Saturday, August 31, 2013

 

Link to my Seminary Chapel Sermon--"The CounterIntuitive Christ" Mark 8:27-38

On Tuesday, August 27, I had the privilege of preaching at Liberty University Baptist Theological Seminary's chapel.  My text was Mark 8:27-38, and the title of the sermon was "The CounterIntuitive Christ."  If you'd like to hear it, here is the link:  CounterIntuitive Christ .  Thanks for reading!

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

 

Others May . . . You Cannot

Earlier this week I had the privilege to speak to seminary students on the topic of "The CounterIntuitive Christ" from Mark 8:27-38.  One of the ideas in this text is that we are to follow Christ in his death by denying ourselves.  That means that we will need to obey God no matter the circumstances, outcomes, or "success" of our work on his behalf. This may mean that we will find ourselves ministering in obscurity while looking only to our Master for approval regarding the success or failure of our ministry.  As I've thought about living under the sentence of death for Jesus, I remembered an old tract a friend once sent to me. The tract was entitled "Others May, You Cannot." I have reprinted it hear as a reminder that the only applause we should seek is the smile and pleasure of our Lord that results from our complete obedience to and dependence on him. Enjoy!

"If God has called you to be really like Jesus he will draw you into a life of crucifixion and humility, and put upon you such demands of obedience, that you will not be able to follow other people, or measure yourself by other Christians, and in many ways he will seem to let other people do things he will not let you do.

"Other Christians and ministers, who seem very religious and useful, may push themselves, pull wires and work schemes to carry out their plans, but you cannot do it, and if you attempt it, you will meet with such failure and rebuke from the Lord as to make you sorely penitent.

"Others may be allowed to succeed in making money, or may have a legacy left to them, but it is likely God will keep you poor because He wants you to have something far better than gold, namely, a helpless dependence of Him, that He may have the privilege of supplying your needs day by day out of an unseen treasury.

"The Lord may let others be honored and put forward and keep you hidden in obscurity, because He wants to produce some choice fragrant fruit for His coming glory, which can only be produced in the shade. He may let others be great, but keep you small. He may let others do a work for Him and get all the credit for it, but make you work and toil on without knowing how much you are doing; and then to make your work still more precious he may let others get credit for the work which you have done, and thus make your reward ten times greater when Jesus comes.

"The Holy Spirit will put a strict watch over you with a jealous love, and will rebuke you for little words and feelings or for wasting time, which other Christians never feel distressed over. So make up your mind that God is sovereign and can do what He likes with His own. He may not explain to you a thousand things which puzzle your reason in his dealing with you, but if you absolutely sell out to be His servant, He will wrap you up in a jealous love, and bestow on you many blessings which come only to those who are in the inner circle.

"Settle it forever, then, that you deal directly with the Holy Spirit and that He is to have the privilege of tying your tongue, or chaining your hands, or closing your eyes, in ways that He does not seem to do with others. Now, when you are so possessed with the living God that you are, in your secret heart, pleased and delighted over this peculiar, personal, private, jealous guardianship and management of the Holy Spirit over your life, you will have found the vestibule of Heaven."

Thanks for reading!

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Saturday, August 03, 2013

 

Love Bound: 2 Corinthians 5:14-21



I recently had the privilege of preaching at Crystal Springs Baptist Church in Roanoke, VA.  The notes below are from that sermon.  

Love Bound: 2 Corinthians 5:14-21

Intro—Texans snow bound in Lynchburg:  When we first moved to Lynchburg from Waco, my kids had never seen any real snow.  Our first winter in VA Lynchburg got almost a foot of snow.  The children were ecstatic, but they were also a bit concerned.  You see, we only had one snow if 15 years in Waco, and it came in the morning and was gone before bed time. So, my children were afraid that the snow would go away in Lynchburg too.  My children had never been “snow bound.”

