Friday, October 31, 2008

Reformation Needed: A Reflection for Reformation Day

October 31, 1517 was the date the Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on a church door in Wittenberg, Germany. This is the date historians often mark as the beginning of the Reformation. The Reformation began as a sort of intramural debate within the Roman Catholic Church. Luther did not at the outset imagine separating from Rome. In fact, at the time he posted his theses he had not yet come to an understanding of imputed righteousness and his interpretation of the Romans 1:17.

What started the Reformation?: A Historical Introduction

At this point in history, Luther was trying to reform the church from within. He has witnessed in his day and within the last several hundred years prior to him a corruption of the Roman Catholic Church. There was greed at all levels straight up to the Pope himself. For example, Pope Innocent VIII (d. 1492) was not so innocent having fathered 16 illegitimate children. Alexander VI was ruthless, had a mistress in the Vatican, and promoted his own illegitimate son to cardinal among other things. Julius II had taken up the sword to unite Italy on the battlefield, so much for being the Vicor of Christ.

The impiety of Rome was so obvious that Conrad Peutinger, the Augsburg city secretary sent to Rome during the time of Innocent VIII, wrote in 1491:
"I see that everything here [in Rome] can be bought from top to bottom. Intrigues, hypocrisy, adulation are highly honored, religion is debased; vulgarities occur without number; righteousness sleeps. Whenever I see the ruined monuments of antiquity, I deplore the fact that this famous city is ruled by a foreign race which under pious pretenses practices every deed of violence and other unheard-of outrages, and they wish thereby to be praised instead of the deserved censure. When I rebuke them they say that fate has ordained it!"
With respect to Rome's theology, recent innovations had been introduced. Most distressing was the innovation of the idea of penance. This soon lead the notion of sales of indulgences. The selling of indulgences for the forgiveness of certain sins became a quick way for Rome to raise capital for a number of projects in the Middle Ages. In 1517, when Rome was coming up short with the funds for the building of the dome of St. Peter's Basilica, Pope Leo X turned to a marketing strategist: a monk named Johann Tetzel. Tetzel devised a plan for increased indulgences through increased sales, like any good businessman Tetzel knew Rome had a product that could be marketed to the masses for increased money. It was supply and demand. As Stephen Nichols' writes:
"Tetzel's indulgence also promised to free a soul from purgatory. This was quite a selling point. Imagine the chance to save one's father, mother, grandparents, or even child, from the terrors and misery of purgatory. To underscore this benefit to buyers, Tetzel prepared sermons containing vivid descriptions of the horrors of purgatory for parish priests to preach just before entered their towns. (Martin Luther's Ninety-Five Theses, p.12)"
So cleaver was Tetzel, he even had a little marketing jingle, that almost sounds like a quaint gimmick from 1950s America:
"Every time a coin in the coffer rings,
A soul from purgatory springs."
In response, Luther posted 95 Theses on the church door in Wittenberg. This, in Luther's day, was a way of announcing the wish to debate an issue. Philip Schaff writes the following on Luther's motivation:
"He wished to elicit the truth about the burning question of indulgences, which he himself professed not to fully understand at the time, and which yet was closely connected with the peace of conscience and eternal salvation. He chose the orderly and usual way of a learned academic disputation." (History of the Christian Church, vol. 7, p.155)


What did Luther Say? Some of the best of the 95.

You can read Luther's 95 theses here. I recommend buying a copy of Steve Nichols' edited copy because his footnotes explain some of the historical details that are missed as we read them 500 years later.

Here are some of my favorites:

1. When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said "Repent", He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.
2. The word cannot be properly understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, i.e. confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy.
3. Yet its meaning is not restricted to repentance in one's heart; for such repentance is null unless it produces outward signs in various mortifications of the flesh.
4. As long as hatred of self abides (i.e. true inward repentance) the penalty of sin abides, viz., until we enter the kingdom of heaven.
Luther reminds us that the whole of Christian life is about repenting. The true Christian is lead deeper and deeper into his hatred of sin. In fact, Luther adds in his explanations of #4:

"True sorrow must spring from the goodness and mercies of God, especially from the wounds of Christ, so that man comes first of all to sense his own ingratitude in view of divine goodness and thereupon to hatred of himself and love of the kindness of God. Then tears will flow and he will hate himself from the very depths of his hear, yet without despair. Then he will hate sin, not because of the punishment but because of his regard for the goodness of God; and when he has perceived this he will be preserved from despair and will despise himself most ardently, yet joyfully."
With respect to #4, it seems clear Luther had not yet come to understand justification by faith alone. Yet, Luther leads us to the kind of Christianity that is so foreign to us today: humbling ourselves. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Growing in Christ means lowering myself--I must decrease so that He might increase. We need a fresh invigoration of this self-sacrifice into our Christian piety (aka 'spirituality') today.

27. There is no divine authority for preaching that the soul flies out of the purgatory immediately the money clinks in the bottom of the chest.
28. It is certainly possible that when the money clinks in the bottom of the chest avarice and greed increase; but when the church offers intercession, all depends in the will of God.

32. All those who believe themselves certain of their own salvation by means of letters of indulgence, will be eternally damned, together with their teachers.
33. We should be most carefully on our guard against those who say that the papal indulgences are an inestimable divine gift, and that a man is reconciled to God by them.
34. For the grace conveyed by these indulgences relates simply to the penalties of the sacramental "satisfactions" decreed merely by man.

Grace is obviously not something that can be bought or won by merit. This is true both in Luther's day and in our day. We might not have elaborate indulgences in our churches today, but many Christians go to church looking for the assurance of man not the assurance of God.

35. It is not in accordance with Christian doctrines to preach and teach that those who buy off souls, or purchase confessional licenses, have no need to repent of their own sins.
36. Any Christian whatsoever, who is truly repentant, enjoys plenary remission from penalty and guilt, and this is given him without letters of indulgence.
37. Any true Christian whatsoever, living or dead, participates in all the benefits of Christ and the Church; and this participation is granted to him by God without letters of indulgence.

Grace is found only for the repentance who belief in the Lord Jesus Christ by faith alone. It is the merits of Christ--is benefits given to me, that saves. The awesomeness of redemption is that in union with Christ I receive all that Christ has as if it was my own. It was won by him but given to me just as surely as if I had achieved it--an achievement I can of course never obtain in my own power.
45. Christians should be taught that he who sees a needy person, but passes him by although he gives money for indulgences, gains no benefit from the pope's pardon, but only incurs the wrath of God.
46. Christians should be taught that, unless they have more than they need, they are bound to retain what is only necessary for the upkeep of their home, and should in no way squander it on indulgences.
We cannot understand the grace of God and be unconcerned with greed and the use of our money. As much as we are the benefits of a capitalistic society we are not to use our money for selfish pursuits of our own glory. There is a 'economics of the Cross'. So often we don't let the implications of justification by faith in our day filter down into the applications of our use of money. We cannot serve both God and money.
53. Those are enemies of Christ and the pope who forbid the word of God to be preached at all in some churches, in order that indulgences may be preached in others.
54. The word of God suffers injury if, in the same sermon, an equal or longer time is devoted to indulgences than to that word.

Preaching in our day is in shambles too. Where is the Word of God forbidden to be taught today? Perhaps not outright, but how many people cry for pop psychology and friendly messages rather than hearing the Word of God--both in its healing the broken hearted and in its casting down the haughty? I would suggest that today equal time in the pulpit is given to things that are not the Word of God.
56. The treasures of the church, out of which the pope dispenses indulgences, are not sufficiently spoken of or known among the people of Christ.
57. That these treasures are not temporal are clear from the fact that many of the merchants do not grant them freely, but only collect them.
58. Nor are they the merits of Christ and the saints, because, even apart from the pope, these merits are always working grace in the inner man, and working the cross, death, and hell in the outer man.
Do we recognize the treasures of Christ when we see them? I think many Christians today are distracted. We fail to note that the work of grace is not marked by riches but outwardly it is often cross, death and hell--as the Christian is called to suffer with Christ if indeed we are united to him. This contrast, Luther would develop into his 'theology of the cross' which he marks in contrast to a 'theology of glory'.
62. The true treasure of the church is the Holy gospel of the glory and the grace of God.
63. It is right to regard this treasure as most odious, for it makes the first to be the last.
64. On the other hand, the treasure of indulgences is most acceptable, for it makes the last to be the first.
65. Therefore the treasures of the gospel are nets which, in former times, they used to fish for men of wealth.
66. The treasures of the indulgences are the nets to-day which they use to fish for the wealth of men.
Nothing more relevant than asking: what is the true treasure of the church? What treasure is your church seeking after? Luther of course means that the treasure of the gospel is odious to the natural heart of man (cf. 1 Cor. 1:18-2:14). The natural man does not accept as 'treasure' the thing that God declares to be treasure but instead, wanting to be his own God, determines treasure by his own standard.
92. Away, then, with those prophets who say to Christ's people, "Peace, peace," where in there is no peace.
93. Hail, hail to all those prophets who say to Christ's people, "The cross, the cross," where there is no cross.
94. Christians should be exhorted to be zealous to follow Christ, their Head, through penalties, deaths, and hells.
95. And let them thus be more confident of entering heaven through many tribulations rather than through a false assurance of peace.
The gospel minister is to preach Christ and Him crucified. The Christian is to take up His cross and follow Christ. Yet like many, we look for false proclamations of earthly peace. Of course, true peace is found only in Christ--but, to paraphrase Dietrich Bonhoeffer, when Christ bids us to follow, He bids us to come and die.


