Soul Shift #2: Preparing Our Hearts For Prayer – A Survey of Mathew 6

SoulShiftI.  INTRO

Last week I made three points I would like to review…

  1. Prayer is not a method to get what we want from God, but the primary means of getting more of God Himself.  Through prayer, we want to find our delight, comfort, and joy primarily in God as He becomes the end goal of our lives.
  2. Often times when we endeavor to press into God, our circumstances will get harder before they get better.  This can be because God will begin to point-out and address areas in our lives that have become hindrances or barriers to our intimacy with God.
  3. Last Sunday I described those hindrances and barriers as (modern day) idols – or functional saviors.
    • They are all the earth-bound things we tend to turn to, to quiet the (legitimate) longings and/or pain that we have in our souls.
    • To unhook from some of those idols takes honesty, confession, repentance, surrender, and a heart that sincerely seeks to grow.

This morning you’ll need your Bibles open to Mathew 6; we will be looking at the whole chapter.  We are asking two questions today:

  1. How do we prepare our hearts for prayer?
  2. What is the fruit of a heart prepared for prayer?

II. BODY

In asking the question: How do we prepare our hearts for prayer? We must first take a careful look at Mat 6:1 – and particularly the words “your righteousness.”

  • NAS — “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men...”
  • NIV — “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others…”

In our study of prayer it is essential that we get started on the right foot.  The phrase our righteousness is foundational because EVERYTHING else is built on top of it.  If it’s really ‘your,’ or ‘our’ own righteousness – that we somehow earn our way into God’s presence, we will find ourselves turning away from the gospel and turning TO religion (or moralism).

If, however, it is God’s righteousness we will begin to generate a holy confidence and expectation to build a life of prayer.  See also 6:33 – “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.”

**We don’t need to make bigger commitments about prayer, what we really need is to think and to believe truer thoughts about God — thoughts that are shaped by the gospel.  We are called to work, love, and pray FROM His righteousness, not FOR His righteousness.

With this in mind let’s look at four spiritual disciplines (or ‘means of grace’) we can participate with God in detaching from our various accumulated idolatrous affections and prepare our hearts to encounter God — and move from ‘ordinary prayer’ to ‘extraordinary prayer.’  They are:

  1. Giving
  2. Prayer
  3. Forgiveness
  4. Fasting

We’ll look briefly at one at a time:

1.  Giving (or Generosity) – (vs. 2-4, 19-21)

These verses boils down to two overlapping ideas:

  • Motive matters
  • Generosity prepares our heart to pray

2 Cor 8:9: For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich. (This is a concise and powerful theological statement that summarizes the gospel)

2 Cor 8:9 is the cornerstone, the basis, for any theology of stewardship or generosity – identifying Jesus Christ as the most generous life ever lived

As Christians we face countless enemies to the welfare of our souls, be it pride, lust, bitterness, or envy.  But few are as powerful and relentless as greed.  Greed has been deified in our American culture…

What is the most effective counter-attack to this insidious force of greed?  Generosity.

No one ever started so rich and became as poor as the Lord Jesus Christ.  And no one ever started out so poor and have become so rich as those who have placed their faith and trust in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.

Martin Luther spoke of a “great exchange,” or a transaction; our sin is charged to Jesus and Jesus’s righteousness is credited to us.

2.  Prayer – (vs. 6:5-8) We are to, first and foremost, pray privately and pray authentically.

Have you ever shaken your fist at God over His seeming lack of response to your prayers?

If so, you’ll be able to relate to the prophet Habakkuk, who lived about 650 years before Christ.

His book begins with this complaint: “How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but You do not listen?” (Hab.1:2a).

God was not offended by Habakkuk’s prayer.

Passionate, honest, gritty, and even angry prayers have been recorded throughout the Bible.

And Habakkuk certainly wasn’t the only one to complain. Moses, Gideon, and David, and Elijah all questioned God.

Job even cursed the day God made him and said, “I loathe my very life; therefore I will give free rein to my complaint and speak out in the bitterness of my soul. I will say to God, ‘Do not condemn me, but tell me what charges you have against me. Does it please you to oppress me, to spurn the work of your hands…?'” (Job 10:1-3).

When we get into the Lord’s Prayer we’ll see that it’s best to approach God with humility, deep respect, and honor.  Having said that, God can certainly take our intense emotions and questions.

2 Cor 4:17-18: For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

3.  Forgiveness – I find it interesting that the Lord’s Prayer speaks to the issue of forgiveness, but Matthew comes back to it in 6:14-15.

Mark Twain said that, “Forgiveness is the fragrance that the flower leaves on the heel of the one who crushed it.”

When we truly experience the forgiveness of our sins there is an inward transformation that awakens in us a desire to glorify, trust, and obey God.

When we carry with us a deep appreciation for this grace-fueled transformation, we’ll have a heart that is more ready to forgive.  This doesn’t mean the process will be comfortable or easy, but it will mean that we can approach someone in need of forgiveness remembering that we are just as much in need of what you’re about to give to him or her.

4.  Fasting“I humbled my soul with fasting”  (Psalm 35:13b)

Isaiah 58:6-14

“Is this not the fast which I choose, To loosen the bonds of wickedness, To undo the bands of the yoke, And to let the oppressed go free And break every yoke? “Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry And bring the homeless poor into the house; When you see the naked, to cover him; And not to hide yourself from your own flesh? “Then your light will break out like the dawn, And your recovery will speedily spring forth; And your righteousness will go before you; The glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. “Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; You will cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you remove the yoke from your midst, The pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness, 10 And if you give yourself to the hungry And satisfy the desire of the afflicted, Then your light will rise in darkness And your gloom will become like midday. 11 “And the Lord will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail. 12 “Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins; You will raise up the age-old foundations; And you will be called the repairer of the breach, The restorer of the streets in which to dwell. 13 “If because of the sabbath, you turn your foot From doing your own pleasure on My holy day,
And call the sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable, And honor it, desisting from your own ways, From seeking your own pleasure And speaking your own word, 14 Then you will take delight in the Lord, And I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; And I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

A simple definition for fasting would be voluntary abstinence of our appetites and our soulish longings for spiritual reasons.  The Bible speaks of it not as an option but as an expected and regularly practiced spiritual discipline. 

There are many different ways to fast. 

  • We can fast food and just drink water or juice
  • We can eat vegetables and/or fruit only (this has been called a “Daniel Fast,” see Daniel 1:8-17)
  • We can choose not to eat any sugar or carbohydrates
  • We can fast one or two meals a day
  • We can fast from sun-up to sun-down.
  • Paul encourages married couples to occasionally fast sexual intercourse, “that you may devote yourselves to prayer…” (1 Corinthians 7:5).
  • We can fast television or the internet and pray instead!

Before we fast it is important to seek the Lord regarding what would be appropriate.

What is the fruit of a heart prepared for prayer?

Preparing our hearts for prayer, learning how to pray, and leaning into prayer is the cure for anxiety.

Vs. 25-34 are not to be seen as admonitions to simply STOP BEING ANXIOUS!  They are telling us that as we make God the object and desire of our prayers; as we seek to find our comfort and joy IN HIM through:

  • Generosity
  • Prayer
  • Forgiveness
  • Fasting

These spiritual disciplines, or ‘means of grace’ lead us into the presence of God, which BECOMES the cure to our anxiety.  God is the goal of prayer, but the loss of anxiety – or peacefulness is the fruit.

