Saturday, December 18, 2010
Text - Matthew 24:3-44
Good evening, I’m so glad you could join us tonight. During this season you’d expect us to be talking about Christmas…but while Christmas is important we are only two years away from a massive event which will be one to remember. It’s not that the world is ending, but it is that people think the world is ending and because of that we should expect to see all sorts of cults form, mass suicides taking place, and all sorts of rioting and chaos and outright goofiness.
The day that more and more people are beginning to fear as the end of the world is December 21st, 2012, at 11:18AM GMT. First of all, let me, as objectively and factually as possible, give you the reasons why they think the world is ending on that day.
First of all, the thing that got it all kicked off is this big Mayan calendar stone called the “Sun Stone” which is a super-complex calendar that accurately measures astronomy, it can tell you where certain stars will be at certain times. This may not sound important, but really it is very high tech, especially for almost 1800 years ago when it was likely invented. This calendar measures vast time periods by the constellation that the sun is lined up with at the Vernal, or Spring, Equinox. This is a useful means of navigation, but the Mayan’s took it a bit farther to say that it actually influences how people live and act. Well, their calendar either ends, or resets, on the Winter Solstice, December 21st, 2012. This has caused all sorts of people to believe that something massive will happen to the sun, and hence the earth, on that day.
Besides the Mayan Calendar, this is also the highly contested day that the sun will move from being classified in one constellation, called the “Age of Capricorn” to the “Age of Aquarius.” It is debated when this change officially takes place, some people believe it happened 500 years ago, others believe it won’t happen for another 600 years, but many believe it is happening soon, and a fair number think it is happening on December 21st, 2012. Earth Ages are another way of saying “Horoscope” and they are pagan practices which the Bible utterly condemns, and so while we as Christians don’t put any stock in it, because God doesn’t put any stock in it, people who reject the truth believe they can foretell the future via means of watching the stars.
Since a dooms-day scare can’t happen on just a few crazy people’s predictions, they have also included all manner of other predictions, such as variances in the earth’s poles and claiming that the earth’s magnetic field is about to swap. This has never happened, and even if it could, we wouldn’t have the faintest idea of how to predict it. As long as the earth’s core in molten, which volcanoes and the like show us it is, then we will have an intact magnetic field. But doomsday predictors have to add terrifying events to make their conspiracy seem more realistic.
Something that is real, but we don’t expect it to wreck the solar system, is that 2012 is predicted to have greater than average sunspots. Jupiter and Saturn will line up somewhat close together in such a way as in the past has been observed to maybe mess with the sun’s gravitational field which caused more sun spots in the past; we’re not sure exactly what causes it, but it’s predictable. Sunspots may mess with your cell-phone and satellite reception, but they’re not going to wreck the world.
Nostradamus, in one of his notoriously ambiguous and usually wrong prophecies, claimed that the end of the world would come soon after the “new city” was fallen. Many claim that clearly he was talking about September 11th and so the end of the world must come soon.
There are many prophecies that start to really reach, some are utter fiction, like the asteroid Nibiru, which doesn’t exist but is supposed to hit the earth on December 21st, 2012. Beloved, the end of the world will not be happening in December 21st, 2012; all of these prophecies are so vague and ridiculous that all they serve to do is scare people and draw their affections off what they really should be on, that is the Living God. But don’t be deceived, many people have claimed that Christ will be returning on certain dates, or the end of the world was happening, and they have deceived many.
One such event was in 1844 when William Miller predicted that Christ was returning on March 21st, based on his calculations from the book of Daniel. I’m not sure if you’re aware of this or not, but the world did not end on that date! As that date passed without incident, Miller was quick to point out that his prophecy was not incorrect, but that he had made a minor error in converting Hebrew numbers to English, and announced that the world would be ending on April 18th.
People still followed him though, and along with the help of a friend he determined that the true date of Christ’s return was, using a different calendar, on October 22nd, 1844. On that day more people showed up than any other day. Many had sold or given away everything they owned. Some dug their own graves and stood in them so that their body would have a place to fall when their soul was taken to Heaven.
That day came and passed without incident. All people got out of it was a special robe that they had bought for the occasion from William Miller himself. At that point people rejected William Miller, and from this major event the cults of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Branch Davidians were born.
Throughout the last hundred and fifty years the Jehovah’s Witnesses have consistently predicted the end of the world every few decades, and every time they have been wrong.
In 1993 the Branch Davidians predicted the end of the world as the FBI and ATF came to investigate child molestation and illegal weapons charges. At least 84 died in a murder/suicide.
Joseph Smith, seeking credibility in his earliest false-prophecies in the Mormon Church, claimed that the end would be in 1890.
In the year 1,000 many people believed the world was ending and sold or gave away all of their possessions. When the end did not come sects of dissenters arose against the church, and the Catholic Church executed many.
March 26th, 1997, a cult called “Heaven’s Gate” believed the world was about to be “recycled”, that a space-craft was flying with Hale-Bopp Comet, and that the only way to survive was to leave the world, and 39 left through suicide. The leader believed he was either Jesus or closely related to Jesus.
2 John 2:18 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.
So all of this to say that an end of the world prediction is not new, if you search on Google, “Failed End of the World Prophecies”, you’ll find a few thousand; several websites are devoted to only classifying these failed prophecies. Most pass without real public notice, but the December 21st, 2012 prophecy is different, because it has such a mystical origin in an ancient calendar, and because of its astronomy links, which much of the non-Christian world thinks very highly of.
But when we look at Christianity, the Bible says in Isaiah 46 that God is in control of all of history, and that he knows both the end and the beginning,
Isaiah 46:9-11 I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,' calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.
The bird of prey here spoken of was a Persian king named Cyrus who set the Jews free from Babylon, this prophecy predated him by over a hundred years, and in chapter 45 it names him by name. God is more than capable of telling you both how the world began, created a bit over 6,000 years ago out of nothing, and he is also able to tell us how it will end.
Turn to Matthew 24, here is the Jesus Christ explaining the end of the world to us.
Matthew 24:3-8 As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?" And Jesus answered them, "See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.
They ask him a straight question, how will we know that the world is ending? He begins by warning them, telling them not to be deceived nor alarmed, knowing that he has overcome the world and he has decreed both the end and the beginning, knowing exactly how it will come to pass. He foresees that many false prophecies and false messiahs will arise to lead many astray.
Matthew 24:9-14 Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
More signs are here given, that the church will be greatly persecuted, and that many so-called Christians will cease to love and will actually hate people. Beloved, in 1 John 3:15 it says that if anyone hates his brother in the church, that he is a murderer, and eternal life does not abide in him. And here is our sign for the end of the times, that the gospel will be preached to all nations, and then the end will come. There are organizations that track which people groups have heard the gospel, and we are still an estimated 171 years from being able to, at the current rate, to get missionaries to every people group. Beloved, if you want to hasten the return of Christ, as Peter says we ought, then you need to be sharing your faith, for God is not willing that even a single one of his saints should perish and so will not send his Son back until every last believer comes to repentance.
Matthew 24:15 When you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place…
This prophecy is explained more in Paul’s second letter to Thessalonica, it is when the Antichrist sits himself in the Temple and declares himself to be God. Beloved, currently we have no Temple in Jerusalem, and it’s very hard to sit in a Temple and declare yourself to be God if there is no Temple, so this is our number one sign that the world is not ending anytime soon. The Jews in Jerusalem have been trying to build a temple for decades now, but the Muslims are standing in their way. It may happen in your lifetimes, it may not, but we know that Christ is not returning before this abomination of desolation takes place.
Jump forward to verse 23,
Matthew 24:23-27 Then if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or 'There he is!' do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. So, if they say to you, 'Look, he is in the wilderness,' do not go out. If they say, 'Look, he is in the inner rooms,' do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.
Beloved, surely there will be very charismatic leaders who arise around this December 21st, 2012 prophecy, and even afterwards, and even if they claim to be God, you must not follow them, for the true Christ says his appearing will be unmistakable, the sky will split open, the Apostle John describes it this way:
Revelation 19:11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.
Now we get into the true end of the world:
Matthew 24:29-31 Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
The sky will be blackened, massive heavenly bodies will be moved, the earth will quake, and Christ will appear in the sky and call his elect to himself with the help of angels. I used to be freaked out about the rapture, since I’m in the Air Force, wondering what would happen if I was inside of a hardened aircraft shelter, thinking I’d never make it out, but beloved this verse says that an angel will come to gather you, I expect he’ll rip the roof off of whichever building you’re in. No secret rapture for Christ’s church, but an amazingly clear sign of Christ’s return.
For some of us this will be a great day, but for most of the world it will be terrifying.
Luke 21:25-28 And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear (their hearts failing them, dead where they stand) and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."
We have this great promise that Christ will come to save his church, we know that he will be victorious, but when will it happen?
Matthew 24:36-44 But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
So beloved, the hour is veiled to us, if anyone says they know the date, then they are calling Christ a liar. William Varner puts it better than I can, he says that prophecy is not given to form a calendar, but to form a character; a character of prayerfulness, watchfulness, honesty, and holiness. I guarantee you without a doubt that the world is not ending on December 21st, 2012; but I also guarantee you that it will happen someday. It may happen before you leave this planet, or it may happen long after. Some say that Laodicea, or the luke warm democratic church, is the last church before Christ returns, that he stands at the door and knocks, but whenever it happens beloved, you must be ready, for either on the day you die, or the day Christ returns, you have an appointment to stand before his judgment seat. On that day will you face him as a friend, or as an enemy?