Does Evangelicalism need Reformation? The Relevance of Luther Today

Let me suggest several parallels between Rome before the Reformation and the current state of Evangelicalism:

  1. The doctrinal decline. [Doctrines that were once core to evangelicalism have been watered down and many things once considered outside the bounds are not considered legitimate (open theism, denial of justification by faith alone, rejections of imputed righteousness)]
  2. Spiritual apathy.
  3. Increased mystical approach to Christianity that does not center on the external Word of God but the internal.
  4. Commercialization of ministry and the spiritual.
  5. The squandering of wealth and affluence rather than serving the poor and needy.
  6. Increased focus of marketing and appearances of the outward rather than the inward.
  7. Immorality of Christian leaders.
  8. The identification of the church with politics.
  9. Increased emphasis on penance (the evangelical variety centers on 'methods of self-improvement' rather than the gospel).
  10. The pulpit is a place to pontificate on man and man centered doctrine rather than to herald the work of God in Jesus Christ.

Concluding thought:

The Reformation is of vital importance today. It is important historically in that there would be no Protestant church and no concept of justification by faith alone had not men of God stood up for the Word of God. There is always a danger of reading history anachronistically or selfishly as a sort of 'what can I get out of it.' Yet to not know history is to be doomed to repeat it. The Reformation can serve as a lens not only onto the past but for the present. As we listen to the voices of the past we can often be lulled from our dogmatic slumbers and apathy which so easily threatens to vanquish the true gospel from our churches today.

What we need today is nothing less than continuing reformation. Soli Deo Gloria

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Primacy of Proclamation

I've been thinking about this as I reflect on my sermon this past Sunday.

Q. 89. How is the Word made effectual to salvation?

A. The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching, of the Word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith, unto salvation.

There is something unique about preaching and proclamation. The Gospel is a message to be announced and heralded not a life to be lived. We cannot merely love people into the kingdom of God--although the message cannot be heralded by a bunch of rebels and outsiders rather they must be citizens of the kingdom. An ambassador who does not live like a citizen of the country whose message he proclaims is worse than an oxymoron its an affront to the one whom the ambassador represents.

Nevertheless, there is not such thing as a silent ambassdor.

We tend to lose confidence in the efficacy of preaching. Can it really work? Our culture is awash with visualization, interactions, dialogue and conversations, can such an archaic mode of communication really work today?

I would suggest that the heart of the issue is trust. Do I believe God's ways are better than mine? Do I believe God has ordained preaching and proclamation to be the way the message is to spread? Do I believe that if I change the medium of the message I trade the wisdom of God for the wisdom of man? In short, am I ashamed of the gospel or do I believe it is the power of God.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Scratched Introductions

Here the introduction I had considered using for my sermon on Ephesians 3:8-13:

I’ve always enjoyed the theology of John Calvin, but before I ever read him there is another Calvin I enjoyed even more: Calvin and Hobbes. But to show my love for Calvin and Hobbes you can never find any coffee mugs, t-shirts, and hats. Why? Because the creator Bill Watterson refuses to license his product? Why because he believes the changing the medium—from comic strip to one-liners on mugs—would change the message. He has stated:

Calvin and Hobbes isn’t a gag strip. It has a punchline, but the strip is about more than that. The humor is situational, and often episodic. It relies on conversation, and the development of per­sonalities and relationships. These aren’t concerns you can wrap up neatly in a clever little saying for people to send each other or to hang up on their walls. To explore character, you need lots of time and space. Note pads and coffee mugs just aren’t appropriate vehicles for what I’m trying to do here. I’m not interested in removing all the subtlety from my work to condense it for a product. [souce]



Changing the way you communicate the message can actually change the message you send. Calvin on a T-shirt is substantially different than the multidimensional character on a comic strip. But in our day and age—we are told that we must change the mediums we use to communicate the gospel. Certainly the culture is less ‘word’ based and more visual—consider TV, the internet and YouTube as opposed to public speaking. Only 150 years ago when Abraham Lincoln debated opening statements were 60 minutes for the first person and 90 minutes for the second person—in contrast to the short debates and responses today.

We live in a changing world. But will there ever come a time where we do not need to use “proclamation” to spread the gospel. Can we change the medium of the message? What will happen to the message if we do? What is God’s plan for spreading the message?

MAIN POINT: WE ARE TO PROCLAIM THE GOSPEL.

I was borrowing from this old post.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sermon Applications 10/26/08

Text: Ephesians 3:8-13

MAIN POINT: WE ARE TO PROCLAIM THE GOSPEL.
“All you need is love” is not an axiom that applies to how the gospel spreads. Why is it so important for the individual Christian to “proclaim the message”?

1) FIRST, WE ARE TO PROCLAIM THE GOSPEL IN ORDER TO MAKE GOD’S WISDOM KNOWN.

Applications:
i) We are to see the manifold wisdom of God in the gospel. There is a uniqueness of Paul’s preaching and ministry as he is an apostle—laying the foundation of the church. Jesus preached the kingdom of God and the kingdom came in His death and resurrection. Yet, Jesus appointed the office of apostle to make known the riches found in what He did. These riches are so marvelous, they so display the glory of God and His marvelous wisdom that as the church is formed and begins to bear the image of Christ the angels see it and they are stunned, amazed, and flabbergasted. Yet for us, the gospel tends to be “old hat”. It is something worn out and rickety. We are told today that our generation must ‘reinvent the gospel’; that we must make it more ‘relevant’ to our culture. Culture has gotten bored with the gospel so we must reinvigorate it. I would suggest people get bored with the gospel because they are looking for man’s wisdom not God’s wisdom.

ii) If we are going to raise up a generation that stands in awe of the gospel, if we are going to see it amazing, as the angels themselves see it—we need to return to preaching the gospel in vigor! God’s wisdom is made known in what Christ did on the Cross—this message must be announced. One must state: God has done X in Christ. More than in any other age, in the 20th and 21th century the church has been distracted. We want people to be excited about God so we have tried to generate excitement through human activity and human games. Our culture is ‘amusing itself to death’ so we are told we must do more to amuse our audiences. Pastors must not be entertainers and marketing specialists. Youth leaders must be party planners and run endless game nights so kids will get excited. In this environment, where did the gospel go? We need to start with the basics: the gospel is a message to be proclaimed.

iii) Why do I, the Christian, need to “proclaim” the gospel? There are many ways to answer this question but for our passage:–The gospel is a message to be announced. Proclaiming the gospel makes the wisdom of God known. Paul had a unique ministry—unique to its time and position. Apostle’s laid a foundation once for all. But the common thread remains: proclaiming the gospel makes God’s wisdom known. All other forms used to win people try to mix the wisdom of God with the wisdom of man.

iv) How do I proclaim the gospel?
  1. Know who you are before Christ. Paul considers Himself lowly before God. You have to start with a knowledge of your lowliness. You need to be driven in humility to Christ.
  2. Look to see where God has called you. Pay attention to your gift. Pay attention to where God has put you in your life: your work place; your neighbors; your sports team; your children’s friends. Paul was called to the Gentiles but all of us have people in our life we’ve been called to proclaim the gospel.
  3. Know the message backwards and forwards. Know the message inside and out. You have to immerse yourself in the gospel. You have to know what Christ has done at the cross. Grow in learning what it means. Second, are your affections won by the gospel? Do you delight in seeing the glory of God in Christ? Salesmen must know the specs of their product to make sales. Ambassadors must know the policies of their country to negotiate peace. A Christian must know the gospel and grow in the gospel in order to proclaim it.
  4. Ask God for opportunities to share your faith.
  5. Have a confidence in God’s gospel. Trust Christ so that you can say:
    Romans 1:16 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek

2) SECOND, WE ARE TO PROCLAIM THE GOSPEL IN ORDER TO FULFILL GOD’S ETERNAL PURPOSES.

