Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on March 15, 2015.
Open your Bibles to Philippians 2:25-29. Today we continue our journey through the book of Philippians and we find ourselves at a section that, oddly enough has played a substantial part of my life now for the last four years, for today we will be looking at a man by the name of Epaphroditus. With that said, let us read our text, pray and get into the Word.
Today, we are now going to examine another person within the Body of Christ, Epaphroditus. This man, Epaphroditus, is only mentioned in the book of Philippians. Some argue that Epaphras mentioned in Colossians is the same person, but there is nothing to support that conclusion except the similarity of their names. Because of this, not a lot is known about Epaphroditus. However, here are some things we do know. First, his name is Greek and it comes from the worship of Aphrodite, a Greek god. His name literally means “Devoted to Aphrodite.” From this we can assume that his parents, when Epaphroditus was born were pagans, worshipers of false god’s. He was therefore most likely a first generation Christian. The second thing we know about Epaphroditus is that he lived in Philippi. He was a true Philippian. Philippi was a city, or Roman colony, in Macedonia, which is modern day Greece. There is not a lot that is known about Philippi, except that it had a very small Jewish contingent. The reason we know this is because when Paul first visited there, there was no Synagogue. A Synagogue was needed when there were 10 Jewish men in the town. This is important because we can get an understanding that Philippi was Biblically illiterate, meaning that they wouldn’t have had a lot of knowledge about the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, etc. They wouldn’t have been exposed to the foreshadowing of the coming Messiah.
Having said that, this was not an obstacle for God. Remember the background story of the Philippians. God gave Paul a vision to go to Macedonia and preach the Gospel. Paul went there and preached the Gospel to Lydia, then to the Philippian jailer, and from that point the Church was born in the midst of this pagan, unreached Roman colony.
Somewhere in-between Paul’s first arrival in Philippi around 50 AD and the writing of this letter around 62 AD, Epaphroditus hears the message of Jesus Christ and repents and places his faith in Jesus and follows Him. When Epaphroditus becomes a disciple of Jesus, he does what all Christians should do. He begins fellowship with other believers. Epaphroditus is a member of the local Church in Philippi. We can see this in verse 25 when Paul says, “your messenger and minister to my need.” Whose messenger? The Saints in Philippi. Epaphroditus was a representative of the Philippian church. Used by the local Church to minister to Paul.
The next thing we see is the Epaphroditus not only had a local church Body, but he had great affections for his local Church. Look at verse 26, “for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. “ The word in Greek is epipotheó, which means to yearn, desire, or have great affection for. We see Paul use this word in 2 Corinthians 5:2 to talk about an inward groaning to dwell in heaven. Epaphroditus was not home-sick as much as he was Church-sick. Now I want us to recognize something. This yearning for them is a yearning to be physically with them. Epaphroditus wanted to see them, hear them, touch them, and smell them. He wanted to be in their physical presence. This is a real love, a love that is dormant in some Christian’s today. A number of Christians would rather stay at home Sunday morning then see their spiritual family. This is not good. This is not how God designed his Church, to live independent of each other. He designed his church to be interdependent. Listen to what Jesus says in John 13:34-35.
We must remember the core of the gospel. God sent Jesus to die, so that we can be reconciled to him, so that we could be in his presence forever. The heart of God is epipotheó, a yearning to be together. If we truly have the Spirit of Christ in us, we should likewise have this same yearning, just like God, and just like Epaphroditus.
So why is Paul writing about Epaphroditus? As I said earlier, Epaphroditus is a messenger and minister to Paul. What does that mean? If you look ahead to Philippians 4:14 you see what Paul is talking about.
The Church in Philippi decides to provide aid to Paul, to support him in his ministry, not just once but ongoing support. Most likely this support would have been monetary gifts, but we can't be for sure. The next issue becomes who, who will take this aid to the front lines where Paul is located? Who will be the bridge between the Church and the unreached?
Once again, we don't know how it came about, but we do know that it was Epaphroditus who accepted the task. Now what I am about to say is completely outside the Biblical text, but I would like to imagine that Epaphroditus volunteered for this mission. In fact, I like to imagine the Church gathering and discussing the monetary collection being made, and the long journey between Philippi and Rome, a distance of 800 miles. I like to imagine that they would have discussed the reality of being away from family and friends. I like to imagine that they would have discussed the physical demand of such journey. I like to imagine they discussed the risk of persecution. And I like to imagine that when they asked for volunteers, the Church was silent. That is until the silence was broken by a man's voice saying, “I will go.” At this moment, I picture the entire congregation turning and looking at this simple, yet humble Christian, Epaphroditus, as he steps forward again, and says, “I will deliver this gift to my brother Paul”.
