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Monday, June 28, 2010

Gone West

Our family is on a Great Western Adventure!

Thank you to the church family for giving us a whole month to vacate!

Thank you to those watching our home, land, and chickens!

Thank you, gentle readers (both of you), for being patient for more posts until August!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

[Matt's Messages] "All The Treasures of Wisdom"

“All the Treasures of Wisdom” 
Family Bible Week Finale
June 27, 2010
Colossians 2:1-8

You might be surprised that we’re going to Colossians this morning.  If you haven’t been at Family Bible Week, then you might expect to go to the Gospel of Luke because we’ve been there since last September and have only gotten up into chapter 13 so far.  When I return from vacation, we’ll pick back up in Luke 13.

If you had been at Family Bible Week this week, you might expect us to turn to the Book of Proverbs.

We’ve been studying the wisdom of the Proverbs all week long in the kids classes and in the Adult Class.  And it’s been a great week.

On Monday, the adults learned about the book of Proverbs as a whole.  And the call to embrace Lady Wisdom instead of Lady Folly.

On Tuesday, the adult class learned about how to a typical biblical proverb is constructed and how to unpack it.  It’s a little like a Lifesaver candy.  You stick in your mind and then suck on it all day long, letting its juicy sugary goodness soak into you.

On Wednesday and Thursday, we learned about how to apply the proverbs to our lives–the challenges of doing so and the life-themes that are the most prevalent in the book.

We’ve learned a lot.  But there is one more topic to dwell on when it comes to the wisdom of the proverbs and that is where they find their fullest fulfillment.

And that is in Jesus Christ.

We just sang “W-I-S-D-O-M” saying that there is something greater than the latest toy and the jewels or gold or anything money can buy and it’s WISDOM.

And then we sang, “There is Nothing Better Than Jesus.”

And there is no contradiction between those two songs.

Here’s why.  Because as 1 Corinthians chapter 1, verse 30 says, “Jesus Christ has become for us the Wisdom of God.”

Jesus is the wisdom of God.

And Paul says even more in our text for today, especially in verse 3 where he says, “In whom [that is, Christ] are hidden all of the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

In Christ are hidden “All of the Treasures of Wisdom!”

Let’s start today with a trick question.

Ready for a trick question?

It’s not a hard one, really, I’ve already alerted you to the answer.

But humor me for a second, I’m going on vacation.  And I’ve been trying to humor you all week at Family Bible Week.

Trick question: Who is the wisest king who ever lived?

This week, our adult class was considering the book of Proverbs which begins with these words: “The Proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel.”

Now, we learned that Solomon didn’t write all of the proverbs in the book.  It is a compilation book with several authors.  And Solomon was either the final editor or the first editor so that the rest book carries his authorial weight.

But was Solomon qualified to write on wisdom?

If you can do it quickly, turn over to 1 Kings chapter 4 and look with me at Solomon’s resume.  Starting in verse 21.

“And Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the River to the land of the Philistines, as far as the border of Egypt. These countries brought tribute and were Solomon's subjects all his life.  Solomon's daily provisions were thirty cors of fine flour and sixty cors of meal, ten head of stall-fed cattle, twenty of pasture-fed cattle and a hundred sheep and goats, as well as deer, gazelles, roebucks and choice fowl.  For he ruled over all the kingdoms west of the River, from Tiphsah to Gaza, and had peace on all sides. 

During Solomon's lifetime Judah and Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, lived in safety, each man under his own vine and fig tree.  Solomon had four thousand stalls for chariot horses, and twelve thousand horses.  The district officers, each in his month, supplied provisions for King Solomon and all who came to the king's table. They saw to it that nothing was lacking.  They also brought to the proper place their quotas of barley and straw for the chariot horses and the other horses.

God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore.  Solomon's wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the men of the East, and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt.  He was wiser than any other man, including Ethan the Ezrahite–wiser than Heman, Calcol and Darda, the sons of Mahol. And his fame spread to all the surrounding nations.

He spoke three thousand proverbs and his songs numbered a thousand and five.  He described plant life, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of walls. He also taught about animals and birds, reptiles and fish.  Men of all nations came to listen to Solomon's wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom.”

Wow!

This guy was not just a glorious king, son of a glorious king, he was also a polymath–a genius in multiple categories.

“Men of all nations came to listen to Solomon's wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom.”

Now, remember, this is a trick question.

Who is the wisest king that ever lived?

Just a few weeks ago we were in Luke chapter 11.  And in verse 31, King Jesus says, this,

“The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to [what?] Solomon's wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here.”

And now one greater than Solomon is here!

Paul says it this way, “[In Jesus] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

King Jesus is the wisest king that ever lived.

Greater even than Solomon.

And everything that Solomon wrote finds it ultimate endorsement and ultimate fulfillment in King Jesus.

“[In Jesus] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

There is a three letter word (in English) in that verse that makes a huge claim about Jesus.

What is that three letter word?

A-L-L.

“[In Jesus] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

All of them!

I love that phrase, “treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

For me, it calls to mind great big treasure chests laden with jewels and gold and precious stones.”

Like a pirate chest!

Or a great big bank vault.  You know what I mean, with one of those hugemongous wheels on the front to open it?

And inside are rows and rows and rows of WISDOM–whatever that it is.

And ALL of the treasures of wisdom and knoweldge.

The true treasures (because there are a lot of counterfeits out there), all of the true treasures of wisdom and true spiritual knowledge are hidden in Christ.

I think he says, “hidden” because he’s been talking about mysteries.

A mystery in the Bible is something that was once hidden but is now revealed and maybe should have been obvious all along, but it was hidden in plain sight.

And Paul says in verses 1 and 2 of Colossians 2 that he has been struggling (I think in prayer) for those in Colossae and its neighboring cities, struggling in prayer and teaching so that these believers might (v.2) know the mystery of God, namely, Christ.

And hidden in that mystery that has been revealed are all of other mysteries, all of the treasures of wisdom and knoweldge.

They are found in Jesus Christ and Him alone.

Everything that the Old Testament wisdom literature (including Proverbs) was saying was perfectly endorsed by Jesus and fulfilled in Jesus so that in Jesus we find the wisdom of God.

“[In Jesus] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

We didn’t get a chance, this week, to look at Proverbs chapter 8, where Wisdom (personified as a woman) talks about her role in creation.  Wisdom present in the very act of creation.

And Colossians 1, there is this great hymn of praise of Jesus Christ that has a lot of similarities to Proverbs 8 where it says, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.”

“[In Jesus] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

Everything we saw this week in the book of Proverbs is hidden in Jesus.

