J. Gordon Duncan

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Easter 2012 Family Devotions and Sermon Notes

Big Idea:  God’s voice of pardon and grace is greater than our voice that shouted “Crucify”

Luke 23:39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed against him, saying, “Are you not the Christ?  Save yourself and us!”  40 But the other rebuked him saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same condemnation?  41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due rewards of our deeds.”  42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

  • Why did the second criminal rebuke the first?
  • How did the second criminal ask for mercy and what did Jesus promise him?

 44 It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45 while the sun’s light failed.  And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.  46 Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.  47 Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!”  48 And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breast.  49 And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things.

  • What impact did Jesus’ death have on the centurion?
  • Why do you think the Centurion felt that way?

Luke 24:1 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared.  2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.  4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel.  5 And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?  6 He is not here, but has risen.  Remember, how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”

  • What hope do the angels give the women visiting Jesus’ grave?
  • To what do they attached Jesus’ resurrection?
  • Why is that important?

Luke 24:44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”  45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  48 You are witnesses of these things.  49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you.  But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

  • What does Jesus do here that is similar to what the angels did
  • Jesus’ resurrection means what to the nations?

50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them.  51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven.  52 And they worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.

  • What effect did Jesus’ ascension have on His followers?
  • What effect does it have on you?

The story of Jesus and His mock trial and death would be very little to be inspired by.   In fact, without the celebration of this day, the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, you might even look at the life of Jesus and say to God, “Why didn’t you speak up?  Why did you allow this?  What were you thinking?”  But on this side of the cross, in the reality of and in the shadow of the cross, we find great hope for celebration and truly the only thing by which we can cast our life and find peace.

However along the way, we find great heartbreak as our beautiful Savior suffers on our behalf.  I mean, listen to Luke 22:63 Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking him as they beat him.  64 They also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy!  Who is it that struck you?”  65 And they said many other things against him, blaspheming.  As Jesus was being prepared for trial, the guards decided to loosen up a little. Punch Him.  Mock Him.  Even spit on Him.

The entire trial was such a sham that when Jesus came before Pilate, even he realized Jesus innocent.  Pilates says things like:  Luke 23:13 “You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people.  And after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him.  And later on he says, “Look, nothing deserving death has been done by him.”  But oh now.  The crowd wanted Jesus to die.  They had bloodlust in their hearts and minds and they would not be satisfied until Jesus died.

Pilate had the freedom to release one prisoner per year and he appealed to the crowd to let Jesus go, but instead they wanted a guilty man named Barabbas released.  The just kept crying, “Crucify, crucify him!” Luke 23:23 But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified.  And their voices prevailed.

Notice that last phrase:  And their voices prevailed.  That is the theme and thought I want us to keep in our mind.  We are going to celebrate Jesus resurrection and it we are going to find true hope for our souls.  But first we need to understand that it was our voices that prevailed.  It was our voice, our sin that shouted “Crucify, crucify.”  And thankfully we are going to be met in response by a loving and gracious Savior.  Towards that end, let’s pursue this Big Idea:  God’s voice of pardon and grace is greater than our voice that shouted “Crucify”

So to help us walk through thought this week, we are going to examine the voices that surrounded the death and resurrection of Jesus.  Let’s start with all the voices heard while Jesus hung on the cross. Look at Luke 23:39

39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed against him, saying, “Are you not the Christ?  Save yourself and us!”  40 But the other rebuked him saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same condemnation?  41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due rewards of our deeds.”  42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Even at the moment of Jesus’ highest agony, as He suffered innocently and in great suffering, there are still voices railing against Him.  And who rails against Him?  Whose voice prevails?  A guilty criminal being rightfully punished.  But his cries of “Save yourself and us” are not just his.  This is the voice of any one of us who choses sin, death, and un-repentance instead of Jesus Christ.

When we hear the clear truths of our Holy God proclaimed and when we see our beautiful Savior dying on our behalf, yet we remain in our sin, our hearts echo this same mocking cry.  Save yourself Jesus.  But the other criminal is a voice of hope to us.  He says, “Hey, we are guilty.  We are receiving the just punishment of our sins.”  And that criminal doesn’t stop with a mere conviction of sin.  He cries out Jesus.  He says, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Our being drawn to Jesus is just this:  We rightfully see our sin.  We see our deserved punishment of death and hell.  And then we see Jesus as our hope in light of that sin and just punishment and we cry out for mercy.

And Jesus, ever the gracious Savior, even while in agony on the cross, speaks mercy.  He says that the rightfully punished and guilty sinner will enjoy heaven with him even on that very day.  Faith and repentance meet grace and mercy.  The voice of our sin is either going to lead us to mock and accuse Jesus or move us to cry out for mercy and forgiveness.  The scriptures show us next what happens and we hear another voice around Jesus.

Luke 23:44 It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45 while the sun’s light failed.  And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.  46 Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.  47 Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!”  48 And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breast.  49 And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things.

Jesus’ death is at hand.  His agony is complete.  He has drunk the cup of God’s wrath to its very dregs and finally He gives up His spirit.  Darkness covers the whole land when it should be bright.  The curtain in the temple that separated sinful men and women from a Holy God is ripped in two – there is now no barrier between sinful humanity and a perfect Holy God.

And in Jesus’ death, does He shout bitterness that He would die while innocent of sin?  Does He shout out in anger that the Father abandoned Him?  No, Jesus’ voice is the voice of trusting His father in what appears to be gross injustice.  He simply and beautifully says, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”  What a wonderful picture of trust.  What hope it should give us and what an empowering example.  None of us will experience any act of abuse like Jesus.  None of will suffer innocently as He did.  None of us will have as just cause to cry out in anger to God.

Oh, we’ll have pain, experience injustice, and hurt, but nothing like Jesus’.  And Jesus so trustingly says, “Your will is hard my Father, but here I am.”  You know the other day I had a chance to ponder this.  I was working through some anger and hurt.  I felt like someone I loved was being seen in a false light.  They were being diminished and put down and criticized for stupid self-righteous reasons.  I was angry.  I asked myself, “What is the Gospel answer to this anger because if I don’t find one, I’m going to verbally hurt this person and enjoy doing it?”

