Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on December 24, 2015
Open your Bibles to Matthew 1:18. Tonight we are concluding our December sermon series, titled “The Incarnation of Christ.” As I have said repeatedly, the purpose of this sermon series is to fix a problem in many of our hearts. This problem is perhaps summarized best by Jesus himself. In Matthew 15 Jesus says,
For those of you who have been with us over the last several weeks we have focused on attention on three things so far. 1) The birth of Jesus is the birth of God, 2) All of history exists because God desires to display his glorious grace through His Son, and 3) Christ humbly accepted this assignment from God because he loves His Father and He loves those who believe. Today, we will look at another angel and tackle the question of how is the birth of Jesus relevant our lives. Why should we care about the birth of some Jewish baby 2000 years ago? With that question in mind, turn to Matthew 1:18-25.
Shall Call His Name Jesus
The verse that I want us to focus on tonight is verse 21, “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
The name Jesus in Greek is “Iēsous” (ē-ā-sü's). Iēsous is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua. Joshua means “Jehovah is salvation.” Therefore the name Jesus means “Jehovah is salvation.” It is important to remember that the name Jesus was not selected by Mary or Joseph, but was handpicked by God himself.
This means that God desired that every time someone referred to His incarnate Son, he wanted them to think about the phrase Jehovah is salvation. Why? Because this is why Jesus was born, to implement God's plan of salvation. Jesus says it about himself in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” This is the primary purpose of the incarnation.
Salvation from Sin
For people who have never been exposed to Jesus, this name, this statement that the primary purpose of Jesus is to save, should lead them to ask one question, save us from what?
Thankfully, the angel tells us in verse 21, “for he will save his people from their sins.” The essence of Christ incarnation is to save people from their sins, but what does this mean? First let us start with the question, what is sin? One way we can answer this is with 1 John 3:4.
In regards to these laws, every single person who has ever existed has broken these laws of God. God tells us explicitly that “no one is righteous, no not one.” In 1 John 1:8 it says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.”
I am constantly amazed by how many people think they are good. You and I are not good. Jesus himself says that no one is good, except God. Every one of us on this planet is a sinner.
Why is this? Because we are born this way. Psalm 51:5 says, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” You are a natural born sinner. It is not something you had to learn, it is your predisposed condition. Why? Because of the fall. When Adam disobeyed God in the beginning he plunged humanity into a state of sin. Romans 5:12, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—“ Therefore, the Bible is abundantly clear. You, I, and all of humanity since time began have the problem of sin.
However, this may lead you to another question, what is so bad about sin? In fact, some of you in this room may enjoy your relationship with sin. Sin makes you feel good. You enjoy getting drunk, you enjoy cussing and using the Lord's name in vain, you enjoy lusting for people not your spouse, you enjoy counting your money and coveting the things of this world. You see no problem with sin.
And there is a perfectly logical reason for this. You see no problem with sin, because you cannot see. You are spiritually blind.
So what are you blind to? What are you not seeing? You are blind to the realities of God. You are blind that the God who is your creator is not casual about your rebellion against him. He is a Holy God. He is a just God. And He is not amused by your rejection of Him
This is bad news for us, for we have already established that we are sinners, that none of us our righteous. Does this mean we deserve Hell? Absolutely. Our sin against an infinitely Holy and Eternal God demands a punishment that fits the crime, anything less than Hell would be an injustice at the highest level.
So what are we to do? What hope do we have? It is this child who was born 2000 years ago. It is Jesus, Jehovah is Salvation. God, is a Holy and Just God. He hates sin. However, God is also merciful and loving. God provides a way in which we can be saved from our sins, and this way is His Son, Jesus. He is the only way. Being good will not save you, going to Church will not save you, being Catholic or Protestant will not save you, being a rich American will not save you. Only Jesus saves. This is why Jesus was born. As John the Baptist rightfully said, “Behold the Lamb of God who has come to take away the sins of the world.” Jesus is our only hope.
Save His People
So is that it? Is the gift of Jesus for all people? Is the fact that Jesus was born, lived a perfect life, crucified and resurrected from the dead mean that all of humanity will be saved? No, what does the angel say? Verse 21, “for he will save his people from their sins.” Jesus does not save all people. Only His people. So who are his people? Jesus tells us.
If you have embraced Christ as your one and only hope, then Christmas should be a time of deep and heartfelt joy, for you were destined for God's wrath, but Christ has pulled you from the flames and secured you in his arms for all eternity.
