J. Gordon Duncan

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What is the Gospel? – SK Service Preview for 062010

We talk about “the Gospel” so much at SK, we should probably nail down a few things.  Looking at scripture, the Gospel gets defined in so many ways.  Technically, the word means “good news” and in the 1st century culture, “a gospel” would be proclaimed to herald a new ruler or emperor.  In light that, the Gospel of Jesus is both – good news of a new gracious ruler in the lives of God’s children.  But “The Gospel” is more than just an announcement.  Taking a survey of the NT, here are few ways in which the Gospel is applied in the life of the believer.

  • The Gospel sets people apart as seen in Paul’s life in Romans 1:1
  • It is the power of salvation in Romans 1:16
  • It is salvation by faith alone in Romans 10:16
  • It is full-time occupational ministry in 1 Corinthians 9:14
  • It gives the believer full rights and access to God in I Corinthians 9:18
  • It is the light of Jesus Christ in 2 Corinthians 4:4
  • It is something to be confessed in 2 Corinthians 9:13
  • It stands opposed to any misrepresented view of Jesus in 2 Corinthians 11:4
  • It is something to be entrusted with in Galatians 2:7
  • It sets people apart for gospel ministry in Ephesians 3:7
  • It brings peace in Ephesians 6:15
  • It is something that creates partnership among God’s people in Philippians 1:5
  • It comes in the power of the Holy Spirit in 1 Thessalonians 1:5
  • It is to be obeyed in 2 Thessalonians 1:8
  • It is the eternal plan of God to save His people in Revelation 14:6

BTW, this is less than half of the references to the Gospel in scripture.  If you would like to pursue understanding the Gospel better, join us this Sunday at SK as we wrap up our study of the Book of Romans.

We meet for worship at 10:30am, and you can find directions to our space at http://www.sovereignkingpca.net/1.2.html.

June 18, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Living Sacrifice Part 2 – Sermon Notes on Romans 12:1-2

This is part 2 of the sermon notes for “Living Sacrifice – Romans 12:1-2” –  you can find the first set of notes at http://wp.me/pBHzf-gY

Audio for this sermon will be at http://www.sermoncloud.com/sovereign-king-church/

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.

We live out this worship by not being conformed to this world.  Now let me make one thing clear right from the beginning:  I wish folks agreed on what not being conformed to this world looked like.  Unfortunately, the differences of interpretation about not conforming to the world have not only split families, but churches and even denominations.   There is one thing though that is held commonly by most folks about not being conformed to the world and that is that everyone hold’s fiercely to their interpretation of this verse.  That we have in common.  Typically if you disagree with most people’s convictions on this matter, the worst type of self-righteousness ensues.  With that in mind, let’s agree on this:  in light of the fact of the verse we just looked at, that nothing we do can be found acceptable and holy without the empowering mercies of God, let’s walk humble with each other in the interpreting and living out of this verse, okay?

Now before we jump into the interpretation of not being conformed to this world, let’s brainstorm for a minute about some of the examples of non-conformity that have been

pretty prevalent in Christianity over the past say 20 years or so.  By no means exclusive, these are examples that I have heard preached or enforced.

Not conforming to this world means…

  • Not drinking any alcohol
  • Not smoking any tobacco
  • Not saying damn or hell or a few other slightly more blue words.
  • Short hair for men and long hair for women
  • Not going to R rated movies or even better yet, not going to the movies at all
  • Home schooling your children
  • Classically training your children
  • Sending your children to a Christian school
  • Listening only to Christian music
  • Not handing out or trick or treating for candy
  • Not reading Harry Potter

Now, you can imagine why some of these things have been considered as avenues to avoid not conforming to this world but I can say that you can follow the command or prohibition in each one of those and come no where close to avoid being conformed to this world.  Why?  Because none of them are expressedly forbidden in scripture.  What is required in not conforming to the world is pursuing the wisdom of God and seeking the scriptures on what God calls conformity to the world.

How do we do we know?  Verse 2 tells us how not to be conformed to the world.

  • Step 1 is renewing your mind.
  • Step 2 is testing
  • Step 3 is discerning the will of God.

Let’s look at each one in detail.  Step 1 Renewing your mind.

Well, how does one renew their mind?  Well there are multiple ways mentioned in scripture but for the sake of brevity I’ll focus on the one scripture mentions most:  reading God’s word.  Listen to the promises surrounding God’s word.

  • Colossians 3:16 tells us that the word of Christ dwells richly in you to transform you.
  • Psalm 119:9, 11 “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”
  • Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
  • Deut. 32:46-47 “he said to them, “Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law. [47] They are not just idle words for you–they are your life.

And about a hundred more along those same lines.  Essentially, without the study of the word, which is God’s revelation of Himself, then you can no more worship God through avoiding the conformity of the world than anyone else can.

You know, I once had a guy come up to me in the coffee shop and ask me what I was doing as my bible was open.  I told him I was preparing my sermon.  He responded by saying he never prepares.  He just walks up to the podium and waits for the Spirit to tell Him what to say.  He then asked me why I didn’t do the same and I told him that I had just spent 20 hours with the Spirit in reading God’s word in preparation for the sermon.

Renewing your mind by the reading of scripture doesn’t forgo trusting God’s work through the Spirit – it intensifies it.

Secondly, once you have renewed your mind through the Spirit inspired word of God, you test what conformity to the world or avoiding conformity of the world looks like.  God intends for there to be a process in your working out of worship through not conforming to the world.  Some places in this world, living out your sacrificial worship is incredibly clear but some places it is not and God intends for you to study the scriptures both in command and principle, pray, and test each situation in life.  Still that isn’t always clear about how we decide what our sacrificial worshiping lives should look like.

So let me offer a couple of tips about studying the scriptures so you might know how to discern the will of God and thus worship by not conforming to the world.

Borrowed from Cross Talk – First of all, let me speak for a minute about what the bible is not.

  • The Bible is not primarily a book of do’s and don’ts.  Though there are do’s and don’ts in the bible, if it is reduced to that, then large sections of the bible become utterly useless.  A lot of the Bible is more descriptive of the Christian life than it is prescriptive.  Treating the Bible like a list of do’s and don’ts completely misses out on the process of testing that God intends to use for increasing your faith.
  • The Bible is not primarily a book of principles for the problems of life.  Though the Bible does of course contain principles for the problems of life, but if that is all it is to you then you will have a tendency to overlook the history and culture of the Bible which are intended to help you learn how to apply God’s word.  When we approach the scriptures like this, we reduce life to a phrase or a commandment and miss out the interaction that God intends with His believers and other people.  Parents can do this so often when they refuse to interact with the children because their children have disobeyed a 4 word phrase of the Bible.  If God did that, the world would have ended with “Do not eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”
  • The Bible is not primarily a casebook of characters for you to imitate and avoid.  We treat the Bible like this when we think, “What should I do?” and then you find a Bible character to imitate.  For example, you wonder what how to act in a certain situation so you look at the King of a Jewish nation who was bound to laws of which you are not bound who is held accountable for things that you will never be held accountable who also had 100’s of wives and concubines and we say, “Well Solomon did such and such so I will too.”  Really?   Now Biblical character application can be helpful but you cannot reduce the Bible to just that.  Why?  Merely imitating people in the Bible doesn’t highlight the character of God, it highlights the character and walk of people which always falls short.
  • Finally the Bible is not primarily a system of doctrine.  Though the Bible of course contains doctrine and we value doctrine, treating the Bible like a systematic theology text book minimizes the wisdom of the Bible and makes the Bible a proof text for things you already believe.  So the Bible does have do’s and don’ts, it does have principles for the living of life, it does have Godly people who could be imitated and it does have doctrine, but studying scripture just for those things doesn’t always help you understand how not to be conformed to the world.  You might say, “What does then?”

Well, discerning how to worship God by not conforming to the world looks like this:  You should obey what is expressedly commanded.  For example:

  • 2 Corinthians 6:14 says marry only fellow believers in Christ
  • Ephesians 6:4 says raise your children by God’s standards
  • Ephesians 6:1-2 says children are to honor and obey parents
  • 1 Timothy 5:8 says you should work to support yourself and your family.
  • Psalm 1:2 says you should meditate on the scriptures
  • I Corinthians 13 says you should love others

And there are hundreds of other very clear biblical exhortations like these.  But then you ask what about all the other stuff?  Well if scripture forbids something, it is forbidden.  If it doesn’t forbid something, don’t forbid it.

Yet, still how do we know how to avoid conforming to this world?

  • Remember God promises to help you discern and know His will.
  • Be patient
  • Reflect on what God has taught you before.
  • Consider all your options.
  • Remove anything in your life that is clearly non-biblical
  • Pray pray pray
  • Seek Godly counsel
  • Then make your decision by faith.  If your decision does not require any amount of faith then it is sin as scripture says anything that is not of faith is sin.

Folks today God wants all of you.  In giving Jesus Christ as a perfect sacrifice,  He has enabled you by His mercies to live sacrificially.  He has enabled you to die to sin sacrificially.  He has enabled you to serve others sacrificially.  Your living out of these truths is your sacrifice today.  Doing this causes you to look and act and believe and speak in such a way that your life stands in contrast to every person that you interact with that doesn’t yet know Jesus Christ.

Jesus has perfectly equipped you to live sacrificially by giving you His scriptures so you might discern God’s will about how to live and love sacrificially.

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

My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys – Sermon Preview for 101109

staubachI, like many other kids, tried to emulate my heroes in most everything they did.  At any point in time, I would play a game of football and act like I was Roger Staubach.  I would play baseball and pretend that I was Dale Murphy.  I would play basketball and dream of being Dr. J.  I played guitar and walked around my room like I was Ace Frehley.  In the smallest of ways, I was like my heroes.  I could throw football, hit a baseball, make a layup, and strum a guitar.  But the difference between me and my heroes was much greater than any similarities.

In the strangest of ways, that is how we relate to God.  We have some characteristics (communicable attributes) that we share with God.  He loves, and we can love.  He is wise, and we can be wise.  He is knowable, and we can be known.  God is merciful, and on our best day, we can be merciful as well.  But in all of those things, we are only like God in the smallest of ways.  God loves perfectly; we love incredibly imperfectly.  God is wise, and we are only wise as we reflect God’s wisdom.  We are merciful but only to the extent that we know God’s mercy.