And I was reminded that Jesus was falsely accused for my sake.  In light of that I knew that the offense that bothered, what this other person had done, was nothing compared to what Jesus went through.  I knew the Gospel to comfort my heart and I had to pray, “God, I still don’t know how to do this.  Please help me.  This picture of Jesus is intended to give us hope for our sin and patience for others.

And that Gospel, that trust in God, is a testimony to the world.  Because when Jesus dies with such trust, faith, and dignity, it has an impression.  The Centurion who was tasked with making sure that Jesus died on that cross looked at Him as He died and said, “Surely this man is innocent.”  The Gospel, the trust in God that says you provide for me even in difficulty, the trust in God no matter what, makes impression in this world.  God uses it to soften the heart.  The voice of trust in God when everything around you tells you to trust yourself has a huge impact and testimony.  But this Easter where we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.  Let’s look at the voices at that wonderful glorious moment.

Luke 24:1 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared.  2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.  4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel.  5 And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?  6 He is not here, but has risen.  Remember, how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”

The women who cared for Jesus go to His tomb to care for His body which was a common practice in that day.  When they get there, the stone has been rolled away.  They are confused.  Has His body been stolen?  Has been disgraced in some way?  What happens now?

But then a voice speaks comfort to them.  Two dazzling angels appear, and their appearance is so amazing that the ladies just fall to the ground as they recognize that they are in the presence of the heavenly.  And the angels offer a gentle but hopeful rebuke.  They ask, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?  Jesus is not here.  He has risen.”

This is the voice that we must keep in our hearts today.  Jesus is not dead though He died.  Jesus is not humiliated though He was.  Jesus is risen.  His resurrection means hope, forgiveness, salvation, and glory for all who have faith in Him.

You know for silly slogans or reducing Christianity to buzzwords, but I will this would be helpful for us to get used to saying in some meaningful way.  And I’ll be careful not to over spiritualize this passage either.  But when we are discouraged or we don’t understand exactly what God is doing, when we are in similar confusing times like these ladies, we need to remind ourselves of this truth.  Ask your heart, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?  He is not here.  He is risen.”

The resurrection of Jesus means that all injustice will one day be done away with.  Everything will be made right.  Jesus will be glorified.  His children will experience God the Father’s affection face to face with no fear.  All tears will be wiped away.  No hunger.  No pain.  No doubt.  So why seek the living among the dead?

But there is one voice that is even more comforting than the voice of an angel and that is of course the voice of Jesus.  Later on in Luke 24, Jesus appears to the tiny, faithful group of people who actually missed Him.  This is what He said to them.

Luke 24:44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”  45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  48 You are witnesses of these things.  49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you.  But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Jesus’ words of comfort should settle into our hearts so we can remind ourselves of these truths over and over again.  Jesus shows up and says, “Listen Gang, the entire OT, the law of Moses, the Psalm, the Prophets, they all spoke of my life, death, and resurrection, and God has been faithful to bring all of those things to life.”  And then He opened their minds to understand the scriptures.

Now before we go any further, let’s pray that.  Let’s make that true of us.  Dear God, open our minds to understand the scriptures.  Forgive for not even knowing where our Bible is have the time.  Make this wonderful gift that you have given us, have preserved over thousands of years, make those scriptures the very words of life and help us understand them.

And what does Jesus tell them?  Jesus had to suffer, die, and rise again on the third day, that day in which we celebrate right here in this moment.  And what should we do with this wonderful truth?  We should proclaim it to the nations.

We should proclaim that repentance (real change away from sin) is met with real forgiveness (the absolute restoration of your soul before God).   And Jesus told them, don’t worry, power from on High will enable you to proclaim this message.  The Holy Spirit, which fell on believers in Acts 2, is the power that God will use to make these truths real to our hearts and empower us to tell the nations.

The voice of the resurrected Jesus wanted them and you to know a few things.  All that Jesus did shows God’s faithfulness to His promises.  Jesus fully satisfies the payment of your sin.  His resurrection is the guarantee of all of God’s promises.  And as you proclaim repentance, God gives you that forgiveness.  Then you have to get off your butt about it.  That job is hard and scary but the Holy Spirit will enable you to do it.

Let me offer all of us a few encouragements from these promises.  Everything that Jesus did in His life, death, and resurrection gave God glory because they were a part of fulfilling God’s promises.  And everything that you will ever need to please God has been undertaken and accomplished in Jesus.  Our part to play in this is to cry out in faith in Jesus and repent of our sin.

Now, let me make a broader application.  Jesus appeared to this tiny group of people.  They hadn’t been incredibly faithful but now they faithfully waited; most of them abandoned Jesus in His moment on the cross.  But Jesus graciously appeared to them anyway.

We are much like they were.  We are not that big of a group, and we haven’t been incredibly faithful – at least not enough to pat ourselves on the back or anything.  We too like them have the hope that the power of the Holy Spirit has come upon us.  In fact, we sit on this side of the story enjoying the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.

But we might fall short in obedience in the latter part of Jesus’ promises.  We run the risk of not proclaiming repentance and forgiveness of sins to the nations.  We run the risk of not proclaiming it to our city.  We run the risk of not proclaiming it to our neighborhood.  And some of us run the risk of not proclaiming it to our kids and ourselves.

But that is our call.  That is our commission and that is our job.  We proclaim Jesus to our hearts, our kids hearts, to each other, to this city, and to the world.  Sometimes the church takes on maybe one of those ideas to the exclusion of the others as if God can’t enable us to obey what He has commanded.

For example, some churches become slaves to merely becoming Godly children progenerators.  We so fear that are children are going to grow up and be ungodly that we become slaves to them fearing that if we miss a prayer or if we let someone other than ourselves have influence on them, then they are going to grow up and fall into sin.  We think we are in control instead of God.  And though we are commanded to raise Godly children, we can do that and proclaim Jesus to the nations.  God doesn’t give us an 18 year break from proclaiming Jesus to the nations so we can raise our kids – both can happen simultaneously.