The kids, this week, learned this simple definition of wisdom.

Wisdom is loving what God says is right & good and doing it.

“[In Jesus] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

He loved what God says is right and good and He always did it.

He always knew what to do, what was right, and He always did.

He loved the wisdom of God.

He lived the wisdom of God.

He incarnated the wisdom of God.

“[In Jesus] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

Now, how do we apply this glorious truth?

Let me suggest three important ways.

#1.  REJOICE!  You came to the right place.

You came to the right person.

Rejoice!  Notice in verse 2 what Paul thinks that knowing the Christ will do for these Christians.  V.2

“My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ,  in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

“Encouraged in heart and united in love!”

Rejoice!

If you have come to Christ, you have the wisdom of God!

You have come to the right place!

You have come to the one in whom ALL (A-L-L) the treasures are found!

Rejoice!

That’s why Family Bible Week is such a big celebration every year.

Because we’re happy about what we’ve found.

That’s why church is a big celebration every week.

It’s not that we’re always happy and that everything in our life is happy or working right.

But that at the bottom of things, we’ve found the mother-load.  We’ve found the treasure hidden in the field, pearl of greatest price.

We’ve found Jesus and in him are hidden all of the treasures of wisdom and knowledge!

Rejoice!

Yes!  In just a few minutes, we’re going to sing, “He Is Lord” and then have a celebration picnic.

Because we have the wisdom of God.

Rejoice.

Unless, of course, you can’t rejoice because you don’t know the mystery of God, namely Christ.

We hold Jesus out to you as the wisdom of God and invite you to receive Him.

At times, He doesn’t seem wise.

When you see Jesus bleeding and hanging on the Cross, it might seem like foolishness.

“This is how God is going to save people?”

Yes, it is.

Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sins.  And then He came back to life to give us new life both now and forever.

“[In Jesus] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

Receive Him now and rejoice.

#2.  BEWARE.  Don’t listen to the wisdom of the world.

Look at verse 4.

“I tell you this [that in Jesus is hidden all of the treasures of wisdom and knowledge] so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.”

The background for the book of Colossians is that false teachers with some very false teachings were beginning to infiltrate the church at Colossae and were trying to win people away from Jesus.

And Paul wrote the book of Colossians to encourage these people to stick with Christ.

Look down at verse 8.

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.”

The rest of the chapter goes further into this.  I had to cut it off for this morning’s message, but the whole chapter is about this.

The world has a “wisdom” of its own, and we must ignore it and follow God’s wisdom.

Beware!

And it’s not just hollow and deceptive philosophy that you get on a college campus philosophy course.

It’s everywhere.

It’s when the world tells you to “follow you heart” as if you heart wouldn’t lie to you.

It’s when the world tells you that money is everything as if it could buy happiness.

It’s when the world tells you that all religions are basically the same as if Jesus’ resurrection wasn’t unique and grace the key to one faith in the world only.

It’s when the world tells you that the Republicans are your savior. Or the Democrats are your savior.  Or the Tea Party or the Progressives.  As if Jesus wasn’t the only savior who can actually save.

It’s when the world tells you that you can’t figure out the meaning of a text and that it’s all dependent on who ever is in power.  That might makes right.  As if Jesus wasn’t all good and all powerful.  Might and right perfectly together.

It’s when the world tells you that your children or your spouse or your job or your sport should be the center of your world and to live it up because you only live once.  As if we don’t live twice!  Either in Heaven or in Hell.

Fill in the blank.

Folly screams at us in very attractive ways to follow her.

Beware!   “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.”

Because In Christ are hidden all, all, all, all, the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Beware.

We all need re-programed daily.  That’s why we have to go to Word each day.

Our song says, “I need your wisdom, Lord, each day.”

And that’s why we have to gather for church.

I’m not going to be here for the next 4 Sundays.

But you should be, unless you are traveling as well.

I’ll be in church–somewhere.  You should be, too.

Don’t take a vacation from church just because I’m on vacation out West.

We have 4 great guest preachers that are going to speak twice every Sunday for the next 4 weeks.  Once in Sunday School at 9am and then in church at 10am.

Come and hear them and listen for the wisdom of God.

Next Sunday, it’ll be my pastor–Super Jeff Powell.

On the 11th, it will be Steve Gibbonney.   Remember Steve from when he was a youth kid?  I think it will be incredibly encouraging to hear Steve share the Word of God.

Someone who grew up in this church and now is a pastor in Asia.  That’s awesome.


There’s a great line-up of wise men with wisdom from Jesus to share.

Because in Jesus [not in Pastor Matt!] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, and we need to come to Him regularly to get them.

So that we don’t begin to believe the world’s lies.

Again and again and again we come to Jesus.

That’s number three and last.

#3.  PERSEVERE.  Keep going to Jesus for wisdom.

Look at verse 6.

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”

Keep going to Jesus for wisdom.

Paul says, “Continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him.”

Yes. Don’t stop.  Send your roots down into Him like good soil.

“Strengthened in the faith as your were taught.”

Put into practice what you’ve learned.

“Overflowing with thankfulness.”

Thank you, Jesus for your wisdom that has intersected our lives!

We can’t thank you enough.

Don’t stop going to Jesus for wisdom.

Run to Jesus every day.

In Him are hidden all of the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Friday, June 25, 2010

EFCA National Conference

Audio is now up from the EFCA National Leadership Conference in Columbus.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Heather in Print

The newest issue of EFCA Today is available in print and online.

My own Heather has a short piece in it, recommending Dallimore's two volume biography on George Whitefield (pgs. 24-25 of the .pdf).  Yeah, Heather Joy!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

More Ed Welch

Ed Welch often says something very simple but very profound.

In talking about this topic, Spiritual Doubts and What to do About Them, Ed suggest that we (1) Read the Bible and (2) Listen to people's stories.

That sounds simple, but it's not simplistic. Read it.


5 Days Until Blast-Off!

The Mitchell Family Great Western Vacation blasts off on Sunday!

We're going to see a lot of North America!

We're headed to Chicago, then riding the TRAIN to Glacier, meeting Heather's family, riding to the West Coast, visiting with all of Heather's extended family and some old friends, play in the Pacific, ride back through the Canadian Rockies, have fun at Heather's home (Isaac has never been there ex-utero!), and hop the train back.

Whew. Tired and happy just thinking about it.

T-minus 5 days and counting...


