Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on April 27, 2014
Last week, we took a break from studying the Sermon on the Mount, and we focused our attention on the explicit Gospel. In doing so we looked at 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 and I asked two questions, what is the Gospel and why is it “of first importance.” Sunday night as I was beginning to reset for another week, I was debating if I should turn back to the Sermon on the Mount or not, for there is so much in the passage of 1 Corinthians 15 that I glazed over due to time constraints. Therefore I decided that we need to hang out in this text and focus more on the Gospel for two more weeks and then we will return to the Mountain. So with that said, let us read our text, pray and then see what God wants to show us.
In the midst of that that chain, that progression that I just laid out, is a gap. The gap lies between the gospel being preached and the Gospel being received. The Greek word behind “receive” is paralambanō this means to take, to join to one’s self, to make it yours. One way that this word, paralambano, is used is in the context of marriage. It is the word used by the angels to encourage Joseph to take, or receive, Mary as his wife after he found out she was pregnant.
We are told very clearly and directly in our text that the way you receive the Gospel and therefore all of the benefits that flow from the Gospel is by believing. Look at verse 2 and verse 11.
This is one of those times when you are reading scripture that its helpful to understand what the passage does not say. The passage does not say that you are saved if you come to church. It does not say you will be saved if you are baptized. It does not say that you are saved if you take communion. It does not say you are saved if you are a good person. It does not say you are saved if you are a republican.
It says very explicitly you are saved from the wrath of God by believing, believing that Jesus died for you, a sinner, and that he was raised from the dead. That’s it. Believe. Scandalous isn’t it?
Just so we are clear, this is not the only place we see this in the Bible. Here is a small sampling of other passages in the Bible that say the same thing.
Within the Church of Galatia there were people who called themselves Christians. They sang the songs, they were baptized, they were “good people,” but they said that believing in Jesus wasn’t enough. They said in addition to accepting Jesus you had to, also jump through specific religious hoops. They said that you still had to work, or earn, grace. This is, by the way, an oxymoron. If you earn something it is a wage, not grace. In essence, what these fake Christians were saying is that Jesus didn’t really give you a gift, he just gave you a discount on your salvation. It was like an Easter day sale. You still had to pony up and provide some cash in the form of righteous acts. This blasphemy was the main issue that caused Paul to write one of the most stinging books in the Bible.
Many of you may be saying, we get it, stop beating a dead horse. Do we? Do we get it? Do we understand that nothing we do can make God love us more or less? Do we get that nothing we do can make us more attractive to God. Do we understand that we are saved by faith alone, grace alone, Christ alone? Do we really believe 1 Corinthians 15, John 3:16, Romans 1:16, the book of Galatians? I am not sure that we do.
One of the primary means by which Satan undermines the Glory of Christ is by convincing you that Christ is not enough; that Jesus just wasn’t able to rescue you; that Jesus can only save you so far. Satan attempts to strip the glory of Christ and tries to convince you to take some glory for yourself. Why does he do it? Because he wants you in hell with him.
This is what we call false religion. It is the form of religion, but is lacks power. It lacks the Gospel. It takes the Gospel and makes it pointless.
Understanding that it is faith alone that is the means to accept the gift is so crucial, for you don’t receive it, if you don’t believe it. Do you here that? You don’t receive forgiveness, if you don’t believe that through Christ you are forgiven. You don’t receive eternal life, if you don’t believe Jesus purchased it for you.
Why is it this way? Why does God set up redemption through believing in Christ? It has everything to do with Glory. God created this universe to display his glory. Isaiah 48:11 says that God will not give his glory to another. This includes the glory of saving sinners.
But if instead when you are standing before the judgment seat of God and God asks you on what basis you shall avoid Hell you say, “Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to the cross I cling.” Get ready for eternal joy.
Folks, it is time for a reformation. It is time for us to nail the 95 thesis on our hearts and to get back to the Bible and read the words of Paul, John, and Jesus. We must see 1 Corinthians 15 for what it says. The Bible is so clear, that it amazes me when people try to save themselves by religion. Religion does not save. Jesus saves. Amen?
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on April 20, 2014.