CONCLUSION

Who are the two most important people who ever lived?

Certainly, Jesus.  The first One is easy, but who’s the second one?  Adam.

There are only two groups of people on the earth:

  • Those who are in Adam
  • Those who are in Christ.

If you are an active, intentional follower of Jesus Christ your past may help to EXPLAIN you but your past does not DEFINE you.[1]

To live our lives from a gospel-centered perspective is to live, and work, and love, and serve FROM our new identify ‘in Christ;’ not to live, and work, and serve FOR Christ’s – or anyone’s approval.

You idols do not define you – they may help to explain you, but they don’t define you.

Sometimes the most mature and appropriate thing to do is to take our focus off of our sins – even our besetting sins, and to focus on remembering what Christ has done.

When we encounter Christ through humbling our soul, we will find ourselves doing what Isaiah 30:22 says – “You will scatter your idols as an impure thing and say to them, ‘Be gone!’”

Take some time to reflect on what Christ has done… No one was ever so rich and became so poor as Jesus Christ – and if you are in Him, no one was ever so poor and became so rich as you.


[1] Mark Driscoll, Who Do You Think You Are? 2012.

God Is Closer Than You Think #6 – What Is Sin?

I. INTRO

Romans 5:12-21 (emphasis added)

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned— 13 for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.

15 But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. 16 The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. 17 For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.

18 So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. 19 For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. 20 The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Christmas is coming…Suppose I purchased a gift for you and wrapped it nicely in wrapping paper with a nice ribbon and and a beautiful bow…And I even filled out one of those tags — From: Gregg and To: You and I gave the beautifully wrapped gift to you.

Now, I assume you’d be trilled and excited – and suppose you took the gift home and you placed it in a very prominent place in your home.

And when people came over to your home – you would show them the gift”  “Look Pastor Gregg gave me a gift, he must really like me…”

What’s wrong with is picture?

Right, to have been given a gift and never open it and delight in its contents is pretty dumb…But that’s what some people do with their Bibles – they don’t take the time to learn and grow.

The Bible speaks of one main gift.  That gift we’ve come to call “The Gospel.”  And the essence of the gospel is found in Romans 5:8:

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

The word “theology” means “the study of God.”  We are all theologians.  Some people are vocational theologians.  Some have more degrees than Fahrenheit and we read their books – but we are all theologians.  (The Bible is the only book in existence that necessitates increasing intimacy with the author to fully understand its contents.)

Now the essence of theology is learning how to unwrap the gift of the gospel that God has given us.

Theology matters.  Good theology matters.

That’s why we’re taking this time to cover some of the basic, or main doctrines of the Christian faith.

And more than that, I am praying for us that everyone one of us would capture, or obtain a higher view of God. Isaiah 40:9 – “Get yourself up on a high mountain…” (Isaiah 6 as well – Isaiah is undone by a view of the holiness of God…)

This is why I am asking all of us to be praying Ephesians 1:17-19:

“That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might…”

The main gift the Bible speaks about is the Person of Jesus Christ.  And that because of His great love for you, He condescended to come and live a perfect sinless life and die a horrendous, torturous, murderous death that we might gain access to the very presence of God. The most holy place – the holy of holies.  Hebrews 10:19 says it this way:

“We [now] have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus.”

What Jesus Christ has done, we call the gospel, or good news.

Many long-time churchgoers have thought of the gospel as the doorway through which we enter the Christian life.  What we’ve been trying to say for the last 18 months here at Southside (our theological “reboot”) is that the gospel is not just the doorway, it’s the whole house.

What we’ve been saying is that the whole Bible – from Genesis to Revelation, only has one main, or primary, storyline – and that is: redemption (found in the gospel). There are four sub-themes:

  • Our need for redemption
  • Our longing for redemption
  • The act of our redemption
  • And the calling to live in remembrance of our redemption…

Our passage this morning (Rom 5:12-21) contains three paragraphs.  Each of these paragraphs say basically the same thing.  Paul is very carefully repeating himself to make sure the people understand the gospel.  Also, we will see that each paragraph has little different twist to it.

The first paragraph (vs. 12-14) tells us that through one man (Adam) sin entered the world and death spread to all people – “even over those who had not sinned like Adam sinned.”  (Now you might be thinking, one guy blew it and we all pay the price? – We’ll get to that…)  This paragraph also tells us plainly that Adam is a “type” (or foreshadowing) of Jesus Christ.  In Jesus Christ we have a greater Adam – a perfectly obedient Adam.

The second paragraph (vs. 15-17) tells us the same thing – that by the “transgression” (or sin) of the one (Adam) God’s “judgement arose” (or was imposed) and humankind was condemned to die in their sinful condition.  Now the twist in this paragraph is that it clearly states what Jesus Christ has accomplished on behalf of the human race.  Notice that between verses15-17 the word “gift” is used five times.  The fifth use of the word gift identifies what’s in the package: “the gift of righteousness” (notice also that “abundance of grace” is included in the gift package).

The third paragraph (vs. 18-21), again tell us basically the same thing…one sin resulted in the condemnation of the whole human race (again, you might be thinking that is unfair), but here we see yet another facet of the gospel: …Through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all [people].

19 For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. 20 [the purpose of the Law] The Law came in so that the transgression would increase [there are 613 commandments listed in the Hebrew Scriptures]; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through [Christ’s gift of] righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

II. BODY

With the remainder of our time this morning I’d like to ask and answer 4 questions:

  1. What is sin?
  2. Where did sin come from?
  3. How does sin affect us?
  4. What has Jesus done?

1. What is sin?

Sin is any failure to conform to the moral law (or standard) of God in act, attitude [i.e., doing the right thing for the wrong reason], or nature.[1]

Sin is defined as a source of action, or an inward element producing [outward] acts.  This is what Rom 5:12 means when Paul states, “death spread to all people.”

Grudem describes sin as “the internal character that is the essence of who we are.”[2]

The reason God hates sin is that it directly contradicts everything God is.[3]

2. Where did sin came from?

Satan was the originator of sin. There are three passages that seem to describe  the heart of Satan – and the fallen angels who followed him:

Isaiah 14:12-15 “How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, You who have weakened the nations! 13 “But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, And I will sit on the mount of assembly In the recesses of the north. 14 ‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’”

2 Peter 2:4 — “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment.”

Jude 6 – “And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day.”

Demons and demonic power are real.  Demons oppose and try to destroy every work of God.  However, they are limited by God’s control and have limited power (i.e., Job).

(A brief theology of spiritual warfare – don’t attempt to cast out, or fight, the darkness but turn on the Light – invite Jesus.  When Light dawns, darkness must flee.)

God has never sinned, nor did God create sin.  (Deut 32:4 – “His work is perfect…”). First it was Satan and the other fallen angels, then Adam sinned in the garden.  So, we can say that God allowed sin to enter the cosmos – and then the world, but He did not create sin.  We call this a paradox – a seeming contradiction – at first glance it appears to be contradictory, but in the end, it is not…

3. How does sin affects us?

Adam’s sin calls into question the very basis for all morality because it gave a different answer to the question, “What is right, and true, and good?”

