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From my Easter sermon yesterday on the connection between Jesus death and resurrection as the means to make all things new:

Now, how does God fix this?

HE DID/DOES IT BY JESUS’ DEATH ON THE CROSS. Colossians 1:20 tells us that “through him [it pleased God] to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” See that word reconcile? It means to make peace between two enemies. You don’t have to reconcile friends. You do have to reconcile enemies. Ephesians 1:10 tells us the same thing, that God, “in the fullness of time” has a plan to “unite all things in [Christ], things in heaven and on earth.” Now, they if the plan is to unite them then they must be disunited or in disunity. Make sense? And notice that Jesus reconciles, not just sinful men to God [He does do that, praise God!], but ALL THINGS [stars, ruby-throated sparrows, blue whales, the Mississippi Delta, the Grand Canyon, supernovas, tarantulas, Jupiter … ALL THINGS], everywhere … Friends, everything is at war and is disunited – when you see animals eating one another and fires raging over a drought covered earth and hurricanes blowing and earthquakes rumbling and genocide and rape and cancer and murder and gossip and stealing or just your body growing old … don’t you see that this is the creation at war with one another, with itself, and with God? But the good news of the gospel is that Jesus’ death brings the peace of the world … calls a truce … armistice … ends the war. Jesus’ death pays the price for the peace of the world. [When WWII ended, when the peace was signed, did it cost anyone? Yes. It cost the world over 50M lives.] Now, Jesus’ death was the cost to bring about the complete peace of the whole universe. Praise God!

BUT GOD DOES THIS BY THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS AS WELL. See, if Jesus had died, and stayed dead, stayed in that tomb, then he would have no power to defeat death, the main enemy, the enemy that has to be defeated more than any other enemy. 1 Cor 15:26 says that “the last enemy to be destroyed is death.” According 1 Corinthians 15 who destroys death? Jesus. According to 1 Corinthians 15 how does he do it? Through his resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus is like the Atomic Bomb on Satan’s kingdom that ends the war. There’s still fighting going on but the war is over. The resurrection of Jesus is like the title deed to that old house God is remodeling – it needs remodeling but God paid for it and has proof of ownership.

Beloved, the resurrection of Jesus is God’s announcement to all the powers of this age, to all the universe, that Jesus has conquered the darkness of this age. While he was entombed in the darkness of his grave no one knew this. For all we knew death had won again. For all the world knew Jesus was just another casualty of a fallen universe, crushed in the gears of history. Think of the sins that put Jesus in the grave: deceit, hate, murder, torture, mocking, and on and on. If he does not come out of that grave, then sin and death and the devil could say, “I have authority over you.” But when Jesus burst forth from the grave it was a declaration that every ill, every sin, every evil act, every pain would come to an end. It was a declaration to murder, and cancer, and rape, and Down’s Syndrome, and tornadoes, and anger, and greed, and Satan, “you do not have the final say – I do; you do not have authority over me – I have authority over you; you have no claim over me – …” That’s why Jesus said in Revelation 1:17-18 “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” Do you see the connection between his cross and resurrection AND his authority over death?

From my sermon on Luke 12:22-31 …

Now, if we are not careful, right here, you can totally turn Jesus’ message upside-down. Let me show you what I mean. Look at vv29-31 again and zero in on the word “seek.” “29 And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.”

Do you see the point? The reason God does not want us to seek (set our heart on) – chase, pursue, obsess over, run after, worry about these things is because he wants us to seek, chase, pursue, obsess over, run after the kingdom of God. Beloved, God is not saying, “Don’t worry about these things because I will provide for you so that you will have great emotional health and stability and a peaceful, easy feeling and a comfortable life – so that you can ‘eat, drink, and be merry’ (v19).” If we use these words of Jesus just to bring us earthly comfort, use to ease our mind, … and we stop right there, we’ve missed it – totally missed it! We will have turned this teaching on its head and used it to seek our own kingdom instead of God’s.

But can’t we see what Jesus is saying: “I don’t want you to worry about these things. I’ll provide these things for you. Why? So that you can focus on me, on seeking my kingdom, on seeking me, on living for me.”