Christmas is not about presents, lights, or food. Christmas is about salvation. Christmas is about the perfect love of God made manifest if the incarnation of Jesus Christ.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on August 16, 2015
Open your Bibles to Psalm 6. Today we continue or series from the book of Psalms. Before we begin, I want to remind you that these Psalms are worship songs for the nation of Israel. Because of that we can this is God's hymnal, due to these Psalm being the inspired word of God. With this in mind, it is interesting how lament oriented these worship songs are. They are not necessary the upbeat dance mix that some Church's tend to use. Perhaps many of you have already noticed this, but many of these Psalms come from a place of brokenness. They are songs of desperation, and I find it interesting that God uses these times of brokenness to reveal himself. Today is another example of this. With that said, let us read out text, pray, and examine God's Word.
Once again we have before us a Psalm of King David; King David who defeated lions, bears, and Goliath; King David who had songs sung about him of killing ten thousands; King David who led a nation and secured it borders on all sides. King David who ushered in the greatest days of historical Israel. King David who was potentially the most manly man of the Bible, yet in today’s text we see a different picture of David. We see a man who is an emotional wreck. We see a man who says in verse 6, “I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping.” The old adage of “real men don’t cry” does not apply to David, for he was a mess. What broke this seemingly powerful, successful leader of a nation down to a puddle of tears? It was the sorrow of his sin.
In verse 1 we see David cry out to the Lord, “rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath.” David is acknowledging his wrong doing before the Lord. He knows he deserves God's correction, but is hopeful God's rebuke comes, not from God's anger, but from God's love. His hope was that he would be punished as a child of God, not an enemy of God.
We are not sure what sins were on the mind of David when he wrote these words, but we can all recognize that he was a sinner. As we have said he was an adulterous murderer. In fact it is interesting that he now sheds these tear upon a bed, for it was his bed that was a common venue for the sins of his lustful heart. His actions have now come full circle and his sin has become his sorrow. This Psalm is a window into David’s recognition that he deserves rebuking, that he deserves discipline.
Clarity in Brokenness
How did David get to this point of recognizing his sin? Staying within our text, it appears from verses 7 and 8 it is due to the pursuit of his foes, his enemies, and workers of evil. It is in the midst of this circumstance that he cries out.
Who were these foes, we do not know specifically, but we do know that David’s foes were many. In Psalm 2 David’s foes were the nations. In Psalm 3 it was his third son, Absalom. Perhaps in this situation it was King Saul. For those who are unfamiliar with the stories, King Saul passionately hated David. Saul spent the end of his days attempting to kill David at all costs. Or perhaps the foes David now speaks of are the schemes of Satan, the cosmic powers, the spiritual forces that stood against him and the nation of Israel.
No matter whom these foes were, David’s circumstances caused him to reflect upon his right standing before God. In fact, the brokenness of his life caused him to think about the afterlife. Look at verse 5, “For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise?” Sheol is the residence of the dead. The New Testament equivalent is the word Hades. Everyone who died prior to Christ’s resurrection went to Sheol. Perhaps the best description of Sheol is by Christ himself in Luke 16 discussing the rich man and Lazarus. Upon Christ victory on the cross, the elect who had already died were taken out of Sheol and ushered into the presence of God. For us today, because we live on the others side of the cross do not go to Sheol, but into the presence of God, where we wait for the day of judgment.
For today, what is important is not the logistics of Sheol, but that David's starts to dwell upon death. I think each of us can relate to this to some degree. I commonly say that in brokenness there is clarity. And by that I mean that when tragedy strikes the insignificant things in this world fade away and you dwell upon things that truly matter, like eternity. We see this in our own lives and in the lives of others. We also see it Biblically.
The first person we tend to think of when thinking about suffering is Job. In the midst of his tragedies that many of us can't even imagine he cried to the Lord. But there are others. For example, Jonah in the belly of the whale said in Jonah 2:7, “When my life was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple.“ Then there is the thief on the cross, as he stared death in the face he cried out to Christ in Luke 23:42, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
When difficult time or even death comes knocking, our inner knowledge of God comes to the surface and in those moments we tend to recognize what is important in light of eternity and we cry out to God. Why is this? It is because the brokenness of this world breaks us, and in those moments we are humbled. And despite the pain, this is a good place for each one of us to be, humbled before the Lord.
