Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on March 29, 2015.
Open your Bibles to Philippians 3:1-11. Today will be our second week in this text. In all honesty we could spend months examining these words of God found in Philippians, for there is so much truth packed into these verses. With that said, let us jump right in this morning.
As we discussed last week, Paul’s purpose in writing this section of the letter to the Philippians was to warn them about the dogs. Verse 2, “look out for the dogs.” We saw that these dogs were people who were known as judiazers. Judiazers were religious people who claimed to love Jesus, but they also claimed that in order to be saved, you had to be circumcised, or maintain the Jewish dietary laws, to continue to celebrate the Jewish festivals. Judiazers believed that Jesus’s perfect life, and perfect sacrifice, was not perfect enough. They believed Jesus didn’t really save anyone, but just got people close to being saved, and it was up to us to walk across the goal-line into Heaven. Judiazers believed that Jesus plus works equaled salvation.
Paul does not call these people Christians. He is not being inclusive. He is not being tolerant. He is creating a clear and important divide between those who trust in God’s grace, and who trust in their own ability. He calls these people dogs, evildoers, and mutilators of the flesh. Paul then goes on to say that true, real, born again authentic Christians put no confidence in the flesh. None. Zero.
So as to make this point abundantly clear, Paul lists his resume, and his resume is impressive: “circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.” And what does he say about his resume? Verse 8, “rubbish.”
Paul says that everything he has ever done in his life is garbage. This word rubbish in the Greek is skubalon (skü'-bä-lon). This word skubalon is not a soft word. For it was the word for something that is worthless, detestable, refuse, and the excrement of animals. In fact, the King James Version of the Bible translates this word to dung. Paul uses this hard and graphic word, skubalon to convey his utter abhorrence of the false teaching that you have to add to the Grace of God in Christ.
Paul views all of his religion as rubish and he counts it as loss, and in fact he says that he counts everything as loss. This seems somewhat radical, does it not, to count everything in life as loss. Is this really what Jesus desires? Absolutely, for Jesus says the same words as Paul does in Luke 14:33.
So how does God do it? How does he give us the capacity to lay everything down to gain Jesus? Last week we started to unpack this and we saw that it begins with God. God must begin the work in you. He does this by His Spirit. The Spirit of God blows into your heart like a mighty rushing wind and births you into spiritual existence. The example we looked at last week in regards to this was Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit rushed upon 3,000 people and circumcised their hearts and made them true worshipers, who worship in the Spirit.
Worth of Christ Jesus
However, is that it? Is becoming a Christian just about the Holy Spirit coming into your heart? What about Jesus? How does he fit into the conversion of a sinner? Doesn't he play a role? Absolutely. Lets look at verse 8.
So what did he do? He gives up everything so that he could grab hold of the treasure. He sells everything he has to purchase this jewel. And does he do it begrudgingly? No. He does it with joy. He is exploding with excitement about this treasure. There is no hesitation, he is all in immediately. Why? Why is he so full of joy in the giving up of all that he has accumulated in his life? Because he is exchanging all that he has for something exceedingly better. His sacrifice is no sacrifice because he sees the surpassing worth of the treasure.
Let me ask you a question. Is the man's behavior irrational? Why not? Because this the basic economics of man, is it not? This mode of behavior is what humanity has engrained in them. If you have $1 in your hands and you have a choice to exchange it for $100 do you do it? Of course you do. Why? Because we are designed to pursue what we believe to be the greatest value. This is the will that we have implanted in our hearts. Our will is to pursue what we see as having the greatest value to us. We are slaves to this will. It is not a freedom of will, it is a will that is bent towards certain things. For some your will is bent towards money, for some your will is bent towards sex, for some your will is bent towards security, for some your will is bent towards stuff, for some your will is bent towards sports, etc. You choose those things at the cost of other things because you see greater value in them.
