Submission to God

SIMPLY PROFOUND

It is a simple truth. 

My fullest and uninterrupted joy, contentment, happiness, satisfaction and delight will be when my heart is entirely given to Jesus Christ. 

It is simple, because I don’t have to figure out where to place the focus of my life. I don’t have to search for life’s answers. It is always Jesus! If I set the entirety of my mind and heart on Jesus I will experience the greatest possible joy in this world. 

The reason is creation. 

I am a created being. I was purposefully designed by God to know and enjoy him. This is my highest purpose for existing. 

The proof is heaven. 

My eternity will be wondrous, because I will be a Great Commandment person. My heart will overflow with inexpressible joy when my heart no longer withholds anything from Christ. 

This is a profound truth. 

Nothing is more important to understand, and nothing will bring more benefit to your life. Right now an army of activities and responsibilities are demanding your time and attention. However, none of them are as vital to your everything than the person of Jesus!

Love for Jesus is what makes life work.

Love for Jesus is how I get back on track.

Love for Jesus is how I begin each day.

Love for Jesus is how I filter all circumstances.

Love for Jesus is how I assess each day.

Love for Jesus is where I give my best efforts.

Love for Jesus is what my soul is searching for, and every substitute will leave my soul wanting more. 

Jesus will satisfy, he truly will.

THE THEOLOGY OF SLEEP

Why do we sleep?

It is a manifestation of God’s purpose. He made us to mentally and physically need (and enjoy) sleep. 

There is rare condition known as Fatal Insomnia. These not people who have trouble sleeping, they cannot sleep. It quickly produces symptoms such as hallucinations, delirium, confusional states like that of dementia, and eventually it causes death.

But what about the theology of sleep?

What should we recognize about God and ourselves from this state of being which uses up approximately one third of our life?

Sleep declares that we must depend upon God’s care

Sleep reminds us that we are human, not divine. We must sleep, but God never does.

Sleep reminds us we are limited, but God is not. Our battery runs down and must be recharged. God continuously sustains everything in existence. Molecules move and hearts beat because God wills them to do so. The Puritan scholar, John Owen, said it is as if God’s magnificent work of creation is repeated every second.

Sleep reminds us we are vulnerable, and God is sovereign. We must put down our tasks and take time off from protecting who and what we love. God is never more or less in control. He is ever and absolutely sovereign.

Since sleep is part of God’s plan for us, both physiologically and theologically, take full advantage of sleep.

As you close your eyes, thank God that for the next several hours, you can rest your body and relax your mind.

As you close your eyes, praise God that he will be in complete control, while you are in a state of complete oblivion.

As you close your eyes, take joy in knowing that even when you must put aside your tasks, God remains active in everything that is important to you.

For those who are tempted to consider sleep as an interruption, and who think life would be much better if days lasted a few hours longer; you might consider rethinking that perspective. Is life more productive when you are behind the wheel or when God is being trusted to be faithful? Do we actually think that what we need most is more time to labor, rather than having a more consistent trust in God?

God is deserving of our rest, and that our rest would be full of contentment.Instead of “counting sheep” when sleep becomes elusive, try counting God’s faithfulness.

Before you slip into sleep each night, consider the theology of what is about to take place – and rejoice that God will be glorious even as you sleep.

WHEN ENJOYMENTS CROSS THE LINE

 

What makes an enjoyment idolatrous?

John Piper in one of his articles did an excellent job of digging into this matter. Through a series of 12 points, Piper helps us recognize when our enjoyments are being misused.

In short, he wants us to make sure all our enjoyments are completely God-centered.

If you consider any of these points to be “too picky”, it may be a sign that you need to look more seriously at God’s call for you to be a Great Commandment person.

Here are Piper’s 12 points of self-examination:

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is forbidden by God

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is disproportionate to the worth of what is desired

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is not permeated with gratitude

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it does not see in God’s gift that God himself is more to be desired than the gift

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is starting to feel like a right, and our delight is becoming a demand

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it draws us away from our duties

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it awakens a sense of pride that we can experience this delight while others can’t

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is oblivious or callous to the needs and desires of others

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it does not desire that Christ be magnified as supremely desirable through the enjoyment

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is not working a deeper capacity for holy delight

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when its loss ruins our trust in the goodness of God

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when its loss paralyzes us emotionally so that we can’t relate lovingly to other people.

SERMON LEFTOVERS 6.12.17

Love for God is not independent from him

 

1 Corinthians 11:2-16

Why this sudden concern for hairstyle?