From my sermon yesterday on Luke 12:13-21

18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. There it is. There’s our world. “I’ve made more money. Of course, I’ll go bigger and better. I’ve made more and so I will live with more.” See, here’s the thing. For the covetous person and our culture, the getting of more and the increase of wealth and the increase of comfort is a no-brainer. Did you notice that? It’s just obvious. Of course that’s what you do. Given a choice between bigger and better or not (whether it means cutting back or just staying the same), you always choose bigger and better. Given the choice between more money or less, you always choose more. Given the opportunity to increase your standard of living or keep it the same … of course. Job Promotion? Sure you take it. Career? Whichever pays the most. Job relocation? Absolutely, if it pays lots more, why wouldn’t you? It’s a no-brainer.

Now here’s the thing. Is it wrong to take a job promotion? No. Is it wrong to relocate your family for a different job? No. Is it wrong to choose a career that will pay well? No. Is it wrong to do those things without asking God what he wants? Yes. Is it wrong to do those things simply because it will give you more possessions and you are going to use those possessions on yourself? Yes. Is it wrong to do those things without thinking about eternity and whether this will push you closer to Jesus or further away? Yes.

Do you see? The whole thing is tricky. I don’t think God says you have to live a life of poverty. I don’t think God prohibits you from going on a vacation. I don’t think God prohibits nice things. I don’t think God would prohibit improving your life at all. I do think we ought to ask the question though: how much is enough? I do think the question is always, “How much or will this make you closer to Jesus or not, and will it keep you from spreading the kingdom of God? What will maximize my and other’s joy in eternity?”

From Sunday’s sermon on covetousness, Luke 12:13-15:

Beloved, I have no rules for you today. And in fact, the NT does not give a lot of rules concerning giving or investing or keeping or tithing. Basically it says, “Be generous. Give lavishly to others. Don’t keep it but give it away. And when you give, give willingly and cheerfully.” It doesn’t say you have to tithe but I think it assumes you will and you should and that a tithe (10% of your income) would be a good starting point. So, 2 Cor. 9:7 says you should give what you have determined in your heart but do so, not begrudgingly, but cheerfully. And see, if your heart is not right, right there you are thinking, “Oh, I don’t have to give 10%. I can give whatever I want, whatever I decide in my heart. I can give 1%.” See, if that’s you, you’ve missed it. The issue is your heart. Look, some of you, all you can give to the church or to others is 10%. You can’t really pay your bills if you go more than that. But for some of you, 90% is way more than you need to live on. You could give more than 10%. You should give more. We’ll look at this more but the point is, we have to look at our hearts – When you think about money and possessions, are you looking to give the minimum you can and still be a good Christian? Is this the question going on in your heart: “What’s the least I can give and still be godly?” Or, “What’s the most I can keep and still be godly?” It’s a heart issue. Jesus wants to deal with that.

From my sermon on Luke 12:8-12 …

So what does it mean to speak against Jesus? Answer, pretty much what you think. It means to speak against Jesus. It means to say things that dishonor him. It means to deny him. It means to say false things about him. And here’s the thing – the reason God gave you a mouth and lips and a tongue was so you could praise Jesus and honor him with your words. Can you see then that to speak against Jesus is no small thing; it’s a great sin. … But, praise God, it is a sin that God will forgive. Praise God, Jesus is a great savior. See the thief on the cross beside Jesus, reviling him and mocking him. See that same thief later acknowledging Jesus as the King of heaven. And see Jesus forgive him of his sin and say to him, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Again, think of ole Peter – he denied Jesus three times but we read of Peter’s restoration in John 21. And think about the apostle Paul. Here’s a man that the Bible says at one was breathing murderous threats out against the church, a man that Jesus himself said was persecuting Him, a man who called himself a blasphemer, and yet was forgiven by God. Did Paul not write this trustworthy statement: “Jesus Christ came into this world to save sinners of whom I am the foremost.” And what about the people of Acts 3 whom Paul said had denied Jesus. By Acts 4 many of them were followers of Jesus. And friends, do you know people who at one time spoke frequently and ardently against Jesus, atheists, agnostic, skeptics, drunks, druggies, addicts, wealthy, poor, and more, yet they were saved by the grace of God, forgiven of their sins?