At this point, if the Philippians Church is like the others Churches that we see in the book of Acts, most likely the Church would have brought him forward and they would have prayed for him and they would have laid hands on him, and then the Church body would have sent him.
Like I said, this is what I imagine it to be like, perhaps it wasn't like this at all, but make no mistake, Epaphroditus willingly accepted the task to be a vessel of aid. He filled a very important role within the Church, delivering aid to their beloved Paul, and most likely he was also the one who returned with the original draft of the book of Philippians in his hands.
The effect that this act of risk taking love had on Paul was strong. For Paul calls Epaphroditus his brother, fellow worker, and fellow soilder. I want to spend the rest of my time, briefly talking about these three descriptions.
There is perhaps no greater expression of intimacy between two men, then to call another man your brother. This expression is one that does not come from the head, but from the heart. It is description of togetherness that is not surface level, but one that is soulful. Every time I think of brotherly affection, I think of David and Jonathan, King Saul's Son. They had a strong bond between the two of them, that was forged by God.
I worry, however, that for many of you would not volunteer. Your life is too precious to you. You like your comforts. You like your picket fence, American Dream. Helping people is just too messy, it is too dangerous. Listen to what John says in 1 John 3:17-18.
Which leads me to Paul's next description of Epaphroditus, fellow worker. This is a common description of certain men in Paul's life. He uses this phrase “fellow worker” in Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Philemon, and Thessalonians. The sad part is that it was commonly used by Paul, but it is not commonly practiced today. Very few Christians in American could be rightly called a fellow worker. American Christianity has become consumer oriented. We have become fat and lazy. We barely lift a finger in the spread of the Gospel. Instead of obeying the Great Commission, we leave that in the hands of pastors. Shame on us! Let us heed to the words of Jesus who in his parable of the talents said this to the servant who failed to use what the Master had given him.
Lastly, Paul's final description of Epaphrodits is fellow solider. I truly believe this is a primary way that we must understand our lives as followers of Christ. Too often we live our life as if everything is ok. Everything is not ok! We are at war! Satan hates you. He has declared war on Christ and war on God's creation. When you chose to follow Jesus, you didn't just sign up for heaven, you enlisted in God's army. An army sent behind enemy lines to rescue POWs held captive by the power of Satan. We are to be using all of our resources to battle the enemy. In Philippians, we see Paul leading the attack, Timohty watching his back, Epaphroditus feeding the front lines, and the people back home leveraging all their resources to provide aid. Each person was playing a crucial role in pushing back the forces of darkness.
Once again, is this how you live? Are you living with a war time mentality, or are you living as if this world is at peace and everything is going to be just fine. Folks, we need to wake up. We need to recognize that Hell is real. Satan is real. And that God has left us, His Church, to set captives free. We must be about His work and fight the fight of faith and partner with our brothers and siters in the spread of the Gospel, just like our brother Epaphroditus.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on January 18, 2015
Open your Bibles to Philippians 1:12-19. As always, we have a lot to get through so lets get right to work.
As you can see in our text, this section is about the Gospel. As we start today, I thought it would be wise for us to talk briefly about what the Gospel actually is in its purest sense. The Greek word for gospel is euaggelion. This is where we get out word evangelism. Euaggelion is the word chosen by God to describe the proclamation of the blessings found in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. It is important to understand that gospel is not just the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, but it the declaration of it, the telling of it. This is why gospel can also be translated as good news. News is only news when it is communicated. The gospel is telling of who Jesus is and what He did.
So what should be said when proclaiming the Gospel? Here are six points that
In our text we see Paul say in verse 12, “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.” So the first question is what has happened? If you recall from previous sermons, this letter by Paul is written while he is chained to a Roman guard. Paul is a prisoner. The practice during those times was to rotate guards about every 6 hours. So in one day Paul would have four different men chained to him for an extended period of time. However, the question is how did Paul get there?
To be honest, it is a long story. But it begins in Acts 21 and ends at the end of the Book of Acts. Due to time we cannot read the whole story, but I encourage each of you to read it on your own tonight. Here is the quick overview.
