Christ Over All: Qualified

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Each Monday I'll be putting up my sermon notes and audio file for the sermon series from Forest Hills Baptist Church "Christ Over All: A Study from Colossians". This is an edited copy of my sermon notes, not a transcript of the sermon. You can listen to the sermon audio above or directly for at the church's website

“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father. We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit. And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:1–14, ESV)

1. The Gospel Reproduces Us (v. 3–8)

The Story of the Colossian Church Plant

One of Paul’s stops along his missionary journey was Ephesus. As he spent many months preaching throughout the city. One of the persons converted in his ministry there was a man named Epaphras. We don’t know much about him other than the fact that he is instrumental in taking the Gospel to his hometown of Colossae. Paul is writing this letter to a place he’s never been and to a church he did not start. However, he feels a strong connection to this church because it was started by one of his disciples Epaphras. Paul opens up his letter because he’s heard from Epaphras about the great work of God as the Gospel was heard and believed in the city of Colossae.

The Gospel Has Come to Us

The Gospel Came to Colossians

God in his grace allowed the Gospel to come to the city of Colossae through the witness of an ordinary guy named Epaphras. Paul is thanking and praising God for what he has done. Paul and Timothy have heard from Epaphras about what has happened in Colossae and they are overwhelmed with joy. The gospel was spreading, lives were being changed, and the Gospel of truth planted itself in Colossae.

The Privilege of the opportunity to hear and know the Gospel.

The Gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ, what he has done and accomplished through his life and death in purchasing our redemption and forgiving us of our sins. One of the things every one of us should be thankful for is that this Gospel has come to us. We should praise God that we live in a country or a family or a community that gave us opportunity to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. If you are hear today you have heard the Gospel through song and word. You have the privilege of hearing the great truth of God’s good news. There are many across this world who do not have the access to the Scriptures and the Gospel like we do. We are incredibly blessed that this Gospel has arrives to us, that we have it and that we can believe in it. As the Gospel arrived to the Colossians they called out in faith and believed, because of the hope laid up for them in heaven.

The Gospel Bearing Fruit in the Whole World

The Gospel Advances, the good news spreads

As the Gospel goes forth, it is going to bear fruit not only in us, but in all the world. One of the amazing things we see in Colossians is God’s commitment to spread his kingdom through he spread of the Gospel. The story of 1st century Christianity is amazing. In the midst of the hostility of the culture, the Gospel continued to spread. Even though Christianity was incredibly counter cultural, the Gospel went forth in the most unexpected places. God does beyond what we could imagine or think. I’m sure Paul never would have thought that a church would be planted in Colossae through one the converts in Ephesus. Within the first few decades we see the Gospel begins to be spread outside of Jerusalem to the very ends of the earth.

The Gospel is a reproducing Gospel

As the Gospel is proclaimed it reproduces. Like seed scattered into across the dirt, it is going to grow and spring up reproducing plants.

“Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun,” (Psalm 19:4, ESV)

God intends for his truth to spread, and spread it will!

The Gospel Must Be Reproducing in Us and Through Our Church

We exist as Forest Hills Baptist Church to Treasure Christ, Equip Believers, and Send Disciples for the Glory of God. We want to be a Great Commission Church that has disciples making disciples.

At Forest Hills we long to peer into the good news of Jesus Christ. As we saturate our hearts in the Gospel, not only are we transformed, but the Gospel is reproduced through us. As we are transformed by the Gospel the Gospel should be spreading through our lives. As we proclaim Christ, others should be coming to know him through our faithful witness, both in word and deed.

So as Forest Hills sets her attention on Christ and his Gospel, we should also be reproducing. Disciples of Jesus make disciples. You and I should be making disciples, bringing new people into the kingdom.

Discipleship is something we want to be in our DNA as a church. One of the normal questions I hope will be asked around our hallways here is “Who are you discipling?”, “Who are you trying to reach?” or “Where are you going to go and reach others?” We as Christians should always seek to be reproducing ourselves. This is discipleship and this is the calling of the Great Commission.

  • How is the Gospel Reproducing itself in your life?
  • Who are you discipling?
  • Who are you reaching for Jesus?
  • Dads and Moms, are you discipling your children? Training your kids in the Gospel?
  • Who needs to be reached in your office?
  • What neighbor do you need to reach out too with the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
  • Where is God calling you to start a Bible Study to reach non-Christian people?
  • How are you training and helping your brothers and sisters in this room reach people for Christ?

Evangelism and Discipleship is not just for Professional Christians

You may be thinking, “What me? Who am I to make disciples? I’m not mature enough or I’m not trained enough. I’ll let others do that, I’m not qualified!”, well we will see in just a minute how Jesus has qualified you for this task, but Epaphras here eliminates any excuse you may have. Epaphras was an ordinary guy who had his life transformed by Jesus. Who knows what he was doing in Ephesus. Perhaps he was on a business trip or maybe he was visiting his family. Who knows? But when Epaphras heard the Gospel from Paul, his life was changed. He didn’t go back home to Colossae and wait for professionals to come in and start a church plant. He returned to Colossae probably as the only Christian in his city. If his city was going to be reached, it was going to be through God working through him. As a new Christian, Epaphras decided to become a church planter, reaching the people in his city.