Turn with me to Revelation 20. There are no such things as Bible-codes, which is when you pretend that certain verses are more important or magical in telling you things. But, this is a neat memorization technique for you to remember, that Revelation 20:12 trumps the 2012 prophecies because this verse is way more important for your soul than whatever happens on December 21st, 2012. Let’s start at verse 11 for context,
Revelation 20:11-15 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
So check this out, your appointment with Christ, a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness. Books will be opened, the book of your conscience, the book of your deeds, recording everything you have ever done. Beloved, these books contain every sin you’ve ever committed, every thought you’ve ever had. Deeds done in darkness will be brought to the light. What sort of things will these books record?
Revelation 21:8 says that all liars will have their place in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone. Beloved, how many lies do you need to tell to be counted a liar? Just as you only need to murder one person to be a murder, one rape to be a rapist, so is it that you just need to tell one lie to be a liar; and these books will record EVERY lie.
Have you ever murdered anyone? You know that no murderer has eternal life abiding him. Jesus said that if you hate someone without cause or call them an idiot or a curse work you are in danger of judgment as a murderer. Have you ever done that?
Have you ever stolen anything, regardless of value? A song on the internet, candy from a store, something from a brother or sister? The Bible is clear that no thief has any inheritance in the kingdom of Heaven.
Have you ever taken God’s name in vain? The Bible is clear when we do that we set our mouths against Heaven, we declare war on the God who made us. Jesus was clear also that we will give an account for every idle word we’ve spoken. Maybe we’ve only broken a few, but James says if we’ve broken one, we’re guilty of all.
Our judgment is assured beloved, for the soul that sins shall die, and after this comes the judgment. But there is hope, there is what is called the Lamb’s book of life. This book contains the names of every person who will repent and believe in Jesus Christ.
The reason that this matters is because God states that he will by no means clear the guilty, that we need to be declared righteous to enter into Heaven and be reconciled to our Creator. Beloved, 2000 years ago, Jesus Christ, God the Son, stepped out of Heaven, born of the virgin Mary, he lived a perfect sinless life, tempted in every way we’ve been tempted, yet without sin, then he willingly gave up his life to pay for our sins by dying on a cross. We broke the law, and Jesus Christ paid our fine. He never told a lie, but he died as a liar, he never stole anything, yet he said, what I did not steal, I have come to repay. The Bible says he bore our sins on the cross and it please his Father to crush him, the full wrath of God, which would have required an eternity in Hell for us, was poured out on Jesus Christ and he endured it for our sake. He who knew no sin became sin for us so that we may become the righteousness of God in him.
They laid him in a borrowed tomb, and on the third day he defeated and lives forever more. He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to him. He always lives to make intercession for his saints, those written in the Lamb’s book of life.
So beloved, in order to ensure your name is written in that book, he commands that you repent, turn from your sin, and place your full faith in him. Then on that final judgment we will be declared innocent, not on our own merits, but because Jesus Christ paid for our guilt, and has given us his innocence. And we will be welcomed into Heaven.
Then, which ever end we and the world meet, we know that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. So I implore you first and foremost, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, be reconciled to God.
Then second, preach this gospel of reconciliation, that there is salvation in no other name than Jesus Christ, that he for our sake took on and defeated death, and that his perfect love drives out all fear. Don’t be alarmed by end-of-the-world prophecies, don’t follow false christs, but eagerly await the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ as he comes with ten-thousands of his holy ones. Let’s conclude with
1 John 2:28-3:3 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
8 December 2010
Beloved, it is such a pleasure to have the opportunity to address you this evening. I pray that I have adequately prepared this lesson, that it will impact you and drive you towards the truth, and that if you are offended, it will be the truth doing the offending and not myself. I am very glad to have an opportunity to talk about this topic today, the topic of a spiritual purity, a doctrinal purity, a theological purity, because if we get this right, it will bring everything else into line and this youth group will continue in the truth and will be utterly consumed with Christ. Let's pause here to pray to the true Christ and ask that he sends his true Spirit to enlighten us.
Just last Sunday I taught briefly on the importance of sexual purity in Christ's church, and as important as this is, it is far more important than we are pure in our understanding of Christ. You're going to see in a bit that Paul draws a straight line between physical purity and doctrinal purity. So please turn to Second Corinthians 11, if you don't have a Bible, we have Bibles up here. If you don't own a Bible, please see us before you leave and we'll make sure you get a Bible. Our first lesson before we talk about anything is that this Book is how we know anything about God, it is how he speaks, it has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error for its content.
Now, a little background before we read our passage. Second Corinthians is the follow-up letter to First Corinthians. It's a funny coincidence that the second follows the first...but both of these letters were written by the Apostle Paul after he planted this church in AD 51 with his friends Timothy and Silas. After they left, this church became the worst church ever, they broke up into little cliques, they worshipped knowledge more than God, they were falling into all sorts of sexual sin, forbidding marriage for some and requiring it for others, living according to all sorts of silly rules, like what could and couldn't be eaten, getting drunk during communion, making fun of people who didn't have their same giftings, rejecting love, and it all came together in their church services where everything was out of control. They'd have several people preaching at once, some in real languages, others in made up tongues, everybody was praying in "concerts of prayer" where everybody prayed outloud at the same time, and Paul said, "QUIT IT!" He called for the service to be a time of building up, prayer outloud for the sake of edification, and tongues to be outright heresy and totally worthless. A lot of this was led by crazy preacher ladies and Paul told them to sit down and shut up.
Now, why was this church so wrecked? In chapter 15 it tells us it was because they were worshipping a Christ who lived and died and saved them from Hell. They missed the fact that he defeated death and proved a resurrection and that when we die, our bodies will die, but our souls will live forever. They denied the resurrection, and First Corinthians is written to fix all of these problems.
Second Corinthians is written to follow up, and lo and behold, this church has repented. They've become a pretty decent church. In chapter 3 we see that the dude in First Corinthians who was sleeping with his step-mom has repented and has been welcomed back into fellowship. We see in chapter 7 that Paul is super happy that his first letter made them repent, saying it didn't just make them feel bad, but it showed them they had sinned against Heaven, they had blasphemed Christ's name. This church isn't yet perfect, they're still sort of being legalists, coming up with rules instead of principles. One thing they are doing in chapters 8 and 9 are still holding to a rule of a tithe, of a tenth of your money being mandatory to the church. Instead he says you ought to give out of your abundance, this may be 1% or 10% or 99.8%, and he's very clear that if you're not giving, you are robbing both God and yourself. And of course this isn't just to the church, I don't get paid by the church so I can say this, but I highly encourage you to take Paul's advice and give away money for the ministry of the kingdom.
In chapter 10 Paul changes gears to address some false teachers who are still in the church. Guys that are trying to say they're super amazing and better than Paul. Paul attacks the idea that he's not a true Apostle, that he's bold in letter, but weak in presence. I can imagine some of the angry false teachers in Corinth writing to Paul and saying, "Why don't you say that to my face?"
The false teachers are preaching about the name of Jesus, but they're not talking about the true Jesus. I want to show a video clip of some modern day versions of these guys and see if it doesn't make you mad, because it definitely makes God furious.
These are similar to the false prophets in Corinth, making up a Jesus they like more than the true Christ. Let's read our passage,
2 Corinthians 11:2-4 I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.
Our first point that we need to see is that there are indeed different Jesuses, who though they share a name, have nothing in common with the true and living Christ. Let me tell you a story to really drive this point home. About six months ago I was driving to work at 10pm on a Friday. I know it was a Friday because on Friday's I made it a point to stop at my favorite Mexican restaurant to grab lunch before I went to work. As I was walking in I passed three teenage skaters hanging out on the sidewalk. I thought momentarily, I should witness to those guys. I decided, if they're still there when I come out, I'll witness to them. Well I ordered and my conscience got the better of me and I told the waitress I'd be right back. I went outside and they were still there and so I struck up a conversation and took them through the good person test and they found out they were lying thieving blasphemous adulterers at heart. They were sure they were on their way to Hell when I asked if they knew what God did so they wouldn't have to go to Hell. They didn't know, so I told them, "2,000 years ago, God sent his Son, Jesus Christ..." One of them interrupted and said, "Hey, that's my name!" I said, "Your name is Jesus Christ?" He said, "No, it's Jesus." I said, "Good, then your name will help you guys to remember this." And I finished the gospel for them and hopefully they've repented and gotten saved by now.
There are a ton of different Jesuses who aren't the true Jesus. For example, the Jesus of revisionist history was just a charismatic rabbi, the Jesus of Mormonism is the brother of Satan, the Jesus of Islam was just a prophet, the Jesus of Catholicism is unapproachable but has a soft spot for his mom, the Jesus of Philips Craig and Dean is schizophrenic and morphs from being the Father to the Son to the Spirit, but never at the same time, yet prays to himself. Cult leader David Koresh claimed to be the second coming of Jesus and many died because of it, Jose Luis De Jesus Miranda claims to be the second coming of Jesus right now in Miami, and I expect before it's over it will die in a mass murder-suicide. There are no lack of false Jesuses. Similarly the Holy Spirit is called everything from a force, or a personification of goodness, like Jack Frost is the personification of winter, to a girl, to an it. False Jesuses and false spirits abound.