There are some qualities of God that we do no share with Him in any way.  These are called incommunicable attributes.  For example, God is eternal, and we a have clear and definite beginning.  God is omnipresent, and according to your calendar or day timer, you definitely are not.  God is immutable (unchanging), and we are the worst at changing as the wind blows.

So we can imitate and be like God in some ways, but even our imitation is a pale likeness of God.  He is the truest representation of love, holiness, knowledge, wisdom, and pretty much every other description of Him.  So as we approach knowing God through scripture, we have to be careful.  Often words will be used to describe what God is doing (love, hate, patience, mercy) and we apply human definitions of those qualities to what God has done which severely limits our understanding of God’s actions and declarations.  Instead of reading how God is described and applying what we know of a certain to quality to Him, we should read what God does and understand that quality in its truest context and definition.

As you begin to understand those qualities, you can grow in your worship of God.  This week in Romans 9, Paul is going to emphasize 3 specific characteristics of God:  His mercy, compassion, and power.  In light of that, let’s ask this Big Picture Question.

Big Picture Question:  How should God’s mercy, compassion, and power transform your worship?

If you would like to join Sovereign King Church for worship, we meet at 10:30am each Sunday, and you can find directions to our worship space at http://www.sovereignkingpca.net/1.2.html.

October 9, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stick to the Plan – Sermon Notes: Romans 8:36-9:13

the planAudio for this sermon can be found at http://www.sermoncloud.com/sovereign-king-church/

I’m no mathematician nor am I the son of a mathematician.  In fact, in college, the classes I enjoyed the least were my math’s especially the two statistics classes I had to take.  I have jokingly referred to myself as a “math atheist” on more than one occasion.  How surprised was I when I found myself managing an eye doctor’s office, keeping the books and trying to make the place more profitable.  All of sudden, numbers, projected profits, and balance sheets were my way of life.  Then for a couple of years, I made my living working the numbers as optometric consultant.

The good thing about math is once you get the formulas, they are tried and true.  2 + 2 + 4 will be the same tomorrow as it is today.  You can even do the formula in reverse and it works because 4 – 2 = 2.  When doing financial analysis and you’re looking at what a company grossed, their average day is always going to be total gross divided by the number of business days.  It work the other way around.  The number of business days times the average is going to equal the total grossed.

But here is the problem.  It is generally deduced that addition is easier than subtraction.  Development behaviorists determine this by studying children and observing that children deduce differences by their knowledge of sums.  So it takes learning to add and building a knowledge base in order to do subtraction properly.  The math works both ways adding and subtracting but subtracting is apparently a little harder for many.

Well the truths of God work the same way.  They are true forwards and backwards but if we start with ourselves and have to subtract to get to God, it is always going to be a bit harder.  Starting with God and His promises is always the best route.  Let me give you an example.  A few weeks ago, we looked at how God has made absolutely sure that His children will be secure.  He chooses them.  He calls them.  He justifies them.  He glorifies them.  Because of that, those that have faith in Jesus can live fearless, faith-filled lives of obedience because God has guaranteed not only that His children will grow in being like Christ, He has promised that they have nothing to fear.  Nothing can stand against them:  no job, no lack of job, no broken relationship, no nothing.  When God plans, enacts and secures a work in the life of His children they have nothing to fear.

That truth gets tricky though if we start with ourselves and work backwards to God.  If we start by saying, “Oh I would really like to live securely and fearlessly,” there are a host of challenges that can get in the way.  We look at our weaknesses; we look at our circumstances and get discouraged.  We hear the promises of God, but wonder if they are still possible in light of all the problems in our lives.   You can find your way back to God and His promises will still be true but it might tough going to get there.

Instead, we need to start with who God is, what God has done, and what God has promised to do and then see our lives in light of that.  Addition is easer.  God did His work.  Mankind does His work because God did His work.

If you were here two weeks ago, you are going to find some similar themes as Paul is always apt repeat Himself, but that’s okay.  Paul starts with God and moves to us, so it will be refreshing to hear what He has to say.  In light of that, let’s ask this Big Picture Question:

Big Picture Question:  How do the promises of God make life secure?

36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”  37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

Now, why in the world would Paul make these kinds of declaration?  Declarations about believers being killed, being sheep for slaughter, and consequently being a conqueror?   Well 2 weeks ago, we heard these promises from God.  Paul said in verse 31, If God is for you, who can be against you?   The answer would be…no one.  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for you, how will God not also with Jesus graciously give you all things?  Who will bring any charge against God’s elect?  No one because God is the one that chose His children so no one can bring a charge against them.  It is God who justifies so who could condemn you?   No one.  Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

It is important for you to understand these truths before tackling the last part of chapter 8.  God wants to assure you of His love for you.  Nothing in all creation can separate your from His love.  No one can effectively be against you.  No one can bring a charge against you.  No one can condemn you.

This of course does not mean that people won’t attempt to separate you from God’s love or be against you or bring a charge against you or attempt to condemn you.  The word most often associated with someone condemning you or bringing charges against you because you are a believer in Jesus is persecution.  In America, we know very little of persecution.  We assume because somebody is offended by the topics of abortion, homosexuality, or some other hot-button issue that that is persecution.  Most of the time, folks are reacting to our arrogance and our smugness and not to the offense that Jesus presents.  If people can react to your stand in the same manner that they can react to a similar stand of a political party, that’s not persecution.  That’s politics.

Having someone condemn you or bring a charge against you happens when you present such a clear and beautiful picture of our meek Savior that they are undone and offended by Jesus and the Gospel – not offended by you.  We know very little of this because we either get in the way and offend and start telling people how they are going to burn in hell or we just don’t know Jesus very well so we couldn’t present a honest picture of him to the world if we had to.

No, the voice of condemnation most heard in your ears is your own voice.  This happens when you either don’t know the truths of scripture and the Gospel well or you begin to measure your standing before God by your efforts.  Then the voice of condemnation comes in your head and tells you things like…God does not love you.  You are worthless.  Your family, friends, and loved ones would be better off without you.  Your physical appearance determines your self-worth.

But God in His grace wants you to know that Nothing in all creation can separate your from His love.  No one can effectively be against you.  No one can bring a charge against you.  No one can condemn you.  If you have faith in Jesus, you are a conqueror because your victorious Savior is the conqueror.

38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

In Jesus Christ, your place before God is so secure, no one, not even you, has the power to remove you from the security of His love.  The world considers you a sheep worthless only worthy of slaughter, but no, in Jesus you are a conqueror.  Yes, your body, your health, and who knows what might be taken in this world, but through Jesus, you are a conqueror because Christ, through His life, death, and resurrection, has conquered sin, the power of sin, death, alienation, doubt, fear, Hell, Satan and all him minions.

What a sweet truth.  We would all do well to comfort our hearts as we lay awake at night with these verses.  Neither height, nor depth, nor anything in all creation is able to separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus,  Amen.  And as a reminder to those that think they can lose their salvation, you are a “thing in creation” so that means that no even you can cause you to lose your salvation.  You know, most everyone fears losing their relationship with God.  But this verse intends not only to assure you of your relationship with God, but also assure you of His love.

Is there anything that can separate you from the love of God?  The answer is no.  Look at that list.  If you die, it can’t separate you from the love of God.  Nothing in this life can separate you from the love of God.  No angel or heavenly being has the power to separate you from the love of God.  There is nothing that can happen today and nothing that can happen in the future that can separate you from the love of God.  There is no power, none above in the heavens or below in the depths nor anything in all of God’s creation that can separate you from the love of God.

Folks, if you have faith in Jesus and you trust Him for your salvation asking Him for repentance and forgiveness, this verse is worth a lifetime of counseling.  It is God’s declaration of how undying and unchanging His love and affection is for you.  Please memorize it.  Please practice it when you are scared.  Men, proclaim this truth to your wives when they are worried.  Women, proclaim this truth to your husbands when they doubt.  Parents, proclaim this truth to your children when they are stressed.  Kids, proclaim this truth to your siblings and friends to let them know how much Jesus loves them.

Now, at this point, Paul is going to take an interesting detour.  Well, what it really is in an extended illustration of these truths.  What makes God’s love inseparable from you is that its basis and root is found in God’s choosing you, calling you, justifying you, and glorifying you.  Paul is going to illustrate what that looks like by discussing the election of the nation of Israel.  What I mean by the Nation of Israel is the physical descendants of Abraham.  Again, keep in mind, this Paul’s illustration of how secure God’s love is to you and to your election.

9:1 I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.

Paul starts off here by reminding us that what he is not lying when he says these things – in fact he says that the Spirit of God has testified to his that what he is saying is true.  And the story he is about to tell causes him great anguish.  In fact, the only reason I can believe that what he says he is true is because it is inspired by the Holy Spirit so he cannot be lying.

Paul uses the story of the nation of Israel to demonstrate God’s faithfulness and warn against presumption.  Paul’s anguish comes because so many of them do not believe in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sin.  This pains Paul so much that he wishes that he were accursed or essentially he wishes that he himself could die and go to hell if it meant that his brothers in the nation of Israel would believe.  On a small note here, I pray that I could have that kind of compassion for those that don’t believe in Jesus.  Sadly, the church is often rightly criticized for our lack of compassion.  We are so quick to tell  people that they going to burn in hell where Paul here says, “If I could burn in hell so that you wouldn’t have to, I would.”  This is a great verse to pursue your own motivations or lack thereof around those that do not believe and then walk in repentance and newness of life.  But in verse 4, Paul shows why it is such a tragedy that his fellow Israelites do not believe.

4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

The nation of Israel was promised to be God’s people to Abraham when God said in Genesis “I will be your God and you will be my people.”  They fell into slavery under Pharaoh and God saved them through Moses walking them on dry land across the Red Sea.  At Mount Sinai, God established a covenant with His people.  To help them understand the expectations of being in covenant with God, God gave the law to them.  This was not just a simple list do’s and don’ts; it was an expression of God’s character detailing to them exactly how they should show thankfulness to God and how they should approach God in worship.

God gave them incredible men to lead them, the Patriarchs.  Men like Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, and others.  Though each one of these men was far from perfect, they were Godly men.  Abraham proclaimed faith in God.  Moses led the people in the worship of God.  David helped constitute the people as a nation.  Solomon taught them the deep truths of God.  From them, and many Godly women as well, came the line of ancestors that eventually led to Jesus Christ.  Now, that is an incredible legacy.