If Epaphras can do it why can’t we do it? Most of you in this room have had more Bible training and have heard more sermons than Epaphras ever did. Yet, we refuse to be obedient to Christ. Though we may claim to be wise and mature in Christ as we go from one Bible study to another, but our life tells us otherwise. Maturity in Christ is not measured by the depth of our knowledge but by our obedience to what we’ve been given.

We live in a city who needs to hear about Jesus and his Gospel. You have friends and neighbors who need to hear about him, who are hurting and who are in eternal danger if you don’t point them to the savior. What are you waiting for? Who is going to reach them if not you? Perhaps God has place in you in the place your in for such a time as this? Perhaps the reason God has you in the job your in, the the neighborhood your in, in the school your in to reach people who are lost and far from God?

Talk about these things with your family, with your friends, with your Sunday School class. Pray for each other in your individual mission fields. Hold each other accountable in sharing the Gospel with others. Partner together to start a Bible study in your work place or at your home.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is Powerful

I’m convinced that the reason we don’t share the Gospel and reach others as we should is either because we don’t believe in the Gospel (meaning, we don’t actually think people are going to hell without Christ) or we doubt the power of the Gospel (that God can save even the hardest sinners).

We must simply proclaim the Gospel, let loose the lion of God’s word and let the Spirit save. The Gospel increases, gives fruit around the world and among us. C. H. Spurgeon once said, “There is no need for you to defend a lion when he is being attacked. All you need to do is to open the gate and let him out!” We must simply let it loose in our hearts, lives, church, and community. It will be fruitful.

The Gospel Not Only Reproduces Us, it also Grows Us.

2. The Gospel Grows Us (v. 9–11)

One of the greatest indicators of someone who has truly known Christ, is whether they’ve been transformed by Him. As the Gospel works in our life it grows in us. As the seed of God’s word is planted in our initial conversion it should sprout and grow within. Here in v. 9 Paul turns his attention to pray for the Colossians and for their spiritual growth.

A. Fills us with the knowledge of his will (Holiness in Thinking)

One of the first things he prays for them is for holiness in their thinking. He prays that they would be filled with the knowledge of His will. The colossians have heard and understood the grace of God in truth (Col 1:6). Paul’s prayer for them is that they would grow in knowledge. This is a common theme throughout Paul’s prayer for the churches, he wants them to grow in their knowledge of Christ.

One of the great errors many Baptist churches have is an anti-intellectualism. In other words, there is a tendency among some baptist churches to minimize Christian knowledge and just emphasize Christian experience. In fact, some even think that doctrine and theology are not only unhelpful, but even dangerous to your spiritual life.

I’ll never forget being cautioned by some sweet older ladies in my last church to not let seminary ruin me, as if learning doctrine and theology could spoil a young pastor. While it is dangerous to possess a dead, cold orthodoxy or passionless knowledge, being filled with knowledge of Christ should not diminish our spiritual growth but intensify it.

The more I learn, study, and read about God in his word and through other faithful teachers and writers the more my love for him increases. Knowledge of the will of God and seeking understanding is crucial for our spiritual growth.

You may be thinking, “Well, what if I don’t have any desire for knowledge. Reading isn’t really my thing, I struggle enough just to read my Bible let alone a theology book”. The pursuit of the knowledge of God comes a little easier to some, but you must always keep your motive in view. Studying and seeking knowledge and understanding is not always easy. As any good student can tell you the gift of knowledge comes through a lot of hard work. Although I tend to enjoy reading and studying most of the times, there are seasons where its the last thing I want to do. Why do I do it? Because reading and studying and learning are not the end I’m working towards. I’m not just reading just to read or gaining knowledge just to gain knowledge. I study so that I might know God better. God is the goal! He is the purpose of it all, the reason we read, study, and grow in the life of the mind is so we can know and love God better!

If growing in knowledge is difficult for you, make 2015 a year to seek to know God better. Open up his word daily, even just reading a chapter a day. Find a good helpful Christian book that will help you grow in your love of God, our library is filled with them. Listen to good Bible teachers here at the church. Come prepared on Sunday morning with a pen and paper and take notes. Come thirsting not for knowledge itself, but for more of God!

B. Walk worthy (Holiness in lifestyle)

Paul’s prayer is not only that they would be filled up with wisdom and understanding, but as they are filled with the knowledge of God that it would lead them to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord. Their holiness in thinking should lead them to holiness in lifestyle. Christians are to live their life in a way this is pleasing to God, honoring him.

