That “Same Old Story”

14 12 2010

Well, here we are again… It’s less than two weeks before Christmas and this week most pastors are preparing to share that “same old story” from Luke 2.  Every year it’s the same thing… How can I tell this story in a new or creative way? How can I keep my congregation from tuning me out since they have heard this story so many times?

I want you to remember something: It’s a marvelous story! Don’t worry about how to present this story in a new or creative way because it is wonderful just the way it is!  It’s most amazing story in history and without it we would still be wandering in darkness.

This Sunday I’m preaching Luke 2:1-7.  During the course of my study for the message I began to think about explaining to my church the necessity of the incarnation. 

We know that ever since the moment mankind fell in the Garden that we have been storing up wrath for ourselves.  This is because God is completely Just.  As R.C. Sproul says, we have committed “cosmic treason” against God by setting ourselves upon His throne.  This means that if there is to be reconciliation between us and God then our sin debt must be paid. But how?

In the Old Testament we see the foreshadowing of what needed to take place: the shedding of blood.  However, the blood of bulls and goats is insufficient to pay for our sins (cf. Heb. 10:4).  In order for payment to be sufficient for God’s justice, the sacrifice had to be perfect.

Well, what about an Angel? Couldn’t God have sent forth an Angel to live in perfect obedience?  This is problematic for several reasons, but some of the main issues are this: Angels are created beings unable to withstand the full wrath of God that had to be poured out.  Also, an Angel is neither God nor man and therefore could not mediate between us.  And of course the sacrifice must be willing, otherwise God’s justice would be compromised. 

All that to say, if there was to be reconciliation between God and man, here are the requirements of the Sacrifice:

  1. The Sacrifice must have the capacity to perfectly obey God’s Law. (To make right what went wrong in Eden)
  2. The Sacrifice must have the ability to relate to God and man for reconciliation. (100% God and 100% Man)
  3. The sacrifice must have the capacity to withstand the full weight of God’s wrath without being annihilated into oblivion. (again, God’s justice demands payment for our sin)
  4. The Sacrifice must be willing.

The standards are such that for all eternity only ONE can fulfill all.  Only One took on flesh and blood, and bones and guts to perfectly obey God’s Law.  Only One withstood the full weight of God’s wrath during the crucifixion. Only One was willing to do His Father’s will.

His name is Jesus.  God sent His Son into the world for the sake of His people and His glory.  He didn’t wrap His gift to us in pretty Christmas paper, He wrapped in flesh and blood.  He didn’t lay it under a pretty Christmas tree in a warm cozy mansion.  He came to the manger.

Praise God, this story will never get old…


Just do ministry like Jesus?

30 03 2010

Saw another article today that said if you want to know how to do ministry, just read the Gospels and do ministry like Jesus.

Now, I think I understand where the person is coming from, and on the surface that seems like such a Gospel centered statement. However, I want to quote a few lines from the book Preaching with Bold Assurance by Hershael York and Bert Decker…

Frankly, we are never told to preach like Jesus and probably shouldn’t try.  While that sentence may shock and make you wonder why we would make such a strange statement, allow me to explain.  Certainly we should emulate many elements of Jesus’ preaching: His passion, his high view of Scripture, his confrontation and application, and his tendency to force a decision of acceptance or rejection.  But on the other hand, we must admit that Jesus, as the sovereign Creator of the universe, had intents, information, and abilities that we do not have.” (pg. 15)

So, my point here is that I think we should use the ministry of Jesus to set our foundation for ministry…BUT, we can’t be Jesus because we are fallen.

York and Decker go on to say (concerning the woman at the well) “Now, first of all, none of us can know such intimate details about the sins of people we just met, and even if we could, it probably would not be best to use such knowledge! After all, we are sinners just like they. Should we witness to others because Jesus witnessed? Absolutely! Should we follow his methodology? No! We can find certain elements in his witness that must be in ours, but we can also find elements that are the sole province of the Son of God and cannot be emulated.” (pg. 16)

The point is, we are called to be like Christ, not be Christ. There are two dangers in wanting to be Christ.  1st is even if you have the right motivations, you are setting yourself up for failure.  2nd You are setting yourself for a huge temptation to be like God, which just so happens to be the reason mankind fell (Gen. 3:5).

So where do we get our models for ministry? The Bible! I’m not saying we don’t use Scripture. Not only can we use the Bible, but we MUST use the Bible! My point is just to caution you to not fall prey to a works based mentality for ministry. In other words, “if i just do ministry just like Jesus, i’ll succeed.”  Trust Christ for direction, but don’t crucify yourself for your disciples…Your blood can’t save them.

How serious is God about sin in our lives?

17 12 2009

Last night I had one of those nights in Youth Ministry where you just want to give up! And it was my fault.  First of all I failed to set up my media presentations until after service had started (while the students where eating)! Secondly, and most important, I totally neglected to pray for and give credible attention to studying my message.  Needless to say it all felt like a train wreck.

