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Thursday, April 30, 2015

#5. How should we approach God?

Christian Prayer Catechism: Question #5

Q. How should we approach God?

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

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

Sunday, April 26, 2015

[Matt's Messages] "How to Think of Yourself"

“How to Think of Yourself”
All Roads Lead to Romans
April 26, 2015 :: Romans 12:3-8 

Last week, we turned the corner from the indicative to the imperative. We turned the corner from Paul’s grand explanation of the gospel of grace into Paul’s deep application of that doctrine to our lives.

Last week, Paul gave us a great big “THEREFORE” that tied eleven chapters of Christian doctrine to these next four chapters of Christian living.

He said, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship”  (12:1).

We said last week that these next four chapters are going to be full of big great asks. Great big requests. Great big demands; but they are grounded in a great big gospel.

In view of the amazing mercies of God, God is now calling us to give our whole selves to Him and to allow Him change our whole lives.

God is asking everything from us and everything will change.

Now in verse 3, Paul starts to get into some specifics. Because of the great big gospel, we are to have our whole lives transformed.

And that includes our thinking. Verse 2 said, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

Our total life change includes a change in our thinking; and that is our thinking about everything, including ourselves.

Today’s message is entitled, “How To Think Of Yourself.”

How should you think of yourself?

How would you answer that question?

Some of you, the more spiritual ones, might say, “You shouldn’t think of yourself at all.” And there’s something to that. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to escape from thoughts of yourself all of the time. Tim Keller calls that “Blessing of Self-Forgetfulness.”

But that’s not quite right or that’s not all there is to it.

I did a Google search on this phrase, “How to Think Of Yourself.”

And the first set of results changed the preposition.

They were all about “How to Think FOR Yourself.” And there’s something to that, as well. We need to be doing our own thinking and not just blindly accepting some human authority and drinking the Kool-Aid.

A number of the other first results were self-improvement projects. “How to think of yourself...as beautiful or how to think of yourself...as smart or how to think of yourself...as successful.”

There may be some good practical advice buried in there somewhere, but I don’t think that Google really had the answer of how we are to think of ourselves.

The gospel of grace has changed who we are, and it defines how we should think of ourselves.

In view of the mercies of God, how should we think of ourselves?

#1. SOBERLY.  V.3

“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.”

Think of yourself soberly.

Now, notice that Paul directs this teaching at every one of us.

“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you:”

This is true for all Christians without exception.

It’s based on Paul’s apostolic authority (by the grace given him as an apostle of Christ Jesus) and applies even to him in his apostolic authority. Even though he’s an apostle, this teaching is for him, as well.

“I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought...”

No exceptions. It applies to every Christian in this room.

“Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought...”

Don’t get uppity. Don’t get full of yourself. Don’t get to thinking that you’re better than others.

Don’t be prideful.

Have we seen this kind of teaching already in the book of Romans. Yes, we have.

Paul has been going after human pride from the first chapter.  And he’s been applying it specifically to the problem that was apparently going on in Rome between the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians.

Probably both of them thought on some level they had some reason to boast over the others. Jews for having the law. Gentiles for coming to Christ in greater numbers. Or a some other thing.

But Paul says to both of them and all of us, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought...”

But he doesn’t say “Don’t think about yourself at all. Just disappear from your own thoughts. He goes on to say (v.2), “but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.”

Sober judgment.

That word translated sober judgment is difficult to translate.

It means “realistically, seriously, sensibly, in one’s right mind.”

I think that the best translation into English is perhaps “levelheadedly.”

Think levelheadedly about yourself.

Not too high and not too low. Don’t get a big head but also don’t decimate yourself either.  Decimating yourself is thinking too much of yourself as well. It’s just demeaning yourself and debasing yourself and degrading yourself.

When the Bible says to think of yourself soberly.

The opposite of soberly would be drunkenly. Sometimes we get drunk on ourselves.

Don’t we?

We get to thinking that we’re God’s gift to the world.
That everything should revolve around us.
We all do it at times. We are all narcissists at heart.
Drunk on ourselves.

But the gospel says that we should sober up about ourselves.

“...but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.”

Now, I went round and round about that last phrase in my study this week. “The measure of faith God has given you.”

That could mean that God has given each of us a different amount of faith, some big and some small. And we shouldn’t get prideful about having a big amount of faith because it’s just a gift from God anyway.

And that’s true. If you have a big amount of faith then don’t get prideful about that.

But I tend to think that this is saying something different. It’s saying that the measure we should use to measure ourselves is the measure of THE faith that God has entrusted to us. The faith as in the faith once and for all given to the saints. The Christian faith. In other words, the gospel.

We should measure ourselves against the faith revealed in the gospel.

To me that fits better with what we’ve been learning in these last 25 sermons on Romans.

The gospel destroys our boasting.

When you truly understand the Christian faith, you can’t live in pride.

How should I think of myself?

I’m a sinner.
I’m an object of God’s just wrath.
And whatever I might have tried to do to make up for my sin, I would always fall short. Even my good works were sinful.

And then the gospel came!
Then I heard the good news of justification by faith.
Nothing that I contribute! By faith.
God did everything to save me.
That’s pride-destroying truth, isn’t it?

Prideful Christians are not acting like Christians at all.

Even after I believed the gospel, I still find myself sinning. Right chapters 6 and 7.

The gospel changes how I think of myself.

But it doesn’t leave me in the dust, does it?

Thinking soberly about myself isn’t thinking malignantly about myself.

The faith given to me also says that God loves me. So I’m beloved.
The faith given to me also says that God has called me. So I’ve got a purpose.
The faith given to me also says that God has plans for me. So I’ve got a future.

I shouldn’t be full of myself but I should be happy about myself and my situation.

Not better than other Christian, not uppity. But blessed.

I think that’s what it means to think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure (or standard) of (the) faith God has given us.

Do you need to hear that today?

Maybe you need to repent of pride and trying to get the world to operate around you.

Are you drunk on yourself?

We can all think of someone else that is drunk on themself, but apply this to yourself first.

Think of yourself soberly in accordance with the standard of the gospel.

Number two.  Think of yourself:

#2. AS BELONGING.

To the body of Christ.

Verse 4 proceeds directly from verse 3. There is a little Greek connector word that doesn’t show up in the NIV that makes it clear that they are linked. For (v.4)

“Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”

Think of yourself as belonging.

Now, I admit that I didn’t get this very quickly this week.

I admit that when I read these verses, I didn’t see how they flowed out of Romans 12:1-2 very well.

And that’s because I tend to think very individualistically.

But Paul doesn’t want us to think that way. He wants us to think corporately.

He wants us to think communally.

All of this transformation of verse 2 is supposed to be done in community.

