No Longer Afraid

This sermon can be watched or listened to at www.templebaptistchurch.ca!

What are you afraid of? Are you agoraphobic and fearful of being somewhere with no support and away from home – homesickness on steroids? Are you aerophobic or aviophobic and afraid of flying in an airplane? You can’t stand when that plane engine takes off. That’s my favourite part!

FullSizeRender.jpgDo you have arachnophobia and are afraid of spiders as they crawl up the walls? There is also dentophobia (being afraid of dentists), chiroptophobia (fear of bats), cynophobia (fear of dogs), ophidiophobia (fear of snakes), ornithophibia (fear of birds probably from watching that 1960s Alfred Hitchcock horror movie The Birds) or some have ranidaphobia (fear of frogs). Are you afraid of the dark? Are you claustrophobic and afraid of being in constricted and confined in small tight spaces? The good thing with all of these phobias is that we can often avoid the sources of these fears. I’m afraid of heights and you would never catch me on the top of the CN Tower with my daughter like one of our elders did this past week. I’m particularly afraid of roller coasters, which should be easy to avoid until your children can’t go on without an adult. So here is a picture of me showing my bravery on a roller coaster for the sake of my son. Notice how spiritual I am crying out to God in prayer!

On a more serious note, it is the fears that we carry around us all the time which are more debilitating. Are you afraid of failing? Maybe you are perfectionistic and failing is the worst thing imaginable? Or maybe your fear of failure is not so much about your performance, work or art, but your fear of failing your family, your church or God Himself? I have good news for you today, you don’t have to live in that fear of failure anymore and the anxiety that accompanies it. Jesus has paid the price for all your failures. But maybe you have a different fear and you are afraid of being exposed. If people knew what was really going on in your life, you think they would brush you off like yesterday’s dandruff. By the way, we here at Temple want you to know whatever you have done, God can forgive you and we will love you through the brokenness. You might ask, what if I am struggling with same-sex attraction or gender confusion? We here are not homophobic, but theophobic as my father says. We don’t fear man, but God. You can tell us your story and we will listen and come alongside you to care for you. We believe Christ enters into our darkness and into the storms of life and brings us safely through.

But what if the storms of life are caused by others? You were just trying to follow Jesus and now you find yourself in the storm of your life. Let’s read about such a predicament that Jesus’ disciples found themselves in John 6:16-21. Read John 6:16-21!

What happened that the disciples would find themselves in this predicament? It all began as they went on what we might call vacation. John 6:1 says, “Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee.” It was time for Him to go to the other side of the lake. Then a large crowd of 5000 men and their families followed Him. Jesus, instead of sequestering Himself, taught the people until it was suppertime. The problem was that there was no fast food restaurants or any restaurants of any kind to feed the people. In fact, there was no food except what a young boy brought in his lunch – 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. And then the first miracle occurred as my dad pointed out to me last week after I preached on this story, that the young boy gave up his lunch to Jesus. Not too many young boys give up their food easily. I know I wouldn’t have, but this boy did. And then Jesus took the boy’s small offering and multiplied it so that everybody ate to their hearts content and there were 12 full baskets leftover. It was amazing, except that the people’s hearts weren’t content. They wanted more. Verse 15 tells us their true hearts, “So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king.” The people knew Jesus could be the ultimate breadwinner and they wanted Him to be their king … king of their stomachs. The people had been programed by Rome that bread and entertainment would pacify them. As Warren Wiersbe says, “Bread and the circuses were Rome’s formula for keeping people happy.”[1] Things haven’t really changed. No, we don’t have the Roman circus where animals and gladiators killed captives anymore, but we certainly like to watch fights still today like in action flicks. We put in the calendar the latest release of our favourite superhero’s movie. We think peace comes from a nice dinner and a movie. But it doesn’t fix everything in a marriage nor in our lives. Jesus refuses to be a king to just give us our daily bread. Recall the prayer He taught us to pray! “Your kingdom come” needs to be prayed before “Give us this day our daily bread.” Until we recognize this, Jesus needs to make us hungrier for His total reign in our lives. This is why He, “withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone.” And where did the disciples go? Verse 16 records the answer, “Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea.”