Sometimes the church becomes obsessed with right theology.  We can quote dead theologians to no end, we can root out the heretics and insure ourselves of being theologically safe and astute, and not proclaim Jesus to the nations.  If you take more joy in the smell of an old book than you do the company of your neighbor or co-worker who needs Jesus, repent.  If you place yourself above others, even other Christians, because your theology is correct and theirs off, repent.  You can have correct theology and still proclaim Jesus to the nations.

I could use a myriad of other examples:  We become obsessed with our own perfection and become graceless to those who fall into sin.  We become obsessed with order and cleanliness or health and beauty, correct worship, and on and on.

But we are to do what Jesus commands here.  He is risen, all the scriptures assured it and He brought about our salvation.  So just as that tiny group heard Him, now this tiny group should hear Him.  You have the Holy Spirit.  He enables you, empowers you, and changes you.

We can do this here, we can grow in obedience, we can raise Godly kids, we can have good theology, and all of that.  But let’s get off of our butts and go tell the nations about Jesus.  As one good friend here at SK said, let’s not be as evangelical as mimes.  Open your mouth, say the name of Jesus to someone who desperately needs to know His grace.  And to guide us in that mission, let’s hear one last voice from Luke 24

50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them.  51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven.  52 And they worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.

Jesus lifted His hands up and blessed His children.  And while He did that, He was lifted up into heaven entering God’s presence as the victorious Son who obediently proclaimed the glory of God to sinful mean and women going so far as to win salvation for them.  I would love to know what words Jesus spoke here but He blessed them nonetheless.

And what did they do in response?   What is the proper response to being blessed by the resurrected Savior?  Worship.  They worshipped Him, return to Jerusalem with great joy and continually blessed God in the temple – the temple btw that no longer had a curtain separating them from God.  That is what we are called to do here.  We are called to worship and bless God in light of the resurrected Jesus.  Think of the voices that we have heard here and find yourself among them.

Are you the cynical voice that cries to Jesus, “You can’t save me; you couldn’t save yourself”?  If so, the gracious resurrected Jesus offers you grace and forgiveness.

Are you the faithful voice that cries to Jesus, “Remember me when you come into your glory”?  If so, Jesus meets that cry of your heart with, “You will be with me in paradise.”
Are you totally confused, not understanding what God has done looking for the living among the dead?   If so, the angels cry to your heart that Jesus is risen and you can be forgiven and have great hope again.

Are you the few who need to be reminded of the church’s mission again?  Have you become distracted by singularly focusing on one good thing to the neglect of God’s command to tell the nations of Jesus?  If so, the voice of Jesus tells you that repentance and forgiveness are available for your sin and the Holy Spirit will enable you to do more than just one thing – you can raise Godly kids, have correct theology, AND tell the nations about Jesus.

But know, Jesus is risen and has ascended into Heaven and if you have faith in Him, He blesses you in this moment.  He will gift us faith and repentance, perhaps some of you for the very first time.  He will enable you to proclaim this wonderful message to the nations.  He will bless you.  Jesus will do these things for His glory and the glory of the Father.  Hear this wonderful voice:  John 10:10 I have come to give you life and that life will be more abundant than any other life you can imagine.”

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April 8, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Family Devotion and Sermon Notes for Palm Sunday 2012

Big Picture Question:  What would it look like for you, your family, this church, and this city to unreservedly serve and glorify Jesus Christ?

John 12:1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. 3 Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, 5 “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6 He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. 7 Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. 8 For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”

  • How did Mary serve Jesus?
  • What was Judas’ problem with Mary’s act of service?
  • Why does Jesus receive Mary’s gift?

 9 When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, 11 because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.

  • Why were the crowds looking for Jesus?
  • Why did the Chief Priests want to put Jesus to death?

 12 The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” 14 And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, 15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!”

  • How did the people worship Jesus?
  • How did this moment fulfill a promise of scripture?
  • What do the crowds and Mary have in common?

 16 His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him. 17 The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. 18 The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”

  • Why did the people glorify Jesus?
  • How did the Pharisees react?
  • How do these verses demonstrate the deferent responses people have to Jesus?
  • Have you ever worshiped Jesus?  If so, why and how?

20 Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21 So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

 

Palm Sunday is celebrated each year one week before we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We don’t have too much of a religious calendar here in America, but we do have a few tried and true celebrations.  I mean, we know Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th, but we take that time each year to celebrate Jesus’ birth.  We know Jesus wasn’t resurrected on April 8th, but we take that time each year, somewhere around there to celebrate the resurrection.  Some churches celebrate Palm Sunday and others don’t.  We do and for this reason.  Palm Sunday gives us a chance to see one of the few times that Jesus was glorified and praised here on earth.  You see Jesus spent most of His ministry being rejected, lied about, and even spat upon.

Palm Sunday shows Jesus being glorified – not just by His disciples but by an entire city.  And if we pay attention, we will see a call to our hearts to glorify Jesus and we will also see a vision that our entire city might do the same.  So this is not going to be a typical sermon with 5 verses and then an explanation.  I want to walk us through an entire chapter of the book of John so that we can see both the context of Palm Sunday and the application of Palm Sunday.  Towards that end, let’s shoot for this

Big Picture Question:  What would it look like for you, your family, this church, and this city to unreservedly serve and glorify Jesus Christ?

To understand what happens in John that would move an entire city to stop and give praise to Jesus while He rode into town on a donkey, we have to see what happened just prior to all of that.  At the beginning of John 12, Jesus came to a town called Bethany.  That was the city where Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead, so Jesus is famous there.  The city knows that He performs miracles.  They were at Lazarus’ funeral and were at His tomb.  Lazarus was smelly and dead.  His friends still mourned but the city had moved on, and Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.

So Jesus returns to that city, and of course has a meal with His friends.  Mary, Martha and Lazarus provide an oasis for Jesus in the midst of world where people are either violent hostile to Him or violently curious about Him.  While Jesus is chilling at their table, something interesting happens.  Listen to this:

John 12:1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. 3 Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

What we see here is an act of mercy, service, and glory to Jesus.  Mary shows mercy to Jesus by anointing His hard, dirty, tired feet.  Remember, Jesus travels with no luxuries.  We get mad if the AC breaks.  Jesus had nothing, so Mary anointing His feet is an act of mercy.  Washing Jesus’ feet is an act of stark, honest worship.  Women didn’t unbind their hair public and they certainly didn’t give away expensive perfume, but Mary reserves nothing in her worship.  She will give everything away to worship Jesus:  her dignity, her appearance, and her money.It is an act of service because there are so few who appear to want to serve Jesus.  Everyone wants something from Jesus.  Mary wants to give to Jesus.  And it is also an act of giving Jesus glory.  He alone is worthy of praise, and Mary demonstrates that by worshiping Jesus in the humble act.