Around the year 58 A.D. Paul was in Jerusalem and he decided to go to the Temple. A group of Jews from Asia stirred up the crowd against Paul and like a wild mob seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple with the intent to kill him. The Roman officials caught wind of this commotion and sent soldiers to calm things down and they took Paul into custody, which most likely saved his life. From there, Paul’s journey to Rome began, but it was not an uneventful one. It was one that lasted for four years. From the point of his arrest to the point he wrote to the Philippians, it is estimated four years had passed.
Can you imagine this? Can you imagine showing up to Church next Sunday and being drug off and eventually sent to a prison 1,400 miles away? And not only was he imprisoned for four year but during his imprisonment 40 Jews took an oath not to eat or drink until one of them had killed Paul. Obviously, they were unsuccessful. In addition during Paul’s journey as a prisoner to Rome he was shipwrecked and they almost perished. After the shipwreck that soldiers plan was to kill all of the prisoners, Paul included. A Centurion intervened and Paul’s life was spared again. They swam to an island called Malta. While at Malta Paul was bitten by a viper, but he did not die or get sick. This caused the locals to think Paul was a god. Eventually, Paul found his way to Rome, where Paul continued to be chained to a guard for the next two years.
This is the “what has happened to me” that Paul is referring to in verse 12. My guess is that this extreme journey was not one that Paul had intricately coordinated and structure. It was not his orchestration. It was something that Paul found himself in the midst of. They question is, was this just bad luck? Was this just a series of unfortunate events? Was this an obstacle that interfered with God’s calling? Was Satan winning? Absolutely not.
This was God’s doing. It was God’s agenda. This was the pathway by which Paul was going to take the gospel to the gentiles. Listen to what Jesus told Ananias about Paul in Acts 9:15.
No matter what Satan throws our way, whether it is an angry mob at work, government oppression, broken down transportation, or unexpected snake bites, we must remember that God is not absent from these things, but he uses them for good, so that people will live by believing in Jesus Christ.
What is interesting about the gospel is that it is not like any other news. It is not like reading the newspaper or watching the local news. The Gospel is not just informative, but it is transformative.
Some of you have heard a statement that is attributed to Sir Francis of Assisi that goes like this, “Preach the gospel at all times, use words if necessary.” First, there is no evidence that Francis ever said this. Second, it is not biblical. The correct statement should be, “Preach the gospel at all times, use the word.”
Just look at our text for today: “And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed.”
The gospel must be proclaimed. We must take courage and do what Christ calls us to do, to bear witness of him, to testify of him to preach him, to proclaim him. This is the beginning step of making disciples.
Because Paul had been given the eyes to see the beauty and worth of Jesus. When Paul gazed upon his Christ, everything else looked like garbage. He saw Jesus in his exultation and his humiliation. He saw him as the Lion and the Lamb. He saw him as Sovereign God and obedient servant. He saw him as Savior and His King, who bled and died for him so that he could live with Him for all eternity with fullness of Joy and pleasures forevermore.
Does this describe your heart? Do you rejoice knowing that the name of Jesus is being proclaimed throughout the world? Do you long to hear stories from your fellow Church members of preaching Christ at work? If not, I encourage you to pursue the knowledge that is Jesus.
Many of you may not realize this, but our slogan at Cornerstone Church is “Pursuing, Treasuring and Proclaiming the Glory of God.” Once you are born again, I truly believe this is the everyday sequence of events in your Christian life. We pursue the knowledge of God. We do that in two ways, the Word and the Spirit. This in turn causes us to see the beauty and worth of the Trinity. The more we fall in love with God, the more we tell others about Him.
Imagine if we were a Church of 100 Pauls. There is no reason we can't be. Talk about the gospel advancing. We should be like those who were encouraged to speak Christ more boldly due to Paul's imprisonment. Let's pray that God would make it happen.
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 23, 2014
Open your Bibles to Romans 10:13-21. We have designated today as Missions Sunday. It is my hope that in the years to come we will have multiple missions Sundays each year, so that we can continually remind ourselves of the primary commission by Christ to the Church, go and make disciples.
I chose today to be our missions Sunday because last week I concluded my teaching of the specific Doctrines of Grace, otherwise known as the five points of Calvinism. Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints. With this doctrines under our belt I want to now direct your attention to over the next two weeks to the fruit that grows out of embracing these Biblical truths of God's Sovereignty.
