If Sinners Entice You

If Sinners Entice You

What I Learned Last Sunday

Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching,
for they are a graceful garland for your headand pendants for your neck.
My son, if sinners entice you,do not consent.
If they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood; let us ambush the innocent without reason;
like Sheol let us swallow them alive, and whole, like those who go down to the pit;
we shall find all precious goods, we shall fill our houses with plunder;
throw in your lot among us; we will all have one purse”—
my son, do not walk in the way with them; hold back your foot from their paths… -Proverbs 1:8–15

Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice;
at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:
“How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? – Proverbs 1:20–22

My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you,
making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding;
yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures,
then you will understand the fear of the LORD
and find the knowledge of God. – Proverbs 2:1–5

Here are a few takeaways from this week’s message on Proverbs 1:8-2:22:

Who are these sinners?

Don’t all sin? Even Christians? Yes. Pastor Mike used the example of when we call someone a runner. These sinners are defined by what they are doing. Though the Christian falls short and sins, we are actively pursuing the righteousness of Christ and waging war on sin with his help. The sinners in this passage are actively living in their sin, pursuing it.

And though verses 10-11 might seem irrelevant to us due to the specifically murderous context, we see the bigger reality in verse 19 that “such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the life of its possessors.”

Evil desires are counterfeits of good ones.

The result of consenting to the enticement of sinners seems worth it. They promise a sense of togetherness and of great reward in precious goods and plunder (1:13-14). We might desire to seek such sin because we long for a sense of community and common cause. God hard-wired us to long for the church and for the common interest of Christ.

These sinners set an ambush for their own lives. The thought that it might be worth it is a lie.

You will never be sorry for following God.

The alternative to falling for the enticement of sinners is to treasure God’s wisdom in our hearts. Whoever listens to true wisdom will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster (1:33). The Lord will give us wisdom, will be a shield to us, will watch over us, will give us knowledge, will give us discretion, and deliver us from evil (2: 1-15).

If you throw in your lot with Jesus, you will live. Build your house on the rock (See Matthew 7:24-27 as referenced in the sermon).

As Mike said “It’s hard when you’re at the crossroads, but it’s better Every. Single. Time.

The Challenge in two words: How Long?

There comes a time when the laughing stops. If you don’t take God’s word seriously today, you will one day.

Wisdom is calling out! How long until I listen?
Make it today.

Parents: Don’t waste your influence. Teach this to your children. The world is full of influence that is crying out for their hearts.

Two Reminders for Reading Proverbs

Two Reminders for Reading Proverbs

What I Learned Last Sunday

The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel:

To know wisdom and instruction,
to understand words of insight,
to receive instruction in wise dealing,
in righteousness, justice, and equity;
to give prudence to the simple,
knowledge and discretion to the youth—
Let the wise hear and increase in learning,
and the one who understands obtain guidance,
to understand a proverb and a saying,
the words of the wise and their riddles.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction. – Proverbs 1:1–7

Check out last Sunday’s sermon here. Below are some key takeaways from Pastor Mike’s sermon.

Keep these two essential points in mind as we study Proverbs this summer.

  1. Biblical proverbs are uncommon sense (divine sense).
  2. Biblical Proverbs are to be read reverently, not pragmatically.

Biblical Proverbs are Uncommon Sense (Divine Sense)
Where the world’s proverbs are sourced in common, logical sense, “…biblical proverbs go against our grain.”* Proverbs draw us away from trusting in ourselves, our path, our dreams, to trusting in the Lord (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Therefore, when a biblical proverb causes friction with my life, I must remember that it is supposed to. Also, I should remember that when I see the wisdom in a biblical proverb, I must attribute that to God’s grace. On my own, I would never see God’s wisdom as wisdom. On my own, I would be a fool.

Read Biblical Proverbs Reverently, not Pragmatically
prag·mat·ic**
/praɡˈmadik/
adjective

  1. dealing with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical rather than theoretical considerations.

