Sermon (3/27/16)

This past Sunday, we took a break from our Revelation series to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord from the dead by looking at Romans 4:25-5:11.

It is a text that reminds us of the glorious good news that Jesus died for our sins and was raised for our justification. And it also reminds us of the blessings which come from that. You can listen here.

Live By the Word (Genesis 17:1-18:15)

As we read Genesis 17, it is easy to “tune out” because it sounds like simple repetition of things we have read before. However, as with much of Scripture, we need to take a moment to consider this chapter in the scope of the larger story. The first verse of the chapter actually shows us that almost 25 years have passed since the promises were first given! Seen in that light, this chapter stands as a clear reminder that nothing will thwart the plans and purposes of God. He does not grow forgetful or change His mind. Even the weaknesses and shortcomings of His people cannot thwart Him. Genesis 17:1-18:15 reminds us of these things.

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Think About It

hebrew-text-1307511-639x422Psalm 18’s superscription (which is just as inspired as “I love You, Yahweh, my strength”) tells us that David is the author, the “I” of the song. This is his contemplation and reaction to his life and what God did in it. And it’s a song, because it’s addressed to the “choir director.” But above all, Psalm 18 is a biographical masterpiece in the hands of a Holy-Spirit-inspired prophet.

Or, to say all that a whole lot more simply, Psalm 18 is a summary of the New Testament.

David writes this song as a celebration of surviving “the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul.” The first three verses of the song are as powerful as you would ever find (or write) today:

I love You, LORD, my strength.
The LORD is my rock,
my fortress, and my deliverer,
my God, my mountain where I seek refuge,
my shield and the horn of my salvation,
my stronghold.
I called to the LORD, who is worthy of praise,
and I was saved from my enemies.

This sounds much like Zechariah’s song when his tongue was loosed:

Praise the Lord, the God of Israel,
because He has visited
and provided redemption for His people.
He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of His servant David… (Luke 1:68-69 HCSB)

Then David recounts his harrowing experience of running and hiding for his life, but does so in terms strikingly familiar to us New Covenant believers. In fact, I believe Psalm 18 was also inspired as a prophetic description of the New Covenant era, especially starting in verse 4.

  • Jesus’ death (18:4-6)
  • Jesus’ resurrection (18:7-19)
  • Jesus’ ascension (18:20-24)
  • Jesus’ presence and empowering of the Church (18:25-36)
  • Jesus’ return in power and judgment and bloody (not His this time!) victory (18:37-42)
  • Jesus’ exaltation as King of kings and Lord of lords, having all His enemies put under His feet (18:43-45)
  • Jesus’ eternal and mutual rest and delight in His bride (18:46-50)

Since this is Good Friday, read Psalm 18 with this in mind. Think of Jesus’ agony when “the ropes of death were wrapped around [Him]” and He “called to the LORD in [His] distress” (18:4,6). Think of the darkness and earthquakes that accompanied His suffering on the cross (18:7,11); think of the graves that were opened (18:15).

Think of that glorious morning when the Son of God was declared to be so in power, when the Father raised Him to life out of the dead-fish grip of death (18:16). Death, that “powerful enemy” who “hated” Him, who for a time was allowed to be “too strong” for Him (18:17), was no match because the Father was Jesus’ support (18:18), the One who delighted in Him (18:19).

Think of what it meant that Jesus was raised from the dead: the Father “rewarded [Him] according to [His] righteousness; He repaid [Him] according to the cleanness of [His] hands” (18:20). Jesus never “turned from [His] God to wickedness” (18:21) so that we who turned only to wickedness would be given that same reward for righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Think that we who are afflicted by sin and its consequences are rescued (18:27), transferring us from darkness to light (18:28) and giving us strength over the enemies of our soul (18:29, 32).

Think of the strength it took to raise Jesus from the dead, then rest in peaceful contentment that He has “given [us] the shield of [His] salvation; [His] right hand upholds [us]” because His “humility exalts [us]” (18:35).

Think with glad hope on that day when Jesus returns in the splendor of His glory, not in the humble rags of flesh as in His first coming. On that day He will “pursue [His] enemies and overtake them” (18:37); the enemy He saves for last is Death itself (1 Corinthians 15:26). It’s personal, after all.

Think about what it will be like to see all the enemies of Jesus no longer raging against Him, but cringing under His feet (18:43). Think about what it will be like for our Middle Eastern brothers and sisters to no longer live in the shadow of the Islamic State, because IS is now the one terrified and weak (18:45).

Think about what it will be like for all of God’s people from all the ages to have true, lasting, eternal freedom from sin and death (18:48).

Think about what it means that God’s loyalty to David and his descendants—don’t forget we’re adopted into the family as joint-heirs with Jesus—is forever.

Think about that every time you read Psalm 18.