I have already spoken of one result of the Doctrines of Grace, that being the praise of God for His glorious grace. This is a product of believing this doctrines because the more we realize that it was God who chose and saved us, the more we glorify him. God does all the work through Christ, therefore God through Christ should get all the credit. I believe this is the chief product of embracing these biblical doctrines; however, it is not the only product of being a Calvinist.
Today we are going to look at another result of believing in the Sovereignty of God, specifically that the Sovereignty of God is the Catalyst to the Great Commission. With that said, turn with me to Romans 10:13-21. Let us read out text, ask God to open up the eyes of our heart, and see what God wants to show us.
The Gospel is the God ordained means of a God ordained end. It is the way by which God achieves the redemption of his sinful, yet elect, children. The Gospel is the ordained net for the elect. This is something people can get hung up on when they are first exposed to Calvinism. They believe that if the elect are 100% guaranteed to be saved, then why share the Gospel with them. This thinking is called Hyper-Calvinism, and it is dead wrong. For Hyper-Calvinism is the view that all who are to be saved will be saved and the Gospel therefore does not need to be offered to the world. Therefore no one is sent, no one preaches, no one hears, and no one is saved.
Make no mistake, Paul was not a hyper-Calvinist. This is obvious by his life and his words. Other than Jesus, Paul was the greatest missionary ever to walk the planet. Just to give you another taste of how passionate Paul was about people believing in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Look with me at Romans 9:1-3.
How many of you can say this? How many of you would be able to say, without lying, that you would spend the rest of eternity having the wrath of God poured out on you, so that your relatives could be with God? How many of you have stayed up late at night in anguish and weeping for the salvation of your neighbors? What would cause Paul to feel such a burden for the lost?
This answer is simple. Jesus Christ. Christ is the cause of this anguish and sorrow. Paul was filled with the Spirit of Christ and therefore what broke Jesus' heart broke his heart. The same Spirit that caused Jesus to lay down his life, caused Paul to lay down his life. Paul's willingness to bear the wrath of God so that others could be saved is exactly what Jesus did when he came to earth and died on the cross. Jesus bore our transgressions and sins and was smitten and chastised by his Father so that we may be healed. Other than Christ, Paul had the most beautiful feet on the planet for everywhere he went he heralded the good news, scattering the seed of the Gospel wherever he went. Whether in the synagogues, in the town square, in prison, or in his home. Paul was a man who loved the lost.
Here is the kicker, if you are an authentic Christian, if you are born again by the Spirit of God, then the same Spirit of Christ that lived in Paul lives in you. The same power that compelled Paul to be willing to go to Hell for the lost, dwells in you, and is ready to be unleashed in your life. The question, is what is holding you back?
In Romans 10:1 Paul reiterates basically the same thing as in Romans 9:1.
I want you to think about Paul's life. From the moment Christ chose him as an apostle, the world hated him. He was beaten, stoned, drug out of town, shipwrecked, whipped, imprisoned, and lied about. Why in the world would he continue to walk down this lonely and difficult path? Because no man is left behind. The foundation to Paul's missiology is God's sovereign election; God's choice of whom will receive mercy. Paul embraces the words of Jesus in John 10:16.
Imagine, the alternative. Imagine if instead of believing in the election of the saints, you believed that it was up to man to determine who is saved and who is not. After getting beat up in one town, would you go to the next? No, you wouldn't. Why go through the trial if there is no guaranteed pay off? But instead think if you viewed each town as a prison, and inside each prison was a POW (prisoner of war) waiting for God's marines to drop in and use the gospel key to unlock the prison's gates. This is how Paul saw the mission field, freeing captives.
It is interesting, the fallacies that humans fall into when it comes to Biblical truth. I would be curious to know how many of you when driving home from one of the past sermons, have said, “If everything is predetermined, than what is the point?” You say this because you think destiny produces apathy. But this is not the case, for destiny does not produce apathy, destiny produces action.
It was the sense of destiny that drove Napoleon across Europe. It was destiny that pushed Michael Jordan to become the best basketball player of all time. The pregame destiny speech is proclaimed in high-school locker rooms across the nation every Friday night. It is destiny that has driven men to ask women out on dates since dating existed. Make no mistake the sense of fate is a very powerful motivator, and this is not by accident. This is one reason why I believe Jesus said these words before he ascended into heaven.