We cannot understand or apply proverbs fully outside a genuine fear of the Lord.”* This point cannot be stated enough. If I read Proverbs with the belief that my best life will be found in simply, pragmatically doing better in work ethic, family, friendship, marriage, and the lot, I HAVE MISREAD PROVERBS ENTIRELY.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. – Proverbs 1:7

Therefore, we must read Proverbs’ call to godly work, family rearing, friendship, marriage, and more with the conviction that, “…Christ is my life.”* If I am no longer my own, so my response to God’s call in Proverbs must be of reverence (biblical fear) before the Lord. My response of obedience is to be an act of worship to Christ. My number one goal is not to simply do better for a nicer life.

So, let’s read, pray, consider, and apply Proverbs in this light this summer. It is the only Christian response.

*Quotes from the sermon preached by Pastor Mike on May 22, 2022.
**Definition from Oxford Languages.

The Blessing of Biblical Friction

The Blessing of Biblical Friction

What I Learned Last Sunday

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. – Matthew 5:38–48

Check out last Sunday’s sermon here.

Ponder this statement: One of the great proofs of the Bible’s reliability is that the Bible universally creates friction with all our cultural biases.

Pastor Mike shared at the beginning of the sermon last Sunday the many ways we can read the Bible poorly. We most often read it poorly when God’s Word creates friction with how we think or feel our lives should be lived. Matthew 5:38-48 is a prime example of a friction causing text.

Tim Keller argues that these very passages which make us uncomfortable are indicators that God’s Word is divinely inspired.
Keller states:

“If the Bible really was the revelation of God, and therefore it wasn’t the product of any one culture, wouldn’t it contradict every culture at some point, and therefore have to offend your cultural sensibilities at some point?*”

God’s Word will always grind the gears of our lives, because He exists as the God outside of culture, space, and time. So, should we be surprised when He calls us to do what we don’t want to do?

As a Christian, I am called into a life that aligns with God’s desires, passions, goals, and plan. All I am is His, for His will and for His glory. I am called away from a life of holding onto what is “mine,” pursuing my own desires, passions, goals, and plans. Therefore, my life in His Kingdom, while living in the present, is a constant reordering of what is, “mine” under the authority of the God who already owns all that is “mine”. Maybe I should be less surprised then, when I encounter friction when reading the Bible. That friction I feel just might be the very call of God to surrender something of “mine” to His divine will and call.

“Mine” no Longer
When God in Christ said, “It is done,” (John 19:28-30)
Mine became His and His became mine. (1 John 2:2, Colossians 2:9-10)

And God the Judge said, “You are mine,” (1 John 3:1)
“Mine” proclaimed His as He became mine. (Romans 12:1-2)

*Quote from this message preached by Timothy Keller.

Discipleship: What, Why and Who

Discipleship: What, Why and Who

What I Learned Last Sunday

You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. -2 Timothy 3:10-17

Check out last Sunday’s sermon here.

Pastor Mike shared ten “Whats” of discipleship (What is discipleship) along with why discipleship is necessary and who should lead in discipleship.
Let’s meditate on these as we seek to disciple one another this summer.

As you review these points ask yourself these four questions.
Question 1: Which of these areas do I desire to mature in personally as a Christian?

Question 2: Which of these areas will I, in this life, no longer need growth?

Question 3: Am I failing to grow in any of these areas by failing to help another grow?

Question 4: Is God more honored by my private unshared holiness or by the mutual worship of Him with other Christians?

WHAT is Discipleship?

Teaching: Hold to and pass on the truths that God’s Word teaches you. You are always teaching something to others. You cannot call discipleship biblical if you don’t teach the Bible in your discipleship.

Conduct: Practice what you teach from God’s Word, and help another do the same.

Aim in Life: Direct your life goals to glorify God. In doing so, help others see what is really worth living for.

Faith: Put your hope in Christ alone, and help another see that you trust Jesus alone for salvation.

Patience: Embrace the patience that God showed you, and help another by patiently stepping alongside them for their

Love: This is the foundation of all a Christian does. We help others do the same.

Steadfastness: Do not give up, and help others persevere despite terrible circumstances.

Suffering & Persecution: Suffer well, and help others suffer with hope in God.