In the New Testament, the emphasis is on the heart rather than the exterior (Mark 7:20-23)

Paul is also concerned for the heart condition of wives participating in church services

Their participation in “prayer and prophecy” is assumed and encouraged

This was revolutionary compared to Jewish synagogues where women were not even full members

However, it appears some wives were taking this freedom a step further

The phrase head uncovered is literally: “having down from the head”

There is historic evidence for this being hair bound up on head, or a cloth covering

Once women were married, they kept their hair bound up – it was a cultural norm

For a wife to ‘uncover’ her hair in public was a declaration of her independence

Why were wives doing this while speaking in church service?

We have already seen the Corinthians had a high view of their spirituality

We will see in coming chapters they took pride in how their spiritual gifts we were used during services

Hair ‘uncovered’ declared:  I have independent authority straight from God

Paul responds by presenting a big picture view of ‘headship’

Paul brings up headship in v3 before he identifies why he does in v5

Lets us know all that follows is about Christ more than dress code

 

Paul points are strikingly current for us

1.  God’s design promotes dependence not independence

v3 gives a 3-fold list of headship with women in the middle of the list to show it is not demeaning of them

Headship is a statement of hierarchy and it implies submission

Both concepts are repudiated in our culture as being archaic

But the inclusion of Christ in this list clearly shows that is not God’s perspective

There is a hierarchy with the triune Godhead: Father – Son – Holy Spirit

The Son serves and glorifies the Father; while the Holy Spirit was sent by and glorifies the Son

v7 God created humanity in his image, which means we reflect his character

This includes embracing the concepts of authority and creation order (vs 8-10)

If women (or men) push off their headship – they reject God’s order

The women who did this, dishonored their ‘head’ – their husband

In that culture, a head covering was a ‘symbol’ of role acceptance (v10)

When we exalt our independence, we denigrate God’s order

Why does v10 add ‘angels’ to mix?

They are messengers of God’s glory

Paul also cited angels in 6:3 which shows that our obedience is part of the big picture of God’s reign

2.  God’s design brings completion not ‘contention’ (v16)

Paul shows that submission doesn’t mean we are being devalued (vs 11-12)

Men and women are interdependent, one is not better or more valued

Ultimately, we are all fully dependent on and submitted to God

As believers, we embrace God’s order because we trust him

  • Wives submit to imperfect husbands
  • Children honor imperfect parents
  • Church members submit to an imperfect local church

We have ample reason to trust that God’s goodness is built into his design

Each of our roles contains a God given ‘glory’ in it (v7)

This idea of glory means there is completion and joy when we accept it

Jesus himself submits to the Father to complete the gospel plan (1 Corinthians 15:28)

If we throw off God’s design all that’s left is brokenness

3.  Gender distinctions are God-given and shouldn’t be blurred (v14)

Homosexuality was prominent in ancient Greece and Rome

So, Paul uses the principle of God’s design to address blurring gender distinctions

It is another example of how we must not join the world in discarding God’s order

4.  Our cultural choices should always be God-honoring (vs 13-16)

Every culture expresses itself in ways that communicate values

Great Commandment people avoid choices that (1) dishonor God, or (2) weaken our testimony

Questions to ask ourselves:

  1. Do we dress to please people or God?
  2. Do we adorn ourselves in ways that are meant to demonstrate a rebellious attitude?
  3. Does our behavior flow with the world more than with God’s Word?
  4. Do we have attitudes that are dismissive of God given authority and institutions?

These questions are really about our love for God. We cannot love him and dismiss his design for us or this world

JUST BE FAITHFUL WITH YOUR TODAY

James-4-14

by Debbie Huber

I recently read a blog article where the author made a point that stood out to me:  “Just be faithful with your today”.  Many of us allow regrets from the past to prevent us from doing what we know is best today.  We can beat ourselves up over the things we did not accomplish or would do differently from the past.  We also tend to habitually put things off until “tomorrow” or expend a lot of mental energy worrying over the future.  These thoughts can often paralyze us so we are not faithful with the things God has entrusted us with for today. 

Are you waiting to begin having your personal time reading the Bible daily until circumstances are better (….your child sleeps through the night, or until your work schedule changes, or until summer comes, or until you are less tired…)?

            Make a plan today and begin.  There will always be events of life that seem like they are obstacles.  Make reading God’s word a priority TODAY.

Do you feel like your children are too old and it is too late to begin reading the Bible together as a family?