I believe this is why, when looking back on the history of the Church we see a landscape scattered with Calvinist who risked their life for the lost. Sine we are talking about Calvinism let us begin with John Calvin. It is estimated that John Calvin and his spiritual family in Geneva were responsible for planting over 2000 churches in France. Then there was the Calvinist John Eliot, who was the first missionary to the American Indians. He was followed by David Brainerd, whose diary is perhaps the most influential missionary books other than the Bible. It was the book that inspired William Carey, another Calvinist, who is know as the founder of modern day missions. Likewise there is Calvinist, Adoni Judson, who was the first American Missionary to India. Not to mention the missionary George Whitefield, an Englishman, who made multiple trips across the Atlantic to partake in missionary journeys through New England preaching unashamedly the Gospel of Christ to 8,000-12,000 people at a time. And don't forget about David Livingston, the well known missionary to Africa. In all of these men, there was a common thread of Calvinism.
And regarding today, perhaps the most well know Calvinistic preacher, John Piper, is simultaneously perhaps the most missions minded preacher that I know. His passion for global missions is contagious and his book Let the Nations Be Glad has inspired numerous pastors and missionaries in regards to going and proclaiming the Gospel to the lost. One of those people being David Platt, who is another radical Calvinist. Plat just recently became the President of the International Missions Board. He lives and breathes missions, and yet, he is a Calvinist.
I find it interesting that many people like to say that Calvinist don't care about missions. This is absolutely false. The evidence is the exact opposite. For since the beginning of the Church age, it has always been those who believe in the sovereignty of God in the salvation of men that have led the charge to go and proclaim that Gospel to the lost and bring the sheep home.
And this makes sense, for the biggest obstacle of sharing the Gospel is your wrong understanding of how someone is saved. If you believe that salvation comes through your ability convince them to believe, then of course you wouldn't share the good news of Christ because you are afraid of not saying the right thing. But if instead you believed that it is not your words that make disciples, but instead the power of the gospel, then you will sow the seeds wherever you go, for it is your destiny.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on Mary 11, 2014.
Turn with me to Matthew 5:38-48. Today we are turning our attention back to the Sermon on the Mount. Prior to Easter, we were examining the words of Jesus' famous sermon verse by verse. I have to admit, as much as I loved to preach the explicit Gospel over the last three weeks, I have missed finding the deeps treasures in Matthew 5-7.
In our text today, Jesus shows us what Kingdom love looks like. We will very quickly see that this love Jesus is describing is foreign, or alien, in this fallen and broken world. We will see that this love is a radical love. So as always, let us read our text, pray that God would open our hearts, and then allow God to mold us into Christ-likeness.
Your biggest problem in this world is not your circumstances, it is not your finances, it is not your relationships, it is not your government. The biggest problem that you have in your life is you. You are the problem. Likewise in my life, my biggest problem is me. To use a common phrase, “I am my own worst enemy.”
Why can I say this? Why do I feel comfortable pointing the finger? Because the Bible is my source. We have examined these text many, many times.
At the center of all of these versus lie our hearts. At the core of your heart is your self. We are the problem.
The question is, what is going on in our hearts when we do the sinful things we do? Yes, we know that we are sinners, and we are separated from God and we are desperately sick spiritually, but what is happening? I think the best verse to explain this is James 4:1.
Another word for what James 4 is describing is entitlement. We believe we are entitled to stuff. We believe we are entitled to comfort. We believe that we are entitled to respect. We believe we are entitled to honor. We believe we are entitled to respect. In fact, we don't just think we are entitled to all these things, we demand it. When we don't receive these things we are upset. We are offended. We kick and scream and complain and retaliate. It is as if we are spoiled little Kings and Queens yelling, “Off with their heads.” And this is the problem that Jesus is addressing in our passages today. It is the problem of self. It is the problem of self-centered-entitlement. It is the problem of the world.
Now that we know what problem Jesus is addressing, let us now take step back and understand who Jesus is preaching to. Let's start by looking at verse 45.
These descriptions are not description of the citizens of the world, they are descriptions of citizens of the Kingdom of God. Jesus is preaching not to those who dwell in the dominion of darkness, but who dwell in the dominion of the Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, and make no mistake, these two groups of people live differently, or at least should live differently. There should be something very distinct about followers of Jesus.
What is interesting about these two groups of people, those who are worldly and those who are children of God, is that geographically they live in the same physical territory. The Kingdoms simultaneously coexist. For example, this sermon was for the disciples, yet on that mountain that day there stood both believers and unbelievers. There was a mix, and this is is still true today. This reality is all part of God's plan.