Applications:

i) Your opportunities to proclaim the gospel glorify God. Your opportunities to proclaim the gospel are part of God’s eternal plan—God makes His plan so that he might receive all the honor and glory. You and I have the privilege of being a part of God’s eternal purpose. When we serve Him in good works, we are doing things He has prepared in advance for us to do.

ii) Our access to God is based not on how we serve but on whom we have faith in. There is always a danger of exalting servants of God. Missionaries who sacrifice greatly, or pastors who serve tirelessly become heroes. There is nothing wrong with rightly honoring such people—I can think of several pastors who labors have been influential in my life. There is always the danger of hero worship. It is easy to exalt such people as ‘super spiritual’ or somehow think they are closer to God. Occasionally, I have been asked by people outside the church to pray for them and they ask in such a way that they imply that my prayers will be heard more by God because I am a pastor. My access to God is the same as every other Christian’s access—it comes through Jesus Christ.

iii) When we proclaim the gospel, we must make clear that people can have access to God, they can use this access boldly and confidently but it only comes through faith in Jesus Christ.

iv) Do not lose heart when you do not see immediate fruit from your proclamation. For Paul, proclaiming the gospel put Him in jail. For us, we might risk offending a friend or relative. We might be passed over for a promotion because we are known as ‘the Christian’. Around the world, Christians often take their life in their hands when they proclaim the gospel. Do not get discourage! Do not lose heart. Look to Christ: He is fulfilling His eternal purposes and growing the church.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Christ/David vs. Judas/Ahithophel--Christological Hermeneutics

Mark Jones over at Thomas Goodwin notes these parallels between Christ & Judas and David & Ahithophel (original post):

1) David and Jesus both cross the Kidron. See: 2 Sam 15.23 & John 18.1

2) Judas and Ahithophel both plan to do the deed at night. See: 2 Sam 17.1 & John 13.30

3) Judas and Ahithophel both hang themselves after the deed. See: 2 Sam 17.23 & Matt 27.5

4) David and Jesus both pray for deliverance on the Mount of Olives. See: 2 Sam 15.30-31 & Mark 14.26ff.

5) It is claimed that the death of one man will bring peace to the people. See: 2 Sam 17.3 & John 18:14
I can't wait until the next time I have opportunity to teach in the books of Samuel. This is a great example of Christological hermeneutics. It is important to read the accounts of the Old Testament not only in light of their original context but to find their telos in Christ. Christ is the greater David and Judas is the greater Ahithophel.

I also agree with him about the background of the "I am He" in John. It comes from Isaiah 40-66. The best defense of this that I've seen comes from Davide Mark Ball's 'I Am' in John's Gospel: Literary Function, Background, and Theological Implications (Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academc, 1996) especially chapter 6.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

I stand in Awe

"Revelation creates rather than annihilates wonder, awe and respect." --Markus Barth, qtd. by Peter O'Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians.

Ephesians 3:8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,


Barth's comments strike me as both true and profound. It is not the mystery that creates wonder and awe, it is the revelation of the mystery that creates deeper wonder and awe. Revelation is an unveiling. In Paul's language it is a mystery that is hidden but now revealed in the fullness of time in the gospel. Christians are not to delight primarily in mystery and the veiled, we are to delight in what has been made known for we know that even what we do truly see is seen as in a mirror yet darkly. Knowledge recieved through revelation in Christ and in God's Word is real knowledge and yet we are shown wonder because we never know God as God fully knows Himself.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Sinning and Proof-Reading

This comparison struck me as I reflected on some simple errors in a previously posted blog post. As sinners we tend to be about as good at diagnosing our own sin as I am at proof-reading.

First, I am a terrible proof reader. My mind reads things the way I want them to be not the way that I actually typed them. So I know the right grammar. My spelling is pretty good, at least I'd like to think that...although I tend to mess up double ss, cc, or ll like in words like: 'necessarily' (too bad I can't blame it on sloppy typing). I know the obvious when it comes to homonyms but I get to typing and I often put them in wrong. My errors in these areas tend to come when I change the thought of my sentence midway: say active voice to passive voice, singular to plural, or present to past tense etc. Sometimes in typing I just omit words because I think faster than I type (thinking fast isn't necessarily good). But I forget to go back and change the first part of the sentence. Here's the kicker for me: proof-reading. In my re-read, I read not what I've written but my eyes are sloppy and my mind glosses what I want it to say. Usually the best way for me to catch stuff is rereading at day later. I guess in proof-reading my eyes are just sloppy. I tend to rush at things. I read what I want it to say not what it actually says.

Second, even as a Christian, I am a terrible sinner. I may know the Law and commands of God but I am good at rationalizing. My eyes can gloss over sin in my life. Sometimes when there is a gap of time between my particular experience of a sin and later reflection I can see it a bit more clearly. My heart does not always have the desire to take due diligence and examine things too closely. I can see things the way I want them to be not the way they are. The really sinful thing: I can too often be content if I don't have any "big sins." This is an obvious dismissal on my part of what Jesus says about the severity of sinning in the Sermon on the Mount. But "little" errors in grammar and spelling, still makes for sloppy writing so too "little sins" still make for sinful habits. They may not be what I ultimately want but I do no good by surpressing the reality and the severity of the problems.

It is not simple an issue of knowledge. Because I know what one should do, I am often good at catching others in writing errors and even probably look down my nose at those who make such obvious mistakes. Sometimes this is true of my view of sin, particularly since the Law brings knowledge of sin. Of course, Jesus warns about pointing out the speck in others' eyes while neglecting the plank in one's own eye.

The difference: I don't like proof-reading errors but I do tend to enjoy my sin, at least at the moment I am walking in sin, giving into the flesh.

What I need: an advocate. In writing it is simply a proof reader. In Christianity it is Christ. Not only is He an advocate when I sin but in the gospel He sends the Spirit who works to kill sin in me. Sometimes the Lord discipline other times the transforming power of the Spirit is more positive.

The bottom line: with proof-reading my errors are silly and embarrassing but innocuous--they leave me feeling stupid and ashamed that I posted it with such obvious fault. I may claim: "Wretched man that I am who will free me from such silly mistakes." Sinning is more deadly. John Owen said "Be killing sin or it will be killing you." How often do I leave sin in my life as if it was missed by a mere proof-reading error? Ultimately this is why I need not just Law but Gospel. I don't just need to know where my sin is but I need the power of Christ's shed blood to combat and root out sin. I need the Holy Spirit actively conforming me to Christ's image. I need to conformed heart to even see the 'sinfulness of sin.'

I'm not ready to call the Holy Spirit the divine proof-reader but he is the one who stirs up the Christian heart and roots out sin. Praise be to God!

Romans 7:24-25 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Emerging Creeds and White Horse Inn Listening

This week's topic (10/19/08) on the White Horse Inn was "Creed or Chaos." Particularly interesting is Michael Horton's recounting of a conversation with Doug Pagitt about the Nicene Creed (beginning at about 17:20 in the audio). According to the account of the conversation, Solomon's Porch will use the Creed but Michael Horton asked if they are bound by the Creed. According to the account, Pagitt says they are not. To press the matter, Horton asks basically if Pagitt would at least subscribe to the content of the Creed. According to the account Pagitt reportedly feels that this is too binding and puts God in a box. A little later on there is an audio clip from Pagitt in an interview where he feels the sort of 'tent approach' used particularly with Creeds is bad and is part of the whole problem--trying to figure out who is in and out of the tent is bad.

One should listen to the conversation at the White Horse Inn and make their own judgements. The whole tone strikes me as respectful but clear. Again according to the account, Pagitt would not affirm the substance. The audio of clip of Pagitt's own words, interview by the producer of the White Horse Inn, Shane Rosenthal, further testifies to this.

In this respect, what is interesting and sad is this seems to be a change in position. In responding to critiques of the emergent church as a whole, Pagitt has previously attached his name to a document that states:
Sixth, we would like to clarify, contrary to statements and inferences made by some, that yes, we truly believe there is such a thing as truth and truth matters – if we did not believe this, we would have no good reason to write or speak; no, we are not moral or epistemological relativists any more than anyone or any community is who takes hermeneutical positions – we believe that radical relativism is absurd and dangerous, as is arrogant absolutism; yes, we affirm the historic Trinitarian Christian faith and the ancient creeds, and seek to learn from all of church history – and we honor the church’s great teachers and leaders from East and West, North and South; yes, we believe that Jesus is the crucified and risen Savior of the cosmos and no one comes to the Father except through Jesus; [emphasis mine]
Stating "we affirm the historic Trinitarian Christian faith and the ancient creeds" is by any reasonable definition subscription to the Creed or at least the content of the Creed. Such statement is of course very different than saying 'we should get rid of all tents.' If you affirm a creed then you de facto have a tent. It does no good to have a Creed for sentimental reasons. More than that, certainly saying 'we affirm' is stronger language. It is 'a tent' by any definition of a reasonable person. Indeed the whole purpose of the document posted on THEOOZE is to convince people of the orthodoxy of the signers.

In short one cannot both affirm the Creed and deny it makes boundaries. The Creeds do allow you to subscribe saying, 'this is true for me but not necessarily true for all' or 'all might not need to believe this.' One cannot affirm the Creed and deny the need for boundaries. This is similar but less sophisticated than Tony Jones' affirmation of personal orthodoxy but denial that there is an 'is' to orthodoxy. For Pagitt, maybe his views are emerging [pun intended]. Maybe he can no longer subscribe to the statement posted at THEOOZE. Pagitt seems to on the one hand affirm the Creed (in the document) and on the other hand, according to the conversation deny the Creed. At the very least, both cannot be true.

Affirming a Creed is not a matter of nostalgia. Either affirm it or deny it--but at least be upfront and honest. Please don't redefine words like "affirm" so that you 'see historical value' and 'are in conversation with the past' but you deny the ongoing validity and content of what was spoken. Without denying a cultural embeddedness and historical occasion, a Creed was not written to say, "This is our preference at the time but it might not 'work' for tomorrow." The framers of Creeds wrote them because this was a summation of the Christian faith that was handed over to the saints once for all. Writing a Creed was an act of professing, confessing, and contending.