Photo by Nate Weatherly and used with his gracious permission.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

[Matt's Messages] "Jesus and Tragedies"

“Jesus and Tragedies” 
Certain of Jesus:  The Gospel of Luke
June 20, 2010
Luke 13:1-9

Last Friday, June 11th, at the Albert Pike Recreation Area in Arkansas, just before dawn, a flash flood occurred.  A wall of water hit the park and the little campground on it without any warning. 

“The park is located along the Caddo and Little Missouri rivers, and the flood struck so quickly that many of the campers had little chance to escape” (CNN).

On Monday, canine rescue teams discovered the 20th body, and officials hope that it is the last.

A tragedy.

Now that our news is instant and global, we are getting used to hearing about tragedies.

How many major earthquakes have there been this year?  The whole world watched as Haiti went down in a catastrophic 7.0 earthquake on January 12th of this year.

The Haitian Government reported that an estimated 230,000 people had died, 300,000 had been injured and 1,000,000 made homeless.

Tragedy.

The nation of Chile had its earthquake just the next month on February 27th. 8.8 on the Richter scale!  Over 500 deaths.  That doesn’t sound like very many compared to 230,000, but it’s about 5 times as many people as there are in this room. And earthquake only lasted 90 seconds!

A tragedy.

And what is the tragedy that we see on the news everyday right now?

The Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  On April 20th, an explosion on a deep-sea rig claimed the lives of 11 British Petroleum workers, burned the rig for 36 hours, and then it sank into the ocean.

The explosion unleashed a torrent of oil that flows to today!

It is the largest offshore spill in U.S. history with tens of millions of gallons spilled to date. It is estimated to be flowing at between 35,000 to 60,000 barrels (1,500,000 to 2,500,000 US gallons) of crude oil per day.

A terrible tragedy.

And no one wants to take responsibility for it.

Tragedy.

What does the Bible say about tragedies like these?

What does Jesus say about tragedies like these?

We need to know because there are tragedies every day and more on the way.

What does the Bible say about tragedies?

Well, the Bible says lots of things about tragedies. 

I’m sure that if we did a little Bible study, and I asked you all to turn in your Bibles to passages on what God says about tragedies, that we would have many passages come to mind with lots of good things to say.

Some passages would emphasize God’s sovereignty over tragedies and remind us that God is still in control even when our world seems out of control.

Some passages would emphasize God’s love and comfort in the midst of tragedies.  That God doesn’t disappear, but that He’s right here with us, as believers, when we go through a tragedy.

Some passages would remind us that tragedy is mysterious. That God allows it and (even in some way ordains it) but that He never does anything evil or wrong.  Rather, it is Satan that does the evil and brings about tragedies.  We’d maybe turn to Job and see the contest there between God and Satan and how God stays sovereign and accomplishes His purposes in the tragedies that befall Job, but that it’s Satan who has been designing the evil.  Tragedies are mysterious.

Some passages would have other messages calling us to trust God in tragedies or to  pray for those who are going through tragedies.

But here in our passage for today, Jesus goes in a different direction.

Jesus confronts some major tragedies, and He says something that we don’t normally think of to say when tragedy hits.

It’s almost shocking where Jesus goes with this!

Because He doesn’t start with where you and I normally start–and that’s compassion.  Which is a wonderful place to start.

But He starts somewhere else here in Luke 13.  He starts with repentance.


Look at verse 1 again.  “Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.”

Jesus receives some very tragic news.  People from his homeland had been killed while worshiping.  Imagine some armed thugs breaking into our church right now, and slicing some of our throats and then pouring our thick, red blood on the communion table.  That’s how horrible this was.  Pilate’s men had killed some Galileans (where was Jesus from?  Nazareth was in Galilee!) and had mingled their blood with the blood of sacrificial lambs on the altar in the temple.

And some people shared this tragic news with Jesus.  And Jesus knows what they are thinking.  You see, the prevailing notion of the day was that if someone suffered like this, then they must have been an extraordinary sinner to deserve it.  Remember the story of Job?  Job’s quote-unquote friend Eliphaz said, “Who, being innocent, has ever perished?  Where were the upright ever destroyed?  As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it” (Job 4:7).  One for one.  Sin for suffering.  That was the prevailing notion.

Strangely enough, something almost opposite is the prevailing notion today–and that is that there is almost no sin worthy of perishing.  That those who lived in Haiti and Chile and worked on the oil rig and camped in Arkansas did in no way deserve their fate.  They were completely innocent and should not have suffered at all.  That is today’s prevailing notion.

And both notions are partly right and mostly wrong.  Jesus saw things far differently than we often do.  And he saw them with absolute accuracy.  He is the one human who absolutely accurately saw reality clearly as it really is.

V.2 is Jesus’ stunning answer to the tragic news.  And it is shocking to today’s ears.  V.2

“Jesus answered, ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than the other Galileans because they suffered this way?  I tell you, no!  But unless you repent, you too will all perish.’”

Their suffering was not in proportion to extraordinary sin.  Their suffering was in proportion to ordinary sin!

The wonder in the world is not that people suffer.  The wonder is that people don’t suffer more often because we are all ordinary sinners–and deserve a fate worse than death.  That’s Jesus’ perspective.

Jesus takes this tragic news as normal.  And He uses it as an opportunity to warn people to repent.  “Unless you repent, you too will perish.”

To perish means to die.  And Jesus means much more than just physically dying, because we all do that (even repentant people)–it means spiritually dying, spending eternity in Hell–conscious eternal torment.

“Unless you repent, you too will perish.”

Jesus is saying, those Galileans met a dreadful end.  But they were no worse than you.  And you, too, will meet a dreadful end unless you repent.

But someone might say, “Well, those Galileans probably did something against Pilate to deserve some action.”  We don’t know what, but that wouldn’t be surprising.  So Jesus, goes out of His way to show that this principle of God’s wrath applies to natural disasters, too.  V.4

Jesus says, “Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them–do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?  I tell you, no!  But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

Now, 18 sounds like a very low number compared with Haiti’s 230,000, but this is clearly a tragedy.  Here we have a building falling on top of people and killing them.

I remember that I couldn’t get this passage out of my head when 9/11 hit.  I preached on this passage the Sunday after 9/11.

Would Jesus have mourned the deaths of these 18 people? I believe, yes, He would.  Jesus hated death. Jesus hated the enemy of death.  Read John chapter 11 some time to see how much Jesus hated death in all its forms.

Would Jesus have comforted and consoled the families of the victims left behind in the wake of the tower of Siloam tragedy?  I believe, yes, He would.  He wept with those who wept and cared for people like a gentle shepherd.

But He also cared about their souls.  And He knew that their deepest need was for repentance.  “Unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

You and I deserve a fate worse than a tower falling upon us.  We deserve the torment of Hell because we are ordinary (not extraordinary!) ordinary sinners.