Paul was in anguish because after all of those blessings, very few Israelites believed in Jesus.  Looking around, it makes sense to wonder and ask:  What about the promises of God?  What about election?  In Paul’s day, Israel wasn’t even in control of their own land anymore.  They were under the judgment of God.  What happened?

Now before we answer the question, Paul is asking that question in light of the fact that it looks like God has promised a bunch of stuff and it didn’t happened.  Right or wrong, some of you are asking the same types of questions.  You are wondering why things aren’t better.  You thinking, “Hey, shouldn’t God have my back here?  Shouldn’t He bail me out?”  You might even begin to wonder if the promises of scripture are true or not.  You might even begin to wonder if the whole Christian life is a big waste to time.  Yeah, God’s love is secure but so what?  I’m hurting now.  Paul uses the Nation of Israel to answer those questions.

6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring

No, the Word of God has not, cannot, and will not fail.  You might wonder by looking at your circumstances if God has failed because things are not turning out the way you thought they should.  You might ask yourself questions like:  Wait a minute, why am I struggling financially?  Why am I in a passionless marriage?  Why is my health so bad?  Why are my kids having so many problems?  Why am I unemployed?  Shouldn’t things be better?  Aren’t those things my right?

Well, you definitely might consider that the word of God failed if you looked at Israel.  Hardly any of them believe in Jesus, so how could the Word of God not failed?  Well, the problem is not the Word of God.  The problem is where you are looking for evidence of the promises of God.  Paul explains His illustration in this way.  He says, Not all of Israel belong to Israel which means just because you are physically part of the nation of Israel, hat doesn’t mean you are part of Israel.  Just because a person is a physical descendent of Abraham, that doesn’t make them a child of Abraham.

Now let’s stop here for a moment.  The presumption became and still is to this day that if you are physically descended from Abraham, if you are born a Jew, then God is going to automatically save you.  But nowhere in scripture do we see that promises of God working with those kinds of assumptions.  God called a people to Himself but never promised universal salvation and never does God promise salvation based upon a mere descendant of someone.  If that was the case, there would be no need or desire or impetus for Jesus.

Paul wants to kill any idea that you, me, or anyone else would ever had that God owes us anything.  He is already gracious.  He has already given us His son.  Why would think that He is going to run around be impressed with us?  Why would you think at any point and time, “Hey God you are not being fair.”  God is sovereign.  He has poured His grace out through Jesus.  We are finite.  We have no right to demand that God already be more gracious.  Fortunately, He is.

Listen, I understand real need.  I promise you I do.  But we yell and scream to God about material things when He gave us His Son.  He gave us His son.  To illustrate that, Paul gives another picture of God’s promises.

7 “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 9 For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

Let me tell you what’s going on here.  God made a promise to create a people from Abraham.  Abraham had a child named Isaac.  Isaac had two sons:  Jacob and Esau.  In fact they were twins.  Esau was the older and Jacob was the younger.  Jacob was a quiet guy, probably listened to Dave Matthews or Coldpay.  Esau was rough and tumble kind of guy.  He probably listened to Ted Nugent or maybe Metallica.  Esau was a pretty good guy.  Jacob was a shmuck.  Let me give you an example.

It came time for Isaac to give his blessing to his sons.  Isaac and his mom tricked their dad and stole the blessing that was supposed to be given to Esau.  Like I said…a shmuck.  Strangely enough, God created the people of Israel from…Jacob.  In fact, he even changed Jacob’s name to Israel.  But look what Paul says.  God’s blessings don’t come through natural descendants.  The blessings don’t come from where you think they will come from.  They come from God.  They come from the promise.  God decided what was going to happen to Jacob and Esau long before either one of them did anything good or anything bad.  God elected by His own desire and purpose and plan that He would bless Jacob and not Esau.

In a worldy sense, it doesn’t mane any sense:  Jacob was the shmuck and Esau was the good guy.  But God’s purposes and plans will not be thwarted.  Begin with God, hear His promises, work from there to here and things make sense.  Begin with us and work backwards, it’s a little harder.  You see, back in Genesis 25:23, God promised that Isaac would have these two sons and the older would serve the younger.  The promise came about through sinful means but God’s promises cannot be thwarted.  God uses sin sinlessly.

You see God’s purpose of election is always sure.  He chooses.  He calls.  He justifies.  He glorifies.  God had a plan.  He loved Jacob.  He hated Esau.  Some want that passage to say, “Jacob I have loved; Esau I have loved less,” but that is not what the Hebrew says.  Folks let me frame this this way as we move to a conclusion:  God does hate.  He hates sin and apparently He hated Esau.  We are told to hate our sin, but rarely do we come close to hating it.  We hate the consequences of our sin and at times we fight, but I have yet to meet the man or woman who hates sin the same way God hates sin.  But we do know what it looks like to hate by looking at God the same way we learn to love by looking at God.

Now this passage has caused so much anguish, and I would say that most of it comes from trying to make it say something it doesn’t say.  But this passage emphasizes that God’s purpose and election is sure.   He chooses.  He elects.  He loves.  He hates and He does all these things without explanation or justification.  As my old mentor Terry Traylor use to say, “God is as sovereign as your worst nightmare.”

But all of life’s questions become clearer if we start with God and move towards us.  If we pursue God’s character and His promises and as much as scripture allows understand His promises, our lives begin to fit into His plan and we can find peace.  But all of life’s questions become more difficult to understand if we start with us and move towards God – it can happen but it isn’t easy.  Folks, God is gracious.  He has poured out a never-separated love on you.  But His purposes are His own and in every circumstance, He has one primary purpose:  to bring Himself glory.  He does that by loving Jacob, hating Esau, saving you, ordaining sickness, calamity, prosperity, feast and famine.  And when you re-orient yourself so that your one purpose, whether feast or famine, is to glorify God, you can ask God to do whatever He wants in your life and you will be happy as long as He is glorified.

October 4, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Sermon Preview: God’s Math

MathI’m no mathematician nor am I the son of a mathematician.  In fact, in college, the classes I enjoyed the least were my math’s especially the two statistics classes I had to take.  I have jokingly referred to myself as a “math atheist” on more than one occasion.  How surprised was I when I found myself managing an eye doctor’s office, keeping the books and trying to make the place more profitable.  All of sudden, numbers, projected profits, and balance sheets were my way of life.  Then for a couple of years, I made my living working the numbers as optometric consultant.

The good thing about math is once you get the formulas, they are tried and true.  2 + 2 + 4 will be the same tomorrow as it is today.  You can even do the formula in reverse and it works because 4 – 2 = 2.  When doing financial analysis and you’re looking at what a company grossed, their average day is always going to be total gross divided by the number of business days.  It work the other way around.  The number of business days times the average is going to equal the total grossed.

But here is the problem.  It is generally deduced that addition is easier than subtraction.  Development behaviorists determine this by studying children and observing that children deduce differences by their knowledge of sums.  So it takes learning to add and building a knowledge base in order to do subtraction properly.  The math works both ways adding and subtracting but subtracting is apparently a little harder for many.

Well the truths of God work the same way.  They are true forwards and backwards but if we start with ourselves and have to subtract to get to God, it is always going to be a bit harder.  Starting with God and His promises is always the best route.  Let me give you an example.  A few weeks ago, we looked at how God has made absolutely sure that His children will be secure.  He chooses them.  He calls them.  He justifies them.  He glorifies them.  Because of that, those that have faith in Jesus can live fearless, faith-filled lives of obedience because God has guaranteed not only that His children will grow in being like Christ, He has promised that they have nothing to fear.  Nothing can stand against them:  no job, no lack of job, no broken relationship, no nothing.  When God plans, enacts and secures a work in the life of His children they have nothing to fear.

That truth gets tricky though if we start with ourselves and work backwards to God.  If we start by saying, “Oh I would really like to live securely and fearlessly,” there are a host of challenges that can get in the way.  We look at our weaknesses; we look at our circumstances and get discouraged.  We hear the promises of God, but wonder if they are still possible in light of all the problems in our lives.   You can find your way back to God and His promises will still be true but it might tough going to get there.

Instead, we need to start with who God is, what God has done, and what God has promised to do and then see our lives in light of that.  Addition is easer.  God did His work.  Mankind does His work because God did His work.

If you were here two weeks ago, you are going to find some similar themes as Paul is always apt repeat Himself, but that’s okay.  Paul starts with God and moves to us, so it will be refreshing to hear what He has to say.  In light of that, let’s ask this Big Picture Question:

Big Picture Question:  How do the promises of God make life secure?

If you would like to worship with us at Sovereign King, we meet each Sunday at 10:30am, and you can find directions to our space at http://www.sovereignkingpca.net/1.2.html.

If you would like to watch a video preview of the sermon, click the image below.

October 2, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Deep is Your Love – Romans 8:29-35

how deep is your loveAudio for this sermon can be found at http://www.sermoncloud.com/sovereign-king-church/

There are seemingly a million movies made each year, and practically every one of them has some romantic story line.  You can see the grossest comedy or the scariest horror movie, and more than likely, there will be two people either in love or two people who fall in love by the time movie is over.  These movies make a lasting impact when they can create that scene where one character makes a declaration of love that is so convincing, the audience wishes that someone would tell them the very same thing.  And for some reason, men declaring their love in the rain is even more powerful.

For example, there is that famous scene in “The Last of the Mohicans” where Hawkeye declares to Cora Munro, “No matter how long it takes, no matter how far, I will find you.”  I’ve spoken to many women who find the scene so memorable that they wish someone would say those very words to them and of course mean it.  More recently, a movie with a memorable scene like this is “The Notebook” where there is the perfunctory man of lower social status who falls in love with a socialite.  Apparently, the themes of Romeo and Juliet never grow old.  Well, the socialite, named Allie, confronts the young man named Noah, of course in a rain storm, about why he has never written her.

Allie: Why didn’t you write me? Why? It wasn’t over for me, I waited for you for seven years. But now it’s too late.
Noah: I wrote you 365 letters. I wrote you everyday for a year.
Allie: You wrote me?
Noah: Yes… it wasn’t over, it still isn’t over

And then they kiss.  Of course, there is always the example of Jack and Rose in Titanic promising each other that they’ll never let go. Once again, water is the key element to any promise of affection.  If you are a guy, maybe you just dig on the Terminator looking back and saying, “I’ll be back.”

