Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on May 24, 2015
Open your Bibles to Philippians 4:8-9. Today we continue our journey through the book of Philippians. Over the last several weeks we have slowed down somewhat due to Paul closing his letter with a series of short commands to the Church in Philippi. Today we continue examining Paul’s commands and we will focus our attention on focusing our attention. Let us read our text, pray that God would cause us to pay attention, and then let us think together.
To begin I want us to focus our attention on the end of verse eight. Paul tells the Church in Philippi to “think about these things.” The Greek word for think is logizomai. From the root of this word we get the word logic. Logizomai means to think, dwell, reckon, to take into account, reason, conclude. Paul is asking the Church to use their minds.
Most likely, very few of you have thought about thinking and how it relates to God. So let us begin there. First, we should recognize that humanity is like no other created thing.
The answer to this question is one we have covered many times before. We exist to glorify God. (Isaiah 43:7). Therefore, God gave us a mind so that we can glorify God. In one way, this is what separates us from the beasts. Animals glorify God in their way, and we glorify God in our way. So at the basis of who we are, we are created to think.
With this in mind, let me ask a question, what was the name of the forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden? The name was “The tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” (Genesis 2:16). Likewise, Satan when tempting Eve in Genesis 3:5 said, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” And finally, God when casting Adam and Eve out of the Garden in Genesis 3:22 said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil.” The tree that led to the fall of humanity had something to do our minds.
So what happened to Adam and Eve upon eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?
Mind of Christ
I am guessing that many of you don’t think about your conversion in these terms, but you should, for this is how scripture speaks of what happens when you place your faith in Christ. Listen to these text:
To be a follower of Jesus Christ is to think rightly about existence; to think rightly about who we are; to think rightly about who God is; to think rightly about Christ; to think rightly about our purpose; to think rightly about our mission.
Renewal of Your Mind
This mind of Christ that we have been graciously given at our conversion, however, is not a perfect mind. It still has flaws. Because we still live in the flesh, and still battle with sin, we at times, think wrongly. This is why Paul says to the Church in Rome,
Church is not to be primarily about rituals and entertainment, as much as it is about pursuit of the knowledge of God and the renewal of our minds. All Christians are called to think, young and old, rich and poor, A students and D students, male and female, professors and ditch diggers.
Think about What?
So what are we to think about? Things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, worthy of praise. Let us quickly unpack each one of these.
Where would we find things that are true? John 17:17 Jesus prays to God, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” Absolute truth will not be found in the World, it is found in the Word. And it is the Word that points to the greatest truth, the holder of truth, the standard of truth, Jesus Christ, who said of himself in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth and the life.” So where do we see truth? The Bible.
Where do we find things that are honorable? Revelation 4:11 says, ““Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” There is only one being that deserves honor, and it is God. To dwell upon what is honorable is to dwell upon God himself, and where do we find the attributes of this honorable God? The Bible.
Where do we find things that are just? Romans 3:23-26 – “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” The greatest display of justice is the death of Christ. For at that moment we see God holding both sides of the bargain. He demands payment that is due his name, and then he pays the debt with the blood of His son. He is truly just and the justifier. So where do we find justice? The Bible.
Where do we find things that are pure? 1 John 3:3, “And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” There is no purer thing than God. He is unapproachable light and in him no darkness dwells. Jesus Christ is the exact imprint of God and in him there was no sin, no blemish. He is the only person who has ever walked this planet as pure as Jesus. He is the perfect picture of purity. So where do we find things that are pure? The Bible.
Where do we find things that are lovely? One place we find the word lovely, somewhat frequently, is in the book of the Song of Solomon. Which is a an intimate love poem between a husband and wife with each partying gushing over one another. Saying things like this in Song of Solomon 4:3, “Your lips are like a scarlet thread, and your mouth is lovely. Your cheeks are like halves of a pomegranate behind your veil.” This fawning, however, points to the greatest love story in the Universe, Christ and his Church. There is nothing more lovely than our Bridegroom laying down his life for the sake of us his bride, so were do we find what is lovely? The Bible.
Where do we find things that are commendable? This word in the greek means to have a good report. To have done something gracious. With this in mind, 1 Peter 2:19 says, “For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.” The NIV uses commendable instead of gracious. If this is an example of something that is commendable, there is no higher commendability than the perfect Son of God sufferring on the cross and absorbing the wrath of his father, despite not committing one sin. Why would he do such a thing? Because his Father asked him. So where do we find what is commendable? The Bible.
Where do we find things are excellent? 2 Peter 1:3, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us toc his own glory and excellence. As Paul said earlier in Philippians, the worth of Jesus far surpasses anything we could ever imagine. Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God. And the Jesus is the Word who became flesh, and it is Scriptures that testify about Him, so where do we see things that are excellent? The Bible.