Today, we are celebrating the most important event in history, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. There is nothing that compares to the depth in our heart and the reach in the world of the eternal impact of this historical fact. Jesus' death and resurrection is the pinnacle of the display of God's glory, and perfectly and completely addresses our greatest need in this life. With that said, some of your hearts are hard to this reality. You are numb to God and you are numb to His Son.
Some of you who sit here today, could care less about what happened to a 33 year old teacher 2000 years ago on a small little hill outside of an old town dusty town 6000 miles away away from Cascade. Perhaps the only reason you are here today is because we have a breakfast, or perhaps Easter is your one and only time that you make an appearance in a Church, or perhaps you family drug you here. And to be honest, I don't care why you came, but I do care that you are here, in this moment, to hear the Gospel.
If what I just said describes you, then know this, I wrote this sermon for you. You are the one that was in my mind when I searched for just the right passage to preach from this Sunday. You are the one that I was praying for without knowing your name. You are the one that played the devil's advocate in my mind as I considered each word. It was you. I have been longing for this moment to preach to you the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and my purpose is to proclaim the Gospel by the power of the Holy Spirit and break your hard heart and cause you to see the beauty of the gift that is Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection!
So with that said, let us read our passage for today, pray that God would move powerfully in this moment and then let the power of the Gospel echo off these walls.
Today I am going to answer, God willing, two questions. First, what is the Gospel and second, why is it the most important thing.
First, lets start with the word “gospel.” The word gospel has taken on a lot of different meanings over the years: Gospel books, Gospel music, the gospel truth. What are we saying when we use this word? The word Gospel in the original Greek is euangelion. The word euangelion is best translated to good news.
What is important to remember is that the word euangelion was not first used in the context of the Bible. It was a word used in conversations by regular people prior to its use in the Bible. It was a word used in society that was adopted by Jesus, then the disciples and apostles, and then the Church and it is of course all over scripture. So this begs the question how was this word Gospel used in conversations prior to its adoption.
Euangelion was a familiar word in that day in age. It was a word that was commonly used in the context of war. It was used to announce a victory, or to announce the ushering in of a time of peace and security. For example, picture a war that has waged on for years and years. Every family, community, and person has been affected by brokenness, casualties, and death. This war is like a weight that presses down on you day after day. Now picture one morning you are awakened by the cry of a messenger running through the town and at the top of his lungs yelling “Euangelion! Euangelion! The war is over!” In that moment those sweet words would wash over you like a spring rain. Giving you hope, giving you new life, giving you joy. This is the the thrust of the word euangelion, and this was the word chosen by God to announce the coming of His Son. With that said, what is so good about the good news? To answer this question, we need to first understand the bad news, and to do that we must start at the beginning.
“In the beginning God created.” These are the first words written in the Bible. This statement tells us that God is the Creator of all things, but it doesn't tell us why. Why did God create the heavens, and the earth, and humanity. What was in the mind of God prior to him Speaking creation into existence?
If you have read the Bible from cover to cover, the answer is overwhelmingly clear. There is one theme that runs through every verse, chapter, and book of the Bible is that everything exists to glorify God. Everything. This is God’s purpose in creating, to display His glory.
So God makes everything for His Glory, for his name, for his honor, but here is the problem. We don’t do it. We don’t give him glory, we don’t honor him, we don’t appreciate him, we don’t thank Him, we don’t love Him. Instead, we reject Him. We ignore him. We manipulate him. We even use his name and his son’s name as a cuss word. Listen to Romans 1:19-23.
I am always surprised when people, especially parents, don’t personally feel the problem of ungratefulness towards God. This is one reason I think God designed families. Families, I believe, are a type, or a shadow, or a pointer to a greater reality. How many moms have spent hours in the kitchen cooking, just to have her children rush to the table and gobble down everything and run off to get back to their games without once saying “thank you.”
This is exactly what we do when we breath, eat, move, hear, see, speak without ever thanking God. There is not a thing on this planet that he is not ultimately responsible for. However, we all take it for granted. In our hearts, God might as well be dead to us. Another word for this rebellion is Sin.
