Letter from Polycarp to the Philippians 110-140 C.E. Chapter III.II

These things, brethren, I write to you concerning righteousness, not because I take anything upon myself, but because ye have invited me to do so. For neither I, nor any other such one, can come up to the wisdom of the blessed and glorified Paul. He, when among you, accurately and stedfastly taught the word of truth in the presence of those who were then alive. And when absent from you, he wrote you a letter. which, if you carefully study, you will find to be the means of building you up in that faith which has been given you, and which, being followed by hope, and preceded by love towards God, and Christ, and our neighbour, “is the mother of us all. For if any one be inwardly possessed of these graces, he hath fulfilled the command of righteousness, since he that hath love is far from all sin”

If you don’t understand the Gospel

If you don’t understand the gospel, then when you struggle and sin [and I do mean when, and not if] you’re going to think that God is disappointed in you, and you’re going to run from him rather than to him. That’s because you won’t understand that God’s pleasure in you is not predicated upon your moral behavior, but rather on the cross of Christ, which is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance.

FBC. Win. Pastor Bruce Taylor. September 6, 2009.

FBC. Win. Pastor Bruce Taylor. September 6, 2009.

 

Pastor Bruce starts off with a scripture reading, which is 1 Corinthians 9:19-27. He uses the ESV translation, and so he receives automatic props for that, haha. In any case, the sermon starts off with a word of wisdom, that we need to be thoughtful and be wise when we reach out to people, and that we ought to think about when and how we reach out to people. We also need to make sure that we don’t get arrogant or dismissive, and have the attitude that our way of doing things are the only right way and that just because some people use different strategies, it does not make them wrong or bad.

We’re told that we have freedom in Christ, and that we need to be ready to engage people where they are. He uses the example of if we’re going to minster to a culture, say doing missionary work, we should learn their culture, language and customs, and build and reach out by being intentional. We need to sacrifice the things don’t matter for the sake of the gospel. We need to restrict ourselves for the sake of the gospel. We need to develop a selfless mindset as ministers of Christ, and even though because of our freedom in Christ we may have certain rights, we need to be prepared to lay down our rights for the sake of the kingdom. He does add though, that the one thing we don’t sacrifice or compromise is the truth of God’s word. When talking with senior citizens, or youths, we need to connect with them on their level, and on their turf.

Note: it would have been nice to get a few bible verses in there, because I know there are some great ones to be had, or at least have him reinforce the verse he already presented. Because it seems like he read his string of scriptures, and it contains so much good stuff, but then he talks about concepts and truths found there without pointing back to the exact verse it’s found in. The more things that are anchored in specific scriptures, the better. As well, I would offer a word of caution that we don’t contextualize too much. We don’t have to dress like a goth to minister to a goth, and we don’t have to be over 60 to minister to a senior. The goal is not to be relevant, but rather to be faithful to the word. The gospel message transcends all cultures and economic and political circumstances .And I don’t think Pastor Bruce would disagree with me for a second, but I wanted to get that in.

In a slightly different vein, we are told that no one is exempt from the great commission, from going out into the world and making disciples and baptizing them. He then makes the point that “Loving God and loving other people is not optional. It is absolutely core to our faith. If you do not love God with all your heart mind soul and strength, and if you do not love people as yourself, then you need to talk to me. Because you need to understand the grace of God through Jesus Christ more if that’s the case.” At this point I did get in contact with Pastor Brent and asked him about that, specifically because I was concerned with how he was using the law. He reassured me that “Jesus calls us to live in His fulfillment of the law, we are to at least agree with the need for that in our lives, yes with brokenness in our understanding that we cannot do it perfectly but still our desire should be to live it out.” In short, I think that what is going on is not an improper use of the law, but rather a lack of precise language in defining it. For me, the insertion of “If you are not striving to love God with your whole heart” would have made all the difference, and that was what I believe he was getting at, and I agree with him on that for sure. Because remember, it’s not possible to actually love God with our hearts, soul, mind and strength, because that command to is the law and not the gospel. Rather, we rest content and joyful that Christ kept the law for us, and that through him we have mercy and grace and his righteousness when we don’t keep it.

In any case, we are told that the number one way we give God glory is through sharing the gospel, and that we need to run a good race. We need to be intentional with our whole week. That we are not being called to do more things, but rather to be intentional with our training. We can get a lot of knowledge, but not training. And in order to run the good race, and be fit for service, we need to engage in the application of our knowledge. We are then told that we need to move forward, and not be afraid of what people think about us, or what people think at work, or how we’re perceived by the community, etc. We need to overcome our fear, and do it for the gospel.

The last section is dedicated to a gospel message, and laying out for us the state of our souls and the need for a Savior. He says that a crucial element to salvation is that we admit our sins, and that “you cannot become a Christian if you have not admitted your sin. That’s the way Christianity works.” The foundations are found in a repentant heart in which we do admit our sin, and that if you don’t understand how sinful you are, you will never know that you need God’s mercy.

To illustrate the point, he does a test and starts us off at 100% “morality points” and then with each question we answer with a no, we lose 25%. The questions are about whether we love God perfectly as we should, love our neighbor as we should. Always spoken in a manner that exalts God, and always given him our talents and gifts. Inavertedly, everyone answers no, and everyone has 0%- which is to show the need for a Savior. And while I grasp the purpose and construction of the test, I think it’s imprecise. Because I would argue that as we are dead in our sins and are totally depraved, and born with original sin, that we start off in the negatives, as it were. We’re born at -1% and every sin brings us lower and lower and compounds the problem. As well, breaking one sin is as breaking the whole of the law, so that even telling a single lie is enough to send someone to hell and to render them at 0%

In any case, he talks about the great exchange, and how Jesus takes our 0 and gives us his 100%. That when God sees us, he sees all the righteousness of Jesus Christ. He tells us that it’s not a matter of getting all your ducks in a row, or dotting all your I’s and crossing your T’s in order to make yourself more acceptable to God. Not at all. In fact, when you do that you’re actually running from God rather than to God, because you’re trying to be your own Savior. [Which is a fantastic point]

Lastly, he tells us that victory is only found in Jesus Christ. It starts with his work and continues with his work. That our faith is not about figuring it out and making ourselves good to God, but that our faith is centered around the concept that I am a broken and sinful individual, and I received Jesus Christ because I have no hope other than him. And every day when I make a mess of things, I continually am receiving grace as through Jesus Christ as I am repentant and walk with humility concerning my flaws and inability. That I can only rely on God, because everything else is going to be sinful.

REFLECTIONS

This really was an excellent sermon, made all the more so once I spoke to him and cleared up that issue I had. I already mentioned that it would have been nice to have his points anchored more firmly in specific scriptures, instead of just talking theology without any references. But again- his theology was spot on. One thing I’ve notice about Pastor Bruce, is that He definitely is right up there in his understanding of what the gospel is and how it works, and he probably explains it better and more thoroughly than anyone I’ve heard yet.

One point that really stuck with me though, and that I’ve been mulling quite a bit, is the part I bolded. Not the point he was making, but rather how as a believer I make myself acceptable to God. Because I know that nothing I can do can make me more acceptable to God, and yet oftentimes I find myself trying to do exactly that. If I wake up, get on my knees and pray for half an hour, then read my bible, then not engage in any big sins, then love my wife the way I ought to, and then maybe help a lady with her groceries at the store,  and then maybe mention Jesus in a conversation, I’m feeling on top of the world. I’m feeling that I really managed to please God today, and I’m feeling really saved. And yet if I haven’t read my bible in a few days, and I get needlessly angry at my wife, and I sit around at home and do nothing, and I don’t share the gospel with anyone, then I feel miserable and really unacceptable to God, and I feel like I have to make up for it or do something “godly” to get back in with his good graces.