A Christian is a man or woman who is never complacent in sin. Rather they are vicious, attacking and repenting of any sin in their life. They hate their sin and they seek to put it to death. They love holiness, righteousness, and purity. Christians are those who seek to walk and imitate the pattern of Jesus Christ. They are careful about what sort of entertainment they consume. They are careful not to be mean-spirited. They guard their heart from their lustful desires. They seek out any selfishness in their life to destroy it.

A Christian walks in love, with gentleness and kindness always on his or her lips. A Christian lives in humility always the servant of others. A Christian is obedient doing what God has called no matter how difficult and no matter the sacrifice.

Are you walking in a manner worthy of the Lord. Pray and ask God for help. That’s what Paul is praying for this Colossian church. It is my prayer for you too, that you might grow in holiness and grace.

C. Fruitful in Good Works (Holiness in action)

Paul also prays that they would bear fruit in every good work. The Christian life is to be fruitful. Every healthy tree bears good fruit Jesus said. A life transformed by Jesus must bear good fruit. Jesus heals us at our roots within our hearts, which enables us to live a life of fruitfulness pleasing to him.

Are you bearing fruit in your life? Are the fruits of the Spirit a part of who you are? Are you reproducing as we mentioned earlier?

D. Strengthens us for endurance (perseverance)

Paul also prays that they colossians would be strengthened with the power of God for endurance. Paul prays that the Colossians would persevere to the end with patience and all joy. Suffering is coming, persecution is coming, and difficulty is coming. Paul’s knows it, and he prays preemptively that they Colossian church would survive and thrive against any hardship they may face.

  • How is the Gospel going to grow you this year in 2015?
  • How can this new year be focused on your growth in godliness and Christ-likeness?

The Gospel not only reproduces us, and grows us, it also qualifies us.

3. The Gospel Qualifies Us (v. 12–14)

Qualified for the Inheritance

Paul prays that the church would give thanks for that God the Father has qualified them for the inheritance. What inheritance is this? It is the inheritance of God! All the riches and spiritual blessings of heaven. An inheritance is reserved for sons and for family, and God is going to make a way for us to be qualified for this glorious inheritance.

One of the biggest Marathon’s in our country is the Boston Marathon. It is a big even annual year with thousands of runners who embark on a 26.2 mile journey around the city. However, not anyone can just sign up for the race. There are so many people who want to run this race that you have to qualify. You have to prove yourself at another marathon with a good enough time to even sign up for the race.

When it comes to the spiritual marathon of our lives, we don’t even qualify. In fact we don’t even finish the race. We are sinners. We are condemned. We cannot qualify for the inheritance of God.

Yet, Paul says that God has qualified us. How has God done this? He does it through Jesus Christ! Jesus runs the marathon in your place. He lives a life of perfection, blamelessness, and perfection. God by his grace gifts us with Jeuss’ qualifying work. As the blameless son of God, the inheritance is his. But, through the death of the son Jesus Christ, we are brought into the family of God through his death. At the cross Jesus takes on our shame and punishment to gift us with his qualifying work. Jesus gives us his purity, his righteousness, his good life.

This is the good news of the Gospel that reproduces us, grows us, and yes, even qualifies us! It is the grace of God that we get to receive such grand inheritance. It is through Jesus that we are delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of the Son! We are brought from death to life, from night to day, from the kingdom of the enemy to the kingdom of God! It is through this Jesus that we have redemption and the forgiveness of sins!

You may feel a complete and total failure. You may feel as if you’ll never be good enough for God. And you know what, you’re right. You are a failure and you will never be good enough for God. But praise be to God that he has qualified us through his son Jesus Christ. Through Jesus though you fail, you receive his success. In your defeat, you receive Christ’s victory. In your poverty, you receive the father’s inheritance. In your destruction, in Christ you are restored. This is the good news of the Gospel, that God takes us unqualified sinners and qualifies us through his son.

For those of us who are in Christ, who have made Jesus our Lord this gives us a great fearlessness. If I’ve already been made qualified through Jesus, what fear do I have? I’m forgiven. I’m made new. I’m a qualifier. I’m a victor. As I seek to grow in Christ, so what if I stumble, my victory is not dependent on me but on God’s son. As I seek to reproduce the Gospel and share it with others, so what if I fail, Christ has already won!

Yet, the most pressing question is this. Have you been made qualified by Jesus? Have you asked Jesus to save you from your sins. Have you received the inheritance of God through repentance and faith in Jesus? God is offering you His life in exchange for yours. Jesus offers qualifications in exchange for your sins. Call out in faith to God’s son today.

5 Tips for Preaching through Tough Passages

Recently I’ve been preaching through the Sermon on the Mount with the people of Forest Hills Baptist Church. So far it has been a wonderful series working through some of Jesus’ most well known teachings. However I knew when the Lord led me to this series that there would be some difficult passages to come up. The two I was least looking forward to was on lust and divorce. As a pastor some times you must teach on some difficult passages of Scripture.