I was open air preaching once at Kennesaw State University and a girl said, "My god would never send anyone to Hell." I was standing on my little box and replied, "You're right, your god wouldn't send anyone to Hell, because he can't, because he doesn't exist!" And when I said that I fell off my box.
Paul sees a tendency for this church, and indeed every church, to be led astray into false doctrine and away from Christ and ultimately into sin. We see these extreme versions and think, "I'd never be led into the idea that Jesus was anything less than God, and definitely not that he is the brother of Satan." And that's great, but we also have to look for smaller errors in our view of who Jesus is.
For example, it's popular in bumper-sticker theology to say, "Jesus loves you." Or in that crazy song, "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so." That song would be much better sung, "Jesus has a long-suffering sacrificial lovingkindness towards me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so."
Turn to Hebrews 1:8-9, in Romans 12:9 it tells us that true love hates wickedness and holds to the truth, that a person that truly loves good also has to hate things that aren't good.
Hebrews 1:8-9 But of the Son he says, "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions."
Right there it says he hates wickedness. And that leads us to our next different Jesus, the Jesus who hates sin but loves the sinner. Be turning to Psalm 69. Let me give you an analogy, say there is an assassin who kills someone you love very much, let's say your best friend. Are you going to hate the bullet, but still love the assassin? Beloved, the bullet, the sin, is nothing apart from the assassin, the sinner, to put it into action. As Pastor Aaron said, God doesn't send sin to Hell, he sends sinners. Let's see somewhere where Jesus very much hates a very specific audience. Psalm 69 is Jesus' prayer from the cross, he is near to death and has been beaten beyond human recognition, he has looked for friends but they have all abandoned him, he has looked for pity but found none. He is dying for a very specific purpose, to pay for the sins of all who will trust in him. But for those who will die in their sins, he has a much different response. Read with me from
Psalm 69:19-33 You know my reproach, and my shame and my dishonor; my foes are all known to you. Reproaches have broken my heart, so that I am in despair. I looked for pity, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none. They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink. Let their own table before them become a snare; and when they are at peace, let it become a trap. Let their eyes be darkened, so that they cannot see, and make their loins tremble continually. Pour out your indignation upon them, and let your burning anger overtake them. May their camp be a desolation; let no one dwell in their tents. For they persecute him whom you have struck down, and they recount the pain of those you have wounded. Add to them punishment upon punishment; may they have no acquittal from you. Let them be blotted out of the book of the living; let them not be enrolled among the righteous. But I am afflicted and in pain; let your salvation, O God, set me on high! I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving. This will please the LORD more than an ox or a bull with horns and hoofs. When the humble see it they will be glad; you who seek God, let your hearts revive. For the LORD hears the needy and does not despise his own people who are prisoners.
This is what is called an imprecatory prayer, and it's coming straight from the heart of Jesus Christ. He asks his Father to add punishment upon punishment and to not forgive them. This then leads us to another false jesus, the one who we think loved us so much that he would rather die than live without us, or the jesus who concocted a world in which the largest number of people would be saved of their own choosing, the jesus who loved us "this much." I can't say it any worse that a song which by and large is a fantastic song, but concludes at the end with, "And thought of me, above all." Just as Pastor Aaron said a few weeks ago, this is a lie from the pit of Hell; on the cross Jesus Christ was thinking utmost to the glory of his Father. If you ever have an opportunity to play or sing that song, I highly encourage you to substitute for that last line, "For his glory, he gave all." Jump back a few verses in Psalm 69,
Psalm 69:6-7 Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord GOD of hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel. For it is for your sake that I have borne reproach, that dishonor has covered my face.
Check out Matthew 19:4-7 "Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate."
Jesus never condemned homosexuality. Hmm...right there he did, have you not read that God created them male and female? That a man should marry his wife? Yet there is a false jesus of Elton John who thinks homosexuality is the greatest thing ever.
So, we've talked about the person of Christ, what he loves and hates. Let's move on to the work of Christ, where likewise there are no lack of false Jesuses. In that Ricky Bobby movie we see that some people would rather have a baby Jesus; this Jesus they think is impotent and not able to judge or condemn and might grow up to be anything. Let's take a quick rabbit trail to make this is a Christmas sermon. After Jesus was born he was taken to the temple, a man named Simeon, my hero, took the baby and recognized that this was the Sovereign Lord of the Universe. Check this out, Simeon was holding the Baby, and the Baby was holding every molecule in Simeon, in the world, in the universe together.
Thirty-Three years later Christ was crucified. The Roman Catholic Church celebrates this weekly with a crucifix in a masse when they RECRUCIFY Christ. The Jesus of Catholicism cannot save totally, he cannot make his saints perfect, he must continue to make payment which hopefully is added to your own goodness which along with Purgatory will see you into Heaven...hopefully. This is a false jesus, unable to save to the uttermost those who draw near to him.
Three days later, he rose, he defeated death, beloved, the tomb is empty. But if you're a Jehovah's Witness, it's not. They believe jesus was raised spiritually from the dead, that his body is still somewhere on earth, hidden though so that we can't find it. The church at Corinth made this same mistake, believing Christ died to save us from Hell, but could do nothing to save us from death. But beloved, death is swallowed up in victory, death has lost its victory, death has lost its sting, for the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law, but thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
The true Jesus was born as a baby, grew into a man, was tempted in every way we've been tempted, yet without sin. He willingly went to the cross, crucified on the charge of claiming to be God, he paid the whole price for the sins of his saints, he was buried in a borrowed tomb, and on the third day he defeated death and ascended bodily into Heaven. He lives this day to make intercession for his saints.
Paul sums this up in 1 Timothy 3:16, I love this verse because beloved, this is the verse that got me saved. I was standing in Hyde Park in London, which is a famous place for all sorts of people to yell at people, everything from religion to politics to hunting to whatever. There was an absolute loony preaching there that the reason the world is going to Hell is because women are allowed to speak in church. I don't believe this man's jesus was the true Jesus, but he was preaching, and I was listening for a laugh. But beloved, somewhere in his sermon and completely out of context of the rest of the message, he preached 1 Timothy 3:16, that Jesus Christ is God manifest in the flesh. That one verse rocked my worldview, I'd never heard it before and it became a whole different issue that Jesus wasn't just some guy dying on a cross, but was the King of Heaven stepped into human existence to pay for the sins of his creation.
1 Timothy 3:16 Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated (proved holy, innocent, and undefiled) by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.
This true Jesus will set your doctrine straight; because he counted others as worth more than himself, so will you. Because he gave all glory to his Father, so will you. Because he entrusted himself totally to his Father who judges justly, so shall you. Because he loved righteousness and hated wickedness, so shall you. Because he sent his Spirit to be your helper and counselor, he will guide you into all truth.
False gospels will become abhorrent to you. You will hate it when people say there is salvation in any other name than Jesus Christ. You will hate it when baptism or circumcision or church membership is added to the completed work of Christ for salvation. You will hate it when sin is made beautiful and hides Christ from the people, that many who think they are ok because they believe in someone named jesus will be turned away from the gates of Heaven for rejecting the true King of Righteousness for an impotent and imaginative false savior.
It was to this effect that Jesus could scream at the Pharisees, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single convert, and when he becomes a convert, you make him twice as much the child of Hell as yourselves."
Beloved, you have two options, you can reject these false jesus' and trust in the King of Heaven who lived and died and lived again, who gave all for the glory of his father, who in a single sacrifice perfected all who are being sanctified, or you can follow after a Jesus that comforts your conscience, who doesn't hate sinners, who only tries to save, who needs your consent to accomplish his will. Let's conclude with two verses, choose this day which Christ you will follow.
Hebrews 3:12-14 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.
Or to those false jesuses, let's let Paul tell us their fate,
2 Corinthians 11:12-15 And what I do I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.
Their end will correspond to their deeds. A false Christ, a false savior, is not savior at all, and they will die in their sins and be judged with great strictness. It is for them that the gloom of the worst parts of Hell are reserved.
A church that trusts totally in the true Christ will accomplish his mission and its members will be welcomed into Heaven on the phrase, "Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your master." This church will have unity of mind, unity of purpose, and unity of love.
But the church that trusts in its own understandings, which makes up a Jesus to appease their consciences and allow them to boast in their works, who can say, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?" will be turned away at the gate, and hear, "Depart from me you worker of iniquity, I never knew you."
Beloved, I pray that this will be none of you. Let's pray.
Lord Christ, maker of Heaven and Earth, we with boldness approach your throne of grace seeking help in our time of need. Many deceivers attack us on every side, trying to tell us you are not who you say you are. Set our hope on you, set our affections on you, you are all we have in Heaven and on Earth, you are the strength of our hearts and our portion forever. Sanctify us in the truth, your word is truth. If there are any here who have not repented and trusted in you, I pray that this day you grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, that you would transform them into new creatures able and willing to do your will. And Lord Jesus, I pray that we forever remember that you came as a humble baby, gave your life in substitution for ours, and defeated death, and that we would see that there is an empty cross and an empty grave, that death is beaten and you have won the day, that we would all shout it out that you are alive. And King Jesus, I pray that one that final day I would not hear it just once, but that for each of these students I would have the extreme privilege of hearing you tell them, "well done good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your master." Let us do all things for your sake, for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever, amen.