So with this said, what is the treasure. What is this fine pearl of great value? It is Jesus Christ our Lord. When this man's eyes gazed upon the beauty and worth of Jesus Christ, there was nothing left to do but renounce all that he had and grab hold of Jesus.
And this is exactly what Paul is talking about in Philippians 3:8 when he says, “ I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.“ Paul was the man in the field. He was the merchant seeking pearls. He was on the road to Damascus and his eyes were opened to the reality of the worth of Jesus. At that moment the pearls that Paul that were pearls were in fact rubbish in comparison to whom stood before him, the Son of the Living God.
This is exactly what happens at the point of conversion, at the point of becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is being proclaimed in a sinners life and it is hidden fro their eyes. They do not see the value of Christ. Instead they believe that the pearls of this worlds are far better. They are blind, they do not have eyes to see. But then the Holy Spirit rushes upon them and gives them eyes to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ and they let go of everything to have Christ. Why? Because it is the only logical decision.
At that moment their will is going to pursue that which it believes to be the highest value, and because they now have eyes to see Jesus Christ and his surpassing worth, they choose Christ. He is for the first time in their life irresistible, and it was God who made the decisive move to give the sinner eyes to see His Son.
We See Dimly
The question we now have is this, if we as Christians have seen the beauty of Jesus Christ and have let go of all things so as to grab hold of Christ, is this passage relevant to us? I would say yes. The reason for this is that we are told in 1 Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”
It is true that if you are a follower of Jesus Christ we know the worth of Christ, but we only know his worth in part. Yes, we have eyes to see, but we see dimly. We do not see as clearly as we can. We have not seen the depth of the riches of Jesus Christ. This is why Paul prays in Ephesians 1:17, “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him”
And if you don't believe me, just look at your life. How many times do you cling to the rubbish of this world, when you should be clinging to Christ? How many times to you run to the fridge instead of running to Jesus? How many times do you pursue the books of your business over the book about Christ? How many times to you stare in the mirror vainly attempting to make yourself beautiful instead of staring into the most beautiful face ever to exist, the face of your King?
Why do we do this? Because we don't understand the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ. We don't understand that Jesus is better than everything. He is better than anything that this world has to offer. He is better than life itself.
The more we see this, the more we will let go. The more we will realize that what we thought were fine pearls are just worthless rocks weighing us down, and it won't be hard, we will drop these rocks with joy in our heart, for we know that Christ is far better.
Pursuing and Treasuring Jesus Christ
This leads us to application. First, let me talk to those of you who are unbelievers, for I know that there are some of you among us.
Your heart longs for treasure. You are designed to pursue what you believe is of greatest value. I can say this with full confidence, your journey to this point has left you unsatisfied. You have pursued the things of this world, and they have left you empty. Perhaps it is time that you stop looking in the world, and start looking at the one who overcame the World. Turn your eyes upon Jesus and see his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Now to those of us who have grabbed hold of Christ because he has grabbed hold of us. Your work is not done. We must work out our salvation and pursue the knowledge of Jesus Christ. We must pursue the glory of Jesus.
How do we do this? Two ways, the Word of God and the Spirit of God. I realize that I am a broken record when it comes to this, but truth is truth. The way be which we see the surpassing worth of Jesus Christ is to read the book about Him. We must gaze upon these pages, and in doing so we will gaze upon Christ. Jesus is on every page, from beginning to end. You will see him as God and as man. You will see him as Prophet, Priest and King. You will see him as Lion and Lamb. You will see him as Savior, Lord, and brother. You will see him weep. You will see him work. You will see his zeal. You will see his compassion. You will see his light. You will see his love. A love that he has for you, and has always, and will always have for you.
And while we read, we dare not do it alone. We must be guided into all truth by the power of the Holy Spirit. His is our counselor, and we must let him counsel our souls. We must pray as we read that God would give us eyes to see the glory of His Son. If we read this book absent the Holy Spirit then we are no better than the Pharisees. It is the Spirit of God that illumines our hearts. It is the Spirit of God who writes the Word, capital “W”, upon our hearts.