The Bible doesn’t always tell us what we want to hear, nevertheless they are all profitable and useful for the building up of the body. Much like the prophet Ezekiel, as a pastor we eat the sweet scroll of God’s word even though it is often a bitter word of judgement (Ez 3:3). All of God’s word is honey to our lips. Yet, the Scriptures function as a mirror. As we hold up the mirror of God’s word to our own hearts and to the hearts of our own people, sometimes we do not like what it shows us about ourselves. The word of God pierces our hearts and exposes our sin (Heb 4:12). It can be an uncomfortable endeavor but yet it is the task of the pastor to teach the whole counsel of God.

Although I am still a young preacher and have much to learn, having recently taught through both lust and divorce from the sermon on the mount, I offer these five helpful principles for preaching through tough passages of scripture.

1. Practice Expository Preaching

In order to preach difficult passages you must get to difficult passages. With the absence of expository preaching it is tempting for pastors to pick hobby horse passages or passages that will merely tickle the ears of the congregation. As a result, consciously or not, many pastors skip over difficult or controversial passages.

Walking through sections of scripture verse by verse is so helpful because it forces us to encounter and deal with difficult passages. My people know we are walking through the Sermon on the Mount and they would notice if we skipped Jesus’ teaching on divorce. No matter how difficult it may be or though I may not desire to preach it, the accountability of my people force me to deal with difficult texts.

Yet, expository preaching can be a safe guard. When you deal with difficult passages in a expository series, it keeps the difficult sermon from sounding like a personal attack from the pastor. No one in the congregation is saying “I wonder why he picked a passage on lust this Sunday? I wonder who was in the counseling room this week?” The church knows this passage is next, so it removes any perceived hostility people may read into the pastors sermon. Thus the sermon becomes less of the words of a perceived vindictive pastor and more the prophetic, authoritative voice of God.

2. Preach in Humility, as a Man Under the Authority of the Scripture.

When I was preaching the sermon on lust, I tried to set the tone for the sermon at the beginning. I knew I was going to be having to deal with some difficult truths and that it was vital for me to be filled with conviction over sexual sin. I knew that many would perceive as strong word as judgmental self-righteousness, which would be the furthest from the truth. So before I got into the meat of the sermon I said,

This morning I plan to proclaim to you harsh truths that you may perceive are announced in judgement and self-righteousness. Hear me carefully before we begin. I speak as a man who is not above this text but stands condemned underneath it. I am a man who is a condemned sinner redeemed and restored by Jesus Christ. As I read Jesus’ words here what shame and dread come upon me. For which of us can here can read these words and not be condemned?

These words helped remind me and my people, that as a pastor I am a sinner who is saved by grace. The only power that enables me to stand in that pulpit without cowering in holy fear is that I’m clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

3. Speak Clearly and with Conviction

Set God’s word loose on your people. Do not be timid or fearful on difficult truths you know your people might not want to hear. So often our fear of men causes us to be timid lambs in the pulpit when we must be roaring lions. When it comes to the sexual immorality of our culture or the no-fault divorces that happen every day, it is necessary to bring a strong word of judgement against sin. However as you do, highlight the Scripture as your authority and not your own opinions.

4. Share Briefly Multiple Interpretations

The teaching on divorce was exceptionally difficult for me, not just because it is a hot-button issue, but because the text is a hermeneutical gordian knot. Many Christians wrestle on what the Scriptures teach on divorce and many books have been written on the subject. The greatest struggle for me was:

  • How much should I share about the debate?
  • Do I want to only share my position and act like the others do not exist?

Those were the sort of questions that plagued me as I was preparing for that sermon.

If you are preaching on such a text it is wise to briefly mention the debate around this text and briefly highlight some of the other views. But spend the bulk of your time proving your position from the text. The pulpit is not the place for an academic lecture on the precise definition of porneia. In fact most of the congregation doesn’t even care, they just want to know what the Scripture says. They don’t want a seminary dissertation on the subject.

5. Give Grace and Preach the Gospel

My great fear in preaching a sermon on lust or divorce is that I sound like some self-righteous right wing bigot. Although there are sections of those sermons where I must come down hard on what God calls sin, I must always point people to the Gospel. Pastor, if you hold up the mirror of condemnation to your peoples hearts you better point them to calvary before you close in prayer. Sins like lust are so pervasive and are hidden deep within our hearts. When you bring those things up to the surface and expose them to the light, it can get uncomfortable and often guilt begins to take over. Yet, I do not want my people to leave my sermon feeling badly over their sin, but gloriously in awe of a God who would save them despite their sin.

I want to leave them with Jesus. I want to point them to the savior who fulfilled the righteous requirements of the Law in their place. I want to point them to the suffering servant who was nailed to that tree for the forgiveness of our sins. I want to point them to the liberator who frees sexual captives and the God who never divorces his adulterous wife. He is the always faithful God who is ready to forgive and restore. When you preach these difficult sermons give your people what they need the most, Jesus.