Broken and Contrite
In perhaps one of David's most well know Psalms, Psalm 51, which is the Psalm he wrote regarding his adultery with Bathsheba and murder of her husband, he writes this in verse 17, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
As we stated last week, God is a Holy, Holy, Holy and his power and his worth and his wisdom and his majesty is beyond our comprehension. Yet we so often approach him with arrogance our our breath, and when we do so we approach with great risk for Proverbs 16:5 says, “Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished.” God desires us to approach him with a humble hearts. James 4:6 says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
One way that God does this is through our circumstances. In fact, the apostle Paul knew this reality very well. In 2 Corinthians 12:7 Paul says this about the circumstances of his life, “So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.“ So just like David, God allow the circumstances of Paul's life to put him in a proper relationship with the Lord.
In fact, many times I pray for brokenness in people's life, not because I desire to people to suffer, but because I want them to have their eyes open to the realities of God. I want God to rip the things of this world out of their hands so that they dwell upon eternity, so that they dwell upon Him. I want them to walk in the valley of the shadow of death, so that they would feel the rod and staff of the Lord our Shepherd.
For David, this is exactly what happened. His circumstances that caused him to feel the weight of God's hand for his sin, also caused him to cry out to God in the midst of his pain. The proper posture before God was in fact achieved, and God was glorified through David's pleas. And we are told in verse 8 that God heard the sound of David's cries.
Now it should be noted that this does not always happen. Not everyone who stares death in the face repents and cries out to God. Some do and some don't. For example, two figures who dealt with brokenness wrongly were Pharaoh and Judas. Pharaoh, upon losing his first born son initially let Israel leave Egypt, but his decision was short term, for he pursued them to his death at the bottom of the red sea. Likewise, Judas, upon feel grief after betraying Jesus returned the money, but did not flea to Jesus, but instead fled to the grave by taking his own life. Why is this? Why does David cry out to God and find peace, but others do not? The answers lies in what type of grief you have.
However a Godly sorrow has a different effect upon the heart of man. First of all, Godly sorrow is not a product of circumstances, as I said earlier, it is a product of God. God is the one who places his hand upon your heart so that you feel the weight of your sins before a Holy God. There are several verses that express this reality. One example is when Peter is preaching to the Sanhedrin, a group that did not appear to feel any grief for their actions
Having said that, we must recognize that this gift, at times, comes through the instruments of his servants. When evil is on display, the role of the servant of the Lord is to gently correct, not to ignore the sin. It is through this correction that God's spirit may or may not blow into the person's life.
Servant's of the Lord
One fantastic example of this involves David himself in 2 Samuel 12, when the Prophet Nathan confronts David of his sin with Bathsheba.
Cornerstone, we are Nathan. We have been sent into this world to cry out repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand. In the midst of evil and sin that so greatly surrounds us, we must not ignore it, but with gentleness correct the sinner, in hopes that God would give them a heart of repentance.
Without Godly grief, no one will find life. Repentance must occur before the truth of Christ can be received. So often Christians, due to their timidity, or lack of Biblical knowledge leave out the need for repentance when sharing the gospel. They leave out the wrath and judgment of God that hangs above the sinner. When you do this, disciples are not made, Judases are.
Let us be like John the Baptist who was sent to preach repentance, not the health and wealth Gospel. Let us heed the call and preach the true Gospel, let us be like Nathan who loved God and loved David enough to tell him the truth.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on August 9, 2015
Open your Bibles to Psalm 5. Today we are continuing our journey through the Book of Psalms. Before we begin unpacking our text, let me say something that I have said before, but it is good to remind ourselves of these things. The Bible is God's Word. It was written by God through the instrument of the hands of man. Because the Bible is God's Word, and God does not lie, the Bible is inerrant and infallible, or to say it another way, the Bible is true, and incapable of being untrue.
Many Christians would say Amen to the statement that the Bible is inerrant and infallible, at least until they read certain passages; for there are many text that may run afoul of humanities pre-formed, and wrong ideas of who God is and what are His purposes.
With this in mind we must recognize what the Bible is. It is the infallible and inerrant Word of God that has been given to us, so that we understand who God is what His purpose are. The reason God has given us this book of is to reveal truth about Him and His purposes. So when we read passages in the Bible that we don't like, the problem is not with the Bible, it is with our sinful hearts. We are the ones who must submit to what the Bible says, and not make God submit to us. This is the reason for infallible scripture, to correct our fallible minds.