To borrow from R. Scott Clark: "Emerging Church, Meet Christian Dogma." Some may like the Creed stylistically for their worship and practice but this is not the way the framers viewed them. Such contemporary cavalier attitudes towards the Creeds do nothing but scoff at the past rather than the avowed goal to "seek to learn from all of church history...[and]... honor the church’s great teachers and leaders from East and West, North and South". After all, the Anthansian Creed says: "Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith;". The very nature of Christianity is to put up a tent. God's very act of self-revelation is a boundary by which God says "I am this but I am not that." You cannot even have what C.S. Lewis called a "Mere Christianity" without things like the Nicene Creed and the Apostle's Creed. A "Mere Christianity" does not sentimentalize and dialogue with the past for the sake of nostalgia. "Mere Christianity" begins at the Creed.

J. Gresham Machen reminds us in chapter two of Christianity and Liberalism that Christianity is first and foremost a doctrine.

"Very different is the Christian conception of a creed. According to the Christian conception, a creed is not a mere expression of Christian experience, but on the contrary it is a setting forth of those facts upon which experience is based." (p.19)

There are of course different interpretations of the facts and even different accountings of what those facts are. This is the very nature of 'no tent' theology. The history of the early church is in one sense an account of her struggle with different interpretations and accountings of facts (think: docetism, Gnostic gospels, Arianism, etc.) The Creed then made boundaries and a tent. The church does not survive when there is a cavalier 'anything goes' approach. God in Scripture has not designed the church as such: see Galatians, 1 John, Jude, the Pastoral Epistles, et al. As Dorthy Sayers reminds us: to have no creed is not to have peace but chaos. We think that we can be content to be part of a movement or living out things as a sort of way of life to which Machen offers a clarion rejoinder:
But if any one fact is clear, on the basis of this evidence, it is that the Christian movement at its inception was not just a way of life in the [post-]modern sense, but a way of life founded upon a message. It was based, not upon mere feeling, not upon a mere program of work, but upon an account of facts. In other words it was based upon doctrine. (Christianity and Liberalism, p.21)
Conclusion: The postmodern detraction from creeds and boundaries is nothing new. Speaking pejoratively against doctrine while championing a 'way of living' is a subtle heresy that is no stranger to the church and is as old as Genesis 3. What we need is to pass on the faith not to revision it. We need to contend for that which was handed over to the saints once for all. Vital in this endeavor is nothing less than Creeds.

Sermon Applications 10/19/08

Text: Ephesians 3:1-7

MAIN POINT: WE SEE THE MYSTERY OF THE GOSPEL.

1) FIRST, WE SEE THE MYSTERY OF THE GOSPEL WHICH HAS BEEN SUPERNATURALLY REVEALED.

Applications: Seeing the mystery of the gospel means seeing its uniqueness of origin.

i) We are to believe in the supernatural origin of the gospel message. The gospel message is about the Lord Jesus Christ stepping into history in the fullness of time being born of a women, born under the Law. He died on a hideous Roman cross and rose again bodily from the dead. It is unique. No other religion has the facts of God acting so powerful within history itself. Most religions today look for a sort of mystical escape, and inner feeling of spirituality.

ii) The gospel is only believed by us through supernatural intervention. Paul would not have believe the gospel unless the Lord opened His eyes to see it.

1 Corinthians 2:12 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God,
1 Corinthians 2:14 14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.

iii) The gospel is not just one religious option or ‘spirituality’ in a buffet of choices. Only the gospel has supernatural character. That supernatural character is external: God has acted in history. That supernatural character works internal: the Spirit opens my heart to believe those objective truths. God comes to us from the outside.

iv) Two ways we tend to deny the supernatural character of the gospel today:
  1. We turn to the church into something about us. We fail to preach God’s holiness, God’s wrath and the necessity of Christ crucified. Michael Horton says is this way:

    God is used as a personal resource rather than known, worshipped and trusted; Jesus Christ is a coach with a good game plan for our victory rather than a Savior who has already achieved it for us; salvation is more a matter of having our best life now than being saved from God’s judgment by God himself and the Holy Spirit is an electrical outlet we can plug into for the power we need to be all we can be. –Christless Christianity, p.19

  2. Christian ‘spirituality’ looks no different than pagan spirituality. We have turn the truth of the faith—God’s work in revealing Himself into personal internal feelings. Now God does change our hearts. But many spiritual individuals will claim the experiences of life change. We have lost as Christian’s our ability to distinguish. When everything is rated by personal experience: did is work and is it true for you… Christians lose sight of the fact that the gospel is supernatural—the act of God. And if it is something that God has truly done then it is not a matter of personal opinion.
v) Challenge: Are you going to believe, proclaim, pass on to family and friends a supernatural religion that is true and is to be believed by all? Or are you passing on opinions and preferences.

2) SECOND, WE SEE THE MYSTERY OF THE GOSPEL WHICH HAD BEEN PERFECTLY TIMED.

Warfield in the context of talking about the Trinity summarizes it this way:

The Old Testament may be likened to a chamber richly furnished but dimly lighted; the introduction of light brings into it nothing which was not in it before; but it brings out into clearer view much of what is in it but was only dimly or even not at all perceived before…Thus the Old Testament revelation of God is not corrected by the fuller revelation which follows it, but only perfected, extended and enlarged (The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield, vol ii, pp.141-2).

It is only now with the fulfillment of the work of Christ do we see the depth and complexity of His accomplished redemption. The Old Testament predicted His sufferings and glories. The Old Testament saw Jew and Gentiles getting saved by the Messiah. Yet there is no deep conception of “the body of Christ” in the Old Testament. We see in the Old Testament that the Messiah represents His people in His act. It is not until this happens and God reveals things to the apostles that now we see the depth, complexity and glory of what we have in Christ by being united to Him!

Consider this example: In the movie The Sixth Sense the man characters are a man and boy. The boy can “see dead people”. The man through the movie helps the boy discover and cope with his ability. We get glimpses of who this man is—but then at the end there is a huge plot twist: the man realizes he is a dead person. If you go back and watch the movie you see all the clues now revealed. So it is with the gospel! The clues are in the Old Testament. They are a mystery hidden—a concept that comes right out of Daniel 2. But now with the coming of Christ and the gift to Paul and the apostles—this mystery is made clear. It is revealed. We see it clearly. We are to marvel at the unique timing of how God makes these things known.

Application: Seeing the mystery of the gospel means seeing the uniqueness of its timing.

i) We need to get out of our selfish individual approach to Christianity and see its significance for the scope of human history.

ii) We need to see the turning point that the cross and resurrection really were for all of human history. God revealed Himself. The gospel was fulfilled. For me this happened in college, particularly in my sophomore year in a class called Life of Christ. We were dealing with the topic of the kingdom of God. Suddenly, I began to see the scope of God’s plan. God’s plan to destroy this “present evil age” and replace it with “the age to come”. I saw how he had begun this at the death and resurrection—the king was on the throne. I became more aware: this isn’t about me—it’s about Him!

Ephesians 1:9-10 9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him 10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him


3) THIRD, WE SEE THE MYSTERY OF THE GOSPEL WHEN PEOPLE ARE UNITED INTO THE PROMISED FULFILLMENT.

Application: Seeing the mystery of the gospel means seeing the uniqueness of its universality.

i) God’s mission—God’s goal, is to make His glory known throughout creation so that people of every tongue tribe and nation will bring glory to Him. He does this by uniting people to Christ. What is unique is that He unites all believers to Christ without distinction. Many religions in both the ancient world and the modern world are tribal and cultural: they are unique to a time and place. Mormonism is unique primarily to America—although it is spreading. Islam is unique largely to the Arab world. Judaism is unique to a nation. New Age philosophies are particularly unique to our day and age of selfish narcissism. Sociologist invest money and time into determining what cultural factors drive and create religion or what goes into a persons background that might make them ‘religious’ or ‘spiritual’. Christianity is not a ‘Western religion’ –it is not a Jewish religion although is roots are in the Old Testament Jewish worldview. Christianity is not African or Asian. A person of any tribe, tongue or race can be united to Jesus Christ through face thanks to the mysterious working of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary.

ii) The Lamb gets worship from all who belong to him: These men and women join in worshipping as they share their inheritance together:

Revelation 5:8-12 8 When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. 10 "You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth." 11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing."

Monday, October 20, 2008

Book Review: Reforming or Conforming

This helpful book is an collection of essays examines trends within the emerging church and post-conservative evangelical. After a forward by David Wells and an introduction by G.L.W. Johnson there are 12 essays dealing with a variety of issues either within post-conservative theology or the emerging church. The essays break down this way:

1,2. There are two essays on Scripture first tackling the doctrine of Scripture and its "humanness", the other addresses the issues of Sola Scriptura.

3. Paul Helm examines John Franke's nonfoundationalist theology and argues that it falls short.

4.In his essay, R. Scott Clark argues that one cannot merely 'reboot' Christianity and thereby avoid creedal dogma. He argues that the church has always believed there are creeds to which one must subscribe in order to be saved.

5. There is an interesting essay on the use of "Right Reason" at Old Princeton and it a helpful rejoinder to those who turn Old Princeton into the proverbial whipping boy of all things wrong about evangelicalism.