This is a supreme example of our Big Picture Question.  How do we give glory to Jesus?  We serve Him.  He is our master.  We are His servants.  We submit ourselves to Him.  We offer praise and glory to Him alone.  Now, you would think that Jesus disciples and followers would like what’s going on here.  But another lesson to be learned is that anytime you boldly serve Jesus, someone is going to be boldy offended.  This time, it is from one of Jesus’ disciples.

4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, 5 “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6 He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. 7 Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. 8 For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”

Judas doesn’t see what Mary is doing as worship.  He doesn’t see the reckless abandoning heart cry that is Mary’s anointing of Jesus.  No, he sees fiscal responsibility.  He says, “Are you kidding me?  That perfume is worth 300 denarii, that’s a year’s worth of money.”  What would Dave Ramsey say about that?  Then he gets pious probably when he realizes that he should have kept his mouth shut.

He says, “I mean you could have fed the poor with that money.”  But the real reason for his anger was that Judas was a thief.  He used to steal money from the disciples money bag and had he known that Mary had that kind of money, he may very well have tried to steal that too.  Jesus’ response is this:  He says, “Let her worship me and you don’t bother her.   There is going to be plenty of time to do the work of the kingdom which is caring for the poor.  Now is the time to worship me because I am about to leave.”

We should notice a couple of things from the examples of Mary and Judas.  The simplest of which is worship Jesus and not money, right?  But that is not how I want to challenge us today.  As desperately as we need to talk about that as a congregation, I’m not going to do that.  Jesus calls you and me for unreserved, abandoning worship and adoration of Him.  There will always be things that will call our attention away.  Some of those things will be good and will be our responsibility like caring for the poor.  Some of the things that will call our attention away will be sinful like the useless things we do to fill our time.  But in that moment and in that very hour, and in this moment and in this very hour, we are called to worship Jesus.

Let’s follow Mary’s example and abandon all reserve and worship Jesus.  Now right after this, people begin to show up.  Remember Jesus is famous in this city so when they hear that He is near, they show up.  The think, “The Circus is in town.”

9 When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, 11 because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.

So everyone is running and flocking to Jesus.  The Jews want to see and touch Him and ask questions of Him.  I’m sure some who have heard of this story want also to see and hear Lazarus and make sure that the rumors they have heard are true.  The Chief Priest doesn’t really like it though.  They were the religious leaders of the Jews and they don’t want the Jews running to anybody but them.  They offered a shell of worship, a mockery of what true adoration of God looked like.

All they want to do is re-secure their power base.  So the chief priests plan to kill Jesus AND Lazarus because so many people are leaving them and following Jesus.  How in the world could anyone think this is Godly?  The chief priests are plotting murder.  Gang, one lesson to be learned here is this:  Cold, dead, lifeless religion that doesn’t change the heart will ultimately move to hatred of Jesus Christ.   Oh the form of religion may use His name, but if your worship isn’t like Mary’s abandoning of the soul, you will eventually hate Jesus and anyone else who loves Him.  The Town of Garner littered with the casualties of such hollow worship.

The Chief Priests hated Jesus so much that they were willing to kill Him and willing to kill His living example of power, Lazarus.  On side note:  Have you ever considered how ridiculous their plan was to kill Jesus?   I mean if He can raise the dead…I mean, what do they hope to accomplish?  If Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, why do they think killing him would help?

You see again, in our understanding of what whole-hearted, unreserved worship of Jesus looks like, we need to learn from opposite example.  No, I don’t think any of you conspired to kill Jesus this week, but the question is, “Was your heart drawn to Him as the wellspring of life?”  “Did you see Jesus and Jesus alone as the sole hope for joy or do you see it coming by your own hand, your own efforts, or your own accomplishments?”  Is where Jesus takes you the only place you want to go whether or not you know or even like where He leads you?

Well, let’s found out again what worship should look like.  Jesus leaves Bethany and heads to Jerusalem.  Jesus isn’t running away from His enemies.  Jesus knew all along that Jerusalem was where He was going and this is where He would ultimately be tried and crucified.  So, look at verse 12.

John 12:12 The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” 14 And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, 15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!”

What we are seeing here on Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem is a picture of the work of the church.  We are to worship Jesus.  And we are to play a part in bringing our city to worship Jesus.

Look at how Jesus is worshipped here – Jesus is so rarely worshipped.  This picture is so refreshing.  Here, finally in this moment, Jesus is proclaimed as King and Savior.  The waving of palm branches in that day was a royal coronation that declared Jesus as King.  The crowd is yelling “Hosanna” which is a word that we can so easily know and sing and say but easily miss the emphasis of.

Hosanna is a proclamation of the heart that declares that God has done something.   The opportunities for Hosanna in your life are countless and endless.  You might have to look for them sometimes, but the work of God is at least displayed in the heavens.  It is displayed whenever you sit and eat.  It is displayed right now and you hear the words of grace preached.

For Jerusalem that day?   God was worthy of a Hosanna because He has brought the King of His people, the God of this World, the Savior of sinners and wrapped Him in the humility of a man riding on a donkey.  And not one ounce of beauty, deity, or power has been lost.  We are to say, Hosanna Jesus has come in the name of the Lord.

Now, there is another way that this Triumphal Entry is a picture of the church.  The church proclaims Jesus as the Savior riding on a Donkey.   The church is to draw in people to worship Jesus.  We are to play a part in gathering in this city, our neighborhoods, and our workplaces to do the same.

And just like in that day, I’m sure some are going to proclaim Jesus as King because He is the answer to their heart’s cry.  Others are going to gather to see the show.  Yet, either way, we are to proclaim Jesus.