But that’s not how it’s supposed to work, and in fact that’s not how it works at all, and sometimes I have to remind myself that. Because the reality for Christians and the point which needs to be driven home, is that if you don’t understand the gospel, then when you struggle and sin [and I do mean when, and not if] you’re going to think that God is disappointed in you, and you’re going to run from him rather than to him. That’s because you won’t understand that God’s pleasure in you is not predicated upon your moral behavior, but rather on the cross of Christ, which is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance. That stark reality is something that I cling to and hold dearly, and this sermon really brought that out for me. And so good stuff.

Note. sermon available at http://grou.ps/fbc/

MGA. Connected by Blessing. Sept 20, 2009. Pastor Glen Forsberg

Connected by Blessing. Sept 20, 2009. Pastor Glen


The sermons starts off by reading 2 Corinthians 13:11-14 from The Message Bible.

A few seconds later, he begins a prayer that includes the line “Father we thank you for the Word of God tonight.”  The only problem is that the Message Bible is not the Word of God, but rather a really miserable and sketchy paraphrase that more often than not does a poor job of reflecting the text, and is not accurate by any means. If you don’t want to use a form driven interpretation like the ESV, NASB or NKJV, then at least use a meaning-driven one like the NIV, or if you must, the NLT. But the Message? It’s not a legitimate source for the public reading of scripture, or for any serious study of the word, and so as usual this point gets picked off and hammered on.

In any case, Pastor Glen covers a lot of ground in this sermon, all having to do with blessings, and the ways they work and how they connect us. He makes the observation that healthy relationships begin by acknowledging the blessings of God, and that the blessings of God make us rich in attitude, relationship, perspective, faith, hope, love, etc. He goes on to share about how blessings consist of many things. He talks about the blessings of creation, how God spoke the world into being, and the spoke the blessing over us. That he blessed Adam and Eve, and then commanded them to multiply. We’re told of all the ways that God’s blessings were given to man, and that in turn man’s responsibility was to work and produce and be productive. I really enjoyed how he handled this section, as he showed all the good things that God had given man, and that we really recipients of so much blessing.

The next part of blessings included the benedictions that we find in scripture, and this is where we run into some problems. Pastor Glen started off his sermon reading from The Message Bible, and then jumps to another translation to give the benediction found in  Numbers 6:24-26. “The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.” which is from the  King James Version. Why isn’t he quoting from the Message version, which goes “God bless you and keep you,. God smile on you and gift you, God look you full in the face and make you prosper.”? Why the inconsistency? A little later on he repeats the benediction again, this time losing the “thee’s” and replacing them with “you”, possibly using the NASB version or some similar version.

As a point of note, I really don’t like when Pastors use all sorts of different translations and bible versions in their sermons. I think they need to pick one and stick to it, and use it all the time. More often than not it seems as though many pastors are picking the ones that they think works best for the points that they’re trying to make in their sermons, [which is prooftexting], and I find that a very dishonest way about doing things. And so we  see different translations all throughout this sermon, and I just don’t think that’s the best way of going about it. I’m not ncessarily accusing the pastor of prooftexting, but I think he’s running into one of the shortcomings of utilizing multiple bible translations and paraphrases to make his points.

As it were, the point is that we see in the benedictions that God is pouring out his blessings on his people, with the next aspect of blessings includes generosity. God is generous and created all things on earth and above and below earth. He created a variety of amazing creatures, using the illustration of a unique underwater creature that he saw, and that God is displaying the splendour of his might and the generosity of his spirit that he might bless us with all that has been made. He then makes the point that he also made mankind and all people just as he wanted to make us. And so we need to be careful not to tamper with our bodies, or destroy and ruin what God has given us, as we are created in his image and he has blessed us as we are.

Shortly after that, he makes the comment that “And yet God comes along, after we’ve made our mess, and he says “my grace is sufficient for you.” Pastor Glen is speaking in terms of salvation, except that’s not what this verse is about. 2 Corinthians 12:9 has 38 words in the verse, and he quotes 5 from it, and out of context. To wit- the reason God’s grace was sufficient for Paul was because God gave him a thorn because in order to keep Paul humble, due to the revelations that God had given him. Because of the sufficiency of grace, God’s power would be made perfect in weakness. It is not saving grace, but Romans 8:31-39 grace. Which is not to say that his point isn’t true. Because it is, God does come along and offers us grace in those circumstances, absolutely, but the verse he used is not a way to show that. And it’s worth pointing out that the snippet “my grace is sufficient for you” is not found anywhere in The Message Bible, but is from yet another translation.

After this he makes the statement that “the mercy and grace of God is overwhelming, and where we should be reaping the benefits of our sin, we are instead reaping the benefits of his mercy and grace.” This is a really great point! He continues and says that worship is a part of his blessing, and that we need to discover the God of renewed minds, redemption, regeneration, creation, recreation, and reconciliation. And again, really great points. It would have been nice to stay parked here for a while and unpack that a bit, but I understand that he’s giving a broad understanding blessing, and that would have been beyond the scope of the sermon, and so that’s fine with me. But still- what a wonderful reminded and word that was!

He talks a fair amount about the blessings of Abraham, and quotes Genesis 12 about how through Abraham all would be blessed, and that blessings were the bedrock of Abraham’s mission. He recounts the story of Isaac blessing Jacob and Esau. And how blessing is important, and that the father’s blessing is such an important aspect of family, and that parents should bless their children. He talks about the power of blessing, about how sin brings generational curses, such as Exodus 20:5 with sin coming to third and fourth generations, but the blessings of god influence thousand of generations, as stated in  Deuteronomy 7:9.

He spends some time in Ezekiel 16, one of my favorite chapters, and talks about how at some point we were lying in our own blood, spiritually speaking, and God caused us to live. This whole section is excellent, about the state we were in before God picked us up, and is really good stuff.

He shares some thoughts on Amos, which I will address in my reflections, and then finishes it with some thoughts from 2 Corinthians 5, and the idea that we all have the same opportunities to be blessed. And that God’s blessing are so wonderful, that we don’t know all the wonderful things we have in store for us as children of God

REFLECTIONS

As a whole, this was not my favorite sermon, thoughI did find certain elemnts of it instructive. There were some really good parts, such as walking about the blessings of creation and the Ezekiel 16 part, but as a whole I was too distracted by the way he used scripture, with the partial verses, different versions, out of context verses, and then some misunderstanding and twisting of scripture. To give you an example of the latter, I’ve transcribed Pastor Glen at length, when talking about a verse from the prophets that he couldn’t remember the reference. But he says

“Just as the Lord would take out of the mouth of the lion two legs and an ear, so he would rescue his people from the enemy. So what’s he’s talking about? He’s referring to a shepherd who’s looking after the sheep. And one sheep strayed from the fold, and a lion got ahold of the sheep. The shepherd goes looking for the sheep and he sees the sheep that was taken by the lion is already gone, and all that’s left is two legs sticking out of the mouth of a lion and a piece of an ear. But that shepherd is so determined to save the that sheep, that he grabs those two legs two legs out of the mouth of the lion and pulls it out. He says “this does not belong to you lion. This belongs to my master. I am saving it for my master.” That’s exactly the picture of Christ. You were just about gone. The enemy had you. He was just about to digest you. Then Christ on the cross came along. He grabbed ahold of those two legs sticking out of the mouth of the enemy, and he pulled you out and said “This is my sheep! It belongs to me. And enemy you will not have it!”Halleluiah. That’s the blessing of your creator!”