God’s Faithfulness in Your Life: Ponder and point out how faithful God is, and help another see God’s abounding faithfulness in his/her life.

God’s Word: Found your life on the Word, and help another see God’s Word as their equipping wellspring.

In summary, “Discipleship is life together, saturated in the Word of God” -Pastor Mike

WHY disciple and be discipled?
Simply put, it is not easy to follow Jesus, so we need to remain close to the source and close to one another in order to endure.

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted… – 2 Timothy 3:12

WHO should be involved in discipleship?
Christians.

Words & Truth

Words & Truth

What I Learned Last Sunday

Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil. – Matthew 5:37

There is a wrong, or incomplete, conclusion that can be made from Sunday’s sermon (Check out the sermon here).

The wrong, or incomplete, conclusion goes something like this:
IF Jesus says, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’” (Matthew 5:37).
THEN I just need to use fewer words when I make promises. Or, I should simply say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ when I make promises.

Question: How is that conclusion incomplete?
Answer: The above conclusion does not address the very heart of the problem. Our words must actually be true.

Question: How do I verify if my words are true?
Answer: When my actions are following the path of God, who is the definition of truth, reality.

It is true that Jesus says, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’” (Matthew 5:37). However, as Pastor Mike shared, “Our speech and the integrity behind our words must be true.”

Therefore, if I ONLY conclude that I need to use less words when I make promises, I have forgotten to consider whether or not the fewer words I use are true! A simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ can still be full of blatant falsehood.

The problem with words is that we have come to realize the great power they have. James rightly understands the tongue is small but powerful (James 3:5). It can be used for great good and terrible evil (James 3:9). Solomon would agree with James as well. If you read Proverbs chapter 9, you will find that both wisdom and folly use their words to call out to the passerby. One offers words for life (Proverbs 9:1-12), the other promises life with her words which in fact are death (Proverbs 9:13-18).

The problem with words is that we often desire them to be believed on their own, for our benefit, rather than for them to be true. We want to be well thought of, so we say words that will give a good impression. They impress the boss. They brighten the child’s face. They give hope to the struggling sinner. In the moments when words are used, we want to be liked, we don’t want to be true. So, we make promises with our words that will sell ourselves to others.

The sad reality is that time always reveals our methods to fall short of truth. Our time in the sun will be gone. Bridges will be burned down. Our integrity will be destroyed when our words do not align with reality, truth.

How much better off we would be if we fought to be true, true to our Lord, than to use our dishonesty to impress others.

Question: Will I consider that God is true when I use my words?

Question: When I am tempted to lie for the impression of others, will I stop and ponder that God sees my heart?

Question: Will I be reminded that God is ultimately the One whom I should consider when I use my words?

Texts that Prove the Text

Texts that Prove the Text

What I Learned Last Sunday

…rightly handling the word of truth. – 2 Timothy 2:15b

Check out last Sunday’s sermon here. In that sermon, Pastor Mike said “beware of bad proof-texting”. With this longer-than-usual post, instead of commenting on the sermon, I am offering some thoughts about reading passages within their contexts. I pray it will be helpful to you as you read and study God’s Word.

Proof-texting.

We often like to reference passages that make a point, driving home an argument. These passages are little weapons in our arsenal to be unsheathed when needed to instruct, convict, correct, and train others (2 Timothy 3:16).

Or do they? If we want to be thoroughly God’s people and not people living for a God of our own making, we need to seek to understand the Bible on its own terms, not on the terms that we would like to impose upon it.

Of course, I am not saying that we never bring biases to the Good Book. We all read through a cultural/experiential lens that must be beaten back via healthy study techniques. However, I am saying that there is one universal principle to Scripture reading that by in large will help us understand God’s Word as written to His people.

Context.
Have you heard a preacher or Bible teacher overuse this word before? Does it sound a bit lame? Possibly. However, I believe that developing a desire to read Scripture in context will bring us closer to understanding what God is saying to us in His Word.

Do we need to be convinced that context is important in Bible reading? If you are one of the few, imagine yourself having to explain to your teenager why Proverbs 5:19 is NOT a license for him to engage in a promiscuous life.