In this moment, you should consider ways in which the Kingdom might be advanced by your living out a life of crying “Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel”  Renew your heart now.   Remind and rehearse how great God.  Command your heart to praise Jesus and declare Hosannas.  Ask God to give you an infectious desire to praise God that catches with every single person you bump into so that others in this city might do the same.

Now in this moment, this incredible mind-blowing example of an entire city coming out to worship Jesus, you know who doesn’t get it?   The very people who should have gotten it:  the disciples.  Look at verse 16

16 His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him. 17 The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. 18 The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”

What the disciples don’t understand here is Jesus being praised for being King.  Oh, they want Him to be king alright.  They still have desires of Jesus being a political king that will overthrow the pagan Roman government that is occupying Israel.

The book of John, being the last Gospel written, explains though that once Jesus died, rose again, and showed Himself glorified, they understand the true nature of Jesus’ kingship.  But at that moment, they didn’t understand the palm waving.  What’s going on here in this passage is larger and greater than any human inauguration the world has ever seen.  The King of Sinners has arrived.  Praise Him.  Overthrowing hostile Romans is too small of a picture for this king.  He is going to overthrow sin and death.

Now verse 17 tells us that the crowd with Jesus and His disciples have been with Him since He raised Lazarus from the dead, and they continue to tell everyone what Jesus has done.  What might they be saying?  Is this the one who was promised?  We know he has the power over death.  Guys, this has got to be the one who we have waited for for so long.  He is the cry of our hearts.

And their testimony is effective.  People are flocking to hear this message.  Gang, what would it look like if your heart valued and treasured Jesus like this?  What if you thought of Jesus as the hope of your heart?  What if you couldn’t help but speak of His majesty and beauty?  I can tell you what would happen and what might happen.  What would happen would be Jesus lifted up, glorified and God praise.  What would happen is that you would have more peace than you could ever imagine.  What might happen would be your home, this church, and this city might just be transformed.

And as always, when Jesus is praised, opposition arises.  So many people are responding that the Pharisees are losing hope.  They say to one another, “Great.  We’ve been fighting this guy for 3 years, and we’ve gained nothing.  It looks like whole world has gone after Him.  You see what is effective here?  People aren’t running around speaking about their subjective experiences that can be argued and disputed.  Though there is a time and place for those types of testimonies, the people of Jesus’ day keep it simple.  They speak about who Jesus Christ is.  They are speaking about what He has done.

They don’t let the conversation change subjects because the subject is Jesus.  They don’t get caught up in political discussion.  They speak about Jesus.  This is powerful testimony.

Gang, if you have wondered why more people don’t come to know Jesus around you.  If you have ever wondered why people disregard your testimony.  If you have ever wondered why you love drama and have to create crisis to feel important.  If you have wondered why you love your sin so much.  If you have ever wondered why this church doesn’t grow faster, I can tell you in least in part.

In the part, the answer is that we aren’t talking about Jesus enough.  Jesus is always the main thing, and we must keep the main thing the main thing.

20 Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21 So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

Obviously, all of this talk about Jesus is attracting attention, and not just from curious Jews looking for a King or Messiah.  The Greeks with their entire pantheon of gods have heard of Jesus.  Even, they want to know who He is.  So they ask Philip, and Philip gets Andrew and they went to tell Jesus that I guess the Pharisees were right.  Maybe the whole world is asking about Jesus because even those pagan Greeks are here.

But Jesus, as always, surprises.  He doesn’t run to tell all the Greeks about Himself.   No, He makes a declaration:  He says, “It is time.  Now is the hour for the Son of man to be glorified.  Jesus uses the title “Son of Man’ here to identify Himself with us.   The Redeemer of fallen men and women, His time has now come to be glorified.

Now, when we hear that, perhaps we think, ‘No longer will Jesus be humiliated or rejected,” but that is exactly the means by which He will be glorified.  To explain that Jesus casts a powerful image.  I can imagine Jesus looking out at a wheat field.  He says, “The only way you get that kind of harvest is if the grain seed falls to the ground…and dies.”

Now before we go any further, Jesus uses the very workings of nature to illustrate that if He is going to truly reign as King, then He must die.  For Jesus ultimately to be glorified, He must die.  But I don’t think Jesus’ point is merely to illustrate the nature of His Rule.  It is also to point out the nature of  how YOU should live.

I mean Jesus tells us that we must pick up our cross and follow Him doesn’t He?  According to Jesus, if you love your life here in this earth?  Then you are going to have to lose it.  But if you hate your life here on this earth?  Then you will have eternal life.

Jesus’ point is so radical I dare say I don’t know very many human beings who come close to living it out.  Your desire to follow Jesus, your affection for Him should be so great, that it should be the central interest of your life.  And the degree to which you follow Him should make it look like you don’t give a damn about your own personal life.

Does that mean you don’t care for yourself or raise your children?  Of course not.  Does that mean you don’t care for yourself?  Of course not.  The thing is, you care for yourself, you raise your children, you do all of these things, but you don’t do those things for personal, selfish reason.  But we aren’t slaves to raising our children, we aren’t slaves to our body…we aren’t slaves to anything or anyone but Jesus.  You raise your kids, take care of yourself, etc, you do those things because you are hopelessly attracted to, devoted to, and in love with the Son of Man, Jesus Christ.

The central frustration of many of your lives though is that God has not made your life what you want it to be.  You want easier, simpler, healthier, richer, and on and on.  That is not what we are called to.  We are called to follow Jesus to such an extent that those worries don’t measure up to the concern we have for proclaiming and giving affection to Jesus Christ.  It should look like we hate this life because we love the next.  It should look like we have died and been reborn.

Have you ever seen the movie “The Shawshank Redemption”?   In that move, the main character Andy Dufrense offers this wise advice to us:  “Either get busy living or get busy dying.”  If you want to follow and serve Jesus, if you want your family and this church to follow and serve Jesus, if you want this city to follow and serve Jesus, then you have to follow and serve His example:  You have to crucify your life for the Glory of God.