That’s what Jesus is saying!

On one level, of course, we are shocked by tragedies like what happened in Arkansas and in the Gulf of Mexico.

But on a reality-level, we should be shocked every day that we don’t die in a worse way!  Because we are sinners.  And God is absolutely holy.

“Unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

Jesus is sounding a warning.  A warning to everyone here in this room.  A warning to everyone in our country.  A warning to everyone in all of the world.  A warning that we need to share with our friends, neighbors, co-workers, and family.

“Unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

When Jesus hears or tells of a tragedy, he reminds the crowd that God is holy, and we are sinful.  God is righteous, and we are unclean.  God is just, and we are rebellious.

God would be and is right to cause us to perish.  And every tragedy is a warning bell going off for us to repent while there is still time.

“Unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
“Unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
“Unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

We don’t tend to hear that these days.  We don’t want to hear that these days.

But it’s what Jesus said.

Jesus says, “Do you think that the 11 people who died on the oil rig were worse sinners than the ones who escaped?  Unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

Jesus says, “Do you think that the 20 people who died in the flash flood in Arkansas  were worse sinners than the ones who escaped?  Unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

Jesus says, “Do you think that the 230,000 people who died on Haiti’s earthquake were worse sinners than the ones who escaped?  Unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

Those are hard words.  But I have good news for you this morning:

#1.  THERE IS TIME FOR US TO REPENT TODAY!

Starting in v.6, Jesus tells a story, a parable, that further explains his point of view. It is scary, but it’s also full of hope.

After saying, “‘Unless you repent, you too will all perish.”  “Then he told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any.  So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, `For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any.  Cut it down!  Why should it use up the soil?’` ‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it.  If it bears fruit next year, fine!  If not, then cut it down.’`”

Notice, that this story comes on the heals of the warning to repent.  The fig tree is you and me.  Fig trees in the Bible refer to God’s people. First, Israel, and then all of God’s people, including you and me.

And God’s justice is looking for fruit on us–the fruit of faith, the fruit of repentance.

And He has not found it.  So He plans to cut us down (that is to judge us!  We just talked about the coming judgment that Jesus has announced).  He plans to cut us down.  But there is another part of God’s character–His mercy, His longsuffering, His patience–that stays His hand for another period of time with more gracious care and fertilizing words of promise rained down upon the fruitless fig-tree.

This parable is saying that God is patient–that there is time today for us to repent.

If you are listening to this sermon, if you are alive: breathing, thinking, weighing what I’m saying, then God is being patient with you and giving you a chance right now to repent.  My words are the vinedresser’s care and fertilizer for you. God is calling you now while there is time to repent.
2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise as some understand slowness God is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

For those of us who are unrepentant today, God is saying, “Don’t cut the tree down just yet.  Wait a bit.  I have every right to cut this tree down, but I will give him or her more time for the fruit of repentance.”

The good news this morning is not only that God has sounded a warning that we should repent, but that God is also giving us time to repent.

God is not just holy and righteous.  God is merciful and patient.

And we need to tell this to others, too.

When was the last time that you and I told someone to repent while they still can?

I stood at a graveside on Monday and urged the people at that graveside to repent.

This last week, I spent 3 days with the EFCA National Leadership Conference, and as I always do, I caught again the urgency that the EFCA has to reach people with gospel while there is still time.

The world is dying without Jesus.

And God is patiently extending more time to those who live to repent while they still can.

There is time for us to repent today!

And the second good news is even greater!

#2.  GOD IS GRANTING LIFE TO THOSE WHO REPENT!

Jesus said (in both v.3 and v.5), “Unless you repent, you too will all perish.”  But the opposite is also true, “If you repent, you will have life!”  That’s the opposite of perishing.

John 3:16:  “God so loved the world (that’s despicable people like you and me) that He gave His One and Only Son (Jesus Christ, the One who Himself suffered the wrath of God upon sin,) that whoever [repents] and believes in him shall NOT PERISH but have eternal life.”  Not perish!

John 10:27:  Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. [Un-snatch-able! Safe!] My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all [greater than the US Government, greater than British Petroleum, greater than the nation of Haiti or Chile, greater than the National Park Service, greater than the fear of death, greater than all] no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:27-29).  Safe and secure from all alarms!

The greatest news in all the world is that God has provided a substitute to perish in our place so that if we come to Him repentantly we will not suffer the pains of Hell.  And we will be safe!  At home in God!  “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1).

Not perishing, but having eternal life.

Life, brothers and sisters! Life!  Abundant life!  The thief comes to steal, and kill, and destroy in tragedy, but Jesus has come so that we might have life! And life abundantly!  Life in the fullest sense of term. Life that we can’t begin to imagine the joys of!

“Unless you repent, you too will all perish.”  But if you do repent, you will have life!

I can’t think of a more comforting and consoling phrase to hang onto than “eternal life.”  God is granting life to those who repent.

So repent!  Repent!  Repent!

What does that mean?  Let me put it this simply:

To repent means to turn from sin and trust in Him.

I think we can all remember that.  To repent means to turn from sin and trust in Him.

It’s not just saying, “I’m sorry,” it means making a break from the passing pleasures of sin, of choosing our own way to live our lives, and trusting in Him.  Looking to Him to be our soul’s satisfaction, and asking Him to run our lives.

And God is God.  And He offers the only terms acceptable to Him for a real relationship.  And those terms are–total surrender.  No bargaining. No giving Him only Sundays and Wednesday Nights.  No token prayers.  Total surrender.

Turn from sin and trust in Him.

If you are an unbeliever or living like one this morning, I call you, with Jesus, to repent.  You are a sinner deserving of Hell (just like I am).  But God is holding your catastrophe back and giving you this chance right now to repent. Turn from your sin and put your trust in Him.  Surrender.  Ask Jesus right now to forgive your sin and rule your life.  Give Him the steering wheel of your life.

If you are a professing believer right now, I call you, with Jesus, to repent.  You and I are no better than those who suffered these tragedies.  Martin Luther once said that the Christian life is “a race of repentance.” 

We need to turn from our self-satisfied sins and trust in Him.  We need to make Him our All-in-All, our sufficiency, our greatest treasure, our joy.  We need to be able to say, “Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also, the body they may kill, God’s truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever!”

We need to repent and to bear fruit.

If you wonder if you are truly repentant, you can tell by looking to see if you have any  fruit in your life.

That’s what the man did in verse 6.  He looked for fruit.

And the fruit you should look for is the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.

Do you have those things?  Are you growing in those things?