Sin affects us in that it introduces lust into the human heart. The essential difference between lust and love is that lust is characterized by getting and love is characterized by giving.

Adam’s sin also gave a different answer to the question, “Who am I?”  They succumbed to the temptation to “be like God” (Gen 3:5) – attempting to put themselves in the place of God.  We are created creatures, not the Creator.

Romans 5 tells us we have what theologians describe as “inherited guilt.”  (This is a better term than “original sin”…)

God counted us guilty because of Adam’s sin (Rom 5:18-19).

When Adam sinned God thought of all who descended from Adam as sinners (Rom 5:8 – “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”).

All members of the human race were represented by Adam in the time of testing in the Garden (there’s Eden & Gethsemane).

Adam’s sin was imputed to us – God counted Adam’s guilt as belonging to us.

We have been represented by both Adam and Jesus.  If we don’t own-up to Adam’s sin, then we cannot receive Christ’s gift…

4. What has Jesus Christ done?

2 Cor 5:21 — He [God] made Him [Christ] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Here is the apostle Paul’s most succinct statement about the meaning of the cross. This could be the shortest, simplest verse among many in the Pauline epistles that help us to define and understand justification.

Its meaning can be summed up in a single principle: substitution.

It describes an exchange that took place through the atonement that Christ offered—our sin for Christ’s righteousness.

Jesus took the place of sinners so that they might stand in His place as a perfectly righteous person.

Please take notice the graphic language: He was made sin (that’s the very epitome of all that is despicable and odious),

So that we might be made righteousness (that’s everything that is good and pure and acceptable in God’s estimation).

This was the exchange: our sin for His righteousness.

Our sin was charged to His account and His righteousness was credited (imputed) to our account.

III. CONCLUSION

The effects of what Christ has done on those who believe…

  • When we do sin our legal standing before God remains unchanged (Rom 6:23; 8:1).
  • When we sin our fellowship with God is disrupted and hindered (Eph 4:30; Rev 3:19)
  • Westminster Confession of Faith Chap 11, Sec 5:

Although they never can fall from a state of justification, yet they may, by their sins, fall under God’s fatherly displeasure, and not have the light of His countenance restored unto them, until they humble themselves, confess their sins, beg pardon, and renew their faith and repentance.

  • There is a danger of some being “Unconverted Evangelicals”…

While a genuine Christian who sins does not lose his or her justification or adoption before God, there needs to be a clear warning that mere association with an evangelical church and outward conformity to “accepted” “Christian” patterns of behavior does not guarantee salvation.[4]

A consistent pattern of disobedience to Christ coupled with a lack of the elements of the fruit of the Holy Spirit is a warning signal that a person is probably not a true Christian inwardly.


[1] CB: 62.

[2] Christian Beliefs: 62.

[3] CB: 62.

[4] Grudem, Systematic Theology.

God Is Closer Than You Think #1 – What Is Man?

I. INTRO TO SERIES

Ephesians 1:17-21 is our theme passage for this series.  Will you join me and pray this passage regularly for yourself, for SBA – and for me and the other men who will be teaching and preaching??

That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe (emphasis added).

As a church we want to see and encounter the greatness, wonder, and glory of God from an elevated vantage point. Isaiah admonishes,

Get yourself up on a high mountain! (40:9a).

We want to glorify God and know God; we want to have our hearts captivated afresh by a revelation of who God is and what God has done, so that He becomes our greatest hope, our greatest joy and delight.

The first thing we need to know about God is that God’s ultimate goal in all that He does is to preserve and display His own glory. God is uppermost in His own affections.  This is difficult for us to fathom because many of us grew-up and were taught, inadvertently, that we were at the center of God’s world.  This isn’t true.  God does not NEED us.  God loves us, but God has been perfectly content and joyful within the context of the Trinitarian relationship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – where there has been perfect unity, joy, delight, and love – for all of eternity.

God prizes and delights in His own glory above all things. It is SO important that we see this.  The Bible is about God, not us.  The Bible is written TO us, but it is ABOUT God.

The phrase “glory of God” in the Bible generally refers to the visible splendor and the moral beauty of God’s perfection. It is a weak attempt to put into words what cannot be contained in words-what God is like in His unveiled magnificence and excellence.

When we begin to see God from this vantage point it will free us from our lessor fixations, fears, and anxieties and we will be changed from the inside out.

The secondary reason for this series is to re/lay a foundation of the basic doctrines of the Christian faith at SBF.

Our English word doctrine is derived from the Latin word doctrinais and is the term given to the body of teachings that result from weaving together the various strands of the biblical witness and integrating them into a coherent and systematic account of reality.[1]

A doctrinal statement, then, would be a collection of our core beliefs as an expression of the larger body of Christ.

Some perspective[2] about where I hope this series will take us…

  • God is bigger, more passionate about His own glory, and at the same time, more available to His people, than we have ever dared to imagine.
  • While “principles” are good and helpful, they don’t drive (or change) our lives – passion does. What we really need is for our hearts to come alive for God. Whatever our heart prefers will exercise gravitational pull over the rest of our lives.
  • Something always takes first place in our lives. Whatever, or whoever, is at the top of our “passion list” will drown out everything else. What is it that takes first place in our lives? Is it a relationship – or the thought of a relationship? Is it money, success, pleasure, comfort?
  • Augustine said it as well as anyone – and turned it into a prayer: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”[3]
  • This is why the Bible doesn’t just give us advice on how to live, the Bible gives us a revelation of who God is. The glorious gospel is not advice it is news. The Bible does not just offer principles about how to live, it offers an unmatched vision of what (or Who) to live for.
  • Most of us don’t need more information what we really need is illumination.
  • If all we want are practical steps regarding how to live our best life now, then we are seeking the wrong thing.  Our goal in this series is to catch a glimpse of the wonder, majesty, and greatness of our God – that He would become our “exceeding joy” (Ps 43:4) that eclipses everything else.
  • When we studied the Beatitudes last Spring we studied Mat 5:8 – Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God. We become pure of heart as we long to see and encounter God above all else.
  • When our thoughts of God are small our feelings for God will be small. What we seeking with this Fall series is a truer, greater, weightier vision of God.
  • In our North American 21st century Evangelical churches, God is not always the true subject matter of much of our preaching.  We have settled for what one researcher described as mere “moralistic therapeutic deism.”[4]
  • My hope for this series is that we wouldn’t have small thoughts about God, but that we would begin to think BIG thoughts about God and that in thinking BIG thoughts about God we would grow an appropriate and wholehearted worshipful response to God – to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.[5]
  • As we begin, I am reminded of a quote from John Piper: “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the Church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man…You can’t commend what you don’t cherish.”[6]
  • May our Bible studies, classes, CommGroup dialogues, and sermons during this season at SBF cause us to worship Christ – first and foremost. Everything else is secondary.

II. SERMON INTRO

That being said, please turn to Genesis 1:27-28…

God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

The biblical story of creation reaches its climax with the creation of man (male and female) in God’s image. (Woman is at the apex of God’s creation — God made man and then He said, I can do better than that! 🙂  Four things should be noted about this climactic creative act:

  1. Man is created as the last of all God’s creation works and thus is the highest creature.
  • We are below God as worshipers.
  • And we are above lower creation and therefore, have we have been given dominion – or, stewardship.
  1. Only humankind is said to be in the image of God. (Latin: Imago Dei, Greek: anthropos).
  2. Only now that man is on the scene in the image of God does the writer of Genesis describe the work of creation as being very good (1:31).
  3. Man is given dominion (stewardship) and commanded to subdue and fill the earth (1:28).