When I woke up this morning I begin to think about Joshua and the Israelites.  After the fall of Jericho Joshua had his sights set on the city of Ai, a smaller and weaker city than Jericho.  The men of Israel told Joshua they would only need a small force to defeat the men of Ai, but instead the Isrealites were embarrassed and their hearts were like water as they fled Ai defeated. When Joshua sought God’s face it was revelaed to him that there was sin in the camp as Achan had disobeyed God’s command and took some spoil from the fall of Jericho.

How serious is God about sin? Look at Joshua 7:24-25

24And Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver and the cloak and the bar of gold, and his sons and daughters and his oxen and donkeys and sheep and his tent and all that he had. And they brought them up to the Valley of Achor. 25And Joshua said, “Why did you bring trouble on us? The LORD brings trouble on you today.” And all Israel stoned him with stones. They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones.

I needed to be reminded last night about how foolish it is for a child of God to do something apart from God’s will.  How could I think that my words alone had enough power to make a difference in my students’ lives?  In all facets of ministry and life for that matter, there is temptation to take the reings from God and think that we can keep things under control… How quickly that plan unravels for us! Thankfully this morning I am also reminded of 1 John 1:9:

9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Because of God’s grace we don’t have to be stoned to death and burned for our sin! But, we don’t need to think that God is less serious about sin than He was in the days of Joshua.  He is still the same God, yesterday, today, and forever…

How serious is God about sin? Isaiah 53:5-6

5But he was wounded for our transgressions;
   he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
   and with his stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
   we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
   the iniquity of us all.

God is still serious about sin in our lives, but today, if you are a Christian, you have an advocate before the Father.  God’s wrath was poured out on Jesus for your sins, all of them.

There’s a twofold application to get out of this.  First, we do not need to neglect the seriousness of sin in our lives and how it effects everything that we do.  If you’ve been living a double life then you must understand your sin will catch up to you. Secondly, we need to know and be reminded that God laid our sin on His Son.  We don’t have to carry around our guilt and shame because it’s already been paid for! For the Christian this means: LIVE IN VICTORY! This means confess your sins before God and repent. Don’t keep returning to your former self! And if you are not a Christian there is time for you today, right now, to come to the Cross.  Ask the Lord for forgiveness of your failures and sins and to be the God of your heart.

I hear so many times how God is a loving and forgiving God.  Amen! BUT, this cannot be separated from His other attributes of Holiness, Righteousness, and Justice…. Let us not forget this Christmas the payment made on our behalf for our rebellion.  Let us not answer lightly the question, “How Serious is God about sin in our lives?”

Whose Children are we?

16 10 2009

Before reading this blog check out 1 John 3:4-10 (ESV)

 4Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5You know that [Jesus]appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 7Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. 10By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God,  nor is the one who does not love his brother.

In my class this week we have been looking at this passage of Scripture. I can’t help but think of my own denomination (Southern Baptist) as I read this passage of scripture. This passage makes me think of the millions of people  the country that are a “member” of a Southern Baptist church, but are not present but maybe once every few years (if that).

We MUST wake up and let the Bible (instead of our emotions or egos) dictate how we view salvation. Salvation is a permanent change in a person’s life. Do I believe in the eternal security of the believer (once saved always saved)? YES! AMEN! But, as Southern Baptists we’ve taken that to an extreme. Maybe our phrase should be “Once you walk an aisle, always saved”! See, I think we’ve let ourselves focus on the “permanent” more than we have the “change”. The Bible clearly states that those who are children of God practice righteousness, and those who are children of the devil practice sin.

Can a saved person sin? YES! Does a save person sin? YES! As long as we live in these bodies on this earth, sin will have a constant presence all around us. So what does this passage of Scripture mean? It means that those who make a practice of sinning are not children of God.

Ok, so can a person on a church role that’s not been to church in years, and lives a life of sin, actually be saved? I think it could be possible, BUT I caution those in the ministry to approach this person as if he or she were lost based on this passage of scripture. If they really were saved and you approached them as if they were lost, what have you hurt? Maybe their feelings, but that’s more the convicting work of the Holy Spirit.

You see in this whole passage John is going back and forth about sin and righteousness, and Jesus and the Devil…But then in verse 10 it’s almost like he just adds in “nor is the one who does not love his brother.” What John is doing here is helping us to define what “unrighteousness” is.  Check out 1 John 3:14-

14 If we love our Christian brothers and sisters, it proves that we have passed from death to life. But a person who has no love is still dead.

Now, how do we love our brothers and sisters in Christ? Well, one way is by attending corporate worship with them! Praying together, giving together, helping each others needs together, furthering the Gospel together, etc. etc. etc.

The whole point is that the Word of God gives us clear insight on how to tell if a person is saved or lost. Obviously we as men and women can be fooled on both sides (i.e. a person we think is saved may be lost, and a person we think is lost may be saved). However, I think this applies practically because we as Southern Baptist believe in regenerate church membership! Our goal is to have every person who is a member of our church to actually be saved…This helps us greatly to go about the work of the Lord. I’m not saying call a special business meeting sunday to purge your role of the sinners! BUT, it’s time that we may need to go out and call those who have gone astray back home (cf. James 5:19-20)…

And it may just be that in the process we will win “new” converts to Christ.