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July 25, 2013 | Published in DOCTRINE
Why are we as Americans so enamored with this royal baby who’s name we now know: George Alexander Louis? Is it because the idea of royalty itself is so foreign to us here in the US? Is it that we are romantically enamored with the destiny that surrounds this child? Is it because of we love the story and the history of this baby being called heir to the throne before he was even born? Perhaps all of these ideas are true to some extent. But when you think about it, the royal baby has very little to do with us. And do princes, kings and queens even have much political pull in the UK anymore? But what we can say is it seems that there hasn’t been this much pomp and media coverage around a birth of a baby in a long time, and if you haven’t heard about the royal baby until the reading of this post, then well, you’ve been living under a rock.
All of this reminds me of another royal birth. One that occurred 2000 years ago. This baby was destined for royalty as well, this baby had a specific purpose for coming into the world as well. But instead of being accompanied by BBC news reporters, and high brow crowds camping out just to get a glimpse, this baby was born in a barn, greeted by shepherds. However, the entourage wasn’t too shabby when angels where singing His praises. You of course, know what baby I’m talking about. Its the man who we will gather to worship this Sunday.
This is also man whom we will also study as we start our final series in Matthew: “Jesus: Who is He really?”
As I said, Jesus was destined for royalty. And as a King, He has been given ultimate power, all encompassing authority. We have come to know Him as God in the flesh. Matthew presents Him as King. A King who was rejected. A King who was opposed. A King – as Matthew will soon cover – who was crucified. But as we have been listening to Jesus at the end of Matthew, he has been giving us some of the descriptions about what it will be like when He comes the second time. This time not as a baby, but as King of the universe, and no one will contest His authority. Matthew in these final chapters is really zeroing in on who Jesus really is. He has been showing us that He is King, He has been teaching us what it means to follow Him and now at the end of the Olivet discourse of Matthew 25 we discover that this Jesus, this King, will be the one to judge the world. But that idea that Jesus will judge us has become increasingly unpopular. Jesus, for many, is nothing more than a good luck charm, or a man you go to if you have some kind of problem, or more accurately, some might see Him as a benevolent helper – but not Lord, not King, not one who will ultimately be my judge.
But that is how Matthew presents Him. So that we are going to seek to answer this Sunday is “Will Jesus judge me?” The answer of course is, “yes.” But that leads us to another question, “How can I be confident I will make it through His judgment and be saved in the end?” Jesus warns us that there will be quite a few who will think they will be saved, but they will be turned away. How, then, can we have confidence before Him at His judgement?
Join us this Sunday to see what Jesus has to say in Matthew 25 about this question.
June 20, 2013 | Published in DOCTRINE
I remember the first time I realized the power of the ocean waves. Growing up in New Jersey, the shore was a frequent place to visit. One day, while body surfing, a wave picked me up and slammed me to the ocean floor. Even though I was a relatively strong swimmer, I completely lost control and had to let the wave wash me the the shoreline before I could regain my feet.
Life can do that to us sometimes. Circumstances come into our lives like waves, they rush in so fast and so powerfully that we lose control, and we get thrown around and try to simply survive until the difficulties run their course.
Just the other day I came across this little gem:
“I have learned to kiss the wave that strikes me against the Rock of Ages.” – C.H. Spurgeon
How often do I confront poor circumstances, personal weaknesses and difficult people with fear, contempt, complaining, and an outward expression that, “if only things were _________ then I would be _________.” And yet, Spurgeon here presents us with a very different idea. Anything that causes us to run to Christ and ANYTHING that drives us to our knees in prayer seeking His grace, love, mercy and favor is a gift, and is something that should be embraced and loved. This gives us such a different perspective on life. Our whole outlook changes when we come to terms with the sovereignty of God, knowing that nothing is outside of His control, and nothing takes Him by surprise. Everything He places in our lives, even those times of darkness, that physical difficulty, that person who wronged us, that strained relationship, that failure we experienced, can be a tool used by God to drive us to Christ. Let us let Him do His work. Paul said something very similar.
7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
– Pastor Brian
June 15, 2013 | Published in DOCTRINE
Have you ever noticed how much God loves to save those whom we think are unsavable? The Bible is filled with irony, and this seems to be the place that God loves to tell stories of irony the most.
You can see this very clearly in Matthew. Jesus loves to save those whom we love to write off. The immoral, the unethical; those are the ones who went into the kingdom before the religious leaders of their day. If we were there, we wouldn’t have seen this coming. The religious elite had a lot of trouble accepting this. In fact, it may be the very thing they hated about Jesus the most. If we were to transplant their situation into contemporary times, we probably would have found it as unbelievable as they did. Imagine present day street walkers, pornographers, gangsters, loan sharks, unethical CEO’s, corrupt politicians all flocking to Jesus and showing evidence of transformed lives?
By the time you get to the end of Matthew you catch on. You realize that Jesus seems to be more interested in saving the down-and-outers than He is the religious elite. By the time you get near the end of Matthew, especially chapter 23, you have developed a brand new category of “unsavable.” Now its the Pharisees that fit snuggly into that category. Jesus even asks them, “Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?” If that doesn’t sound like writing off a whole group of people, I don’t know what does! However, it is the post-gospel story of the Bible that throws us yet another curve ball. Because, answer this, besides any member of the Trinity who seems to be the main character in the post-resurrection story of the Bible? Who does Jesus encounter, save, and use as a leader in the church in the most obvious and powerful way? Which author is given the most space in in the New Testament section of our Bibles?
It’s a Pharisee.
Yes, if you don’t recall, it was one Apostle Paul who was a Pharisee saved by grace. And Paul has a lot to say to us about how not to become the same self-righteous Pharisee that he was. I would say that Paul states this most clearly in the book of Galatians. Toward the beginning of this letter, he says:
11 But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.
13 For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. 14 And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers.
15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, 16 to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.
18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and remained with him fifteen days. 19 But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother. 20 (Now concerning the things which I write to you, indeed, before God, I do not lie.)
21 Afterward I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 And I was unknown by face to the churches of Judea which were in Christ. 23 But they were hearing only, “He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried todestroy.” 24 And they glorified God in me.
– Galatians 1:11-24
– Pastor Brian