One of the reasons that I think these moments are so effective and so memorable is that they give the impression of a secure promise of love.  Promises of love are made all the time, and by looking at the divorce rate, it is easy to see that promises of love are not easily kept.  I guess in any relationship, security is incredibly important.  If you can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that a person loves you, then you can rest.  No security equals no rest.

Well, this week in the book of Romans, Paul wants to make God’s love to His children abundantly clear.  He is going to detail the many ways that God has demonstrated both that love and that security, and the intention of his telling is for those who have faith in Jesus Christ to exhale…to rest.

With that in mind, we are going to this Big Picture Question this week:

Big Picture Question:  What lengths does God go to assure His children that He loves them?

Let’s do a quick review of last week’s sermon before we jump into this week’s passage because it is essential to keep these thoughts in today’s passage connected to the ones in last week’s passage.  We ended last week with these points:  God helps His children in their weakness, the Spirit of God hears your pain and prayers, intercedes with God the Father to bring about God’s perfect, holy will in your life.  You then can be strengthened in your weakness and worry knowing that God is doing exactly what is best for you.  Last week, we looked at that often quoted but difficult to believe verse that says,

“28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

We spent some time discussing how in the world all things could work together for the good of those that love God?  We found that the answer is two fold:  God ordains all things and those that love God are called to the ultimately good purpose of giving glory to God.  We also spent a good bit of time discussing that we can trust that there is an end goal of the good because there are no accidents.  God is not a cosmic janitor cleaning up our messes and making them good.  God has ordained what’s going to be in your life for specific purposes.

In light of those truths, last week, we took a couple of minutes and talked through the things that we see in scripture that speak specifically to God ordaining.  For example:

  • Col 1:16 all things have been created by Him and for Him.
  • Isa 14:27 For the LORD of hosts has planned, and who can frustrate it? And as for His stretched-out hand, who can turn it back?
  • There are no chance or lucky events.  God plans all of those.  Pro 16:33 The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.
  • Isa 45: I am the LORD, and there is no other, 7 the One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the Lord who does all these.
  • What about evil people?  Pro 16:4 The LORD has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil.
  • You might say, “Surely sickness, deformities, and weakness, God couldn’t have ordained those?”  God ordains those as well.  John 9:1 And as He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was in order that the works of God might be displayed in him.”  The man was sick so that God might be glorified.
  • Psa 139:16 Thine eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Thy book they were all written, the days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.  God is not a reporter of the events of your life.  God is the author.

So as you love God, you can know that the absolute best thing that God can do for you is being done because you have been called to the purpose of loving God and giving Him glory.  You live out that glory in the arena of God’s providence.

Now this truth is not intended to make you lazy, shiftless, careless, or fatalistic.  In light of God’s promises, it is intended to give you hope and quite honestly, inspire you to live fearlessly.  I’ll make an analogy that is sure to fall woefully short but might help to give a small picture of these truths.  This is not an analogy of God ordaining all things but an analogy of the security that His ordination should give you.  Teaching a child to ride a bike is about making the child feel confident that they can take a risk knowing that Mom or Dad are right there running alongside.  That doesn’t mean that spills don’t happen or that scraped knees are completely avoided, but it does mean that the child can risk riding on two wheels because they know that the Father is completely there with them.

Now you can risk great acts of faith and obedience because you know that God’s ordination of all things means that there is a guarantee of His care and His good for you.  If God does not ordain what is going on in your life, we are left to hope to God reacts well.  In fact, you can risk great acts of faith and obedience because they are guaranteed.  For example, we have spoken earlier in Romans about how once you have faith in Jesus, you are no longer a slave to sin but have God-promised, raising from the dead, Spirit-empowered obedience ahead.  If you know Christ as your Savior, it is promised that you will become like Him, even if that process is slow.  Look at verse 29.

29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

Now this verse says that those who know Christ are guaranteed to be like Christ or conformed to His image.  If you have saving faith in Jesus Christ, it is a 100%, stone cold lock guaranteed that you will become like Him.  It might be slow, but it is inevitable.  The reason this is so is because God has predestined it to be so.  Let’s tackle a couple words here.  Those God foreknew He also predestined.  Those two words “foreknew” and “predestined” are inseparable.  One leads to the other and each derive from the other.  What does it mean for God to foreknow someone?  There really are a couple of options.  Some would say that foreknowing means that God looked into the future, knew what was going to happen and because of that certain things are surely going to happen.  But once you couple the word “predestined” with “foreknow” that makes that explanation of these events implausible.  If God is merely a reporter of future events you could say that events are destined to happen but not pre-destined because they clearly would not be.  There would be no pre about it if God is merely reporting what other people are going to do.

In addition, if God is not ordaining these events but only reporting them, what causes them to be sure to happen is not God’s plan but the fact that He knows what people are going to do.  If that is the case, then the guarantee here that people will be conformed to the image of Jesus completely dependant upon the power of you and me and not upon God.  That is completely inconsistent with the promises of Romans that speaks of the guarantee coming from God’s power and not our own.

You see, there are several different types of ways that the word “know” is used in scripture.  You can know a fact.  You can know a person.  Or you can know someone in a way of sexual intimacy.  Those last two are often used interchangeably.

Saying that God looks in the future, sees what’s going to happen would be just his knowing of something, in fact it would make God a student.  He would have to look into the future and learn what was going to happen and then destine I guess if you will.  But the word here is the intimate word for knowing a person, a prior relationship is what is being communicated.   It is the same word that is used in

  • Galatians 4:8-9 “You have come to know God or rather to be known by God
  • And the sad opposite in Matt 7:23 when Jesus says “Depart from me, I never knew you.”

You see, God knows those who are His and He is predetermining that they will be like His son Jesus.  In fact, Jesus Himself guarantees this as He is the first fruit or the very first of the Kind meaning that many will come after Him that will be like Him.  God so much wants to love you by making you like Jesus that He predetermines that for each of His children.  Okay, here is God running beside you while you are learning to ride a bike.  Think of the sin that you can’t get rid of.

  • Maybe you sneak peaks at pornography or are addicted to masturbation.
  • Maybe you are a terrible gossip.
  • Maybe you embellish the truth or just flat out lie a good bit.
  • Maybe you fail in doing things you are commanded to do like pray, study the scriptures, share the truths of Jesus.

Now here is the kicker.  Maybe you really wish those things could change but at times you grow weary and even give up the fight of growing in obedience.  God however in making you His child is promising you that you have the Holy Spirit to arm you will with a guaranteed conformity to the image of Jesus.  God has decided before the foundation of the world that you will be like Jesus, even if that feels like an inch by inch growth, it is guaranteed.   It is impossible for the same Holy Spirit whose power raised Jesus from the dead, to live within you and you not become like Jesus.

Now these promises are intended to give you comfort and reassurance.  They should give you real hope that things really can change.  But Paul here in Romans wants to assure you and give you hope for even greater things.  Look at verse 30.

30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

What we find here is four simple past tense verbs:  predestined, called, justified, glorified.  These are things that God has done and will be done without any interruption.  That is the nature of the simple past tense verb in Greek.  They are definitive actions.  Notice here, that there is a succession of thought.  God has predestined you to be His child.  Those who will be believers are predestined by God to be so.  The process by which He brings that about is calling them – this not your mom calling you to leave the back yard to come to dinner – it is an effectual call.  It brings about its desired result.  Those that He calls, He justifies which means God Himself fixes the relationship that is broken with those that He calls.  And if God is going to do all of that:  predestine, call, and justify, then you can bet that He will assure that His children will remain in Him and they will be glorified meaning that they will enjoy the benefits of Heaven as obedient sons and daughters because of Jesus Christ.

Now for some folks, this kind of language is difficult to hear.  When we hear the words “predestine” then some struggle.  The difficulty lies in that fact that we have no earthy parallel to predestination.  When scripture talks about forgiveness, we understand what that is.  This happens in relationships all the time.  One forgives another.  When scripture talks about justification, we can understand that as well.  This happens in court.  A person is accused, they are tried and justice is done.  When scripture talks about salvation, we can even muster an understanding there.  A child is rescued or adopted and we see some correlation there.

But when scripture speaks of predestination there is no human parallel.  There is no one who can predetermine exactly what is going to happen.  We can try; we can influence, but we can’t predetermine.  So because of that, predestination must be understood completely by pursuing the character and the revelation of God.  Predestination is His property.  We don’t understand if we start by looking at the character of humanity.  So often, when the sweet promises of predestination come up, people’s first response is “But I have free will,” or “Man has free will.”

Well, there is a little bit of time here to discuss that but the scriptures speak of God’ predestination of His children, then that is exactly what He does.  Man’s will or lack thereof only comes into understanding by seeing what God has done and can do and not the other way around.  So, let me offer some practical advice as we move forward.  Whether you are beginning to study the Bible for the first time, whether you have grown up in the church, whether you are seminary trained or Spirit inspired, start your studies of scripture with what is known and revealed about God and then allow your theology of man, sin, salvation, heaven, and hell, be influenced and grow from there.  Understand the Creator; understand the creation.  So back to the earlier conundrum about man’s will.  Humans do have free will.  But they are dead in their sin according to Paul, so what they freely choose is sin.

Do you remember the description of mankind apart from God in Romans 1?  No one knows God.  No one understands God.  No one seeks God.  That is man’s free will.  It is depraved and does not choose to glorify God without the gift of faith.  If man has free will to choose God, then He does not need a Savior.  The 4 past tenses above, God predestines, calls, justifies, and glorifies – each of those would be completely dependant upon your will if you are free to choose to glorify God.  If you could do that, not sure you have much of a sin problem.

But don’t miss the promises herein.  What is the point of my telling you that predestination, calling, justifying, and glorifying are all the work of God.  The point is to give you hope because God equips people to that which He calls them.  Look at verse 31.

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

No one, no person, no institution, no authority, no spiritual being, no devil, no demon, no job, no job loss, no relationship, no divorce, no abuse, can stand against you.  Why?  Because God has secured everything for you by His power.  Not by yours because then everything could stand against you.  No one thing can stand against you because God has predestined you, called you, justified you, and secured that you will be glorified if you are in Christ Jesus.  Mentally, right now, you should make a list of the things that you feel are against you.  Think about insurmountable to you.

  • Your health
  • Your wealth or lack thereof
  • Your damaged relationships
  • Your boss that doesn’t like you.
  • None of those things will stand against you because God has predestined you, called you, justified you and glorified you.