If we do this; if we pursue the glory of Jesus Christ by soaking in the Word by the power of the Spirit we will see the surpassing worth of Jesus. It is inevitable. And when we see the surpassing worth of Jesus more and more, we will, with joy, lay down more and more of our lives for his sake. Why? Because Jesus is better than everything.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on February 22, 2015
Turn with me to Philippians 2:12-13. Today we will be looking at only two verses, and it will take as all of 45 minutes to do it. So we are going to get right to work this morning.
So with that said, if you run into an apparent paradox in the Bible do not reject it. Instead, recognize that the Bible is not the problem. You are, and ask the Holy Spirit to help you mine the depths of God’s truth. When you do this, you will most likely find that the deeper you dig, the greater the treasure you will find.
So let us start with the paradox. In verse 12 we see Paul telling the Church in Philippi to “work out your own salvation.” This is a command. Paul is telling them to work, to do something. He places the obligation, the responsibility on the people. Then in verse 13, in the same sentence, Paul says, “it is God who works in you.” Paul is saying that God does the work.
Is Paul schizophrenic? He starts his sentence with us doing the work, and ends the sentence with God doing the work. Which is it? Is it us, or is it God? At first glance, we believe that these positions are mutually exclusive. We believe that they cannot both be true. It has to be one or the other, but not both.
Why? Because when we read the Bible we wrongly superimpose our finite, our limited knowledge over the Bible. We wrongly have a tendency to Lord over God’s word. We wrongly approach the Bible as if we are god, and we therefore then attempt to shape God’s word to match our view of reality. This is not the way you read the Bible. We should not twist the Bible to match our metanarrative, the Bible that should shape us to match God’s redemptive narrative. For it is the Bible that is the revelation of true reality. We must humble ourselves beneath the Word of God and allow it to refine us. We must be willing to accept difficult truths, even if we don’t understand it initially.
So today I encourage you, to start from that position, as position of humility as we attempt to mine the depths of the reality that we work out our salvation, and God works out our salvation.
Next, lets us talk about the foundation of this text. We are focusing on only two verses, and there is a risk that when you do this, you read it with blinders on. We must recognize that these verses are not on an island. They are a part of a letter. They are part of a flow of thought. Verses 12 and 13 have a foundation under them, so let us spend some time looking at that foundation. The foundation begins in Philippians 1:3.
At that moment, Lydia is saved. Salvation has come into her heart. She is eternally secure in the arms of Jesus. On the cross, Jesus paid for all her sin; past, present, and future, and she has been given the righteousness of Christ. This is the great substitution. Christ takes our sin, and we take his righteousness. This is why Paul says in Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” For those who are in Christ, the gift of salvation is received at the moment of faith. This is why Paul can confidently say in Philippians 1:6, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
It is a guarantee that all who are in Christ will be brought to completion. We will all reach the end. We will endure. We will persevere. If you don’t persevere, that means that you were never in Christ. That God never began a work in you, but you were just fooling yourself.
However, for a true follower of Jesus, in between the beginning and the end is the Christian walk. And this is what Paul starts to discuss in Philippians 1:27.
And it is this foundation that Paul lays out before he says in verse 12, where he says, “work out your own salvation.” Why is this important? Because Satan would love for you to read verse 12 as saying, “work for your salvation.” Satan would love for you to think that your salvation is dependent upon what you do, as if salvation is something to be earned. But we all know that salvation is a gift of God’s Amazing Grace, not a wage.
So what does verse 12 say? It says we are to “work out your salvation” not “work for your salvation.” To work out your salvation means that you already have salvation. God, at the moment of conversion has taken out your heart of stone and given you a heart of flesh. At the moment of conversion God has birthed you into spiritual existence. At the moment of conversion God has made you a new creation. At the moment of conversion God has adopted you into his family. And this is who you are at your core. However, this does not mean that immediately upon conversion that you will perfectly, without sin, outwardly display this inward reality.
