now, or however the word of God comes to us–it’s not always easy to hear God’s word.

There are a lot of obstacles to truly hearing God’s word.

That’s the point the parable of the soils.  Verse 4 through 15.

Jesus told this parable to this large crowd.

He started verses 4-8 by giving just the parable, not the interpretation.

Let’s read that again.

“He told this parable: ‘A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up.  Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture.  Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants.  Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.’ When he said this, he called out, ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear.’”

The picture would have been very clear to Jesus’ audience.  They knew all about soil and seeds and plants and birds and rock, and moisture and thorns and fruit.  They lived in an agrarian society.

So the picture of these four soils with four kinds of outcome would have been pretty easy for them to grasp.

One kind of seed.  Four kinds of soils.  Only one kind of soil is productive.

But it’s not just a story about agriculture.  Or Jesus wouldn’t have said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Are you listening?

Jesus’ Real Family HEARS the Word of God.

His disciples are curious.  V.9

“His disciples asked him what this parable meant.  He said, ‘The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, ‘'though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.'”

Oh.  That sounds interesting.

Does Jesus tell parables to reveal truth or to hide it?

What do you think?  To reveal truth or to hide it?

What’s the answer?

Well, it’s both isn’t it?

Of course He tells parables to reveal truth.  Parables use everyday items to tell spiritual stories–to communicate God’s truth.  “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you...”

But, parables also hide the truth from those who don’t have ears to hear it.

That’s why Jesus quotes Isaiah 6 there in verse 10.  Isaiah was to go proclaim the truth, but even as he did, his ministry would be a condemnatory one because those he was sent to don’t want to hear the message.

So parables also hide the truth from those who don’t have ears to ear.  “Though seeing, they may not seee; those hearing; they may not understand.”

Jesus’ Real Family HEARS God’s Word.

They have hearts that want to hear what God has to say.

Even against all of the obstacles.   In verse 11, Jesus begins to explain the parable and talk about these obstacles.

“‘This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God.  Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.” Let’s stop there.

First obstacle: THE DEVIL.  Pictured here like the birds of the air who eat of the seed before it can take root.

Satan does not want you and me to hear the word of God.

He will do whatever he can to keep us from receiving the seed!

What has Satan been up to recently in your life to try to take away the word from your heart so that you don’t really hear the word of God?


I have a friend that had been missing church for awhile and he was telling me about his problems.

And I, in my very caring pastoral way, just broke in on him and said, “You’re just giving in to Satan, aren’t you?”

Now, I don’t say that every day, but it’s true.  If you’re not hearing the word of God, you’re letting that old bird Satan snap up that seed.

Second obstacle.  THE FLESH.  V.13

“Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.”

These are people who have no true root system. Their hearts are not truly changed by the word of God.  They outwardly “believe” in it.  They like the sound of it.  But, when hard times come, they curse God and fall away because they were never truly changed in the first place.

The flesh is all they have, not the Spirit.  Not a new heart.

We all know people like this, and it’s scarey.

Jesus’ Real Family Hears the Word of God.  And even a time of testing won’t keep them from believing it.

Are you going through a time of testing?

Now is the time to prove that you are real.

Don’t fall away.

Third obstacle: THE WORLD.  V.14

“The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.”

This, I think, is the one that scares me the most about American Christianity.

It looks good at first but there are so many (v.14) “worries, riches, and pleasures” in this world, that the Word of God can get so easily choked out.

Worries.
Riches.
Pleasures.

Isn’t it interesting that those are put together?

I might have separate worries from pleasures.

But Jesus recognizes that those two and riches, too, often go together.

That’s American culture right there: worries, riches, and pleasures.

Jesus’s Real Family Hears the Word of God no matter what worries, riches, and pleasures want to intrude?

Are you real?

That’s the fourth kind of soil.  Real soil.  V.15

“But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.”

Did these kind of people get a different kind of seed?

No. There is only one kind of seed.  The Word of God (v.11).

But there are different kinds of soils.  Different kinds of hearts.