It would take a great act of love to secure these things for you and that is exactly what God did.  Look at verse 32.

32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?

Look what God has done for you.  God did not spare His son Jesus Christ to demonstrate His love for you.  If He will not spare Jesus the most precious of all creation, then what will He spare you in His love for you?  Who will accuse the elect (that is those that are predestined or chosen) of anything in light of that love?  God is the one who justified or fixed your broken relationship.  No one can condemn you.  Jesus died for the elect and now He, just like the Holy Spirit, intercedes for God’s children.  Nothing can separate you from the love of God because of what God has done.  Nothing.  Look at the list in verse 35.

  • No amount of tribulation
  • No distress on your part over finances or jobs
  • No persecution from those that hate God’s elect
  • No famine or lack of food
  • No nakedness
  • No danger of any sort
  • No sword

Those things are horrendous and awful but they cannot separate you from the love of God.  Folks, your salvation, your faith in Christ, your forgiveness and your status before God are secure.  You can’t even take it away.  Why?  Because those He predestined, He called, and those He called, He justified and those He justified, He glorified.  Salvation is the work of God and God alone.  Any insecurity about your faith or fear that you will lose your salvation is in direct proportion to these truths.  The more you think you get to take responsibility for your salvation, the less secure you will be.  The more you understand that your salvation is God’s work, the more you will see how secure it is.

So tonight or today or whenever you wonder if God loves you, remind yourself.  There is nothing in all creation that could separate you from the love of God.  To prove to you how much He loves you He sacrificed the thing most dear to Him…Jesus Christ.  Security in Christ comes from God alone, and the more you trust your own wisdom and your own logic and your own thoughts of how you are responsible your salvation, the less you secure you will feel.  Here this truth from Ephesians to help you with this.

Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,

We should praise God because He has given us every spiritual blessing which is far more valuable than earthly blessing through Jesus Christ.  Why?

4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

This is the same promise as Romans 8.  These spiritual blessings are guaranteed because before the foundation of the word, God chose His children to be holy and blameless.

In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

By His love, God predestined His children to be adopted through Jesus according to His will and His will alone.  This amazing truth leaves us with but one option:  humility and praise for His grace poured out to us.

September 20, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Romans 8:26-28: God’s Good is in God’s Control

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Sermon audio can be found at

http://www.sermoncloud.com/sovereign-king-church/

Christianity is a religion based on faith, and scripture defines that faith as the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1).  And consistently throughout scripture, one finds there is no real hope for a relationship with God apart from faith:  As Ephesians 2.8-9 say, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Although Christianity is faith-based, that does not mean that it should not also be an intellectual and researched faith.  In fact, researching and understanding Christianity actually reinforces the truths gifted by faith.  We see this explained in the beginning of the book of Luke:  Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

Unfortunately, because Christianity is based on faith, many believers in Jesus spend little or no time pursuing depth of knowledge in the scriptures, in pursuing theology, or understanding the history of the church.  When those outside the church criticize Christians for this, they are completely justified in their comments.  You see, the scriptures, and therefore the will of God, command a deep, organized Biblical theology in 2 Timothy 2:15:  Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.  The phrase “rightly handling” or as some older translations phrase it “rightly dividing” is a tent-making term which makes sense as Paul made tents for a living.  It meant to cut all the tent fabric properly and carefully so that they would fit together to make a tent.  The emphasis in this verse then is that one should study the scriptures diligently and have an educated and consistent theology.  Biblical convictions must fit within the greater framework of the scriptures.  Doing this hard study is an act of affection to God.

Again, I will say that unfortunately, many Christians don’t purse a deep level of understanding the scriptures.  In fact, right now, many may know more about the President’s proposed health plan, the stats of the their fantasy football team, or the plot lines of their favorite TV show than they do about piecing together the truths of Scripture into a consistent, God-honoring theology.  This is sad and should not be.  It is a shame, and it is a travesty for the children of God to be so ignorant.  Make no mistake:  every believer is a theologian.  They are either good ones or bad ones.

As always, and definitively consistent with the themes of the book of Romans, Paul makes the case that one of the things that God does is help you in this weakness.  One of the functions of the Holy Spirit is to lead God’s children into deeper Biblical truth.  God always equips those to which He calls.  In light of that, let’s ask this Big Picture Question this week:

Big Picture Question:  How does God help His children know Him better?

Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

Before we dig into this incredibly encouraging verse, we need to remind ourselves why it says “likewise” here.  Prior to verse 26, Paul emphasizes that sin is so bad, the very earth groans for its redemption and the redemption of God’s children.  All of creation (verse 22) groans for the complete eradicating of sin and the return to the original purpose of both people and nature.  Likewise, verses 23-25 say that all believers in Jesus groan in eager anticipation of heaven and enjoying the glory of God.  Now, in this verse, we hear there is a 3rd set of groanings.  The Spirit intercedes for believers in their weaknesses with groanings.  Now, the ESV here translates these groanings as too deep for words which can also be translated as groanings in “unspoken words.”  Both have the same impact that these are not audible words but communication between the God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.  This is a universal gift of the Spirit to every believer in Christ.  The Spirit intercedes for the children of God.

Though some interpreters who I greatly respect feel this verse references some form of speaking in tongues, I don’t think the text supports it for a couple of reason.  There are plenty of passages that speak to the gift of tongues but I don’t think this is one.  For example:  First, these groanings are silently between God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, so they are not audible tongues or speakings of a believer.  Secondly I Corinthians 12:30 makes a point to say that not every believer has or has had the gift of tongues, and this is a universal blessing to believers across the board.  These are silent, unspoken, soundless, spiritual interactions between the Spirit and God the Father on your behalf.

What we see going on here is that the Spirit groans in a similar way that nature and believers groan.  Specifically there are a few things that we can notice about these groanings.  First of all, these groanings happen because we are weak.  Creation and creatures groan for the ultimate redemption of weakened creation because of sin.  The Spirit groans to aid us and intercede for us when we are weak.  Think about that for a moment:  the Spirit helps you in your weakness.  This wonderful truth makes sense in light Jesus’ promise.  When Jesus told His disciples that He would be leaving them after His crucifixion and resurrection, they were obviously distressed.  You can imagine how it might be distressful to have walked day by day with Jesus for 3 years and then have Him tell you that He was leaving.  His response as found in John 14:16 says, And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.  18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

One of the foundational purposes of the Holy Spirit is to comfort God’s children in their weaknesses.  The Spirit comforts and as the Spirit comforts, He assures God’s children that they are not orphans or left alone.  Helplessness is gone.

Do you know how much hope that is intended to give you?  I cannot tell you how many people I speak to regularly who confess an intense loneliness and even more people who feel absolutely helpless and weak.  The Spirit of God, the gift from God, has a primary purpose, the strengthening of those who have faith in Jesus.  When you are weak either physically, mentally, or spiritually, the Spirit of God intercedes for you.

Now, we need to ask, what does it look like to be so weak that you need the Spirit’s help in your prayers?  Well, what are the things that believers are commanded to pray for in scripture?  Here is a short list.  You are told to pray for:  a forgiving spirit, increase in knowledge of spiritual things, readiness to bear witness to Jesus Christ, courage amid affliction and persecution, helpfulness to those who are in need, and increased gratitude toward God.  When you hear that list, you might think, “Wow, I’m so bad off, I’m not even weak in the right areas.” I would say that often we do pray for the wrong things, but here is your hope.  God specifically wants to encourage you and lift you up when you are weak and the Spirit does it in ways that you can’t even imagine.  The Spirit is continually interceding for you, so even when you are without hope, you can know that the Spirit is about strengthening you with heavenly strength.

You might ask, “Well, how does that help me” or “Does that really help?”  Well, let’s look at what happens here.

27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

When the Holy Spirit intercedes for you, He does so in with groanings that are silent and too deep for words.  Fortunately, God is the one who searches hearts and knows the mind of the Spirit.  God knows what you need.  The Spirit’s groaning is directly related to His intercession for you.  “The Holy Spirit prays that the deeply hidden needs of your heart, needs which you yourself sometimes do not even recognize, may be met.”  Hendricksen   The Spirit knows what you need, and intercedes to God for that need.  But always, the Spirit intercedes for you within God’s will.  That means that the Spirit seeks exactly what God wants for you, exactly what you need in your time of trouble, exactly what is best.  That doesn’t mean the Spirit goes and gets you what you want or as some pastors would like to tell you, the Spirit does not intercede to make sure you never get sick or never go broke.  The Spirit intercedes for you according to God’s will.

Now, the majority of the questions that I and probably every other pastor get are questions about God’s will.  And I always will say that the majority of everything you ever need to know about what to do is given for you in the scriptures.  For example, if you apply the command, “Be ye holy as I am holy,” I think you will eliminate a lot of your options about God’s will as you will find them out of accord with your living a holy life.  If you place, “Consider others better than yourself,” into application, you will get a lot of your prayers about God’s will made very clear.  The Holy Spirit wants to assure you of God’s will, but sometimes your confusion is because you really want something else.  You want your will.  Often, Christians don’t get around to asking God for guidance in His will until the fan is really dirty if you know what I’m saying and then we wonder where God is.  Seek God’s will in the good times, and you can trust the Spirit is interceding for you in the bad.  The Spirit is about moving you directly into God’s will and nowhere else even if it is not what you want.

Now think about that for a minute.  Think about receiving a gift that you really, really need but don’t necessarily know you need or even want.  For example:  I remember in college, I was rocking the Reliant K car.  It was a white, four-door, ugly car.  It was absolutely and in no way, a cool car.  Chicks didn’t dig it.  I really wanted a new one.  It was what I wanted every birthday and every Christmas despite that the fact that I knew that there was no way that my parents nor I could afford to buy me a car.  I remember going home for Christmas, and over the break, I was going to car lots and looking at cars and wondering what I might get as a gift on Christmas morning, and again, these were ridiculous desires.  There was no way to get a car, and I had a car that worked just fine.  You know what I got for Christmas?  New tires for my car:  exactly what was needed.  Not what I wanted, but what I needed.  They lasted until the day that car died and it die a hard, cold death, but the tires were exactly what I needed.

This is much like the Spirits interceding for you, He takes your desires, refines them and intercedes to God within God’s will to bring you God’s best.  To illustrate that, hear one of the most well known passages.