Where Jesus would have you go with the message of the Gospel, that is where you go to the sacrifice of every other personal desire.  Home, school, work, neighborhood, city, church.  You say, “Gordon, that is too hard.  Jesus demands too much.”  And sympathetically but honestly I’ll tell you, “Since when did you think that Jesus demanded less, that He didn’t demand everything?”

Here is what I think is going on here at SK right now.  I think most of us are going through the very painful process of our lives falling to the ground and we are painfully watching ourselves die.  Some of you have dreams of greater work and employment.  Some of you have dreams a healthier life.  Some of you have dreams of more children.  Some of you have dreams of a better lifestyle.

And you know what, those dreams are not inherently bad.  In fact, they can be pretty nice.  But here is the thing.  Do you want Jesus more than all of them?  Are you satisfied with Jesus alone?  If you never get a better job, if your health never improves, if you never get married, or never have kids, or your lifestyle never improves, is Jesus alone enough?  If the answer is, “No, He is not enough,” then I imagine you are going through the very painful process of watching those dreams die.

So, you might ask, “Well, what then?  What is the solution?”  I will make very clear for you.  Take every desire you have in this world, good bad or indifferent.  Lay them at the feet of Jesus Christ.  And pray you can say this, “Jesus you are enough for me.  I love you so much that if I never get desire one in this world, I resolve to live happily because I have Jesus Christ as my Savior.  If you bless me with even one of these desires, I’ll say thanks, but if you bless me with none, my heart is satisfied in you.”

Until your heart can pray that prayer, your effectiveness as a child of God in terms of loving Jesus, proclaiming Jesus, and serving in the name of Jesus is going to be diminished.  In fact, I’ll will say until Jesus is ALL you want, you will not be effective.  The beautiful thing is this:  we aren’t giving up anything if we give our earthly desires to Jesus.  He is more than our souls could ever dream of and more beautiful and gracious and wonderful than our hearts desires.  The way up this Palm Sunday is the way down.  The way to life this Palm Sunday is death.  The way to know joy and happiness is to kill the competing idols in your heart that would take Jesus’ place on the throne.

April 1, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

SK Easter Egg Hunt for GPD/EMS Pics

April 5, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Easter Devotion – Where Does Shame Go?

Often, you hear the words “guilt” and “shame” used synonymously.  Though they share some interchangeable qualities, there is actually quite a distinction between the two.  You see, guilt is what you feel when you have done something wrong and you know it.  Guilt is the feeling of condemnation against your own actions.  If you speak a word too harshly to someone else or if you have a thought of lust or anger, then quite often you’ll feel guilty because you have done something that you know is wrong.

Now shame is like guilt in that it has an awareness of wrongdoing, but shame is much more powerful.  You see guilt is inward.  It is the personal feeling that often accompanies poor choices, poor words, and poor actions.  But shame says, “I’m guilt and everybody knows it.”  “Shame is the social consequence of guilt.”  (Ed Welch).

And the big problem with shame is that even if you confess your guilt to someone else or to God asking for forgiveness, that doesn’t necessarily take away the feelings of shame, does it?  Many of us know in our hearts that God will forgive us but we are still left with the question of what to do with our shame?  The reason these feelings remain is that most of the time, the public doesn’t care if you are forgiven or not.  You can make a mistake these days, and it can be replayed 563,000 times on youtube.  Just ask anyone who has ever fallen down around someone who had a camera phone.

Since shame seems to persist, so do our attempts of managing shame.  There are so many directions people go when feeling shameful, but for the moment, let me focus on one of two possible directions.  The first direction is giving up and purposefully pursuing sin.  The thinking is, “Well since I’m guilty and ashamed by what I’ve done, it doesn’t really matter anyway, so I’m just going to do what I want.”  I’ve seen this many times where someone feels ashamed sexually by either someone they’ve done or something that was done to them.  They can’t get rid of the shame so they just quit fighting.  The second directions folks go in pursuing a graceless Christianity.  This is one that does not rest is full acceptance of God the Father through Jesus Christ.  A person will say, “Yeah I know I’m forgiven but God is not really going to love me unless I earn a goodness or righteousness on my own.”

The problem is that both fall woefully short in terms of assuaging the feelings of shame.   So this week, in this wonderful celebration of all that Jesus has done for us, let’s ask this Big Picture Question:

Big Picture Question:  Where does shame go?

Colossians 2:13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,

Since we have plunked ourselves down in the midst of the book of Colossians, let’s take a moment to set the backdrop of Paul’s promises here.  Paul wrote this letter to the church in Colossae while he was in prison in Rome.  Paul spent 3 years in Ephesus and while he was there, one of his converts headed down to plant the church of Colossae.  It appears that in between the start of the church and this letter, leaders had risen up that deemphasized the sufficiency of Jesus.  What that means is that they began to encourage people to attempt to contact angels and the dead saints of the OT for help.  Paul would have none of that.  If Jesus isn’t sufficient to meet your needs, then nothing will be sufficient to meet your needs.  To emphasize that point, Paul gave them verse 13.

Paul talks about what had to be overcome for a person to have a relationship with God.  There were a couple of barriers.  Paul tells the Christians in Colossae (and subsequently any believers here ) that apart from Jesus Christ, you were dead in two ways:  dead in your trespasses or dead in your sins and dead in the uncircumcision of your flesh.  The first is death by rebellion, and the second is death by alienation.

Being dead in your trespasses means that our sins of word, thought, and deed make us spiritually dead.  That means that while we sometimes might choose to do the right thing outwardly in life.  For instance we might choose not to murder someone in our anger but being dead in sin means that we don’t do it because of a desire to please God.  We do it for self.  If we are not worshiping God, we are worshiping self.  Dead in sin means dead to obedience.  This rebelliousness not only condemns to death, but it also alienates from God.   Paul describes this alienation as the uncircumcision of the flesh.  You see circumcision was the sign of the Abrahamic covenant that signified a person was in a covenant relationship with God.  Being uncircumcised signified being apart from God.  Paul says this is what our sin does.  Our sin makes us dead and alienated from God our Father.