Being “love bound” is like being snow bound.  To be "snow bound" means to have limits placed on you and to be overwhelmed with a good thing).  Being “love bound” means doing what love compels you to do.  It means being overwhelmed by God's mercy and at the same time bound by that mercy

In the movie "Saving Private Ryan," Captain Miller and a group of soldiers are commissioned to bring Private James Ryan home safely.  Their adventure brings them into conflict with the enemy on many fronts, but at the end they find themselves defending a town in an effort to rescue Ryan.  Captain Miller is wounded in the fighting, and as he was dying he says to Private Ryan: “James, earn this.”  As a result, James Ryan was compelled by the service and commitment of these others to live his life in a way that was worthy of their sacrifice.  His life (and the lives of others) was radically changed.
 
In Philippians 1:27, Paul commends us to live our lives as "worthy of the gospel," to behave in a way that shows we are bound by the gospel of God's love.  John 3:16 reveals that the heart of the gospel is God’s love.  This love is expressed in God giving his Son, the only one of his kind, in order to deal with the issue of sin and to give an escape from wrath.  Responding to God's sacrifice brings salvation or condemnation, and of course it depends on the nature of the response.  Responding by faith to God's love puts us in the position of salvation, but it also puts us in a position of being bound by God's love.  

G. K. Chesterton says, "Love is not blind; that is the last thing it is. Love is bound; and the more it is bound the less it is blind."  G. K. Chesterton.  Today I want us to consider our responsibility to be love bound, to be sold out and compelled to live the love and mercy given to us by God. 

2 Corinthians 5:14-21 (we will focus primarily on 14-17)

Paul wants us to be bound by love, and in this passage he outlines two results from being love bound:  1) To be bound by love invigorates (brings life to) us (like Private Ryan, it brings energy and a type of empowerment), and 2)To be bound by love obligates us (like Private Ryan, we are compelled to live with purpose, to live for a reason, “to earn this”).  Let's look at these two points a bit further. 

2 Cor. 5:14-15—Paul reminds us here that Love invigorates.  Here Paul seems to say that love leaves us dead or alive.  We are either compelled by love to pursue the Beloved, or we are repelled by love and reject him.  If we reject love, we remain dead.  If we allow love to control us, we receive new life.
 
Paul here mentions the "Love of Christ."  There are two possibilities in how we can read the Greek here: a) Our love for Christ (cf. 1 John 4:19); or b) Christ’s love for us (1 John 4:10, 16-17).  Is it possible that Paul meant both?  Christ’s love compels us to love him and be like him.

Paul says that this love “Controls” or “Compels” or “Holds Together."  It is Binding! The Greek word is Sunecho—If we are in Christ, then we are bound to the love of Jesus and to love as he loves us.  Christ died for our sins when we were yet enemies of God (Romans 5:8; cf. 3:23; 6:23); that is the love that binds us, compels us, controls us! Those who remain dead have not been made alive by the love of Christ, they have chosen to remain in their old way of life.  For those of us who died with Christ (Romans 6), we have been raised to a new life.  

Dead vs. Living Things:  The nature of dead things—they don’t do much, they are stuck in their ways; they are characterized by decay, they slowly fall apart.  The nature of “live” things—they move about, they sometimes tries new things; they grow; they have the ability to produce more life.  

Jesus died so that we could live for him; "We cannot help conforming ourselves to what we love." Francis de Sales.    

Are you dead or alive?  Love invigorates us; to be bound by Christ’s love empowers and enlivens us to live his kind of lifeTo be love bound is to be truly alive.  We ought to be alive in love, not dead in sin.

2 Corinthians 5:16-21—Paul begins this section with “Therefore” or “For this reason” or even “Because.”  Because we are invigorated by Christ’s binding love, Paul now reminds us that we are obligated to live a new way (2 Cor. 5:15b).

If we are love bound, we no longer live for our own selfish reasons.  If we have experienced the love of Christ, then we should be motivated to live for the One who loved us.  We must be overwhelmed with him.  We must be obsessed with him.   

Verse 16 reminds us that after we encounter the compelling love of Christ, we will begin to see things differently (cf. Philippians 2:1ff—pay special attention to Christ’s attitude of humility--If Christ, being God, saw a need to be humble, how much more should his servants recognize a need to serve others with humility?).  We no longer see in a worldly or purely human way.  We should no longer focus on what is best for me, but on what is required by love.  We should focus on how we can serve.  No more looking out only for number one, no more making friends only for personal benefit.  Love compels us to serve others, to put their needs before our own.  Love compels us to compete to out serve each other, to look for ways to serve without acting like we are the most important person in the room.  As followers of Christ, our goal should be to serve others as Christ served:  with humility and without selfishness.  Wouldn’t you like to live in that kind of church?