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

This verse really needs to be taken in halves.  First, if you love God, every single thing that happens in your life works together for good – an astounding truth that may seem hard to believe, but let’s see it play out.  Second, the reason this is true is because the people who love God are called by God to a specific purpose.  Let’s look at each one of these in detail.  Well, what does it mean to love God?  Earlier in the book of Romans 5, Paul says that God’s love has been showed to us that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Later on in that same chapter, we reciprocate that love by rejoicing in God through Jesus Christ through whom we are reconciled.   Basically, you love God by rejoicing in and being like Jesus who has repaired your relationship with God.  Your joy and your love of God should have nothing to do with earthly circumstances.  True joy and true love of God happens because you know Jesus.  So the people who genuinely have faith in God, all things work together for the good.  What does it mean that everything works for the good?  Does that mean the end purpose of every event in your life is health, wealth, ease, freedom?

Well, if you listen to most people as they struggle with difficult circumstances, they always think about the good as some future moment when there aren’t difficulties or when some lesson is learned.  They’ll say, “Well I know that things are going to turn around,” as if the turning around is the good part.  Though your circumstances improving may be good, that isn’t the definition of good.  Good is being drawn closer in intimacy and affection and dependence on God.

I mean, my family has struggled with health issues for the past ten years.  We have folks in our congregation who don’t know where their next paycheck is coming from.  Some folks either own or work for business that could shut down any day.  Some of you have tragically lost loved ones.  What does it mean for those things to work together for good now?

Well, we know that these things are good first of all because God in His infinite wisdom ordains them.  Whatever God ordains is good because God has ordained to ultimately bring Himself glory.  Don’t get confused about this:  God is not a cosmic janitor sweeping up our messes and making them good.   He doesn’t look into our lives and see our mess and say, “Oh, I can fix that.”  He intends for good out of all things because He ordains and put all things into place for His purpose alone.  This can be a difficult truth to grasp, so let me you a few examples from scripture, and there are tons of them, but here is just a sampling.

God ordained the creation of all things:  Col 1:16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things have been created by Him and for Him.  If it exists, God created it.

Not matter what, God has a plan and it be changed or stopped.  Isa 14:27 For the LORD of hosts has planned, and who can frustrate it? And as for His stretched-out hand, who can turn it back? The rhetorical answer is no one can.

You may like to play poker or roll the dice or go enny meeny minie moe, but there are no chance or lucky events.  God plans all of those.  Pro 16:33 The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord. Casting lots was the biblical equivalent of drawing straws, and this verse God plans and ordains the shortest straw.

Now, the bad things that happen in life, you know adversity, calamity?  God has ordained those as well with a purpose.  Isa 45: I am the LORD, and there is no other, 7 the One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the Lord who does all these. Good times and bad times are in the hand of God.

Just in case that one is hard to swallow, let’s try another.  Amos 3:6 If a trumpet is blown in a city will not the people tremble? If a calamity occurs in a city has not the LORD done it?

What about evil people?  God has planned for them as well.  Pro 16:4 The LORD has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil.

You might say, “Surely sickness, deformities, and weakness, God couldn’t have ordained those?”  God ordains those as well.  John 9:1 And as He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was in order that the works of God might be displayed in him.” The man was sick so that God might be glorified.

Folks, every day of your life has been ordained and planned by God.  Psa 139:16 Thine eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Thy book they were all written, the days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them. God is not a reporter of the events of your life.  God is the author.  Pro 20:24 Man’s steps are ordained by the LORD, how then can man understand his way?

You see, you can make all the plans in the world, but God decides what will happen.  Jam 4:13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow, we shall go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” 14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that.”

You see, God works everything to the good because He is the author of your life.  This promise is specifically for the believer.  The non-believer has no hope of everything working to the good.  In fact, their purpose and their end is ultimately toward judgment and destruction.  Now, next week, we are taking this idea of God’s ordination to its logical conclusion.  If God ordains all things, then of course He ordains salvation which is exactly what the next verse says, but before we get there, we need to understand these truths.  Here is your takeaway.

  • God intends to help His children know Him better.
  • God helps His children in their weakness.
  • The Spirit of God hears your pain and prayers, intercedes with God the Father to bring about God’s perfect, holy will in your life.
  • You then can be strengthened in your weakness and worry knowing that God is doing exactly what is best for you.
  • So as you love God, you can know that the absolute best thing that God can do for you is being done because you have been called to the purpose of loving God and giving Him glory.

When you don’t why your circumstances are as they are (sickness, money problems, etc), it is time in all humility to accept that God has the best for you even if it hurts.

  • God’s best for you is to call Him good.
  • God’s best for you is to glorify Him no matter the circumstance.
  • God’s best for you is to praise Him even if He slays you.
  • God’s best for you is for you to be absolutely dependent on Him for all things thanking Him for His wisdom.

Let’s pray.

September 13, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 2 Comments

Shame: I Wanna Live Forever

shameAudio for this sermon can be found at http://www.sermoncloud.com/sovereign-king-church/.

Shame is such a strong word, and to feel ashamed can be devastating.  So many people that I have spoken with who struggle with depression have some deep-rooted event that they’ve done or was done to them that started them down the road to losing hope.  Think about it for a minute.  Most people reserve shame for something that they are grossly regretful for.  People may feel ashamed when they hurt someone verbally or physically.  If you have ever stolen something you may feel ashamed.  Maybe once you were given a chance to do something because someone was really gracious to you, but you squandered that chance.  You might feel shame about that.

For example, I knew this guy in college whose parents were able to completely set him up going into his freshman year.  He had everything that I didn’t have.  He had a computer.  He had a full meal plan.  He had a new car.  He didn’t have to work.  Everything thing that a student could have was his.  I began to notice though about a third of the way through the semester that he was spending a lot of time in the student lounge in the bottom of the dorm, and I mean a lot of time.  He watched a ton of cable (the lounge was the only place that had it back then).  He played poker down there.  It was almost like he lived down there.  I began to wonder, “Does this guy ever go to class anymore?”  Well, about 2/3’s of the way through the semester, he knocked on my door and asked if we could talk.  I said sure.  I then heard his story about how he hadn’t been in class in weeks.  Not only had he not been in class, he hadn’t dropped any of them either.  No matter what he did, he was going to finish the semester with an imperfect 0.0 GPA.  There was going to be h-e-double hockey sticks to pay when his parents found out because in 1989 money, he had wasted about $5,000.  On top of that, he had told a ton of lies to his parents and now he was ashamed of what he had done and fearful of facing the consequences.  He sat in my dormroom and wept for his poor judgment, his taking advantage of his parents’ hard work, and for the butt-whipping to come.

Let’s try another example to get the picture.  You know there is that database where you can search online for sex offenders.  I know one of those guys and interact with him a couple of times a week in the community.  He walks like a man full of shame.  He doesn’t make eye contact and barely speaks when spoken to.  He is a man broken and lives with shame.

Let me try even more examples.  Men, maybe you live with a secret internet porn habit.  Ladies, maybe you secretly keep in touch with an ex-boyfriend.  Maybe you have had an affair.  Maybe you cheated on a test at school.  These are the things that cause shame.  I think you all understand the feeling and emotion that I’m talking about.  Now listen to this verse

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Paul uses shame language here but in an entirely different way.  Paul says, he does not feel shame about the truth that Jesus has provided peace and a relationship with God.  He has absolutely no shame in the Gospel of Jesus because the righteousness of God, the very goodness of God, has been delivered to you, the shameful, because of Jesus.  Now the shame or disgust that you initially want for say a sex offender to feel is exactly what Paul wants you to avoid when considering the work of Jesus Christ.  You should not feel ashamed about Jesus.  You should boldly declare Jesus as the most beautiful creature you have ever known or thought of.  His giving you His goodness and his taking the penalty for your sin should make it nearly impossible for you to be silent about Him.  Anything less than proclaiming Jesus to others is being ashamed of Him.

When someone asked me this week why I was reviewing the first half of Romans, my response was, “We don’t get it.  We haven’t gotten it yet.”  If we did, you wouldn’t be able to contain the enthusiasm and joy that you  have had about Jesus and about telling others about Him.”  You would walk with a new hope and confidence in your day to day that would overshadow anything that you might encounter.

And you want to know why you don’t have to be ashamed of Jesus?  Because He has removed your shame from you.  Through his absolute forgiveness and giving you of goodness, all the shame that you have ever accumulated is taken away.

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5

Can you imagine living like this is true?   A life free from guilt and shame?  When our CE Group was discussing the sermon that covered this passage, I asked them if they ever knew anyone, and I mean anyone who had struggled with guilt over past sins and mistakes, and then found absolute freedom from guilt by trusting Jesus Christ.  You know how many examples the group could come up with?  None, zero, nada, zilch.  After hearing that, I knew we had to tackle this passage one more time.

How is it possible for the believer in Jesus to no longer have guilt or shame or condemnation?  I mean things we have done or not done don’t disappear.  The consequences and the hurt that we inflict are still there.  In fact, most of you probably think that showing real remorse over something you’ve done means living in guilt.  You would feel guilty if you didn’t feel guilty.  Look what this verse says that Jesus has done for you.  There is now no condemnation for any of your sins:  past, present, or future.  Though others may condemn you or may want you to walk in guilt for your sins, God does not.  Your condemnation is complete.

And not only has Jesus’ death provided full payment for your sins to remove guilt, Jesus’ life fulfills the righteous requirement of the law which means Jesus gives you all the goodness you need to be accepted by God.  You can now live a life led by the Spirit because of all that Jesus has done.  Taking these two passages that we have looked at together, they speak of not being ashamed of the Gospel because Jesus has taken all of our condemnation.  You should realize just how free you are and how dependant you are.

Think of it in this way, “What does living in faith free you from?”  “What are you free from?”  Well in chapter 1 of Romans, Paul tells us that we are in a hell of a mess because of our sin.  No one seeks God.  No one loves God.  No one obeys God.  Everyone is in trouble as everyone is a slave to sin.  Now that may seem like a pretty harsh statement, and maybe you think it’s overstated.  But ask yourself, “How many people have you ever met that you were convinced did what they did only and solely for the glory of God?”  We meet lots of semi-good people and maybe a few decent people, but folks who live their lives only to serve and glorify God?  They are rare, and if they rare, they might just be extinct.