This is a hopeless circumstance.  Perhaps even like some that you have experienced in your life.  I know a few stories in here that are pretty painful and have been pretty hopeless.  Hopelessness comes when you feel like there is nothing that can be done to improve a situation.  For example, there are mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, sisters and brothers who have suffered at the betrayal of another.  Maybe that betrayal was a lie that was told to you.  Maybe that betrayal was your parents getting divorced.  Maybe that betrayal was far too frequent and painful beatings you suffered.  Maybe a spouse didn’t keep their promise to remain faithful.  I stop there because I don’t want to dredge up too many hurtful feelings.  The point is that in situations like that, we feel hopeless for any repair or improvement.  The only way those situations are going to improve is for someone to die a little and either ask for forgiveness or die a little and offer forgiveness.  In this world, those moments are pretty rare.  Well this is our situation with God except there is no dying a little that will mend our relationship.  Much more is required.

So Paul tells us that in that state of death and alienation, God made you alive again.  He resurrected you and forgave all your trespasses.  Now, how did God do that?  How did He make you alive once you were dead?  How did He forgive your trespasses?  Is He no longer just?  Does He no longer punish sin?  I mean I think it is great that God would take those who have alienated themselves from Him and brought them back, but how did He do it?  Now before I answer the question, ask yourself, “Wouldn’t you love that?  Wouldn’t you love it if you deeply offended and hurt someone and that person sought you out to fix your relationship?  Wouldn’t it cause such an affection and attitude of thankfulness if you were guilty for something, but you were offered full forgiveness and restoration?  Wouldn’t you love to be loved that way?

Look at what Paul says.  Look at how God mended your broken relationship with Him.  He did it by…

14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands.  This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

Jesus, our Savior who we celebrate this wonderful resurrection day, restored your to relationship with God, brought you back to life, and canceled the debt you owed to God.  He took all those things, your death, your alienation, and the debt you owe God, and He nailed them to the cross with Jesus.  So when Jesus died, so did your death, your alienation, and your debt.  The great theologian John Owen called this “The Death of Death in the Death of Jesus Christ”  Jesus conquered death by dying for sin.

Every legal demand, every obedience expectation from God has been met in Jesus for those who have faith in Him.  Consider that for a moment.  For some the idea that every expectation that God has for you being met in Christ sounds like heresy.  The idea that God’s affection for you is unwavering and immovable sounds like a license to live a life of guiltless sin.  Well, though the grace of Christ is just that free.  Living a life of guiltless sin is not generally the reflection of the heart transformed by Christ, but it is just that free.  You see, when Jesus lived perfectly and died on the cross, He canceled the legal demands of God for you.

That means that every single obedience that the scriptures demand of you has been met.  Christ has been truthful when you have lied.  Yet He took your punishment for lying.  Christ has been faithful when you have cheated.  Yet He took your punishment for cheating.  Christ has been honoring when you have been dishonoring.  Yet He took your punishment for being dishonorable.  Christ has worshipped when you have slept.  Yet He took your punishment for ignoring worship.  Christ has prayed when you haven’t thought about it.  Yet He took your punishment for your lack of prayer.  Christ has been compassionate when you have walked by.  Yet He took your punishment for your lack of compassion.  The entire legal obligation and demand of God in both obedience and punishment have been met by Jesus Christ for all of those who have faith in Him.  Every expectation God has for you, every punishment God has for your sin has been nailed to the cross.  Look what that did for you.  Look at verse 15.

15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Who are these rulers and authorities?  Well, despite the fact that most don’t consider these realities, the scriptures are clear Satan seeks to defame you and accuse you.

Rev 12:10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. 11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.

Satan accuses each person daily before the throne of God and you either have an advocate there through Christ or you don’t.  Satan accuses you daily before the throne of God speaking of your sin and quite ironically, your unworthiness to be called a child of God.  But His voice is cut short when He speaks of those who have faith in Jesus because salvation and power have come through the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Verse 11 says that Jesus conquered Satan and His accusations by His own blood and by the testimony of Jesus, He says, “You cannot accuse that one.  He or she is mine.”

But that accusation of shame lingers doesn’t it.  I mean how often are you reminded of something that you have done and you become paralyzed with shame?  Despite the fact that this verse tells you that your accuser has been disarmed, shame still lingers.  And quite often we give into that voice that speaks in our head and we think with that accusation, “I am worthless.”  But what did the work of Christ do?  It did more than just enable you to be forgiven.  Christ has taken your shame, and has taken anything that seek to remind you of that shame, and has put it to shame.  If salvation comes by the death of death by the death of Jesus Christ, then this is the shaming of shame by the shaming of your shame.  Instead of being ashamed of sins in which you have been forgiven, Christ leads you in a triumph over your accusers.

2 Corinthians 2:14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.

A triumphal processesion was a Roman victory parade after an enemy has been destroyed.  The people would line the streets and the soldiers would march through the city with everything from prisoners of war to the spoils of their victories, and the people would celebrate the returning heroes.

That is what Christ has done with the shame of those who have faith in Him.  He has disarmed the power of shame and the accusations of any that stand against His children.  So much so that He throws a victory party to show you that He has triumphed over every enemy and every hint of shame in your life.  Folks, we would live such different lives if we could embrace these things.  If you have faith in Christ and have asked Him for forgiveness of yours sins, then God does not intend for you to either wallow in or be paralyzed by shame.  God through Christ has specifically disarmed shame of its power.  He publicly ridiculed your enemies and leads you in a triumphal procession of celebration.  That procession sings a song that says “My sin oh the joy of the glorious thought/my sin not in part but the whole/is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more/ praise the Lord the Lord Oh my soul/it is well/it is well/with my soul/with my soul/it is well, it is well with my soul.”

As we take this oh so brief moment to consider what Jesus’ life death and resurrection has accomplished, let me leave you with this reminder of its power in the life of those who have faith in Jesus.  It comes from Romans 6

Romans 6: 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

We are united with Jesus in His death, so His death is the necessary death for the payment of sin.  Since we are united with Jesus in His death, we are most assuredly united with Him in His resurrection.  We are promised a new life of hope today and a glorious new life of resurrection with Jesus in Heaven.  Look what else was crucified with Jesus

6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin.