With this in mind, let us read God's Word with the foundation that it is true, and then ask God to humble our hearts to receive his revelation, and then, and only then will we be able to benefit from the sanctifying Word of our Father.
As we can see, Psalm 5 is another Psalm written by King David. Up to this point we have focused on David being God's anointed King of Israel and we have also discussed the sinfulness of David, and its consequences. One thing we haven't talked about is the one thing that is commonly mentioned about David and it is found in 1 Samuel 13:14 and Acts 13:22.
In today’s passage we see David praying in the morning. Verse 3 says, “O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.” This sacrifice of David is a sacrifice of prayer. In fact, the Hebrew root word behind “I prepare a sacrifice for you” is the word “arak” which is most commonly used to describe laying out wood for a sacrifice. In fact this same root word is used in Genesis 22:9 when Abraham was called to sacrifice Isaac, “When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order (arak) and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.”
So in the case of David, we see a ritual of morning worship, whereby David lays out His prayers before the Lord in anticipation of communion with him. This picture of morning communion with the Lord through prayer is not one exclusive to David. I love this quote by Martin Luther, “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” And it doesn’t stop with Luther, listen to how Jesus began his day, one that was filled with more stress that we could ever imagine.
And when you do pray, do not make it only about the routine, so that it is robotic, whereby you go through the motions. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:7, “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.” Your prayers must come from your heart. They must be authentic, just like David’s. He described his prayer life as one of groanings and cryings.
For me, I find it helpful to picture my children when they come to me with problems. My little Ezra is so precious. She has a heart just like her mother, which I cherish. She will come to me in the midst of her pain and she will be an absolute mess. She buries her face into my chest and just sobs, and I can’t understand a word she says, but my heart breaks for her. Why? Because she is really in pain. And her authentic crying has the capacity to move me into action to care and nurture her, and to give her the love she longs for.
And we likewise, must approach our God in prayer with this type of child like faith. Authentic. Raw. Humble. Dependent. And then when we do, we must likewise by like David and watch for the hand of our Father to move across the tumultuous waves of our lives.
Who are You Praying To?
However, the question rises, do we see God in the same way David sees God? When we pray, do we have the same vision of God as David? My guess is that we do not. My guess is that many of us have created in our mind, not the true understanding of God, but instead a comfortable understanding of God. We have in effect turned the Potter into the clay and molded him to our likings, to our sinful hearts. When we pray we are in effect praying to an idol, not the God who is.
Why would we do this? The simple answer is that we are fallen creatures. Sin has blinded us to the ultimate reality of the Universe, that being, who is God. We cannot see him for who he truly is. However, because we are created in his image, we have a knowledge that he is there, but we suppress the ultimate truth of His glory. It is as if we are in a dark room and we can sense a presence, we know that Someone is there, but we just can't make out who it is.
So if this is true, and it is, how are we to have a true understanding of this God, who we know is there, but cannot see? The answer to this question is revelation. The only way by which we know who we cannot see is by Him revealing himself to us. Once again, imagine yourself in a dark room, and you sense that presence of Someone, so you call out, “Who is there?”. Then out of the darkness you here a response,”I AM, here.” You then say, “Who are you?” The Person then begins to reveal to you, who he is. The only reason you are able to know the person who has been with you in that dark room the entire time is because that Person has chosen to reveal himself to us.
So how does God do this for us? Simple. The revelation of God is the Word of God. This is why the Bible exists. The Word of God is light shining out into the darkness of your life revealing to us who God is. The more you spend in God's Word, the more you will see of God.
John Calvin in his famous work, The institutes of Christian Religion said this about the Word of God, “For as the aged, or those whose sight is defective, when any book, however fair, is set before them, though they perceive that there is something written, are scarcely able to make out two consecutive words, but, when aided by glasses, begin to read distinctly, so Scripture, gathering together the impressions of Deity, which, till then, lay confused in our minds, dissipates the darkness, and shows us the true God clearly.”
So to get back to our original question, how is it possible that we would have a wrong understanding of who God is, the answer is simple, we fail to put on our glasses so that we can see Him who stands before us.
The God in whom David cried out to is described in verse 4-6, “or you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. 5The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers. 6You destroy those who speak lies; the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.”