Verses like Proverbs 5:19 seem to me to be clear evidence that context does matter. That verse is, of course, absurd if read alone. It needs context to make proper sense. If Proverbs 5:19 should be read in context, what about every other verse in the Bible? It seems many of the verses we like to read without context are the ones we can shape and mold into a positive message, communicating what seems to be a universal truth anyone would want to hear (“cough” Jeremiah 29:11)…

What do I mean by context?
The original biblical texts are histories, songs, poems, narratives, and letters composed of literary units, all communicating ideas. Originally they had no chapter and verse numbering systems. Therefore, a statement (verse) in the Bible was then never to be read alone (most of the time) as one of many disconnected thoughts. Rather, a verse should be read in connection (context) with all the other statements written around it. These texts that surround the text help give meaning to the text we want to understand! So, to understand the context of a verse, we should start small (smallest literary unit) and move outward to get the best understanding of the passage.

Contextual factors to consider include:

  1. Verse
  2. Paragraph (literary unit)
  3. Chapter (helpful but remember that the original authors didn’t include those chapters).
  4. Entire book/letter
  5. Other writings from the author
  6. The entire Bible

It’s important to start small and work your way gradually to the context of the entire Bible. For example, if you run into a passage from Colossians that seems to contradict what you think Jesus says in the Gospel of John, you should first try to understand the passage in context with Colossians before jumping to John to find cohesion. In doing so you will likely find that your perceived contradiction is made clear later on by the author of Colossians.

Before you go, let’s consider one example of trying to understand a passage in its context.

One Practical Example: 2 Timothy 2:13

The saying is trustworthy, for:
If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12 if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself.” – 2 Timothy 2:11–13

…if we are faithless, he remains faithful

For a good portion of my life, this statement about God’s faithfulness was a great comfort to the terrifying thought of denying Jesus and therefore being denied by Him (v. 12b).
God’s faithfulness despite our failures is a comforting thought and a biblical truth! Jesus, himself prophesied to the disciples that He would remain faithful to them despite their future abandonment of Him after His arrest and murder (Mark 14:27-28).

However, I don’t believe the statement, “…if we are faithless, he remains faithful,” is meant by Paul to be a comfort. Rather, it is a warning that God will be faithful to Himself to deny any who deny Him.

Why do I think that?

Paragraph Context
In the immediate context of verse 13, we have a quoted saying with four lines, possibly an ancient Christian hymn. The first two lines are positive.
“If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12 if we endure, we will also reign with him;”

Considering that the first two lines carry synonymous ideas, it would then logically follow that the next two lines would also be connected, communicating synonymous ideas.

“if we deny him, he also will deny us;
13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—”

The first statement about denying Christ is clearly negative. There is no way to positively understand being denied by Christ. It seems to follow then that the statement of God’s faithfulness is likely more a warning (a synonymous parallel with denial) that God is a faithful, fair, and consistent judge of deniers than a positive statement about God’s faithfulness to forgive sins. This four-line structure would be considerably hampered if God’s faithfulness were intended to be seen as a comfort rather than a warning?

Chapter Context
It is interesting that prior to 2 Timothy 2:11-13, Paul seems consumed that Timothy (and Paul) remain faithful to Christ, despite suffering.
Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect…” – 2 Timothy 2:10
Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” – 2 Timothy 2:3

Additionally, Paul provides three examples of determined perseverance (the commander-pleasing soldier, the rule-following athlete, and the hard-working farmer) (2 Timothy 2:4-6). These seem to be intended by Paul as motivators for Timothy to keep pressing on in his Gospel work. The question is then, would the following hymn in vv 11-13 be more likely to include a line that disregards the Christian call to be faithful? Or, would the line be a warning (in line with Paul’s prior encouragement) to remain faithful! I think the latter.

Book Context
How does Paul speak about faithfulness throughout the remainder of the letter?

There are nine additional explicit references to faith in the letter. Timothy has faith (1:5, 3:10). Timothy should continue pursuing faith in Christ (1:13, 2:22). Timothy should pass on what he has been taught to faithful men (2:2). False teaching upsets the faith of people (2:18). Opposing the truth disqualifies one regarding the faith (3:8). Faith in Christ is connected to salvation (3:15). Finally, the keeping of the faith is evidence for Paul that Paul is bound for glory (4:7).