Today we are asking the question “What is man?”  Or, “What is humankind?”  It is this doctrine that answers questions regarding how humankind is both similar to and distinctive from God the Creator.

III. BODY

What does it mean for us to become image bearers of God?  The theme, the motif, the thread, of us being image bearers of God runs throughout the Bible as we will see…

So, the first thing that we learn from this passage in Genesis is that we were created to reflect God’s glory.  We are image bearers of God.

We look to God for fulfillment of our deepest needs.  We find our joy, our comfort, and our delight in Him.

You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever. Ps 16:11

We want to join God in His rejoicing over us:

The Lord your God is in your midst, A victorious warrior.  He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.  Zephaniah 3:17

If we are made in God’s image, then the more we see and understand about God, the more that we will see and understand about ourselves.

  1. We are moral creatures – born with an intuitive sense of right and wrong.
  2. We are not mere physical creatures, but spiritual creatures.  As such, we can relate to and know God.
  3. We are intellectual creatures, having the ability to think and process information.
  4. We have been born with a desire to know and be known in the context of community.  This reflects our Trinitarian God, who has existed for eternity in perfect love, harmony, respect, and admiration – each one fully serving the needs of the other.  We join in this “dance” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity: 52)

Because of sin this image has been distorted.  There is a confluence (crashing) within us of both majesty and depravity.

A few weeks ago we spoke of how the “gift of righteousness” (Rom 5:17) was imputed (or, credited) to us. Is 61:10 – “He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness.”  Well, in the same way Adam and Eve’s sin was imputed (or, credited) to us.  Every human being is born with this “sin nature.”

This is where the dogma of contemporary culture is in direct opposition to the gospel.  Our culture desperately wants to believe that we are all basically good people (with a few exceptions).

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? Jer 17:9

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  Rom 3:23

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. 13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.  1 Cor 13:12-13

We will talk more specifically about sin next month, but sin:

  • Sin distorts our moral judgment.
  • Sin clouds our thinking.
  • Sin restricts and hinders our fellowship with one another.  We see this in the Garden of Eden after the sin of Adam and Eve.

The good news is that through repentance God’s image can be restored. God redeems us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The theme, or thread, of us being image bearers of God:

  • Roms 8:19, 29 — For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God…Roms 8:29 — For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.
  • We also see this in Colossians 1:13-15 — The incomparable Christ rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.”
  • Col 3:10 – Through worship and adoration we, “have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him.”
  • 2 Cor 3:18 — But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
  • Our transformation culminates with the consummation of this present age and  in 1 Cor 15:49 — Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly.
  • 2 Cor 4:1-4 — Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart, but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake.

In Jesus we see God’s likeness as it was intended to be – and because of what Jesus Christ has done we will eventually be changed to reflect God’s image as we were originally intended to do.

What responsibilities do we bear as image bearer’s of God?

  1. We are reflecting the image of God throughout the course of each and every day (for better or for worse!).  As we engage one another, our spouses, our children, or our co-workers, or neighbors, or friends – or even those that don’t like us (or, God-forbid, those that we don’t like), we are to be cognizant (aware, conscious) of the ongoing question: How can I serve, love, and listen to this person in a way that reflects a little bit of who God is?  “We cannot commend what we do not cherish” (John Piper).
  2. We are to reflect God by taking care of the earth…
  3. We have been given the ministry of reconciliation.  2 Cor 5:17-21 — Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

IV. CONCLUSION

N.T. Wright on What It Means To Be An Image Bearer…

Next week: What is God like?  What does God say about Himself?  (I think this may be the longest chapter in our companion book.)


[1] Adapted from Alister McGrath, “Doctrine,” in Kevin Vanhoozer, Gen. ed., Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible, Baker Academic 2005: 177.

[2] I am indebted to a sermon by JR Vassar entitled, Our Great God (Apostles Church in NYC) for spurring me on to think bigger thoughts of God.)

[3] Confessions. Lib 1,1-2, 2.5, 5: CSEL 33, 1-5.

[4] Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults by Christian Smith, with Patricia Snell (Oxford University Press, Sept 2009).

[5] Westminster Shorter Catechism 1648, Q1.

[6] Let the Nations Be Glad. Baker Book House 1989: 11.

The Upside Down Life #8 – Blessed Are Those Who Hunger and Thirst, Pt B

Hunger & Thirst For God’s Righteousness (Not Yours)

I. INTRO

Today we have something very important to consider.  If you’ve been around for the last year – or most of the last year, hopefully you have noticed that I have been harping about the gospel.

We’ve been saying that the Bible is NOT a disconnected set of stories each with a lesson on how to live our lives — but the Bible contains ONE single story – with three layers:

  • The first layer of every sub-story tells us what’s wrong with the human race and the world.
  • The second layer tells us what God has done to make it right.
  • And the third layer tells us how it will all end.

Good Bible exegesis (or analysis, or interpretation) will always look for these three layers in every sub-story of the Bible – from Genesis to Revelation.  Some are more specific to a particular layer, but the Bible only has one story.  If we SEE that the Bible begins to really come alive…

Over the course of the last year we have been considering what amounts to three aspects of God’s grace – we could describe them as past grace, present grace, and future grace.

  • Past grace is what the Bible calls JUSTIFICATION.
  • Present grace is what the Bible calls SANCTIFICATION.
  • Future grace is what the Bible calls GLORIFICATION.

So, we could say the believing Christian has been justified by grace, is being sanctified by grace, and will be glorified by grace.  Our past, our present, and our future are all wrapped-up in God’s grace.

We are justified, sanctified, and glorified by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

We have spent most of the last year preaching and teaching about present grace the grace for sanctification, believing that most of us “get” grace for salvation but not grace for sanctification.

In my preparing for this message/sermon today I have come to believe that not only have we had a faulty belief (or understanding) of present grace (sanctification), but that we may also have a faulty belief about past grace – or justification.

Let me throw a pop-quiz at you – and then I’ll pray and we’ll jump into the sermon for today: Does God want you to try and be good?

At the risk of making some of you mad I will say – if your answer is “yes” there’s a good chance you’re still stuck in moralism. (Moralism is the anti-gospel, relegating change to will power and behavior modification techniques.)

If your answer is a genuine, heartfelt “no” then you may be on your way to understanding sanctifying grace – and what we will be talking about today – God’s imputed righteousness.

With that said I’d like to pray for our time together this morning and then we’ll begin…Eph 1:18-20:

18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might 20 which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places.”  Amen

We’ll begin with a review and then move toward a greater understanding of God’s Righteousness.

Our series is The Upside Down Life and we are taking our time moving through the introduction of what theologians believe is the greatest, most profound sermon ever given – The Sermon On the Mount, which is found in Matthew chapters 5-7.  (It’s really just an overview.)

Jesus opens the sermon with 8 distinctive markings of the Christian and the Christian life – that we have come to describe as the Beatitudes.