Is this the God you love? Is this the God you worship? Is this the God you pray to? A God who hates all evildoers? A God abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man? When you approach the Sovereign God of the Universe do you recognize that he does not delight in your wickedness, and cannot dwell with and form of evil? I fear for most of us this God never crosses our mind. Instead when we pray to God, we see God as a funny old grandpa that sees the sin of this earth of silly, funny, inconsequential, or no biggy. Let us be clear, this is not the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible is zealous for righteousness.
The God of the Bible pays out the wage of death for sin, no matter how small that sin is. The God of the Bible is one who killed thousands if not millions of people during the flood for one reason, “
The God of the Bibles is the one who designed and created a little place that we know of as Hell. This place is described as eternal torment, utter darkness, a place that there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. And this place exists for one reason only, to be the final destination for angles and people who have sinned against God and stand condemned before him. Let us be clear, Hell was not created to hold sin. It is a place created to hold sinners.
This type of talk makes us feel uncomfortable. We don't like to see God this way, but this is the way David saw God in the morning as he laid his troubles before Him. As he approached God in the morning, the focus of David was on the Holiness of God. It was as if David when walking into the presence of God was like Moses walking up Mount Sinai with its lightning, thunder, clouds, smoke and trumpet calls. It was as if David when approaching God was like Isaiah, in Isaiah 6 when he saw God high and lifted up with Seraphim worshiping him so powerfully that it shook the foundations of the Temple. Who when being in the presence of this awesome God cried out, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5). It was as if David was like Peter in Luke 5:8 that upon seeing the Glory of Christ, “ fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” It was as if David was like Paul who in Romans 7:24 who cries out, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
In my opinion, we, myself included, have a small and distorted view of God and his passion for his Holiness. God is totally serious about his glory. He will not be mocked. If you continue to chose to rebel against the righteous God he does not just hate the sin and love the sinner. He hates the evildoer, and He will not hesitate to send any of us to Hell.
Jonathan Edwards, a man who I will never hold a candle to, but I grow to love more and more as I read his works wrote a famous sermon that is credited to sparking the Great awakening. It is entitled Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. In that sermon he says this: “The bow of God’s wrath is bent, and the arrow made ready to string and justice bends the arrow at your heart, and strains the bow, and it is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, and that of an angry God, without any promise or obligation at all, that keeps the arrow one moment from being made drunk with your blood.”
This is the God in whom David prayed to. But thankfully for David, and for us, that is only one side of the coin of who God is. For if it was, David, and I, and all of you would have a very painful eternity.
God of Steadfast Love
For God is not just a God who hates evildoers, he is also a God who has steadfast love.
This is how David starts his morning in prayer, dwelling upon the Holiness of God and the abundance of his steadfast love. To say it another way, David begins each morning praying the Gospel to the God of the Gospel. With this understanding, you can start to see how David was a man after God's own heart, not that he was perfect, but that understood that the only means by which he had any chance with a Holy God was to seek refuge behind the shield of God's love.
So what was the effect of this type of mourning prayer? Verse 11, “But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy,” How many times have we seen this? Over and over and over again, God continues to reveal to us that joy springs from the fountain of Jesus Christ. As we stated last week, we spend our days seeking joy in empty things, let us instead have hearts like David and start our morning in prayer dwelling upon the steadfast love of our Lord in the face of Jesus Christ.
This week I heard a quote form John Piper who said some thing to the effect of understanding our depravity is crucial for our joy because every day that we don't wake up in Hell is a good day. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Open your Bibles to Psalm 4. Today we are continuing our summer journey through some of the Psalms. Today we are examining another Psalm written by King David. We have a lot of ground to cover, so lets get right to work by reading our text, praying, and then turn our ears towards God.
I thought the best way to approach this Psalm was to start with the problem that seems to be expressed. I believe the main problem is located in verse 2.
The Hebrew word for vain in Psalm 4 and Psalm 2 is “riq” which means empty, no purpose, worthless, vanity. Having said that, David takes it upon himself to define what he means by these vain words and calls them flat out lies.
For David, these vain, empty, worthless, lying words are causing for him distress and even anger. The reason there is so much strife in David’s heart over these lies is because people are tripping over themselves for this vain words and are actually seeking after these lies. People are pursuing and buying into the deception and worthlessness of what is being said. To use a phrase that I use way too much, the people of Israel are thirsty for and drinking the Kool-Aid.