Transformation is a community project.

We don’t just give our whole selves to Jesus. We also get grafted into the body of Christ.

We aren’t just supposed to not think highly of ourselves, we are to think of ourselves as belonging to others. V.4 again.

“Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”

Now this is one of Paul’s favorite metaphors. He uses it here in Romans 12. He also uses it in 1 Corinthians 12, and he elaborates on it more there.

The picture is pretty obvious but also profound.

How many bodies do you have?

One, right? Anybody here have 2 bodies?

Now, how many body parts do you have? How many members?

A bunch, right?  And are all of your body parts the same?

Anybody here who his all eyes or all ears or all left hands?

I’ve heard about people who say that they’re all left feet, but I think that just means that they can’t dance. They actually do have heads.

Paul says that Christ has a body, too. How many bodies?  Just one.

But many body parts. And they are different from one another yet belong to one another.

Isn’t that a great illustration?

The church is AMAZING.

It is both unified and diverse. Unified and diverse.

God values both unity and diversity, and it’s obvious from the church.

Unity. God desires unity among His people. He hates sinful disunity. The pride of verse 3 has to go. The self-drunkenness of verse 3 gets in the way of the church functioning the way its supposed to. Unity!

But God also values diversity.  We are not all alike.

We are all different from one another.

Look at the people on either side of you right now.

Are they the exact same as you or are they different from you?

Look across the aisle at those folks!

Paul says that we do not “all have the same function.”

We’re diverse.

We’ve got both males and females. Is there a difference between men and women?

You bet there is.

We’ve got both old and young.

We’ve got folks with money and folks without.

We’ve got folks from different ethnicities and different backgrounds.

We’ve got folks from different political persuasions. Democrats and Republicans and Libertarians and Independent types.

We’ve got blue collar and white collar.

We’ve got folks who are married and folks that are single.

And that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

The church is supposed to be diverse.

Yet also unified around Christ.

Paul says that we belong to each other. V.5

“...in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”

I belong to you and you belong to me.

Which of us is more important?  That’s a ridiculous question!

I belong to you and you belong to me if we belong to Christ.

Unity in diversity through community.

The church is US.

Do you think of yourself as the church?

I think that some people think of me as the church. What does the church say or think or do?

We’re all the church. The church is US.

Do ever think about whether this church is friendly or not? Or prayerful or not? Or generous or not?

And do you answer that by saying whether or not you are friendly or you are prayerful or you are generous?

If you’ve been coming to this church on Sundays for any length of time, it’s up to you to make this church what it’s supposed to be: friendly or prayerful or generous or whatever. Because the church is us.

Can I encourage you to consider church membership as step in this direction?

Many of you are already active members, and I appreciate that and am thankful for you. Today is our quarterly church family meeting where the official members of the church gather to make decisions for the future. We are unified yet diverse. In fact, we often have different perspectives and opinions about things, but we work hard, really hard, to maintain our unity. Thank you, members, for belonging.

But to those of you who are not yet members, I’d like you to consider it as a step towards living out Romans 12:4&5.

Yes, you belong to the Body of Christ whether or not you belong to a local church if you belong to Jesus.

But one sweet and important way of expressing that belonging to the body of Christ globally is belonging to the Body of Christ locally.

One of you came to me this week to talk about church membership.

I’d like to see 10 or 12 of you do the same thing in the next year.

Think of yourself as belonging.

To something unified yet diverse.

Because we need you. We need each other.

Christianity is not a solo sport.  It’s a team sport.

“Each member belongs to all the others.”

And Number Three. Think of yourself:

#3. AS GIFTED.

For the body of Christ.

That’s a surprise, isn’t it?  After verse 3 said that we shouldn’t get too full of ourselves verses 6, 7, and 8 are going to tell us that we’re gifted.

We are God’s gift to the body! V.6

“We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”

Think of yourself as gifted.

Remember this is directed at all of us. This isn’t for some special class of Christians.

All Christians are gifted by grace. V.6 again.

“We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.”

The are grace gifts. Nothing to get all proud of! They come by grace just like our salvation did. We didn’t earn them.

But we are supposed to use them.

Do you think of yourself as gifted?

You are.

God has given you special abilities for you to use in serving the body of Christ.

Paul lists seven of them here.

But it’s a different list than the one he gives in 1 Corinthians 12-14 and different from the list he gives in Ephesians 4.

I think that means that these are not a comprehensive list of the gifts available but a representative list.

The point is not pick which one of these is yours but to get to work using yours in ministry.

Isn’t that how it feels? Verse. 6

“If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”

Now, we could get caught up in defining each of those gifts, and that would be a good use our time.

But the main thrust here is that Paul is urging us to use our gifts in ministry.

To work in the area of your giftedness. And to do it with a good attitude.

He’s not saying that we will never do anything in ministry that isn’t our gift, but that we should focus our energies in the area that we are gifted for.

So, you should never elect me to the Facilities Team.

I’m just not gifted that way.

I could do it if there were no other qualified guys. I am on the facilities team at home.

But it’s not my area of giftedness. And Heather would say, “Amen!”

You’ve got me in a leadership role here. That’s more like it.

And you’ve got me teaching. That’s definitely in my gift set.

But nobody has all of the gifts. That’s why we need each other.

The focus here is to use your gifts in ministry, but it’s also to value the gifts of others in ministry.

We have a great church for people using their gifts in ministry.

I could go down verses 7 and 8 and put names to each one of those. Who is good at what, and I’d bet that you could, too.

The question is, “Are you using your gift, your gifts for the good of the body of Christ?”

Do you think of yourself as gifted?

And what are you doing about it?

For some of you, that will be a real transformation.

The world has told you (or some bad Christian teacher has told you) that you aren’t gifted. That you’ve got nothing to offer.

But the gospel says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

The gospel says that you are gifted for ministry and that you belong to the church.

And don’t get a big head about it but get busy using your gifts in ministry to others with a good attitude.

You don’t have to do it like I do. There is diversity in the church. Tons of diversity.

But you should do it like you do it.  Because there is unity in the church.

One purpose, one calling. To bring people into a life-changing disciple relationship with Jesus Christ to the glory of God.

That’s how to think of yourself:

Soberly.
As Belonging to body of Christ.
And as Gifted to help build up the body of Christ until He returns.


***

Messages in this Series:

01. All Roads Lead to Romans
02. I Am Not Ashamed of the Gospel
03. The Bad News
04. Hope for Holy Sexuality
05. The Even Worse News
06. The Worst News
07. Justified
08. Father Abraham
09. The Blessings of Justification
10. How Much More
11. New You
12. Slaves Of...?
13. A Life-Changing Relationship with Jesus Christ
14. No Condemnation
15. If the Spirit Lives in You
16. The Spirit of Sonship
17. We Know
18. For Us
19. Who?
20. God's Word Has Not Failed
21. Israel Stumbled
22. God Raised Him From the Dead
23. God Always Keeps His Promises
24. Therefore

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Thursday, April 23, 2015

#4. How can I approach a holy God?