6. This is followed by an introduction to Van Til showing that his Reformed theology of archtypal/echtypal theology is neither old liberalism or fundamentalist foundationalism (this essay strikes at some of Nancy Murphy's arguments).

7.Ron Gleason looks at Bavinck and the subjectivism imported into theology in his day arguing there is similarity to today's emerging church.

8. Guy Waters examines parallels between NT Wright and Brian McLaren. It is both fair but perceptive in pointing to weaknesses of one or both men. This is helpful for those who might uncritically embrace some of Wright's conclusions that are by no means undebated in the field of NT theology. There is whether one likes it or not a disturbing trend the emerging church movement to embrace scholarly conclusions as sound and proven in research while they are still tentative and being tested by the guild of NT scholarship.

9. Phil Johnson looks at the Downgrade Controversy and its application for downgrades in theology in every generation.

10. Martin Downes argues the emerging church is captive to the culture particularly as he looks at Doug Pagitt's views. He is fair but points to some clear failings and problems.

11. Greg Gilbert examines and shows the inherent failings of Brian McLarerens view on hell. He shows it is not Biblical, and is created on grave theological and exegetical mishandlings. Interestingly he takes on McLaren's bogus uses of deconstructionism and speech-act theory and is even able to pit C.S. Lewis against McLaren's articulation.

12. Guy Giley gives an overview of the philosophy, worldview and doctrines of the emerging church.

Like any collection of essays some are better than others. This book is helpful because it addresses some of the theologians the emerging church relies on (Nancy Murphy, John Franke, N.T. Wright, etc.). The authors write from a position generally within more confessional evangelicalism (Reformed, Presbyterian or Baptist). They do not take narrowly fundamentalist positions but bring confessional evangelical Protestant theology to bear on the issues. They authors generally do not make sweeping generalizations but each essay picks a narrower topic or individual to address (like McLaren or Pagitt).

Most of the essays are written more for non-specialists but several essays are a bit more technical or deal with narrower fields that will probably only interest pastors or specialists in the field. Nevertheless, these essays are helpful in response since a number of post-conservative evangelicals are no mere featherweights. While the essays to the emerging church are helpful most of them either take on McLaren or Doug Pagitt. I can see emerging friends saying "they don't represent us". However particularly R. Scott Clark's essay and Gary Giley address issues characteristic to the larger movement as a whole.

One unfortunate oversight by the editors: Phil Johnson and Martin Downes were missed in the list of contributors on page 7.

While not the last word on the emerging church nor the final conservative evangelical response this book does move the "discussion" forward drawing some lines in the sand and making some clear warnings.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Book Review: Christless Christianity


Horton brings us another winner! He takes the challenge straight to the American church to show where we've lost the gospel. He argues that it is not in new forms of heresy per se (although he draws strong parallels from today to Gnosticism and Pelagianism). He argues that even where there are doctrinal statements are good, we relegate Christ to obscurity in our church practice. He demonstrates that our gospel has been turned therapeutic and inward as opposed to the outward God who comes to us on Sunday through the Word and sacrament.

Horton begins by outlining the moralistic therapeutic deism that holds the American church captive. He argues that we have so psychologized things that we are no better than the Osteen's and Schueller's, even within the evangelical church. He shows how we have turned the gospel "inward" to a self-help program. He looks at how felt needs drive us rather than real needs (our sin and need reconciliation) and holiness God. How Christianity is more about "how-to" than the true "God has" of creedal, confessional historic Christianity. Research and sociological studies permeate Horton's work. This is no mere screed but substantive research peppers his persuasive argument.

In chapter 2, he looks at "Smooth Talking and Christless Christianity". He shows how we preach law-lite rather than gospel. Law-lite avoids the condemnation the Law of God brings but makes the same moralistic exhortations: be better, do this and live. It is the "glory story" not the theology of the cross. He goes on in the next chapter to show how we turn the good news into good advice through a dependence on "life coaching" rather than preaching the gospel. He points us to the need to distinguish Law and Gospel. This shows up in much contemporary sermonizing where the preacher challenges us to "be like Daniel" or "find five smooth stones to defeat your giant" rather than pointing us to Christ. Contemporary application reads more like a to-do list than a Christ centered approach. In all of this Horton does not turn his argument on preachers “out there” but within evangelicalism, even its confessional strands.

In chapter 5, he examines the Gnosticism inherent in contemporary American religion. He moves on to talk about the relationship between the message of Christ and the medium we spread the message (chapter 6). Throughout Horton gives a call to return to the centrality of preaching where we actually hear God's Word on Sunday. He argues that in the sermon and the sacraments God serves us, God condescends to us not the reverse. Finally, in the last chapter Horton calls us to resist by making the gospel more offensive not least. He challenges us not to smooth the rough edges in translating the gospel but to proclaim it in all its glory and let it offend where it must.

Horton's work is both a warning and a call to change. Readers might wish he has focused more on solutions rather than the problems but Horton is diagnosing a large cancer and calling for jaundiced eyes to see the light. Horton's work is saturated with Scripture and the gospel as he applies the work of Christ to these challenges. He reminds the church to gather in expectation of God and His working not service to God. He argues that the serious church must spread into the world and serve one another during the week. He also reminds church's that they must focus outward on missions but cautions against recent trends that see the church as reconciling the world to God. It is God's mission and God's activity.

I believe this book is both insightful and hard hitting in its critique. Many who listen to "The White Horse Inn" or read Modern Reformation will be familiar with Horton's arguments and data but it is nice to have them in one book with new nuances. It is worthwhile for those who desire to be more gospel-centered and perhaps have missed all the ways we loose the gospel. It is a must read.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

New Star Trek XI Photos Released

Five photos from Star Trek XI have been released yesterday. Here are my two favorites:

From MTV's site.

If you click below the picture on their site you can see a wider shot with Sulu and Spock in it (here).

From UGO.

Trekmovie also has a shot of the USS Kelvin blowing up--or at least in real bad shape. JoBlo.com has a shot of the villian "Nero". Aintitcool.com has a shot of Zachary Quinto choking curt. He almost looks like he has a little bit of Sylar in his eyes...could someone's head be coming off? This Friday "Entertainment Weekly" will have Pine and Quinto on the cover all Treked out. Online they have a shot of the Kelvin before it blows up along with an article that includes a small spoiler or two (nothing that hasn't been on the web already though).


Edgar Wright, a friend of Simon Pegg (aka. the new Scotty) reports that he might have seen a certain movie being released next summer. He writes:

Yesterday I saw a film that does not get released until next summer. I can’t say much more than that, except that it delivers all the goods sorely lacking from a certain trio of prequels. Exciting stuff. That is all.

Here's my thought on the new bridge shot: Way too cool! Who cares about continuity issues! J.J. Abrams has said he is trying to avoid going "kitsch." Star Trek is trying to be a blockbuster and reinvigorate the franchise. The strength of ST is the characters. Put all the tech and effects aside for a second because they don't drive the story although they make for nice eye candy. The question is will this be the Kirk, Spock and McCoy et al that we all love... albeit as younger versions of the characters they developped into?

Don't worry about the continuity. Ask yourself: from where we stand in 2008/9 and all the tech we now have, does this look like a reasonable representation of a resonable future? If you ask the same question of Trek in the 1960s the answer would have been yes! BUT if you look back from 2008/9 at the 1960s trek and ask the question, you have to answer a resounding "no". In fact, with the tech of 1960s Trek, with its computers alone, looks like a step backward. Star Trek is fiction. We shouldn't be asking does this set represent 1960s style... we should be asking: from where we are does this set represent a potential future? Is the new Trek faithful to the future? Of course it should be without seriously violating the characters and universe we have grown to love. The continuity isn't in the set design per se. It is in the characters, the universe, and the substance of the tech not the particulars or the look of the tech (if you'll permit me to draw such distinctions).

Now I like continuity and the canon as much as the next guy. I don't want to see Abrams and company blow the canon out of the water and disrespect everything Trek stands for. But I don't want to see them make a mockery of the rich history of Trek either by (1) making everything new still look 60s-ish for big screen 2009 cinema or (2) throwing out everyting for a straight full-on reboot. From all I've read, they aren't doing any of that. These approaches do not do Trek justice for today. The bottom line: I don't want to see a Trek "prequel" flop like a SW Episode 1...but from what I've read online, it won't. As a Trek geek I saw to fellow Trek geek: live a little. Enjoy 2009's vision of the Trek future with the characters we all love.

I believe this post constitutes my "occasionally some Star Trek". Thanks for sticking with it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Sermon Applications 10/12/08

TEXT: Ephesians 2:19-22

MAIN POINT: WE ARE GOD’S TEMPLE.

1) FIRST, WE ARE GOD’S TEMPLE BECAUSE WE HAVE BEEN BROUGHT INTO HIS HOUSEHOLD.