Rather than Paul easing up and considering faithlessness as a Christian quality, he actually treats it as a mark of an unbeliever (3:8). On the other hand persistent faithfulness is, to Paul, a mark of being a Christian (4:7).

Therefore, considering the immediate, near, and whole context of 2 Timothy, 2:13 seems more likely to be a warning to remain faithful than intended as a comfort that faithlessness is a Christian quality.

Conclusion
So, let’s love the Word by reading the words in context. This is a great first step to understanding more of God’s Word in order to live it out.

Hope for Sinners in a Seated Savior

Hope for Sinners in a Seated Savior

What I Learned Last Sunday

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. – Hebrews 1:1-4

Check out last Sunday’s sermon here.

“Oh no! Daddy, where did Jesus go?”

My daughter asks with concern. She is perplexed, staring at the pages in her story Bible which depict Christ’s ascension to heaven. Looking back at her from the page is a group of cartoon disciples, standing, gaping, looking upward. My daughter is sharing their expression.

“He went up to heaven, honey,” I reply.

“Why?” My daughter is not satisfied.

She is not aware of the great, glorious, hope-filled implications of the answer to her question.

Last Sunday, Pastor Mike returned to Hebrews 1:1-4 to share two implications of Christ’s accomplished work on the cross which resulted in His return to Heaven and His sitting down in glory.

After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high… – Hebrews 1:3b

These implications below explain Christ’s ascension.

Question: Why did Jesus return to Heaven to sit down at the right hand of the Majesty on high?

Answer #1: Because Jesus Finished the Work.

The work Jesus did on the cross was the completion of God’s ultimate plan to reunite Himself with man. The author of Hebrews calls this the act of Jesus making purification for sins. It is sin that singularly separates me from God, and it is Jesus who singularly provides payment for my sin. Jesus has done what no human in the history of the world could accomplish. He both paid for my sin and defeated the consequence of my sin with His body (1 Peter 2:24).

There is no other work now to be done. How do we know this? Because Jesus returned from whence He came, and He sat down. He finished the work!

Right now anyone who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved (Acts 16:31).

Ponder this: Will I rest in the work of Christ, that He has done what I cannot?

Answer #2: Because Jesus is Exalted, Reigning Over All.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. – Matthew 28:18

Jesus sat down in glory to show His authority. This is the great confirmation for all the world that the One who took our sin is the glory of God Himself, reigning and ruling over all things and every person. “The greatest rebel and the most ardent worshiper of Jesus are equally under the authority of Christ.”*

So, I should worship Him. He is the glorious and exalted God whom all will bow before. I can also trust Him. What He has said is good as gold and rock-solid reliable. He made purification for my sins. His exalted state ensures my future hope.

Right now God is seeking worshippers who will see Christ for who He truly is and respond in worship (John 4:23).

Ponder this: Will I worship Jesus today, as He is worthy of all praise?

*Quote shared from Pastor Mike in a sermon preached on April 17, 2022.

The Infinite yet Approachable God-Man

The Infinite yet Approachable God-Man

Holy Week 2022 What I Learned Last Sunday

It is Wednesday of Holy Week. Sunday is coming.

And while [Jesus] was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman [Mary, the sister of Martha] came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” – Mark 14:3-9

Just days before His death, Jesus was the recipient of a gift. Mark 14:3-9 records that Mary anointed His head with costly* ointment. However, Mary soon became an object of scorn. Her act was seen by some disciples as wasteful.

Question: What did Mary see in Jesus that would lead to such an offering, while others scoffed at her “wastefulness”?

Last Sunday, Pastor Mike shared (check out the sermon here) the infinite value of Christ as described in Hebrews 1:1-4. Who is this Jesus whom Mary anointed?