“But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.”

Jesus’ Real Family HEARS the Word of God.

And more than that, they obey the Word of God.

Remember what Jesus said in verse 21?

“My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.”

They do it. They live it out.  They obey it.

#2.  JESUS’ REAL FAMILY OBEYS GOD’S WORD.

They don’t just come to church and nod their heads.

They don’t just think about God’s Word on Sunday mornings.  They think about it and heed it on Monday mornings!  And Wednesday mornings!  Hump Day mornings.

That’s what Jesus means by “retain it.”  Keep it.  Stick with it.

Jesus’ Real Family doesn’t give up.  They persevere.

And it makes a difference.  The seed bears fruit.

Does that describe you and me?

It’s what you do with the Word that counts.

Not just whether or not you know it but whether or not it makes the difference in your life.  No matter the obstacles.

Let me ask you this question.

If you were on trial for being a Christ-follower, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

What truth of God’s Word are you putting into practice right now?

Don’t be ashamed to put God’s Word into practice.

I think that’s the point the proverb in verse 16.

“‘No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.  For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.”

I love the way that Jesus teaches, don’t you?

Jesus says, no one turns on their flashlight and then covers it up with a big black bag.

The point of light is to illumine things.

And if you have received the Word of God, let it shine through you!

Bear that fruit.  Practice that truth.  Obey that Word.

Live it out before men!

Don’t be ashamed to live out the truth of the Word of God.

Let people laugh at you.  God knows!

And one day, everyone will know.  Nothing hidden will stay hidden.  It will all be disclosed.  Nothing concealed will stay concealed.  It will be brought out into the open.

So let it out NOW.  Hear the Word of God now in such a way that you put it into practice NOW.  Let it shine!  Let it shine!  Let it shine!

That’s why Jesus says in verse 18, “Therefore consider carefully how you listen. [Don’t listen like those first 3 soils, the devil, the flesh, and the world!  Listen in such a way that you make use of it because...]  Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him.’”

What He’s saying is that Jesus’ Real Family Hear the Word of God and Obey the Word of God.  If they don’t they don’t really have the word of God, and they will suffer for it.

This makes all of the difference in the world.

There are only two kinds of people.

There may be four kinds of soil, but there’s basically only two kinds of people.

Those who are in Jesus’ Real Family and those who aren’t.

Those who aren’t don’t have ears to hear.

We can talk until the cows come home, but they won’t be changed.

But those who are Jesus’ Real Family hear the Word of God and put it into practice.

Which are you?

_________________________
Messages So Far In this Series:

Certain of Jesus
The Back-Story of Jesus
The Birth of Jesus
Jesus - A Very Special Child
Preparing the Way for Jesus
Jesus Is the Son of God
Jesus in Galilee
Jesus and the Sinners
Jesus Brings Real Joy and Rest
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part One
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Two
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Three
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Four
Amazing Jesus
Disappointed with Jesus
Loving Jesus Much

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Doubly Proud Uncle


This is my newest nephew and niece. Natty Nathan and Adorable Emma. They are one week old!

Precious. I can't wait to get my hands on them. Just their pictures make me go all "squeezey."

Friday, February 05, 2010

Why Book Lists?

Trying to catch up on unfinished projects today.

One was a short list of reasons why I keep a list of books that I read and why I broadcast that list here.

I started my first list like this in 1999.  I was rookie pastor, and I wanted to do a kind of audit, to keep track of what my diet was.  It gave me a record to go back to to see how was balanced my book intake.

I remember hearing a message by John Piper around about the same time where he asked how many seminary guys were reading books by Tom Clancy and ignoring books by Jonathan Edwards (or something to that effect).  I was reading books by Tom Clancy.  How many truly edifying books was I reading to balance that out?

So, I started to keep track of that.  And it also helped me to motivate myself to read more.  I enjoyed getting to put another title down on this list.  Still do.  It's very satisfying!

Now, when the kids came, the list went from 100 a year to 35.  And that was hard for me.  Reading is my chief hobby.  But it also felt right.  My priorities were in the right place.