You don’t earn God’s favor by having those things, but you can tell if you’ve repented and are trust in Jesus if you are growing in those things–even just a little-by faith.

Repent and bear fruit.

And we need to call other people to repent.

To turn from sin and trust in Jesus.

God is giving life to those who repent.

And it’s life to fullest.


How does this story end?

I never noticed this until this week.

The parable doesn’t end.  It’s open-ended.

It stops with the man asking for another year for fig tree and then the axe.

But we never find out if the fig tree produces fruit.

It’s a cliff-hanger ending.

And I think that’s because He wants us to write in the ending.

Choose your own ending.

“Unless you repent, you too will all perish.”  But if you do repent, you will have life!

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?
Following Jesus
Sent By Jesus
Q&A With Jesus
Sitting at Jesus' Feet
Jesus Teaches Us to Pray 
Jesus Is Stronger Than Satan
More Blessed Than Jesus' Mom
Being Real with Jesus
Jesus and Our Stuff
Be Ready for Jesus' Return

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Sweet Sixteen

Yesterday was Heather and my 16th wedding anniversary.

"The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places."


Photo by Nate Weatherly and used with his gracious permission.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

[Matt's Messages] "Be Ready for Jesus' Return"

“Be Ready for Jesus’ Return”
Certain of Jesus: The Gospel of Luke
June 13, 2010
Luke 12:35-59

We’re back to our study of the Gospel of Luke. This is the 30th message in this series on Luke.  The last one was on verses 13-34 where Jesus was teaching on riches, money, and stuff.  He told us not to be greedy and not be worried.  And to store up treasures for ourselves in heaven because there is a new kingdom coming that we should seek and seek first.

Now, in verse 35, Jesus begins to talk more about that kingdom–especially being ready for the return of the king.  For His return.  For Jesus’ return.

He hasn’t left yet, but He’s already getting His followers ready for His departure and His return.

If the next section could be summed up in one sentence, it would be the title of this message, “Be Ready for Jesus’ Return.”

Are you ready?

Are you ready for the return of Jesus Christ?

Jesus came once, and He is coming again. And He wants us all to be ready.

There are a lot of details in the doctrine of last things which theologians call “eschatology.”  A lot of details.

And Christians can get confused and mixed up about those details because there are so many of them to put together and because the future is, by definition, something that hasn’t happened yet.

So Christians often can disagree about some of the details of what is going to happen in the future.

But one thing is crystal clear about the return of Jesus Christ–it is going to happen, and He wants us to be ready for it.

The main purpose of eschatology is application.

And the main point of application in eschatology is to live our lives in readiness for Jesus’ return.

Are you ready?

Let’s begin in verses 35-40 of Luke 12.

“‘Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him.  It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them.  It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the second or third watch of the night.  But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.  You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.’”

Are you ready?

Can you see how much Jesus is concerned that His followers are ready?

The word “ready” appears in the NIV in verse 35, 38, verse and 40.

Verse 40 says, “You also must be ready, because the Son of Man [that’s Jesus] will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

Be Ready for Jesus’ Return.

Now, what does that mean?  To be ready?

What do we do specifically to be ready?

In the history of the church, there have been some pretty wacky ideas of what to do  to be ready.

Some people have set dates that Jesus would return.

Does anyone remember “88 reasons why Jesus will return in 1988?”

There are people now that are making a big deal out of 2012, supposedly that’s another date that has been set for Jesus’ return.

Some people have been so convinced of a specific date that they have put on special robes and stood on housetops–on the roof!–with arms upraised, waiting for Jesus to wisk them away.

Deadly serious. And terribly silly.

But what does it mean for us to be ready?

Let me suggest at least 4 things from this passage Luke 12:35-59.

The first is to “Be Expectant.”

#1.  BE EXPECTANT.

Jesus paints two different pictures to get this idea of readiness across.

The first is a picture of servants ready for the their master to return from a wedding banquet.  Verses 35-38.

“‘Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him.  It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes.” Stop there for a second.

Do you get the picture?  These are expectant servants.

Their master has gone to a Jewish wedding and those are notorious for going long.

It’s hard to know when he’ll be back.

It might be (v.38) the second or third watch of the night.  The dead of night.  The time when no one is awake unless you’re on watch duty.

But these servants are awake and they are all watching.  They dressed. They have the lights on.  They are ready to whip open that door the moment their master arrives.

They are expectant.

Now, what do they expect?

Well, mainly, they expect their master’s return.

But they also expect some delay in his return.

Did you notice that?

It would not be unusual for him to take longer than usual.

I think that’s helpful for us when we think about the Lord Jesus’ return.

We are to expect it, to be ready for it, to live in constant expectancy.

But, we also shouldn’t be surprised if there is a delay.  And there has been a 2,000 year waiting period so far.

That should both encourage us that there might be more waiting and encourage us that we very well might be in the second or third watch of the night!

Expect the Lord’s return.
Expect a delay.
And expect reward.

I love the way that Jesus teaches.  He tells a story about something normal, like staying up until the boss gets home, and then He says something that you would never in a million years expect!  V.37

“It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them.”


Really?!

The master will serve the servants?  He will come in and say, “Thanks for waiting up, now it’s your turn.  Sit down.  I’ll bring you something.”

You and I would never expect that one.

That’s grace.

That’s amazing grace!

That the master would serve the servants.

That’s a reward for staying up, but it’s not a reward earned.  A reward earned might have been to get to go to bed.  But to get to sit down and be served by the master?  That’s grace!

But who gets that?  The expectant.

Expect the Lord’s return.
Expect some delay.
Expect gracious reward.
And expect the unexpected.

In v.39, Jesus changes the story.  Now it someone whose house was broken into. 

V.39  “But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.  You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.’”

Who is like the thief in this story?

Jesus is.

Jesus is the thief.  Not that he breaks into homes and steals things, but that he comes unexpectedly.

Expect the unexpected.

The world will not expect the return of Christ.  It will not be on CNN that Jesus is coming soon.

Your unbelieving neighbors, friends, family, and co-workers will not expect it.

But you and I are to expect the unexpected.

We are to be ready for Jesus’ return.

Again, what does that mean?  Specifically?

What do we do?  Do we stay up at night reading end-times blogs on the internet to try to figure it all out?

Do we quit our jobs and get up on our roofs?

#2.  BE FAITHFUL.

Be expectant.  Be faithful.  Look at verse 41.

“Peter asked, ‘Lord, are you telling this parable to us, or to everyone?’”

And the answer is “everyone, but especially to leaders.”  V.42

“The Lord answered, ‘Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time?  It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns.  I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.”