Christian Prayer Catechism: Question #4

Q. How can I approach a holy God?

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


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

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Videos on Arminianism, Calvinism, Lutheranism and the EFCA

In January, I was able to attend a mini-conference hosted by Trinity called "Soteriological Essentials and the 'Significance of Silence': Arminianism, Calvinism, Lutheranism and the EFCA." That's a fancy way of saying 3 views on salvation that are all within the bounds of our EFCA statement of faith.

These are videos from that mini-conference with professors outlining the 3 views and interacting with each other. It's not a debate but a discussion. I found the whole thing stimulating and helpful especially hearing from representatives of the views different from the one I hold. I've listened to the presentations once already since attending, and it helped me in preparing to preach on Romans 9.



Greg Strand with Introductions



Arminianism with Tom McCall



Calvinism with D.A. Carson



Lutheranism with David Luy



Panel Discussion

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

In the JBC: "Why Is This Sordid Story in the Bible?"

The newest issue of the Journal of Biblical Counseling from CCEF has just been released, and I have an article in it.

My article is entitled Why Is This Sordid Story in the Bible?: Four Reasons to Read about the Rape of Tamar.

You can read a preview here. It's my first JBC article that doesn't relate very closely to the problem of gossip.

In his editorial and introduction to the issue, editor David Powlison writes:
Next comes a sermon from Matt Mitchell. In “Why Is This Sordid Story in the Bible?: Four Reasons to Read about the Rape of Tamar,” Mitchell walks us through the violent and shameful details of 2 Samuel 13, which include evil scheming, rape, murder, a banished son and a passive king. It’s easy to want to avoid this story, but there are good and important reasons why it is in the Bible.
I recommend subscribing to the JBC. It's inexpensive and always worth what you pay. They are also available on Kindle.

Monday, April 20, 2015

"7 Pressing Questions" by Bill Kynes

For the last week, I've been reading a chapter per day of EFCA Pastor Bill Kynes' new book 7 Pressing Questions - Addressing Critical Challenges to Christian Faith.

Here's my review:

Bill Kynes' modest goal for this little book is not to "prove" Christianity with logical certainty. Instead, it is to show (1) that the Christian faith is a rational option to consider and (2) how it maps coherently onto both our experience of the world and the meaning of life.

I appreciated how he takes the 7 pressing questions seriously--there are no artful dodges here--and provides some solid, helpful, raw, real, and Christ-centered answers in everyday language. Kynes defends the faith without being defensive. His approach is similar to Tim Keller's and just as erudite but is more accessible for short attention spans. It would also be helpful for training Christians in how to answer the common objections to Christianity in our day and age.

Give this book to the reasonable skeptic you love and ask them to read it with an open mind.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

[Matt's Messages] "Therefore"

“Therefore”
All Roads Lead to Romans
April 19, 2015 :: Romans 12:1-2 

Today, we are turning a major corner in our sermon series that we’re calling “All Roads Lead to Romans.”

Chapter 12 is the beginning of the last major section of the letter.

And it’s very connected to the first eleven chapters of the book, but it’s very different from them, as well.

It’s what we might call the “So What Section” of the book of Romans. Have you ever noticed that Paul does that with his letters? He’s often got several chapters of good strong more abstract theology and then some chapters at the end that bring home the implications and the applications of that theology.

The big grammatical and theological words for that are indicatives and imperatives. The indicatives are what is. What is true. The indicatives are theology. And the imperatives are what we are to do about it. What the commands are. What the implications and applications are.

Now, we’ve seen a lot of application already in the book. Paul hasn’t been shy about showing how his gospel relates directly to life. But he’s going to ramp it up significantly in chapters 13, 14, and 15. They are the “So What Section” of Romans.

And this relationship between what has come before and what is now coming is signaled by this very important but often overlooked word which we will make the title for today’s message:  “Therefore.”

I’ve always wanted to title a message, “Therefore,” and now I have!

And there are very few other passages in the Bible that would be more appropriate to carry this title.

“Therefore”

Have you ever heard a preacher or a Bible study leader say, “Whenever you see the word ‘therefore’ in your Bible, you better make sure you know what it’s... there for.”, right?

That’s really good advice and it’s very important here.

Paul is going to look back over all of the preceding eleven chapters and draw a big, sweeping, comprehensive, life-altering, life-directing implication and application for us from them.

It’s a very big “therefore.”

Are you ready for it?

Let’s read; just two verses today. Romans 12:1-2. Very familiar and with good reason.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-- this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-- his good, pleasing and perfect will. (NIV 1984)
“Therefore.”

Did you feel the bigness of that inference in verse 1?

That’s a big “therefore.”

“Therefore, I urge you brothers...”

That word translated “urge” is a strong one, as well. Some translations have “beseech” which we don’t use any more. Or “exhort.”

It’s a very strong word for a big “ask.”

God through Paul is going to be asking some big big things from us in the next four chapters. Some of them are going to be very hard to do. They will be simple words but big requests.

Like, “Return good for evil.”

Or “Submit to the governing authorities.”

Or “Don’t be judgmental.”

Those are easy words to say but difficult things for us to do sometimes.

And Paul is smart. He knows that he needs to ground those big commands in even bigger foundations. If you’re going to ask for big sacrifices, then you need to know that it’s all worth it. If you are going to ask for big things, you need to back them up with big reasons, right?

Well, Paul is not afraid to urge his brothers and sisters and us reading this letter to do big big things because he’s got big big things with which to anchor those requests in God’s mercy.

Do you see how he does that? V.1 again.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy...”

Have we learned anything about God’s mercy in the last few months? In the last few weeks?  Oh yes!

Last week, Paul ended Romans 11 by showing how God has shown undeserved but lavish mercy to both Jews and Gentiles.

The whole letter has been about the gospel of God’s grace and mercy.

How we don’t deserve salvation, but God has provided it for us anyway.

How merciful has God been to us Christians?

How merciful has God been to you?

Eleven chapters of God’s mercy.

I told Heather that was tempted to call this sermon, “Therefore,” and then just use the whole time to read chapters 1-11 to you again.

I probably couldn’t do it in the time allotted, but it would be good to read those eleven chapters again and remind ourselves of the mercies of God.