Imagine that you are from this tiny town of Bethlehem, that you are camped out on this hill overlooking that town, a hill that is a mix of stone and grass. Your nationality and your identity is Jewish, you bear with pride the title, “Chosen People of God”, and your hope is firmly set on a Messiah who is to come. You’ve grown up with one main prophecy for this Messiah, found half-way through Micah’s book,
__Siege is laid against us;You have wondered if this ruler could be you, and all of your friends have wondered likewise about themselves, because of course you are from Bethlehem in Ephrathah, and not only so, but you are a shepherd and equipped to watch a flock. After all, wasn’t David a shepherd just like you, called to lead the nation of Israel as her second and greatest king? But generations have come and gone wondering this exact thing, 700 years have passed watching for a ruler from Bethlehem but seeing none. On this night your thoughts wander to the beginning of that prophecy, reflecting that siege is laid against Israel, that violence is done against her people, and you see this prophecy fulfilled in the Roman invasion.
with a rod they strike the judge of Israel
__on the cheek.
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
__who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
__one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
__from ancient days.
Therefore he shall give them up until the time
__when she who is in labor has given birth;
then the rest of his brothers shall return
__to the people of Israel.
And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength
____of the LORD,
__in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God.
And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great
__to the ends of the earth.
And he shall be their peace.
Your thoughts fly to your hatred of these oppressors. You pray David’s prayer from the 139th Psalm,
Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!As you conclude the prayer the sky explodes in light, like the sun has risen in a moment, only it is far brighter, seven times brighter would be your guess. Standing immediately before you and your fellow shepherds is one like an angel, clothed in a magnificent white robe, radiating light in every direction. Though none utters a word, you instinctively know who this is, it is the Angel of the Lord, God on earth; he dwells in unapproachable light and he is a consuming fire. In his endless burnings none can dwell!
__O men of blood, depart from me!
They speak against you with malicious intent;
__your enemies take your name in vain!
Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD?
__And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
I hate them with complete hatred;
__I count them my enemies.
Search me, O God, and know my heart!
__Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
__and lead me in the way everlasting!
Your first inclination is fear, terror that your sins have come up before him and your judgment is immanent. You think back through the day, the week, the month, your conscience accuses you at every remembrance; you’ve lied this week, you spoke an uncharitable word to a Roman soldier, you coveted the possessions of the pilgrims in Bethlehem, you caught a glimpse of one of the girls and didn’t instantly take that thought captive; a thousand other sins convince you that your judgment has come, you are sure this Angel is come to end your life and cast you into the pit of endless torment. Your mouth is stopped in terror.
But he speaks with the voice of God, “Fear not.” You look up from the ground, wondering what is not to fear, and he continues his proclamation, “Behold, I bring you good news of great joy that shall be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Messiah the Lord.”
Your mind is darting from thought to thought, but in a clarity you’ve never known, it’s like God himself is enlightening your mind to understand these words. The Messiah is born this day in Bethlehem! This day! A Saviour! Yes, that is what you need, someone to deliver you from your unclean lips and from this people of unclean lips, you need a kinsman redeemer to pay your debt, a shepherd to seek and save you in your wanderings, a reconciler to heal the separation which sin has caused between you and God, and an intercessor to bring peace between your God and you. He is born this day! Another prophecy flares to the forefront of your mind, from the prophet Isaiah,
For to us a child is born,Your heart races, your soul rejoices, your King has come, your Redeemer lives, your Saviour is wearing human flesh! You must see him! The Angel continues, “And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” You rise in haste to go see this sign, your fellow shepherds are quick to do likewise; you wonder silently why a King should have such humble beginnings as to be laid in a feeding trough. But your thoughts are interrupted as you see the sky, not full of stars any longer, but full of angels, innumerable angels, more than you could count even if you did not have a miracle to rush to, and with perfect unity and unity in harmony, they sing in a heavenly Hebrew, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
__to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
__and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
__Father of Eternity, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
__there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
__to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
__from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
And as quickly as this herald began, it is over; and you are alone in the star soaked darkness of the night, looking intently at the lights of Bethlehem as you bound and leap your way to see this Christ child, this Messiah, who has come to save his people from their sins.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
I am an offensive preacher, I make people mad, I enjoy it when they get mad because it shows they are listening. When I preach, I hope that it is not me personally giving the offense, but the message which I am preaching. One of my heroes in the faith is George Whitefield, he said it best with, “It is a poor sermon that gives no offense; that neither makes the hearer displeased with himself nor with the preacher.”
The message contained in the Bible is one of violence to souls, it resulted in Christ crucified, the Apostle Paul headless, Stephen stoned, John exiled, Polycarp burned, and a million other such stories. Literally, I am not exaggerating, read Foxe’s Book of Martyrs or head over to the Voice of the Martyrs and read some modern stories.
What makes this message so offensive? What makes it so painful to consciences that they would happily partake in murder than let it continue to be preached? I have compiled seven major reasons, this list may or may not be exhaustive, but this is why I believe it is so offensive. It is certainly offensive, for because of this message Christ says, “the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death. And you shall be hated of all men for my name's sake…” (Mark 13:12-13)
It makes you think
Probably the leastmost reason the message of the cross is offensive is because it requires thought. It has been said that ignorance is bliss, which is exacerbated in the fact that we’ve insulated ourselves in idolatrous belief. Our culture in America is caught up in false-busyness, extra-loud music, and every manner of distraction, including education, to keep us from thinking. Just by mentioning that there are other beliefs than theirs, the message exposes that someone is wrong. That someone may be them.
It is a true saying that if you make people think they're thinking, they'll love you; but if you really make them think, they'll hate you.
I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul is required of you…’ – Luke 12:19
You are a sinner
One of the greatest offenses delivered by the cross is that it says all of mankind has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Proverbs 20:6 says that every person will proclaim their own amazingness, their own gracefulness, their own goodness; but it goes on to ask, “Where can such a person be found?”
The exceedingly heinous execution method of the crucifixion points to a fact that something is not right in the world, both that temporal punishment is necessary for certain men, and also that men would be so cruel as to punish someone in such a long, painful, and drawn out way. The cross says that the world is broken. Christ dying on the cross was paying for sins not his own, but which every person on earth had contributed to. If you had no sin which needed to be paid for, then Christ would not need to pay for those sins.
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. – Isaiah 53:4-5
Judgment is coming
The cross demonstrates that God is a God of justice, he will by no means clear the guilty. Will not the God of all the earth do right?
The world hopes not, they don’t think a loving God would punish anyone, not realizing that true love hates evil (Romans 12:9). They presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that his kindness is meant to lead them to repentance (Romans 2:4). They look at made-up history and claim that the world has existed for eons without so much as a hick-up and they think that their god of nature will not judge their souls (2 Peter 3:3-7).
But the cross shows that God’s patience will not last forever, that he is a God of righteousness, that he is a God of justice, that sins done in darkness will be brought to the light, and that in his consuming justice no man can stand.
No creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. – Hebrews 4:13
You cannot save yourself
Christ hung on a cross is a substitute for all of his saints; past, present, and future. No saint could pay for his own sins, no saint could remotely appease the wrath of an infinite and offended God, no saint could merit enough favor to pay for even a single one of their sins. The wages of sin is death, and that which the sinner has earned is waiting to be paid out.
The fact that a substitute was necessary points to the fact that salvation is available no other way, otherwise that substitute would have died in vain (Galatians 2:21). Psalm 62 puts it more terrifyingly than any other passage, that on the scales of justice the merits of all are of no avail in balancing sin, but rather make the scales go in the opposite direction, “in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than a breath.” (Psalm 62:9)
Truly no man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life, for the ransom of their life is costly and can never suffice, that he should live on forever and never see the pit. – Psalm 49:7-9
You need a Saviour
The cross tells us both that we are incapable of saving ourselves, and also that someone is able to save us. The pride of life greatly despises any idea of needing an external help, and so the offense of the cross states that a person must humble themselves to accept help from an external source. Not only are they offended at this, but they are offended moreso because of who they must receive help from.
Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. – Ephesians 2:12-13
The Saviour must be God
The reason that Hell exists is because an eternal punishment is required to pay for a transgression against an infinite God. We remember that one sinner cannot pay for another sinner, nor can payment be made to alleviate this suffering, since the price is far too high for any creature to pay. What is necessary is someone of immense and immeasurable worth to pay this debt, and truly no creature exists anywhere who can pay for even a single sin.
To this effect the very King and Creator stepped out of Heaven to become the payment for sin. The God of the universe, infinite in value, abounding in grace, overflowing in goodness, put on flesh, lived a perfect life, and willingly gave up his life to go to the most heinous of execution devices, the cross.
If Christ is not God the Son, then our sins were not paid for, and we are still in our sins. However, because he was vindicated by the Holy Spirit when he was raised from the dead, we see that Christ is precisely who he says he is, that our debt was canceled on the cross, and that our sins are put away and we are washed clean by the washing of water of the word and the blood of our substitute. Any other payment would not have been sufficient, it required an infinite payment to pay our infinite sin-debt.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. – 2 Corinthians 5:21
Given the option to crucify Christ you would
Some are able to assent to the previous six points, stating that they are indeed sinners, that they do need a saviour, that their sins have made a separation between them and God, that there is a judgment to come, and that Christ the God-man died in their place and lived again, yet in all of this they hold to some innate goodness in themselves and believe they are able to choose God themselves. This sin is usually exposed when they say something to the effect of, “How could they miss that this was the Christ?” or “I wouldn’t have crucified Christ,” or “I would have stood up for him,” or “If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets” (Matthew 23:30).