So let me summarize, Jesus’ disciples went with Jesus for some R & R and then they become waiters and busboys for 5000 men and their families. They pick up the leftovers and then the crowd starts to press in on Jesus trying to make Him their king. All of a sudden, the pursuit of rest became a political firestorm and Jesus escapes – alone. If you were the disciples, what would you do? You do what you always did – you would go back to the lake. Most Canadians understand the lake is what we retreat to! The disciples went to the lake, not only to escape the crowd, but the lake was what they know best. Many of the disciples were fisherman and practically lived on this lake. But let’s remember that the disciples are on the lake because they sought rest with Jesus, then they ministered to people and because the crowd wanted more from Jesus than He was willing to settle for, Jesus leaves His disciples and goes off by Himself. The disciples are alone and I’m sure tired. It’s dark! They wanted to go home. That is what we find at the end of verse 17, “they started to cross the sea to Capernaum.” Can anybody relate? Have you ever gone away for some much needed rest and then found yourself serving others? It maybe became a crazy vacation. Work and ministry actually increased rather than decreased. And you find yourself in a controversy and in the middle of a political firestorm maybe at work, school or church. And all you were doing was trying to follow Jesus and serve the people. You just wanted some time with Jesus. But then Jesus seems to have abandoned you. So you try to go home. I can relate to the disciples. Can you?

In the case of the disciples, it was already dark. Verse 17 goes on to report, “It had already become dark and Jesus had not yet come to them.” The Gospel writer John, the same John in the boat that night, gives some hope – Jesus would come, but not yet. In fact, we learn from the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 14, verse 22 that after feeding the 5000, “Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away.” So the disciples were actually being sent by Jesus to escape the political firestorm; only to be cast into another storm that threatened their lives. And Jesus was gone! Do you feel the tension? D.A. Carson writes, “The darkness of night and the absence of Jesus are powerfully linked.”[2] Recall that Jesus was called the Light of the World. John starts off his Gospel in John 1:4-5, “In Him was life and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it.” But where was Jesus? The light was gone. It was dark! Matthew 14:23 tells us where Jesus was, “After Jesus had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray, and He was there alone.” My friends, you may feel abandoned by Jesus, even sent into the storm, but Jesus is drawing close to His Father and interceding for you. You don’t just see it yet. The Light of Jesus is coming!

Here is what I want to you believe today: Jesus may have sent you into the storm, but He will come and calm your fears to reveal Himself in new ways – receive Him today! I’ll say that again, Jesus may have sent you into the storm, but He will come and calm your fears – receive Him today! You no longer need to be afraid – Jesus is coming! The sea may be stirred up and the winds blowing as we read in verse 18. Our lives can mimic the weather we have recently experienced – storms coming up out of nowhere. It may be a stormy time Temple, but Jesus is coming!

Jesus says 7 words (4 words in the original) that change everything, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Don’t confuse this with another story when Jesus is asleep and wakes up to calm the storm. No, this time, He just mentions His name and says don’t be afraid and the storm flees. That is the power that Jesus has. Those three words in English, “It is I!” are often so calming and chase our fears away. Recall when you were little and were scared at night and one of your parents would come into the dark and say, “I’m here; don’t be afraid!” The presence of somebody more powerful, especially the presence of one you trust, calmed your fears. That was what the disciples must have felt. But Jesus is actually revealing more – His name! And His name is power! His name causes the storms to flee!