The response stands at a stark contrast to the initial action: turn the other cheek, give him your cloak as well, go with him two miles, give your money away. These responses are night and day different from the evil response. They are almost the opposite. Explicitly, Jesus tells us that we are not to resist the evil. We are suppose to accept what is dished out.
And if that was not enough, not only do we have to not resist the evil that is dished out, we are to love and pray for the people who dish it.
What is crucial for us to understand is that Jesus is not asking his disciples to do something that he is not willing to do. This is exactly the life of Jesus when he walked the earth. He is the ultimate example of this lifestyle. His own town rejected him and attempted to throw him off a cliff, but he did not retaliate. He was mocked by Herod, Pilate, Roman guards, the Sanhedrin, and he opened not his mouth. With holes in his hands and feet, thorns in his brow, his flesh torn open, slowly suffocating on a cross, he prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” How wild is that? Jesus was praying for the people who, not only struck him on the right cheek, but who were accomplices to his murder. This is radical love. This is love that the world does not have. This is love that is blinding as compared to the darkness of revenge, and this is their King of the Kingdom.
I love that we have a King who fearlessly leads the way. He does not sit back and tell us to do something that he has not already done. He is a King who rides into battle, leading the charge. He loved to the fullest, even unto death. This love is a love that the world had never seen. It is a scandalous love. It is an explosive love. It is a radical love, and it is the love that our King wants us to have filling our hearts.
How? How can we display the same radical love as our King. How is it possible to be like Christ? There is only one way, we must be born of God.
Verse 8 goes so far as to say that if you don't have love, then you don't know God. And we are not talking about intellectual know, but intimate know. Meaning that if you don't love, then you are not his child. It is impossible to be God's child without having love. Being born of God and loving as Christ loved are inseparable.
So this begs the question, how do we become born of God? We must deny ourselves and trust Christ.
We must lay down our lives, so that we can save our lives. We must die to self and live for Christ. When we stop living for ourselves, we will stop acting like the world and stop feel entitled. No longer will there be fighting and quarreling, because it takes two to tango. If one person refuses, the fight is short lived. When Jesus becomes you greatest treasure, someone stealing your coat is insignificant.
A guy by the name of George Muller, who was a mighty follower of Christ said this: “There was a day when I died, utterly died, died to George Muller and his opinions, preferences, tastes and will; died to the world its approval or censure, died to the approval or blame of my brethren and friends and since then I have studied only to show myself approved unto God.” If you get a chance do some study on George Muller. This man wreaked of love.
This is what people don't get. People love to proclaim love, and hold up peace signs, and sing songs like “We are the World,” and “All We Need is Love” yet they don't get it. Love is not something that is manufactured by jingles and ad campaigns. Love is not something that can be conjured up in a sinners heart. The heart is desperately sick. No matter how hard you try to love, you can't. The only way this world is filled with love is through repenting and placing your faith in Christ Jesus. Love is a fruit of abiding in the vine of Jesus Christ.
So what happens when people start to love like Jesus loved? Simple, hearts are changed. When we live like Christ and radically love those who are unlovable, mountains are moved and sinners become saints. Why? Because when the citizens of the Kingdom of God act like their King, the world is coming into contact with the King himself. And it is the love of Christ that can break hearts of stone.
I can't recall what book I read this story from, but it moved me. There was a young man in a village who became a Christian. As you can expect he was full of joy and excitement and he wanted to share the Gospel with his family and his village. He went to his village and began to share the message of Jesus Christ with them. The immediately began to beat him. The beat him so bad that they knocked him out and drug him outside the village. He awoke and thought to himself he must have wrongly shared the Gospel or perhaps they just misunderstood, so he went back to them and shared the Gospel again. They did the same thing. They beat him up and drug him outside the village again. Once again, he woke up and went back a third time to share Christ. They began to beat him again, and then they stopped and they began to cry, for they recognized that whatever had captured his heart and gave him the radical love that compelled him to come back over and over again, must be worth listening to, so they did, and his entire village was saved. Why? Because of the love of Christ that dwelled in his heart and was poured out onto the lives of his family and friends.
Have you done something like that? Could you do something like that? What if all of us lived a life as radical as that young mans? What do you think would happen? Revival is what would happen. If we denied ourselves and followed Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit then hearts would break and people would not only hear the Gospel, but they would see the Gospel. They would not be able to deny the evidence that the God of radical love dwells in our hearts.
So let us commit to follow Christ. Let us die to self and live for Christ. Let us lay down our entitlements and be filled with the love of Jesus Christ and let us live like him.