Every year, I go over the list and think through what those books have taught me, what I've enjoyed, and where God has brought me.  Each has a memory to it.  And it's great for going back to reference something.

As for posting the lists, it seemed natural to do that because this blog originates from what's important to me.  And if you want to know ME, you gotta know about BOOKS.  I'm a bibliophile.

It's also a way that can give recommendations to others.  I enjoying pointing people to good books, and this is a starting place for that sort of thing.  My goal is to start writing 2 sentence reviews of the books to go along with each title. We'll see if that remains an unfinished goal or not...

My friends and family read this blog, and it is a goad to them to be reading good books (You know who you are!  You will remain nameless...Dan, Mark,...).

My church also reads this blog (at least some of our folks do, I think), and this gives them a view into (1) what I'm up to and (2) what they might want to think about reading.

And now, my daughter has taken up the practice, too.  I think it will be fun for us to compare notes as the year progresses.  She's reading up a storm right now - 40 books in 36 days!

One concern that I have is that the list can seem impressive and give someone a sense that I think that I'm a real somebody.

But my heroes are guys like DA Carson who reads an average 500 books per yearThat's impressive!

If I have achieved anything, it's because of the grace of God to me.  I'm thankful to get to read those books and have them influence me.  They have truly shaped me--for better or for worse.

Tolle lege!

[Translation: "Take Up and Read!"  Part of the story of Augustine, where he heard a voice say to do that and was converted to Christ by reading the Bible.]

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Grandma's Smile

“Grandma’s Smile” 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10
A Funeral Meditation for Inez Faye Skeldon
February 2, 2010


My Grandma died last week.

Grandma died with her three kids around her and with a smile on her face.

It was the first smile in a long time.  Grandma had been doing poorly for years and on a steady decline.  And so I’ve been telling everyone that her death is a happy ending to what had been a sad story for a quite a while.

Of course, her life wasn’t a sad story. We’ve heard about that already this morning.  Grandma lived a full and good life, full of God’s blessings.

And she smiled a lot.  I remember Grandma’s smile that broke out on her face when we grandkids came over for a visit.  When we enjoyed her cooking–salisbury steaks, Texas Sheetcake, and that mouth-watering coleslaw that no one else could ever make.

Grandma gave us that big smile when she would guess whodunit on the mysterty television show we were watching just by walking into the room and saying which character looked shifty to her.  It couldn’t be that person!  But it always was. And she would just smile that contented little Grandma smile.

Grandma gave us that big smile when we came in from playing in her big backyard and she had a glass of refreshing water kept cool in a jug in the fridge.  That water was just tap water but it always tasted so good kept cool in the fridge.  My Mom doesn’t, but both my brother and I do keep water cool in the fridge just because Grandma did!

Grandma’s Smile.

Her smile last week, however, wasn’t because of her grandkids as much as she loved us.  Or because of her sons and daughter as much as she loved them.  Or because of her husband as much as she loved that old rascal!

No, I believe Grandma smiled last Wednesday because she was going to heaven.

Maybe she could even see heaven opening for her with the eyes of faith.

I don’t know.

But I know that Grandma is smiling now.

Because I know what the Bible says about heaven.

I want to share with you just a few of the things the Bible says about Heaven.

FIRST, HEAVEN IS THE ETERNAL ENJOYMENT OF GOD’S GLORY.

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:16, “Therefore we do not lose heart. [We don’t give up.]  Though outwardly we are wasting away [and that’s what happened to Grandma], yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” [4:16-18].

We fix our eyes not on this world and what we can see now but on that world and what we cannot see right now.  What is unseen.

Why? Because this is all temporary.  But that is eternal.

Heaven is the eternal enjoyment of God’s glory.

Paul says, “Our light and momentary troubles [Grandma’s troubles didn’t seem light and momentary, but in comparison with eternity, they] are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”

Heaven is eternal.  And it is the constant enjoyment of God’s glory.

And it far outweighs all of the trials and tribulations and troubles of this life.