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. -Hebrews 1:1–4

Jesus is…

Jesus is the Heir of all things. (Hebrews 1:2)
The One Mary anointed is the Heir of all. The future points to Jesus, who will one day be acknowledged across space and time, and among every people and language, as Lord of all (Philippians 2:10-11). How then could Mary’s offering be a waste? If anything, first century A.D. Pure nard ointment seems to be an inadequate offering for the Heir who deserves all things.

Yet, the Heir came to Mary in sympathetic flesh (Hebrews 4:15). The Heir became accessible to humanity, so Mary could offer what she could to the person of Christ. She approached Jesus, falling at His smelly feet. She stood and raised the flask over her Lord’s head, drenching His figure in an offering of worship. How wonderful! The truly human Christ actually received her gift, calling it, “beautiful”? What grace and kindness!

Jesus is the Agent of the world’s creation. (Hebrews 1:2)
Mary, and all humanity, are the very handiwork and possession of God through Christ. Therefore, our identity and purpose are intimately tied to the triune Creator God’s purposes.

Yet, Jesus became a creature to create (through torn body and shed blood) a reunion between His creation and the Creator. So, Mary’s offering was, to Jesus, a pre-burial ritual, pointing to His sacrificial payment for sin (1 John 2:2). The Agent of creation became flesh, dwelt with His creation, and would suffer a horrific death under a wrath destined for His creation. Mary’s offering worshiped Christ’s worth as the infinitely worthy sin payer.

Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory. (Hebrews 1:3)
Mary’s forefather, Moses, could only look at God’s back to avoid instant death when enraptured with God’s presence. Even so, Moses’ face was changed to brightness by the glory of God (Exodus 34:29).

Yet, God in Christ stepped into flesh. He became utterly approachable, fully dressed in humanity. Mary could enter Jesus’ presence and honor His person. Her gift ran through Christ’s hair and beard, a fragrant act of worship. As Christ’s physical body made it possible for Mary to offer her gift (He was not a spirit), so also our offerings to God are possible through Christ’s sacrificed body (Romans 12:1-2).

Question: What did Mary see in Jesus that would lead to such an offering?

Answer: Mary saw that Jesus is worthy! He is the Heir of all, the Agent of creation, and the shining splendor of God. No gift is too costly for this Christ.

Yet, Jesus is more worthy. He embodies God’s unfailing love. He came in flesh and received Mary’s offering as His burial preparation, the burial of His body which would endure the weight of God’s punishment against our sin.

Challenge: Today prayerfully consider both the infinite value of Christ and the humility of Christ, and ask God to lift up your heart in worship to Him.

*There are estimates that a flask of pure nard would cost up to one year’s salary in the first century A.D.

Awakened to Sin and Sin-fighting

Awakened to Sin and Sin-fighting

What I Learned Last Sunday

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. -Matthew 5:27–30

Check out last week’s message here.

Awakened to My Sin
Ok, I am convinced and cut to the heart about my sin. Jesus is not playing games in Matthew 5:27-30. I no longer believe that a particular sinful act (like cheating on my spouse) is all that I should avoid. I now see sin as that pervasive menace, foiling everything good and true. Whether the covetous lust of my heart or my physical actions, both are sinful. The simple difference between these is not of content but of location, for, “…one is [SIN] carried out in the heart and one is [SIN] expressed in the body*.”
…And, sin leads to hell (Matthew 5:30).

Awakened to Sin-Fighting
Ok, so I must fight. Where do I begin?
Pastor Mike shared* that we uphold two truths in our sin-fighting:

  1. Sin leads to hell.
  2. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in the finished work of Christ alone.

In terms of practical steps to fight sin, we have many grace-powered tools God grants, two of which Pastor Mike shared.

First, remember the heart of the Gospel when the weight of sin bears down on your soul.

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. -1 John 2:1–2

Second, A.P.T.A.T. (an acronym shared from Pastor John Piper).

ADMIT: your needs to God.
PRAY: for help and strength from God.
TRUST: that God will answer your prayer.
ACT: in dead-serious obedience to fight your sin.
THANK: God for every victory AND thank Him as a means of replacing temptations with Gospel truths.