Christ calls these hypocrites for speaking this way (Matthew 23:29), elsewhere it is said that his saints love him because he loved us first (1 John 4:19). This can only mean that we first felt great enmity towards him, an outright hatred of God. Had we recognized Christ as Messiah, and knowing that he needed to die, we would not have sought the most painless and quick propitiation. Rather, in our anger towards God we would have crucified Christ as quickly and as wickedly as did those whom God chose to do so. Shai Linne said it well when he sang, “You miss the point, if you don’t see your face in the crowd.”
Truly, the only way the Bible says we wouldn’t have crucified Christ is if we had realized that God was going to use that crucifixion for such amazing purposes (1 Corinthians 2:7-8). The only reason we would not have crucified Christ was to prevent God from using such evil for good; but in keeping that from the eyes of those who did crucify Christ, he has brought it about that many are saved, that the most evil thing in history was used for infinite good, that the death of the Son of God is looked upon by so many and they are glad for it (Psalm 69:32).
You know my reproach, and my shame and my dishonor; my foes are all known to you. Reproaches have broken my heart, so that I am in despair. I looked for pity, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none. – Psalm 69:26
The cross is offensive, it does infinite damage to our pride, perceived goodness, and soul. It declares that God is God and that we are not. It says that God is love and that his love requires retribution for sin. It says that we would murder God if given the option. It says that we are not able to save ourselves no matter how hard we try. It says that we are great sinners in need of a great Saviour. It says that Christ is infinitely more valuable than we ourselves.
Beloved, I hope that this makes you think. I hope that you do not leave this blog without becoming angry, either with me and the message that is here presented, or with yourself for the pride which has accomplished such wicked things in your heart. I pray that if you have not already, that you would humble yourself at the foot of this blood stained cross, admit to God that everything he has said about your deplorable state is true, and beg for the righteousness of the Son who willingly laid down his life for your soul, and who took that life back up again three days later and is ready to intercede for you in Heaven.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
The trend which is forming is a student populous who knows Bible concepts without knowing they are derived from the Bible. For example, recently I quoted 1 Thessalonians 5:5, calling Christians “children of the light.” I did not give the scripture reference nor make mention that the concept was scripture derived, and one student, a godly young man, was excited because he thought I was quoting Lecrae. Likewise a while ago a student quoted Chris Tomlin on their facebook, “And if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us. And if our God is with us, then what can stand against?” The comment that went along with the lyrics lauded Tomlin’s lyrics and the impact they had on the student. I couldn’t help but respond with the fact that the lyrics certainly were impactful, but that I was impacted the most when the Holy Spirit spoke them through Paul in Romans 8:31. The student was unaware of the scriptural basis of the song.
And before I judge without first judging myself, look at Psalm 73:25-26, I have this passage memorized…sort of…because the version I have memorized is the version by Shai Linne when he says, “Whom have I in Heaven but you? The earth has none I desire but you. My flesh and my heart may fail, however, the Lord is my portion forever.” Beautiful, right? But it’s not an exact quote of the Psalm and leaves out and changes several things. It gets the point across perfectly, but someone could very easily miss the fact that this concept is not unique to Shai Linne, but is derived from the scriptures.
And this is not limited to godly concepts, for example, Tomlin has one of the worst songs in Christendom with “God of this City” which is a quote of 2 Corinthians 4:4 and is a title of the Devil, and the song mingles more than one demonic concept with the True and Living God. But a biblical illiteracy combined with a popular culture medium leads to students and adults who swallow every bit of teaching in these songs.
And this leads me to a scriptural admonition, which I don’t believe any artists have put into song, because doing so would confront them with one of the most terrifying verses in scripture (which I’ll post in a moment). Let me quote a different passage first, this from the New International Version of the Bible, which here is not a perfect translation, but does catch something which most translations miss,
Teach through songs; the KJV says it similarly that the church should be teaching in songs. If our song writers and singers are teachers, then this leads to that oh-so-terrifying verse,
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit…
- Colossians 3:16
This passage goes on to say that the teacher leads the whole direction of the body of the church, like a tongue in a mouth or a rudder on a ship. I have long been telling students that when they open their mouth and speak anything pertaining to God, they become a prophet, not in the futurist sense, but in the “Thus saith the Lord...” sense; the words which proceed will determine whether we are true or false prophets. The Israelites in the Babylonian exile went so far as praying that their tongues would fail them in their mouths if they spoke apart from God’s kingdom (Psalm 137:6).
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.
– James 3:1
To rein this thought back to my original point, isn’t it amazing that these teachers are presenting deep scriptural truths to students in memorable ways? Indeed it is, every student who went to Summer Camp this year knows, through the teaching of Chris Tomlin and Christy Nockels, that "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty" (2 Corinthians 3:17). But I have this great fear that these teachers are failing their students in a major point: they are failing to point them at the Word of God. These neat scriptural truths apart from knowing they are scripture are breeding a generation of students who look for revelation about God apart from the scriptures. This is exacerbated by a growing Gnostic trend in Christianity to hear from God apart from his Word.
Correcting these problems are more difficult than just pointing them out. Through a proliferation of bad songs on every manner of Christian radio, the next generation will be raised on scriptural snippets without knowing the greater context or even that there is a greater context. At the risk of offending many, it is to this effect that Todd Friel warns of the “Satan for the Whole Family” music which permeates the entire FM-dial. On any given station you can be privy to the perfect theology of Stuart Townsend one minute, and then be led into Sabellian heresy in Philips, Craig, and Dean the next, and then returned to gorgeous lyrics from the health-wealth-and-prosperity culture of Hillsong United.
It was to this effect that I installed iPod compatible MP3 players in our shuttles so that teachers have control of the teachers teaching their flock. But even this is not enough, and it has come more and more to my attention that music must be exegeted itself in order to ensure students know why the lyrics are good and what their source is.
For example, look at Lecrae’s “Children of the Light”, in there he gives one of the coolest summaries of scripture I’ve ever heard, he states, “I’m…qualified to light up a world of darkness.” Certainly an amazing truth of God’s people, but is it just because Lecrae says so that we know it, or does it come from somewhere else? Teachers should take a moment to examine favorite songs and then explain the truths behind them, or if necessary, to refute them. In Lecrae’s case we see that we are children of the light (1 Thessalonians 5:5), we are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14), we are called to “Awake o sleeper! And arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Ephesians 5:14), and there is a definite call to the Christian to bring that light throughout the world where the darkness will flee (Isaiah 60:1-3, John 1:5, John 3:19-20).
All of this to say, we must spend more time teaching the Bible, in context, and not just snippets of theology in song. Our teaching should be done, in part but not in whole, in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, ensuring that the audience is pointed towards the absolute truth of God’s Word, and the Christ revealed in those words. Aberrant theology in song will be judged with great strictness, and many musicians ought to flee from the teaching position which they are utterly unqualified to hold. Pastors and teachers must be sure that music is edifying and understandable, and that students are not merely following a trend or theology because it is on Christian radio.
Monday, October 25, 2010
"Thus says the LORD of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart." – Zechariah 7:9-10This is reiterated throughout the Bible (Isaiah 58:3-11, Micah 6:6-8, Deuteronomy 4:5-6, 1 Samuel 15:22-23, James 1:27, Joshua 22:5, 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, Matthew 25:31-46, etc), that love in action is the foundation of the law and what God desires. He is not looking for mindless obedience, but understanding and outward focused effort. If I have not convinced you yet that God’s law and character is emphasized in love, let me then let Paul give the most convincing argument,
For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." – Galatians 5:14Think about this for a moment, how can the commandments be fulfilled in love? If you love someone, you won’t break the sixth commandment by murdering them. If you love them, you won’t steal from them (8th), you won’t lie to them (9th (we can argue discretion later)), you won’t use their name as a curse word (3rd), you won’t forsake them for another (7th), and you won’t seek to supplement their love and gifts with those from another (2nd and 10th). Consider some other laws, like the law forbidding misguiding a blind person, obviously love seeks to set all on the right path. Or laws requiring death for false teachers and necromancers? Romans 12:9 says that true love is hating wickedness, therefore tolerating sin is not love. Tolerance is the antithesis of love because it denies the importance of the truth and the benefit of following righteousness.
We know that those whom God loves, he reproves and disciplines (Revelation 3:19). Indeed, the parents who will not discipline their child to right action and belief are not loving their child, but are hating their child (Proverbs 13:24). For to paraphrase a famous atheist, how much do you have to hate someone to know the right way and not implore those on the wrong way to turn to the right? To this effect we read that he is cursed who misleads a blind man (Deuteronomy 27:18).
Recently I have been exhorted by my open-air patrons to be more loving and preach more on God’s love. So much so that one young lady made a sign which said, “GOD LOVES EVERYBODY!” Beloved, are we so ignorant of God’s love to think that because God is love we are not to fear him? I spoke to a young man named Charles recently who felt he was “straight” with God because Charles had loved the world and everyone in the world. I asked him if he had ever lied, and he said he had, I asked if he was loving the person he lied to. Charles responded, “But I had too!” I asked him if he had ever stolen anything, and he said, “But I had too!” I asked him if he had ever looked at a girl inappropriately, then quoted Jesus where he said, “Whosoever looks upon a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.” Charles said that he had, I asked him if he was loving that girls’ husband. Charles exclaimed, verbatim, “Dang! She was married?!?!” I explained that certainly some of them were, and the others would probably someday end up that way. It quickly became apparent to Charles that he had failed to love, and failed quite spectacularly, just as we all have.