Exactly what these vain, empty, lying words are, we are not sure. David does not tell us specifically, but we can get a sense of what it may pertain to by looking at verse 5.
Unfortunately, this problem of trusting in vain, empty, lying words was nothing new for Israel. This was the core of their problem since the beginning of their nation. From the moment they were freed from the slavery of Egypt, the people of Israel were easily persuaded to put their trust in something other than God, their Deliverer The people of Israel would begin to complain or give their opinion as to what Israel should do and these grumblings would spread like wildfire throughout the camp. At one point they bought into the lie that it would be better to be slaves in Egypt than to be God’s chosen people.
The pursuit of vanity was an ongoing problem for the nation of Israel. They were constantly chasing after things that were outside of God’s will. In my daily walk through the Bible this week I was in 1 Samuel 12 and I read these closing remarks by the prophet Samuel at the moment of transition from Judges to Kings. This is what Samuel warned the people about in 1 Samuel 12:21-22.
The Problem of Vanity Today
However, we should be fair, and recognize that we are no better. In fact, we may be worse. We are a people who frequently seek after vanity, who believe the lies, who turn aside after empty things. Things like spiritualism, humanism, materialism, and even nationalism. With each one of these “isms” comes a promise of peace, enlightenment, success, satisfaction.
Some of you in this room may say, “That is not me. I don't struggle with any of those isms.” However, I would bet that many of you are falling pray to some of these things without even realizing it. Many of this “isms” masquerade as angels of light, and each one of those “isms”, manifest themselves in hundreds if not thousands of different ways. For example, spiritualism: you may think that peace comes from yoga, simplicity, or being in nature. For humanism, you may believe happiness is success, wealth, comfort, or academic achievement. For materialism, you see shopping as an escape, or you spend most of your times dreaming about your retirement. For nationalism, you think the answers to America's problem lie in the right political party and you spend you nights watching fox news.
For each one of these “isms” there is a false belief that the pursuit of these things will satisfy us. But if there is one thing that history has proven to us, each one of these things is fleeting and none of them deliver. Buying into these things is the equivalent of buying snake oil. The sad thing is however, that instead of waking up from our drunkenness with the things of this world, we instead order another round, and buy into the next trendy thing, once again hoping that it will quench or soul’s thirst.
Vanity of Vanities
As I traced this idea of vanity through the Bible this week, I found it interesting how frequent I found it. I mentioned to you that Samuel spoke of it upon the transition to the first King or Israel, Sal. Then David speaks of it in Psalm 4. But it does not end there, for King Solomon took the idea of vanity to a whole new level. This is how he opened the book he wrote, Ecclesiastes:
Why did God allow Solomon to live like he did with no hindrance to his lustful desires? To show us that unlimited money, stuff, intelligence and sex does not produce in us happiness. Our hearts were wired for something better. So what is that something better? Turn with me to Revelation 3:17. These are the words of Jesus.
Jesus tells us plainly that trusting in the things of this world is foolish; for the true reality of who we are is that we are wretched, and nothing in this world is designed to remove our wretchedness, or satisfy our deepest needs. The answer is not found in the world, but found in the one who upholds the Word, Jesus Christ. At the core of who we are is our sinfulness. As David said in verse 1, our righteousness does not come from our 401k, it comes from God. We are called to reject, or repent, the vanity of materialism, and enter into communion with Jesus Christ, for this alone has eternal value for our lives.
Set Apart for God
For David this communion with Christ can be found in verse 3. It is found in those who the Lord has set apart for himself. The godly. It is those who through Christ, God has transferred from the Kingdom of Darkness into the Kingdom of His beloved Son, and Kingdom that we long to live in.
Those who are in set apart, or holy, before the Lord are those who have been given salve for their eyes and they see the reality of the meaninglessness of the things of this world, and see the lasting treasure that is Christ, and cry out to Him. Thereby turning, and placing our trust in Him.
These are people like Disciples John and James who upon being called to follow Jesus we are told in Matthew 4:21 “Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.” And Matthew who upon being called to follow Jesus left his tax booth. And Peter who stated, in Luke 18, “See, we have left our homes and followed you.“ And Paul who upon his conversion on the Damascus road realized that all of his life he was pursuing futility and states in Philippians 1:8, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him.”
Each one of these followers of Jesus placed their trust in Jesus. They trusted in who he was, what he did, and what he promised. They were freed from the emptiness of this world, and saw through the lies of Satan and chose the only path that their hearts truly yearned for.