Here the problem. The verse he is quoting from is Amos 3:12. “As the shepherd rescues from the mouth of the lion two legs, or a piece of an ear, so shall the people of Israel who dwell in Samaria be rescued, with the corner of a couch and part of a bed. “ What is happening here is not God saving us from the mouth of Satan, but rather the Lord sending an army to destroy most of Israel, as punishment for their spiritual and social corruption, and to put them into the mouth of Satan! The Lord sends the lion to destroy and consume the people. He is sending them into its jaws!  This verse is composed of vivid imagery and prose to expresses the total destruction that was to be visited upon Samaria and Israel, though a tiny “remnant” would be left. We see this echoed in Amos 5:3, where only 1 in 10 survive. The whole sheep isn’t pulled out. The whole sheep is devoured. Only the ears and feet remain. To say this is a picture of Christ is to say that God feeds most of the people to the devil, and then only saves a few. That doesn’t work at all, and so this would fall under a illegitimate use of scripture.

[NOTE. I have spoken to Pastor Glen about his use of the verse, and he was incredibly gracious towards me in his reply. To quote a portion of his response " In re-reading the text and the commentary I have, - I must admit that you have a legitimate point.  This story was not in my written text; - it was an “extemporaneous foray”, - which obviously wasn’t prepared.  The context doesn’t support my application.  Thank you for your note of correction." I must admit that given his explanation and the way in which he responded, tells me a lot about this shepherd, and I have every respect for this man and for this response. ]

Lastly, at the end he shares some thoughts from 2 Corinthians 5:14-20, except he doesn’t reference the verse. I had to find it myself. He preaches it from The Message Bible, and he reads it as one verse or two verses that are knit together, when in reality he jumps all over the place. I’ve included all the verses in the section, and the bolded letters are the ones that he reads, and the other ones in normal font he skips. So it comes out as “

If I acted crazy, I did it for God; if I acted overly serious, I did it for you. Christ’s love has moved me to such extremes. His love has the first and last word in everything we do. Our firm decision is to work from this focused center: One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own. Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other.

Though this may seem like a nitpick, something about that bothers me. Because I wouldn’t mind something like this  if he told us that he’s going to pull select verses and speak them together, but it seems to me that everyone hearing them  believed them to be two verses in sequence, and not an amalgamation of 6 verses. As a whole though, I found the technical and theological construction of this sermon to be on the weaker side, mainly for the way that it seemed that the bible verses [and therefore theological underpinnings] we’re quite right  and I think he may have been better off taking one or two concepts involving blessings and delving deeply into them and fleshing them out, rather than  taking such a broad view of what blessings are.

MGA. Pastor Glen Forsberg. Connecting. September 20,2009

MGA. Pastor Glen Forsberg. Vision Series 2. Connecting.



Pastor Glen starts off by saying that we need to be connected two ways; vertically with our Father in heaven, and horizontally with our neighbours. Much of the sermon is dedicated to the idea that there are different ways to be connected, and different levels of connectedness, with spiritual connections being the deepest level.  He talks about how wonderful it is to be connected with God, and talking with other believers about spiritual matters. He then makes the point that we connect really easily with our generation, but it is harder to connect with other generations, due to not having shared life experiences, and yet there is so much to learn from other generations, and that inter-generational ministry and communication is a wonderful blessing.

The next big chunk of the sermon is dedicated to reading the whole book of Philemon, which I really enjoyed, and I have to give him props for not only reading that much scripture, but also walking through it. It was sort of like “exposition-lite”, where he talked about and expanded most verses, and so that was a treat. The basis of reading into this is that we as Christians have been given the message of reconciliation, which he references with 2 Corinthians 5:19-20.

He makes the observation that the letter to Philemon is the story of two people connecting, Onesimus and Paul. A few minutes offering a fiction and theoretical account of how Paul and Onesimus might have met and about discovering their shared relationship to Philemon. This was an entertaining account, and while we have no way of knowing whether it happened as he described, I think it may have gone more or less like the picture he painted, and I appreciated that there were no crazy conjectures or embellishments in his story.

He then talks about how with Christ, our relationship with God gets restored so that we can restore relationships with others. That wherever Paul is going and whatever he is doing, he is sharing the love of Christ with others. He reinforces the importance of connecting people with God, so that they then can be connected with others in the most wonderful way, as brothers and sisters in Christ. The example he gives is that after Paul sees Onesimus converted, he sends him back to Philemon as no longer a mere slave, but a brother in Christ, which then restores their relationship. Paul connects Onesimus to God, and then Onesimus to Philemon.

As an interesting factoid which that pastor mentioned, [and which I was aware of, and was hoping he would mention] was that it was said that Onesimus later became the bishop of Ephesus, as revealed by Ignatius of Antioch. It would have been nice for Pastor Glen to tell us where he found this information,  because church history is so important and I find Ignatius’ letters a good read and it may have encouraged his flock to dig deep into this. As it were, the notation is found in St. Ignatius; Letter to the Ephesians, AD. 110. To add another quasi-historical tidbit to this, early Christian tradition, as represented in the apostolic constitution, pegs Philemon as eventually becoming the Bishop of Collosae. The point was that you never know what wonderful things the person that you convert will do for Christ, and so we can never be judgmental with who we try to connect to God.

Lastly, Pastor Glen reinforces this sermon with two points.

  1. Are you connected to Christ? Because Christ came to connect you to himself.
  2. If you are connected to Christ, you are called to be a connector to other people.

We are exhorted that our greatest joy is to connect people to Christ, and that one of the best ways to get connected to other believers is to be a part of a small group, which he then elaborates a bit more on small groups.

REFLECTIONS

As a whole, this was a very good and enjoyable sermon for me to listen to. What I found especially memorable, was his use of the letter to Philemon to get his point his across, and the fact that he read the whole book. This letter really was a perfect companion to his message, and as he interpreted it rightly, really drove his point home. I found myself thinking about this sermon for the better part of the day, especially thinking about what a wonderful illustation that the pastor used, and the importance of finding the right scripture to make one’s point- or more accurately, being able to properly pull out of scripture the lessons and thoughts and applications that lie therein. And so props for the excellent use of scripture.

As well, I spent some time reflecting on my own connectedness with God, and what a joy and comfort it’s been in my own life, and how grateful I am that even though I was dead in my sins, and how I had no merit before God, and nothing to make me lovable or worthwhile or worthy to save, that God desired to make me one of his sheep, and he gave me to Christ, and Christ purchased and redeemed me and connected to me through the imputation of his righteousness- what a God is this! I just had nothing, and then Christ gave me everything. And that really blows me away thinking about it some times.