In the open-air I recently preached basically this exact blogpost. I said “love” so many times that my friend who was listening told me that at the beginning of my sermon that he thought he was listening to a particular false teacher who believes God is amorous towards (has a crush on) the whole world. Beloved, it certainly did come across considerably more gently at the beginning as I explained that God is love, he is merciful, he is abounding in grace, he has given us faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is love. It came to a conscience crushing conclusion, however, when I reiterated what I had said to Charles, and explained that God loves justice, he is exalted on his throne for loving righteousness and hating wickedness, that he loves those who pursue righteousness, and that we have utterly condemned ourselves for failing to love our neighbor as ourselves.
The very commandment that so many cling to for salvation has brought sin alive for us, that which we bet our lives upon has become death for us. It seems like such an easy commandment, love, but when we examine our actions we see that we love ourselves far more than we would ever love our neighbor; none of us hates our own body, we nourish and cherish it, but we have utterly failed to do as much for anyone else.
Oh the irony, that so many idolize a god of love who loves good and bad equally, who thinks sin is a cute little character flaw, that as the antichristian song says “beautiful the mess we are”, who will overlook all but the most heinous sins; and yet we see that the very command to love has become our undoing. Let me stab you in the conscience one last time, for Christ says it is easy to love those who love you, but he commands you also to love your enemies and pray for those who afflict you. You must abandon hope in your own ability to love your way into Heaven.
But beloved, do not abandon all hope, for love has no greater man than this, that he would lay down his life for his friends. While we were hostile in mind, alienated from God, enemies of Heaven, with our mouths set against the kingdom of Christ, the King himself stepped off his throne, demonstrated perfect love for his enemies who hated him, and for his Father who loved him, and willingly gave himself up to death on a cross, despised and hated by God and men. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Greater love has no man than this. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son.
You will perish for your lack of love, you will face the consequences of a life set against Heaven and devoted to exalting yourself. This is assured, lest you believe on the Christ who was hated in your place, lest you trust wholly in his goodness, perfection, and love which were vindicated in his resurrection. He who knew no sin, he who knew perfect love, became sin for you, so that you can become the righteousness of God in him. So trust in Christ, transfer your affections from yourself to Heaven; the mind set on the body is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.
Then love, unadulterated by pride, will spring forth, and the world will know that you are a follower of Christ by your love.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. – 1 John 4:7-12
If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. – 1 John 4:19-5:3
Monday, October 18, 2010
Providentially the lesson that spurred this epiphany is on our King of Righteousness, Melchizedek, the same person Paul, Peter, and Luke were telling us about when the following verse was written in disdain that the Roman church was not able to stomach the deeper points of the completed Hebrew faith,
Though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. - Hebrews 5:12-14This thought, concluding in verse 9 of chapter 6, is one of my favorites of scripture, yet in my epiphany I found a wonderfully satisfying point which here-to-fore I had missed. Look at this section, "the mature...have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice..." The constant practice is what jumped out at me and will cause me to rethink a major facet of my ministry.
It deals with Bible memorization. I remember early in my faith doing everything I could to memorize 2 Timothy 2:24-26, which is a fairly long block of scripture with a lot of nuances. I am not posting it in order to keep your attention on the point at hand, but read it later. Early in my scripture memorization, I could not memorize these verses to save my life, sometimes I couldn't even get past the first thought. Recently I was reading a piece of drivel from an antichristian writer and they posted verse 26, only misquoting it slightly (or from an obscure translation that I'm not familiar with), and I realized that I have memorized this verse despite having such difficulty committing it to memory.
This thought led me to the idea that the transition from milk to meat in the Christian life is through constant practice, and that now I have massive sections of scripture committed to memory which are much longer than 2 Timothy 2:24-26, such as Matthew 22:1-14, Galatians 1, Revelation 19:11-16, and Revelation 20:11-15, among others. I did not memorize a single one of these early in my Christian life, but through constant memorization of short verses, the Holy Spirit has graciously enabled me to now memorize longer and more complex sections of scripture than I ever thought were possible.
One last example, and then I'll move to the application. One of the first verses I memorized was Revelation 19:11, it is still my all time favorite verse in the Bible, in this one verse it speaks of Christ being called Faithful and True, it declares him to be the judge, it gives the standard for judgment which is righteousness, it declares him to come conquering, and it promises victory for the church. Truly there is no greater verse in the Bible. A little later I memorized verse 14, which declares that the armies of Heaven follow after Christ in white robes, and stuck it onto verse 11. Later I added verses 12 and 13, and only in the past few weeks am I comfortable enough to say that I have verses 11 all the way through 16 memorized.
So here's the application. It is wrong of me to expect a student to memorize Galatians 1:3-10 as their first memory verse; there must be a learning process, a practice, a transition from John 11:35 or Job 3:2 to memorizing the whole book of Colossians. A teacher does wrong to expect a student to be able to memorize (and, probably more importantly, to apply) long sections before that student is able to memorize short verses. But, the teacher does the student an equal disservice if they are not pushing students to memorize longer and longer passages and understand deeper and deeper concepts.
I don't have to look far to be able to brag about students who, though most would expect them to be on a steady milk diet, are not only feasting on the meat of the Word, but have also become teachers themselves.
So in this, whether you are a newborn babe, a fledgling adolescent, or a seasoned elder in your understanding of the faith, I implore you to have your powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. Now go read 2 Timothy 2:24-26, and also Hebrews 5:12-6:9, making sure you have a firm foundation on Hebrews 6:1-3.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
One of my favorite passages in the whole Bible is in Nehemiah 8, this is following over 70 years of a very dark time in Israel, and what happens in Nehemiah 8 is Ezra builds a pulpit out in the open-air, climbs onto it, and reads Genesis to Deuteronomy all day. When he starts reading the people are so in awe of God’s Word that they stand up, when Ezra prays, they lift their hands in worship, and when they don’t understand, the elders and priests explain. They had a love for God’s law, and they loved learning it.
We only lift our hands sometimes when the music is playing, worship, but worship is so much bigger than just when the music is playing. The reading of God’s Word and the right preaching of it is an act of worship as well. This sermon was birthed largely when I saw a student during music with his hands lifted towards Heaven and his eyes closed and he was obviously really getting into it. I thought, “That dude either is really getting the point of God’s reverence in the song, or he’s demon possessed, or he’s faking it.” I looked back after a little bit and only one hand was up, I figured maybe the other one got tired. I looked back a bit later and one hand was still up, his head was down, and I looked and saw what he was doing, he was texting with the other hand. Another time I saw a student with a hand up turned around talking to someone.
We have no lack of zeal in this country and youth group, but a lot of it is based on feelings and our own opinion instead of based on truth and honor to God. So that’s what I’m going to talk to you about today, zeal without knowledge. Let me define zeal real quick though so I don’t lose you. Zeal is enthusiasm, fervor, excitement over a topic and running full speed towards it. We see it in football idolatry and the fans are jumping up and down and screaming with joy or anger. The problem is that a lot of zeal inside and outside of the church is lacking in any eternal purpose, it’s just to make us feel good.
My friend Keith was at a gas station recently and a young man came up and said, “Hi, I’m so-and-so from such-and-such youth group, I’d like to do something nice for you today, can I wash your windows?” My friend Keith is an amazing evangelist, and he asked, “So you want to invite me to church?” The young man replied, “No, I just want to do something nice for you.” Keith asked, “So you don’t want to tell me the gospel?” The kid said, “No, wait, yes.” Keith said, “Ok, tell me the gospel.” The student responded, “Jesus loves you.”
Keith uses Psalm 5:5 more than any other verse, I think, which says, “God hates all evildoers.” So Keith asked this kid, “So Jesus loves me even if I hate him and spit in his face?” The student said yes. Keith asked if he would go to Heaven even if he hated Jesus, and the young man said yes, and by this time the rest of the youth group had come over. Keith was able to share the true gospel with these students, that God is absolutely angry with sinners, but demonstrated great lovingkindness when Jesus suffered and died for sins so that sinners can be reconciled to God and love Jesus. There was no lack of zeal in that youth group, they were out telling people about Jesus, but they were doing so without the faintest idea of the gospel or the purpose of the gospel. I mean, if someone is going to go to Heaven anyways, there is no reason to tell them about Jesus.
So we see that zeal without knowledge is a huge problem in our world today, let’s go look at how it was also a problem in Paul’s day. We’re in Romans 10, Romans is Paul’s epistle, letter, to Rome. It was written in the mid-AD50’s, it was written by a man named Paul, who was a Jew from the tribe of Benjamin, who grew up as a religious leader called a Pharisee, and who had been saved by grace while persecuting the very church of Christ.
The passage we’re going to read today is coming out of Romans 9, which gives us the reason that Israel is not saved, because they have so thoroughly rejected the gospel, and that God has given it instead to the nations. Let’s read Romans 10:1-4, “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”
This letter is written to Christians, brothers here means both men and women, and Paul really wants and prays for the Israelites to be saved. He loves these people, he grew up with them, he studied with them, he lived among them, and he wants nothing more than that they would come to Christ and be saved and be both his physical brothers and his spiritual brothers.