Applications:
i) Coming to Christ brings a change in a person’s status. When people come to Jesus Christ, we cannot treat them like second class citizens. Some Christians do this theologically by teaching a doctrine of ‘baptism of the Spirit’. Other Christians who are closer to the core of evangelicalism do this practically: sometimes we treat people as second class citizens until they are “discipled”. Discipleship is good, people need to grow in their faith—however the moment someone is saved they belong to God.

ii) Those who belong to God are part of God’s temple. If there are no second class citizens in the kingdom, then we need to make every effort to preserve unity with the body of Christ. We cannot treat fellow Christians like strangers and aliens. This is often how we respond to people—we give people the cold shoulder. They do something we don’t like, perhaps we do not talk to them. Perhaps we leave the church. Perhaps we let our dissatisfaction fester and brew until it bubbles over like a pot of boiling water.

2) SECOND, WE ARE GOD’S TEMPLE WHICH IS BEING BUILT ON JESUS CHRIST.

Applications:
i) The apostles and prophets laid their foundation once for all time. This verse I believe is one of the reasons we should not consider apostleship and prophecy to continue today. There is no need—the foundation has been laid—just as Jesus Christ does not need to die be raised from the dead a second time. To be an apostle in the NT you had to see the risen Lord—these gifts do not continue today—despite what some churches proclaim.

ii) Every local church that true belongs to the one church of God must be built on the foundation of Jesus Christ. Our first core value:

Jesus Christ will be our cornerstone.
We believe that Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of the church. The universal church is the body of Christ. Our local manifestation of that body at PMBFC will be a group of believers that value the LORDSHIP of Christ over all things. Our local church will attempt to faithfully build this church upon the foundation that Christ has laid in His death and resurrection for His people. Only through Jesus Christ’s work can we actively worship our Triune God.

(1) This is not some sort of abstraction. The evangelical church today is distracted. People go to church for a whole number of reasons. They want to be entertained. They want to feel good about themselves. They want a positive message. They want friends, excitement or newness. God does not call the church to these things. God calls the church to Christ—to find our sufficiency in Christ.

(2) True churches must build upon Jesus Christ. Paul writes this:

1 Corinthians 3:9-16 9 For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building. 10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. 11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. 14 If any man's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. 16 Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?


(a)There is a right way and a wrong way to build. If we build on the foundation other than Christ our efforts are in vain. It is wasted. It is judged.

(b)What kind of things today go on in the evangelical church that do not build people into Christ? Why do you come to church? Where is your heart when you enter these doors? What are you “looking for”? I would suggest that most people look for a whole list of things (some of them good) but they do not look for Christ—the best.

3)One of the primary ways we build people on the foundation is solid teaching and preaching that points people to Jesus Christ through making the Scriptures clear.

(a) First, we are teaching the Scriptures. A while back I encountered a sermon online where the pastor basically opened up Dr. Seuss and said “see there are Biblical principles here”. He spent more time going verse by verse in Dr. Seuss than in the Bible. Then when we got to the Bible he just shared a general principle like: God is faithful. –That does not root people in Christ.

(b) Second, preaching Scripture is not to make us feel good about ourselves like popular psychologists and motivational speakers. What is the Word of God for?

2 Timothy 3:16 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;

Reproof—tells us where we are wrong and rebukes it. Correction—gently instructs us in the way that is right. Psychologists and motivational speaker make their money by affirming not reproving. Training—produces habits in us. The Word of God does edify us—Jesus says ‘a bruised reed he will not break, a smolder wick he will not snuff out’. Jesus is gentle. Jesus builds us and strengthens us. BUT sometimes Jesus has to root out the sin that is like a cancer. It is like pulling out a splinter—it hurts a little at first but it is to relieve us.

“To cut off the sinner from all reliance upon himself, his merits and his powers; and throw him, naked and helpless, into the hands of the Holy Spirit to lead him to Christ in faith; should be the one great aim of the ministry.”
–Ichabod S. Spencer

“Grow not offended with the minister if he comes too close to you; remember that is his duty. And if the whip goes right around you and stings you, thank God for it, be glad of it. Let me, if I sit under a ministry, sit under a man who uses the knife with me sometimes, a man who will not spare me, a man who will not flatter me. If there should be flattery anywhere, let it not be at any rate in the pulpit.” –Charles Spurgeon.


(c)Third, preaching Scripture to edify must point people to Jesus. If we are temple, we must constantly be rooted, united and built deeper onto that foundation. It is too easy to simply give moralistic lessons in the church. Even in our Sunday schools with our children we teach them the Bible stories so that they learn they are sinners and that salvation is found in Christ alone. That is Christianity. Moralism takes those same Bible stories and says: “how can you be a good person this week?” The answer: you can’t! David, a man after God’s own heart fails miserable—none of us have the heart of David. We shouldn’t challenge children to ‘be like David’—we should challenge them to trust Christ! It is only in that way David is an example.
  • (i) The first step of applying a Bible story is not to say: “How can I be like the character in the story.”
  • (ii) The first step in applying a Bible story is to say: “How do I see that I am a sinner?” and “How do I see my need of a Savior?”
  • (iii) If you teach a Bible story and your applications could be taught in a Jewish synagogue or in a liberal church that denies Jesus is God then you have not rooted people in Christ—you are not building them on the foundation of Christ.
  • (iv) Bible study leaders, Sunday School teachers, parents—are you pointing the people you instruct to Jesus Christ? If not be warned—you cannot lay a foundation without laying it upon Christ.

3) THIRD, WE ARE GOD’S TEMPLE BEING UNITED SO THAT THE HOLY SPIRIT MIGHT DWELL IN US.

Applications:
i) Many of you know I am not a ‘name-it-claim-it’ preacher—I do not promise false prosperity. I do however believe that there is a promise in these verses. I believe it is a promise for our church: If we build ourselves on the foundation of Jesus Christ we will prosper. OUR CHURCH WILL BE ROOTED AND IT WILL GROW.

ii) I cannot promise we will pack the sanctuary, I cannot promise our budget will be in the millions of dollars. But I can promise, that if we are zealous for building this church on the foundation of Christ, we will be ‘doing church’ right. It will be favorable in the eyes of the Lord. He will bring true unity building us into Jesus.

iii) We are God’s temple. The question for us today: are we seriously going to build on the foundation of Christ? What will that look like for PMBFC? What distractions and false measures of success will you give up? We need Christ alone.

Friday, October 10, 2008

To whom do I belong?

A friend sent me this over e-mail:

I have, this day... been before God, and have given myself, all that I am and have, to God; so that I am not, in any respect, my own. I can challenge no right in this understanding, this will, these affections, which are in me. Neither have I any right to this body, or any of its members -no right to this tongue, these hands, these feet; no right to these senses, these eyes, this smell, or this taste. I have given myself clear away, and have not retained anything as my own... This, I have done; and I pray God, for the sake of Christ, to look upon it as a self-dedication, and to receive me now as entirely his own, and to deal with me, in all respects, as such, whether he afflicts many or prospers me, or whatever he pleases to do with me, who am his. --Jonathan Edwards, Works 1:xxv

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Learning to Preach Like Jesus?

When I was in high school, I worked at a Christian bookstore. Knowing that God had called me to be a pastor, I picked up a book one time, Learning to Preach Like Jesus. While it has many helpful discussions about right brain vs. left brain and how people different people think differently, it is fatally flawed. The examples of how to preach in the appendix are nothing more than moralizing and storytelling. They are hardly exposition of the Scripture.

For the most part, the book starts with the case it wants to make and pillages Scripture. For example we are told "Jesus Earned His Authority":

"Jesus preached without fanfare or pompous declarations of authority. He let the truth, the truth of human experience, speak for itself. And He often trusted his listeners to draw their own inferences and conclusions. While we need to be careful not to equate contemporary human experience with Scripture as the authority for our preaching, we would do well to remember that our Bible, which God inspired and ordained as His own Word, is a record of human experience with God. And accounts of contemporary human experience can and must do in our preaching what they did in Jesus' sermons--that is, introduce, illustrate, prepare for, and lead us to God's ultimate truth and authority." (p22).
We are also told that Jesus was "no autocrat, no pompous boss, no proud proclaimer of his own conclusions, no declarer of personal decrees without quiet proof of experience." The basic argument, putting the rhetoric aside, is that Jesus is inductive in his preaching rather than deductive.

I agree that Jesus uses stories, parables, and experience of common first-century Jewish life in his teaching. However, going into a synagogue, reading Scripture and then declaring "Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing" is rather deductive and authoritarian (Luke 4:16-22). Indeed, Jesus teaches as one who has authority and at this his listeners marveled (Mark 1:22; Matt. 7:28-29). He pronounces forgiveness of sins and the commands demons to come out at which people respond by questioning his authority. In Mark 1:27 the crowds are amazed "What is this? A new teaching with authority!"

