Episode 31: Paul’s Persuasion

Sermon text here

This week’s song: Truly You Are the Son of God by the Loverlies

I want to start by reading the fuller context of our verse this week, from Romans 8:31-39:

What then shall we say? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?  Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?  It is God who justifies.  Who is to condemn?  Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?  As it is written,

“For your sake, we are being killed all the day long;
We are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

This passage is about hope.  Where do we place our hope?  I actually decided to read this sermon several weeks ago, but between my life being extremely busy right now and the ongoing production of the Morning and Evening podcast, I have had less time lately to produce regular sermon episodes.  But it is oddly fortunate that I should end up reading a sermon on this passage the week that we spend time recalling the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001.  I do remember where I was, and what I was doing, and more than that I remember how I felt afterwards.  I wanted to put my hope in American might, and American goodness, and certainly now I realize that was foolish in many ways.

I recommend listening to John Piper’s sermon from that week, which is, not coincidentally, also on this same passage from Romans.  He reminds his listeners who are still reeling from the shock of the attack, that they cannot put their hope in anything that is here on earth, because it will ultimately fail them.  The words painted on the side of his church—“Hope in God”—have never rung more true, and the reason why is etched plainly in the lives of so many saints before us who have endured suffering for the sake of Christ: His love is unstoppable, irresistible, and perfectly sufficient for all things.

My fellow American Christians, I think it is safe to say that many of us feel very frustrated as we see a culture that has, for centuries, endured and enjoyed great bounty courtesy of a society informed and structured largely according to the Christian worldview if not according to submission to Christ, surrender that worldview en masse and replace it with evil, selfishness, and insanity.  There is a tendency to fear, both losing one’s place, as well as losing “the culture war.”  My brothers and sisters, the only war that really matters is already won.  The Victor stands at the right hand of God now, waiting for the time when His enemies will be made a footstool for His feet.  Meanwhile, we here continue, no matter who is elected president and no matter who is allowed into your public bathroom, to have the duty and joy of serving our fellow man as ambassadors from the living God, as ministers of reconciliation come to  bring the call to repent and turn to Christ, to find that true and neverending, never-damaged love.  Brethren, let us embrace that, though the world should hate us, though our flesh should fail us, though the devil should assault us, let us know that God is truly God and move forward in obedience and love.

Recommended this week:
Spurgeon’s Sermons app

Check out the Morning and Evening podcast at TheologyMix.com

Episode 20: Love at Its Utmost

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.–John 15:9

Sermon text

This week’s song: This is Love For God by The Loverlies

I actually forgot that this was Valentine’s weekend when I chose this sermon.  However, I think that simply makes this all the more appropriate to talk about.  The love of God, and its outworking in Jesus’ incarnation and atoning work on the cross, is an oft-misunderstood and twisted concept.  Love in general is a rather abused concept in modern Western culture.  But I don’t really want to spend a lot of time talking about that specifically.  Nor do I intend to rehash many of the things you commonly hear in sermons on the subject, including the (actually incorrect) discussion of Greek words like αγάπη and φιλέω.*

No, instead I want to remind you, my listeners, of the importance of reflecting this great love to those around us.  I especially want to make this imperative in the face of the changing dynamics of the world right now.  As I record this, the news has just broken that Justice Antonin Scalia, who had long been a voice for truth on the US Supreme Court, has passed away suddenly.  This has naturally sparked a lot of commentary as well as worry.  Add this on top of everything happening in both parties with the upcoming presidential election, growing fears of more economic instability, wars and rumors of wars, and so forth.

There is a tendency, when hearing the news and the state of the world, to feel a sense of dread.  There is a thought that we should worry, that something could go wrong and things could turn bad very quickly…and then, who knows what might happen next?  But I want to remind you all, those of you listening who are in Christ and believe that He is indeed on the throne, that we have no cause for fear.  Our anxiety will not change anything, nor does it serve well to remind us of the truth: that God does love us, that He did send His Son to atone for our sins, and that His will is being accomplished perfectly in all things.