Now you might be wondering why I said that Jesus revealed or mentions His name. It seems He just uses personal pronouns “It is I!” There is more! I believe when Jesus uses the word “I am” (ego eimi), He is revealing that He is the great I AM! And that harkens back to when He revealed Himself to Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 2:14 and Moses asked what he should tell the Israelites was God’s name, “God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God’s name is I AM! Think about that! He is I AM! The name is in the present tense. He is always present! But there is more and this particularly relates to the Gospel of John. John highlights that Jesus is the I AM! We are just about to enter a series of declarations by Jesus as to who He is. He says, “I am the Bread of Life” in John 6:35, 48 & 51. He says, “I am the Light of the world” in John 8:12. Jesus then says in John 10:9, “I am the door” or the entryway for salvation. Then in John 10:11 Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd.” Jesus also says my favourite I am, “I am the resurrection and the life” in John 11:25. And you probably can quote the caucophony of “I am’s” in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” And then Jesus says, “I am the vine” in John 15:5. This storm kicks off a new understanding of Jesus. That is often how Jesus still uses storms in our lives. He wants to reveal something new about Himself to us – provision, guidance, protection, salvation, and growth. I don’t know what storm you are in and I don’t know what new characteristic or aspect that God wants to show you about Himself, but I do know that He may put you in a storm, even make you feel like you are abandoned, but He will come to your rescue. All the while Jesus is praying for you.

You see, the disciples needed to know something very important that was going to happen the next day when the crowds come back after Jesus. Jesus in John 6:32 says to the crowd when they wanted to know how to get more of the bread Jesus gave them the night before, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives the true bread out of heaven.” The disciples would have already had a clue from the night before that Jesus was greater than Moses. Moses could only hold out a staff and let the Israelites cross the Red Sea on dry land. Jesus could just show up, and the storm ceases and they are automatically on the other side. Moses could only pray for God to send forth manna and there would be none left over than the daily need. Jesus could give thanks, break bread and multiply it so that there were plenty of leftovers. Jesus is not only greater than Moses; Jesus is the great I AM!

And as the great I AM, Jesus will often interrupt your rest, maybe allow you to go through some intense ministry and send you into a storm in order to reveal Himself in new ways. Jesus may send you into the storm, but He will come and calm your fears to reveal Himself in new ways – receive Him today! You see on the other side of the storm, Jesus can take you places fast. What you need to do is receive Him! Verse 21 reveals the application, “They were willing therefore to receive Him into the boat and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.” When you receive Jesus, He can take you places fast. Now some of you Bible scholars know that there was this little interlude in this story of Peter walking on water to Jesus according to Matthew’s account. However, that is not John’s focus. He wants us to emphasize that Jesus is the great I AM and that we must simply receive Him.

What does receiving Jesus look like? First, you must receive Him into your life for the first time surrendering your life to Christ. This will be a daily surrender. For others of you listening today, maybe who have been hanging around with Jesus for sometime, seeing Him do miracles, serving with Him and for Him, but you are in the storm and Jesus seems far off. You need to trade the fear of the present storm and welcome Jesus into the boat of your life once again. So second, you must receive Him as the great I AM. We need to be reminded that He is the I AM – always present! He is always in control and as the Good Shepherd, “not only makes us to lie down in green pastures (John 6:10), but also leads us to still waters. (Psalm 23:2)”[3] Jesus sends us into the storm so we can know Him better. Is He cruel to do so? Well, how many of you have taken your families camping? It is purposely putting yourself in a situation with less luxuries and amenities. And when the storms came during your camping trip as they always do, did it not reveal more about those who went with you? Did you learn about how you can work together and overcome the stress of a storm? Were you cruel to go together on a camping trip despite knowing that you most likely would encounter a storm? No! Like, Jesus, you were not cruel to go into a place where storms come. Jesus sends us into the storm so we can know who He is and receive Him. This is the only way to overcome your fears. You and I have lesser fears and phobias. Remember all those fears I mentioned at the beginning. You no longer need to be afraid of those lesser fears, but only need to fear the Lord!

[1] Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary – Volume 1 (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1989), 310.

[2] D.A. Carson, The Gospel According to John – The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991), 274.

[3] Wiersbe, 310.

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What’s Your Problem?

This sermon can be watched or listened to at www.templebaptistchurch.ca!