The death of Christ on the cross again does more than just forgive you.  It enables you to be a new creation.  Your old self that was a slave to sin was crucified with Jesus as well.  You are now free not to sin.  You are free to live a life of gloriously, thankful obedience.

8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Folks, let’s proclaim a much bigger Jesus and a much more broad work of Jesus to our hearts and to those that we tell as well.  Through Christ, you die and come back to life.  You may live each day thinking that you are dy – ing but you whatever it is that you think is killing you  has died I Christ.  And now you live.  Death, the power of death, the fear of death has no dominion or power over you.  Its authority has been disarmed.  And to life that so many of would love to have, the life of love, faith, peace, and joy, Jesus lives to God on our behalf.  So Paul reminds us, “You must consider yourself dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”   Doubt fear and shame have been removed.  So why do you keep experiencing those feelings you might ask?  The cry of Jesus’ “It is done” signifies the end of guilt, the end of shame, the end of punishment, the end of separation between God the Father and all that have faith in Jesus Christ.

If that is the case, why do so many of you fail to experience the full joys of those secure benefits?  The work of Christ is not ineffectual in your life, so what is it that keeps you continually guilty and shame filled?  Well there are a couple of options.

Loose spiritual disciplines – Folks, you know I will never create a new law for you or a new burden of righteousness for you, but as I said last week, God promises to meet you in His word.  God promise to meet you in prayer.  Imagine the intimacy of a marriage where the conversations happened at the same rate as your time in scripture and prayer.  Oh most assuredly, God will never leave your nor forsake you.  He is with you always and is at work even as your hearts are blind to His the work of His hands.  But the one hope we have for living in the removal of guilt and shame is hearing the wonderful words of scripture applied to our hearts through our interaction with the Holy Spirit.  How much more rest would your heart find if you daily prayed this prayer from Romans 10:10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”

Unrepentant sins – Let’s be honest, everyone has sins in their lives that they turn a blind eye to or are completely blind to.  Meaning, there are sins that we either are unaware of in our lives or there are sins that we just refuse to give up on.  The first step is to walk in faith in pray Psalm 139:23 Search me, O God, and know my heart!  Try me and know my thoughts! 24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

Half-hearted repentant sins.  Half-hearted repentance is saying I’m sorry without Godly sorrow accompanying yours words.  2 Corinthians 10: 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 11 For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.

Folks, you cannot do anything more to remove the guilt and shame associated with your guilt before God.  It is has been removed by the wonderful work of Jesus that we celebrate today.  You can however walk in a more intimate understanding and application of that removal and guilt.  It come by your drawing closer to Jesus and reading and knowing and praying the promises of scripture that are attached.  Your guilt, your shame, and any that would accuse you have been nailed to the cross with Jesus.

April 4, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

A Good Friday Devotion

Students of the heart recognize needs that each and every one of us have.

The need for purity:  We see this as no matter how hard we try, we just can’t be perfect.  We still tell the small lies.  We still have thoughts that we are thankful no body knows about.

The need for someone to pay our debt:  So much of our lives are spent in guilt and trying to absolve that guilt.  We overcompensate or even give up because of guilt.

The need for someone to speak for us (an advocated):  We either run headlong to people to identify with or we run headlong into isolation because we have given up hope of someone to stand up for us.

So much of our lives are spent in frustration over the lack of those very things.  Fortunately, the book of Hebrews addresses those needs directly.  It  tells us that for us to have any hope whatsoever of being forgiven and reconciled to God several things had to happen.  Someone had to live the life that neither Adam nor ourselves have been able to live.  Someone had to offer a sacrifice that was acceptable to God for the payment of sin.  A spotless priest had to approach the throne of God with that sacrifice.  And death had to be overcome by resurrection so that those who have faith might also live once again.

Jesus is all of those things:  our perfect obedience, our acceptable sacrifice, our spotless priest, and our hope for life.

Here the words of Romans 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Now through that wonderful work of Jesus, believers by faith no longer have to offer bloody sacrifice to God.  We offer the living sacrifice of our lives, and you know what?

God finds it acceptable and holy.  He finds the offering of your life in service to Jesus as an act of worship.  We live that offering out by being transformed in the midst of a very sinful world that does not know God.  We live that out by renewing our minds in the truths of scripture each day so that we can more readily be guided by the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit teaches us God’s will for our lives as we seek to obey the words of scripture.  In that we, can live joyfully and worshipfully – all enabled by the wonderful work of Jesus that we celebrate this weekend.

If you would like to worship with Sovereign King this Easter, we will meet at our space on Sunday at 1030am.  You can find directions here.

April 2, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Celebrating Lent in a Small Town

I have never practiced Lent as an act of devotion and worship.  Growing up, I’m quite sure I never even heard of it.  In college, I had friends walking around campus with smudges of ash on the foreheads, and I was pretty sure they were crazy.  Since then, I have learned the season’s background and have met many people who consider it as a incredibly serious and intimate act of worship.

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday (this year, February 17, 2010) and for many, they observe it with a 40 day fast of something as an act of repentance and faith.  This fast ends in the celebration of Easter (Jesus’ resurrection).  Nowhere in scripture is fasting for Lent commanded or even mentioned.  It is a holiday that the ancient church created and has practiced for hundreds of years.

As with any traditions or man-made observances, empty orthodoxy creeps in and the act of ashes on the head and fasting become rote and ceremonial.  For others however, it is an essential element of their faith preparing their heart for the celebration of Jesus’ victory over death.

I spent some time in the past few days interacting with people in Garner asking them if they had celebrated Lent and if they were going to, what would their fast be.  I was surprised to find out how many people have celebrated Lent in their lifetime.  Some expressed that they had not in years, but none spoke of it as a dead practice.  For most, it was something in which they longed to return.

Examples of people’s intended fast ranged from entertainment to vices, but the two things most people wanted to fast from were caffeine and Facebook.  I guess everyone feels they are over relying on coffee and the computer for energy and connectivity.  Finding energy and connectivity through Christ would be a good thing.

Declaring my intention to fast (and what I’m fasting from) would personally contradict the spirit of the season I think, so whether or not I will is left to your imagination.  I do know that for some, fasting draws their heart and mind closer to Christ which is never a bad thing.

February 17, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 2 Comments