In between justification and glorification, there is sanctification. Meaning, that in between you being declared not guilty through Christ and being perfectly like Christ in Heaven, there is a life of transformation that occurs. We call this transformation sanctification, and this is the Christian walk. This Christian walk has two sides to the coin, your role and God's role.
Work Out Your Salvation
Let us begin by talking about our role. This text makes many grace based Christians flinch. They see work and think there must be a typo, but rest assured it is not. This word work is an active word, not a passive. Paul is telling us that we play a substantial part in becoming who we already are. Becoming like Christ in obedience is not something that just happens, but something that we make happen. And this is not the only place we see text like this in the Bible. In fact later in this letter Paul says this:
And why does God come and reside in us? What is His reason? What is His purpose? What does verse 13 say? He lives in us “to will and to work for his good pleasure.” This is amazing. God is in your heart making you will and work. Are you tracking? God is changing your desires. He is changing your delights. He is changing your loves. He is changing you from the inside out.
So how does this look practically? It looks like Bryan and Amy Speed waking up at 4:00 a.m. every morning to read the Bible and pray. It looks like James donating over a $1000 so others can go on a mission trip. It looks like Freddie willing to travel to the other side of the planet and risk his safety so to encourage his brothers and sisters in Christ. It looks like 30 people cramming the front of our Church on Wednesday night equipping themselves to make disciples. It looks like Paul sitting chained to a Romans guard and preaching Jesus Christ to the entire imperial guard.
All of these actions are evidences of the salvation that we have already received. When Christ truly comes and takes up residence in your heart he changes you. You want to pray, you want to read the Bible, you want to share the Gospel, you want to go on mission trips, you want to wash each others feet, you want to cut off your right hand if it causes you to sin. You want to strive, press on, strain, work out, and fight the fight of faith to be like our King. Our King who obeyed to the point of death on a cross.
Over the years I have heard people say, slow down, don't take on too much, you are going to burn out. I have even had people tell me that they believe I am trying to earn my way to Heaven. When I hear those things I want to say, get behind me Satan. Because what I see in the Bible is verse like 1 Corinthians 15:10.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on January 4, 2015
Today we begin our journey together through my favorite book in the Bible, Philippians. Before we get started, I want to encourage all of you to resist the tendency to be passive in this journey. I want you to be actively engaged in the soaking of this book. Don’t just sit and kind of listen to me preach for 45 minutes. Bring your Bibles to church, read along with me, use your pen to make notes, memorize some of the passages, figure out ways to be doers of this Word not just hearers. Make a list of action items. Live out the Word of God. You will not regret it. With that said, lets jump in we have a lot of ground to cover. Turn with me to Philippians 1:1-11.
The book of Philippians is known as the letter of joy. In this short, four chapter book the noun joy, “chara” is used five times and the verb rejoice, “charein,” is used nine times. Only the book of Luke uses “charein” more than Philippians. What is interesting about this is that this letter of joy is written by the Apostle Paul while he was in prison, most likely in Rome. And not only was he in prison, but his life laid in the balance. His release was not guaranteed. Paul was staring death right in the face. Everything about Paul's life in that moment screamed pity party, not joy, yet what do we find Paul doing while chained to a Roman guard, rejoicing.
And it should be noted that this joyful disposition was not unique for Paul. This was not an anomaly. Paul's life was one of joy, day in and day out. This was despite his trials and tribulations. Paul had joy in the midst of imprisonments, beatings, lashings, stonings, being shipwrecked, adrift at sea, constant dangers, sleepless nights, hunger and thirst, cold and exposure to the elements. Perhaps no one said it better than Paul himself, he is “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.” His joy was not dependent upon his circumstances. His disposition was not a prisoner to happenstance.
So what was the source of his joy? His relationship with Jesus Christ. No matter what took place in Paul's life, it could never separate him from the love of God found in Jesus Christ. The love of Christ was better than wealth, food, comfort, freedom, and life itself. Jesus was the greatest treasure of his life and everything was garbage compared to knowing Him. As we walk through this book I want you to keep this in mind, that despite Paul's circumstances he always had joy. Why? Because he had Jesus.