If you would like to listen to these to sermons you can listen to my sermon on Lust and Divorce. (I'll put up the link to the sermon on divorce as soon as its uploaded)

Pastors, how have you dealt with difficult passages? How do you handle texts that you know will elicit controversy? Share your wisdom in the comments!

The Greatest Story in the World

The greatest story ever told was not made by hollywood or written by your favorite author. The greatest story ever told is the true story of the whole world. This grand story does not center on us, but on God. He is the grand story-teller displaying the glory of his name in the world throughout history. It is God who pens history in order to tell the greatest story of love and redemption that will ever be told. However many Christians are practically ignorant of God's story. Often we pick up our bibles and read a passage completely divorced from the story line of the Bible. There is a huge need in the church to be taught the meta-narrative or the grand over-arching plot line of the Bible. This plot line isn't just the narrative of Scripture, but the narrative in which we understand ourselves and our world.

Seeing a need for a solid Biblical Theology in the church I set out in the month of March to teach the entire Bible in 4-Weeks. It was a great challenge, but one I hoped served the church well. The plot line of the Bible and the world can be summed up in four words:

Creation. Fall. Redemption. Restoration.

Each sermon in this series centered on one of these events. The following is a link to the sermon audio for each of the sermons in this series. It is my prayer that they serve you and the church of Jesus Christ well as we understand our place in the world and the story of God.

Part 1: Creation

Part 2: Fall

Part 3: Redemption

Part 4: Restoration

Ruth: The Romance of Redemption

We just finished studying the book of Ruth at Forest Hills Baptist Church. It has been a great study as we examined the love story between Ruth and Boaz. Throughout the whole book God is working continuously behind the sciences to accomplish his purposes. It was a great reminder of God's power, love, and compassion in gifting us with our redemption. All the sermon audio at Forest Hills can be found on our church website or you can subscribe to our podcast form the iTunes store.  However, here is an archive of the four sermons from Ruth: The Romance of Redemption.

Part 1: The Need for Redemption

Part 2: The Hope of Redemption

Part 3: The Search for Redemption

Part 4: The Gift of Redemption

 

The Antidote to the Me-Centered Church

This Blog Post is an excerpt from my sermon on Philippians 2:1-11, "The Gospel, Humility, and Unity". You can listen to the sermon audio here. Humility is a bizarre concept for modern people. It is a difficult idea to wrap our minds around. Modern people have been indoctrinated with enlightenment idea of progress striving to be better than one another, but most significantly is the Darwinian idea of the survival of the fittest. Many people see rising to power and promoting self as the chief purpose of life. To be great is to be powerful, respected, feared, and wealthy. So for many of us greatness and humility are two traits that do not go together. Indeed humility is against our very nature. We are prideful beings constantly seeking our own fame. We often beg for compliments and perk up when someone gives us a word of praise. We like to be in the spotlight and we like to be the center of attention. We like for people to serve us, so we created a whole service industry of waiters, customer service representatives, and hospitality to pamper us and to meet our every want. Our sinful instincts are not naturally drawn to humble service but prideful entitlement!

Yet for the Christian, one born of God is to be characterized by radical humility. Christians are to be made servants, not consumers. The Christian lays down his own wants and desires for the sake of others. Since he has been given everything in Christ it is his joy to give himself to others. The Christian is to do nothing from selfish ambition. He is to do nothing to advance his own reputation. He is not to seek his own glory or fame. The Christian is to abstain from conceit. He should not think of himself more highly than he ought. He is to realize that he is not the center of the universe. Rather than thinking much about himself he is to think much about others. What about you? Do you think of yourself more highly than you ought? Do you desire your own fame and glory? This is not the way of the Christian.

Rather than self-exaltation Paul encourages the church toward other-exaltation. We must see the significance of our brothers and sisters and must value them above ourselves. We are to look out for them, care for them, and serve them. We are to look not only to our own interests but also the interest of others. The humble servant is to look for ways to serve and to meet the needs of those around him. Rather than being absorbed in narcissistic individualism we are to be marked by generous radicalism.

The Struggle of Humility

But lets be honest. Isn't it so difficult to be a humble servant? I struggle with laying down my wants for the sake of my brothers and sisters. So often I want to look out for myself and my own needs! I want to look after my own interests, and if I have time maybe I'll look after yours. My heart fights to find others as more significant than myself. The spirit rages in my heart convicting me of my pride. Humility is difficult and as pastor and writer CJ Mahaney said in his little book on humility, "I am a proud man pursuing humility by the grace of God". I want to be humble, but I need God's grace to help me in my sin and to help me realize who I am before Him. He is the creator I am the creature. I am the sinner and He is the savior. I am the rebel, He is the peace maker. He is the judge and I am the felon. Humility is not some sort of melodramatic self-loathing. Humility means understanding who you are in relation to God and others.