Where do we find things that are worthy of praise? In Revelation 5:11 we are given a glimpse into heaven and what do we see, “Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” It is only God who is worthy to be praised. This God has chosen to reveal himself in his inspired Word. So where do we find things worthy of praise? The Bible.
So in conclusion, God created you to think, not about anything, but about Him. His desire is that you would set your minds upon his glory. If you do this, you will experience a satisfaction that your soul craves. I will leave you with a Bible serve that hangs on my office at work. Psalm 1:1
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on March 23, 2014
Turn in your Bibles to Matthew 5:21-26. Today, we continue our journey through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. As we work through the text today, and every Sunday for that matter, it is important for us to remember that every passage has context; meaning that the Bible is not to be read as random unconnected statements of facts, but that we must read it as it flows from one passage to the next. Today that is doubly true, because we are looking at a portion of text that is within a singular Sermon and it flows out of a statement that Jesus just made. So with that said, let us look read our scripture, pray and then exposit it.
Jesus then goes on to say that for us to get into heaven our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees. As we saw last Sunday, this creates a problem for us, because Romans 3:10 tells us that, “None is righteous, no not one.” Therefore, we lack righteousness, yet we need righteousness to get into God's Kingdom. As I said, Jesus proclaims that he fulfills the law, therefore He is righteous. Therefore Jesus has what we need, righteousness. And the good news is that Jesus will give us His righteousness, and the way we receive it is through faith in Him.
Having said that, the religious leaders during the times of Jesus, the scribes and the Pharisees, had made a mess of this age old truth. Instead of placing the focus on faith in God, they put the emphasis on faith in good works. And Jesus was calling them out during the Sermon on the Mount when he said:
In the days of Jesus, the Old Testament was written in Hebrew and not many people could read Hebrew because the language of the day was Aramaic. In addition few people had copies of the Old Testament. If you were a commoner, people like you and me, the way you would know the Bible was through teachers. They would orally tell you what the Bible said, but they wouldn't just read it to you, they would teach it. This is why Jesus said, “You have heard…” You can see this same pattern through the rest of Matthew 5, “You have heard, you have heard, you have heard.” What Jesus is referring to is the teaching of the scribes and the Pharisees.
The people couldn’t check to see for themselves what the Bible said, they had to trust the Scribes and the Pharisees. The Scribes and the Pharisees were the religious leaders of the Jews. They were the ones who were in charge. The problem with the people not having Bibles is that you cannot trust humanity. As I stated, the scribes and the Pharisees had a made a mess out of God’s Word. They had placed themselves, not under God’s Word, but over it. They manipulated it, changed it, added to it, and subtracted from it and then they went out and taught the people. As you can imagine, Jesus was not happy with them. In fact, Jesus eventually pronounces judgment on them in Matthew 23.
Never trust a person or a Church who doesn’t encourage you to check their teaching against God’s Word. If a Pastor or Priest or some other religious leader tells you to let them worry about what the Bible says, run away as fast as you can. If Sunday morning is all about rituals, and going through the motions and God’s Word is not preeminent, then welcome to Satan’s playground. For Satan loves to twist and distort what God’s Word truly says. He did it in the Garden, he did it in the days of Jesus and he is doing it today, and the main way he does it is by turning our eyes from God and to ourselves. This is exactly what Jesus is rebuking through the rest of Matthew, Chapter 5.
The Scribes and Pharisees had turned God’s law into something it was never meant to be. The Scribes and the Pharisees turned God’s Law into a list of things that you did externally in order to earn your way into heaven. They turned God’s law into a mechanical process, teaching that as long as you jumped through the right hoops, you would be accepted by God.
Jesus comes and blows the roof off of Satan’s house, and he starts with what we see as the “sinful” human act Murder.
Behind this teaching of the Pharisees is a different spirit, or intent, then what God intended. The spirit behind the Scribes and the Pharisees was to instruct that you could be good enough to get into heaven, all you had to do was obey externally. This is what we call works based salvation, that your ability to get into heaven rests in your own hands. Jesus comes to reeducate the people and the way he does it is important. Look at verse 22.
And what does the Author of the law say about murder?
How many times have you heard people say that they are going to heaven because they are a good person? When they say this they are thinking like a Pharisee and Scribe. They believe because they have not violated any major civil laws, they are “good.” Because they have never actually acted out their anger by ending someone else's life, the believe that they are good enough to get to heaven. This is just not true. For your thoughts towards another person is enough evidence to make you liable to the hell of fire.
The issue is not the level of the offense. The issue is, and has always been, your heart. Think about sickness and symptoms. Symptoms do not determine sickness. Symptoms point to the reality of our sickness. Physical murder is a symptom that you are a sinner, but so is insulting someone. They are symptoms of the same sickness..sin.