When we experience Jesus’ compelling love, we cannot remain the same—we become new creatures; something completely new and different (v. 17).   By the love of Christ we trade the old way for a new way of life.  We become new creatures. As a result, we ought to care for those who can’t repay us.  We ought to put ourselves at risk for others.  We ought to care for those that have no one to defend them.  We must become like Jesus (1 John 4:7-12; Eph 2:8-10).   

"Our love to God is measured by our everyday fellowship with others and the love it displays." Andrew Murray.

Verses 18 and 19 remind us that by this love of Christ we have been bound to the ministry of reconciliation.  We join with Christ in seeking to bring people into proper relationship with God.  How did Christ go about producing reconciliation?  He died so that we could live.  In what ways can we die so that others might live in God's mercy and reconciliation?  What are we willing to risk so that others may know God?

Verses 20-21 tell us that we are ambassadors of Christ.  An ambassador represents a sovereign.  Paul says that as Christ's ambassadors it is as though God himself is making an appeal to others to be reconciled to him.  Our lives ought to reflect that desire of God that people be brought into a proper relationship with him.  That is our obligation as ambassadors.  Paul then reminds us that the sinless Jesus became sin (that is, the ultimate sacrifice for sin) so that we could be the righteousness of God in him.  He became sin so that we might be representatives of God's righteousness.  How are we doing?  Are we living up to our obligation?  Are we by our lives and words earnestly appealing to others to be reconciled to God?

Love obligates us to live a new way; to be love bound means we are obligated to leave the old way of life behind.  We must conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.

What do we do now?   Many Christians live as though the love of Christ has no constraint on them or is not binding for them.  They act as though their “fire insurance” or “get out of hell free” card is the primary thing for which Jesus died and rose again.  They are not love bound if the way they live is any evidence!   

Many of us are more willing to pursue our own ease or our own selfish desires instead of laying down our lives following the example of our Lord.  We too often deem it “too hard” to serve humbly.  We too often are simply not love bound or living lives compelled by love.  We need to remember the example of Private James Ryan, who was compelled by the sacrifice of other humans to live a life deserving of their sacrifice.  How much more should the sacrifice of Christ, the very love and mercy of God, obligate us to live a new life?  Jesus’ love must be our controlling passion.  Given all that God has done for us in Christ, we must face squarely the responsibility to live bound and compelled by his love.

As C. T. Studd says, "If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.“ 

If we genuinely believe that the love of Christ is binding for us, that it compels us, that it is a constraining force in our life, what should we do in response?

Story of the little boy in church for the first time.  He was a poor boy who had next to nothing, brought to church by a local minister.  He heard the message of Christ's sacrifice, and when the offering plate was passed, he wanted to give God something.  Unfortunately, the boy had no money or any valuable items to put in the plate.  He passed the plate with tears in his eyes.  Before the ushers got to the back of the church, however, the boy smiled and ran to one of them.  Whispering in his ear, the boy took the offering plate from his hand, sat it on the floor, and stood in it himself.  He said, "Jesus, I don’t have anything to give you today, but just me. I give you me!" (Thanks to Michael Hensley for this story)

Application—What can you do this week to respond to this message?  I have a few suggestions. 

Spend some time in 1 John 4 and Ephesians 2.  Focus on what we are called to do as well as the means by which we are saved

Ask the hard questions—Do the people in your life know you love Jesus or have been loved by Christ by the way you treat them?  Does Christ’s love have an impact on how you treat others?  Friends? Enemies? The weird people everyone tries to avoid?

Look for opportunities to love others:  Give where no one expects it, do a random act of kindness, pray for your waiter or waitress while he or she is there, go out of your way to bless those who will not or cannot bless you back

Look for those who need to be loved back to life, or need the grace of God to produce new life in the place of the old death.  Then, share that love and that grace with them

Share God’s message of life over death and new ways for old ways

Let God’s love bind you, compel you, constrain you to do the things you know you should

Be Love Bound this week.  

Go, and live Christ’s love!

Thanks for reading! 

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