Often we think of sin as a specific act. Such as telling a lie, or cheating on our spouse. But sin is really more than the act. It is a state of being. It is a condition. We are not sinners because we sin. We sin because we are sinners. Do you see the difference? Think of a tree. It is not an apple tree because it grows apples. Instead, it grows apple because it an apple tree. Likewise, a thorn tree is not a thorn tree because it has thorns. It has thorns because it is a thorn tree. Do you get it?
This is humanities situation, this is the state of the world, its condition, its sickness. Everyone has been infected with the disease of sin. Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” There is that word glory again. Every person has inherited it, and the source goes all the way back to the first people ever to live, Adam and Eve. Adam sinned in the garden of Eden, and everything changed. From that point every single person that has ever existed on this planet is born with the spiritual DNA of sin. We are natural born sinners.
I see this in my job all the time as a prosecutor. When people are sinned against, they want their pound of flesh. When someone is found not guilty, and everyone knows they got away with it, something in our heart cries “No!”. Where does this universal desire for justice come from? It comes from God. We are created in his image. As his image bearers we have similar attributes. The existence of justice, morality, can only be attributed to a sovereign designer who has planted it in our hearts. This does not come from chaos. It is not something that evolves.
The scary part is that the punishment for our rebellion against God must match the crime. When we sin against an infinitely holy, sovereign, and gracious God, our punishment must also be infinitely harsh. This is justice 101. This is eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth stuff. This is what we demand in the public square. Think of it this way, if you spit in your bosses face, you will get fired. If you spit in a police officer’s face, you will get arrested. If you spit in a judges face, you will spend a month or more in jail. Now think about spitting into the face of the infinite God of the Universe. Should not the punishment match? Well, it does. This is what we call Hell. Hell is the name of the place that God carries out his eternal and just punishment for sinners. Jesus speaks of it more than anyone, and it is a shame that Hell is not spoken of more often, especially at Easter, for it is everyone’s guaranteed destiny, apart from the sovereign grace of God. Which brings us back to our text for today.
The reason that Jesus came to earth was to die on the cross. This was the entire point of the Son of God, taking on flesh. He came to die, and not to just die, but to die for sin, and not just to die for sin, but to die for your sin. You! Every single person in this room, Jesus died for you. He died for your rebellion, your rejection, your lying, your lusting, your gluttony, your slothfulness, your pride, and your hunger for money and power. His death had a purpose, a beautiful and wonderful purpose. Not only did his death have a purpose, but it was according to God’s plan. We are told that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures. What does that mean? Turn with me to Isaiah 53. This passage in Isaiah was written 700 years before Jesus was born. Listen for Jesus in this text.
I am sorry, but it is hard for me to fathom that there are people who don’t believe in Jesus after seeing a text written 700 years before the death of Christ so on point with the historical reality of Jesus life and death. No one in academia legitimately debates that Jesus died on the cross. The question is never whether he died onteh cross, the question has always been “Why should we care?” Isaiah 53 is why. Listen to the connections:
Not only are we told that Jesus will come and die, but we are told why in Isaiah 53. To bear our griefs, our sorrows, our sins, to pay for our transgressions, to be crushed for our iniquities, he was chastised for our peace. The death of God in the person of Jesus Christ has brought us peace. Do you see it? Peace! Victory! Euangelion! Good news!
Humanity has waged war against God, and the only thing that makes sense is Hell. It is where every single one of us deserve to spend eternity. But thanks be to God that he is not only just, but he is also loving. Jesus absorbs the wrath we deserve.
Can you see why the Gospel is the most important thing in your life and everyone’s life? Can you see what I am so passionate about proclaiming this message? Everything pales in comparison to this. The bottom line is we have an eternity waiting for us. Everyone in this room will be in one of two places, In God’s presence or Hell. Because of what Jesus Christ did, everyone who places their faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior will be saved.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on April 13, 2014.
Today we are continuing through our study of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. Today's passage is another example of how, if we were not working our way through a portion of the Bible verse by verse, we would never cover this section. Never in my short history of leading Bible studies and preaching have I been asked about taking an oath. It is just not a topic that is on the forefront of society’s mind. Ironically, because we could care less about oaths, is exactly why we need to address this topic. Because our casualness to the spoken truth is exactly the issue that Jesus is addressing in our text today. So with that said, let us read the word of truth, pray to Jesus our truth, and then unpack the truth.