            It is never too late to begin reading the Bible.  Apologize to your children for putting it off and approach it as a privilege, not a chore!

Is there tension in your marriage and you have pulled back emotionally?

            Repent of your selfishness and seek God for your marriage TODAY. 

Are you putting off joining a small group until after your child’s sports season?

            Do not wait!  Demonstrate to your family that God is most important.

Are you neglecting hospitality because you are not happy with how your home is decorated?

            God has put you in your home today, be content in it and do not be ashamed to share your life with others.  He has called us to be faithful with what we have. 

Have you been putting off sharing the gospel with a coworker?

            Ask God to help you do it today.

Have you been meaning to call your struggling Christian friend but are dreading getting into her “messiness”?

            Pick up the phone today.  Do not neglect God’s imperative to “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2).

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  Psalm 118:24

FREE TO BE A SLAVE

A Slave-Pen at New Orleans Before the Auction

In reading “A Puritan Theology” by Joel Beeke, I came across this compelling story:

A wealthy Englishman went to California in the 1850s to enrich himself during the gold rush.  After much success, he left to go back to England.  He stopped at New Orleans on the way home, and, as all tourists did at that time, visited the infamous slave trading block. 

As he approached the place where people were sold for cash, he saw a beautiful, young, African woman standing on the block.  He overheard two men who were trying to outbid each other for the woman, talking about what they would do to her if they could buy her.  To their surprise, the Englishman joined in the bidding by offering twice the price.

The auctioneer was astonished. “No one has ever offered this much for a slave,” he said.

After purchasing her, the Englishman stepped forward to get her.  When he helped her down to his level, she spat I his face.  He wiped away the spit and led her to a building in another part of town.  There she watched uncomprehendingly as he filled out forms.  To her astonishment, he handed her some manumission papers and said, “There, now you are a free woman.”  She spat in his face again.

“Don’t you understand?” he asked, as he wiped her spit away again.  “You are free!  You are free!” 

She stared at him in disbelief a long while.  Then she fell at his feet and wept – and wept some more.  Finally, she looked up and asked, “Sir, is it really true that you paid more than anyone has ever paid to purchase me as a slave, only to set me free?”

“Yes,” he said, calmly.

She wept some more.  Finally, she spoke: “Sir, I have only one request.  Can I be your slave forever?”

This encounter is meant to illustrate what Christ has done for us, and –don’t miss it– what our response should be to his generous grace!

Christian, you know your own story of unexpected liberation from slavery and condemnation. Are you as willing to make yourself a slave of Christ?

There are believers who occasionally say they are thankful, and there are believers who daily demonstrate they are thankful. Which best defines you?

SERMON LEFTOVERS 4.03.17

Is our thinking shaped by Christ?

 

1 Corinthians 6:12-20

 

Paul corrects their misuse of freedoms

1. Paul is probably quoting their words of defense in vs 12-13 

They were using their freedom from OT dietary law as cover for temple feasts involving prostitutes

v13 implies they were also pointing out that since the body dies, how it is used is unimportant

2. Paul corrects the starting place of their defense

Yes, we have freedoms in Christ, but our rights are never our starting place

God, and how we honor him is always our starting place (v12 what is “helpful”)

When we begin with our freedoms, they will “dominate” us (this includes activities we use for escape)

Whatever doesn’t place God in his rightful place, is trying to take that place

 3. Paul then corrects their view of our physical body

It’s true this body is corrupt and will pass away; but that is only half the story

v14 God raised Jesus’ body and He will raise ours!  God values this body He created

Great Commandment living calls for God to be first in all that we are – all the time

 

Paul brings in the implications of our union with Christ (vs15-20)

He gives 3 you-should-know statements flowing out of our union with Christ

God is always our starting place in life, and Jesus is our starting place with God

 1. You should know that you have been joined to Christ (v15)

This is why the gospel is so powerful and our confidence in it is so great

If you’re a member (part) of Christ, think how obscene it is to take part of Christ into sin

When God is not our starting place, we minimize the great truths we have in the gospel

2. You should know that sex has a covenant purpose (vs16-17)

The world doesn’t start with God, so sex and its implications are only viewed physically. God gave sex to build a unique oneness in marriage. Its effects are more than physical

Just as we become one flesh in marriage, we are now one spirit with the Lord. This makes sexual immorality especially corrupting to us. It abuses what has a spiritual purpose

3. You should know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit (vs19-20)

When you engage in sin, you take the Holy Spirit with you

When God is not our starting place, we think that our sin is a personal issue. God says no! 

v19 “you are not your own” – you are responsible for you, but you are not in charge of you

v20 you were bought with a price” – God became flesh, died, and took the wrath we deserved, our debt is great

 

What can we learn from the attitudes in this passage that seem culturally foreign to us?