What’s your problem? I don’t say that in a snarky way, but sincerely. What is your problem? Maybe you are here today with a problem that was self-inflicted? You gave into temptation at a weak moment when you were tired, hurting and bored. Or you gave in at a strong moment when you were proud. Maybe that problem has led to many other problems including destroying most of the once held dear relationships you had. Or maybe you are here today with a problem that you didn’t cause? You were born into a family with a lot of brokenness. Or maybe you stepped into a mess? Maybe the mess was not your doing? You were actually doing something good and you find yourself with an overwhelming problem and it appears there are no resources to help you.

That is exactly what happened to Jesus one day. Jesus was trying to get away for a little R & R (almost like the start of His summer vacation) and the crowds started following Him. So Jesus started to teach them many things. In fact, Mark 6:34 describes Jesus’ heart for them, “He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” Jesus had the heart of a true pastor – He wanted to lead and teach them. He didn’t want them to wander away and be lost. The trouble was that they had some physical needs too, particularly that it was late in the day and they were getting hungry. I find it interesting that the people either lost track of time or just wanted to be with their Shepherd. However, they were hungry. If you are a parent, you can identify with Jesus’ problem. When your children or family are hungry that becomes your focus no matter how great an experience you are having or where you are going. For example, recently our family was at Canada’s Wonderland for the Christian Music Festival Wonder Jam. Yes, we had to battle the weather, but the greater battle I found was trying to fill my beautiful wife and children’s empty stomachs. As a father, I know it is my job to make sure they are fed when we are away from the house. So I found myself standing in the middle of a torrential downpour soaked to the bone waiting in line for chicken nuggets, fries and beavertails while the family found shelter. When people are hungry, obtaining food becomes the focus of your life. Jesus found Himself in a similar predicament. Let’s read about what He does with His problem and how we can trust Him with our problems in John 6:1-15 and then use the other accounts in the other Four Gospels to supplement our understanding of the story. Read John 6:1-15!

There are three possible solutions to the problem in this story according to Warren Wiersbe[1]:

  • Get rid of the problem.
  • Buy your way out of the problem.
  • Look for a solution to the problem.

Lots of people choose the first solution – get rid of the problem. They spend their energy and effort thinking of how they can get rid of their problems. If you have pain, pop a painkiller. If you have a problem employee, you use Donald Trump’s favourite words, “You’re fired!” If your marriage is in trouble, you end it. Or worse, if you believe you are a burden to your family, then you end your life even now with the help of a doctor. Getting rid of your problem is probably the most popular solution to our problems. It was the “go to” solution for Jesus’ disciples. Mark 6:35-36 records their attempted solution to the problem of the hungry people, “When it was already quite late, His disciples came to Him and said, ‘This place is desolate and it is already quite late; send them away so that they may go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.’” From all appearances, the disciples’ solution seems reasonable, even responsible. The people were the ones who chased after Jesus when He was trying to get some rest, so it should be their responsibility to feed themselves. It wouldn’t be good to enable them. They could come back after supper for some more teaching if Jesus wanted to make it a teaching conference. But that is not how Jesus felt. Remember Jesus saw this group of people as His flock. Shepherds, at least good shepherds, don’t send their flocks to another shepherd to be fed. No, Jesus wanted to feed His people. He made them lies down in green pastures (the grass as verse 10 tells us) and there Jesus fed them. Jesus knew that you cannot really get rid of your problems. You have to deal with your problems; otherwise the problem will keep resurfacing. Haven’t you found this to be true? If you are in pain and the source of the pain is not dealt with, once the painkiller wears off, you will need another pill. Sadly, this scenario has played out to the point that some are addicted to painkillers and have overdosed on drugs like Fentanyl. Or think about problem employees who get fired. What happens? Often they come back with a lawsuit or their replacement isn’t as good. Problem marriages? Divorce doesn’t solve the problem because you usually have some form of relationship with your ex-spouse, especially if you share kids with them. And suicide, which I call self-murder, never takes into consideration how much it affects those left behind. I say all this not to make you feel bad or rub it in your face again because we have all tried to get rid of our problem to no avail. However, I use these examples to remind and warn us that trying to get rid of the problems doesn’t work. I heard a pastor once say, “Sin does not evaporate.”[2] We can’t get rid of our problems. In the disciples’ case, in a few hours the people would be back and starting to feel hungry again.