First thing we need to understand is that this passage is not about oaths, it is about our prideful and lying hearts. Just like we have seen over the last three weeks, the topics that Jesus is addressing are topics on sin, and what he is doing is taking the a pious acts of the scribes and pharisees and waving them in front of everyone and the pushing them down to their hearts.
One reason we know that this passage is not primarily about oaths is because oaths are not evil in an of themselves, they are in fact neutral.
So you can see here, oaths are not in themselves evil. God is saying that if you say your are going to do something, then do it. Likewise Paul swears by God in 2 Corinthians 1:23 and Romans 1:9-10. Having said that, the existence of an oath is evidence of our sinfulness. For to use an oath is to imply that humanity has a propensity to sin, that humanity can't be trusted, therefore we need special words to convince others that we are not lying.
As we have said before, with Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, he is not re-writing, he was resetting the law. The reason that he had to reset the law is that the religious leaders had made a mockery out of oaths and swearing, and therefore they made a mockery out of truth. Just to give you a sense of the problem of the day, turn with me to Matthew 23:16. In this passage Jesus is pronouncing
The second reason we need to understand that this passage is not about oaths is because Jesus, the great Physician consistently operates on the heart, not the mouth. When you make this passage about only about oaths, then you are no better than the scribes and Pharisee. One such group that has done this are the Quakers, or at least they use to do this. The founder of the Quaker denomination is George Fox, a very zealous and devoted Christian man, but off on a couple points. This passage is one of them. Once before the Judges at Lancaster, Fox said this:
“You have given me a book here to kiss and to swear on, and this book which ye have given me to kiss says, “Kiss the Son,” and the Son says in this book, “Swear not at all.” I say as the books says, and yet ye imprison me; how chance ye do not imprison the book for saying so?”
This rhetoric is witty, but off the mark. Having said that, this view of Fox caught on and because of this position, if you were to go into most courtrooms and testify you might be asked to “swear or affirm.” The “affirm” option is largely due to the Quaker movement that was very popular in the early years of America. The problem with this position, is that Fox was doing exactly what the Pharisees were doing but at the opposite end of the spectrum. He was taking the law of God, as spoken by Jesus, and drawing a new line in the sand. He was missing the main point. So what is the main point? Radical truth that flows out of a heart of a disciple of Christ.
There are many ways you could divide humanity. One way you could divide it is good verses evil. Another way is light verse darkness. And a third way to divide humanity is truth and lies . By this I meaning there is a realm of truth and there is a realm of lies. There are two Kingdoms. The Kingdom of truth and the Kingdom of lies.. You can get a sense of these two sides in John 8:43-47.
These two families are drastically different. In fact, they are polar opposites. The foundation of each Kingdom is built on a different grounds, the Kingdom of God is built on rock solid truth. The Kingdom of Satan is built on lies. God loves the truth and Satan hates the truth. We are told Satan wants nothing to do with the truth. We are told he is, in fact, the father of lies. The reason he is called the father of lies is because what took place in the Garden of Eden.
The first moment Satan spoke in the garden we saw evidence of this. His desire was to deceive Adam and Eve. If you think about his lie, it was subtle. There was even some truth mixed in. In our modern day in age, we call what Satan did in the Garden of Eden “spinning.” He was taking truth and putting his slant on it so as to achieve his purpose. It was, in a way, a little white lie. However there was nothing little about it. The ramifications, the ripple effect of his lie were, and are, enormous. Because of his lie, we are all sinners. Because of his lie, humanity is separated from God. Because of his lie, the wrath of God hangs over humanity waiting to come crashing down at any moment. Because of his lie, Jesus had to die. His lie may appear to be subtle, but this is once again another deception of Satan. There is no thing as a little white lie. It is either a lie or it is not. There is no gray.
So why does Satan lie? Simple, he is a liar. The reason he lies is that is who he is. We are told in verse forty-four that Satan speaks out of his character. His lies are a product of who he is. His lying does not make him a liar. No it is because He is a liar that he lies. This distinction is important because it shows the consistency of rebelling. The act of sin does not make you a sinner. You are a sinner, therefore you sin. Satan is no different. He is not Satan because of his lies. He lies because he is Satan.