Look, before we try to figure out what it means to blaspheme the Holy Spirit, it might do us some good to think about the deep, deep love of God … he forgives sinful people who say sinful things against Jesus. Friend, if you speak against me, what have you done? You’ve spoken against a sinful man made of dirt. I probably deserved it. But if you speak against the spotless Son of God who gave you life, has never done a hurtful thing in his life, who has never done you harm, who has never made a mistake, who simply loved you so much he died for you, took God’s wrath for you, was mocked and hated for you, who was forsaken for you … then what do you deserve? But God says, “He will forgive even such a sin as that.”

Last night there was a great buzz about how certain people were dressed for the red carpet. So much fuss over how one is dressed! And yet, how you are dressed is an important issue if the audience actually matters, especially in this case:

“Prepare to meet thy God, O Israel! Ye are hastening on to death and judgment, yet never ask, What garment shall cover me, when I stand before the great white throne? If you were going to appear before an earthly monarch, you would ask beforehand, Wherewith shall I be attired? If you were to be tried at an earthly bar, you would make sure of an advocate. How is it you press on so swiftly to the bar of God, and never ask the question, Wherewith shall I appear! “If the righteous scarcely are saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” [Memoirs and Remains of Robert Murray McCheyne, 379]

From my sermon this past Sunday on Luke 11:37-54:

And that is simply, in a nutshell, what God wants of us. God simply wants us to have tender hearts, so that when we become aware of something wrong in us, we don’t try to hide it or cover it up or make excuses for it, but we confess it, turn from it, and run to Jesus for forgiveness. See, the only way we can face our sin is through Jesus, by looking at Jesus, by seeing Jesus as our savior. Jesus tells us to do this: “Look at Jesus and you will see how sinful you are. Now, face your sinfulness. Own up to it. Don’t hide it or lie about it or try to cover it up with religious deeds or mask it with good deeds. You can’t. You can only be cleansed in your heart if you are honest about what’s in your heart and if you see Jesus as the one who died for your sins, to cleanse you of your sins, to bear your sins, to pay the price for your sins, to suffer your judgment.” Do you see? Why do people cover up their sin? Because they know they need to – they know it’s not right – they know it’s not acceptable to God – they know other people will not accept them – so what do they do? Instinctively, they try to cover it up (that’s what the Pharisees did; that’s what Adam and Eve did in the garden) instead of running to Christ and having him cover it up with his blood.

As we look at these things, you might say, “Is this me? Do I have superficial religion, like the Pharisees? Am I a hypocrite? Do I have a heart full of sin?” And the answer is quite possibly you do have superficial religion and quite probably you are a hypocrite (at least at times) and most definitely you have a heart full of sin. All of us will be guilty of at least some of these things. And it might be hard to face these things or admit this. It was not easy for me to think about some of these woes. Hey, when Jesus begins a series of teachings, each with the word “woe” I don’t think he means for it to be easy. But here’s the worst thing in the world you could do … not face it, not deal with it. The biggest problem the Pharisees had was not that their hearts were full of greed and wickedness; it was that they did not know it or want to know it or want to deal with their hearts. Listen, the biggest problem with the Pharisees or anyone, is that they will not say, “Woe is me!” If you won’t do that, you are a Pharisee or a hypocrite. If you can look at your heart and see all the junk there, but do nothing really and truly about it, you are religiously superficial and a hypocrite. But you can face them. Why? Because the only sinless person who ever lived swapped places with those who have sinned all their lives so that we might be acceptable to God even though we are still sinners. That’s how we can face our sin and not run from it.

So, that’s the first step: admit your heart is full of sin [This is the key: Think about Isaiah’s vision in Isaiah 6. Once he saw how holy and good God was, he saw how sinful and unholy and corrupt he was and so he said, “Woe is me! I am totally undone here. I am the guilty one. I am unclean.” Now, what did God do? He forgave him. Listen, if you will pronounce a woe on yourself first, a heart-felt, sincere woe, then you will not here God pronounce it on you later. Do you see? If you will condemn your own sin, admit it, own up to it, agree with God’s judgment, and ask God to forgive you by the blood of Jesus, you will not be condemned, you will not hear God’s woe in judgment. You say, “Woe is me! Forgive me. Change my heart, O God!”] and then turn from those sins (it’s not enough to just confess it and be OK with it; that’s not really dealing with it; it’s fighting against those things; it’s being bothered by those things, broken over your sin) and ask God to forgive you and change you from the inside.

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musings and meditations from an ordinary husband, father, and pastor seeking to follow Christ