The Bad News.
The Worse News.
The Worst News of All.
The Good News of Justification by Grace Alone by Faith Alone in Christ Alone.
The Blessings of Salvation.
Our freedom from Sin, Death, and the Law.
The gift of the Holy Spirit.
The promises of God.
And the certainty that God’s word has not failed and God always keeps His promises.

Eleven chapters of the mercies of God.

So what?

How do we respond? What do we do with all of that mercy?

What’s the “therefore?”

#1. GIVE YOUR WHOLE SELF TO GOD. V.1 again.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.”

Do you see how Paul draws from the language of the sacrificial worship system of the Old Testament but changes it dramatically?

In the Old Testament there are sacrifices.

Lambs, goats, bulls, etc.

And there is a sacrifice here.

But what’s different about that this sacrifice?

They are both holy and pleasing to God.

What is different?

Well, for one, the sacrifice is you and me.

“Offer your bodies as ... sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.”

But, and thankfully, the second thing that is different is that we are to be living sacrifices not dead ones.

All of the bulls and lambs and goats they put on the altar in the Old Testament never jumped back off of that altar.

But our sacrifice here is to be a living one.

We are to live our lives for God.

Giving our whole selves to Him.

Now, I say our “whole selves” because of that word “body” in verse 1. I don’t think that Paul means that we just give God our bodies and not our minds or hearts or anything else.

We are not offering ourselves as mindless slaves.

But the body here stands for the whole person. When you give up your body in a sacrifice, you are saying, “Here I am. Take all of me.”

Now, we don’t live with a sacrificial system, so aside from the paradoxical language of living sacrifice, we just don’t really have categories for understanding this.

What would be a modern day illustration of living sacrifice?

I don’t know.

This is a comprehensive commitment.

This is saying, “Lord, you make take all of me. I am all yours.”

Marriage is like that.
Joining something like the military is like that.
Jumping into the deep end of the pool is like that.

You don’t just kind of jump into the deep end of the pool. You do or you don’t.

It’s like getting pregnant.

You aren’t kind of pregnant. You either are or aren’t.

This is giving your whole self to God.

Why?

Because of all that He’s given to you.

“In view of God’s mercy.”

Now, it’s important to say that this is not some kind of an attempt to pay back God for His mercy. You can’t do it. You can’t begin do that.

This is not “God-scratched your back, you scratch His.”

He doesn’t need you to scratch His back.

But in light of what He’s done, you should give Him everything about you.

Have you done that?

Are you living that way right now? All in?

There are two more adjectives than just “living” to go with this sacrifice. This kind of giving yourself to God is also “holy” H-O-L-Y and pleasing to Him.

It’s holy in the sense of righteous and right and good.

And (catch this!), it pleases God.

Did you know that you can please God?

Some of you have a parent or two that couldn’t be pleased. Your Dad or your Mom or both were always finding fault with you. You couldn’t do anything right.  Or at least there was something always wrong with everything you did.

You couldn’t please them.

And it’s easy to think that God is the same way.

But if you are in Christ, then you are already pleasing to God because of Jesus’ righteousness.

And by faith you can put a smile on His face each and every day.

Give your whole self to God.

“...this is your spiritual act of worship.”

Now that word translated “spiritual” in the NIV is a very difficult word to translate. It’s the word “logikos” that we get our word “logical” from.

And a lot of the time it means “rational” or “of the mind” or “of the spirit.” The NIV translators probably picked “spiritual” to correspond to the word “bodies” in that verse to show that doing this kind of offering yourself to God is a spiritual act. It’s not just physical. It’s all of you.

But I tend to think that the “logic” of this verse is that it’s more of the “therefore” kind of thing.

“This is the only logical response to the mercies of God.

This is the only rational or reasonable or appropriate reaction to how merciful God has been to us!”

Giving your whole self to God is the only right thing to do when you think about what Jesus gave for you.

Amen?

And it’s worship. It’s every day, all day worship. “24/7" as they say.

Worship is not just singing.
Worship is not just something you do on Sundays.

This is worship that we’re doing here. But it’s not all that worship is.

Worship is everything.

Give your whole self–not just your voice or your song or your check in the offering–your whole self to God.

And what does that look like?

#2. ALLOW GOD TO CHANGE YOUR WHOLE LIFE. V.2

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Paul gives us both sides of the coin.

What NOT to do and what TO do.

Do NOT conform and DO be transformed. Changed.

Just recently, we changed our purpose statement as church to say “Lanse Free Church exists to glorify God by bringing people into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Life-changing.

We are not content to just pretend to have a relationship with God.

We are pursuing full-on a life-changing relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

Giving all of ourselves for Him to change all of our life.

That starts with saying NO to the pattern of the world.

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world...”

Or as J.B. Phillips so memorably paraphrased it, “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold.”

Christians are to go against the flow.

We are to be different than the world.

That’s not always easy. There is an amazing pressure on us to conform.

Do you feel that?

The pressure to conform to the way the world thinks and acts?

How the world talks?
How the world dresses?
How the world does social media?
How the world does entertainment?
How the world thinks about things like race, guns, government, sexuality, work?

And we can get pressed into a worldly mode without realizing it and from different directions.

Some of you when I mention from time to time “CNN news” you think, “O, he should be listening to FOX news.” And some of you say, “O, he should be listening to NPR.” Or whatever.

But we need to realize that all of those news sources have slants to them. And hidden agendas. And hidden assumptions.

And the world stands behind them and tries to squeeze us into its mold.

Not just the news, of course, but people in general. Society, culture, is always exerting an influence, a pressure on us. Sometimes subtle and sometimes not so subtle.

Where do you feel the pressure to conform?

It should be your goal to be different, to push against that conformity.

And Paul says that because of the mercies of God, we can be transformed by the renewing of our minds. By the truth of God.

We can think and act differently from the world.

We can stand out and operate from a very different angle than the world does.

We’re going to see over the next several months that Jesus’ followers think and act and live very differently than the rest of the world.

And if we don’t...then we need to ask ourselves if we are truly Jesus’ followers.

Jesus’ followers are constantly bathing their minds in biblical truth so that they get renewed.

That’s the reversing of the curse on our minds that we learned about back in chapter 1, especially verse 28.

God gave over sinful humanity to a depraved mind so that they did the things they should do.

But now in Christ, God is re-programming our minds, renewing our minds so that we do the things we should do.

That’s what I think the last sentence of verse 2 is getting at. When we are allowing God to change our thinking through biblical truth (v.2).

“Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

If you are allowing God to change your mind through immersing it in biblical truth, then you will more instinctively recognize what is the right thing to do, what God’s will would be in a given situation, what is wise, what is God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will.

It takes two words in English in the NIV “test and approve” to translate one Greek word “dokimozein.”