To end, Jesus then says this:
Do you know what? God detests this form of hallow religion. He is not a God that will be mocked.
What the people needed was Jesus Christ. For what stands in the middle of liable to the hell of fire and loving obedience is Jesus. For when we accept Christ in our lives, and His spirit comes and dwells in our hearts, we no longer go through the motions, we live out faith. We are convicted by the Holy Spirit to obey and we lay down our offering and we go and reconcile ourselves to our brothers. The only way we can do this is by Christ in us.
If you are sitting here today at Cornerstone Church and you call yourself a Christian, and there is someone out there that you have sinfully angered, and you think that you being here is the answer, then you don't get it. Sitting in these chairs doesn't save you. Christ saves you. And those who have been saved by Christ, live to reconcile. Reconciliation is your spiritual DNA. So stop fooling yourself, and make things right with your brother, before it is too late.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on March 16, 2014.
Turn in your Bibles to Matthew 5:17. Here at Cornerstone we desire to be Bible people, and by Bible people I do not mean the four gospels, or the New Testament. I mean the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation and everything in between. Every single thread that weaves its way through God's redemptive story we want to read and embrace.
Too often this is not the case for Christians. Too often Christians only read portions of God's word. One reason that some people limit themselves is because they see the Old Testament as the law, and because of Jesus, we are not under the law, we are under Grace. Therefore, they believe the law is not important. First, this is an extremely shortsighted understanding of grace. Second, it is unfortunate because when we do this we are cheating ourselves out of understanding the fullness of God's glory as displayed in Jesus Christ, and therefore we cheat ourselves out of the joy of deeply knowing Him and what Christ has done for us.
Our text today helps explain why we, at Cornerstone Church, are entire Bible people, namely because Jesus was an entire Bible person. Let us begin today with reading our scripture, we will pray and then we will see what God had to say for us this morning.
Now that we know what Jesus means by the law and prophets, let us ask the question why does he make that statement about not abolishing the law and prophets, the Old Testament? Perhaps this seems odd to you. One possible reason is because there were a fair number of people who desired for Jesus to do just that. At this point in Jesus' ministry he was becoming extremely popular. Very large crowds were following him, and the religious leaders, the Pharisees, were starting to take notice and were concerned about his popularity. One reason He was so popular was that the Jews were tired of the burden, or the yoke, that was placed upon them by the Pharisees. Many of the Jews may have desired a complete reset of the Jewish system. The believed the bathwater was dirty, so they were ready to pitch it, baby included. Jesus kills these dreams by stating clearly that this is not why he came. He had not come to abolish the law and the prophets, but to fulfill.
What does Jesus mean when he says that he has come to fulfill the Law and the Prophets? This statement means several things, all of which are the basis to why we worship Jesus. His fulfillment of the Old Testament is what makes Him worthy to be praised. This is why we sing songs about Jesus and study about Jesus and pray to Jesus and testify about Jesus. It is because He is the fulfillment of the Old Testament. Or to put it another way, Jesus is the fulfillment of all redemptive history.
The first way that Christ fulfills the Old Testament is that it testifies about Him. The Old Testament is the shadow and Christ is the substance. The Old Testament is just one long story that points to Jesus. Listen to what Jesus says in John 5:39.
Jesus is saying that when you read Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Isaiah, Psalms, Malachi, etc. they all point to one reality, Him. Think of each book of the Old Testament as the brush strokes of God in the creation of His singular masterpiece paining, His Son. Each Book provides more and more and more detail, color, and clarity of who the painting is about. This is not the only place that Jesus says something like this. Listen to His Words on the road to Emmaus:
Jesus is telling his followers that when you read the Old Testament something in your heart cries out Jesus. You should see the Gospel of Christ dripping from every page.
Here is just a sample of what I mean. Jesus is the Seed of Eve in Genesis 3, He is the Passover Lamb in Exodus, He is the High Priest in Leviticus, He is the bronze serpent in Numbers, He is the Prophet in Deuteronomy, He is the Army Commander in Joshua, He is the lawgiver in Judges, He is the kinsman redeemer in Ruth, He is the Temple, He is the peace offering, He is the show bread, He is the lamp, He is the sacrifice, He is the King, He is Israel, He is the suffering servant, and so on and so on. Every single book testifies, points to, Jesus Christ, sometimes generally and sometimes specifically, but make no mistake, He is the substance of the shadow that is cast in the law and the prophets. This is one way by which Jesus fulfills the Old Testament. However, this is not the only way that Jesus fulfills the Old Testament. Let us look at Matthew 5:18
Why is the Old Testament called “the law?” The answer to that is quite simple. The Old Testament is primarily about God interacting with His people by means of law. We see this right out of the gates in the Garden of Eden.