The Disdain of the Me-Centered Church

If a church is to be unified, on mission to advance the cause of Christ, there must be humble service among its members. This humility must define the culture of the church. The body of Christ is not to be made of entitled egoist, but self-denying servants.

Yet how far many churches are from this picture! We've turned our churches into consumer businesses where you come to church to be served rather than to serve. We've traded in the great commission for attractive products the church can offer you. The Great Commission has become the Great Suggestion. So churches come up with the latest and greatest way of catering to your needs with multi-million dollar buildings, a large menu of programs for your choosing, and worship services with watered down lyrics, flashing lights, a funny speaker, but very little Jesus. Perhaps the reason the mission of God is not being accomplished today is because our churches have been training a generation of believers that the church is here to serve them, not them to serve the church!

So a me-centered Christianity has cropped up where we demand from the church to do it my way or I'll hit the highway. I want my style of music, I want this sort of ministry, I want this length of a worship service, I want this sort of pastor, I want this sort of children's ministry. So in a never ending aim to appeal consumers churches run the rat race of conforming the church to what me-centered Christians want it to be, rather than letting God define what the church should, how we conduct our worship services, or what sort of ministry philosophy we will have. We take God's word and throw it into the metaphorical drawer and do church the way we want to do it.

So what is the solution to the plight the church of america has gotten itself in? How do we guard against our own hearts form this me-centered Christianity? How do we get our churches to look more like Philippians 2? Well it starts with a profound knowledge and deep conviction of the truthfulness of the Gospel. Humble service is a result of Gospel transformation. The antidote to the me-centered church is the self-sacrificing Christ! How do we learn to serve? How do we learn humility? How do we stay unified on the mission God has given us? Well it comes by looking to Christ!

The Example of Jesus

Paul turns our attention to Jesus, highlighting him as the example, the epitome of humility. Jesus though God did not cling to his divine prestige. If anyone had the right to be served by others it was Jesus! He is God! All of creation was created by his word! He sustains the universe by the word of his power. Yet, he was willing to take on the form of a servant. He was willing to step down from the glory of heaven, to become a human being and be born to a teenage girl in a stable. Rather than coming as a King, Jesus came as a servant. He came as one who would give up his life. Jesus was obedient even to the point of death. He humbled himself to the point of death, but not just any death, a death on a cross! The most horrific, violent, bloody, and painful inventions of torture humanity has ever come up with. He goes to the cross of his own volition and dies in the place of sinful man. As Jesus says, "The son of man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many". Jesus served us in our greatest need and in our greatest weakness. We are sinners who stand condemn before God. There is no one righteous, no not one! We stand before God and we are unrighteous, unworthy. We deserve hell and punishment. Yet the servant Jesus sees our need, humbles himself by taking on humanity and the Father sends Jesus on a rescue mission. God crucifies himself at the hand of his created image bearers so our sins could be paid for. God endured the wrath you deserved by taking it on himself. At the cross Jesus in humility laid down his life for us. The great God of the universe humbled himself and became a servant of man.

Here is the power of the Gospel in our lives! When we understand the astonishment of God's grace to us, when we stand amazed at God's service to us, our response is genuine humility. As we look to Calvary we see a gift we do not deserve. When we see the wonder of God's grace to us we become aware of our smallness. The reality of our tiny existence is made real, and we are amazed that God would take me and save me and restore me. When that truth sinks in and you feel the weight of God's love towards you in Christ, you are left standing with eyes gazing, falling on your knees in humility!

Do you desire humility? Do you desire to be a servant to others? Look to Christ our example! He is the suffering servant who demonstrates humility for us. Soak in this truth and as you do humility will be your response. For those who have genuinely put their faith in Jesus and have trusted in this good news humility is the only response. As we are humbled by the Gospel we will in turn be a servant to others. Why? Because Christ was first a servant to us. So look to your savior you who are proud at heart! Look to his nail pierced hands and feet you who seek to be served! For if the God of all the earth has stooped down to serve you, shouldn't you the dust of the earth serve your neighbor?

Haggai Sermon Series Archive

In case your interested all my sermon audio from Forest Hills Baptist Church can be found on our website.  However in this blog post is a quick archive for my four week sermon series through Haggai.  I really enjoyed teaching through this series.  It is a labor of love for my church and it is a joy to serve them through proclaiming the word of God.  I pray these sermons may encourage you in your walk with Christ and encourage you to prioritize the Kingdom of God in your own life. Haggai Part 1: Prioritizing the Kingdom of God - Haggai 1:1-11

Haggai Part 2: The Obstacle of Discouragement - Haggai 2:1-9

Haggai Part 3: Blessings for the Defiled - Haggai 2:10-19

Haggai Part 4: Every Kingdom Needs a King - Haggai 2:20-23

At Forest Hills we are working on getting sermon video up online on a regular basis.  However, we were able to get one sermon from this series uploaded on video.

https://vimeo.com/73145412

 

Cleaned by Jesus

This blog was adapted from a recent sermon I taught from Haggai. You can access the original sermon audio here. Can you imagine being a total outcast? If so you can relate to the woman in Luke 8. The Gospel tells us that Jesus gets the call to go heal Jarius' daughter who was dying. Jesus goes on his way and the crowd pressed in all around him.