There is a stanza in the famous Robert Frost poem titled The Road Not Taken that helps us to understand what Jesus was saying.  While I don’t think this is what Frost had in mind, it DOES help us to reflect on our lives…

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

Why would we take the road less traveled? Is the Christian life a hard road?  Yes, because in this inaugural sermon Jesus jumps below the surface and into the question of motive – why we do what we do.

To walk this road is to encounter Truth (with a capital T).  It’s the Truth about God – for God IS Truth.  AND it’s the truth about us.

Now the good news is – the gospel tells us that Jesus Christ has made a way, a road for us to walk along — with Him.  And the Beatitudes describe this less traveled way…

The road begins with admitting our spiritual poverty.  To truly/honestly acknowledge and admit our spiritual poverty leads us into a place of mourning and repentance, which, in-turn, renders in us a meekness wherein we become humble learners (or true disciples).  And as humble learners a holy craving, or longing erupts in us to know and be known by God.

Matthew 5:6 declares: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (The Beatitudes – and the SOTM ARE a road less traveled…

Here’s how King David said it in Psalm 42:1-2: “As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When can I go and meet with God?” (NIV)

The series is titled The Upside Down Life because the gospel-way is so counter-intuitive to the human condition – we are hard-wired in our fallen nature toward self-determination and legalism.

Last week Gene began to break down for us what it means to hunger and thirst for God – he said, first and foremost, that righteousness is not a product but a Person.

Gene likened the first three Beatitudes to a spiritual rototilling of the soul.

Gene likened a hunger and thirst for righteousness to a consuming desire for Jesus – as we become aware of hunger pangs for heaven.

Humility opens the door to holiness and happiness.

Gene encouraged us to re/discover our great Evangelical tradition of deeper encounters…

  • John WesleyHoliness not as achieving sinless perfection but as having one’s heart fully fixed on God. (His “heart was strangely warmed.”)
  • Bernard of Clairvaux – “To Thee our inmost spirit cries…[for that] which only Thou canst fill…”
  • Blaise Pascal’s “Night of Fire” in 1654 – 2 hours of “Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy.”
  • D. L. Moody’s experience with God: “…I can only say that God revealed himself to me, and I had such an experience of His love that I had to ask Him to stay His hand.”

And I would add Sarah Edwards (d. 1758), wife of Puritan pastor and theologian Jonathan Edwards, to Gene’s list.  She had such an encounter with God such that she felt her soul “being filled to all the fullness of God.” As her husband was to describe it, God had filled Sarah with “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8).  Most of us have wrongly determined that that kind of joy is reserved for heaven.  It’s not.  There are both a momentary and a residential joy that are available to us – no matter what our circumstances are.

Today, I’d like to zero in on the word righteousness in Matt 5:6: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness – for they shall be satisfied.”

Here’s the BIG IDEA: The doctrine of righteousness is a part of the larger doctrine of justification (or, grace for the past).

Think of justification as one coin with two sides…

  • One side is God’s MERCY and FORGIVENESS.
  • One the other side is IMPUTED (credit) RIGHTEOUSNESS and GRACE (for sanctification).

If you’ve been going to church for a while now – you’ve probably heard a definition for justification that goes something like this:  Justification means “just as if I’d never sinned.”

Now that’s a nice play on words but it’s woefully shallow and certainly an incomplete definition.  Because it only deals with one side of the coin.

Let’s see if we can understand a little better this essential concept of imputed righteousness…

II. BODY

What is righteousness?  Righteousness is a validating performance record that opens doors (Tim Keller).

  • Job? Resume…
  • Grad school? Academic record Grades…

We tend to believe it’s the same with God – that we are to, somehow, build a resume of a moral performance record to make it into heaven.

Jesus comes along, and with the other NT writers, tells us about an absolutely unheard of spirituality, an unimaginable approach to God. Where God provides us with an unblemished record—absolutely free of charge. Not just a good record, or even a great record – but a divine righteousness – a perfect record that comes to us as a gift! 

When we have this it’s the end of our personal struggle for validation, for worth, or worthiness, and acceptability.

Apart from the Christian gospel there is no other religion or belief system that offers anything like this. 

The gospel is God developing a perfect righteousness and He offers it to us – and by THAT righteousness alone we are accepted. 

Roms 3:21: But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.”

Free Justification – Forgiveness AND Imputed Righteousness are essential to understanding the gospel.  Tim Keller likens it to the table in a grand banquet room…  Free Justification IS the table.  No table, no dinner…

Why is free justification so important?  Because it affects our assurance of salvation.

We begin to understand Free Justification as we consider the difference between IMPARTED righteousness and IMPUTED righteousness.  I’ll give you a brief overview of both and what IMPUTED righteousness accomplishes and then we’ll pick it up again next week…

Many churches – including the Catholic Church teach IMPARTED righteousness.

This actually can be defined as THE single issue that brought about the Protestant Reformation.  Martin Luther saw this afresh in his study of the first five chapters of the book of Romans.

So, what IS Imparted Righteousness?

  • The word, “impart” means to “to give.” We could also describe it as  “infused” righteousness.
  • Imparted righteousness thus declares that Christ’s righteousness is given to, or infused within – so that the believer actually becomes righteous.  (This is NOT what the bible teaches.)

Paul is not writing that we are transformed into people who possess righteousness, but rather that we have been united to Christ

And because of our union with Him (the emphasis of Romans 5), we have that which He possesses, that is, we have HIS righteousness.

Imputed Righteousness – The word “impute” means “ascribe” or “credit.” Imputed righteousness carries the theological weight of being “counted” or “considered” or “reckoned” righteous.

Within the first 12 verses of Romans 4 (this is where Martin Luther saw this) you will notice the number of times the word “credited” (in both the NIV and NASV Bibles) is used.  This word distinguishes the means of faith by which both Abraham and all other believers are justified before God.

Paul is not writing that we are transformed into people who possess righteousness, but rather that we have been united to Christ (i.e., the 30 “in Him” passages of Paul’s letters), that “in Him” — because of our union with Him (the emphasis of Romans 5), we have that which He possesses, that is, righteousness.

III. CONCLUSION — What imputed righteousness accomplishes:

  1. In God’s eyes Jesus’ perfect record is imputed to us.
  2. We are treated as if we had lived the perfect life that Jesus lived.
  3. We are given the love that Jesus deserved (through His obedience).
  4. We have the same access to the Father that Jesus did.
  5. The best news is that all of this comes not from us doing anything (i.e., works) at all, but simply by faith.

The Upside Down Life (#1) – An Indepth Look At Matthew 5:1-16

The Way In Is the Way On.  An Overview of the Beatitudes…

I. INTRO

I have been serving here at SBF for 11 months now – and I can tell you that everything we have been studying up to this point has been preparing us for the study we are about to embark on…

We will take our time and work through the first 16 verses of Mathew 5.  These are also the first 16 verses of the most famous sermon of all time – The Sermon on the Mount (SOTM), which consist of chapters 5-7.  They are all red-letter verses, in other words these are the words of Jesus.

Here’s what John Stott the late pastor, author, and missiologist has said about the SOTM:

“The Sermon on the Mount is probably the best-known part of the teaching of Jesus, though arguably it is the least understood, and certainly it is the least obeyed. It is the nearest thing to a manifesto that he ever uttered, for it is his own description of what he wanted his followers to be and to do.”[1]

Now, reading the SOTM only takes about 10 minutes so it’s widely thought that Matthew is giving us the “Cliff Notes” version (i.e., highlights).