It doesn’t mean that we test God’s will to see if God’s will is good, pleasing, and perfect.

It means that we test whatever we think might be God’s will and approve a given course of action as God’s will when we recognize it.

It’s a litmus test. Yes, that’s God’s will.

How do I know?  Not just a strange feeling that comes across me.

Not even just a peace about something.

But, my thinking has been transformed by a renewed mind, and I can see what is right and what is not.

I can see what would be good and pleasing and perfect to God.

And I approve of it!

I’m going to do it!

That’s what I’m going to do.

Allow God to change your whole life.

As you give your whole self to God, He will help you to understand what He wants you to do and give you the grace to carry it out.

I have really been enjoying the worship music of Rend Collective the band that led us at the Challenge Conference last year.

They have a song that I think really sums up the message of Romans 12:1-2.

The lyrics say:

Everything's on the altar now
No holding back, no holding out
In view of Your matchless sacrifice
Take every treasure, take this life

All that I am for all that You are, my Lord
All that I have for all that You are, You're the
Pearl beyond price, greater than life
All that I am for all that You are

Selfish ambition and my pride
I'm giving up, I'm letting die
In these empty hands I have it all, have it all
The pure joy of knowing You, my Lord

It's only in surrender that I'm free
It's only in surrender that I'm truly free
It's only in surrender that I'm free

All that I am for all that You are, my Lord
All that I have for all that You are, You're the
Pearl beyond price, greater than life
All that I am for all that You are


Saturday, April 18, 2015

Thursday, April 16, 2015

"A Sacrifice Alive with New Life"


"Having spread before you, dear friends, the mercies of God, I now call you to offer your whole selves to him as a sacrifice alive with new life, set apart by holiness, pleasing to God. Such an act of worship is the only meaningful response to the gospel. Resist being stamped by the views and values of this passing age. Break with the world. Open your hearts to a radically new outlook on life through a reorientation of your thinking and affections. If you will, God will equip you with discernment and quicken you with desire for living out his will--that which is morally good, pleasing to him and completely devoted."

- Ray Ortlund's expanded expositional paraphrase of Romans 12:1-2 in A Passion for God.

#3. What is the most important priority in Christian Prayer?

Christian Prayer Catechism: Question #3

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

10 Years of Blogging

Happy birthday to Hot Orthodoxy! 

On April 14, 2005, we began with this inauspicious little post:
"Here we are. I guess we're blogging!"
And we were apparently off and running.

My second post explained my title (and so did a bunch of others along the way).

At first, Heather and I weren't sure whether or not it was a good thing to be so public. My first series of posts was "To Blog or Not to Blog," but eventually we agreed that it was a healthy and helpful outlet for me. I tried to set a pace of posting at least twice a week, though I wasn't always consistent in that. In 2013, I posted something every single day.

This week, I spent some time look over the over 2,000 posts in that ten year history, and I'm generally happy with what I found, including:

Looking back over the oldest articles, I detect some innocence that I've lost but also some naivete. My posts have moved away from some cuteness and cleverness, but I'm glad to see that I'm still passionate about the truth of the gospel of my Lord Jesus Christ.

Thanks are due to those who read this blog (Google stats show over 200,000 visits) and especially those who pray for me as I write. I'm also thankful for Eriksen Web Design for the snazzy blog template--so much better than the original blase look.

I'm grateful for how God has used this little blog and expectant for the next 10 years!

The original vintage look for "Hot Orthodoxy."

Sunday, April 12, 2015

[Matt's Messages] "God Always Keeps His Promises"

“God Always Keeps His Promises”
All Roads Lead to Romans
April 12, 2015 :: Romans 11:1-36 

Let’s begin with a quiz.

Don’t worry, it should be an easy for you.

I’d like for you to name 5 promises for Christians in the New Testament. And you get extra credit if the promises are actually in Romans 1-8.

Just five promises. Let’s go.

[Audience Participation]

Thank you. Those are great and precious promises for Christians.

Now, second and last question on this quiz:

How do you know that you can count on those promises?
How do you know that you can take those promises to the bank?
How do you know that you can build your life on those promises?
How do you know that God will make good on them?

I mean, have you considered the problem of Israel?

Do you remember how Paul posed that problem in chapter 9?

Paul had spent 8 chapters explaining his glorious gospel of grace and had reached the pinnacle of joy in saying that nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God.

But!
But what about something outside of creation?

What about God Himself?

What if God cannot be trusted?

What if the word of God has failed?

Specifically, to Israel.

God has made a lot of promises to Israel, hasn’t He?  Just read your Old Testament, and you’ll see promise after promise after promise made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the twelve tribes after them.

And Paul says, look around you, do you see those promises coming true?

Do you see where Israel is?

Where are all the Jewish Christians?

There are some here and there, sure, but so many Gentiles are Christians. Where are all the Jews?

Has the word of God failed?

What’s the answer to that one?

No way.

Paul has given basically two answers so far to the problem of Israel.

The first somewhat surprising answer was that it was never God’s plan to save all of Israel in the first place. God never promised that every single Israelite would inherit all of the promises. That wasn’t His plan from very beginning.

So the word of God has not failed.

And Paul’s second answer to the problem of Israel was that Israel had stumbled. Israel as a nation had rejected their Messiah. They had said, “No” to the fulfillment of all of God’s promises when He sent Him.

Jesus held out Himself and all of His righteousness as a gift to Israel, arms wide open, but they wanted to establish their own righteousness and rejected Him.

Israel stumbled. And so the word of God has not failed.

But does that mean then that those promises made to Israel are going to be left unfulfilled?

Or as Paul says in verse 1?

“I ask then: Did God reject his people?”

Is that it?

Is it “Goodbye forever, Israel?”

You missed it. You’re done for. You’re toast.

What is Paul’s answer?

“By no means!”

It’s that old familiar phrase of Paul’s, “may genoita.”

“No way, no how.”

“God Always Keeps His Promises.”

That’s our title for today.

And it’s the assurance that we need today.

All of those promises that you named and every other one that can find in the New Testament can be trusted because God always keeps His promises.

Do you remember how many times we said that back in Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, and Joshua?

That’s like the theme running through those first 6 books of the Bible.

God makes promises. And God keeps them.

And He hasn’t changed.

The word of God has not failed because God always keeps His promises.

Paul begins in verse 1 asking the question that is natural from chapter 10. Chapter 10 ended with Israel stumbling over the stone of Christ and rejecting God’s offer of Jesus.

Does God then reject them? V.1

“I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew.” Stop there for a second.

#1. GOD IS KEEPING HIS PROMISES.

Right now.

Paul is saying that God has not totally rejected Israel. He himself is an Israelite!

Paul is a Jew.