And Jesus is telling the Jews in John 8 that their father is Satan. These are very strong words. Once again, this is a Jesus you cannot ignore. Anyone who says that Jesus is soft and cuddly has not read the Gospels. Jesus was a proclaimer of truth, no matter how sharp it was. He did not sugarcoat his message. He did not spin it. So how does Jesus know that their father was Satan? Because you know a tree by its fruit. Jesus just had to look at what came out of their mouth. All the evidence pointed to the reality that they were not in the family of God, but they were instead in the family of Satan. Jesus tells them in verse forty-one “You are doing the works your father did.” and in verse forty-four he says, “ You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires.” They are chips off the old block.
This week, as everyone knows, we had a baby. What is the first thing that everyone does when they look at a baby? The try to see which parent they resemble. People will say she looks just like Jessica or I or a mix of both. Why? Because it is true. My child looks like me. Looking like me does not make her my daughter. She is my daughter because she is my daughter, her resemblance to me is just a consequence of the relationship.
Jesus is doing the same thing spiritually. He is telling them that they are acting just like their dad. They are doing what Satan does. They have the same character. They are deceivers, they are liars. They are displaying the spiritual DNA that they have inherited from Satan, their father.
And this is what Jesus is addressing in Matthew 23 and in our text today in Matthew 5. He is addressing the prevalent deception of the day. The Scribes and Pharisees had established a system of lies. There oaths were not something that could be counted on. They were merely hollow words. Truth had no place. White lies, and spinning, and broken promises were common. The religious institution and the culture was not built on a foundation of integrity, and honesty, and reality. It was built on shifting sand. People would say whatever it took, whether true or not, to achieve their purpose and pursue their pleasures. People would pridefully “swear to God” at the drop of a hat, and then lift no finger to follow through. They would make promises that were completely out of their control.
Imagine the frustration of that day. Someone sells you a piece of land and confirms it by an oath, only later to realize that the oath they gave was sworn by the temple and not by the gold, therefore it was null and void. People regularly invoking the name of God to win an argument. As is if God's Holy name exists so that we can leverage it to be cast into the midst of some petty argument. It seems ludicrous doesn't it. Unfortunately, it is not. It is common in this day in age.
If there ever was an indicator of our nation not being a Christian nation, it is our propensity to lie. Generally speaking, we are a nation of liars. We lie about our weight, we lie about our age, we lie on our time-cards at work, we lie on our taxes, we break promises. We swear to God whenever it is convenient. Last week we talked about divorce, there is no better example then the broken vows of marriage. To death due us part, baloney.
Our media lies, our politicians lie, even our religious institutions lie. What is probably more disappointing then the lying is the tolerance of it. Lying has become so commonplace in our society that no one cares. You regularly hear, whats the big deal? It is just a little white lie. I will tell you what the big deal is,
Why does God hate lying lips? Because they wreak of Satan's breath. Listen to what it says in Revelation 21:8.
No lie ever touched the lips of Jesus, however, not only was Jesus truthful, he was incarnate truth. He was the way to truth. He is the answer to our lying and prideful heart. For it is only when we place our complete trust in the one named Faithful and True, that truth comes and reigns in our heart. By faith in Christ, the Word of Truth is planted in our hearts and it bears fruits consistent with our new nature in Christ. No longer will we bear the resemblance of the Father of Lies, but instead we will be beacons of truth, a people of integrity, a people who can be trusted, a people of God.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on April 6, 2014
Today we continue our walk through the greatest sermon ever preached, The Sermon on the Mount. The sermon was of course preached by none other than Jesus himself, and it is jam packed with no-nonsense truth. To use a phrase from John MacArthur, the Sermon on the Mount presents a picture of Jesus that you cannot ignore.
Today we are going to talk about divorce. Before we get started I want to say that I am completely aware that this sermon may make some of you uncomfortable, and I want you to know that my intention is not to make people feel awkward. My intention is to teach the Bible. My prayer this week and today is that I speak with gentleness and grace, but that I do not strip God's Word of its truth. Lastly, as I stated last week while teaching on adultery, we must start with the understanding that we are all sinners; you, me, and everyone that walks through this door. There is no place for self-righteousness here. So as we unpack this text and discuss the topic of divorce no one should feel that I, or anyone else, have a moral high ground over you or anyone else. We are all wretched and desperately need the Grace of God found in Jesus Christ.