We need to make some theological distinctions as we lean into the Beatitudes and the SOTM…

Some of the theological roots of SBF include what’s known as a dispensational[2] view of the Bible.

Dispensationalists and most of the rest of Evangelicalism would differ on the interpretation and application of the Beatitudes (and the SOTM).

Classical dispensationalism would argue that the Beatitudes (and the SOTM) are not gospel but pertain to life in the millennial kingdom after to the second coming of Christ.[3] (If you have a Scofield Study Bible – that would emphasize the classical view of dispensationalism.)

It should be noted that there are more moderate views of dispensationalism.  If you have a Ryrie Study Bible – he’s a more moderate dispensationalist.  Yet he would still believe that primary fulfillment of the Beatitudes (and the SOTM) are in the millennial kingdom.[4] (Popular contemporary dispensationalists include John MacArthur and Charles Swindoll.  I have also heard that John MacArthur has become more moderate in his dispensationalism, but I don’t have first hand knowledge of that.  Charles Swindoll would also be considered a more moderate dispensationalist.)

The basic evangelical approach is to recognize that the kingdom of God has come in the person and work of Jesus. (Mk 1:15: “kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel). This “kingdom now” theological perspective teaches that Jesus established the kingdom of God (KOG) at His first coming and will consummate the KOG at His second coming – and we live in the age (or dispensation) between the two.  One theologian, George Ladd, has said we live in the presence of the future – between the already and the not yet.[5]

So, how will this affect our study of the Beatitudes?  I believe the Beatitudes (and the SOTM) ARE for today – and that they are the means to allowing the gospel to be worked into our lives – and then through our lives to others.

Here’s how I would say it: “The Gospel is not advice, it is news.”  (Jared Wilson, Gospel Wakefulness, Crossway 2011: 188.)  It is the ultimate Good News.  I would suggest to you that Sunday Services are not primarily the place to give advice… Gospel-centered (or Christ centered) change (i.e., sanctification) is rooted first and foremost in remembrance. We are to remind one another primarily of what Christ Jesus has done, not what we must do.

We cannot commend what we do not cherish.  -John Piper

And the essence of Christian maturity is when the Gospel – or, what Christ has done — gets worked IN – and then THROUGH our lives – which is what I’d like to spend our remaining time considering – and this will be the main intent of our series.

Today we will take a look at the Beatitudes.  Allow me to offer a few introductory thoughts.

II. BODY

Contained in the Beatitudes are eight qualities that characterize the life of Jesus Christ, and therefore, through conversion, they begin to characterize our life in Jesus Christ.  Jesus calls us to follow him, surrender to Him, and to depend upon His strength and power.

The word beatitude comes from the Latin word meaning “blessed.”

More specifically the word means exalted joy, or true happiness. (Joy is not always exuberant, but can also be described as calm delight in even the most adverse circumstances.  Joy fueled Paul’s contentmentPhil 4:11.)

With the beatitudes, Jesus dives into our innermost being probing the heart and raising the question of motive.  (This is why, at face value, it’s harder to be a Christian than Jewish…)

What made Jesus a threat to everyone and the reason He was eventually killed was that in His encounters with people (particularly the religious leaders), He exposes what they were on the inside.  Some people find it liberating – others hate it.  (Mat 23:27: hypocrites and whitewashed tombs.)

The Beatitudes, I have come to see, is our surrendered response to the Gospel.  I see the Beatitudes as a step-by-step spiritual formation process that moves us toward spiritual depth and maturity.  This becomes cyclical as we grow deeper and deeper in our faith.  The Beatitudes become the outworking of the Gospel IN and THROUGH our lives.

1. Blessed are the poor in spirit…

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope.  With less of you there is more of God and his rule.” (Petersen – MSG)

Another translation renders this verse, “Happy are those who know their need for God.” (JBP)

What does it mean to be “poor in spirit”?  A desperateness of soul that is weary of living in it’s own strength and longs for God’s mercy and grace to come and refresh the soul.  In a word, it is DESPERATION.

Prodigal Sons (Lk 15:11-32) The younger prodigal came to the end of himself (v.17) and though he had no idea of the Father’s love, made his way home.

In the recovery movement this would be similar to steps 1 & 2:

  • Step 1 – We admitted we were powerless over our addiction – that our lives had become unmanageable.
  • Step 2 – Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

2. Blessed are those who mourn…

I have a river of sin in my life – with 3 primary tributaries…

  1. Original sin (Adam & Eve traded the presence of God for the knowledge of God – and that’s been our core tendency ever since…).
  2. Family of origin issues. (We all have negative traits and generational sin patterns that we bring into our Christian experience.  Are you in touch with yours?)
  3. My own dumb choices.

As we are honest about the sin that has infected us there will be a transforming grief and accompanying repentance, that surfaces – not only for our own lives, but also for the injustice, greed, lust, and suffering that grips our world.

I want to own my sin everyday.[6]

This is where the upside down life comes into play.  The Beatitudes are counterintuitive (paradox: seeming contradiction).  We go down to go up; death precedes resurrection; we get to joy by traveling through grief.  Our soul wants to find a way around grief, but God says, “No, you must travel through grief – and the good news is, He says, “I’ll go with you and we will do it in My strength and power.”

The way of the Gospel is a death and resurrection cycle…

**The gospel has the greatest potential to captivate us when we understand that we are more depraved than we ever realized and simultaneously more loved that we ever dared to imagine.

3. Blessed are the meek…

Rick Warren would say, “Meekness is not weakness, but the power of your potential under Christ’s control.”  The concept of meekness describes a horse that has been broken.  We can either surrender to Christ and invite His breaking, or remain the undisciplined and wild stallion.

Grieving over sin and suffering grows meekness in us and delivers us into a humble learning posture (disciple means learner).

4. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…Spiritual hunger and thirst is the growing desire to be empty of those things that don’t reflect God, and initiates a deep longing for wholeness in our lives.

5. Blessed are the merciful…

Mercy is entering into another persons feelings – attempting to see things from another person’s perspective – all with understanding AND acceptance…just like Jesus has done for us.

As we receive God’s mercy we begin to give mercy – to ourselves and to others.

6. Blessed are the pure in heart… Mercy cleanses our heart and restores purity to our lives.

Did you know that your virginity CAN be restored?

2 Cor 11:2For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin.

7. Blessed are the peacemakers…

Purity gives way to a personal serenity and peacefulness.  Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the absence of anxiety in the midst of inevitable conflict – and when others encounter it, they want it too.

Our Western concept of peace needs to be considered in the light of the ancient Hebrew concept of peace, which is SHALOM — and means more than our limited understanding of peace (i.e., the lack of conflict).

Biblical SHALOM means a universal flourishing, wholeness and delight; a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied, natural gifts are fruitfully employed — all under the arc of God’s love. Shalom is the way things ought to be.

Neal Plantinga – “the webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in equity, fulfillment, and delight.”

I will also say there is a difference between a peacemaker and a peacekeeper.

To be a peacemaker does not mean peace at any cost.  Peacekeeping creates a false peace.  Many of us live out our lives with this false peace and say nothing or do nothing to change it—in churches, homes, work places, marriages.