That aside, There were two aspects of the sermon that I did not enjoy, the latter moreso than the former.  The first was his use of The Message Bible for the scriptural reading. I will hammer this point across every chance I get. The Message Bible is not a bible at all, but rather it’s a paraphrase, and very poor one at that. It is not a legitimate expression and interpretation of the Word of God, and I believe that this church really needs to stop using it the way they are. Utilizing the Message Bible is tantamount to declaring “we have a low view of scripture.” and it’s very oft-putting. If they don’t want to use a form driven version like the ESV or NASB or NKJV, then fine. Use a NIV if they want to, or if they absolutely must, use a NLT. But the Message? You just can’t do that guys. [For more information on why The Message Bible is horrible and illegitimate, click here]

Furthermore I also did not care at all for the altar call at the end of the sermon, mainly because the gospel message was achingly incomplete and insufficient. I’m not a fan of most altar calls as it were, as many of them strike me as shallow and skin deep, and leave out important concepts of biblical salvation. Not only that, but they tend to use weird, unbiblical language like “you need to ask Jesus into your heart.” As it were, I’ve included a transcript of the altar call at the end of the service.

“Is there anyone here that would say “Brother Glen, I need to be connected with God today. I need the Lord in my life. I want to be connected with him. Would you just  lift your hand and say by doing so  “pray for me”? [then points out some people and says "Amen. Bless you brother Anyone else?.” Honest hearts and honest hands that are being raised and saying I need connection with the heavenly father today.... “ Father God, I thank you for these folks that have raised their hand and said “I need to be connected with God.” Today may Jesus Christ become Lord and Master of the hearts of these three people who have raised their hands and said "Christ, I give you my life,. I want to be connected with you, I want to be a follower of Jesus for the rest of my day". And just pray this prayer right now. “Dear Jesus, take me. I am yours. I want to be connected with you. I give you my heart. My past, my present, my future. I give it all to you Lord. Come into my life and transform me Lord into being what you want me to be. In Jesus name. "

This sort of altar call is a recipe for false converts and unregenerate goats. Why? Because there is no Gospel here. There is no good news, but rather there's just a bunch of platitudes that any man would jump on. "The opportunity to be connected to God? Wonderful! Being like Jesus? Even better!" But how on earth do you give an altar call without mentioning Christ dying for the forgiveness of sins, and explaining what that means and how it works?  You simply can't. Allow me to write out a more thorough and complete and biblical gospel message.

"Is there anyone who wants to be connected with God today? Let me tell you how. First, recognize that you are a sinner. We live in a fallen, fractured world where we do wrong and daily sin against an perfect, unflinchingly holy God. Because God is just, he must punish our sins, and the wages of our sin is death and hell. Without divine intervention and left to our own devices, we are all lost and damned. Because the reality is that all it takes is one sin, and there is not a single person on this earth that is good"

[Note, what you are doing is giving them the law to convict them of their sins, to appeal to their conscience, and show that without Christ they are helpless and lost. A good source for this is Ephesians 2:1-9]

“But God, being rich in mercy, because he loves mankind so much, did not want to leave us dead in our sins. And so he sent his only Son, Jesus Christ, who was God in flesh to die for our sins.  Jesus Christ, 100% God and 100% man, had the sins of the whole world put upon him on the cross, and bore the wrath of the father for those sins. We deserved to be punished, and yet Christ took our punishment. We owed God more than we could ever pay, and Christ paid our fine on the cross with his death, so that we wouldn’t have to. And so if we repent of our sins, and put our complete faith and trust in Christ, that he paid the cost and that he is the son of God and died for our sins, and then rose again after three days, then we are forgiven and are born again and are new creations in Christ. We cannot earn our salvation, but rather we have been saved by grace through faith, putting it in Christ alone, for the salvation of our souls. Put your faith and trust in Christ, and be connected with him forever.”

When you preach an altar call that has nothing to do with sin, or you don’t even mention that Jesus Christ the Son of God died on a cross and then rose again for the forgiveness of your sins, then you have failed. You are not preaching a gospel message, but rather a seeker-sensitive, self-help meaning that has robbed Christ of his power and the cross of it’s magnitude and efficacy. I know that is harsh, and it pains me to say it because I desire to be gentle, but the gospel is too important to be handled in such a way, and defending the purity and the power of the gospel is the hill that I will fight on and die one. And so I consider that altar call to have unfortunately been a waste of time, and unless there is some direct follow up where all those things are explained and walked through and a commitment is made and the faith is put into that expanded interpretation of what is actually going on, then  a weird, vague, false gospel is being presented, and the biblical understanding of justification is lost in the melee.

FBC. Love is Job One. Pastor Brent. September 6, 2009

Love is Job One. Pastor Brent. Matthew 22, September 6, 2009

So the sermon starts of with a biblical presentation of what Christianity is, and he offers a quick primer on creation and sin. We are told that “the purpose of the law is to direct men to Christ. God did not give us the law to make us guilty, but to show us we are guilty…and to keep us from saying silly things like “I’ve done my best, and I think god will accept that…. The law is not a pass/fail test, because everyone has failed….God must judge each and every sin, and he will”. And these are excellent points and very well stated. I was somewhat amused at this point, because it is the equivalent of a theological brawl, as he comes out swinging within the first two minutes, punching hard fast but doing so lawfully. The purpose of the law is to condemn us of our sins and point us to Christ, and I think everyone is feeling it. He then gives us some bible verses to prove his point Romans 3:17, Galatians 3:24-25

I think at this point it may have been more effective to point the law at the congregation, and not in theoretical sense. It’s been my experienced that when you speak in the abstract, most congregations don’t think it applies to them, or rather they have an intellectual assent to it, but the knowledge of their depravity has never really sunk deep into their bones/  But when you start sweeping your arms over the room and say “You have all sinned. No one here is good enough, and you are all condemned save for the cross of Christ.,” that turns up the heat and get’s them thinking. Anyway, that’s just a minor quibble. Moving on!

The next major section of this sermon involved the concept of love, and how Jesus was able to distil the whole law of into two commandments. Matthew 22:37-40Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” We are told to love God, but that love is misunderstood and misused quite often. “Belief in God does not equal a love for God”. It is said that Jesus was never a minimalist. Jesus never sought to attract crowds, but rather he putting hard demands on his followers. Ie. take up your cross and follow me. We are also told.

  1. Jesus often tried to dissuade, rather than persuade people from following him, and teaching them that they must forsake all for his namesake.
  2. Jesus must be Lord. You can’t love him as the lord your God unless he is the Lord your God.
  3. You must get reconciled to God through faith. Ephesians 2:8-9. You will never get saved and in a right relationship with God by your effort, but rather you must be born again. [At this point he hammers away that it’s by faith alone and  in Christ alone that we are saved.
  4. We cannot love God unless we love his Son and receive him as saviour

But this is where I begin to have major problems with this sermon, when he begins talking about how we are to God with all our heart and soul and mind- how we are to love God with the totality of our faculties, that these dynamics marry our intellect and our emotion, so that we love God with our whole being. That we are to make the most of every minute and use that time to love God, and how a love for God will  impact what we do with our time and resources and service to him.

He tells us that Jesus sets the bar really high, and that we need to do away with low living. That we need to get up to the plateau that Jesus is calling us to. At this point, Pastor Brent indicates that shortly he will call believers to the front who want to love God with their whole heart and mind and strength. It is again reiterated that we must love God and love people, that wee cannot love people if we don’t love God, and that we need to love our neighbours and serve them with compassion and sacrifice.

A few parting observations are love is not listed as a spiritual gift, as anyone can do it. As well, there’s a link between love and connecting. How do you connect with people? Be friendly. Be helpful. Meet needs. Be generous. Be gracious. Be kind. Read 1 Corinthians 13. and 1 John to get some ideas on how to love. And lastly, the case is made that if you’re dissatisfied with your life as a believer, or unhappy with your life, then you have problems with your love life with God. And the good news from Jesus is that Jesus has a prescription for you to love the lord with all your heart and mind and strength, and love your neighbour, and that will make it better and make all the difference in the world.