Why should the nations say,
    “Where is their God?”
Our God is in the heavens;
    he does all that he pleases.–Psalm 115:2-3

This is the God we worship, and we should demonstrate our love for God by obeying His Word, by loving each other well and giving as we can to those who are hurting.  Do not mistake me: the opposite of anxiety is not apathy.  It is action, driven by the truth of the Gospel: those who are in Christ have been saved from the wrath of God for their sins by the work of Jesus, and therefore we are free to live knowing that He provides perfectly for us!  Not in some kind of “name it and claim it,” prosperity gospel nonsense–that is not Christianity.  That is idolatry of the worst kind, dishonoring to God and destructive to the body of Christ.

No, I am talking about knowing that I can obey God faithfully, knowing that He provides what I need to do so, even when things seem bleak.  I can live in a country and participate in a political process that seems to be heading to a darker and darker place, knowing that no matter who wins an election, God is the one who appoints and casts down kings, all for His purposes and the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

So let us take this time when love is the word of the day and do exactly what believers should do in all times and all seasons:

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.–Romans 12:9-21

*For a full discussion of these terms and the reality of claims that “this word means unconditional love” and “this word means brotherly love!” as well as a thorough but highly readable discussion of God’s love, I highly recommend D.A. Carson’s book The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God.

Episode 16: Mediation of Moses

Sermon text here

This sermon was a special request of a listener, and I can only hope that I’ve done even a little justice to how this sermon has sounded in his head.  Of course, more than my own voice, the voice I pray that he and all others hear is the Holy Spirit, convicting, teaching, rebuking, and building up in love.

And I know all of that was true for me even as I read through it.  This sermon brings to mind many things for me, firstly a conviction of the way I pray for those around me.  I know that my heart for my neighbor has not been a boldly praying one as it should be, and that I personally need to come outside the typical box that so many Americans fall into, where we find our comfortable spot and sit there, happy to not have to deal with the mess around me.  But what that attitude shows, is that I don’t truly live in light of the magnitude of the mercy shown to me by God.  I want my life to be a grand reflection of the deep thankfulness of a man who has been given back his life by a Judge who had a properly rendered death sentence before Him…and yet, not only did He commute that sentence, but adopted me as His child and granted to me an inheritance beyond any I could ever conceive.

This is a truth I want to affect every inch of my being.  I want my thought patterns, my desires, my actions and day to day life to reflect this.  I am aware of the inconsistencies that I continue to carry with me day by day, and yet God’s mercies continue and renew daily.  The Father’s call never changes, the Son’s atonement and intercession never changes, and the Spirit’s loving conviction and renewing never stops.  I look forward to growing deeper in this.

And believers, brothers and sisters, this is something I hope will be true of all of you.  We live in a time that seems to be becoming more dangerous and uncertain, and where that danger is not located “over there” thousands of miles away, but is right here, right now.  Yet the responses I see from Christians are, to put it simply, disheartening.  I desire justice to be done.  I desire the innocent to be protected, and I too burn with anger when I see innocent children being murdered, or the cackling madness of ISIS terrorists as they brag about their latest atrocity.

But my brothers and sisters, we cannot afford to let that change the way we look at the people around us.  We can’t let it cause us to take joy in their destruction, nor to react with a spirit of fear to them.  Firstly, recall that you and I are just as deserving of the justice of God as they are, and it has only been God’s mercy upon us that lets us stand anywhere but directly in the place of judgment.  If we are to live and act consistently with the truth we have been convicted of by God’s Word, then we must walk in obedience to Jesus’ command to love our enemies and do good to those who persecute us.  I know that this thought causes me to reflect more before pressing that share button, or commenting on a post.  I hope I will come to live more consistently with this.

Episode 9: Herein is Love

Love is in the air and in the news, and I wanted to do a sermon on love with its truest center in our human experience: God’s love, and the great display of it in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  Listen above, and stay tuned for our next discussion episode featuring a very special crossover!

Meanwhile, I am also posting my own writing on the subject, crossposted from my own blog.  Check it out below the fold:

Continue reading