I agree that the preacher today should illustrate and make clear the text. However, listen to what we are told about Jesus' parables:

Evidently Jesus' favorite form of narratives, parables are by definition inductive. They are stories that reveal a message in and through a scenario. Listeners discover the point and its implication for themselves as the preacher relates the parable. In each of the synoptic Gospel records, Jesus teaches about the kingdom in the parable of the soils. He focuses on the growth of the kingdom with the parables of the mustard seed, the leaven, and the sower. The parable of the tares warns listeners about opposition to the kingdom. So we see how Jesus instructed His listeners by repeatedly going from the concrete to the abstract, from the facts to the principles, from the data to the dictum. That's inductive...No wonder the people listened so willingly. He spoke of the things they knew and showed them depths of wisdom where before they had seen only the commonplace. The truth embodied by these tales could be understood and appreciated by everyone. (pp.27-28; emphasis added)
Is this really why Jesus told parables? Listeners, even the disciples did not discover the point of the parables for themselves. Indeed, Jesus had to explain them. Pointedly, the disciples did not understand the point of the parables. They may have grasped the illustrations but they missed the kingdom truths 'embodied' in the parables. Listen to the Gospel of Mark:

Mark 4:10-13 10 And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11 And he said to them, "To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, 12 so that "they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven." 13 And he said to them, "Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?

This is recorded similarly in Matthew 13:
Matthew 13:10-16 10 Then the disciples came and said to him, "Why do you speak to them in parables?" 11 And he answered them, "To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: "' You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. 15 For this people's heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.' 16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.
Jesus' utterances in parables are not to make clear but to hide and obfuscate. Of course not every parable hid things to the same degree. For example, the lawyer seemed to grasp the point of the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). However by and large the parables, particularly the kingdom parables, show that understanding the knowledge and wisdom Jesus was giving was dependant upon the revelation of God. God had to open the heart. God had to give the listener the secrets of the kingdom. Jesus' opening of his mouth was to reveal hidden wisdom, the things of God.

Matthew 13:34-35 34 All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable. 35 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet: "I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world."
For the disciples, Jesus would sit and make clear the meanings of the parables (Matthew 13:36 et al). The Father gives the Son the authority of the kingdom. And the Son chooses to whom He will reveal it. God does not choose the wise and the kings to understand the kingdom but he opens the hearts of little children to grasp it (Matthew 11:25-27).

The real question then is: should I preach like Jesus? Yes, and No.

Yes:
  • My authority should come from God. And the only way to have authority that comes from God is to speak what Scripture declares.
  • I should make Scripture clear to the faithful disciple. Jesus labors hard to make Scripture clear to the disciples.
  • I should appeal in prayer to the Spirit and Jesus to open the eyes of people.

No:
  • I do not have the authority to hide the point of a passage. My messages cannot keep people from God. Election and predestination do not lie in the hands of the preacher but in the hand of God.
  • The cross may be foolishness by virtue of what it is (and therefore people may not 'see'/believe) but I do not have the right to open my mouth in a way that confuses people and keeps them from seeing.
  • My messages cannot be inductive in the sense that they create something genuinely new. I can only proclaim the kingdom by pointing back to Christ not to something newly unfolding in our day (as Jesus pointed to what was newly unfolding in His work).
The parables are more than cute illustrations and even less a model for modern day preaching. Most who argue that we should preach in parables do not take serious that preaching in parables was a function of the redemptive historical activity of Jesus--in that respect, like the cross and resurrection it is not a model to be repeated. Preaching in parables hid the kingdom. The exposition of the Word from the pulpit, or in evangelism, is not designed to hide the Word but make it clear with authority: God commands all people to repent (Acts 17:30)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Sermon on Haggai

Instead of posting just my sermon applications this week, I am going to post the whole manuscript of my sermon. The main reason I am doing this is because I am preaching from Haggai and without reading the whole thing I think it is harder with my redemptive-historical approach to see how the applications flow out of the exposition.

TEXT: Haggai

Title: “Investment Banking 101”

It is no secret that right now the financial markets are in turmoil. People are loosing their jobs. The banking industry is on the verge of a meltdown. The government has issued the largest bailout since the Great Depression. Many of you have probably seen your investments go down. Some of you live on fix incomes and are perhaps worried about the future with the rising cost of heat, energy and food. During these times it is easy to focus and worry on our personal wealth. Will I have enough for tomorrow? We begin to think: I need to make sure that I am taken care of. Certainly, we need to be wise planners and cautious spenders but it is easy to let the financial woes of our day steal our attention away from what matters most: God. In Matthew 6, Jesus promised that God would take care of all our needs. He tells us:
Matthew 6:30-33 30 "But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! 31 "Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' 32 "For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
MAIN POINT: WE ARE TO INVEST FIRST IN GOD’S KINGDOM.

The book of Haggai makes essentially the same point. God’s people have come back from their captivity in Babylon. They had to rebuild Jerusalem, which was in physical and financial ruin. Her homes, fields, commerce and economics all needed to be rebuilt. The danger was that God’s people focused on their needs rather than trust God. In their great physical and economic peril they invested in themselves rather than investing in God and trusting Him to take care of the rest. Today, in America: we as the church need to invest first in God’s Kingdom and put off the distractions that this economic crisis brings. The danger is to become selfish: what will happen to me, my job, my work, my money—rather than trusting that no matter what happens there is a kingdom which is advancing in this world which will never be destroyed—it is the kingdom of God. Take your eyes of yourself and put it on God’s kingdom.

1) FIRST, WE ARE TO INVEST FIRST IN GOD’S KINGDOM BECAUSE INVESTMENT IN OURSELVES BRINGS BANKRUPTCY.

a) The people of God were unwilling to rebuild the temple. (1:1-2)
NAU Haggai 1:1 In the second year of Darius the king, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the LORD came by the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, saying, 2 "Thus says the LORD of hosts, 'This people says, "The time has not come, even the time for the house of the LORD to be rebuilt."'"
Setting: August 29, 520 A.D. Time of Ezra and Nehemiah. Israel is back in the land. In 586 BC, Jerusalem was destroyed by Babylon. 538 BC Cyrus of Persia conquerors Babylon. 536 BC Cyrus, fulfilling the prophecies of Isaiah, allows some of the Israelites to return to Jerusalem. Some of the Israelites had been back for 16 years and they had not started rebuilding the temple. “We are not ready yet”. Why? We find out they felt they had not reached where they thought there were prosperous enough to give to God.

Consider that this is how many of us live our daily lives: I will wait until God blesses me until I start doing X. For some it is money, I will wait until I have a little extra or we are “secure” in order to give to God. For others it is time: I will wait until I retire, then I will really serve God in the church. We are always waiting to get over the next hump. But we never arrive. My father used to always say “If you wait until you can afford to have kids, you’ll never have them”. This is many Christians dedicate themselves to serve God. ME first, and when I arrive then I have ample supply for God. The problem is we get selfish and we never arrive.

b) The LORD tells us that investing in ourselves before the LORD is vain. (1:3-6)
Haggai 1:3-6 3 Then the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet, saying, 4 "Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses while this house lies desolate?" 5 Now therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts, "Consider your ways! 6 "You have sown much, but harvest little; you eat, but there is not enough to be satisfied; you drink, but there is not enough to become drunk; you put on clothing, but no one is warm enough; and he who earns, earns wages to put into a purse with holes."
Looking at your investments this last week, you probably feel like you have put money in a purse with holes. We are to consider our ways. Here Israelites are waiting until they are satisfied; until they have enough. Then the figure they can devote themselves to really doing the hard work of building God’s temple. They were building there own portfolios—making fancy paneled houses. But they never got to God’s own house.

Restoring God’s temple was important. It signaled several things: (1) The ability to worship God again; (2) God’s return to the land and blessing upon His people; (3) the fulfillment of prophecy. In Ezekiel, Ezekiel saw a vision of God’s glory leave the temple. In Ezekiel 40-48, God promised in a vision to rebuild the temple. This was a great hope for Israelites.

c) God’s people were to invest in God’s temple first. (1:7-11)
Haggai 1:7-11 7 Thus says the LORD of hosts, "Consider your ways! 8 "Go up to the mountains, bring wood and rebuild the temple, that I may be pleased with it and be glorified," says the LORD. 9 "You look for much, but behold, it comes to little; when you bring it home, I blow it away. Why?" declares the LORD of hosts, "Because of My house which lies desolate, while each of you runs to his own house. 10 "Therefore, because of you the sky has withheld its dew and the earth has withheld its produce. 11 "I called for a drought on the land, on the mountains, on the grain, on the new wine, on the oil, on what the ground produces, on men, on cattle, and on all the labor of your hands."
God was keeping the Israelites from prosperity because they did not devote themselves to Him. They were trying to get rich and in a position where they “could make it” and God was removing their wealth. “I blow it away”, “I called for a drought”. It was an issue of the heart: the Israelites were not seeking to please God rather they served themselves first. Sadly, drought was a curse of disobedience from Deut. 28.

Here’s the thing, the return from exile was supposed to be glorious according to the prophets. God would bless the people. Yet, the very curses that sent them into exile were back upon them. It’s as if “we are no better off than when we left”.