REFLECTIONS

I've been trying to get ahold of Pastor Brent to get some clarifications for his sermon, but I've been unable to. The reason for this is because it appears a confusion of law and gospel is being advanced, even though I know for a fact this church does not teach things. to touch on what appears to be happening, is that in the second half of the sermon, he begins to use the law unlawfully, by advancing the unbiblical idea that we as christians are capable of loving God with all our hearts and souls and mind. He says that Jesus set the bar really high, and that we need to get up to that plateau that Jesus called us to. The only problem is that he bar isn't just set high, it's set impossibly high. For a reason. The distilled commandments to love God and love others is STILL THE LAW! It is still that aching, back breaking, burdensome curse of a law that neither Peter nor Paul nor we could ever hope to keep. The commandment to love God and love others is not the Gospel, rather these commandments are the law which drives us to Christ. And so when you say that the prescription for feeling dissatisfied as a believer is to follow the law, you're treating law with more law, which only serves to compound the problem.

If there is any person who thinks they are loving God with their whole heart and soul and mind, that's when you crank up the law like the Jesus did to the rich young ruler, to show them they are liars if they think they have kept it.  Even sinning once in a day, is evidence enough that they don't love God as they wish. In fact, that sin that they committed, though it may seem small and insignificant is, to quote John Bunyan, "a dare of God's justice, the rape of his mercy, the jeer of his patience, the slight of his power, and the contempt of his love." That is what is contained in one sin, and everyone sins every day. Including the person who thinks he loves God perfectly

So what is the point of those two commandments? To show us, like the law does, that we can't ever hope to meet that standard, and that we are utterly helpless and depraved, and that serves to drive us to our knees before God praying for mercy and forgiveness because we just can't ever hope to Love him like we ought. That when we think about how we don't love God as we ought, we are so humbled by His grace towards us, that by professing Him as our Lord and Savior he loved God perfectly for us. Are we to love God? Absolutely. Are we to strive to love him with our whole hearts? Of course we should. But we never will, and we should never pretend that such a prospect is attainable. We don't need more law. The prescription that Jesus gives us is not more law, it's more grace. And more mercy. And more forgiveness of sins. The prescription is not more law, it's more gospel.

That having been said, I am confident that Pastor Brent would agree with me on that. I don't believe for a second that he believes it is possible to attain the keeping of the law, and yet because I analyze everything, I think the language used gives that false impression to some that it may be so. I think part of the problem is because the "love God and love others" is manifested in two different ways in scripture. One is as a summary of the law, [two greatest commandments] and another way as the natural inclinations of a believer who has been washed with the blood of Christ and is conforming to that pattern of sanctification and righteousness by bearing fruits and growing in our affections for the Savior. As for me, I like to see those two manifestations clearly delineated, and I’m probably too sensitive to the fact that it seems like oftentimes they aren’t. And so I’m not knocking the sermon for this, just wishing for a bit more clarity when dealing with these issues.

Need More Sermons

In case everyone is wondering, right now I’m only able to review the sermons from the churches that have posted them online. I don’t review every one, but usually the ones which interest me and which I feel are beneficial to post about, and which contain something specific I wish to highlight. I do however listen to every one, and so if your church does not post them online, please encourage them to do so. If they don’t have the means or the ability to do so, I would be more than happy to pay for a CD or a recording of the sermon, and then post it online. If your church does not record the sermons, but you wish to see them reviewed, if you find a way to record it and send it to me, even if the quality is bad, I’ll review and share my thoughts.

Freedom and Belonging. [Part 1] Glen Forsberg. August 30, 2009

Freedom and Belonging. [Part 1] Glen Forsberg. August 30, 2009




This is apparently a two-part sermon, with this first part dealing with the concept of freedom and the second belonging. He gives us the two verses which he is basing his sermons off of, Galatians 5:1 is the captivity verses, and 1 Corinthians 12:27 is the belonging verse.

Most of the sermon is based off of the idea that we live in a broken, fallen, and fractured world. Because of this, we live in a world full of evil and heartache and heartbreak and hard times and times of distress and loneliness and hurt and pain. And these are all things that people are dealing with and facing in their everyday lives, and need freedom from them. We are told that “there is a cry in our world for freedom from evil, freedom from oppression, freedom from disease…freedom from broken relationships, freedom from the pain of rejection. Soldiers and civilians alike have given their lives for the cause of freedom. Children and adults in our world have been known to celebrate the experience of freedom from slavery, addictions, abuse, fear depression and illness, but the ultimate freedom of all folks in the freedom in the heart. You can suffer external attacks against you, but if you never allow any enemies to control your spirit in prison, you are a free man and a free woman.”

He mentions that a place of safety is the church, and that people need to find a good church that they can be involved in and find that peace about it, and that it can be home to them. That church should be the safest place ever, as it’s a home of Christian believers where people ought to be loved as they are.

Another aspect of the sermon is the idea that there are people who are physically freed, but emotionally and spiritually bound. If this is the case, “Jesus has come to champion the freedom of the slave. If you are held captive, Jesus has the key to your cell door.”  Jesus is able to set everyone free and deliver you from spiritual, mental and emotional bondage. He makes the case that there are thousand of institutions which deal with mental and emotional bondage, but until you discover who Jesus is you’ll never be perfectly free. That is a great point, by the way. That focus and emphasis on what can only be found in the Saviour.

He then rightly attacks the idea that life is meaningless, that we are blobs which involved from nothingness and this world is pointless and ultimately meaningless, but instead offers the ulterior, true perspective that we are in fact children of God who have a worth and purpose and that God is in control of this world and that everything was created by God with purpose and intent and with a master plan at play.

Returning to the idea of a broken world, he talks about the sin and evil in this world, using two illustrations which have been in the news as of late, the young girl who was kidnapped and held captive and raped for 18 years, and finally freed, and the story of the man who killed and raped a mother of two children, and all the horror and grotesquerie that is associated therewith. He then talks about the nature of sin, how we are bound up and held captive by original sin, defines and elaborates on what original sin is [which I liked] and that the only way to be free from this is through Christ.

Lastly, he draws the parallel between these people who committed these heinous acts, and us. How we think these people are so bad, but when in reality we are just as guilty. We have hated and thereby have committed murder, that we have lusted and have committed adultery. We are no better or no less sinners than them, but that we all need one thing to be set free and to be led out of captivity, and that’s through Jesus, and that the only cure for our malady is the Gospel.

REFLECTIONS

This really is a skillful sermon. Pastor Glen rightfully weaves law and gospel in equal doses, using the first and second and even third use of the law, and then gives us an overflowing abundance of gospel and of the merciful sacrifice of Christ on a cross for the redemption and forgiveness of our sins, and then life ever-after. It pretty much is a comprehensive evangelistic sermon, explaining why we fell, how we live with original sin, why we sin, and what is the cure for our sin.

I only have two notes of concern. The first is that I wished he would have quoted more bible verses. I know based on my knowledge of the bible that when he was talking in theology-heavy language that what he said was founded in the scriptures, but it would have been nice to get the references. For example, when talking about Genesis and original sin, he might have pointed us to Romans 5.