Paul says they have a zeal, an enthusiasm for God. In our country today people are ALWAYS busy, even when they’re not really busy. They whip themselves into over-activity so that they never have a moment to stop and think. The idea behind zeal without knowledge is that you are at least doing something. As long as we’re loving and doing something, we should be fine right? Let’s look at two churches in Revelation, Thyatira and Ephesus.
Thyatira is the definition of zeal, they are loving everybody, feeding the poor, clothing the homeless, taking care of sick people, and every year they get better and better and better at it. Jesus sees this and commends them for it, but then he says that their knowledge is lacking, that they’ve let sin sneak into their church and the sin is killing them and their efforts, and will result in their children being cut off from the faith. It is an incredible threat the Jesus gives them, and one that I think you all can probably identify with. If your parents or friends or pastors claim to be Christians and then live like the world, the power of Christ is lost on you, and you’ll have no problem rejecting it. Beloved, know that Christ is true even if every man is a liar.
This balloon represents Thyatira, it is full of zeal and love, I’m going to send it and aim it really well and hope to hit that target on the wall. All that happens when I let go of this balloon is a lot of noise and action, but I don’t get anywhere near my target. This is zeal without knowledge.
Ephesus on the other hand is the genius church, they know everything there is to know about Christianity. They even have whole books of the Bible memorized and they are great at refuting false teachers. But, they’ve got no love, they’ve got no zeal. They sit at home on their couches talking about Jesus but never to any unbelievers, and they certainly don’t feed anybody or give any money to any causes. Jesus threatens them that if they don’t repent and start adding love to their knowledge, he is going to close their church.
This straw on a string represents Ephesus, it is razor straight and knows the way to the target. I’m going to tell it to go and hit that target on the wall. Nothing happens. This is knowledge without zeal, it exists a little in America today, but not nearly so much as zeal without knowledge.
The world we live in is totally spiritual, they’ve got all sorts of zeal towards their understanding of God, but they’ve got no knowledge or purpose to their actions. A couple of examples, during the “Hope for Haiti” concert a lot of good and bad musicians sung songs to God and about hope and with prayer in them. Madonna was asked to attend, and she’s got no spiritual songs, so she sang a song she wrote a long time ago that is about sex, but it has the word “prayer” in it. Nobody even noticed that she sang such a filthy song, because she had zeal, it was just totally lacking in knowledge.
American Idol this summer had an “Inspirational” night where they all sang songs to or about God, or about bettering mankind. These songs were by and large terrible, but because we’ve rejected knowledge, as long as it has something to do with spiritually, we accept it readily enough.
Hosea 4:4-6 says that the people perish for a lack of knowledge. It also says that God’s contention is first and foremost with his priesthood for failing to teach the Bible. In the New Testament it says that believers are a priesthood, so ultimately this is the churches fault, and the reason is, once again, that we have zeal without a whole lot of knowledge. This has been exacerbated recently in Glenn Beck’s “Revival” which is utterly void of Jesus Christ and only seeks to turn people back to belief in a higher power in order to save the country.
This thought permeates television today. One example that stands out is on one of those criminal investigator shows called “Criminal Minds” where one of the lead characters claims to be an atheist, but then decides to believe again and goes and prays in a Catholic church, and while he’s praying, somewhere a long ways off his girlfriend gets shot but doesn’t die. He got all contemplative about the idea that God must have wanted him to pray at the exact moment she got shot so she wouldn’t die. The major point of that show was that believing would earn you things and make your life better.
Next, I don’t watch Glee, but this week someone told me I should watch this particular episode, so I did. It was called, “Grilled Cheesus”, and the very beginning of the show the character makes a grilled cheese which is burned to look somewhat like what we think Jesus looked like, and he says, "When I pulled the sandwich out, I saw the face of God...literally, I had a made a grilled cheesus.” I’m going to show a clip in a moment, but check this out, a major primetime television show dedicated an entire episode to religion, and in it they tried to solve the great mysteries of the universe, they even went so far as to declare that Jesus Christ is literally God. But their zeal, even interspersed with that tiny bit of knowledge, was totally misguided.
In this clip there are several students praying over a man who had an aneurism. There is a Jew, a Pentecostal, a Catholic, and a Nondenominational sort-of-baptist, they say, “We’re from different denominations and religions so we figured one of us is bound to be right.” The atheist brings in a Hindu/Muslim called a Sikh, and it just shows us that this show has no idea who God is, but they want to try to get on his good side anyways. Later in the episode the counselor girl says, “God speaks to us through all sorts of ways, but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t speak to us through sandwiches.” The major point of the episode is that nobody knows the truth, let’s just have zeal anyways.
Beloved, I know it's presumptuous, but I stand here telling you that I know the truth. Jesus Christ said that he is the Truth (John 14:6), he is called Faithful and True (Revelation 19:11), and he said that you Shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free (John 8:32).
[Reader's Note] At this point a student shot rubber bands blindfolded at a target placed in the middle of the crowd. The point was that if you don't know where the target is, you ought not to be shooting at it.[/Reader's Note]
This zeal is without knowledge and is the equivalent to running full speed in the wrong direction. Or maybe like shooting arrows in random directions in a crowded room with your eyes closed; I think that’s what happened to our poor spirit duck. Or like making every shot you take in basketball, from layups to free throws to three pointers to half-court shots…except you’re making them in the wrong basket.
John Calvin said, “Zeal without knowledge is like a sword in the hand of a lunatic.” Charles Spurgeon changed it just a bit to say, “Zeal without knowledge is like a fire brand (torch) in the hand of a lunatic.” If you don’t know what you’re doing in regards to spirituality, everything you do is going to cause harm. If you ran around with a torch you’d be burning down buildings and hurting people left and right, just like modern spiritually is destroying souls left and right.
And now we come to where the knowledge has failed. Verse 3, “For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.” God requires perfection, which is obviously WAY out of our abilities. Therefore we reject God’s law and come up with our own standards. The Pharisees were notorious for this, they would tithe even down to their last cucumber, but they rejected justice and mercy and faithfulness.
Check out the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, starting at verse 17, it is Jesus radically attacking the way that the people would establish their own righteousness, for time’s sake let’s just look at a couple of them.
v.17-20 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus is setting the standard as God’s righteousness, and he concludes this thought by saying that you must be BETTER than the Pharisees to get into Heaven, these dudes were as righteous as a person can get, and Jesus right here says they’re not going to make it.
Now everyone in attendance might have felt like they broke some minor laws, but in their heart they would say, “But at least I haven’t murdered anybody.” So Jesus starts by exposing them,
v.21-22 "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, 'You fool!' will be liable to the hell of fire.
Whoa, this is what the law requires, everyone in attendance would automatically see that they were murders in God’s sight. Now they’re probably thinking as well, even if I’ve broken some of the law, at least I’ve never cheated on my husband or wife,
v.27-28 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Dude, this law is proving to be far more perfect than anybody in attendance would have realized. No wonder they rejected God’s law in order to establish their own, and in doing this they break the 2nd Commandment, which says not to worship idols. This god they invented wouldn’t send them to Hell, but the reason he wouldn’t is because the god they invented was a figment of their imagination invented to appease their consciences.
This law is called perfect in Psalm 19:7, and it requires perfection, let’s jump to verse 48,
v. 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Beloved, I hope you see that this is the ignorance which Paul was speaking about, which the whole world lacks knowledge of. Proverbs 20:6 says that almost every person will proclaim their own goodness, this is totally true, and most think that they will go to Heaven for their goodness, but the Bible is more than clear in lots of places that there is none good but God. Let’s conclude this thought with James 2:10, which says if you’ve broken one law, you are guilty of all. It is like dangling from a chain, if only one link breaks, you fall. And beloved, if you’re like me, you’ve broken a lot more than one.
So who are we rejecting in God’s righteousness? Is it just some laws or is it something bigger? Look at Romans 10:4, it says Christ is the end of the law for righteousness. He is perfect, holy, sinless, and undefiled. But if he is the standard of righteousness, then that means I can’t be the standard of righteousness, and not only that, it makes me a sinner in danger of judgment! This is why so many reject Christ, because he is God and they want his position, whether they’ll say so out loud or not.
Even still, most of American Christianity has rejected Christ’s righteousness as well. A recent Barna poll found that 33% of professing CHRISTIANS believe that Jesus sinned while he was on earth. If that is within the church, imagine how much worse it is outside of the church! There is a great call to say that if Jesus even existed, he wasn’t God, but just a good man. Beloved, a person who claims the things that Jesus claimed was not just a good man. In claiming to be God, he either is really God, or he is out of his mind believing he is God, or he is a liar saying he is a God when he knows he is not. We must see Christ as either totally righteous or utterly obsolete, don’t pretend it doesn’t matter to consider him God.
And if he is the fulfillment of the law, the end of the law for righteousness, then that means he must have kept every law. Let’s look at the 10 Commandments to see if he really is the end of righteousness.
One, Christ loved his Father with his whole heart, mind, soul, and strength, he proved it by being obedient to live a righteous life and willingly go the cross.
Two, Christ never bowed down to idols. Satan gave Christ the option of inheriting the whole world without going to the cross, without shedding a single drop of blood, all Christ had to do was worship the Devil; but he remained true to his Father.