Each point in that acronym is helpful, but consider THANK for a moment. Is thankfulness really a sin-fighter?
Paul would say, “Yes!” In Colossians 3, Paul mentions thankfulness three times as an attitude we “put on,” in contrast to the sinful flesh which we remove.

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. -Colossians 3:15–17

The more you consider the eternal peace Christ has won, the more you will be thankful (Colossians 3:15). The more you ponder Christ in your heart, the more your heart will abound with thankfulness (Colossians 3:16). And, the more you are thankful, the more you will return thanksgiving to God in obedience (Colossians 3:17). “Your heart cannot, in the same moment, be full of gratitude towards God in Christ and be tempted to sin…your heart simply does not have the capacity*.”

So, fight sin today, fully aware of its pervasive effects, and more fully aware of what Christ has accomplished in you.

And be Thankful
When tempted to flee God’s face;
To think that I should cheapen grace,
I remember my sin leads to death,
God’s judgment in the form of wrath,

“I never knew you!” were His decree,
Directed toward none other, only me;
Torn from all things bright and true,
Eternal anguish and regret, no hope for something new.

But if that wrath, placed on His Son,
Eternal joy, my blessing won,
Could I stand thankful in that purchased peace?
Saying to temptation, “No thanks!”

*Quotes from Pastor Mike shared in the sermon preached on April 4, 2022.

Worse (and Better) Than I Thought

Worse (and Better) Than I Thought

What I Learned Last Sunday

You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. – Matthew 5:21–26

Check out last week’s message here.

“It’s worse than I thought!”

A variation of that phrase has been conveyed in past sermons at Ridgeview, as we have walked through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. It seems to have recurring applications for us. For example, Matthew 5:21-26 shows, first, that my sin is worse than I often think it is. Second, my sin is also more costly than I think it is.

Sin: More Sinful Than I Thought

When my toddler spills my “precious” coffee, and I feel anger and frustration swell in my heart, I cannot stand before God in innocence. “But, I haven’t murdered anyone!” is not a good defense before a holy God. My sin of anger is worthy of judgment.

Jesus himself says to me;

But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire… -Matthew 5:22

I can attempt to explain away or soften Christ’s words, yet they still attack the condition of my heart. Jesus has exposed me as a sinner.

Sin: More Costly Than I Thought

However, Pastor Mike highlighted that Jesus is not simply identifying our inability to follow God’s law. Christ is also showing us that our sin (here in particular He speaks of our anger and evil words) comes with great cost.

When my toddler spills my delicious coffee (possible minutes before Sunday worship is about to start), and I respond in anger, my sin has an effect on my relationship with God. “Anger hinders our worship,” as Pastor Mike shared. Therefore, we must deal with sin seriously.

…if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. -Matthew 5:23-24

We must deal with sin seriously. The little things we do alone, the attitudes we share and the words we believe to be hidden are truly exposed before God. I cannot separate my actions on the Lord’s day from my actions Monday through Saturday. All of my life is God’s, even the “boxes” of costly little unaddressed sins. I can pretend they do exist with an outward smile, yet I can never fool God about such rebellion.

These sins are those which I will give an account to God for one day. Deadly serious.

The Gospel: Better News Than I Could Imagine

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. -Romans 8:1-4

The Good News that Jesus bled and died for me means HOPE that God’s law (more perfect than I thought) will not condemn me in the end. His holy standard, which brings me to my knees in humility, is fully and forever accomplished in Christ. No condemnation can come upon one who is in Christ Jesus!

The Gospel also means Holy Spirit POWER for the Christian. I can and will truly move forward in obedience by God’s grace and the Spirit’s work. My sin will not overcome me in the end, for I will produce the Spirit-filled fruits of love and joy and peace instead of anger and retaliation.

So, when I go to worship, and am reminded of my sin against a brother or sister, I can stand in Christ’s forgiveness, repent for reconciliation, and walk forward in resolve to not go after that sin again. Christ produces in us serious sin-fighting that is guaranteed by the sweetness of grace.

Questions to Ponder:

  1. When was the last time I thought about the Gospel and its implications for my life?
  2. Is there a sphere of my life where I minimize my sin?
  3. What barriers are keeping me from repentance and reconciliation?