The second and more problematic is that right off the bat he quoted us Galatians 5:1, which was not used in context. Galatians 5:1 says “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. The verse isn’t about captivity in the way he’s using it. Rather, the verse is saying that Christ has set us free from Jewish ceremonial laws and regulations, but not from obedience to God’s moral standards.  Paul is speaking to the church about men who wanted the Christians who were saved by faith and grace alone to attach works to their salvation. The verse is about the Judaizers who were trying to force circumcision on believers [see Acts 15]. That verse is followed up by “ Look: I, Paul, say to you that  if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.” I suppose it has “slavery-type implications”, but freedom from the curse of the law, and freedom to be saved by grace is different than the sort of freedom he is referring to. Relating back to the first point, there are other scriptures which he could have used to make his point, but the Galatians one was not one of them.

In any case, the sermon was quite good, and I recommend that you listen to it. It’s only about 47 minutes long, but the last 10 minutes of that is singing and praying, so that cuts it down to a bout 35 minutes or so.

MGA. Jesus Is Our Sabbath. Pastor Darren Aucoin. July 19, 2009

MGA. Jesus Is Our Sabbath. Pastor Darren Aucoin. July 19, 2009


Today’s sermon review will take a slightly different tone, mainly because I want to use it to do a little teaching about why expository preaching is so amazing and valuable . But to offer a quick summary, this pastor is very charismatic and engaging, and is one of the more enjoyable preachers I’ve heard. He starts off teaching from Matthew 12 about 2 minutes in, and this pleased me to have the word mentioned so early on. Unfortunately, he preaches from the NLT, which I don’t get at all, because it’s just shy of a paraphrase. It’s not a horrible translation, but is not suited for studying God’s word or for exegetical work at all. I suppose it works for the purposes and structure of this sermon, but I would rather hear this story the way the writers Matthew and Mark wrote it, or as close as I can get to hearing it that way. In any case. I also like that he cross references to Mark 2:27, as I’ve noticed that many pastors do not draw from other recounts of what they are preaching from, and as a result they miss some of the meat of the story. But the basis of his sermon is that verse “And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath”. [ESV].

The message he wants to get across is that Jesus is our Sabbath, and we have freedom and peace and rest with him and in him, and we’re not bound by the legalistic teachings of the people who want to make the Sabbath about a ton of rules, but that we follow Jesus’ lead, which is that the Sabbath is for resting. That walking with Jesus will give us rest for our souls, but following all those rules will not give us rest for our souls. An apt analogy which he uses is that we go for walks outside, and that we do it to enjoy ourselves, get healthy, exercise, get some fresh air, get to know our neighbors and neighborhood, talk and communicate with our loved ones, etc. He then goes on to say that our walk with God should be like that. Our relationship with God should provide the same results as a walk does, in the sense of we should be walking daily in a relationship with God, and should be daily exercising our faith, daily breathing in the Holy Spirit [that is a weird phrase, and I don’t even know what he means by it], daily we are getting to know our spiritual surroundings and daily we are talking and communicating with our Lord.

And the sermon pretty much culminates with “If you need rest and peace in your life, the only way to get it is with a walk with Jesus and a relationship with him. If there’s anyone here disagreeing with this…this is standard Christian doctrine”. I liked that last line a lot, as it made me laugh and I often feel the same way. I also liked the biblical evangelical message he gave at the end, that salvation and rest is in Christ alone.

REFLECTIONS

I know that brief review doesn’t do the sermon much justice. As it were, the preaching was quite fine and biblical, and I enjoyed the sermon and recommend that people give it a listen. It’s only about 25 minutes long, and worth the download. That having been said, there’s one thing that was mentioned that I MUST comment on, which was this quote, which I’ve transcribed at length.

“This is the difference between the Old Testament law of the Sabbath, and what Jesus had to say about it. We know in the Old Testament that the Pharisees established 49 categories of actions forbidden on the Sabbath based on their interpretations of God’s law and Jewish customs. They were set in stone….there was no room for interpretations and there was no room for gray areas. This was it. You break that law, you’re in big trouble. There’s no room for compassion, no room to let people off easy, that was it. It was man’s whole duty to obey those laws that the Pharisees had written down.

And then Jesus comes on the scene like some crazy person, healing people on the wrong day if you can imagine, and saying stuff like that he lord over the Sabbath, and that the Sabbath was made to meet the needs of the people, and not the people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath. But see, this was some pretty radical stuff. This ultimately got him killed. This ultimately got him killed on the cross because he was saying stuff like this. He was messing with their paradigm. He was messing with their belief system. ….The intentional real meaning of the Sabbath literally means celebration and rest. Not ‘don’t do this or that or don’t do this or this or this,’ but celebration and rest. This had been lost on a lot of…legalistic Christians.

We know [regarding] the Old Testament laws and ways [that] God said “you know what, This isn’t working” and God knew what was going on, and so he sent Jesus to die on the cross to replace the old way of doing things.”

First off, the pastor seems to disconnect the historical record that God really did lay down some rules on the Sabbath. It wasn’t the Pharisees, but God who made the original decrees that you are not to leave your house on the sabbath, that you are not to prepare meals on the Sabbath, or light a fire on the Sabbath, and  if you work on the sabbath, you are to be put to death. This is shown  by the man who was found picking up sticks on the Sabbath, and God executed him for it.  He also fails to point out that when we rest, part of it is to remember that God created the world in 6 days, and rested on the 7th. That’s what scripture points to, and what God says they are to remember on the Sabbath. Secondly, the reason why they wanted to kill jesus was not so much because he was messing with their paradigm, but because he was making himself equal to God, and saying he was Lord of the sabbath was tantamount to declaring his own Lordship. I’m not saying flouting their rules didn’t have something to do with it, because it did, but their main bone of contention always had to do with him saying that he was God. In any case, the day of Sabbath was to be a day of rest, recuperation, devotion and worship, but it seems that the whole story wasn’t being told.

But what I want to focus on is the exposition of this verse, and i’ll do that by unpacking it myself by sharing some thoughts and observations. And what i’m doing, is magnifying the law, so that the good news of the gospel is sweeter.

1. When Jesus called Himself “Lord of the Sabbath,” He really did strike a severe blow at the Pharisaic system because the Pharisaic system, the system of works, merit, self-righteousness, achievement, attainment, of spiritual relationship with God through ceremony and ritual and external law-keeping found its focal point in the Sabbath. Every seventh day of the week was the main day for Pharisaic religion. When Jesus then ignored, disdained the Sabbath, He put Himself in direct conflict with the Jewish leaders at the most sensitive point.

2. Sabbatarian tradition was their domain and they were fanatical about it and took it way beyond Scripture. Scripture gives no restrictions for the Sabbath other than you don’t work [what work entailed had a few caveats] , and that was a mercy. But they invented endless, impossible rules, restraints, restrictions for Sabbath conduct and they made every one of those rules as restrictive as possible. And the idea was that the more deprivations you have, the more holy you become and the more righteous you are before God.

3.They guarded their rules fiercely, demanding that every person in the whole nation observe them all, and even the Sadducees who were their theological enemies and adversaries yielded to the Pharisees on the Sabbath issue,  for the sake of peace and to maintain and safeguard their reputation as spiritual men. And so this crazed, ultra activists, Sabbatarian legalism became the defining religious emblem of spiritual virtue in Israel. And what does Jesus do? He rejects it all, because he would never conform to the conditions of men to manmade rules that had replaced the Law of God.