An Unclean Woman Made Clean

We are told that in that crowd is a woman who has had chronic menstraul bleeding for twelve years. She has spent the past 12 years and every penny trying to figure out what was wrong with her. However no one could heal her. No doctor could help her.

According to the Law she was ceremonially unclean. She was an outcast, she was alienated. No one could be around this woman lest they became unclean by touching her. This woman was completely and totally alone. No one would touch her. No one would shake her hand. No one would give her a hug. She was unclean. As Jesus is making his way through the crowd she has a crazy thought. She had heard about Jesus. She heard that he was a healer. Then she had this crazy thought – "If I could just touch his garment, I could be healed." So she goes and she fights her way through the crowd and she is able to just barely touch the fringe of Jesus' garment and at that moment she is instantly healed. The unclean woman is made instantly clean. Jesus realizing what just happened stops the crowd and asks who touched him. The woman falls on her face in the presence of everyone and confesses what she did. Jesus tells her "daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace".

Holiness is Not Contagious

This story is amazing. In Haggai 2:10-14, the prophet uses an priestly illustration of the nature of holiness. Here is the words Haggai penned:

“On the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet, “Thus says the LORD of hosts: Ask the priests about the law: ‘If someone carries holy meat in the fold of his garment and touches with his fold bread or stew or wine or oil or any kind of food, does it become holy?’ ” The priests answered and said, “No.” Then Haggai said, “If someone who is unclean by contact with a dead body touches any of these, does it become unclean?” The priests answered and said, “It does become unclean.” Then Haggai answered and said, “So is it with this people, and with this nation before me, declares the LORD, and so with every work of their hands. And what they offer there is unclean.” (Haggai 2:10–14, ESV)

Haggai says imagine someone is carrying around holy meat (meat sacrificed on the alter to the Lord) in a special garment. Haggai then said what if you take that garment, that was wrapped in the Holy meat and what if I touched this piece of bread with it? Haggai asks them, "Would this make the bread holy?" The priest answer, "No". Holiness is not contagious. It doesn't pass from one thing to the next.

Then Haggai said, well what if someone who is unclean by touching a corpse then goes to touch the bread what would happen to it? Well that food item would become unclean. Well what is Haggai's point? Defilment is contagious, uncleanness passes to other objects but holiness does not.

But Jesus' Holiness is Contagious

Now knowing this, think back to the bleeding woman. You see when this unclean woman went to touch Jesus. When she made contact with Jesus, Jesus should have then been unclean. Remember defilement is contagious, if you touched a woman like this you were to be ceremoniously unclean. Yet the opposite happens! The cleanliness of Jesus is imputed to this woman. Jesus' holiness is contagious and it is passed to this woman through her faith. In Haggai, that garment containing the holy meat would not transmit holiness to another object, yet here the garment containing the holy meat, the lamb of God, passes cleanliness to this woman! Why? Because Jesus is the holy one of God. He is undefiled and completely pure!

This is the beauty of the Gospel, that Jesus takes our uncleanliness and our sin and washes us with his blood. We are unable to make ourselves clean, but Jesus cleanses us and purifies us. In all our guilt and filth, Jesus cleans us and makes us his own!

3 Ways to Preach a Bad Funeral

I must admit. I am a newbie to the whole funeral thing. I've done a few gravesides and a few services, but by no means am I an expert. But as a pastor, you will have those time when you will have to comfort and encourage a grieving funeral. Over the course of my time on earth I have seen some powerful encouraging preaching at funerals and some that made me wish I was in the casket. Funeral sermons can be life giving or life draining to those grieving.  Although I am still learning how to preach a good funeral sermon, I do know three ways to preach a bad funeral sermon.

1. Talk Only About How Good the Person Was

In your funeral sermon if you spend the whole time talking about how good the person was and not how good Jesus is, you've got a serious problems. One of the reasons moralism has so powerfully crept into the church is because pastor propagate it in sermons, particularly funeral sermons. I have heard whole sermons (often well received by the congregation) that discuss how many good things the person has done with absolutely nothing about the goodness of Jesus. Pastor, don't distort the gospel by holding up moralism before the family and congregation. Only talk about the goodness of the person to point to the goodness of Christ. Our righteousness is filthy rags. Don't hand out filthy rags of moralism to grieving people, give them the pure white robe given by the righteousness of Christ!

