Submission to God

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.

 

HOW LONG WILL IT LAST?

Have you seen those amazing pictures of Ice Hotels?

These are real buildings made from ice and snow. They are beautiful, unusual . . and temporary. They are built knowing they will only last for a few months.

This understanding determines how they are built and furnished. The owners only invest in them according to the amount of time they will get out of them.

Wouldn’t it make sense if we had that perspective about life in this world?

We think of the Ice Hotels as being temporary and other buildings as being permanent. Yet everything in this world is temporary with the exception of our souls.

Everything you possess – including your body – are short lived.

The Great Pyramids are among the oldest structures on earth, yet compared with eternity to come, they are more like the sand castles that kids make on a summer day.

Our decisions and our values will be healthier, wiser and much more God-centered when we recognize what will last and what will not.

Do we live as if physical realities are as long lasting as spiritual realities?

What receives your greatest attention?

Where do you invest your resources?

What do you value most in this world – and how long will it last?

SERMON LEFTOVERS 8.08.16

Jesus’ friends love  

    

John 15:12-17

In Jesus’ Farewell Discourse, he now returns to emphasize and dig into truths he has already told them. This repetition lets us know these are foundational truths for Christ followers

 

Once again, Jesus connects love and obedience

Love among believers is required (vs 12, 17)

Morality and church involvement are necessary – but love is our beacon to the world (John 13:35)

Love best reveals (1) God’s transforming power and (2) the gospel’s agenda

But what does love for one another look like?  1 Corinthians 13:7-8

     “Bears all things” – love shows grace and absorbs people’s shortcomings

     “Believes all things” – love does not draw negative conclusions and assign bad motives to others

     “Hopes all things” – love obligates us to think the best we can of others

     “Endures all things” – love’s agenda for people doesn’t change with how they treat us

Jesus’ redemptive work is our example for how to obey and love (v13)

In the cross we see Jesus’ greatest example of love – sacrifice – humility – commitment

Other believers can be examples, but Jesus is our standard

In chapter 1 Jesus is the ‘Word made flesh’

     Jesus is God’s ultimate expression of himself,

     Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s grand purpose

     Jesus is the manifestation of godliness

     ~ For all these reasons we are to be obsessed with knowing and imitating Jesus

An implied theme of this discourse is that Jesus’ followers will obey him (v14)

Christ has not just set a path before us, he has walked it

God knows our weakness, so don’t beat yourself up with failures, repent if needed and go forward (Psalm 103:13-14)

But God rejects an unwilling heart, so make sure you do repent of sin in every form (Revelation 3:14-16

 

Our obedience is not as slaves (vs 14-15)

Slaves are just given tasks, while God has opened his plans to us, so we can we share in them

1.  We don’t want to abuse the role of “friend” and so neglect having a servant’s heart

         We need to take the phrase ‘I no longer call you servants’ in context

         We are still to view ourselves as servants, for that is how Jesus viewed himself on earth

2.  We don’t want to minimize our relationship with God as “friend”, and fail to embrace it

Being Jesus’ friend is clearly a relational title, but it’s much more; we have been invited into the work that is dearest to his heart

We gain insight by looking at Abraham and Moses, who are the only people previously called “friends” of God

     Both of them experienced unusual interaction with God

     Both of them were given unusual access to God

These two themes are imbedded is what Jesus communicates in v15

We are servants, because we serve Jesus’ kingdom, instead of our own

But we are also beloved friends and heirs of that kingdom

 

Jesus takes our participation further (v16)

We are “chosen” and “appointed” to fruitfully participate in gospel work

1.  This is meant to encourage us, because Christ has initiated our calling (knowing all our junk)

We tend to fall into the false mindset that we initiate plans and then convince God to help

2.  This is meant to make us serious, because we have been given responsibilities

We need to ask ourselves, what we think life is for!

     Is it to build a happy life and if we are open to it, God can have some space

    Or, that life is from and for God!  True joy comes through fulfilling his roles for us

Jesus continues the theme of our being fruitful that he began vs 1-11

God wants you to be fruitful!  Our weaknesses have no impact on this intention

A fruitful life is his purpose, any voice that says otherwise is lying

This doesn’t rest on our smarts or strength. Remember the “Helper” was sent to dwell in us

Our role in the process is to love God – obey him – abide in him – love one another

For the fourth time in the Farewell Discourse, in v16 Jesus tells them to “ask in my name”

“Friends” of God, let’s take him at his word

SOMEONE IS IN CONTROL . . AND IT’S NOT YOU

We generally think, “In control = good”, and “out of control = very bad”!

Who really likes to feel that people and circumstances are out of our control.

Yet, life not only is out of our control, it is rather important for us to recognize this fact.

When we think we “are in control” or if we live trying to “be in control”, that is actually a bad place to be.

One of those bad things is that we mix up the role that belongs to us with the role that belongs to God. We are terrible at trying to be God (despite the fact that we work at it rather frequently).

My friend, Ricky Alcantar from Cross of Grace Church in El Paso, Texas wrote this article on facing the reality of it being good to know life is out of our control, “Fear Not, The Universe Is Wildly Out of Your Control”.

This is a healthy and restful lesson to learn.

WHAT IS YOUR CULTURAL DIET?

Not long ago I was reading an article in which the author gave what I think is wonderful advice:

Take stock of your cultural diet. Evaluate and re-evaluate your movie-watching, music-listening, clothes-wearing habits. Are you feeding or starving the lust of your flesh?

We all live in a culture. More accurately we live in the midst of several overlapping and often co-mingling cultures.

As Christians, we are alert to the extreme violations of biblically defined culture, but too often we float along without serious examination of our “cultural diet”.

The point is not to make us rigid; it is to make us biblical – which by God’s definition is always wise and good!

This exercise is not an infringement upon our Christian liberties; it is a sifting to make sure our liberties are in fact God-honoring and Christian.

I will press the point a little further to say, if we are unwilling to examine our cultural diet, then we are not actually serious about being Christ-followers. For Jesus unceasingly leads to love the Father with all that we are. This includes honoring Him in all that we take in.