“Far outweighs!”

Because of my job, I go to a lot of funerals.  And people often say something like, “She’s in a better place now.”

But they don’t really believe it.   They just say it.  I have a friend who has lived through some nasty cancer.  And once, when  I saw him and he said that the treatment was going well, and he’s on “the right side of the flowers.”  And I know what’s he’s saying.  But it’s not true.  If he truly belongs to Jesus, right now, he’s on the wrong side of the flowers!

Grandma is on the right side of the flowers.

The side that “far outweighs” it all.

And that’s why she smiled.

SECOND, HEAVEN IS THE ETERNAL ENJOYMENT A NEW BODY.

The apostle Paul goes on to say this in 2 Corinthians 5...

“Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. [He’s talking her about our bodies.] Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling [our new bodies], because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked [a bare soul].  For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.  Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”

Grandma and Grandpa Skeldon loved to go camping.

Some of my favorite memories were camping in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Tennessee with them and Cook Forest State Park in Pennsylvania and in various campgrounds around Ohio.

I love camping.

But one of the best parts of camping is coming home!

Isn’t it?  It’s okay to live in a tent.  But eventually you want to get home to your own bed, right?  A roof over your head.

Paul is calling this body, our earthly bodies, a tent. We’re camping right now. And camping is temporary.

But there is an eternal dwelling–a heavenly dwelling–a new body that is on order, on the way.

And one day, in the New Heavens and New Earth that is coming, those who belong to Jesus will have those new bodies.

Paul said it this way in Philippians 3, “[O]ur citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Vv.20-21).

That would be something to smile about!  Wouldn’t it?!

Heaven is the eternal enjoyment of a new body, guaranteed.

A new body not wracked by memory loss.  Not broken by a fall or a broken shoulder.  Not skin that tears and never heals. Grandma had to go through that here.  But her new body won’t be like that at all.

The Bible says, “The mortal will be swallowed up by LIFE.”

New bodies that never fail and never die.

That’s something to smile about.

But Heaven is even better than that.

THIRDLY, HEAVEN IS THE ETERNAL ENJOYMENT OF THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD.

This is what really makes Heaven, Heaven!

Paul goes on to say in 2 Corinthians 5, verses 6 through 10

“Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.  We live by faith, not by sight.  We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.  So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”

Listen to verse 8 of that again.

“We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body [that’s where Granmda is right now] and at home with the Lord. [That’s where Grandma is right now!]”

This what makes Heaven, Heaven.

Heaven is not primarily about seeing our loved ones who have already died.
Though we will.  And I believe that Grandma is with Grandpa and with others whom she loved in this life.

Heaven is not primarily about escaping the punishment of Hell.
Though we will if we belong to Jesus.

Heaven is not even primarily about enjoying our New Bodies, though we will, and the Bible makes a big deal out of it.

Heaven is primarily about being with the Lord Jesus forever.

“Home with the Lord.”

He is what makes Heaven Heaven.

And that is enough to make Grandma smile–forever.

Are you ready to go to Heaven?

Do you understand that Heaven is not your default destination?

Not everyone is heading to Heaven.

Hell is the destination that we are born barreling towards.

But Jesus has made a way to Heaven.

He is the Way to heaven.

He said that He is the way, the truth, and the life and no one comes to the Father except through Him.

Jesus died on the Cross to make a way for us to get to Heaven.

We have to turn from our sins and from the direction that we are chasing in life.   That’s called “repenting.”

And we have to put our trust in Jesus Christ and Him alone.  Trusting in what Jesus did for us on the cross–paying for our sins and offering us new life.

And then following Him by faith.  Going in His direction.

And when we do that, we are on the road to Heaven.  The way to Heaven.

Jesus is the Way to Heaven.

And He is what makes Heaven, Heaven.

If you would like to know more about Jesus, I’d love to tell you all about Him.

He is what makes Heaven, Heaven.

And my Grandma is experiencing that now.

Because she is home with the Lord.

And that makes me smile.