Set Apart for Joy
These men no longer sought the vanity of this world, but instead the renounced all that they had and followed Jesus. They were called out of the world, and set apart for God. Was this easy? No. There is a cost to following Jesus. Jesus describes it as picking up your cross daily. He describes it as dyeing to self, and laying down your life. The Christian life is a life of sacrifice. Each day you are called to throw off more and more weight and sin that clings to you. This was true for the disciples, and this is also true for you. Some would then say than what good is it to follow Christ. Look at verses 6 and 7.
We must see thee lies of the world for what they are…lies. We must not buy the snake oil of Satan when comes selling the vanity of this world. We must recognize the reality that the things of this earth will soon pass away, but our Kingdom in Heaven is a lasting one. We must see the foolishness of building bigger barns to store our unprecedented wealth, and instead use what God has given us to store up treasures in Heaven.
We must rid ourselves of these weights and seize the treasure that is Christ is eternal. It is only Christ that will give us peace. Understanding that we are made to find satisfaction in God alone. Until you have the eyes to see this you will continue to be deceived by the lies of Satan and the things of this world. You will wake up day after day after day unsatisfied, empty, without purpose, without meaning, without joy.
Let us not be Israel, who did not heed the warning of Moses, Samuel, and David, and who eventually found themselves enslaved once again. Let us trust in God, and live the life of freedom as his children.
Preached at Cornerstone Church Men's and Women's Breakfast on June 20, 2015
Open your Bibles to Hebrews 12:1-4. Let us read it, pray, and then wrap up or study on God's Design for Men and Women.
We forget that to be a Christian is to first and foremost recognize that we are sinful, fallen, desperately sick, broken creatures. Our life, prior to being born again is out of step with our Maker. When God births us into spiritual existence, our new inclination is to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” The power of the Gospel is to justify and to sanctify. Meaning that the death of Christ sufficiently pays for all of our sin, and there is nothing left for us to do so as to be reconciled to God. However, the Gospel does not merely justify us, it puts us into motion towards becoming in sync with God's will.
The gospel breaks the chains of our sinfulness and gives us freedom and desire to pursue what pleases God. This is the essence of or text this morning to “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” This morning I want to talk about two things 1) The Race and 2) the Weights.
So what is this race that we are running? First, let us understand that the terrain for this race is not the streets of gold found in Heaven, but the muck and the mire of this World. God has ordained that the starting line for our life in Christ begins in a fallen world. This is not a perfect illustration but it may help, it is as if we are running in sand. And not only are we running in sand, but people watching us run are not predominately fans of ours. They are hecklers, scoffers, booers, perhaps at times, even obstacles. For some people, the race actually becomes a gauntlet of sorts.
This was the case for the cloud of witnesses that surround us that are spoken about in Hebrews 12:1. These cloud of witnesses are listed in Chapter 11 we are told their stories involve lions, sacrifice, war, torture, mockery, flogging, chains, imprisonment, afflicted and mistreated. Despite all those difficulties, they endured, they kept running the race.
So what race were they running? They were running the race of faith. It is a race that centered around the promises of God. To each of them, the word of God was proclaimed, God's will was revealed, strategy and design were laid out before them, and each one of them had a choice to make in their life, believe God and run the race, or not believe God and blend into the world.
We have spent months soaking in Biblical text seeking the will of God when it comes to men and women. Our study has led us to one single reality, God has a specific design for men, and God has a specific design for women. Both male and female are equal before God. God loves men and women equally and delights in men and women equally, but we have different callings.
I don’t know how you can walk away from this study and think otherwise, for we looked at scripture after scripture from the beginning to the end and it all pointed to an intentional God with an intentional design. Starting in the Garden, running through the Old Testament, examining the words of Jesus, looking at the early Church, reading the letters of Paul, and studying the remaining letters. All of it pointed to an unchanging God who has ordained unchanging roles.
So the question is no longer what does the Bible say about my role as a man, and my role as a women, for we know what its says. The question is, are you willing to run the race of faith when it comes these roles, when it comes to God's design? Are you willing to trust in God’s plan for you as a male, and God’s plan for you as a female? Are you willing to trust in God’s designed for marriage? Are you willing to trust God’s has designed for the home? Are you willing to trust God’s design for His Church?