Today, like always, we have a lot to cover, so lets get to work. Turn with me to Matthew 5:31-32. Let us read it, pray for God's Grace, and soak in God's Word.
You can easily get a sense of this pervasive tension when you look at our text today. 2000 years ago Jesus was addressing the institution of marriage. Why was He addressing it? Because the Scribes and the Pharisees had mad a mess of marriage. Just like we saw over the last two Sundays when looking at murder and adultery, Jesus as setting things straight.
In order for us to understand our text, we need to first understand marriage. In order to do that, we need to look at a couple other passages. First turn with me to Matthew 19:1-12
First, Jesus makes it abundantly clear that marriage is created by God himself. It is not something that humanity, or culture, or the government invented. It is a relationship intentionally designed, created and implemented by God.
The second thing we see it that this union of marriage is significantly strong. In fact, there is no other relationship on the planet between two humans that is stronger than the husband and wife. Not even the bond between parent and child is as strong as husband and wife. For a child leaves his parents and is unified with his or her spouse.
With these two points in front of us, the question is now, why did God design a relationship between a male and female that is so prevalent in the world and so strong between the couple? What is the primary purpose of God in marriage?
This question is rarely asked and rarely answered, and because it is not asked many Christians are succumbing to divorce. I think the reason this question is rarely asked is because we are too busy asking the wrong question. We are asking the sames questions that the Pharisees were asking, when can I get a divorce? We are wanting to know what box can we check on the certificate of divorce application form. The reason we do this, is because our hearts are hard, just like the Pharisees. We make marriage all about our pleasure, and not about God's glory. This is the central issue that Jesus was addressing in Matthew 5 and Matthew 19.
Our hearts are too much like the Pharisees and not enough like Jesus’. Instead of showering my wife with self-sacrificing love, and grace and forgiveness, I rain down on her self-justifying anger. Every fight that I find myself in with my wife is about my pride. It is about my agenda. It is about my pleasures. It is about me. My sin is the problem, but this is not what God had originally designed. Before the fall, divorce was not a word in Adam and Eve’s vocabulary. What God had joined, let no man separate.
So the question is still before us? What is God’s purpose in designing, creating, and implementing marriage? Turn with me to Ephesians 5:28. There is no one in the Bible that talks about marriage more than Paul, who by the way was not married. Interestingly enough, just like Jesus. So for all you single people, marriage is important to understand, and it is important because of what it displays.
Marriage is not a societal thing. It is not a cultural thing. It is a gospel thing. This is what marriage symbolizes, and this is why Satan hates it. This is why marriage is always under attack. A husband and a wife joined together forever, bound by God Himself is to be an image of Jesus’ unending love of his people, and this image of redemption is to cover the Earth. And Ephesians 5 is not the only place that points to this reality.
John the Baptist who was to set the stage for Jesus refers to Jesus as the bridegroom:
Listen to what takes place in Heaven after all the elect have been saved. This is the party we all long to be a part of.
I think God is making it abundantly clear what he is doing. He is telling us expressly and implicitly that marriage is a picture of the Gospel, and we should not be surprised that God has designed it this way.
For when God created he had a purpose in His mind. His purpose was not to create a random world with little to no meaning, but instead he created a world that pointed to the glory of His Son, Jesus Christ.
Let us know talk about this union. The union between Jesus and his people is unbreakable. It is eternal. It never fails. It never gives up. It endures. God himself has joined the bridegroom with his bride. Salvation by Grace through faith is a union sealed by God. Listen to these verses.
And this brings us full circle. This is why God hates divorce; because it blows up the picture of the Gospel. Every marriage that ends in divorce displays the opposite message that God intended. Divorce does not display that grace of God, it displays the sinfulness of man. This is why Satan is always attempting to destroy it.
Matthew 5 is not about adultery. It is not about the line in the sand, or the check box on the certificate of divorce. It is about your heart. Do you want to display the Gospel? Or do you want to display your sinful pleasures? Let us not repeat their mistake. Let us live the Gospel so that Glory of God shines forth in this lost and broken world!