Do you get the picture?

Jesus says that we are like managers put in charge of a household, a business, given certain management tasks to perform while the master is away until the master returns.

And verse 42 is the kicker.

“It will be good for that servant [manager] whom the master finds doing so when he returns.”

It will be good if the master finds you faithfully doing your job when He gets back.

Be faithful.

We keep in mind the return of Christ, but we don’t stop working, we keep working.

We keep doing the things that Jesus has called us to do.

We work while we wait and watch.

Be faithful.

The return of Jesus Christ should have the opposite effect on us than it did on those who gave up their jobs and got on their roofs.

Instead, it should make us busy.

Busy doing the basic things that Jesus has called us to do.

Make disciples.

Worship, Instruction, Fellowship, Evangelism, and Service.  Like we talked about last week.

Doing our jobs.
Taking care of our families.

Learning to forgive.

Sharing the gospel with people.

Being faithful to our callings.

Faithful to our relationships.

Faithful to our Lord.

Whatever He has asked to do, we should do with all of our might because we know that He is coming back and soon.

And we will be rewarded.  I love the reward in verse 44.  The reward is more responsibility–and that in the Kingdom!

“I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.”

I don’t know what that means in the Kingdom to come, but I want to find out.

So, the call on my life under the return of Christ, is to be faithful.

This is very serious.  You see that by looking at the opposite of faithfulness in verse 45-48.

“But suppose the servant says to himself, 'My master is taking a long time in coming,' and he then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants and to eat and drink and get drunk. [Unfaithfulness.  Sinful unfaithfulness.]  The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.  That servant who knows his master's will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

Wow.  That’s serious.  Cut in pieces.  Assigned to a place with the unbelievers.  Literally, that word in verse 46 is the “unfaithful.”

“Beaten with many blows.”

And there is perfect justice here. The more you know, the more you are responsible for.  There are degrees of punishment to go along with degrees of culpability.

The main principles is in that last sentence in verse 48.

“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

Be faithful.

Are you ready?

If the Lord returned today, would He find you faithful to the tasks that He has given you?

Or are you beating the menservants and maidservants so to speak?

Much has been given to us, much will be demanded.
Much has been entrusted to us, much, much more will be asked.

Are you ready?

If not, what do you need to change?

Because the master will come when we do not expect it.

Be faithful.

This next one might surprise you. 

#3.  BE DIVIDED.  V.49

“I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!  But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed!”

I’m not 100% sure what that fire is.  In part, I think it’s judgment.  Because this is about the return of Christ.  But I also think about what John the Baptist said in chapter 3, verse 16 about Jesus baptizing US with fire.  Maybe it’s a little of both.

But Jesus wants it. It’s the right and good thing.  He longs for it, but there is something standing in the way.  It’s His baptism.  His Crosswork.

“But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed!”

Jesus lived in light of the Cross.  He knew what was coming.  He knew.  And He chose it.  V.51

“Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.  From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three.  They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’”

I always laugh at that last one.  As if we needed anything more to come between mother-in-laws and daughter-in-laws!

Jesus says, “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth.”

What’s the answer to that?

Of course, He did.

What did the angels sing in Luke chapter 2?  “Peace on earth” because this baby was born.

But that peace hasn’t come yet.  And it’s not going to be for everyone.

Right now, Jesus brings division.

Jesus divides people.  You are either with Him or against Him.

There is no middle ground.  There is no fence to be on.

You say, “I’m on the fence.”  That means you’re against Him.

There is no fence!

“I tell you...division.  From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three.”

Jesus is saying that He will divide people even in the most intimate groupings on earth–the family.

And the call here for us is to stay faithful to Jesus even if the people we love don’t follow Him.

That’s what I mean by “be divided.”

In light of Jesus’ return, stay faithful to Jesus even if the people you love don’t follow Him.

I’m told that in India, if you claim to be a Christian, that’s okay, you’re just adding another god to your life.

But if you get baptized as a Christian and publically forsake all of your other gods, then persecution will quickly follow.  And your family will disown you.

I know of Jewish families that when a son came to believe that Jesus was the Messiah, the family held a funeral for him.   Even though he wasn’t dead.

They counted him dead.  Divided off from them because of Jesus.

I know that in this room, some of you have experienced some of the same kind of treatment–just because you belong to Jesus.

That’s the way He said it would be.

Don’t falter.  Don’t give up. Don’t pretend like everything is okay.

Follow Jesus even if it means division.

Because He’s coming back soon.

In verses 54 through 59, Jesus begins to call for a decision.  He thinks that the choice is obvious.  V.54

“He said to the crowd: ‘When you see a cloud rising in the west [off the Mediterranean], immediately you say, 'It's going to rain,' and it does.  And when the south wind blows [a sirocco], you say, 'It's going to be hot,' and it is.  Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don't know how to interpret this present time?  Why don't you judge for yourselves what is right?”

Jesus thinks that it’s obvious.

It’s like looking out your window and seeing the storm on the way, and saying, “It’s going to storm.”  Yes, it is.

It’s like that with Jesus at this “present time.”

It’s obvious Who Jesus is. It’s obvious what His authority is.

It’s obvious that Jesus is in a battle with the religious leaders and that they are wrong and He is right.

It’s obvious that the kingdom is coming and has even come in Jesus.

It’s obvious, but these people were willfully ignorant of it.  They were repressing the truth when they should have been repenting and being reconciled to God.

#4.  BE RECONCILED.  V.58

“As you are going with your adversary [or accuser] to the magistrate, try hard to be reconciled to him on the way, or he may drag you off to the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.’”
           
At first glance, this seems to be about good relationships with other people.

But I think that the adversary or accuser in this teaching is God Himself.  And the debt in verse 59 is our sin debt, a debt that it will take Hell to pay.

Eternity in hell to pay for our sins.

I think this is a vivid pictorial way for Jesus to call his hearers to repentance and reconciliation WITH GOD.

Don’t pretend that Hell is not coming, that the judgment is not coming, that the payment will not come due.

Right now, be reconciled to God.

Eternity is on the way.

The Return of Jesus is coming and coming soon.

Be reconciled to God.

Are you ready?

Are you ready to see Jesus?

If you have not received Jesus and been reconciled to His Father, you are not ready for Jesus’ return.

But you don’t have to be unprepared.

Be reconciled to God.

Jesus Himself, in His baptism that He underwent on the Cross, paid the penalty for your sin.  Every last “penny” like v.59 says is paid for by Jesus’ sacrificial death.

And He invites you to turn from your sins and trust in His payment for you and be saved.