Live By the Word (Ephesians 2:14-18)

In Ephesians 2:11-13, Paul reminds his readers of that they used to be – separated, alienated strangers with no hope – so that they might rejoice in the fact that they have now been brought near by the blood of Christ. In verses 14-18, He shows how Christ has been able to bring them near. What exactly has Christ accomplished? In short, He has brought about “horizontal” peace – between those who were God’s chosen people and those who were not, and He has brought “vertical” peace – between His new, unified people and God. He has done this through the sacrifice of His flesh and blood. In Christ, we have peace – both with other people and with God.

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Sermon & Sunday School (3/20/16)

Over the last  two weeks, we have continued our sermon series through Revelation as well as our Sunday School series through Mark’s Gospel.

We considered Jesus’ words to the church at Sardis in Rev. 3:1-6 – a church that was rebuked for having the reputation of being alive while actually being dead. Notes and audio can be found here.

We also considered the letter to the church of Philadelphia in Rev. 3:7-13 – a faithful church that was encouraged to hold fast even in the midst of suffering. Notes and audio can be found here.

In Mark’s Gospel, we have looked at a pair of conflicts between Jesus and the religious leaders which centered on a pair of issues related to the relationship between the old covenant and the arrival of the kingdom of God. Notes and audio on Mark 2:18-22 can be found here, and notes and audio on Mark 2:18-28 can be found here.

Live By the Word (Genesis 16)

Genesis 16 continues the story of Abraham by narrating another “crisis” point in Abraham’s life. Like most of us, Abram and Sarai continued to struggle with unbelief – despite the clear promises of God and despite past moments in which their faith was strong. Chapter 16 gives us a glimpse into a particular moment of weakness in the life of Abram and his wife. Clearly, this is intended to urge us away from such behavior and to encourage us to trust the Lord and His promises.

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God Is Eternal (God, Part 4)

Human beings are inherently limited by our nature. It is easy to see that we are “bound” in certain ways. As we consider the nature of God, it is important to understand some of the many ways in which we are bound and God is not. One such area is that of time. As humans, it is easy to understand that we have not always existed – there was a time “before” us. Moreover, it is also easy to see that we exist in time – our lives are a succession of events which follow one after another. God is radically different. Even though it is difficult for us to grasp, the Bible makes clear that God exists outside of time – all things are “present” to Him. He is timeless and sees all time with equal clarity. This is another indication of His greatness.

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What Is a Saint?

In light of the news that Mother Teresa has been approved for sainthood by Pope Francis, I would encourage you to read this article by Tim Challies. It is a short, understandable description of both the Roman Catholic process of sainthood as well as the Bible’s teaching on the topic.

I would draw your attention to his summary: “We are saints who have no need of saints. All who have believed in the gospel of grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone have already been declared saints by God (see Romans 1:1-7, 1 Corinthians 1:1-3, 2 Corinthians 1:1-2, and Ephesians 2:19-21). We are God’s holy people, called by him and to him. Jesus Christ is the full and final mediator between God and men (1 Timothy 2:5) who invites us to confidently approach the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16) believing that his Spirit is already interceding on our behalf (Romans 8:26-27). We are the saints of God who have no need for the intercession of saints who have gone before.”

This is truth that we should never forget. It should cause us to rejoice. If you have repented and believed, then you are a saint – a holy child of God set apart by Him and for Him. He has called you out of the world and brought you out of darkness into light, and now – like the tribe of Levi in the Old Testament – you are able to come directly into the holy places of God and serve the Lord. By His grace – apart from your works – God has made you a saint.

This truth should also cause us to strive for holiness. We should be holy because God is holy, and He has called us to be holy. We should strive with all we have to be what He has declared us to be. When we see Him, we will be like Him, and if we truly believe that, we should purify ourselves now (1 John 3:2-3).

And this truth should cause us to love Christ more. He is the One who intercedes for us and has opened the curtain of heaven so that we might come in. We have confidence to enter the holy places because of the blood of Jesus. That blood is enough. That blood is all we need. And that blood is ours by grace through faith.

Live By the Word (Ephesians 2:11-13)

In many ways, Ephesians 2:11-22 covers the same ground as Ephesians 2:1-10. Both sections highlight “the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe” (Eph. 1:19). In both sections, Paul moves from addressing what his readers were before they were Christians to what they are now that they are “in Christ.” The difference is that each section has a particular focus. In 2:1-10, Paul speaks of the problem of sin, but in 2:11-22, Paul speaks of the problem of fellowship – both with God and with the rest of God’s people. The glory of salvation is multi-faceted: Not only does Jesus deal with our sins, He also brings us peace – both with God and with others.

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Live By the Word (Genesis 15)

In Genesis 12, God calls Abraham and promises to bless Him abundantly. In chapters 13-14, we see that begin to come to pass. Despite Abram’s own sins and shortcomings, God preserves him and blesses him. In Genesis 15, then, God repeats the promises of blessing. Why the repetition? It highlights the faithfulness of God – even in times when it may seem (to us) like He has forgotten what He promised. And it provides a clearer glimpse of the details involved in relationship with God – details about both His character and the way in which we should respond to Him.

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