My guess is that many of you in this room are struggling. The circumstances in your life have become a weight that you are about to break under. Perhaps it is your job, your finances, your marriage, your singleness, your health, or just the monotony of life. Whatever it is your heart craves joy and you have searched the world for something to satisfy its hunger, yet time and time again you come up empty. Why? Because the joy of your heart is not found in this world, it is found in something out of this world. You need to stop focusing on your circumstances and start focusing on Jesus. So if you are tired of a joyless life, lean in and listen the words found in this wonderful book of Philippians, a true letter of joy.
Doulos of Christ
Lets start right at the beginning. Verse 1, “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus.” The word servant in Greek is doulus. In some translations this word is translated to bondservant, however, the best translation is actually slave. “Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus.” Our English translations have chosen not to use the word slave due to its negative connotations, however, the word actually means slave. This is not the only time Paul began a letter with this description of himself. He also began his letter to the Romans and to Titus the same way, “Paul, a slave of Jesus Christ. Likewise, he was not the only apostle to refer to himself as a slave. Peter, James, Jude and John all used this description of themselves, slaves.
So what do these disciples mean when they call themselves slaves of Jesus? Perhaps to answer this question we should begin on the road to Damascus, where Paul was chosen by His master. Turn with me to Acts 9.
Why? Because God had shown the light of His glory into Paul's life and caused the the scales to fall from the eyes of his heart and for the first time he beheld the glory of God in the face of Christ. And when he beheld the glory of Jesus the Christ, and the mercies of God as directed to him, the Chief of Sinners, he knew of only one thing left to do, pick up his cross every single day and follow Him.
This call to radically follow Christ is not exclusive to Paul, Peter, James, Jude, and John. All disciples of Jesus are called to abandon all things for Jesus. All Christians are called to be a doulos, a slave to Christ.
And this is exactly what Paul did in his life. His life was a drink offering poured out at the feet of Jesus. He was a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. And the fruit of this obedience were, as verse 1 says, “the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi”.
Saints in Philippians
Phillipi was a northeastern city in Greece. It derived its name from Philip II, the Father of Alexander the Great. The town itself was under Roman authority and was patterned after Rome itself. Having said that Phillip was more of a colony as opposed to a thriving commercial epicenter. Prior to Christianity, Phillipi was an eclectic mix of religion. However, many in Philippi worshiped the Greek gods, however identified by their Latin names: Jupiter (Zues), Juno, Mars, Artemis. The question is how did the gospel get to Philipi? For that answer turn to Acts 16:6-10.
It was in the midst of these failed attempts to take the gospel to certain parts of Asia, that God gave Paul a vision. A man from Macedonia urging Paul to help them. Paul's response was doulus like. He immediately started making arrangements to get to Macedonia. Once again, notice what he didn't do. He didn't say, let me pray about it. He immediately started making plans. And what were his intentions when he arrived? Dig wells? No, Paul knew that the help they needed was found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. So once again, we see in Paul a gospel default.
When they arrived, they went to the river to look for a place of prayer. Seems odd, does it not? You can pray anywhere, why seek out a special place? The reason is because in towns where there was no synagogue, it was a Jewish custom for Jews to congregate at the nearest river on the Sabbath. Paul, being a Jew, knew this and went to see who he would find. And there he found Lydia.
Upon finding Lydia, what did they do? They shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ, just as God had called them to do. Once again, notice that they didn't hesitate. They didn't first build a relationship with her before talking about Jesus. They engaged and got right to what is of first importance, the gospel.
And what happened? Verse 14, “The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.” Folks, I know some of you struggled with our sermon series on the Doctrines of Grace, but you can't argue with what God's inspired word says in verse 14. Absent God opening up Lydia's heart, she does not hear the gospel message. The first domino that falls in conversion is always God. We are passive recipients of God's Grace. This was true for Paul, the twelve disciples, Lydia and it is true for all who are in Christ, including you and including me.