And be reconciled.  A enemy turned into a friend.

Turn and Trust.

Turn from sin and trust in Him.

And be reconciled.

It’s the only way to be ready for Jesus’ return.


Being Real with Jesus
Jesus and Our Stuff


Saturday, June 12, 2010

One Thing (Again, This Time Audio)

Audio is now up for the Allegheny District Conference.

Jason Oesterling's excellent teaching on Seeking God.

And my message on One Thing.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Everything Ed Welch Says Is Quotable

If you don't subscribe to the blog at ccef.org, what are you waiting for?

Today's post is on successful parenting by Ed Welch.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

[Matt's Messages] "Jesus Christ and Him Crucified"

“Jesus Christ and Him Crucified”
Graduation Sunday
June 6, 2010
1 Corinthians 2:1-5


We’re going to take a one-week break from our study of the Gospel of Luke to speak a message directly to our graduates for Graduation Sunday.
Of course, everyone here is invited to listen in (Don’t check out!), but this is my chance to say something directly to you graduates from God’s Holy Word.

 
1 Corinthians is a letter from the Apostle Paul to the church in Corinth, a church he had planted himself and that he loved very dearly.

But it was a church that had a lot of problems, and Paul was trying to address these problems in this letter.

One problem was that they had begun to have an exalted view of worldly wisdom and worldly approaches to leadership and worldly approaches to public speaking.  And they had gotten into boasting about all of the wrong things.

When my wife graduated from high school, the graduation speaker actually got up and said that money was the most important thing in life and that if you were going to truly be happy and successful in life you needed to pursue money with all of your heart!  Boasting about all of the wrong things–worldly things!

So, in chapter 2, verses 1 through 5, Paul gives his testimony of what he focused on when he was with the Corinthians.  How he ministered among them.  What his priorities were.  And I want you to especially hear his resolve in verse 2.

1 Corinthians 2, verses 1 through 5.

“When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.  For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling.  My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power.” (NIV)

Emilee, Haley, Matthew, and Dustin, have you ever wondered what this church was trying to do to you?

At one time or another, you and all of us here have probably had the question, what is this church all about?

Does this church have a goal for me?

You know that a church is not a building.  A local church is a body of believers that have banded together for a godly goal.

And our church is not a passive group of believers whose main goal in life is to have a weekly meeting where we sing and then I yell out you for half an hour.

We have greater goals than that.

You’ve probably seen our purpose statement before.  We like to put it in the bulletin and up on the screen.

Here’s what we’re trying to do.

We’re trying to do it to adults and to kids.

And it’s what we’ve been trying to do to you all of these years that you’ve been a part of our church.

“Lanse Evangelical Free Church exists to glorify God by bringing people (that’s you!) into a love relationship with Jesus Christ through worship, instruction, fellowship, evangelism, and service.”

That’s it in a nutshell.

The ultimate goal is the glory of God.

The means to that goal are WIFES. Worship, Instruction, Fellowship, Evangelism, and Service.  More on that in a minute.

And the main way that we glorify God is by bringing people into a love relationship with Jesus Christ.

Our church is only successful to the degree that we are doing that.  To the degree that we are bringing people into a love relationship with Jesus Christ.

If we aren’t doing that, we aren’t doing our job.

As you graduate and move from High School into life beyond, I want you to know that this is what we consider to be the most important thing that you would know and love Jesus Christ.

As I thought about what I might want to say to this crop of graduates – and to all of us here – about what is most important in life, I kept coming back to our purpose statement: ...bringing people into a love relationship with Jesus Christ.

Emilee, that’s what I want for you.
Haley, that’s what I want for you.
Matthew, that’s what I want for you.
Dustin, that’s what I want for you.

I remember, Dustin, when you went through your stroke and you were in children’s hospital in Danville.

I went and visited you there several times.  You were in something like a coma.

And I’ll be honest, I didn’t think you were going to live. I didn’t think you were going to wake up.

And then you did!  God healed you.  And I remember visiting you at Health South in Altoona as you began to get back on your feet and recover.

What a miracle!

And I met with you that day in your room, and I said that God has a purpose for you and for you life.

He wants you to know and love Jesus Christ in an eternal love relationship.  Being loved by Him and loving Him in return.

Which brings us to 1 Corinthians 2.  Did you notice what Paul was all about when he was at Corinth?

It wasn’t (v.1) “eloquence or superior (worldly) wisdom.”  It wasn’t (v.3) in self confidence.  It wasn’t (vv.4&5) with worldly wise or persuasive words.

What was Paul’s focus?  V.2.

“I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

“Jesus Christ and Him Crucified”

That’s what Paul was all about.

And it’s what this church is all about.

And it’s what we want you to be all about.

“Jesus Christ and Him Crucified.”

Now, that does not mean that Paul never talked about anything other than Jesus Christ.

The rest of the letter tells us that he talked about other things.

He was a tentmaker by trade.

I doubt that whenever someone came and said, “Paul could you fix this tent for me?”

That Paul would say, “Jesus Christ and Him crucified!”

“Nice day we’re having.”

“Jesus Christ and Him crucified!”

No, that’s not what Paul was like.  But there was one thing, one Person, at the center of His life that everything else revolved around.

There was one Sun and all the other planets of Paul’s life including the planets of tent-making and the weather revolved around. 

“Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”

Jesus Christ and gospel of His sacrificial death and life-giving resurrection.

Emilee, you’ve been around Lanse Free Church for a long time.  I’m think that it’s been about 11 or almost 12 years.  That’s like the entire time you’ve been in school.

And over the years, you might have felt like this church was a broken record.

Repeating, repeating, repeating the same thing over and over and over again.

Has it seemed like that?

We do that on purpose.  Because we have resolved to know nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

That’s what all of the songs are about.
That’s what is at the heart of all of the teaching and preaching.

This week, I’m finishing up 12 years of preaching here at Lanse Free Church.  And I want to be able to say that for a dozen years (and for the next dozen years!) that the preaching here was about Jesus Christ and Him Crucified.

And that’s what we want for you.

For all of you.  For everyone here.  That’s what it’s all about.

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified.

Now, I’d like to give you some counsel as to how keep Jesus at the center.

We like to say here that the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.

Right?

And the main thing is Jesus Christ and Him Crucified!

Now that you are moving on from High School, how do you keep the main thing the main thing?

Let me suggest 5 priorities for you to practice.  And they should not be a surprise because they are also part of our purpose statement here. You’ve probably seen them hundreds of times as you’ve participated in Kids for Christ, Uth Group, Sunday morning worship, and Family Bible Week.