Examples:

  • Someone makes inappropriate sexual comments to you at work.  You know its not accidental because its repetitive and degrading.  But you keep your mouth shut because you know they’ll threaten your job or make you miserable if you say anything.
  • A family member makes a scene at a family gathering.  It embarrasses you, the rest of the family, but you say nothing.  You keep the peace because to go there would unearth a lot of stuff that you just aren’t willing to deal with.
  • Your spouse makes insulting remarks to you or humiliates you publicly through critical tone of voice.  It grates on you.  But you keep silent because you want to keep the peace.

8. Blessed are the persecuted… Living life from a kingdom of God perspective will place us in conflict with those that oppose it (usually it’s “religious,” moralistic people!).

III. CONCLUSION

Without the knowledge of our extreme sin, the payment of the Cross seems trivial and does not electrify or transform.  But without the knowledge of Christ’s completely satisfying life and death, the knowledge of sin would crush us – or move us to deny and repress it.

By walking the way of the Beatitudes we hold our depravity and the Cross in a healthy and dynamic tension that will lead to transformation and renewal.


[1] The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, InterVarsity Press, 1978:15.

[2] Dispensationalism is a theological system that teaches biblical history is best understood in light of a number of successive administrations (dispensations) of God’s dealings with humankind. It maintains fundamental distinctions between God’s plans for national Israel and for the New Testament Church, and emphasizes prophecy of the end-times and a pre-tribulation rapture of the church prior to Christ’s Second Coming.

[3] As one dispensationalist put it, “this Sermon cannot be taken in its plain import and be applied to Christians universally…It has been tried in spots, but…it has always been like planting a beautiful flower in stony ground or in a dry and withering atmosphere” (I. M. Haldeman, The Kingdom of God, p. 149).

[4] The moderate dispensationalist [still] views the primary fulfillment of the Sermon and the full following of its laws as applicable to the Messianic kingdom” (Dispensationalism Today, 107-08).

[5] A good primer on this alternative to dispensationalism view would be the “The Gospel of the Kingdom” by George Ladd.

[6] “None is righteous, no, not one.” Romans 3:10 (ESV)
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.” Eph 2:1-2 (ESV)

A Generous Life #6 (of 6) 2 Corinthians 9:8-15

The Grace of God Is The Source of All True Generosity (2Cor 9:8-15)

I. INTRO

Today we will be considering the final 8 verses of 2 Cor 9 (8-15). Before we get there, I’d like to review the two most power-packed verses in the chapters we’ve been studying (2 Cor 8-9): 2 Cor 8:9 and 2 Cor 9:7

2 Cor 8:9 is the cornerstone, the basis, for any theology of stewardship or generosity – identifying Jesus Christ as the most generous life ever lived…

As Christians we face countless enemies to the welfare of our souls, be it pride, lust, bitterness, or envy. But few are as powerful and relentless as greed.  Greed has been deified  in our American culture…

What is the most effective counter-attack to this insidious force of greed? 2 Cor 8:9 is the key, the cornerstone – indeed the whole foundation – that holds the power to liberate our hearts from the grip of greed and release in us, and through us, the joy of generous giving:

2 Cor 8:9: For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich. (This is a concise and powerful theological statement that summarizes the gospel – a Christology.)

No one ever started so rich and became as poor as the Lord Jesus Christ.  And no one ever started out so poor and have become so rich as those who have placed their faith and trust in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.

Here is how Paul states it in Gal 2:20: I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

What Paul is saying in 2 Cor 8:9 and in Gal 2:20 (and all throughout his writings, which make up much of the NT, is that IN CHRIST, we have access to an alternative life force: “and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

Martin Luther spoke of a “great exchange,” which refers to the way Christ’s sinless life and sacrificial death works to benefit the sinners that are united to him by faith: our sin is charged to Jesus and Jesus’ righteousness is credited to us. In essence it’s a transaction, an exchange: our sin for his righteousness.

2 Cor 9:7… “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

In v.7 we encounter a concise pattern for generous stewardship. There are six parameters:

  1. Universal (“Each one must do…”)
  2. Personal (“just as he has purposed in his heart”). (Many commentators say that if Paul had believed that we should begin our giving with a tithe, he would have reiterated that here…)
  3. Choice/Resolve (“as he has purposed“; the verb means: to choose or to make up your own mind about something.)  In the end only you and God will know if you’re sowing sparingly or bountifully.
  4. “Not Grudgingly,” or, without regret. Lit., “not out of sorrow.”
  5. “Not Under Compulsion. No force – psychological or otherwise; no manipulation, no moralism.
  6. Cheerful. The Greek word translated “cheerful” is hilaron, from which we get out English word “hilarious.”  This means that we find our joy, our delight, our pleasure in the generosity of Jesus Christ and we give out of a worshipful, joyful heart – as we remember what Jesus Christ has done.

II. BODY

There are two primary points for today:

  1. Vs. 8-12 The Promise of Abundance
  2. Vs. 13-15 The Results of Christian Stewardship

Let’s look at them individually…

1.  9:8-12: The promise to supply abundantly those who give generously.

Notice Paul’s “string of universals” in v. 8[1]“God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.”

Do you see them? All, always, all, everything, and every. That is a staggering promise for us as believers — and for your family, and for us as a church—simply staggering.

It’s quite similar to the promise of Jesus in Matthew 6:33: “Seek first the kingdom of God and [the gift of] his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Now, notice the word righteousness in vs. 9 and 10: “His righteousness abides forever,” and then in v.10 Paul speaks of “the harvest of your righteousness.” This is speaking of the great exchange: Christ’s righteousness becomes ours…

Notice also in v.10 that God does not stop with merely“multiplying our seed” (this is where the Prosperity Gospel folks fall short); but God will “multiply your seed for sowing (9:10).  The goal is not to merely multiply our own resources, but to sow that we might be generous beyond ourselves.  We do not “give to get.”  We give to get, to give again – and again, and again, and again…

In v.11 we see another use of more ‘universals’…”You will be enriched in everything (why?) “for all liberality producing thanksgiving to God (9:11). And not just our own thanksgiving, but the thanksgiving (to God) of those who are the recipients of our exchanged generosity.

2.  9:13-15: The results of generous Christian giving.

In v.13a – Our generosity brings glory (honor, worship, and praise) to God.

In v.13b – Our generosity functions as evidence, or proof, of the authenticity of our faith. “They [the recipients] will glorify God for your obedience to your confession of the gospel of Christ – and your liberality…”

In v.14 we see our generosity serves to increase and intensify affection and fellowship among Christians – and sparks gratitude for the grace of God.  (There are 39 verses in chapters 8-9. The word grace is used 10 times…)

In v. 15. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” We close our series by asking, “What is God’s ‘indescribable gift’?

Is it “the surpassing grace of God” in the Corinthians, mentioned in v. 14 (cf. 8:1)? Or is it God’s gracious gift of Jesus (8:9) who, though rich, impoverished himself to make us rich?  Which is it?

The answer is… both! Jesus Christ is THE Divine Gift which inspires ALL gifts.