Paul himself is living proof that God has not totally given up on ethnic Israel.

He foreknew them. That is He established a relationship with them many many years ago and will not be giving them up!

God is still keeping His promises right now.

And He’s doing it through a remnant.

Do you know what a remnant is?

I was taught what a remnant is by Jewish Christian named Louis Goldberg.

This is a picture of him.

Dr. Goldberg was a professor at Moody Bible Institute.

He was a Hebrew translator on the original NIV Bible and the New King James Bible.

And at the time of his death he was the scholar in residence for Jews for Jesus.

Dr. Goldberg was an amazing man. He was Jewish, grew up Jewish and was an engineer. And at age 25, he came to believe that Jesus was the Messiah and put his faith and trust in Him.

In every class I had with Dr. Goldberg, he taught us that God always has preserved a remnant for Himself.

Many many may fall away, but God always preserves a section of faithful people for Himself. It might be a very small group, but they are always there.

A remnant. Paul mentioned the remnant in chapter 9, verse 27. But now, he develops that idea more fully. V.2

“Don't you know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah–how he appealed to God against Israel: ‘Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me’?”

Do you know that story from 1 Kings 19? We haven’t gotten far yet in our study of the Old Testament in preaching series. But you may know it already. Elijah was really discouraged because he felt alone.

Do you ever feel alone?

Like you’re the only Christian? The last one?

That’s how Elijah felt. V.4

“And what was God's answer to him? ‘I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.’ So too, at the present time there is a remnant [there’s our word] chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.”

A remnant.

Just like Dr. Goldberg said there would be.

And it’s a remnant chosen by grace. That is God’s free gift not because of anything good that those who are chosen have. They are not chosen because they are awesome.

Quite the opposite.

They are chose by grace. V.7

“What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. [The remnant did.] The others [the majority] were hardened, as it is written: ‘God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear, to this very day.’ [Hardened.] And David says: ‘May their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them. May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see, and their backs be bent forever.’”

That’s the fate of the majority. But God has preserved for Himself a remnant.

He always has and He still is.

God is still keeping His promises to the remnant.

And Dr. Goldberg was a part of the remnant.

The other day, I asked you if any of you know someone who is a Messianic Jew, an ethnically Jewish Christian.

Thankfully, many of you did.

How many for you was it Sam Rotman?

Sam pastored one of our district churches for many years. I heard him speak once at a men’s retreat at Miracle Mountain Ranch.

He is a Jewish pianist who came to believe that Jesus is the Messiah.

Sam is a part of the remnant.

At Moody there was a whole major in Jewish studies and evangelism for those who wanted to be missionaries to the Jews. So, I had other friends there who were part of the remnant.

God is still keeping His promises.

Isn’t that good to know?

#2. GOD WILL KEEP HIS PROMISES.

He has a plan.

He has a plan for even more. Not just the remnant. Verse 11.

“Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? [May genoita!] Not at all!”

Paul is swinging back around now and telling us something new.

He starts with the question about Israel’s stumble.

Was Israel’s stumble a total fall? Was it permanent?

Was it beyond recovery?

It sure looked like it.

It looked like Israel had muffed it bad and there was no coming back from that one.

I mean, they rejected their own heaven-sent Messiah!

But Paul says, “No way. There is a future for ethnic Israel.”

There is a future for ethnic Israel.

God has a plan.

God has made some big time promises, and He’s going to keep them big time. V.11

“Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring!”

Their fullness!

Israel has a fullness coming.

That sounds good!

It’s a little hard to follow Paul’s logic here, but he goes over the same ground several times in a row to see that we get it.

It’s that old argument from the lesser to the greater. V.12 again.

“If their transgression [their stumble] means riches for the world [because Jesus gets offered to the world], and their loss means riches for the Gentiles [through the cross], how much greater riches will their fullness bring!”

How does that work?

Apparently, the plan is to make Israel jealous of the salvation blessings that we Gentiles received. V.11 says, “Because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.”
To make them want something that we have. Paul explains it further in verse 13.

“I am talking to you Gentiles [in Central Pennsylvania]. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry [I work really hard] in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them.”

I think it’s kind of like when one kids says they don’t want that food you offered them, but then you offer it to another one of your kids, and they say, “Oh this is so good!” then the first kid says, “Rats, I wished I’d taken it when you offered it to me.”

Paul actually saw his ministry of giving the gospel to Gentiles as a way of reaching out to hardened Jews.

“...in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them.”

And it’s going to work. In fact, someday it’s going to work amazingly. V.15

“For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world [at the Cross], what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?”

Resurrection!

The resurrection of Israel! The fulfillment of all of God’s promises to Israel.

The valley of dry bones, right? You know that vision from Ezekiel?

All of those bones coming together and forming skeletons and then flesh coming on them and the breath of God?!

Life from the dead!

This is the glorious future that we expect.

God has a plan. God will keep His promises. Life from the dead!!!

Now, the next section gets a little tricky to follow, but the big idea is the same.

He gives two illustrations, one quickly and the other one he develops. V.16

“If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches.”

The dough is from the grain offering the Israelites were to do when they entered land. It’s explained in Numbers chapter 15. The point is that the whole bit if holy not just the first bit that gets offered.

And it goes along with the idea that if the root of a tree (here it’s going to be an olive tree) is holy then the branches will be, too.

And the dough-ball and the tree-root both stand for the promises of God that came to the patriarchs so that the bread and the tree are pictures of the true people of God.

Paul really runs with the illustration of the olive tree. V.17

“If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast over those branches.”

Do you get the picture?

Olive trees were and are a common thing in Israel and are often used as an analogy for Israel in the Old Testament.

Here the true people of God are an olive tree, holy at the root where the promises are.

And God will keep His promises.

But God has broken off some of the branches [Jewish unbelievers] and then grafted in some wild branches [Gentile Christians like you and me] so that we now share in the nourishing sap of the promises of God.

I don’t think we can really fathom what that means.

How gracious God has been to us that we get to be nourished by the promises that were given to Israel.

So why did that happen? Was it because we are so superior to Israel?

Are you better than the Jews?

Is that why we get the preferential treatment?

Be careful.

This is where anti-Semitism can raise it’s ugly ugly head.

This is where things like the Holocaust come from.

V.18 again.

“[D]o not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you.”

Your entire spiritual heritage depends upon the Jews. Including the Jew Paul and including the Jew Jesus.

There is no room for pride or anti-Semitism.

There is no room for making fun of the Jews and talking about “Jewing somebody” as in bargaining with them.

There is no room for thinking of ourselves as in any way superior to the Jews.

V.19 “You will say then, ‘Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.’ [That’s replacement theology.] Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either. Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off.”

Do not boast.

