Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on July 27, 2014
Today we are going to begin a short sermon series on money. I am not sure how long I am going to preach on it, so bear with me as God leads me. Before I get too far into the sermon, I want share with you a book, the Treasure Principle: Unlocking the Secret of Joyful Giving by Randy Alcorn. I have purchased 25 of these books and I want each family to take one and read it. It is only 120 short pages, so you could easily read it in a day if you were motivated. In fact, I hope you read it several times over the next couple of weeks. With that said, let us read our text, pray, and see what God has to say to us about His money.
Here at Cornerstone, we love the Bible. It is God’s Word, breathed out by Him. We believe the Bible is living and active. We believe that it will not return to God void, but will accomplish what it sets out to do. We believe it is food to our souls. We believe it is a weapon to use against Satan’s attacks. We believe that it will shape us into Christ-likeness. If we believe all these things then we should recognize the immense amount of attention that is given to money in the Bible. According to Randy Alcorn, fifteen percent of Jesus’ teaching is about money. He talks about money more than Heaven and Hell combined.
If Jesus preached on money, than I need to preach on money. In fact, if I want to strike a Christ-like balance of fifteen percent, than I should preach on the topic of money eight Sundays a year.
On top of that, we need to face the music. Money plays a significant role in our lives. Money is used to purchase food, clothing, homes, appliances, furniture, cars, phones, insurance, medicine, vacations, books, entertainment, toys, etc. Generally speaking, the way we receive from others is through the transaction of money. The reality is that money is involved in a majority of the decisions in your life, both big and small; therefore, how you relate to money is substantially correlated to how you live your life.
So to begin, I want to us to recognize that the topic of money should, and must be preached from the pulpit. Failure to preach about money is a failure to have the Word of God shine light on the path of our life. Show me a pastor who doesn’t preach on money, and I will show you a pastor who doesn’t love his sheep.
A Matter of the Heart
The next thing I want us to understand is that the topic of money is not about what is in your bank account, but it is about what is in your heart. Jesus makes this abundantly clear in verse 21.
I shouldn’t have to say this, but I will anyway, God does not want your money. God is the Sovereign Creator of all things. Everything that exists is His.
Fleeting and Eternal
The first thing He does is to point out the reality of fleetingness. Creation is cursed, and because of the curse everything decays. This will continue to happen until Christ returns and the curse is lifted. The house you live in will someday be dust, so will your car, phone, computer, clothes and everything else you own. In a thousand years the place we are currently in, along with everything in it will be nothing more than rubble, at best. Everything, that is, but you. You and I are the one tangible thing that will still be around in 1,000 years, in 1 million years, in 1 billion years. The stuff in your life will be a distant memory, but you will remain.
If you believe this, does your life match this alleged belief? Do you spend your time and your money in a way that reflects that your faith is real, or are you just fooling yourself? In my day job as a prosecutor I live in a world of evidence. People come into my office and lie to me all the time. My first thought is, “prove it.” Show me evidence that supports what you are saying? Jesus does the same thing. Look in your text at verse 21?
With that said, how many of you have ever heard the phrase, “He is so heavenly minded, that he is no earthly good.” Do you know who came up with this line? If I were to guess, I wold say Satan, the Father of lies, because this statement is just not true. Jesus is case in point. He was the most heavenly minded person to walk the planet and did more good that the entire world combined. Listen to what Jesus says about home owhership.
Like Jesus, we are just visiting. This is not our home. Earth is more like our hotel. This is a place we are merely staying for a moment. We are reminded in 1 Peter that we are sojourners on this planet, just passing through. Paul tells us this in Philippians that our citizenship is not America, as much as it is heaven, and he says some pretty direct comments about those people who live for this World.
Jesus calls the man who invested in this world a fool? Why? Because his actions did not make sense in light of the truth. If I were to ask you, do want a dollar now, or a million dollars tomorrow, you would be a fool to take the buck, but that is what we do every day when we live for the dot in our life. Here is another quote from CS Lewis, “I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen; not only because I see it but because be it I see everything else.” God has revealed truth to us through Jesus, let us live in a way that is not foolish, but wise.