God calls them: please me, glorify me. SEEK ME FIRST.

d) Application: Consider your ways!

i) During this time of crisis, are you putting your hopes in (or worrying most about) your own finances and prosperity? Where your treasure is, is where your heart is. We say “Pastor, I’m saved—I’m not a millionare so my treasure isn’t wealth.” One of the best indicators of where your treasure is, is to ask: what worries you the most?

ii) What are you holding back doing in service to God “until you’ve arrived”? If you wait until you ‘have time’ or ‘until you have money’ or ‘until I am secure’ etc. you will never reach that point. Many people have had good intentions for serving God but they never do it because they value themselves and their security first.

iii) Are you investing in yourself or in building God’s true temple—His household? Examine your work: how are you a temple builder? In Ephesians 2:19-22 we read:
Ephesians 2:19-22 9 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
The temple we are to be building is not a physical building it is the people of God. Some of us are to be going out a cutting out new stones—evangelizing, bringing people in, laying them on the foundation of Christ. Some of us, are to be like brick layers—we take the stones and cement them to Christ, we are teachers, pastors and disciplers. Some of us are mortar mixers, we are working behind the scenes to make sure leaders have the tools for the job or that the workers can get a lunch break or have hot coffee on cold days—they clear bathrooms, make fellowship luncheons or do those jobs that no one really sees.

2) SECOND, WE ARE TO INVEST FIRST IN GOD’S KINGDOM BECAUSE GOD INSURES SUCH INVESTMENTS.

a) God guarantees that He will be with Zerubbabel. (1:12-15)
Haggai 1:12-15 12 Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the LORD their God and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the LORD their God had sent him. And the people showed reverence for the LORD. 13 Then Haggai, the messenger of the LORD, spoke by the commission of the LORD to the people saying, "'I am with you,' declares the LORD." 14 So the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and worked on the house of the LORD of hosts, their God, 15 on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month in the second year of Darius the king.
i) God’s people obeyed the voice of the Lord.

ii) God announces that He is with them. God raised up passionate leaders to this task. These men brought all the people together and they dedicated themselves to working on the temple. Similarly in Eph. 2:19-20, the new temple is raised with leaders—Christ first—the descendant of Zerubbabel. In Acts, apostles and prophets ground the church. In our day, God uses elders and deacons to lead in the service of temple building.

b) God calls His people to have courage because He is with them. (2:3-5)
Haggai 2:3-5 3 'Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? Does it not seem to you like nothing in comparison? 4 'But now take courage, Zerubbabel,' declares the LORD, 'take courage also, Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and all you people of the land take courage,' declares the LORD, 'and work; for I am with you,' declares the LORD of hosts. 5 'As for the promise which I made you when you came out of Egypt, My Spirit is abiding in your midst; do not fear!'
The labor of the work was not in vain because God was with His people. They were to know that building the temple counted—they would not suffer for neglecting their crops and fields to build the temple. The parallel is to how God’s presence was in the midst of Israel when she came of out Egypt. Remember there was the cloud of God’s glory—it guided them forward; it was also their rear guard protecting them from the Egyptian army. God protects His own.

c) God will bring his glory into the temple. (2:6-9)
Haggai 2:6-9 6 "For thus says the LORD of hosts, 'Once more in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land. 7 'I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations, and I will fill this house with glory,' says the LORD of hosts. 8 'The silver is Mine and the gold is Mine,' declares the LORD of hosts. 9 'The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former,' says the LORD of hosts, 'and in this place I will give peace,' declares the LORD of hosts."
The investment God’s people were making in the temple would be “reward”. God would come and fill His house with His glory. The glory will be greater than the old temple.

d) Applications: Consider your ways!

i) Do not fear. Do not worry about will my service to God be in vain. If I devote my resource to God: who will take care of me, who will take care of my family? Who will help me when I retire? Do not fear. Take courage. Building God’s temple—the church—is never a vain effort.

ii) Know that God is with you. The church is God’s new temple. God’s Spirit dwells in the midst of His people. He knits us together and unites us. Devoting yourself to building that through evangelism, discipleship, and service is not a vain effort. God brings the fruit. God will actually use human efforts and if we submit to Him and trust Him—He promises to be with us.

iii) God guarantees return in investments in service to him. No this is not like a TV preacher: ‘so a seed gift to my ministry and you’ll be rich’. But listen to what Jesus says:
Luke 9:23-25 3 And he said to all, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?

Luke 18:28-30 28 And Peter said, "See, we have left our homes and followed you." 29 And he said to them, "Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30 who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life."

Matthew 6:19-20 19 "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.
Some of you are investing mightily in the kingdom of God. You pray mightily, you comfort others, you give up your time labor at church, you counsel others. Maybe you wonder: why bother? Know that your labors are not in vain. Your investments are secure.

iv) Consider your ways: What does your heavenly investment portfolio look like?

3) THIRD, WE ARE TO INVEST FIRST IN GOD’S KINGDOM BECAUSE GOD’S KINGDOM WILL MONOPOLIZE THE MARKET.

a) God’s kingdom will come and overthrow the kingdoms of the earth. (2:20-22)
Haggai 2:20-22 20 Then the word of the LORD came a second time to Haggai on the twenty-fourth day of the month, saying, 21 "Speak to Zerubbabel governor of Judah, saying, 'I am going to shake the heavens and the earth. 22 'I will overthrow the thrones of kingdoms and destroy the power of the kingdoms of the nations; and I will overthrow the chariots and their riders, and the horses and their riders will go down, everyone by the sword of another.'
The hope of the Old Testament and in the Gospels in the coming kingdom of God. The kingdom comes in a king: the Lord Jesus Christ. When the kingdom of God comes those things in this world are overthrown. In the Book of Revelation, Babylon is a picture of the empire of the world that rebels against God—it is the high point of every society and culture that rebels against God. Listen to what happens:
Revelation 18:10-19 10 They will stand far off, in fear of her torment, and say, "Alas! Alas! You great city, you mighty city, Babylon! For in a single hour your judgment has come." 11 And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her, since no one buys their cargo anymore, 12 cargo of gold, silver, jewels, pearls, fine linen, purple cloth, silk, scarlet cloth, all kinds of scented wood, all kinds of articles of ivory, all kinds of articles of costly wood, bronze, iron and marble, 13 cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, oil, fine flour, wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and slaves, that is, human souls. 14 "The fruit for which your soul longed has gone from you, and all your delicacies and your splendors are lost to you, never to be found again!" 15 The merchants of these wares, who gained wealth from her, will stand far off, in fear of her torment, weeping and mourning aloud, 16 "Alas, alas, for the great city that was clothed in fine linen, in purple and scarlet, adorned with gold, with jewels, and with pearls! 17 For in a single hour all this wealth has been laid waste." And all shipmasters and seafaring men, sailors and all whose trade is on the sea, stood far off 18 and cried out as they saw the smoke of her burning, "What city was like the great city?" 19 And they threw dust on their heads as they wept and mourned, crying out, "Alas, alas, for the great city where all who had ships at sea grew rich by her wealth! For in a single hour she has been laid waste.
God will overthrow the kingdoms of this world, their armies and their wealth. The great cry of Revelation and our hope: The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ. God monopolizes the market. How many of you wish you had invested just $1,000 in Microsoft stock when it was founded? Why?—ithas in a functional way monopolized the PC market. It wins. How much greater the kingdom of God? You invest in His kingdom because He wins! Martyred missionary Jim Elliot said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” This man bet his life on an investment in God’s kingdom. The world says: he lost. The Bible says: he won!

b) God will establish His Messiah. (2:23)
Haggai 2:23 23 'On that day,' declares the LORD of hosts, 'I will take you, Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, My servant,' declares the LORD, 'and I will make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you,'" declares the LORD of hosts.
As far a we know nothing ever happened with Zerubbabel, he disappears from the pages of history. Yet, he from his descendants comes Christ. The issue here is not Zerubbabel the issues is the prophecy of Christ this points to. In Jeremiah 27:24-25, God removes the ring from the finger of the king of Jerusalem. He takes away the Davidic throne. Now, on the grandson of that king, the ring is put back on. The line of David continues—and one day 500 years from this prophecy, a Son is born, a child is given—Jesus Christ, the Son of David. The fulfillment of that promise is a guarantee to us today: God’s kingdom will triumph.

c) Applications: Consider your ways!

i) Where and how are you investing in God’s kingdom?

ii) Are you investing in other markets—that keep you from investing in the kingdom? This week, how are you using your time? In what ways are you devoting yourself to the kingdom?

iii) In what areas of my life am I fearful in serving God? Bring them to Him—confess them. Repent of them. In what areas are you fearful of trusting Him? If God kept His promise in sending Christ—will he not keep the promises of His Word he makes to us?

iv) The question is not if you are investing—we are all investing. The question before us is: which kingdom receives our investments?

4) Conclusion: At the end of the movie Schindler’s List, Schindler finds himself confronted with the 1,100 lives he saved for the gas chambers in Nazi Germany. And in an emotional scene, he finds himself saying, “I could have got more out.” He describes how he threw so much away—he could have used it to save lives. A Jewish worker says, “There will be generations because of what you did” and he responds, “I didn’t do enough.” He breaks down weeping, “I could have gotten one more person and I didn’t…” I wonder today, how many of us will one day look back on our investments in the kingdom of God and think the same thing… “if only I had _____________” –Maybe it is sacrificing money, time, resources. Laboring harder to love someone. Reaching out a little further to meet a need—to befriend someone. Maybe it is being a little braver to share out faith. “If only I had done ____________ to invest in the kingdom.” How has God called you to invest today?
"The Voyages..." Forays into Biblical studies, Biblical exegesis, theology, exposition, life, and occasionally some Star Trek...