2. Talk About Heaven Without Jesus

The way heaven is talked about in may funerals is nothing more than religious materialism. Great emphasis is given to the streets of gold and your own personal mansion. We even speak about reuniting with loved ones. However the emphasis in our speaking about heaven is in the wrong place. The chief reward isn't stuff, it is Jesus. Yet so often in funerals, Jesus being there is just a footnote on a grand health and wealth caricature of heaven. What makes heaven wonderful is that we will stand, clothed in the righteousness of Christ and be in relationship with the holy sovereign King of the Universe. We will see His face with unveiled faces. That is what makes heaven wonderful.

3. Sentimentalize but Don't Evangelize

At no other point in people's lives are they more aware of their own mortality than at a funeral. There is no better place to share the hope of the Gospel than standing over the hollow of death. Yet, many pastors fail to preach the Gospel. Deep in our souls we know that death should not be, yet death happens because of sin. Yet God, in his great mercy put in place a rescue plan to save sinners through the death of His son Jesus Christ. Through the death of Christ our sins are paid for and victory has been accomplished, even over death. The Gospel rings in power at the last chime of a person's life. Yet, the Gospel is neglected in so many funeral sermons in exchange for empty and vain sentimental anecdotes. If you seek to comfort the people gathered to grieve preach the Gospel. It is the only hope as we stand before death. Warm fuzzys of sentimentality might last for a day, but the lasting comfort that comes from the hope of the Gospel endures for eternity.

Pastor, if you avoid these three things you are well on your way to preaching biblically faithful and eternally helpful funeral sermons. Funerals create unique opportunities for a pastor to minister in people's greatest need. Steward this opportunity well. Honor the deceased, comfort the grieving, and above all else preach the Gospel.

What other things should pastors not do at a funeral? What are some positive things you have seen pastors do at funerals? Share your thoughts with us all in the comments below!

Soaked in Grace Sermon Archive

Here is the audio archive of the sermon series I taught through the book of Titus. The Series is called Soaked in Grace: How the Gospel Changes Everything. All these sermons are found at www.foresthillsbaptist.org. You can also subscribe to the FHBC sermon audio podcast by clicking here. Feel free to share and use to your hearts content. My prayer is that God would use this sermon series powerfully in your life. I'd love to hear your thoughts and feedback on the series in the comments. Titus Part 1: How the Gospel Changes Everything

Titus Part 2: Godly Leadership in the Home and in the Church

Titus Part 3: Discerning Truth from Lies

Titus Part 4: The Gospel Fuels Discipleship

Titus Part 5: Living Out Sound Doctrine

Titus Part 6: He Saved Us

Titus Part 7: On Guard Against Drift

The Weight of Preaching

4400217305_2d902129df_b One of the things I've experienced over the past month is the profound weight and responsibility of pastoral ministry. As I've stepped into the roll of Interim Senior Pastor at my church, God has graciously made me aware of the amazing burden of caring for God's people. A Pastor is first and foremost a shepherd, who has been stewarded to precious flock of Jesus Christ.  I know that as a pastor I stand as one who will give account for the sheep in my fold. Every church member I am given the task to shepherd their soul.  I am called to lead them with the rod of the scriptures.  I am called to protect them from wolves and even from themselves.  I'm called to lead them through the war zone of culture helping them to persevere to the end and not fall captive to the empty philosophy of the world.  That's why I love that picture above of a man shepherding his sheep in a tank grave yard. That is the job of a pastor.

I felt this responsibility most clearly as I stood up to preach this past week from 2 Timothy 4.  Paul gives the powerful charge to Timothy to "preach the word". Paul's last cry to Timothy was to shepherd the church with the scriptures. The task of preaching we see in this passage is for the building up of the church so that they may be "competent, equipped for every good work".  However, the task of a pastor through his preaching ministry is also to protect the people from their itching ears.

Everyone, including myself, is tempted to scratch their itching ears by finding teachers, books, and resources that suit our own passions.  Our sinful nature makes us truth repellers not truth seekers. Sheep wander off into danger, and it is the job of the shepherd to rescue them through the preached word of God.

The Pastor is a man who will be held accountable before Christ to faithfully preach the word, in season and out of season.  When it is popular for him to do so, and also when it means preaching truth causes him to lose his job or lose his life.

The weight of this responsibility was so heavy on my heart this past Sunday. The few minutes before I went up to preach this text to my church, I quoted this passage in my mind and by God's spirit he reminded me of the responsibility but also the glory of this task.

As the great 20th century preacher, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said in his great work, Preaching and Preachers:

the work of preaching is the highest and the greatest and the most glorious calling to which anyone can ever be called. If you want something in addition to that I would say without any hesitation that the most urgent need in the Christian Church today is true preaching; and as it is the greatest and the most urgent need in the Church, it is obviously the greatest need of the world also.

What the church and the world needs now more than ever are men who feel the weight and the glory of their task of shepherding their people through the preached word of God.  May pastors rise to this most glorious challenge!

If you would like to listen to my sermon from 2 Timothy 3-4 you can click here.