1. Cultures change, but their foundational motivations don’t

Every culture exalts itself, rather than God; only the church is cross-centered

Keep in mind chapters 1-2, the world’s view of wisdom is upside down

All thinking, attitudes and opinions, no matter how culturally common, must be sifted by Scripture

2. Any defense of sin requires foolish self-deception

We can easily look with distain on the Corinthian’s behavior and defenses

Yet, every sin in your life is just as indefensible (this includes sins of omission)

Every argument you use to minimize your sin is contorted and foolish

3. Paul gives us two unchanging actions of godliness

#1  v19“Flee sexual immorality” (and any other form of sin)

Recognize that sin is dangerous . . we must go in the opposite direction . . with urgency!

#2  v20 “Glorify God in your body”

We don’t “flee” aimlessly!   We have a direction and it’s toward the person of Christ!

To glorify not a vague idea, it’s specific actions of making God far above all

This includes glorifying him “in our body”. So let’s “do” what shows God that he is far above all!

SERMON LEFTOVERS 3.06.17

Wisdom Follows Humility

 

1 Corinthians 4:6-21                   

 

We all make a life choice concerning whose perspective is upside down, God’s or that of the world. The Corinthians had not chosen well as evidenced by their divisiveness. Paul has answered by contrasting the wisdom of God with that of world. Now he unmasks the motivation behind their choices.

 

The wisdom we follow is a pride issue

All human history and the gospel are connected to this reality (compare Gen 3:1-6 and Mt 4:3-10)

1. Paul uses confrontation, to help the Corinthians see their true selves

He asks three who – what – why questions (v7)

There is no mystery concerning the answers; all we have is from God, which takes away our reasons for boasting

But unless we know God clearly, we will not see this basic reality

Even believers drift if God’s Word does not anchor our minds

We desperately need the conviction not to go “beyond” God’s Word (v6)

Paul had “applied all these things” i.e. the truths of chapters 1-4

Paul has doggedly pressed this conviction on us – how has it impacted you?

Beware, it is not just the world that tries to draw us “beyond what is written”

There are some in the church who diminish the infallibility and authority of God’s word

Discernment matters concerning what we read and who we hear

2. Paul uses sarcasm to help the Corinthians see the foolishness of their pride

They had an exaggerated view their maturity, so in v8 Paul uses exaggeration

Then he makes comparisons in v10 using words they probably used about themselves

When we compare ourselves to others, we usually use a one-sided and distorted storyline

3. Paul uses his own example of humbly resting in Christ

Paul is no longer using hyperbole, this is how he lived!

He is uplifting the seemingly ‘upside down’ biblical perspective of humility

The world resents life that looks like (v11)

The rich and wise would have mocked Paul for demeaning himself in physical labor (v12)

People ridicule those who have a v13 lifestyle

Humility as lifestyle is upside down to a world that is self-centered

Then why would any of us want to embrace it and be content!?

It’s the way of wisdom, for it is the way of Christ (Philippians 3:8)

What is truly upside down, is the so-called wisdom of the world

If you know Christ and have his gospel, the choice of where wisdom is found should not be difficult

To help us joyfully agree with the worthiness of Christ, we need to be immersed in praise of him

 

Paul presents their response options

Paul has firmly “admonished” them: how will they receive it? (vs 14-17)

(1)  They can justify themselves and reject his assessment

(2)  They can be self-focused in “shame” and pull away

(3)  Or they can humble themselves and follow the example of godly wisdom

Paul offers himself as an example, because he has “applied these things”

We are all called to be disciple-makers; and part of that is being an example

You don’t need to be a perfect example, you can be a committed example

We can show that we are committed to “applying” the wisdom of God instead of our own

We can show that we take joy in the wisdom of God instead of our own

Paul has softened his tone from confrontational to fatherly

But these believers must still decide how they will respond (vs 18-21)

The wisdom of the world has influence, but it’s devoid of power

The wisdom of God consists of power, so serving his “kingdom” has power

     The wisdom of the gospel is ‘the power of God for salvation’

     The wisdom of God is power to make life whole

     The wisdom of God is power to sustain and lift you in every storm

If you are in Christ and you embrace his word, your life will have power

 

WHY AM I NOT MATURING AS I WANT?