4.Jesus says that to them in Matthew 15. “You have substituted conditions of men for the Law of God.” So this event,  hits the Pharisees and scribes at the heart of their system. They’re callous, they’re compassionless, they are brutal, they are merciless toward people suffering. They are fanatical about their self-righteous rules. This is what Jesus had in mind, by the way, when He said in Matthew 11:28 and following,   “Come to me, all who labor and are  heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” He wasn’t talking about people who were doing physical labor. He was talking about people who were under the burden of an oppressive, restrictive, Sabbatarian legalism from which you could get no relief, from which you never were delivered from a guilty conscience.

5. The Talmud comes on the scene sometime after Christ, but what it does is codifies all the laws that have long existed in Judaism. For example, one of the rules being that you couldn’t travel more than three thousand feet. However, wherever there were narrow streets, according to the Talmud, you could lay a piece of wood or a piece of rope over the entrance to the street between the dwellings on each side and you could make the street like the entrance to a house so you could go another three thousand feet or nineteen hundred and ninety-nine steps beyond that.

6. In the Talmud there are 24 chapters of Sabbath laws, and we’re given the following restrictions: no burden could be carried that weighed more than a dried fig, or half a fig carried two times. If you put an olive in your mouth and rejected it because it was bad, you couldn’t put a whole one in the next time because the palate had tasted the flavor of a whole olive. If you threw an object in the air and caught it with the other hand, it was a sin. If you caught it in the same hand, it wasn’t. If a person was in one place and he reached out his arm for food and the Sabbath overtook him, he would have to drop the food and not return his arm, or he would be carrying a burden and that would be sin. A tailor couldn’t carry his needle. The scribe couldn’t carry his pen. A pupil couldn’t carry his books. No clothing could be examined lest somehow you find a lice and inadvertently kill it. Wool couldn’t be dyed. Nothing could be sold. Nothing could be bought. Nothing could be washed. A letter could not be sent even if it was sent via a heathen. No fire could be lit. Cold water could be poured on warm, but warm couldn’t be poured on cold. An egg could not be boiled even if all you did was put it in the sand. [in Israel, there are times in the year when the sand is so hot you could boil an egg and you put the egg in it.]

7. You couldn’t bathe for fear when the water fell off of you it might wash the floor. If a candle was lit, you couldn’t put it out. If it wasn’t lit, you couldn’t light it. Chairs couldn’t be moved because they might make a rut. Women couldn’t look in a glass or they might find a white hair and be tempted to pull it out. Women couldn’t wear jewelry because jewelry weighs more than a dried fig. A radish couldn’t be left in salt because it would make it a pickle and that’s work. No more grain could be pickled than you could put in a lamb’s mouth. It goes on and on. There were laws about wine, honey, milk, spitting, writing, getting dirt off your clothes, you could use only enough ink for two letters, not two written letters, two alphabetic letters.

8. What else was forbidden on said Sabbath? Sowing, plowing, reaping, binding sheaves, threshing, winnowing, sifting, grinding, kneading, baking, washing wool, beating wool, dying wool, spinning wool, putting on a weaver’s beam, making threads, weaving threads, separating threads, making a knot, untying a knot, sewing two stitches…on and on and on. You talk about heavy laden…the system was oppressive and it was all unscriptural and horribly ungodly and brutally unkind.

9. Now with that in the background, let’s look at the story. The Sabbath incident… “It happened that He was passing through the grain fields on the Sabbath and His disciples began to make their way along while picking the heads of grain.” That’s the key, it’s a Sabbath incident. And note; the Pharisees are following Him, so they don’t make an issue about Him walking beyond three thousand feet, or nineteen hundred and ninety-nine steps because they’re there too. So they were dogging His steps everywhere He went. They conveniently don’t mention this because they would have been in violation of it as well. But then again, they knew they were in violation of a whole lot of other things.

10. And so, in Deuteronomy 23:25 God makes a wonderful provision for travelers. When you enter your neighbor’s standing grain, then you may pluck the head with your hand, but you shall not put a sickle in your neighbor’s standing grain. Obviously, you can’t just harvest the grain and haul it off, but when you’re traveling through his fields, have at it. Take what’s there. That’s what’s allowed. And so His disciples making their way along while picking the heads of grain. Luke adds they were then rubbing them in their hands. They pick off the heads of grain, rub the heads of grain so they could get the inside fruit from the husk and the shell. Matthew adds they did it because they were hungry. This, of course, was perfectly within the purposes of God and the revelation of God in the Old Testament, but was in direct violation of the religious rules man-made which dominated that legalistic culture.

11. Now this is what the Talmud said. If you roll wheat in your hands to remove the husks, it is sifting and that is forbidden. If you rub the heads of wheat, it is threshing and it is forbidden. If you clean off the shell, it is sifting and that is forbidden. If you throw the chaff into the air, that is winnowing, it is forbidden. So just in picking and rolling and rubbing and discarding, they had been reaping, threshing, sifting, grinding, winnowing and preparing food. And the real question of the Pharisees, the real underlying question is…”why do You and Your disciples live in such overt, open defiance of our religion? Why do You challenge our religion? Why do You challenge our authority?”

There’s a lot more I could add to this, but I won’t. I just wanted to share some background on the story, and show how expositional and exegetical preaching adds so much more to the story. You can even do a topical sermon that way, unpacking everything, but I find that that rarely occurs. The point is that instead of glossing over the weight and burden and mind bending, life-crushing, joy-destroying sabbatarian legalism that the jews were required to keep in order to be considered  righteous, you should focus more on them. Revel in the. Point them out. Put the focus and emphasis on them so that all of a sudden, the mercy and sweetness of Jesus telling us that He is our Sabbath takes on a whole new meaning. Suddenly someone telling us that we can’t watch tv on a Sunday isn’t that bad. Truthfully the vast majority of us we will never know what it’s like to be under that sort of system, but the point is that you crank up the works of the law to make the gospel sweeter and more wonderful, and the same is true here. You crank up the despair and impossibility of keeping the Sabbath for these people, to make the revelation of Jesus being the Sabbath news worth weeping over for us today.

FBC. Serve with Humility. Pastor Brent Carter. August 23, 2009

FBC. Serve with Humility. Pastor Brent Carter. August 23, 2009

Serve with Humility. Pastor Brent Carter. August 23, 2009

As near as I can tell, this sermon is more or less a series to explain and understand certain aspects of their new ministry statement, of which this is one point-“With our community in our heart we will intentionally minister to physical and spiritual needs, treating every person with dignity and respect.” encapsulated by the phrase “serve with humility”The sermon is structured around the two points of serve and humility, with the call that we ought to do and be both- be a servant and serve, and be a humble man and serve others humbly. He then goes on to make four points

1. Do people in your workplace see you as a servant as you go about your work?
2. Humility is a quality you have to have without knowing you have it.
3. We need to be intentional about serving.
4. We need to look up to people who are serving with humility.

One point of interest was he spoke of serving, and about young kids going out with no agenda to show the love of Christ by serving. And that strikes me as an odd things to say, because first of all, they do have an agenda, which is to show the love of Christ. And second of all, how are they showing the love of Christ and what does that love of Christ look like? It seems to me that they’re really not. Maybe people will think they’re showing the love of Vishnu or a love for their city or for civic work.  The reality is that an inauspicious physical action does not equal showing the love of Christ, because no one knows that the love of Christ is being shown. If I go help an old lady walk across the street, and then be on my way, yes I’ve served her as a person, but I did not show her the love of God. I would imagine that the last thing on her mind was “That was so kind of you. Tell me about Christ the hope that lies within!?”