The reality is, no one knows when the dot of your life will end. It may be today, it may be tomorrow, but there is no doubt it will end, the question is what is waiting for you? Heaven of Hell? Treasures or regrets.
We cannot change the past, but today is a new day. Let us chose today, whom we will serve. Will it be the passions of our flesh, or will it be the Lord. Will we trust God's investment strategy or will we listen to deception of the world? Are we willing to accept the eternal rewards of God, or would we rather be like the prodigal son and eat the pig slop of this world?
Don't settle for this world, set your eyes on the prize that lies before us in Christ.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on July 20, 2014
Open you Bibles to Matthew 6:16-18. Today we are focusing on an aspect of the Christian walk that has become forgotten over the years, fasting. If I were to guess, many of you have never fasted before, or if you have fasted you have only done it one or two times.
Why is this? I think the reason is that you don't do what you don't understand. And why do we not understand fasting? Because preachers don't teach it. I have been preaching here at Cornerstone for a 1 ½ years and I have never talked from this pulpit on fasting, that is until today. And why am I teaching on it today? Because it is the next passage in the Sermon on the Mount. This is the benefit that comes from preaching expositionally through books of the Bible. I am forced to preach the entire counsel of God's Word and I can't cherry pick popular messages.
My goal today is to convince each of you that fasting is worth it. I want you to see the value in the practice of fasting in your life, so that you implement it in your walk with the Lord, and reap the benefits. It is my opinion that the disappearance of fasting in our Churches is highly correlated to the weakness of our Churches. The greater our fasting, the greater our reward, the greater our reward, the greater our strength. With this said, let us read our text, pray and pursue the strength as found in the rich words of our God.
With this said, let us do a quick survey of the Bible regarding fasting. First, lets start with some notable people who fasted: Moses, that nation of Israel, David, Esther, Daniel, Elijah, Ezra, Paul, Peter, the leaders at Antioch, and Jesus himself. This is a pretty good list. Fasting is prevalent in the Bible, and it is not limited to one point in time. God's people have always been a people who have fasted. What do they know that we don't?
Lets take a quick look at what was going on that caused them to fast. These are just some of the examples of fasting, this is not exhaustive, but gives you a picture of circumstances surrounding fasting. The first fast in the Bible, may be the most interesting one. For it was the one and only fast that was instituted, and required, by God. It is found in Leviticus 23:26-32.
The next fast that I want us to look at is found in Jonah 3. Many of us know the story of Jonah because his three nights in the belly of the whale, but we tend to forget why he was there to begin with. The Prophet Jonah had been sent by God to Nineveh, which was a gentile nation, to warn them about God's judgment against them.
Through all of these examples we can see some a common theme: sin, repentance, seeking God's favor. So these text help, but still do not necessarily give us a completely clear picture fo what is fasting. For this I think we need to turn in our Bible to Matthew 9:14-15. This text is interesting considering that Jesus, in Matthew 6 tells his disciples that fasting is assumed.
So in Matthew 6, Jesus assumes that there will be fasting, yet his disciples do not fast. I think if I was John disciples I would be asking the same question. So what is going on? What does Jesus use to help us understand fasting? A wedding. What is a wedding? It is a celebration of a union, a deep and loving union. We talked about this before at Cornerstone. Marriage is a God created, living display, or image, of the Gospel. Marriage is for the purpose of being a pointer to the greater reality of Jesus’ marriage to the Church. The most beautiful picture of this union between Jesus and His Bride is found in Revelation 19:6-9.
This passage is a window into the future, when God will wrap up history and sin will be thrown away, and the entire Church will be completely and fully unified with Christ. All weddings are to be pointers to this future celebration, and this is what Jesus uses to explain fasting, but there is more.
What does Jesus say? Jesus says that there will be a time when the Bridegroom will be taken away from the disciples, and what will be the result of this absence, this separation? Mourning. The wedding guests will mourn because of the absence of the Bridegroom. They miss the bridegroom. They long for the return of the Bridegroom.
Fasting doesn’t happen when the Bridegroom is present. The reason for Jesus’ disciples not fasting is that Jesus was physically present with them. Jesus then goes on to say that some day they will fast, and the reason for their fasting is His departure. Once again we see that fasting is assumed. When Jesus is taken away, His followers will fast.
So what is at the heart of fasting? At the heart of fasting is a longing for the bridegroom. It is a mourning for Jesus. It is a desire that there would not be a separation between man and God. Listen to what John Piper says in his book Hunger for God, “The birthplace of Christian fasting is homesickness for God.” Fasting, at its core, is about wanting Christ in your life even more than bread.
I think a great picture of this is the one of Anna, the prophetess. We see here story in Luke 2:36. When Jesus was eight days old, it was Jewish law to bring the first born male child to the temple to present him to the Lord. Anna just so happened to be at the temple that day.
I do not think that it is a coincidence that this section on fasting follows the Lord's prayer. Think about what we just prayed for. We prayed for the name of God to be hallowed, for the Kingdom of God to come, for God's will to be done in our lives and others. When we pray this we are praying for the King to be present and reign. We are praying for the Bridegroom to show up. Implicitly we are praying for repentance of sins and placement of faith in the High Priest of Jesus Christ, and allow Him to atone for their sins. We are seeking the Lord and praying that people would not longer be exiles separated from the blessings of God because of their sins, but God would restore their salvation. And following this pray we are taught about fasting. Do you see the connection? Sin, repentance, God's favor.
And this is why we should fast. We should long for the deliverance that only comes by the presence of the Bridegroom. We should afflict our bodies, so as to have more of Jesus and less of this world. And as I stand here before you today, I cannot tell you why it is the way it is. I cannot tell you why fasting has power, but it does. There is something about denying yourself your daily bread that produces the reward of God's grace in your life. There is something powerful about saying that God is better than bread.
As I prepared for this message, I came across this thought, that I think it is a good thought. God implemented the Lord's Supper, whereby we take bread and eat it in remembrance of the body of our broken King. And in this ceremony we are celebrating our invitation to the marriage supper of the Lamb. The invite card is written in his blood, and the war has been won. Fasting, on the other hand, is at the other end of the spectrum. It is the symbol that recognizes that, yes the Kingdom of God has come in the person of Jesus Christ, but is has not yet been fully consummated, there is still more work to be done in our lives as sinners and the World. There are still lost sheep waiting to her the voice of Jesus calling them into union with him, calling them to the wedding Supper of the Lamb.
So here is my challenge, let us be a people, not only of prayer but a people who lives in a way that says that God is better than bread. Let us be a people who are willing to eliminate the one thing that keeps us alive, food, and say that God is more satisfying. Let us commit ourselves to seek the reward of the pleasures of the presence of God, over the pleasures of this world. Let us mourn for the sin that is in our lives and in the lives of others to the extent that we are too sick to eat. If we do this, Jesus has guaranteed us that he will reward you. How will he reward you? His presence.
Perhaps there is a demon in your life that you cannot cast out, perhaps it is time that you utilize the weapons of prayer and fasting, so you can by the presence of Christ finally slay the temptation. Perhaps you have mourned over your unbelieving spouse, child, parent, of friend and it is now time that you step it up a notch and weep over them and let your tears be your supper.
It is time that Cornerstone Church becomes like the Church in Antioch in Acts 13 who were praying and fasting for the Lord's guidance. God rewarded them by giving them insight and setting apart Paul and Barnabas to go and proclaim the Gospel. Who knows what God may reveal to us if we were to do the same. If our hearts are truly for the lost within 20 miles of this Church, and we mourn because of their sin, then let us get serious and seek the reward of God's power in fulfilling the Great Commission. I don't want to be a Church that goes through motions. Let us fight the fight of faith and implement all weapons that he has given us to push back the enemy.
So with this said, I am calling us to become a fasting people. I want our hearts to scream louder than our stomachs so that we can begin to see mountains moved in our lives and in others. I want us to yearn for the Bridegroom.
I don't want to give rules, or days or time frames, but I want you to fast as you feel led by the Holy Spirit. If the Spirt of God drives you out to the desert to pray and fast for forty days, then do it. If God is calling you to skip lunch, then do so. If God is calling you to fast for one week, then do it. If God is calling you to fast every Wednesday for the rest of your life, then praise God. Let us be a Church full of Annas and Daniels in this congregation so that we can experience the joy of God's favor.
If you implement fasting in your life, you will not be disappointed. For God who sees in secret will reward you.
Turn with me to Matthew 6:9-12. Today marks the last Sunday of our sermon series focused on prayer. I hope that these last two months have been a worthwhile investment within our Church, and when I say investment I mean it. If you recall Mathew 6:6, Jesus says, “And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” My desire is that God has and will reward you when you pray with a right understanding and a right spirit. As I have stated time and time again, prayer is not optional for a true Christian. It is expected and it is crucial. With that said, let us look at our text for today, pray, and then see what final thing God has to teach us about prayer from the Lord's Prayer.
You can see this right out of the gates. In verses nine and ten, Jesus teaches us that prayer is first and foremost about God's Glory, not our Glory. Jesus tells us that the right place for us to start when praying is on your knees exulting the God of the Universe. Your prayer should place Him in the center of your heart and your mind. Therefore, we are taught that prayer is not a personal wish-list, it is to be an act of worship.
Next, we see Jesus then teach us how we should pray for ourselves. First, He tells us to pray for bread. Which is just another way to tell us to pray for the necessities of life. Second, he tells us to pray for forgiveness. Why? Because we are sinners and we need God's Grace through Jesus Christ to have eternal life. Third, he tells us to pray for protection in our lives, “deliver us from evil.”
The Lord's Prayer is made up of six petitions. Our Master, Jesus Christ is telling us that these are the six greatest need in our lives: God's Glory, God's Kingdom, God's will, food to live, forgiveness for our sins, and protection from evil.
Do your prayers look anything like the Lord's Prayer? Each night, or before meals, or early in the morning when you are alone with the Lord, do any of these things cross your heart and your lips? They should. Jesus is giving us the keys to joy. He is telling us point blank what our greatest needs are. We should trust him and his teaching and implement his structure of prayer into our life. By this I don't mean vainly be reciting the Lord's Prayer over and over again, but with longing and affections for these things to come into your life like a waterfall drenching you with God's Grace.
My challenge to all of you is to implement a six minute Lord's Prayer. Every day, pray for each of the six petitions of the Lord's prayer for one minute. Spend on minute praying for each of these things. For example pray that God's name would be hallowed in your life. Pray that God would be glorified in your marriage. Pray that you would cause His name to be feared in your workplace. Pray that God would give you boldness to spread His Holy name in your neighborhood. After a minute or so, move to “Your Kingdom come” and so on and so forth. Imagine the ripple effect if our small little Church took the Lord's Prayer seriously. As James 1:22 says:
So the answer is clear, God does not tempt us with evil. God's hands are always clean. God is a good, righteous and Holy God and he is not to blame for my sin, I am to blame for my sin. My sin is because of something inside of me that lures me to make decisions that are against God's will.
Having said that, this does not mean that God will not allow you to be tempted, or to be tested or to be tried, by your circumstances and/or Satan. Here are some Biblical examples of God allowing temptation:
In my opinion, this is extremely helpful in our Christian walk. Let's be honest, life is hard. Every day we are assaulted with temptation and trials. Isn't it comforting to know that God is sovereign over all those temptations. God is not a pathetic little God who is caught off guard by our struggles, but that he is intimately aware of what is going on in our lives. That Satan is merely a dog on a leash, and God can yank it back whenever he wills. It gives me great peace to know that God has authority over my struggles.
I want us now to turn our attention to the second half of the prayer “Deliver us from evil.” This is what I want us to focus on for the remainder of the time, because this, I believe, is the heart what Jesus wants us to pray.
To begin, let us understand the word “evil.” If you use the New International Version, you will see that there is a difference. It says, “deliver us from the evil one.” The English Standard Version, which I am using just says evil, your foot note most likely says “or the evil one.” It is my belief that both fit, but I think Jesus had in mind the evil one when he said the Lord's Prayer. The reason I believe this is John 17:15. In John 17 we see Jesus praying, and he prays this for his disciples:
So who is this evil one? I am guessing that all of us know this answer. The evil one is Satan. Jesus is teaching us that one of the six requests that we should be making to God in prayer is protection from Satan. We should pray for food, forgiveness, and now protection. How often do you do this? How often do you start your day praying that God would protect you from the devil as you walk out your door? In fact, how often do you even think about Satan?
In this day in age, I worry we don't think about him enough. It is not in vogue to go around speaking his name. In fact, it is a great trick of Satan to convince you that he does not exist. He is a master of hiding. His is the not only the Father of lies, but he is the Father of guerrilla warfare. In his first temptation in the Garden of Eden, this Angelic being, who before His fall stood in the presence of God disguises himself as a little old snake so as to set the trap for Adam and Eve. Likewise, we are told in 2 Corinthians 11:14,
Too often we forget that we are in the midst of war, that is until we become a casualty. Since the beginning, God has been warning us of the reality of evil in our lives. Listen to what God said to Cain in Genesis 4:7.
The question is why don't we care about this powerful enemy? Why don't we pray, “Deliver us from evil” every single morning before we step out into the battlefield of our lives. The answer is because we are arrogant. We think we have within ourselves the capacity to win the battles of our lives. Peter is a great example of this arrogance.
Let me ask you, do you think Peter was was happy the night he denied Jesus? Do you think he enjoyed when Satan devoured him? Absolutely not.
The result of Peter's sin was bitter weeping. He exchanged prayer for sleep, and joy for tears. And this is the core of what we are talking about. We are undermining our joy, we are undermining our purpose, we are undermining our relationship with our Father in heaven when we lose the daily battles against Satan's schemes.
It doesn't have to be this way. Jesus is telling us that the answer is simply to ask God to deliver us, and he will.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA Turn in your Bibles to Matthew 6:9-15. We continue our walk through the Lord’s Prayer. It is amazing that when God’s Word is studied and meditated upon it affects the heart. I hope that it has done so for you in regards to prayer. As I stated before, I want us to be a people of prayer, not in a legalism sense, but in a God glorifying and joy filled sense. I want the people of Cornerstone to tap into the grace of God that is available to you if you just pray.
Over the weeks, as I have thought about prayer and the hindrances that we have in our lives in regards to doing it more often, I am guessing that the biggest issue we have is time. Satan has convinced us that we are too busy for God. Perhaps many of you are saying, “You don’t understand how busy my mornings are, or how many activities my kids are in.”
Listen to what Martin Luther says about prayer, “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” All of the “excuses” that run through your mind as to why you don’t pray are in actuality the reasons that you should pray. Being busy is reason to pray. So I encourage you to do so, God will not disappoint. He is better than everything on your list of things to do. So with that said, let us read our text, pray and study God's Word.
Today I am going to break the sermon down to three points.
The Greek word for debt in verse 12 is, “opheilēma.” It literally means, that which is owed. So this begs the question, what do we owe to God? There is only one answer to this question. Everything. We owe God everything.
I do not believe that it is an accident that this prayer comes directly after, “Give us this day our daily bread.” As I stated last week, when we pray give us bread, we are saying that God is the giver of bread, and the reality is that God does not only give bread but his is the Sovereign Creator and Sustainer of all things. A verse we looked at last week is Romans 11:36.
Imagine this…you are in need of a car and you come upon a Lamborghini Veneno Roadster. It happens to be the most expensive car on the planet. The price is $4.5 million. Next to this car is a sign that says “Rent by the mile.” You tell they guy you want to rent it, he takes down your information and away you go. You get in this car and you never look back and you have the time of your life. You drive this car everywhere and you are living large. Then one day, completely unexpected, you get a knock on your door, and who is it? A man wearing a black hoodie with a name tag that says “Debt Collector.” He reminds you that the car is not yours and that you entered a rental agreement and you have driven it approximately 78,000 miles sense receiving the keys, and the cost per mile is $100, therefore you owe the owner of the car $7.8 million.
This illustration pales in comparison to the debt we owe God. The price of a human soul is worth way more than $4.5 million. And the Debt Collector comes with a lot more authority and more force behind his demand that any debt collector on Earth. Our debt collector is the Lord, God Almighty, and our debt is failure to honor God, failure to glorify God, failure to hallow his name.
And because our God is an Awesome God, our debt is an awesome debt. It is a debt that no one in this room will ever be able to pay. I don't care what you do, you can never pay your debt you owe to God. There is no such thing as penance.
A penance to pay back your debt to God is like paying off a $7.8 billion dollar debt with pocket lent. It is ludicrous, but this is exactly what some people are attempting to do when they think they can say twenty “Our Fathers”and all the sudden we are square with our Maker. Anyone who teaches you to say the Lord’s Prayer for penance to pay your debt before God is leading you straight into the flames of Hell.
For the only way for us to wipe our records clean is to stand bankrupt before God and plead for His merciful forgiveness, and his merciful forgiveness only comes through Jesus Christ alone. Which leads me to my second point today.
Forgiveness is through Christ Alone
This is what blows my mind about the Lord’s Prayer, it is Jesus who teaches his disciples how to pray to the Father, and it is Jesus himself that holds it all together through his life, death and resurrection.
When we stand before our God and plead for forgiveness, we are spiritually bankrupt. We don't have a penny to our name. We bring nothing to the table, yet our debt still exists. Someone has to pay it. That someone is Jesus Christ. The only thing that can pay for our awesome debt is the precious blood of Jesus Christ. I cannot express this enough, for eternal torment and eternal joy hang in the balance. When we pray, “forgive us our debts” we are not only kneeling before the throne of God, but we are kneeling before the cross of Christ, where all of our debts have been paid in full by the most treasured commodity on the planet, the infinitely valuable blood of Jesus Christ.
Forgiveness through Christ, Produces Forgiveness From Christ.
As I stated earlier, the Greek word for debt is “opheilēma.” The verb form of opheilēma is opheilō, and it is frequently used throughout scripture. The next place it is used in Scripture when starting from Matthew 6 is in Matthew 18. So turn with me now to Matthew 18:23-35.
First, there is a substantial debt owed to the King. Second, the King freely offers forgiveness. Third, the servant does not forgive others. Fourth, the King does not forgive, but puts him in prison.
In regards to the servant where would you point to the breakdown? The breakdown occurs between the offering of forgiveness and the failure to forgive others. So what is the servant's problem? The answer is found in verse 35.
When we are forgiven for our sins, it is because of Jesus Christ. When we receive this gift of forgiveness it is not only that the board is wiped clean. When we believe in Jesus Christ the Spirit of God comes and dwells inside of you. This Spirit of God is a forgiving Spirit, it is a Grace oriented Spirit. When it comes and takes up residence in your heart it bears the fruit of forgiveness in your life. When you accept the forgiveness that comes to you through faith in Christ, you will also forgive as your Father forgives.
If you do not forgive, it is evidence that the Spirit of a forgiving Father does not dwell in you. And if the Spirit of God does not dwell in you, than you are not forgiven, and you must pay every last penny of your spiritual debt, which you can never do. This is why Hell is eternal.
And this is why this prayer is a dangerous prayer. For if you have not forgiven someone, you are in effect praying that God would not forgive you. You are praying for God's wrath to be poured out on your soul until every last penny is paid. Praying these words vainly is very dangerous.
They way to avoid praying for a curse is to first seek the Kingdom of God and plead for forgiveness through Jesus Christ. It is to place your faith in the single sacrifice of Jesus. You must lay down your works based salvation, lay down your penance and your sacraments, and legalism, and stand before God and say, nothing to the throne I bring, simply to the cross I cling. And let Jesus' blood cleanse you from all your sins and make you as white as snow.