But Paul offers hope.  The hope that slaves to sin have is this thing called the Gospel.  It is the power of God for salvation.  The gospel is the declaration that those that serve sin can now serve God by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  It comes not by futile efforts but by faith – simple, powerful, active belief in Jesus Christ.  So as you can see, you are depending on someone and something else for hope of a new life.  That someone is Jesus.  Living by faith makes you dependent; something most American hate and detest.  But the Gospel declares that you must become dependent upon Jesus for everything.  You don’t live trusting and having faith in yourself; you live trusting and having faith in Jesus.  When needing a change of heart and attitude, you don’t just dig deep and look for the power for these things in yourself.  You trust Jesus’ work and the power of the Holy Spirit to change you.

This is a great time to ask yourself this question:  Do you live by faith in Jesus? Or do you live trusting yourself?  This is more than just believing that Jesus died for your sins.  Do you live absolutely trusting and dependant on Jesus for everything?  Some of you are pretty talented.  Some of you are pretty smart.  Some of you are pretty attractive.  The question is, “What are you trusting?  The gospel or yourself?”  If you are trusting yourself, let’s read Romans 3 to see if that is a good idea.

Romans 3:27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

You could spend every moment of every day for the rest of your life telling the truth, and you couldn’t boast.  You could spend every moment of every day for the rest of your life being nice, and you couldn’t boast.  You could spend every moment of every day for the rest of your life being patient, and you couldn’t boast.  You could spend every moment of every day for the rest of your life being faithful to your wife or husband, and you couldn’t boast.  You could spend every moment of every day for the rest of your life being perfect, and you couldn’t boast.  You would still have nothing to boast about because none of those efforts would erase your slate of sin.  None of it would clear your record, and how is this one:  none of that obedience would be accepted by God.  Unless…unless you have Jesus.

Jonathan Edwards, perhaps the sharpest theologian that America ever produced wrote these words:  We are directed, whatever we offer to God, to offer it in Christ’s name, as expecting to have it accepted no other way, that from the value that God has to that name. Paul says something pretty similar in Colossians 3.17.  “And whatsoever you do in word of deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.”

To act in Christ’s name is to act under him, as your head, and as having him to stand for you, and represent you Godward.  To obey in Jesus’ name means you to do it for the wonderfully selfless reason of giving Him glory.  There is no ulterior or selfish motive.  Of course, even attempting an act of God-honoring obedience is impossible without Jesus, but no work of any sort is accepted by God unless done in Jesus’ name.  The irony of the life of following Jesus is that you are simultaneously free and dependent at the same time.  You are no longer a slave to sin which makes you free, but you are also completely dependent upon Jesus for life, salvation, forgiveness, and obedience.

So, instead of living a life of futility, you can live a life of true, honest God-glorifying obedience.   A life of joy, happiness, and hope is possible but only as it is done in the name of Jesus Christ.  Do it for yourself, and you works will be futile. Do it for Jesus’ glory and in His name, and God finds it pleasing.

Folks, you have nothing to offer God but the faith that He has given you.  Any thing you do for God must be done by faith in Jesus’ name which means you have to trust Him to do it and you are practically invisible in the doing.  Consider Jesus’ name for a minute.  Say his name with emphasis, and it becomes a curse word.  Say it.  contemplatively, and His name becomes an act of worship.  Say it in some arenas and it will offend, while not saying it in others is offensive.  As the old hymn sings, “Jesus, there is something about that name.”  All of scripture, and especially the book of Romans, make it abundantly clear:  there is no peace with God the Father without the work of Jesus Christ.  How many of you have said His name recently apart from maybe hitting your hand with a hammer?

Well, Jesus either means everything to you or nothing.  There is no real middle ground.  If you have any desire of peace in this world, then Jesus must be everything to you.  Listen to Romans 5.

Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Paul uses a lot of legal language here, so lets wade through it for a moment.  You can have peace with God, but it only comes through His son.  Not only does faith in the work of Jesus bring about peace with God the Father, His work also declares you justified or legally innocent of sin.  That means everything evil, wicked, or sinful that you have ever thought, spoken, or done is completely erased from your account.  These truths, also known as the Gospel, should cause each and every believer to rejoice because they have a true and honest hope of seeing the glory of God.

Again, the irony of the life of following Jesus though is that you are simultaneously free and dependent at the same time.  You are no longer a slave to sin which makes you free, but you are also completely dependent upon Jesus for life, salvation, forgiveness, and obedience.  Now here is something else that is amazing:  God entrusts these wonderful truths to those who have faith in Jesus.  2 Corinthians 4 describes this entrusting as placing a treasure in a clay pot.  It is like using a weak dollar store flower pot to hold a million dollars in gold.  If you are a believer in Jesus, that’s you.  God has entrusted the message of the Gospel, the wonderful work of Jesus Christ, to the very people that Jesus had to save.  He has ordained that the means by which people will hear the Gospel is you proclaiming the truths of scripture to those who need to hear it.

You would think that the church, who Jesus affectionately calls His bride, would eagerly and tirelessly proclaim to a lost and hurting world the freedom and peace with God that comes through Jesus.  Yet, outside the walls of most church buildings, Jesus’ name remains unsaid.  The simplest barometer to determine how the church is doing in proclaiming Jesus is for you personally to ask yourself how you are doing in that task.  If you remain silent in hearing that question because you know that you haven’t proclaimed Jesus to yourself much less world lately, then you know how the church is doing…poorly.

When faced with the daunting task of having to tell the world about Jesus, you may say that you are inadequate, uneducated, or ill-equipped to proclaim Jesus and gladly leave that job to me or some other pastor.  But I would offer that if the treasure of the message of Jesus is held in clay pots, then God is looking for those who aren’t too confident in themselves but rather those who are confident in the treasure in which they hold.  Oswald Chambers called the paradox that God entrusts us with His message, “The Brave Comradeship of God.”

You might say, “Gordon, I still can’t do that.  I can barely understand how Jesus’ work applies to me much less explain to someone who doesn’t believe.”  Well, part of me just wishes I could tell you to, “do better,” but that statement would be pretty gospeless.  Paul fortunately knows the right way to encourage you.  He says this in Romans 8, and this we will pursue with greater depth next week.

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

God knows you are weak.  God knows you struggle to believe that there is no condemnation or shame.  God knows you are tempted to always trust yourself instead of Jesus.  God knows you are scared to death to tell others about the Gospel.  So God sends His Spirit to help you in your weakness.  In fact, the Spirit helps you when you can’t even articulate what you need.  Cry out to God for this help, and God will cause the Holy Spirit to search your heart and comfort you with the truths of God.  The Spirit will intercede or be your go-between for you and God so that you can find strength when you are weak, you can rest that your sin is paid for, you can believe that there is no more condemnation or shame for your sin, you can begin to trust Jesus instead of yourself, you can proclaim this sin forgiving, life imparting Savior Jesus Christ to those who need to hear it..

Let’s pray to Him now.

September 6, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Dirty South

My hobbies have pretty much been reduced to two at this point:  running and writing.  Both feed each other, and both provide tremendous stress release.  Since re-launching this site, I’ve enjoyed taking daily process time to write as well as re-reading older posts from years gone by.  I’ve been fortunate to have a few things published online, and I enjoy my semi-regular contributions to the Garner Citizen.

Recently, I’ve wanted to interact with more folks through my writing and was wondering how to make that happen.  Then, I stumbled upon the Raleigh Examiner, a nationally syndicated online newspaper that has regional hubs.  They had an opening for an Evangelical Contributor, and once I submitted a few sample articles, they accepted.

Going forward, my posts will appear on multiple platforms:  posts will always show up here, but they might also show up at the Garner Citizen, or at the Raleigh Examiner.  I’m pretty excited to see where all of this goes (and thankful that I can re-use old content as well).  Hopefully, I won’t bore you guys with the same old things over and over again, but it will be enjoyable to see what the feedback will be.

I’ve included the beginning of my first post, “Living a Dirty Life,” with a link to the remainder of the article below.  Enjoy.

Dirty JobsI recently proclaimed to the folks at Sovereign King Church that if their life is too put together to help those whose lives are too messy then they’ve missed the lesson of Romans 3.  That chapter speaks to how no one has any right to brag before God as no one is righteous; no not one.  Even after a child of God begins to grow in obedience as promised in scripture, we are reminded in Romans 3 with this:  “Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith.”  Paul’s point is that there is no room for boasting because we don’t gain anything before God by works of the law.  All access to God and His work through Christ come by faith.  The child of God does grow in doing righteousness, but it is never that righteousness by which we recommend ourselves to God; it is always Jesus’.

You can find the remainder of the article at http://bit.ly/pxpY3

September 2, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Romans 8:18-25 – Sermon Notes

Audio for this sermon can be found at http://www.sermoncloud.com/sovereign-king-church/

Hands down, we live in one of the most narcissistic cultures of all time.  If not the most, we are at least one of the worst cultures at flat-out loving ourselves.  Two recent books, “Generation Me” and “The Narcissism Epidemic” by sociologist Jean Twenge highlight this growing phenomenon in America.  The premise of Twenge’s research is that, “We’ve built up the confidence of our kids, but in that process, we’ve created a generation of hot-house flowers puffed with a disproportionate sense of self-worth (the definition of narcissism) and without the resiliency skills they need when Mommy and Daddy can’t fix something.”

Essentially, parenting styles today make every action a success and every entitlement an expectation.  The author cites a few examples.  For example, in her research, she found that 30% of college students today think that they should get at least “B” in a particular subject if they never miss a class.  When the author asked the same question to a group of college students in Connecticut, nearly 100% agreed with statement.  The author offered this suggestion as a cure for the prevailing attitude of our day.  She says an antidote to a skyrocketing self-worth is humility, evaluating yourself more accurately, mindfulness and putting others first.  Now that sounds incredibly Biblical doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, this type of narcissism has not escaped the church.  The reduction of Christianity to a mere “personal decision for Christ” has taught many believers in Jesus that that the Kingdom of God is here for one reason:  to serve them.  For example getting people to truly care about a hurting neighbor is incredibly difficult.  For many, if your neighbor disagrees with you politically, environmentally, or sexually, you can forget most Christians helping them out.  Why?  Well the prevailing thought is, “If you have the audacity to disagree with me, then your problems are your own fault,” and completely lacking humility, we use words like “dumb” or “stupid” or whatever else makes us feel morally superior.