And so we need to be careful of this. I was glad to see that he quickly followed that point up by reminding us that “We need to meet the physical and spiritual needs, and if we’re meeting one and not the other, we’re not doing the whole job.” And “People say that we’re too heavenly minded to be any earthly good. I think the opposite is true, we’re so busy doing things that we neglect the gospel.” And that is a great point, and exactly true, and I’m so grateful that he pointed that out. But that also serves to show the disconnect from his previous statement, about going out and doing random acts of kindness. I don’t think we need to broadcast that we’re doing this because we’re Christians and that it’s a church body doing things, but how do random acts of kindness indicate those things and meet spiritual needs? I think what might make more sense is intentional, long term acts of kindness, which might extend over days or weeks or months or even years, whereby you can be involved and be deliberate, or at least doing something and inviting them to church, or sharing with them the gospel.

In any case, then he talks about how we should be treating people with dignity and respect, and how every person we meet is made in the image of God. That many people have lost their dignity, and we need to help in restoring it. He then delves into Philippians 1:21 “ For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” and Philippians 3:20, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” and the position that for the apostle Paul, his life is not a matter of seeking his own comfort or advancement, but rather it’s about seeking the advancement of Christ’s kingdom: to live is tantamount to serving Christ. In fact, to die should be seen as gain, because it would mean that Paul would be freed from his trouble-filled life on earth to rejoice in Christ’s presence.

The pastor then begins to unpack John 1:1-11, which is the story of Jesus washing his disciples feet. And I  liked how he handled this section. He points out some of the cultural contexts of the situation, such as Jesus laying aside his garment as a sign of submission, and the social significance of servants washing feet. He then talks about how Jesus humbly washed his disciples feet, and makes the point that no person or task is beneath you, and that the only way you can feel someone is beneath you, is if you believe that Jesus was beneath his disciples. He also asked whether it was difficult for Jesus to wash their feet, and concluded that it probably wasn’t, as Jesus was truly humble, and had humbled himself many times before this, and would soon humble himself again by being killed on a cross. He also mentions that Jesus did this as a teaching lesson to his followers, so that the could imitate this and have an example to follow.

Pastor Brent then closes the sermon with three questions

1. Have you personally bowed your knee to Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour and accepted him as that?

2. Do you regularly give up your wishes, rights and plans to show God’s love to others?

3. Are you willing to wash the feet of fellowship Baptist church and of Fort McMurray. [symbolically speaking]

Goals for the future

I. by January 2010 implement a program to do random acts of kindness throughout the community
II. By June 2010, 100% of parents of children will be invited to volunteer with children ministries, with 50% serving in some capacity.

REFLECTIONS

As a whole, it was a good sermon and one that I enjoyed a fair amount. One thing that really stuck with me and hit home with me especially was the “call to action” so to speak, and concept of being intentional and living that out, I say that mainly because It’s easy for me to stay in my head and read hundreds of pages a week from books of theology and from scripture, and to lose myself in the word without…manifesting outwards what I’m inwardly consuming. And so this gave me a good shake, and I’m going to start praying and working towards that intentionality for the sake of the kingdom. Two things which I wish to point out, however. The first occurs early on, when he says this “Paul often referred to himself as a servant, as a slave. He used that terminology a lot. He understood that his relationship to Jesus Christ was one of a servant to the lord. He was under his command. And, if you haven’t found a position or an opening at fellowship Baptist church, to serve, this is one you can take on immediately; servant. And you can kind of just…wait for the details. And you’ll wait for the orders to come from the commander and chief who is Jesus Christ.”

Much of the sermon is about servanthood, and how as we are servants of Christ, we should serve others. The only problem, or at least thing to keep in mind, is that Paul nowhere refers to himself as Christ’s servant, but rather as slave. All the time. I know that most major translations translate the word “doulos” as servant, but that is wrong. It should read as slave. I wish it would have been hammered away that we are slaves to Christ, and not just mere servants. The word “doulos” occurs something like 150 times in the new testament, and “slave” is all it ever means and all it’s ever meant. It means nothing else. It’s not ambiguous. It means a person owned, it means a person with no rights, no freedom, no standing. A slave could not own property, could not give testimony in a court of law as a witness in a case, could not seek reparations from a civil court of law because he had no rights. No autonomy, no freedom. Doulos means that. There are six other Greek words used in the New Testament that can be translated “servant.” and “doulos” is not one of those words.

When it’s used to refer to a person related to Christ, all the translations will not translate it “slave” but rather they’ll equivocate and you’ll find the word “servant,” and the sort of non-existent hybrid word “bondservant,” for which there is no Greek equivalent. Slavery, the word “doulos,” plain and simple, indicates that you are owned. No freedom, under the total control of an alien will. Absolute, unqualified submission to the commands of a higher authority. A servant works for someone; a slave is owned by someone.

But once you understand this concept, the whole New Testament opens up and you read it in a whole new way. Then all of a sudden when you read a ton of verses, of which one example is “You are not your own, you were bought with a price,” and  boom! You understand it. Romans 1:1. “Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus.” Or Philippians 1:1, “Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus.” Or James, “James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Or Peter. 2 Peter 1, “Simon Peter, a slave.” Or Jude, “Jude, a slave of Jesus Christ.” And then Revelation 1:1, “John, a slave.” They were all slaves, and considered themselves enslaved to a crucified man at a time when being a slave was the worst thing you could be.

What is the point of me saying that?  Basically because while I and probably most people understand what’s being said, to say that because we are servants of Christ, and so we ought to serve others- that analogy doesn’t really work. That it is a very imprecise way of understanding things. In context, to make that point would be saying that because we are slaves of Christ, we should be slaves to others. And I know that no one is suggesting that, but it is important to cast our relationship to Christ in the most strongest words possible, and differentiate it from all others. We should seek to serve others, absolutely. But we are not merely Christ’s servants. We are the “doulos” to the Almighty. We are slaves to the Father and Son and Holy Spirit.

The second thing is that it would have been nice to hear him elaborate on the text in John, and the symbolism of washing feet. With his crucifixion imminent, Jesus washes his disciples’ feet as a final proof of his love for them, setting an example of humility and servanthood and signifying the washing away of sins through his death. In a striking demonstration of love for his enemies, Jesus washes all of his disciples’ feet, including those of Judas. Jesus’ act is all the more remarkable, as washing people’s feet was considered to be a task reserved for non-Jewish slaves. In a culture where people walked long distances on dusty roads in sandals, it was customary for the host to arrange for water to be available for the washing of feet. Normally, this was done upon arrival, not during the meal.

As well, when delving in John 13:8-11, To have no share with Jesus means that one does not belong to him. Here the footwashing symbolizes the washing necessary for the forgiveness of sins, in anticipation of Jesus’ death for his people, by which sins are washed away. Right?  as well, Jesus applies the footwashing in another way. Those who have been washed through Jesus’ once-for-all death also need daily cleansing of their sins [symbolized by their frequent need to wash their feet]. It is apparent that Jesus applies the footwashing figuratively since he says not all are clean, referring to Judas, but clearly he cleaned Judas’s feet as well. Because Judas is not spiritually cleansed, unlike Peter, he does not have a “share” with Jesus. And when you bring this in, then you bring some necessary gospel to the sermon, which every sermon should have at least in some way.

In any case, this was still a good sermon, with a good message for what it was, and the scriptures were used correctly and in context.