Of course, we know how that went. Adam and Eve disobeyed the law. Next, in the book of Exodus we have God delivering the Israelites out of Egypt in Exodus. What is the first thing God did? He established the law.
With that said, what does Jesus mean in verse 18 when he says, “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” This is a pretty significant statement, for one dot of the law is pretty small. Yet Jesus says that all of it must be accomplished. What is he talking about? How does Jesus fulfill or accomplish the demands of the law?
Jesus accomplishes the law by giving it what it demands, specifically obedience and payment. The purpose of laws is to require a certain type of behavior. Take a moment to think about some of our local laws, speeding, seat belts, driving while intoxicated, possession of illegal drugs, etc. Each law is an attempt to make people live in a certain way that the State believes is good, or right. The law demands obedience. Alongside those laws is punishment. Speeding for example, if you exceed the speed limit and are caught, the fine is, let’s say $100. If there was no punishment, there are no teeth in the law. People will not obey. Punishment goes hand in hand with law. If there is a law, without teeth, then it is pointless. The law of God is no different. The first law that was given to man occurred in the Garden of Eden. God said you shall not eat from the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil. That was the law. Alongside that law was the punishment. God said if they disobey His law, they will die. Once again we know how the story goes. They ate from the tree and Adam and Even were instantly spiritually dead, and eventually they physically died. Due to their disobedience death entered into the world through sin.
Once again, as stated above, the Law as given to Israel was similar. Listen to what God says to Israel in Deuteronomy 28:15.
So once again, this law of God came with demands. It demanded obedience and it demanded punishment, and we are no different. All humanity sits under the law of God.
The law for all mankind is to live Godly lives. Everyone of us. We are all called to love Him, to trust him, to give thanks to Him, to honor him. You, me and every single person on this planet. If we do, we are His treasured possession, and if we don't we are going to feel His wrath.
And just like the Israelites, we can't fulfill the demands of the law. No matter how hard we try, we fall short. We have all lied, lusted, coveted, cursed, gossiped, you name it. We are sinners. WE are rebels just like Adam and Eve and just like the Israelites. We want to live according to our own law, not Gods. Two famous verses that all of us should have memorized are Romans 3:23 and Romans 6:23.
We have all rejected our God and transgressed His law. This is what sin is. It is rejecting his authority in our lives. It is rejecting his sovereignty over us. Instead of loving Him, we want to love ourselves. Instead of living for Him, we want to live for ourselves. Instead of listening to him, we listen to ourselves. This is sin, this is law breaking. And the punishment for this, the wage, is death. And no matter how hard we try we cannot abide by the law. We cannot end our rebellion. We do not have the capacity to do it.
We cannot please God; However for justice to be upheld there must a price that must be paid, and Jesus does just that. Jesus fulfills the legal demand of the law. Jesus accomplishes the law by absorbing its punishment. He takes upon himself the wrath that we deserve. He stands in our place.
Jesus fulfilled the demands of the law and paid the price required. Our sins required our life, yet Jesus gave us His life instead. This is Grace, and it is amazing.
Second, not only did Jesus pay the price that the law demands, but he lived the life that the law demands. Listen to Galatians 4:4-5.
Jesus submitted himself to the same law that you and I, and all of us are accountable to. This was part of the plan. In order for Jesus to redeem us, to bring us to God, he had to live a perfectly obedient life, a righteous life, under the law. If he would have sinned, than they entire rescue operation would have been over. Jesus Christ fulfilled all requirements of the law, to the dot. Everything His Father asked him to do, he did. The compass of Jesus’ life was His Father’s will. No matter what, Jesus drank from the cup that His Father gave Him. Jesus was on mission to do exactly what God asked of him. You can see this in a few chapters before this at the time of Jesus’ baptism.
Jesus fulfilled all righteousness. He is the only one every to walk on this planet that is without sin. No other religion, no other philosophy, no other academic can say this. It is an exclusive reality of Christ. He is the only one who is righteous. He fulfills every dot every iota of the law. He lived the life we couldn't. Jesus has what we lack. Which leads us to the last point.
Turn with me to Philippians 3:4-10. The writer of this passage is Paul. Paul was on the fast track of becoming the best Pharisee of his day, but Jesus interfered with his plans. Listen to what Paul says.
How can our righteousness exceed those of the Pharisees and scribes? Only through what is called the great exchange. Jesus takes our punishment and we take his righteousness. It is at the cross that the law and grace collide. And they way by which we receive this amazing grace is by faith. Just like Paul says, we do not have a righteousness of our own. None of you are good enough to avoid God's wrath, we must receive Christ righteousness by faith alone. Thanks be to Jesus.