Three, Christ never took God’s name in vain, and his reward is that he has been given a name above every other name, that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue confess him as Lord to the glory of God the Father.
Four, Christ honored the Sabbath Day, even clarifying weird rules which the Pharisees had invented, and in dying for our sins he has become our better Sabbath, our rest forever, so that we don’t honor him or keep him holy only on Saturday or Sunday, but every day.
Five, Christ was totally obedient to his mother Mary and stepfather Joseph, and he honored his Father in Heaven perfectly.
Six, Christ never murdered anyone or was angry without cause or struck back when he was struck, rather he left all vengeance up to God.
Seven, Christ is totally faithful to his bride the church, he has no affection for any other religion, and he never looked with lust upon a woman, his heart is still totally pure.
Eight, Christ never stole a single thing, not even music on the internet, but he was crucified for our sins between two thieves and asked his Father, “What I did not steal, must I now repay?”
Nine, Christ never told a lie. In fact, the Bible says that it is both impossible for him to lie, and that he does not lie. Every word that proceeded out of his mouth was worthwhile and truthful.
Ten, Christ, though rich in Heaven, became poor for our sake. He was born in the most abject of poverty, but trusted wholly in his Father for life, he never desired anything that didn’t belong to him.
In these 10 Commandments, we see that Christ is the total fulfillment of the law of righteousness, he didn’t sin even a single time, he always did what was right and honorable, he kept the law that we cannot keep so that he is now both the Just and the Justifier. Despite no demand for his life from breaking the law, Christ gave himself for our sins. It can be called the great exchange, he who knew no sin became sin for us so that we can become the righteousness of God in him. That’s 2 Corinthians 5:21.
Three days later he rose from the grave and reigns forever more, in his resurrection he proved to be God, he proved that his Father was well pleased with him, and he proved that his payment was accepted. So now for all of us who believe, he is our righteousness, and this righteousness calls us to be zealous in knowledge, let’s read Titus 2:11-14,
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
Our works now are not to repay Christ or to earn Heaven, but are an outpouring of our love for him and desire to see his name exalted throughout the world. Beloved, if you get on fire for the truth and for the righteousness of Jesus Christ, people will come to watch you burn.
In 2009 I went to Tampa to preach at the Superbowl. As I was preaching the crowds got pretty violent, at one point I was preaching with my left arm up in the air and a girl flicked a cigarette at me, it went between my forearm and my head, I had the urge to yell, “Field Goal!!!” A little bit later and a man came up and listened to me preach for about five minutes. Then he walked off. He came back about twenty minutes later and sat on the sidewalk in front of me resting his back on a light pole, and I preached for another twenty minutes. When I finished I went up to him and learned his name was Jeff. I asked what he thought about what I was preaching and he said it was interesting. I asked him if he believed it, and he said, “I don’t, but it sounds like you believe it, so maybe I should.”
Just my genuineness drew a crowd, even if people absolutely refused to abandon their sin and give up their perceived righteousness for the genuine righteousness of Jesus Christ.
A person with zeal and knowledge can accomplish all sorts of amazing things for Christ. My dear friend Dave Snyder, who was a youth pastor here a long long long time ago, was preaching this week at an FCA in Alabama. Because he just moved to Alabama, he got good and lost and got to the FCA with only a minute to speak.
He had to cut the message down to its absolute bare minimum and he told this story; when he was first a youth pastor he got a brand new cell phone, this was when they were first becoming popular. He failed to read the instructions and went for the whole month using his cell-phone. Out of the blue the church he was a youth pastor at gave him a $300 bonus for doing such a good job. Right after that he got his cell phone bill and it was $300 because he hadn’t used it according to the rules of his cell-phone plan. But, because the church had given him a payment, the bill was able to be paid. Even before Dave knew there was a bill, provisions had already been made to pay it. He then turned the lesson to our sin, which is a debt against Heaven, and explained that before we even had a debt, Christ had paid for our sins on the cross, so we must repent and believe in the gospel.
Because my brother Dave is zealous for Christ and has much knowledge, he didn’t panic or give up when he only had a minute to preach, he was able to preach the gospel clearly and powerfully.
So beloved, know the basics, be able to share your faith. The best way I’ve found to be able to remember the message is to simplify it as short as I can, then I can emphasize certain parts more or less as the need arises. Remember two words and you’ll remember Christianity: Law, Grace. Let me expand that a bit for you: God has a law, we broke it. God has a Son, he gave him. God had wrath towards us, Christ faced it. God has the power to raise the dead, he raised him. God has grace, he gives it.
When I preach my super short message I say this, “God counts hatred as murder, lust as adultery, and lying lips an abomination, and all of these will have their place in the Lake of Fire. But God had great mercy and sent his Son Jesus Christ to bear our sin, to die on a cross in our place, and he raised him from the dead so that if we repent and trust in him, we’ll be saved.”
And the purpose of us having zeal and knowledge is once again, not to earn our way into Heaven, but because Jesus Christ is worthy. Now, beloved, when we stand in Heaven and someone asks us why we’re there, we won’t have the faintest inclination to answer, “Because I’m so awesome.” No, we’ll respond with joy and say, “I’m here because Jesus Christ is so awesome, and he sought me and bought me and to him belongs all of the honor, power, and glory, forever and ever, amen.”
Now back to Ephesus and Thyatira, one had knowledge but no zeal, the other was zeal without knowledge, let introduce you to a third church, called Philadelphia, the best church in the Bible. They had zeal and knowledge, and they are guaranteed to hit the target every time. Now watch as I attach the balloon, zeal, to the straw and string, knowledge, and send it straight to the target every single time. With zeal and knowledge you will accomplish great things for God, things which he has prepared for you to do before time even began.
But, beloved, if you have zeal for God but not according to knowledge, you must repent. You may be running at full speed, but you’re running full speed away from God. Your sin has made a separation between you and God. Let me give you one last analogy. Say we all decide to skip school this week and go to Disney. We load on a shuttle and start driving, and I’m driving. As we start out you think I turn the wrong way on the freeway but you trust me that I know where I’m going, so you don’t say anything. I’m so zealous to get to Disney that I have that shuttle wound up going as fast as it possibly will, like 67 mph, the dotted lines in the middle of the road are practically a solid line, the trees are a blur. As we pass Cartersville you realize we’re going the wrong way, so you tell me, “Hey, we’re going the wrong way.” I say, “No, no we’re not” as I ease that shuttle up to 68 mph. A little while later and we see signs for Rock City, we’re definitely going the wrong way, but I’m adamant that in my zeal we will be in Disney soon. Then we pass a sign that says, “Welcome to Tennessee.” It is clear to me and everyone that I have gone the wrong way.
I need to repent. I need to do five things to set things right. First, I need to stop going the wrong way. If I just apologized but didn’t change my direction we would end up in Canada before too long, and there is no Disney in Canada. So I stop the shuttle. Now an apology is in order, I’m sorry for wasting your time by going in the wrong direction; I hope you’ll forgive me. Third, I need to turn around so I’m facing the right way. Fourth I need to start moving the right way. And fifth, I need to not stop until we get there.
This is true repentance, in our zeal we must stop running from God and misrepresenting his kingdom. We must apologize and ask for forgiveness. We must turn to him, and place our full hope and trust in Christ and his redeeming work. When this faith is genuine, it will last until the end.
One of the things that shows that we are saved is a genuine desire to see everyone saved, just as Paul prays in verse 1. Charles Spurgeon said it really well when he said, “Have you no wish for others to be saved? Then you are not saved yourself. Be sure of that.” The thought that is concluded in verse 4 actually begins in Romans 9, verse 2-3, turn there with me as I read it.
I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 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’s zeal was so excessive that he would, if he could, give up his own salvation to give it to someone else. Literally he would be willing to go to Hell so that his former friends could go to Heaven. Beloved, think about it, would you give your soul for someone else’s? If I could give up my salvation so that you would be saved, I don’t know that I could, I hope that I would, but I don't know. Fortunately for you and I, that's not an option, however Jesus Christ did humble himself for us, being cut off from the God from whom every good thing flows, accursed for our sake, so that we may be saved. Love has no greater man than this, that he would lay down his life for his friends.
So today, if you’ve had a zeal without knowledge, if you’ve sinned against Heaven and have never repented towards God and put your full trust in Jesus Christ, then with every head raised and every eye open and no music playing and no feet moving, call out to Jesus Christ silently where you sit. I implore you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, be reconciled to God. If you have questions hang out afterwards and we’ll talk to you.
For those of you have repented and believed; your commission today is to live a zealous life according to knowledge, knowing that Jesus Christ is your righteousness. Live your life with a passion for Christ, a love for your brothers and sisters, a burden for the lost, a radical holiness, an impeccable purity, and a zeal for the truth. When you see someone who is hungry, give them a sandwich and tell them about the Bread of Life, when you see someone who is thirsty, give them a glass of water and tell them about the Living Water, when you see someone so ragged as to be practically naked, give them clothing and tell them about the Righteousness of Jesus Christ which clothes the sinner, when you see someone lonely and a stranger, befriend them and tell them about the Greatest Friend of Sinners, and when you visit someone in prison or in the hospital tell them about the One Who Sets Captives Free.
In all things, submit to Christ, who is the end of the law for righteousness for all who believe.