WARNING - Work in Progress

WARNING - Work in Progress
WARNING - Work in Progress

Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Goal of Your Faith – 2/25/2018


Mark 8:31-38
31 He (Jesus) then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. 32 He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.

33 But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” 34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

I hear it a lot; “I believe in God reverend John,” and “I pray every day reverend John,” and again “I read my Bible every night reverend John,” these statements come from people who try to convince me that they are spiritual and that God is happy with them because of the things that they do.  Depending on their mental acuity I generally just shake my head politely and congratulate them for their efforts, but you, I suspect that your mental ability is more stable than the people I generally work with.  So if you have heard yourself saying these sorts of things out loud or in your mind you need to stop it, because all it does is trick you into feeling justified in a shallow puddle of faith.  I work with people who are mentally feeble and so I let things go with them, however, with you, I expect more – and so does Jesus.

Today, let’s focus on two main things: first, Peter’s concern for the things of this world and second, Jesus’ goal for your faith is that you become a disciple, not just be a believer.

“Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”  

I think this sums me up most of the time.  Many people think that because I am in the full time ministry that I am some sort of super-spiritual giant.  And while I am engaged in churchy stuff more than most I have to admit that I struggle with my faith in many of the same ways that you do.  I won’t air my dirty laundry here but please believe me when I assure you that living a life of faith is always tough because all of us are too easily distracted by the things of this world.  I often think I am spiritually worse than others because I do the church thing for a living.  Sort of like the mechanic who works on cars all day and doesn’t want to fix his own car when he gets home.  Like Peter, we all battle with a spiritual reality that doesn’t always make sense to us.

We shouldn’t be too tough on Peter though, by rebuking Jesus Peter was just pointing out how He was wrong because an executed Messiah was not what they had been taught in Sabbath school.  The Messiah they all were taught would come and lead the Israelites to overthrow Roman rule and restore sovereignty of the Nation of Israel.  Foul is not something that should be called on Peter because his brain just couldn’t compute a Messiah any other way.

Don’t we all do this?  When someone broaches a subject that is outside of the spiritual or political understanding that we already have which doesn’t agree with what we already believe, don’t we rebuke and reject the person and the idea?  If we’re going to be honest we know that we do.  Peter was no different, when Jesus told his disciples that he was going to be killed by the powers that be, Peter had to tell him that the Jewish leaders would never do such a thing because they wanted the Messiah to come just as badly as they did.

I’m not broaching anything political here, but spiritually speaking, we all need to be able to hear Jesus in spite of our Catechisms at times.  Because if we won’t, we are proving that we, like Peter, don’t have the mind of God but rather the concerns of this world.

After Jesus called Peter out, he spoke to his disciples and said “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it”

When I was in college a student said that if preachers were actually preaching the gospel the way that it was supposed to be preached, that churches would be growing exponentially.  Another student rebutted and said that he thought that if preachers were actually preaching the gospel in the American church that it would be shrinking.  His point was that a popular Jesus is a happy-slappy Jesus that heals and financially blesses everyone, but the Jesus that most people reject is the Jesus that calls for believers to be disciples; disciples who deny themselves and give up their lives each and every single day.  I had to agree with the second guy, because like Peter we all seem to have the mind of the world in most of our situations.

And so this is my prayer for us; that God will open our eyes to see and our ears to hear his rebuke of us so that we like Peter will come to know a risen savior that leads us to selflessly give up ourselves for Him and His Kingdom.

Mark 12:28-31
28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Sunday, February 18, 2018

What Saved Noah? – 2/18/2018


Read these two short scripture passages.

Genesis 6:12-22
12 God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. 13 So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. 14 So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out. 15 This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be three hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide and thirty cubits high. 16 Make a roof for it, leaving below the roof an opening one cubits high all around. Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks. 17 I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. 18 But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you. 19 You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. 20 Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive. 21 You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them.”
22 Noah did everything just as God commanded him.

1 Peter 3:18-22
18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. 19 After being made alive,  he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits— 20 to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

There’s a baptism theme going on here and it’s in response to the proclamation of judgment.  The first baptism, as symbolized by Noah, was at the flood.  The water of the flood was the destructive judgment of God coming upon a corrupt humanity: the water’s intention was the destruction of humanity.  But God offered Noah a way out, he had to build an ark and through the ark he and his family were saved.  Peter says that the waters of baptism, as symbolized by the Noah event, is what saves humanity, but when we read a little farther we learn that it isn’t the water of baptism that saves us, it’s “the pledge of a clear conscience toward God” which saves us in response to the “resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

Even in Noah’s day, it wasn’t the water that saved Noah, on the contrary, the flood waters were the judgment of God upon a corrupted humanity.  Was it the ark then?  The ark was literally what carried Noah to safety through the deadly flood-waters, but it wasn’t even the ark that saved Him.  The decisive moment that saved Noah is found in Genesis 6:22, “Noah did everything just as God commanded him.”

The waters of the flood are the judgment of God upon humanity while the announcement of the flood and the instructions of building the ark are the gospel message (Genesis 6:13-14).  It was the response of Noah, he believed God and did what he was instructed as his acceptance of God’s salvation to him.

In modern times we too have a judgment;

Revelation 20:11-15
11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

An instruction for salvation (gospel message);

Acts 2:36-39
36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”
37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

and a way to respond for a clear conscience.

Acts 16:29-33
29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. 

Acts 2:31-33
38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

Now, it’s our turn?  How do we respond to the knowledge that God’s judgment is coming?  Will we believe God and build the ark or will we scoff at the idea and ignore the warnings?  It’s unfortunate that it’s much easier to sit back and scoff at the Christians than it is to make the decision to believe in salvation through Jesus Christ; because Jesus is the ark that will carry us all safely through the coming destruction.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Chicken or the Egg - 2/11/2018


2 Corinthians 4:3-6
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

When I first read this passage I felt confused because God seems to veil the gospel message from those who are perishing: the very Truth that is necessary for salvation from eternal death is made cloaked by God Himself!  At least, that’s how it appears.  However, when this passage is read in context of the entire 2 Corinthians letter and with knowledge of the Old Testament scriptures, the verse isn’t really confusing.

2 Corinthians 3:7-8
Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious?

The context is about the Glory of God as displayed through Jesus Christ.  The cross is brought into focus here because Paul, in 2 Corinthians, is showing how God’s glory was veiled in the stone tablets of the Law and how Moses has to veil his face because the glory of God was upon him because the Law of God came though Moses.  But the Law was a fading glory of God where the reality and fulfillment was through Jesus Christ and His Cross.  The reality is that though the finished work of Jesus upon the cross and His resurrection from the dead that you and I have forgiveness from sin and death and are given new life in Him i.e. the veiled gospel message.

Here’s the rub, if the gospel message is confusing to you then you need to believe first (see 4:4) and trust on the Lord Jesus Christ before the veil can be removed, when you do you will see the Glory of God through Jesus our Savior and the Gospel of will become clear. 

Seriously, if there is a veil surrounding the Gospel of Jesus for you then there is a problem and we need to talk.  Send me a message and I’ll be happy to spend as much time as it takes for the veil to be removed from before you.