If you want to gauge your own sense of Christian narcissism, take this little test.  Recall your most recent prayers.  Are there more petitions for your self than there are prayers for others and praises for God?  If so, perhaps you should ask who you think is serving whom?

Sadly, if your church preaches that the intention of God is to make you personally healthy, wealthy, wise, and completely remove your life of suffering, you can pack the place out.  In fact, you can build a tower of Christian Narcissism very easily; it’s just that you get to call it a church building.  But what we are going to see from the book of Romans this week is that the redemptive work of Jesus is about saving individuals, but it also about so much more.  Not wanting to make that mistake, let’s ask this Big Picture Question this week:

Big Picture Question:  The work of Jesus is about redeeming sinful people, but how is the work of Jesus about so much more than just that?

8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

Now this is a bold a statement as any human being can make about suffering.  You have to ask, “Is it okay to say that the suffering of this time is not worth comparing to the glories of heaven while so many people are suffering immensely.  For example,

  • 171,000 Christians were martyred for their faith last year.
  • 7.6 million people worldwide die from cancer each year
  • 100,000 children died from Cancer in America alone
  • Or you can make it more personal.  Last week 2 children in Garner suffered massive burns all over their body when their house caught on fire.
  • A 6 year old girl died while waiting at a bus stop.
  • In Garner High School, over 60% of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch which means the vast majority of students are living in incredibly difficult financial situations.

There is a lot of suffering in this world.  Right here in this congregation, we have had deaths in our families, long term sickness, loss of jobs, and on and on.  And Paul has the audacity to say that the present troubles and sufferings we are experiencing are not even worth comparing with the glory to be revealed.

You see, he is saying that the glories of Heaven are so great that you won’t even think about comparing your suffering to them because the glories will be so far outweigh whatever pain you are in right now.  Ask your self, “What would it take right now for you to not worry about your suffering?”  What incredible thing would have to happen for you to say, “It doesn’t matter if I am broke,” or “It doesn’t matter if I’m not healthy,” or fill in the blank with whatever it is you wish would go away right now.

Would it take unlimited money?  Would it take perfect health?  Would it take a perfect marriage or job or whatever?  Those things might be nice but none of them are intended to give you the joy that God intends to give you.  In fact, Paul wants your suffering to make you want real, true joy.

So, let’s ask this, “What makes the glories of Heaven so great that our present suffering can’t even compare?”  We saw that last week in verse 16-17 “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”  Because God has made you His child, the Spirit causes your heart to cry, “Daddy, Father.”  Not only are you God’s children but you are heirs with Jesus Christ sharing glory in Heaven.  But if you are going to be like your brother Jesus in Heaven, you must be like Him in suffering here on Earth.

What makes the glories of Heaven so much greater than your suffering on earth is that you are a co-heir with Christ.  Not only are you forgiven.  Not only are you spared the torment of hell.  Not only are you privileged to spend eternity with the Father, but you are a co-heir with Christ sharing in the glory that He has earned for you.  You arrive in Heaven not as a prodigal son or daughter but as an obedient son and daughter through Jesus Christ.  And there, according to 1 Thessalonians 4, you will enjoy the redemption of your physical body while relishing in God’s presence without any physical limitations or pain.

I fear even to articulate these words with the fear that I have not done them justice.  Paul’s intention is to fill you with hope and expectation by giving you a big picture of your suffering.  Yes your present trials, sicknesses, heartaches, and pains are difficult.  But you do not have a Savior who is unacquainted with those things.  You know what you should do when you suffer?  Mediated on the sufferings of Christ.  You know why?  Because not only do your sufferings not come close to what He suffered, Jesus was perfect and all His sufferings were without merit.   He suffered when He should have been the one pouring out suffering for sin.  He suffered for those that inflicted His suffering.  Yet He endured it all to usher you and me into the glories of Heaven and then on top of that, He shares the glories of Heaven with you.

Now, once we get a big picture view of our suffering, Paul intends for us to get a big picture view of Jesus’ redemptive work.  Look at verse 19.

19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

Paul wants us to see a bigger picture of the effects of sin and a bigger picture of redemption in these verses.  Specifically, he speaks about how not only is the human heart affected by sin and the fall of mankind, but all of creation is as well.  So much so is physical creation and nature suffering that it longs for the day when God will redeem it again.  This will happen at the revealing of the sons of God which is another way of saying that creation will be redeemed when God’s children are ultimately redeemed in Heaven.  But this an often overlooked topic in scripture, so let’s dig in a bit.

How has creation been affected by sin?  Well verse 20 says it was subjected to futility and verse 21 says that it is in bondage to corruption.  Now if you read those verses carefully, you would see hope and redemption spread throughout them but we need to understand the prognosis before we pursue the prescription.  The word for futility here also translated frustration is the same word for vanity which is another way of saying that it is alienated.  Who or what are nature and creation alienated from?  Us.  Think about it.  What was God’s original intention for the relationship between mankind and creation?

Genesis 1:28 commanded Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply and to subdue the earth and have dominion over it.  Making human’s responsible for subduing and dominion is making them vice-regents – that is an agent of the King who acts in the best interest of the king in His stead.  This is Kingdom language.  Which means creation and mankind should be living in harmony with humanity ruling over all creation with the same gracious, creative intent of God.  The Kingdom of God should have not only a spiritual impact on this world but a physical one as well.  You as God’s children are called to extend and spread the influence of the Kingdom of God in every area, arena, nook, and cranny of this world.

Now many people think that subdue and dominion is language to mean that people can treat nature and creation anyway they want but the Creator of the universe who just pronounced creation good is bequeathing to humans a responsibility.  Now, I refuse to have lengthy arguments here about the size of the hole in the ozone or whether there is global warming or not.  No matter what side of the argument you come down on, if all you do is argue pro or con about environmentalism then you have missed the point of this passage.

But reducing the language of subduing and dominion to the environment and our care of it is too narrow of a focus.  God’s intention is that man would rule and reign over all creation as if God Himself was doing it.  In light of sin, that job becomes pretty difficult.  These verses would say that your mere presence on this earth subjects creation to futility because you are sinful and the curse of the fall into sin is that the ground has been cursed because of your sin.  That is how bad your sin is.  You should thank God for every day you take another breath because you do it not at your own expense but at creation’s expense.  But your mere presence as a saved, redeemed child of God should also spread the influence of the Kingdom of God everywhere.

Here is where we begin to see that the redemptive work of Jesus is bigger than just saving individual sinners.  Creation groans because of your sin and the effects of sin but it also eagerly waits for your redemption and longs to be set free.  Verse 20 says that creation was subject to futility but it did so with hope knowing that God would redeem it one day.  Isa. 65 and 66, 2 Peter 3, and Rev 21 all speak of God making a new Heaven and a New Earth one day.  God is going to redeem everything that is tainted with the stain of sin.

Understanding that then, we need to understand what it would look like to have a big picture view of God’s redemptive work.  Look at verse 22

22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

Paul likens creation’s groaning and desiring to be redeemed to the groaning pain of childbirth.  Now, I know nothing of that kind of pain, but I have witnessed it a few times, so I can at least tell you what it should look like.  From my vantage point, the pains of childbirth that typically bring the glorious joys of children come about through a lot of grunting, sweating, agonizing, and sometimes even saying a few cuss words.

So what is creation groaning for?  It is groaning for two things:  It is groaning for you to be the proper vice-regent for God, but knowing that you are sinful, creation really longs for the ultimate redemption that God has promised it.  Paul’s point is that creation groans, groans like it is trying to push out a baby, for an ultimate, final redemption and YOU should groan for an ultimate, final redemption.

Your suffering reminds you that there is a redemption yet to come.  Your suffering is not intended to embitter or anger you but remind you that this place is not your home.  There is yet greater redemption and glory to come.  God has given you this picture of redemption, the firstfruits of the Spirit to encourage you and remind you that God is doing an ultimate work of redemption bringing His children and creation back to their original relationship with Him.  And I promise you, if you lose perspective on this you will not only become embittered but some of you very well may turn, shake your fist at God

We should groan and eagerly await just as creation does.  The physical earth will be redeemed and your physical body will be redeemed.  But we still don’t know how to play a part in this larger than we can imagine redemption that God is doing.  Well look at verse 24 and we will see How we play a larger part in God’s redemption of humanity and creation.

24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

You know some of us, really struggle with hope.  One of the main reasons folks struggle with hope is because they haven’t yet received the thing for which they hope.  So, I guess hope for most folks apparently has its limitations.  Why is that?  I would offer that our hope has its limitations because of our narcissistic nature.  We will hope in something as long as we know that we are going to get it which begs the question, “Is that really hope at all?

For example, when our children ask for something and we say that it is way too expensive, somewhere deep down inside, they still think they are going to get it.  Why?  Because we pretty much get our children whatever it is that they want.  Whenever we want something, we might say we are hoping to get it, but deep down inside we know we can charge it or we expect someone to get it for us.  And if we don’t get what we want?  We are disillusioned and disappointed and depressed.

In all honesty, we don’t know what hope is because we either aren’t patient enough to wait and we just go get what we want for ourselves or we just get angry and write off anybody or anything that doesn’t serve us immediately.  We are in essence spoiled brats.

But Paul says here, hope is the essence of salvation.  It is only hope if it is unseen which means it is beyond our grasp or beyond our ability to get it for ourselves.  If we only hope for things that we know we can get for ourselves or for things that we know people will get for us, it is not hope.  Do you want to take part in the grand redemption story that Jesus is undertaking?  Do you want to properly serve your role as vice regent?  If you do, the way in which that becomes a possibility is for you to have true, honest, earnest, hope and patience as we wait for God.

Unfortunately, what gets in our way of having hope is our impatience and to be honest, our low view of God.  We think He is constantly ready to destroy His children when He is actually about redeeming them.  We see every difficulty in the day to day as God’s curse and forget that God desires to redeem and not destroy His creation.

Spurgeon put it this way, “My Lord is more ready to pardon than you are ready to sin.  He is more able to forgive than you are to transgress. My Master is more willing to supply your wants than you are to confess them. Never tolerate low thoughts of my Lord Jesus.”  Since we are so impatient and don’t want to live in hope but instead want everything we want right now, we as a consequence live without hope or without great faith in God.  We would rather Him serve us instead of us serving Him.

You can’t very well point people to the hope they should have unless you have hope.  You can’t tell people that God can save a marriage unless you are willing to wait and trust that He is going to save yours.

August 30, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment