Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on May 17, 2015.
Open your Bibles to Philippians 4:4-7. This is the second Sunday that we are in this text due to its immense relevance and truth to our lives. As always, there is a lot of ground to cover, so lets get right to it and read our text, pray, and allow God to speak to us in our need.
Last week we talked exclusively about joy. Verse 4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” We saw that we are designed for joy. Our hearts and souls crave joy. Every decision you make in life is filtered through the question, will this make me happy?
Unfortunately, humanity, because of sin, pursues joy in the wrong place. We look for joy in things of this world, instead of the One who created the world. God designed us to find joy only in Him. As we said last week, the chief end of man is to glorify god and enjoy him forever. This confession is supported by passages like Psalm 16:11.
Good and Bad Concern
The Greek word for anxious is merimnaó. This word can be used positively or negatively. Early in this letter Paul used it in a positive way when he was speaking about Timothy in Philippians 2:20, “For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned (merimnaó) for your welfare.” Obviously when Paul uses the word merimnao, he is speaking of good qualities of Timothy.
However, in out text for today, Paul is talking about the negative form of merimnaó . Which means to be worried, distracted, “to go to pieces.”
I believe this distinction is important for us to understand. We need to recognize that there is a God glorifying concern. It is a concern that drives us to love people. It is a concern that Timothy and Paul had for the people of Philippi. It is the same concern I have for each of you, and my wife, and my children; specifically my concern “for your progress and joy in the faith.” The reason I think this is important is because I believe too many people take “Don’t worry about it” too far; the “let go and let God” philosophy of discipleship can lead to apathy and isolation within the body of Christ. So as we talk about anxiety, understand we are not talking about the Godly concern, compassion, and love that we are called to have for other people.
Do Not Be Anxious
What Paul is talking about in our text is the bad anxiety. In fact let’s start the same place that we started last week with the recognition that this is a command, “Do not be anxious.” This means that being anxious is against the will of God. It is a sin to be anxious.
So once again, like last week, let’s ask the question, do you think of anxiety this way? When you are worried about money, relationships, health, your job, tornadoes, persecution, etc. do you recognize that God is not pleased by your anxiety? Do you recognize that Jesus died to pay for you sins, one being your anxiety? Let’s look at some other passages that supports this command not to be anxious.
Here is a quote from John MacArthur, “Worry is the sin of distrusting the promise and providence of God, and yet it is a sin that Christians commit perhaps more frequently than any other.”
And today we see the command of God telling us to not be anxious about anything. This means don’t be anxious about your job, your finances, your health, your children, your retirement, your life. We are a nation of worriers. We live in the most affluent place and the most affluent time in all of history. We are the cream of the historical crop, yet we walk around afraid of our shadow. I have never once lived in a house that didn’t have food in the cupboards. I have never once gone to a closet that had empty hangers. I have never once gone without medicine for myself or my family. I have never once gone to bed worried about neighborhood bombings, or someone kicking down my door to take me hostage. And I am guessing that very few of you have either, however we run around like the sky is falling.
You of Little Faith
Why? Because we lack faith in an all-powerful, all knowing, all present, all loving, Sovereign God of this Universe. We have taken the God Who Is, and shrunk him down to the God we want him to be, and because of that, our lives are a wreck. We don’t believe that God is in control. We don’t believe that he has the power to change hearts, move mountains, heal disease, provide bread, or calm the storms. We don’t believe the God of the Bible.
We forget that Jesus himself says in Matthew 10:29, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.” If God is control of the falling of a sparrow, he is control of your life. Trust him.
We forget what it says in Ephesians 1:11, “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,” All things include your current circumstances. Trust him.
We forget the promise of Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Whether you recognize it or not, if you love God your struggles, no matter what they are, are being used by God for your good. If you do not love God, then this promise is not for you, because all things will actually work towards bad, namely your destruction in Hell.
How crucial are these text! We desperately need to remember these words when our marriages are hanging by a thread, when we lose our job, when we get the call from the doctor, when our lives are falling to pieces. So how do we do it?
We Pray with Gratitude
Verse 6, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” The answer to your anxiety is to pray with thanksgiving.
This is important, the text doesn't just say pray, but pray with thanksgiving. This is crucial. And I am guessing that very few of you implement this. My guess is that you are really good at praying and making your requests known to God, but rarely is your heart full of gratitude. Most likely you are so focused on your problems, the last thing on your mind is to be thankful, but this is exactly what you must do.
So how might this look? Lets say I go to the doctor and they tell me I have cancer. That night I am laying in my bed and can't sleep because I have a thousands thoughts running through my mind. My wife, my kids, this church, the chemo, the finances, the uncertainty, etc. Then I start to pray:
“Father, I am a wreck. I don't know what I am going to do. Thank you for being with me in this time of difficulty, and thank you for hearing my cry. Father, I am worried about my wife and kids. They are so precious to me. Thank you Lord for blessing me with me. Thank you for putting them in my life. If something happens to me, please be with them. Father, I am not sure how this is going to work with Cornerstone. I don't know if I will be able to keep up the pace. You are doing so much good in those people's heart, and they are so on fire for you. I praise you and thank you for all you have done. Will you keep doing it? Father, I am scared about dying. I am scared of the pain and the uncertainty surrounding it. Father, thank you for the life that you have given me. Thank you for all the days that you have blessed me with. Thank you for creating me and sustaining me up until this point. Father, if you do decide that I should die. I thank you for your Son, Jesus Christ. Thank you for sending him to die on the cross for my sins, thank you for pouring out your wrath upon him, so that I could be forgiven and have eternal life in your presence. Thank you that death is not the end, but the beginning. Thank you for the glory that awaits me in your presence. Thank you for loving me and never forsaking me.”
When I pray that way, what do you think is running though my mind at the end of that prayer? More of God's Sovereignty and less of my anxiety. When I put my worries up against His blessings, His goodness vastly overshadows my problems. When I pray with God-centeredness, my perspective on my situation changes. I quickly realize that God has always been in control and will always be in control.
This is what I love about this text, it is so practical. When we implement this strategy of praying with thanksgiving, our prayers are being answered just by the formula of our prayer, and the pinnacle of the formula is gratitude for Jesus Christ. There is no greater blessing in our life the the gift of God's Son. No matter what you have going on in your life, if you pray to God with thanksgiving in your heart for the gift of Jesus Christ then the peace of God will descend upon your mind and your heart. Why?
I have no doubt that this is was how Paul lived his life. Remember, when Paul wrote this letter, he was not skipping through the tulips, he was walking thought the valley of the shadow of death, chained to a Roman guard. He had way more “problems” then most of you will ever experience, and it was the Soverign Love of God that sustained him in the hardest of times. I have no doubt that this is how all the apostles lived, for they had to. Our lives are pleasure cruises compared to theirs. Listen to what Peter says.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on November 30, 2014
Today we come to the end of a two month sermon series on the Doctrines of Grace. To end our series I want to review the doctrines, briefly, and then I want to talk more about why understanding these doctrines matter in your day to day Christian walk.
So in review, the Doctrine of Grace are primarily about God's sovereignty in our salvation. Meaning that from beginning to end, it is God who saves. God gets all of credit for for our salvation, and therefore God gets all the glory.
The acronym for the Doctrines of Grace spells TULIP. Let us quickly go over each doctrine. First there is Total Depravity. This doctrine summarizes the Bible's teaching that man is a sinner. That our hearts our desperately sick, that nothing good dwells in us, that every intention of our heart is only evil continually, that all our “righteous deeds” are like filthy rags, that we are wretched; therefore we have no ability in ourselves to save ourselves or come to Christ. Jesus said it very clearly in John 6:44 that , “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”
Which leads to the next doctrine we talked about, Irresistible Grace. Irresistible Grace is the drawing of a wretched sinner to Jesus by God. It is the shining of the light of Christ into a sinners heart by God. It is the Holy Spirit blowing into our life, birthing us into spiritual life. It is God circumcising your heart. It is God taking out the heart of stone and giving us a heart of flesh. It is God giving us eyes to see and ears to here. It is God opening our hearts to pay attention to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Without the God's overcoming our resistance to Him by his irresistible grace, we are without Hope to repent and place our faith in Jesus Christ.
This begs the question, how does God decided whose life he will pour out His irresistible grace? He does this by His Unconditional Election. This is the “U” in TULIP. Unconditional Election is the understanding that God, before time began, chose whom would be adopted into his family to be holy and blameless before Him. That God chose whom would receive His grace. This decision is a sovereign decision, meaning that God makes this decision with no outside influence. He is the only truly free decision maker in the Universe. God has mercy on whom he has mercy. This is not based on what we do, it is based on God's free, sovereign will.
Next we examined Limited Atonement. This is the Biblical doctrine that Jesus was sent to rescue the elect, the ones chosen by God. This teaches that Jesus actually saved a specific people. That his death was a particular death, with a personal application. Jesus did not die for an opportunity to be saved, but that actually saved people. Limited atonement is the teaching that Jesus came to die for his sheep and that there is no greater love that to lay down your life for a friend.
Lastly, we looked at the overwhelming passages that point to the wonderful truth that when God begins his work in you, He will complete it to the end. This is the doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints, otherwise known as eternal security. This teaches that when you are adopted into God's family, He doesn't later kick you out. He doesn't give you eternal life and then say, just kidding. He doesn't open your eyes, to close them again. He doesn't love you, then send you to Hell. Perseverance of the Saints is the reality of the forever love of God.
These are the Doctrines of Grace. The question we will now address today is, why does it matter? I would argue that it matters immensely. As I stated before, other than my conversion, there has been no greater revelation in my life than the Sovereignty of God.
In this sermon series I have already spoken of two reasons as to why the Doctrines of Grace matter. First, God receives all the glory in our salvation. When we accept the truth of the Doctrines of Grace in our lives we are left with only one response, to praise God for His glorious grace. The second result we examined last week is that the Sovereignty of God is the catalyst to the Great Commission. Like Christ who was sent to rescue His Bride with victory guaranteed, we as his brothers and sisters, take the baton and go to all nations to bring in the sheep that are scattered abroad, knowing that the Gospel is the power of God for salvation and Jesus' sheep will hear his voice.
Today, I want to continue to discuss why embracing the Doctrines of Grace matter. These doctrines are not academic. They are doctrines you should build your life upon. Today, I have ten reasons why I believe that we should care about these doctrines.
We must remember that God's Word is His revelation to man. Jesus tells us in Matthew 4:4 that it is God's Word that is bread to our souls. Jesus then tells us that in John 17 that it is God's Word that sanctifies us. Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 3 that God's word is what equips us and makes us competent for all good works. The Doctrine of Grace is are doctrines of God's Word. The doctrines are not academic, they are much needed rations for this spiritual battle we find ourselves in and we must allow them to have their full effect upon our hearts and minds.
“I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith, without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel, unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation after having once believed in Jesus. Such a gospel I abhor.”
I did a lot of driving this weekend and we had a cd with Chris Tomlin's new song Waterfall on it. Perhaps you don't know this but Tomlin is a Calvinist, but in this song he says, your love is like a waterfall. And I was dwelling upon this phrase in connection to my sermon today and I thought, yes this is true, if you see the waterfall like Niagra Falls and not the the Cascades of the Maquoketa. It is the overwhelming and powerful love that pummels us and causes us to respond with reciprical and radical love for God and radical love for others.
I recall one man who told me that he hated the weekends because he was always worried that he would lose his salvation. Whether it be thinking the wrong thought, watching the wrong movie, saying the wrong word, you name it. He never had peace in his heart. Does this seem like freedom? No it sounds like a prison.
And it is from this lowly state that God can begin to use us for His purposes. It is this posture of humility that gives us the ability to wash each other's feet, put other's interest before ours, take the log out of our eye, and acts as a guard against our sinful desire to lord over our brothers and sisters in Christ.
All Christians pray like a Calvinist. Every single one of you. If you wanted to be consistent with your claimed theology of free will, then you would not pray for peace and comfort and revivals and conversions, because free will claims that God has no control over those things. But something deep inside us knows that this is not true. The Holy Spirit groans inside of us to pray for hearts to break for Jesus, and this is a prayer that we need to pray more often.
As we stated earlier, I want us to be praying about the month of December. I want each of us to pray like a Calvinist. Pray that God would open the eyes of your neighbors. Pray that God would draw them to Jesus. Pray that God would cultivate their hearts and make them good soil to receive the Gospel. And pray like you believe He can do it.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on August 17, 2014
Today marks our third and final week on the topic of money. My goal from this short sermon series was to put money in its proper place and God in His. As I stated last week, I believe that we in America have reversed their respective roles. We have used God to serve our love for money instead of using money to serve our love for God. If the self-proclaimed Christians would recognize that money is a gift from God to be used for the glory God, we would start to move some major mountains in this fallen world; even us, tiny little Cornerstone. If you don’t believe me, listen to this text regarding the poor and afflicted Churches in Macedonia.
In light of this goal, today we are going to explore one of the major obstacles that prevents us from giving, fear. Because of the uncertainty of what tomorrow may bring we cling to every last cent that we have. However, today I am not going to limit myself to talking about anxiety as it relates to money only, but anxiety in general. So lets is read our text, pray and turn our eyes to God's Word.
This week there has been a flurry of tweets, posts, blogs and articles written about the death of Robin Williams, with everyone grasping for straws seeking answers and solutions. Many of these people never once thought about what God says about the topic. I don’t believe it is an accident that today we here at Cornerstone arrive at a text that provides the solution. However, before we get there, I want to us to understand something about Jesus.
In verse 34 Jesus says, “Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” This understanding of trouble is not a distant understanding. Jesus is acutely aware of the difficulties of life. He knows what it is like to be hungry. He knows what it is like to have enemies. He knows what it is like to have burdens. Why? Because we have a God who came down from his throne and dwelt among us. Listen to Hebrews 4:15-16.
First let us talk about God's will as it relates to anxiety. In our text we see Jesus say three times “do not be anxious”, verse 25, 31, and 34. This word anxious in Greek is merimnaō. It means to be troubled, worried, concerned, to overly dwell upon something. I think we can all agree that all of us have been troubled, worried, or overly concerned about something in our lives. Perhaps as I speak right now you are only half listening because something is weighing heavily on your mind. Perhaps you didn’t sleep very well last night because you were worried about your finances, work, kids, your marriage, school, politics, the economy, insurance, your health, the middle east, etc. The list can go on and on. The bottom line is that we are worriers, and therefore this scripture is extremely relevant to our lives.
In our text Jesus makes it abundantly clear that God’s will for your life is for you not to worry. His desire for you is that you not be anxious about any of those things I just listed. He does not want you to lose sleep over money problems, food problems, and relationship problems. God wants you be free from the slavery of anxiety.
I think this understanding is extremely important for Christians. So many times, Satan convinces us that God doesn’t care about our day to day activities, baloney. God cares. He cares about the nervousness we feel as we drive down the interstate. He cares about the cold sweat we experience when we are interviewing for a job. He cares about the sickness in our gut when we are waiting for the phone call from the doctor. God cares. We need to know and be reminded that the Sovereign God of the Universe is 100% for you. He wants his children to be cured of this condition of anxiety, and this text is proof. So first of all we need to hear loud and clear that God’s will for your life is that you an anxiety free.
Let us now turn to the problem. Why do we feel anxious? Why do we work ourselves up into a frenzy, or become so overwhelmed about things that we can barely get out of bed? The answer is in our text.
No the source of our anxiety is not a world problem, it is a heart problem. We worry because we have “little faith.” Our lack of faith produces the anxiety, the worry, the concern. Our problem is a trust issue. Now when we hear faith, we should never let that word be an end in itself. For faith must have an object. Faith in what? Jesus is referring to faith in God. Now this is important, because many people when they say have faith, they are not saying have faith in God, they are instead saying have faith that everything will work out. This is the health and wealth movement of Joel Olsteen. God never promises a change to your troubles. But he does talk about a changed heart. They are talking about outcomes, not God.
We need to be clear hear, that Jesus is not talking about outcomes, he is talking about God. Our problem is that we do not have faith in the Sovereign God of the Universe. Turn with me to Mark 4:35-41.
This truth is important for us to know. Jesus, who is the Author of Life, has diagnosed our illness as a lack of faith in God. Now that we know the problem, we can figure out the solution. Now we can move forward. Therefore the next time you find yourself being anxious we can pinpoint that the cause is not the situation, but our little faith in God.
So if our little faith is the problem, what is the solution? This is what I love about the Bible, Jesus gives us practical advice that can easily implement in our life. Today we will very quickly touch on five ways to overcome anxiety. The first one is common sense, but important.
1. Worrying doesn't help.
Verse 27, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” No matter how long you stay up at night and trouble your spirit about your finances, it don't add a second to your earthly existence. God tells us that our days our numbered, and worrying doesn't change that number. You will die when you die. This is so important, we spend so much time worrying as if our worrying has power. It doesn't, so stop. Worrying is one of the most worthless things you can do.
2. God values you.
Verse 26, “Are you not of more value than they?” What an amazing verse. The God of the Universe who needs nothing, finds value in you. You are not some random collection of accidental cells floating through space. You are not a nobody, you are a somebody. God looks down from His Almighty throne and he cares for you. In fact he cares so much for you He sent his Son to die for you. Listen to this verse.
3. Life is more than food and clothing.
Verse 24, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”
Why did God create you? It is not to look good. It is not to have a fridge full of processed food. God created you to glorify him. This is why we wake up in the morning. This is why we have jobs. This is why we have families. Everything we do is to glorify you. When we have this mindset, lacking things that are secondary to life start to take on a proper place. No longer do we lose sleep over our budget, for life is not about budgets, it is about God's glory.
4. God knows you and knows your need.
Verse 32, “For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.”
All of us have made God too small and too distant. We fail to recognize that God is sovereign over all creation. This is a God who is so awesome, that he feeds the birds, and clothes the lilies. He is in complete control over everything. Nothing happens in this life without him doing it. This is what Jesus is proclaiming. This is what Jesus was rebuking the disciples about in the boat. They didn't get that the storm is not outside God's plan, God orchestrated it.
This is also true for your life. God is intimately aware and in control of everything in your life, whether large or small. He is present in your life, and nothing happens to you without his permission. This means that if you lose your job tomorrow, this is not a surprise to God. This means if you get cancer tomorrow, there is a God ordained reason for it.
The truth of God's utter and all powerful control holds so much comfort in times of trouble. When we accept that God is in utter control of all things, we can stop worrying and start worshiping. We can turn to Him and say, I don't get it, but I trust you. And instead of tossing and turning when the storms are raging, we can sleep, just like Jesus did in the back of the boat.
All of these solutions, serve one purpose, to increase our faith in God. We must battle our anxiety with faith in God. The bottom line is that we need to understand that we are not God, but there is a God who holds the Universe in His hands and he knows you and loves you.