 

Every Christian is called to be a Great Commandment person who loves and serves God with all that we are. Yet, we all recognize that we still have progress to make.

If we are serious about loving and living for God more fully, then we need to be serious about specifically identifying what is getting in the way.

Once we are clear minded about obstacles, we can prayerfully and humbly make true progress in rising above them. This is not only important for God’s honor, it will flood your life with grace and lift your heart with joy.

Richard Baxter was a puritan pastor who wrote extensively on what it means to live fully for God. In one of his treatises, he listed 20 hindrances of conversion.

As I read over his list, it occurred to me that for the most part, this is also a list of what hinders us from being Great Commandment people.

Tremendous progress can be made once we identify one or two areas of stumbling and then daily seek God’s grace to overcome them.

This is Baxter’s list of hindrances with my own comments in italics:

(1)  willful neglect of the means of grace – this includes the habits of godliness God has told us to follow

(2)  bad company

(3)  gross ignorance of biblical truths – how can we know them well, if we are rarely in God’s Word?

(4)  unbelief – as Christians, we don’t believe all biblical truths as fully as we think

(5)  thoughtlessness – when we read the Bible or hear a message and shutdown as soon as it’s over

(6)  hardness of heart – every time we push off the Holy Spirit’s voice, we build up a callous

(7)  great esteem and interest in the world 

(8)  habits of sin subduing the mind – yes, every sin does affect us

(9)  foolish self-love and presumption 

(10)  counterfeit conversion 

(11)  living among strong temptations to sin

(12)  scandal and division in the church – divisiveness harms the church and our witness to the world

(13)  the poor education of children – parents are not all Bible experts, but all parents can read and talk about the Bible to their children

(14)  striving against the Holy Spirit

(15)  half-heartedness in religion

(16)  delay 

(17)  failure to follow through on good beginnings – this is one reason we need the example and accountability of biblical community

(18)  misunderstanding some Scriptures – bad teaching makes it harder to mature

(19)  pride and unteachableness – the Bible shows pride to be the great root of sin

(20)  willful obstinacy

IS THERE CLARITY FOR THE FREE WILL DEBATE?

The issue of whether people have a ‘free will’ has been hotly debated for centuries. It is a debate that will likely continue until Jesus comes.

In my view, much of the distance between believers on this issue is that we have somewhat different definitions in mind about the terms we throw at one another. Once terms are better clarified, there still may be disagreement, but the difference is not as dramatic as we once imagined.

We may even grow to have new appreciation for each others perspective. This is true on virtually all debatable issues within historic Christianity.

I don’t think it is particularly clear or accurate to throw out absolute statements such as, “Yes, we all have a free will” or, “No one has a free will”.

I think Scripture gives us a clear, but more nuanced understanding.

We can certainly say; people choose to act as they do and are fully responsible for their actions. Romans 1:18-32 describes the responsibility people have in “suppressing the truth” and “exchanging” the glory of God for their own wisdom.

Yet, in this same epistle, Paul says the mind set on the flesh “cannot” submit to God (8:7). In 1 Corinthians 2:14, Paul says that the natural mind is “not able to understand” spiritual truth. Ephesians 2 describes all unbelievers as spiritually “dead”. This language is meant to convey our inability to choose to live godly.

So, do unbelievers have freedom of will?

The answer is yes, but only within their nature. A spiritually dead nature will not and cannot choose godliness until the Holy Spirit awakens their soul to want God.

My favorite illustration is that of the lion and the antelope.

Although the lion and the antelope share the same habitat, the lion eats meat and the antelope eats grass. Neither will ever change their eating habits, because it is not in their nature.

In fact, the lion will starve to death before it eats grass, even though the antelope happily munches on the vegetation surrounding them both.

Lions are free to eat what they want, but their choices are limited by their nature. So it is with the unregenerate person. They are free to act as they want, but they will only choose within their nature.

In the end, all Christians agree that we need the intervention of the Holy Spirit if we are to become a Christ-follower.

This is evident in the way all Christians pray regardless of their position on freedom of will. We ask God to convict and work in the hearts of those who need to receive Christ.

God doesn’t force anyone to believe, but when the Holy Spirit enlivens the soul to truly see and know the glorious Christ, we cannot get to him fast enough!

If you are interested in thinking through this issue a little further, John Piper has this helpful article on the desiringGod website.