Do not become proud.

Do not think that you are something better than the Jews.

If you get to thinking that way, then be afraid because pride does not mix with faith.

And faith is how we stand. It is by faith that we are saved.

And if we give up our faith, then God will not spare us either.

We need to continue in faith in God’s kindness expressed in Christ. Not believe that we are “all that.”

God is both kind and stern. Both good and severe.

And we do well to remember that.

But here’s the main point. God has the ability and a plan for grafting Israelites back into the true people of God. V.23

“And if they [the Jews] do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. [It’s not permanent!] After all, if you [Gentiles] were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural [Jewish] branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!”

God has a plan. V.25

“I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited [so you won’t boast, so you won’t get the wrong idea about yourself]: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.

And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: ‘The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.’”

“All Israel will be saved.”

God has a plan to keep His promises to Israel.

Right now, His plan is for the majority to be hardened against Him.

But there is coming a day when the full number of Gentiles will have come in and then there will be a massive ingathering of Jewish believers!

“All Israel will be saved!”

Now, that doesn’t mean every Israelite that ever lived. And it may not even mean every single Israelite living at this future moment in time.

But it will feel like it.

It will amount to the same thing so that anyone seeing it will say, “All Israel has come to Christ!”

What a day that will be!

The hardening is temporary. We Gentiles will give up our center stage and the Jews will step up into the center stage again.

Now, when exactly that’s going to happen is something that many Christians disagree about. Paul hasn’t given us much here to go on for when all Israel will be saved.

So it depends upon how you put together your eschatology.

Some think this will happen during the tribulation.
Some think it will happen at the end of the tribulation just before the millennium begins.
Others have other places on the timeline where they place.

The point I want to make today is that it’s going to happen.

God WILL keep His promises to Israel.

And not just to a tiny trickle of a remnant, but too so many that it will be true to say, “All Israel will be saved.” V.28

“As far as the gospel is concerned, they [the Jews] are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned [God’s choosing of Israel as a nation], they are loved on account of the patriarchs [God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will stand], for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable.”

God Always Keeps His Promises.

No exceptions.

Isn’t that good to know?

Everything that God has promised. Those five we came up with at the beginning of the sermon. They are trustworthy and true.

Because God is trustworthy and true.

“God's gifts and his call are irrevocable.”

The word of God has not failed and it never will.

V.30

“Just as you who [Gentiles] were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their [the Jews] disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God's mercy to you. For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.”

Jew and Gentile.

Do you see how Paul is bringing those two together?

We said when started Romans that there was some obvious tension between the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians at Rome.

Well, Paul has shown all along why they should get along. They’re both under the same penalty. They both need the same gospel of grace.

And now we find out that they are intertwined with each other in bringing each other  salvation through their disobediences. They need one another.

It’s all been a part of God’s plan.

God has been planning all along to bring both Jews and Gentiles (and lots of them!) into His mercy.

God has been planning all along to save both Jews and Gentiles (and lots of them!).

God has been planning all along to keep His promises and include both Jews and Gentiles (and lots of them!) in their fulfilment.

Isn’t that wonderful?

That’s Paul’s last point.

#3. GOD KEEPS HIS PROMISES IN HIS OWN WONDERFUL WAY. V.33

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! [As Isaiah 40 say] ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?’ ‘Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?’ [Nobody, nobody, nobody! He stands alone!]  For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.”

God always keeps His promises, but how He does it is mysterious and surprising and unsearchable.

We often have no idea what He’s up to.

And that’s exactly how He wants it.

He wants us to trust Him.

Not to figure Him out.

Not to decide on our own how He must do what He said He would do.

No, God is God and we are not.

We don’t understand, but that’s okay. He does.

He doesn’t need our help.

He just asks for our faith.

Trusting that God IS Keeping His Promises.

Even when it doesn’t seem like it.

Especially when it doesn’t seem like it.

And trusting that God WILL keep His promises. That God has a plan. And it might not make any sense to me how it works out. In fact, it might feel senseless.

The history of the Jews is one of great pain and often senseless violence.

Heather and I went to see the Woman in Gold on Friday night.

And were reminded of the horrors of the Holocaust.

But as terrible as it has been, God still has a plan to bring all Israel to salvation through the deliverer that comes from Zion, the Lord Jesus Christ.

God will keep His promises, every single one of them.

But He will do it in His own wonderful, unsearchable way.

Our job is simply to humble ourselves and trust in Him.

***

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Thursday, April 09, 2015

#2. Why should a Christian Pray?

Christian Prayer Catechism: Question #2

Q. Why should a Christian Pray?

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

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

Sunday, April 05, 2015

[Matt's Messages] "God Raised Him From the Dead"

“God Raised Him from the Dead”
All Roads Lead to Romans
Resurrection Sunday
April 5, 2015 :: Romans 10:9-10

For those of you who are guests today, our church has been studying the book of Romans together since September, and just last week, we made it to chapter 10. We’re also been memorizing selected verses from Romans as we go, and today we began committing Romans 10:9 to memory. So, this one is an important one that should stick with us.

We actually looked at it briefly last week, but we just flew by it in the interest of time. And I knew that I was going to come back and camp on it with you today.

Have you found it? Romans 10:9&10?

In this section of Romans, the apostle Paul has been talking about how the nation of Israel stumbled over Christ, they rejected Jesus and didn’t believe in Him. Instead, they tried to establish their own righteousness through the law as if salvation were by works. But Paul has said instead that salvation is by faith in Christ alone.

And he says that this is the message of faith that we proclaim. Ready? Romans 10:9&10.

“That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”

There is a lot in those two verses, isn’t there?

Do you see how Paul says one thing in verse 9 and then explains it while switching the order in verse 10?

He says Confess and Believe in verse 9. And then he explains that by saying Believe and Confess in verse 10.

Scholars call that kind of inversion in wording a “chiasm” which is a literary device to show how important the relationship is between certain concepts and ideas.

In other words, Paul very badly wants us to understand these concepts and how they relate to each other.

There are three big words in these two verses that I want us to think about this morning.

#1. Believe.
#2. Confess.
#3. Saved.

Let’s think about them one at a time.

#1. BELIEVE.

Now, Paul doesn’t start with “believe.” He starts with “confess.” But when he explains verse 9 in verse 10, he starts with believe.

And that’s because everything starts in the heart.

V.10 says, “It is with your heart that you believe and are justified.”

That word “justified” has been very important to us in our study of Romans. It’s that Greek word “dikaiosunai” or “righteousness.”

It is with your heart that you believe into righteousness. Or into justification.

In other words, justification is by faith. It is with your heart that you trust Jesus and get righteousness as a gift.