And now, as we wind down our study of these two chapters in 2 Corinthians, a brief summary of the 10 principles of Christian stewardship is in order:

  1. Generosity is a work of Gods grace (2 Cor 8:1-6)
  2. Generosity is both a work of God’s grace and a choice (2 Cor 8:7)
  3. Generosity points us to the sacrifice of Christ (2 Cor 8:8-9)
  4. Generosity is measured proportionally (2 Cor 8:10-12)
  5. Generosity enables a holy equality (2 Cor 8:13-15)
  6. Generosity necessitates godly stewardship (2 Cor 8:16-24)
  7. Generosity begets generosity (2 Cor 9:1-5)
  8. Generosity is about sowing and reaping (2 Cor 9:6-12)
  9. Generosity is an evidence that someone is an active, intentional follower of Christ 
(2 Cor 9:13-14)
  10. Generosity promotes the worship of Jesus as God (2 Cor 9:15)

III. CONCLUSION

If we were to break down the population of the world into only 100 people, it would play out like this:

  • There would be 51 women and 49 men.
  • 70 people would be of a faith other than Christianity.
  • There would be 70 people of color; 30 would be white.
  • 80 would live in substandard housing (i.e. no running water or electricity, etc.)
  • 50 would be malnourished, living off of perhaps one small meal a day.
  • 70 would be illiterate and unable to read.
  • Fewer than 6 would live in the U.S., but those 6 would possess half the world’s wealth. (Even with the financial challenges that we face today, it doesn’t seem so bad when we consider there are approximately 6.6 billion people in the world today and close to half of that (over 3 billion) live on less than $2 a day!

To personalize this, go to http://www.globalrichlist.com/

I did and found out that, according to our household income, Linda and I are in the top .66% of the richest people in the world.

The website noted that if we donated just one hour’s salary

We could buy:

  • 25 fruit trees for farmers in Honduras to grow and sell fruit at their local market, and…
  • A First Aid kit for a village in Haiti.

$73 could purchase a new mobile health clinic to care for AIDS orphans in Uganda.

$2400 could purchase schooling for an entire generation of school children in an Angolan village.


[1] Barnett: 439.

1 John 1:5-2:2

I. INTRO

A.  Last Sunday we saw from verses 3 and 4 that John makes the message of Christ (call it theology, or doctrine) the basis of all significant Christian fellowship.

B.  Ecc 4:12, “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

C.  1:3: “What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you so that you may have fellowship with us.” In order to create and nurture deep (honest) Christian fellowship we have to acknowledge that Jesus Christ is at the center – and who He is and what He taught is both the standard and the ultimate goal of our lives.

D.  This week:

1.  God Is Light – 1 John 1:5-10

This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no [notice John’s use of absolute terms] darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. [From this we get an idea of what some of the false teachers have been preaching…]

2:18 – Antichrists, 
2) 2:22 – Liars/Antichrists, 3) 2:26 – Deceivers
, 4) 3:7 – Deceivers
, 5) 4:1 – False Prophets, 6) 4:3 – Antichrists

2.  Jesus Christ Is Our Advocate (and Propitiation) — 1 John 2:1-2

[Grandpa Pastor John] 1My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2 and He Himself [He became] is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

II.    BODY

A.  There are 2 parts to this message.

1.  God is Light

a.  Here is the overall structure of verses 5-10:

1)  Verse 5 is the foundation: God is light.

2)  Verses 6-7 are the application: Walk in the Light.

3)  Verses 8-10 are the clarification: No one can claim to be without sin.

b.  Walking in darkness destroys fellowship with God – and authentic fellowship with one another.  We are as sick as our secrets.

2.  Jesus Christ is our Advocate (2:1) – and our Propitiation (2:2).

B.  God is light

1.  We could talk about the fact that everything in the universe cycles, or circles, around the sun.

2.  We could talk about photosynthesis – the chemical process that converts carbon dioxide into organic compounds using the energy from sunlight.

3.  Does the Bible ever talk about what it means to “walk in the light”?  Yes, Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount is quite clear about what it means to walk in the light.  View them as stepping stones – as we continuously cycle through the Beatitudes we will continue to grow deeper in God

4.  The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-10) A lifeline to spiritual formation

a.  The Beatitudes (Mat. 5:3-12) describe eight qualities that characterize the life of Jesus Christ, and therefore our life in Jesus Christ.  Following is an overview of how one unfolds into the next… (This, BTW, will be the pathway for our transition season here at SBF…)

1) Blessed are the poor in spirit… [Blessed are those who know their need for God]. To enter into God’s kingdom, we are invited to admit that we have come to the end of ourselves and are in need of God’s help and care.  It’s the realization that, “I can’t get there from here;”  “I killed Christ;” “I am more depraved…”

2) Blessed are those who mourn… As we are honest about our own sinful tendencies there will be a transforming grief, or repentance, that surfaces – not only for our own lives, but also for the injustice, greed, and suffering that grips our world.

3) Blessed are the meek…Grieving over sin and suffering places us in a humble posture that helps us become life-long learners (disciple means learner). Meekness is not weakness, but the power of your potential under Christ’s control – like a broken horse. (Take you, break you, and give you.)  As meek people we become learners (disciples).

4) Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…To be hungry and thirsty is the desire to be empty of those things that don’t reflect God, and initiates a deep longing for wholeness in our lives.

5) Blessed are the merciful…As we receive God’s mercy we begin to give mercy – to ourselves and to others.

6) Blessed are the pure in heart… Mercy cleanses our heart and restores purity to our lives. 2 Cor 11:2  – For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin.

7) Blessed are the peacemakers… Purity gives way to a personal serenity and peacefulness. Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the absence of anxiety in the midst of inevitable conflict – and when others encounter it, they want it too.  Peacemakers vs. peacekeepers.  False peace at any price.

8) Blessed are the persecuted… Living life from a kingdom of God perspective will place us in conflict with those that oppose it (susually it’s “religious” people!).

C.  Let’s go back to 1 John and look at chapter 2:1-2.  1My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

1.  Jesus Christ is our Advocate and our Propitiation.

a.  Advocate

1) Greek: paraklētos

2) Lit., “called to one’s side,” i.e., to one’s aid. It was used in a court of justice to denote a legal assistant, counsel for the defense, or, one who pleads another’s cause, an intercessor.

3) Or Comforter when speaking of the Holy Spirit, in Jhn 14:16; 15:26; and 16:7.

b.  Propitiation

1) Greek: hilasmos

2) Propitiation is a term that we don’t use regularly. It is possible to go through high school and college and never to learn the meaning of this word.

3)  If we have to learn a big word, then let’s do it by giving to it a short definition: Propitiation refers to satisfaction.  Remember Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones?  “I can’t get no satisfaction…” Well Mick, yes you can. Another word is appeasement.

4)  The personal means by whom God shows mercy to the sinner who believes on Christ as the One provided. In the former passage He is described as “the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the whole world.” God is holy… God’s wrath = anger (at sin) and longing (for His children to find their comfort and joy in Him).

III.  CONCLUSION

A.  The final word of the text is that we must not keep this consolation for ourselves alone. “And he is not the propitiation for our sins only, but for the sins of the whole world.”

B.  CS Lewis:  The Christian doesn’t think God will love us because we’re good, but that God will make us good because He loves us.

C.  Without the knowledge of our extreme sin, the payment of the Cross seems trivial and does not electrify or transform.

D.  But without the knowledge of Christ’s completely satisfying life and death, the knowledge of sin would crush us – or move us to deny and repress it.

E.  By walking in the light we hold our depravity and the Cross in a healthy and dynamic tension that will lead to transformation and renewal.