At this point, this is really the question before us. Will you chose to run the race of faith? We have stared in the mirror of God’s Word, will we turn and forget what we saw? Will we run the race, or will we go sit in the stands? Or perhaps we will run for a little while, and then we will give up because it is just too hard in this day in age? Maybe the Word of God will sprout up in our lives, but it will be chocked out by the cares of this world, or persecution from your family and “friends.”
What I want to do this morning is to convince you, or remind you, that God’s design for male and female is not a burden, it is not a punishment. It is a design that God declared in Genesis 1:31 to be “very good.” That word good in verse 31 is “tob” which can be translated to pleasing, well, pleasant, delightful, glad, joyful, delicious, sweet. God’s design for men and women is a design that fits. It is a design that complements. It is a design that is harmonious. It is a design the best displays what God desires to be displayed.
I think we as Christians forget this. We see the walk of faith only as difficult, and we fail to see the joy, and peace, and fullness of a life when you are surrendered entirely to your Father. We forget that God promises that truth sets us free, and that there is freedom in implementing God’s design. We fail to recognize the fruit that will come from a life planted by the streams of God’s Word. We must recognize that the weight of this life, is not obedience, but disobedience.
What is the must regular response to the question, how have you been? “Busy.” That is the main response. “We are really busy.” You can see it in people's eyes, they are scattered in their lives and scattered in their hearts. This is a weight upon their shoulders. It drags them down. It makes the race of this life wearisome. I can't help but think the main reason for this is that we are out of sync with God's design for our lives.
Instead of men being at home and leading their wives and children, they are working 50+ hours a week, golfing, watching endless sports, or wasting their life away in a man cave. Instead of men stepping up and leading Church's they shrink in the back and make jokes about the women doing it. They send them out into the world to make money so that you can have a bigger truck. Men are universally failing to be the men that God designed them to be. Gone seem to be the days of valiance. Homes and Churches are now full of 40 year old adolescents.
Women, you have bought into the lie of feminism that equality means being the same. Equality does not mean the same. There is no doubt that men and women are different. Why in the world did we think we can fit them into the same mold? You have pursued the path of man, and you are now doing twice as much work and burning the candles at both ends. Your kids are being raised by secular strangers, and you and your husband are always fighting because the house is always a wreck, you never eat as a family, and the two hours you get the your children is spent carting them around to keep up with the world. And at the end of the night, the last thing you are thinking about is intimacy.
With all this said, we wonder why marriages don't last. And we wonder why Church's are slipping into liberalism, where anything goes. We have ignored, rejected, or twisted the Word of God.
But it doesn't have to be this way for us. We don't have to go the way of the world, and be deceived. We can chose today to lay aside every weight that is clinging to us and run the race that God has expressly set before us. Will it be easy? Absolutely not. God hardly ever calls us into things that are easy. The life of a Christian is described as a fight of faith. We must work out our salvation. We must strive down the narrow path. We must pick up our cross and follow Christ.
So this is my call as we end this series. Each of you make a concerted effort to live out what you have been studying. Pray that God would reveal to you areas that are out of sync with God's will. Then take steps in your life to fulfill God's design for you as a man and a women. It doesn't have to be all at once. Each month do something that moves you in the right direction.
Men, start seeing your home as your Garden of Eden and stand guard against Satan's attack on you, your wife, and your kids. Pay attention to what is on the TV, Computer, mailbox, and phone. Set loving rules and boundaries. Be willing to lay down your life for your wife by reducing your work hours, eliminating your TV time, or giving up a hobby or two. Start leading your family in prayer and devotionals. Look for ways that you can step up to the plate at Church. Encourage other men to be men. Make the choice to stop being apathetic, and instead choose to be a fellow solider in Christ.
Women, think about how you can come up along side and help your husbands and the Church. Be Holy Spirit like, who comes and goes without being seen, but you know that he was there because you can see the effects. Think about how you can make the dance more beautiful. Unleash your God given creativity and live, not as a slave to feminism, but as a slave to Jesus Christ. Make your home a gospel centered home, focus your attention on training up your children in righteousness. Love your husband, encourage your husband, respect your husband.
Lastly, let us, let God be God. Let us submit to Him above all. Let us not think we are entitled to a certain way of life that we believe is the best. Let us run the race of faith and trust in God's design, let us trust in God's Word, and let us endure for the joy that is set before us when we stand in the presence of our Maker and we here him say well done good and faithful servant.