Righteousness has been the problem all along in the book of Romans. We don’t have righteousness. We have unrighteousness.

And the wrath of God is coming on the unrighteous.

And people have tried to solve the problem through self-righteousness. Being good. Obeying the law. Keeping your nose clean.

But that does not work because we cannot regain the righteousness we need on our own.

We need a righteousness to be given to us.

A righteousness reckoned to our account.

And the good news is that God has supplied that righteousness through the death of Jesus Christ in our place.

That’s what Good Friday was all about.  How many were here on Good Friday to see our Last Supper Drama?

Wasn’t that good?

I loved how it all pointed to Jesus and focused on Him and who He was and what He did.

Romans 3 said it this way:

“But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood” (Romans 3:21-25).

Believe.

It’s more than just believe that He died, isn’t it?

What did verse 9 say that we must believe?

“Believe in your heart that God raised [Jesus] from the dead.”

That’s Resurrection Sunday.

That’s the empty tomb.

That’s what we celebrate today.

Jesus did not stay dead.

God raised Him from the dead.

And to be saved, we must believe it.

Believe.

Do you believe that?

Do you believe that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead?

It makes all of the difference in the world.

If you do not believe it, you are not saved.

Believing in the resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the nonnegotiables of Christianity.

To be saved, you must believe it in your heart.

It’s that important.

The Bible says that if Jesus has not been raised from the dead, then we are all wasting our time here.

And I believe that. If Jesus did not come back from the dead, then I am wasting my life and my life’s work is ridiculous, foolish, and to be pitied.

If Jesus is still dead, then I have wasted my life and career.

And everyone here in this room is being foolish.

But if Jesus has come back from the dead, then there is righteousness for all who believe.

Do you believe?

I encourage you to get that question settled.

For those of you with questions, we are giving away a book called The Case of Christ in the foyer. If we run out, we can buy some more. Just put your name down on a list and we’ll get you one.

This book goes into the evidence about Jesus and especially about the historical reality of His resurrection.

In fact, we’re going to have a special 6 week Sunday School class for adults starting in a few weeks on the evidence in that book.

If you have questions, get them answered, because it’s a matter of life and death and life again.

All five of the young people getting baptized today have said that they believe. They believe that God raised Jesus from the dead.

He is not still in the tomb.
His body did not decay.
He is not dust.

Yes, He died, but He did not stay dead. God raised Him from the dead.

Believe.

And if you believe with your heart, then...

#2. CONFESS. V.10 again.

“For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”

Now, this word “confess” means to agree. It means to say the same thing as someone or something else.

We tend to use it negatively like confessing to a crime. And that’s true, if you confess to a crime, you agree that you are in the wrong. Your mouth matches the reality if you have committed a crime and you confess to it.

But this isn’t a crime that we’re confessing here in these two verses. What is our confession to be saved? V.9

“That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ ... you will be saved.”

Our confession is that Jesus is Lord. Our Lord and the Lord of all.

Do you see how that comes from our hearts?

The Lord Jesus said that it’s from the overflow of the heart that the mouth speaks.

This confession is not a work that we perform to earn our salvation.

It is the natural outpouring of words that overflow from a heart that believes that God raised Jesus from the dead.

It is agreeing and saying with the rest of the church throughout the ages that Jesus is Lord.

What does that mean?

Well, notice that it’s a specific person. Jesus of Nazareth. The Jesus presented in the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

It’s the Jesus who entered into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday riding a donkey.

It’s the Jesus who served the Last Supper to His disciples and talked about the bread and the cup being His body and His blood.

It’s the Jesus who was tried, crucified, killed, and buried.

And it’s the same Jesus whom God raised from the dead.

That Jesus is LORD.

That’s a big strong word!

We don’t use it much expect for God these days but it means Ruler, Sovereign, King, Master, Boss.

For those of you who came to the our drama on Friday night, how about that centurion?

Remember when he yelled, “There is no King but Tiberius!”

We believe and we confess that Jesus is King. In fact, He is king of kings and Lord of Lords.

What He says goes.
What He commands is our command.

He is our Lord. And He is the Lord of all.

That’s what these 5 young people are confessing when stand up here today and when they get dunked up there in the water.

They are saying, “Jesus is Lord.”

He is their Lord and Lord of all.

Have you said that? Have you said that to the world?

These days, it’s not that popular to say that you have a Lord.

And most of us don’t want to have a Lord. We want to be saved, sure, if we need saving, but we want to live our lives the way we want to live our lives.

We want to do what we want to do.

We don’t want a boss.

We don’t want a Lord.

Especially if He cramps our style.

I believe that a lot of people have claimed to be Christians but aren’t willing to bow their wills the Master’s.

Jesus said, “Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?”

Jesus said to people like that, “I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'”

Those are sobering words.

Let’s make sure that our lives match our mouths.

And let us confess that Jesus is Lord.

Because it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

#3. SAVED.

Saved from what?

Saved from sin. Saved from Satan.

But most importantly saved from God’s wrath.

Because the wrath of God is being revealed against all unrighteousness.

We need righteousness.

And Jesus has given us His.

That’s what was going on at the Cross.

And that’s what was going on at the Resurrection.

Romans 4:25 says that Jesus was raised for our justification. Our “righteousification.”

For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. Look at verse 11.

“As the Scripture says, ‘Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.’”

That means eternally.

It doesn’t mean that world won’t try to shame you.

Tyler, Thomas, Megan, Joshua, Nathan, the world will try to shame you for believing and confessing.

But God will not. And the world’s shame will not stick.

You need not be ashamed for believing in and confessing the gospel.

Because it’s the power of God for the salvation of all who believe.

Forever!

Are you saved?

Do you have the righteousness that you need?

The wrath of God is coming on all who do not.

But Jesus Christ took the wrath of God in our place so that all who repent and place their faith in Him will never be put to shame.

Are you saved?

If you are not, we invite you to be saved today. Saved by Jesus.

Believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead after He died for your sins. Entrust yourself and your life to Him completely.

Don’t trust in your good works, your own righteousness. Trust in His, a righteousness guaranteed by His resurrection.

And confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and you will be saved.


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Messages in this Series

01. All Roads Lead to Romans
02. I Am Not Ashamed of the Gospel
03. The Bad News
04. Hope for Holy Sexuality
05. The Even Worse News
06. The Worst News
07. Justified
08. Father Abraham
09. The Blessings of Justification
10. How Much More
11. New You
12. Slaves Of...?
13. A Life-Changing Relationship with Jesus Christ
14. No Condemnation
15. If the Spirit Lives in You
16. The Spirit of Sonship
17. We Know
18. For Us
19. Who?
20. God's Word Has Not Failed
21. Israel Stumbled