Just as Paul says in Philippians 1:6, our text today, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” It was God who began the work in Lydia's heart. Without God performing a miracle in your life, you will never be a saint. And lets make something abundantly clear, every follower of Jesus is a saint. The Catholic Church has once again created confusion around this term, a saint is not some dead person who once performed a miracle. A saint is someone who has been touched by the hand of God and is himself a walking miracle. God, not man, determines who will be a saint, and if you are in Christ, you have received that honor.
The very next thing that happened was she was baptized. They performed a Christ ordained, celebration of the union of Lydia and Christ, both in his death and in his life. And with that we have our very first convert in the Continent of Europe, a Jewish business woman along side a river one Saturday morning 2000 years ago.
And this is how the Philippians Church began, through the obedience of four men willing to risk everything to unleash the gospel in Europe. Lydia was the first fruit of a partnership that Paul in verse 4 says he remembers with joy and verses 7 and 8 says he holds in his heart and yearns for with the affection of Jesus Christ.
Which makes me wonder, how many joy filled, loving relationships are we missing out of when we chose to not serve God, and instead serve our own passions and desires. How often have we exchanged the sweet fellowship of brothers and sisters in Christ for the shallow relationships provided on facebook. As I stated earlier, if you long for joy, Paul has something to teach you.
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 October 26, 2014
Turn in your Bibles to 2 Corinthians 4:1-8. Today we are examining the doctrine of Irresistible Grace. Irresistible Grace is one of the five points of the Doctrines of Grace, otherwise known as Calvinism. As I stated last week, the five points are Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints. An easy way to remember these five points is the acronym TULIP. Last week we took a long hard look at total depravity, and it was not a pretty sight. We read text like Genesis 6:5.
Paul then says in verse 5, “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake.” So Paul says that we, meaning Christians, believers, go around and proclaim, or tell, unbelievers about Jesus. Specifically that he is the Christ, the Messiah, the one the world has been waiting for, their Lord. SO Paul is saying, he goes around and shares the gospel with the blind, the ones who are under Satan's power, the ones who are dead in their trespasses and sins. It is like Paul is walking amongst the tombs talking to himself. Then what happens?
Verse 6, “For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness,"has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Where has God said let light shine out of darkness? What is Paul referring to here? Creation. Paul is drawing you attention back to God's work in the beginning.
Why couldn't he see the Kingdom? He wasn't born again. You must first be born before you can see. In that order. Born first, then see the Kingdom. If you haven't been born, you can't see, your blind to it. So how is one born again? Verse 5, “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” The catalyst of being born is not your flesh. It is not inside of you that causes you to be born. It is God who causes you to be born. Listen to what John says in chapter 1.
The bottom line is that apart from grace, we are dead, unresponsive sinners. We are completely unable to repent and believe in Christ. It is impossible for us to get into Heaven apart from a miracle. And it is God who performs this miracle, not man.
I think it is so interesting, that as our country as slowly decayed spiritually over the years that what has increased more and more is the belief that your faith comes from somewhere inside your cold dead heart of stone. We love to say we are saved by faith and all for God’s glory, and just like Adam and Eve in the garden we look at faith and see that it is good and pleasing to the eye and was say, “MINE!” It is my faith, I get the glory!”
Was that the heart of the Apostle Paul glory? No, it was gratitude. He praised God for the miracle that God performed in his life that caused him to see the surpassing value of knowing Jesus. I can just hear Paul saying, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”
Isn’t God good? Every single one of us deserves Hell. We fully and utterly rebel against our Creator, yet he mercifully, lovingly, graciously breaks the chains of our sin and showers us with irresistible and glorious grace. The gospel is such good news, it is such a treasure this gift of God’s Grace through Christ. With this in mind, let us come full circle and close with Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 4:7.