Worship, Instruction, Fellowship, Evangelism, and Service.

It looks like WIVES, but any High School Graduate can tell that it’s spelled wrong.

Worship, Instruction, Fellowship, Evangelism, and Service.

#1.  Worship.

To keep the focus on Jesus Christ and Him Crucified, you need to participate in worship.

Now, that is both daily personally and weekly corporately.


Every day, you need to set aside some time to meet with Jesus and worship Him.

Some people call that a quiet time.  I don’t believe in quiet times. I’m a noisy guy, so I have a noisy time with God.

The psalms are full of noise.

The point isn’t being quiet or loud, it’s meeting with Jesus and telling Him that you love Him.  Worship.

Jesus said in John 4 that “a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.  God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

Did you hear that?  God is seeking worshipers.  And He wants that to be you and me.

Daily personally.

But also weekly corporately.  And that means the church.

The church gathers weekly to worship, and if you’re going to keep your focus on Jesus Christ and Him Crucified, then you need to meet with the church to worship.

Now, Haley, I think this might be the hardest for you as you go into the military.  You might have to work harder to find a good church or the best kind of on-base worship service with chaplains that serve the military.

But you will need it.  And not just occasionally. 

All of you, don’t graduate from church!

There is a real pattern among American young people to graduate from worship when they graduate from High School and then sometimes come back when they are done with school or when they get married or when they have kids of their own.

Don’t make that mistake.  Make worship a priority for you now.

And that goes with #2, as well.

#2. Instruction.

That means sitting under the Word of God.

It means being in a class where you’re learning God’s Word.
It means being in a small group that studies God’s Word.
It means listening to sermons and applying them to your life.

Matthew, did you ever notice that everything around here is Bible?

Family Bible Week, Family Bible Night, Bible, Bible, Bible, Bible, Bible.

That’s on purpose.

Because to keep the focus on Jesus Christ and Him Crucified, we need the Word of God.  We need to be instructed.

That’s why we gave each of you a study Bible today.

Not to collect dust or to be used as a heavy door stop.

But to be a place where you go daily for instruction in life.

The Bible is not a book that’s just for pastors or scholars.  It’s for everybody and it’s an amazing privilege to have one.

Do you know that for 1,000 years, ordinary Christians did not have their own copies of the Bible?  Did you know that for 1,000 years the Bible wasn’t even translated into the languages of the common person?

There was one Bible per church and it was chained to the church wall and it was in Latin.

Anybody here study Latin in school?

I can’t read Latin.

But now we all have our own copies of the Bible in our own language.

And we need to read it and be instructed by it.

#3. Fellowship.

This is being in relationships with other believers.

It’s community.

Now, I think that community is one of the greatest values of your generation.

In previous generations, community wasn’t as deeply felt as a need.

In our fractured culture, there is a real need for rebuilding healthy community.

And Christ followers need it, too.

We need each other.  That’s why there is a church.

Churches aren’t just preaching stations where people file into a room and get yelled at.

Churches are gospel communities–at least they are supposed to be.

Where we care for one another.  We encourage one another.  We put up with one another.  We help one another.

And we remind one another of Jesus Christ and Him Crucified.

So, who are your gospel friends?

And what church are you going to get involved in during the next step of your life?

Emilee, there is a great church in the Clarion area called Zion Ministries.  You might  want to check that out.  Or, if you’re going to be home nearly every weekend, then you should get and stay more involved here.

Haley, again, there are Christ-followers in the military. Seek them out.  Be intentional.

Matthew, I’ll bet there are great churches up in Williamsport and if you’re home a lot, we want you and NEED you here.

Because this goes both ways.  You need fellowship and we need your fellowship.

That’s what the church is.  A community of gospel-centered believers.

#4.  Evangelism.

This is sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with others who need to hear it.

It’s giving other people the message of Jesus Christ and Him Crucified.

In the book of Philemon, Paul says “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.”

I don’t think that we all get that yet.

If you want to experience the full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ, you need to share your faith.

You need to be active in evangelism.

Now, that doesn’t mean that we all have to go knocking door to door, though there is real blessing that comes with that kind of thing.

But we all need to look for opportunities to be sharing Jesus and Him crucified with our friends, neighbors, co-workers, and family.

Matthew, I love what you said on your Graduation Info Sheet.  “[Pray that I would] be a good steward of the resources God provides and that I would be an influence for Christ.”

Yes! That’s exactly it.

And we all need to do that, no matter what God has called us to do vocationally.

God has called me to be a pastor.  God has called Jim Miller here to be a missionary.

But He has called you to do lots of different things: business, farming, engineering,  military, etc.

And in all of these callings which are all important in God’s eyes, we need to reach out with the good news of Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

That’s evangelism.

And #5. Service.

This is rolling up our sleeves and filling needs.

Jesus served us by being crucified.  We follow Him and serve others.

In Mark 10, Jesus said “[W]hoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

So, if we want to be centered on Jesus Christ and Him Crucified, then we need to be like Him and serve other people in love.

I saw here that Haley said that she would like to do volunteer work in a women’s shelter.  That’s awesome.

God has given all of us gifts for us to use in ministry, both to the church and to the world around us.

And when we do, it helps us to keep the main thing the main thing.

V.2 again “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”


That last part “and Him crucified” is essential to the first part.

There is no knowing Jesus Christ without knowing Jesus crucified.

And that’s what this table represents.

Jesus Christ died on the cross to turn away the wrath of God.

He died to satisfy the wrath of God that comes to us because of sin.

He took the punishment that we deserved.

The bread stands for His body nailed to a Cross of wood.

The cup stands for His blood poured out of his wounds for you and me.

This is the way that God brings people into a love relationship with Himself.

He does it through Christ crucified.

Our response is to turn away from our sins and trust in Jesus Christ and His payment for our sins and receive Him as our Lord and Savior.

That’s the beginning of a love relationship with Jesus Christ.

That’s the start and center of it all.

If you have not yet trusted Jesus as your Savior, then we, as a church, invite you to do so right now.

Tell Him that you need Him and want Him to save you.

And He will.

This table is for those who have done that already and are walking with Him in worship, instruction, fellowship, evangelism, and service.

If you haven’t yet, then let those plates pass you by, and use this time to talk with God about Jesus Christ and Him Crucified.

If you have, then eat and drink with us, and celebrate Jesus Christ and Him Crucified for you and me.

And make new commitments now, new resolve to know Jesus Christ and Him Crucified.

To keep the main thing the main thing in worship, instruction, fellowship, evangelism, and service...to the glory of God.

Thursday, June 03, 2010