So if you can’t rid of your problem, another solution is to try and buy your way out of it. Now, this solution is not quite as popular because most of us do not have enough money to fix our problems, but we still try. Think about that little fender bender when a person asks you not to go through insurance but pay out of pocket for the body shop repairs. Or think about an insurance settlement with a disgruntled former employee. Or on a smaller scale and closer to home, think about how parents may promise an ice cream cone to their child if they stop throwing a tantrum and behave properly. Paul Tripp calls this “Moral economics, which teaches children to do a cost-benefit analysis to weigh out if the bribe is worth the requested behavior.”[3] It doesn’t work! Philip, one of Jesus’ disciples, started down this path of a solution to the problem, but then comes to a dead end. Look at John 6:7, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, for everyone to receive a little.” Two hundred denarii in Jesus’ day equalled two hundred days wages. Think about that number. Philip was saying it would take over half a year’s salary. I don’t know what your salary is, but think about working hard for 6 months and all your wages going to feed a large crowd of people for one meal that lasts only a few hours. No wonder Philip quickly figured out that buying your way out of the problem was not the solution! But notice Philip wasn’t the one to suggest buying your way out in the first place. Who did make that suggestion? Jesus! Check out verse 5, “Therefore, Jesus lifting up His eyes and seeing that a large crowd was coming to Him, said to Philip, ‘Where are we to buy bread, so that they may eat?’” Why would have Jesus planted that solution in Philip’s head? Verse 6 gives us the answer, “This He was saying to test him, for He Himself knew what He was intending to do.” I love how when Jesus asks His followers questions, He already knows the answer! But the answer was not for everybody it appears, it was specifically for Philip. Why Philip? Well, Philip was good at assessing situations. We first discover this back in John 1:43-46 when Philip is first called by Jesus to follow Him. Philip tells his friend Nathanael in John 1:45, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote – Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Philip quickly identified Jesus as the Messiah. It appears Philip had good perceptive reasoning, but also was a concrete thinker. Turn to John 14:8 to see what I mean, “Philip said to Him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.’” Jesus had been talking about knowing the Father through Him. But Philip was a realist. Any Philips in the room? No one is going to mislead you, right? But the problem with only being a realist is that you don’t see what God is doing behind the scenes. This is why Jesus said to Philip in John 14:9-10, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father… Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me?” Philip continually needed to have his eyes of faith opened. Maybe you do too?

Jesus did that for Philip back in John 6. He opened Philip’s eyes of faith and He can open your eyes as well. Jesus taught Philip that even if there is enough money to buy your way out of a problem, you don’t ultimately solve it. That lesson was learned when Philip and the rest of the disciples started collecting all the leftovers and verse 13 tells us they filled twelve baskets full. “Jesus wasted nothing”[4] and this was not lost on Philip and the disciples. He wanted them all to tangibly remember that Jesus alone provides abundantly for them and solves their problem.

But what about the third solution to the problem? Jesus didn’t just magically produce food out of nothing. It appears that Jesus waits for others to look for the solution to a problem. Andrew finds it … sort of in the lunch of an unnamed boy. Andrew says to Jesus in verse 9, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fishes.” This would be equivalent of a buy one get, one free filet o’ fish deal at a Mennonite McDonalds. No, airy white bread here, just hearty bread! But then Andrew says to Jesus, “… but what are these for so many people?” “Andrew’s point was that this tiny meal was ludicrously inadequate to the need.”[5] Nevertheless, Jesus wants to teach Andrew and everybody there that little is much with God; we just have to look for the little and trust God for the much. Jesus will take that small offering you have and multiply it. Maybe it is a little bit of money the Lord wants you to give? Maybe it is a few moments of your lunch break that you could share and listen to a hurting co-worker? Maybe it is cleaning up the table that your family made a mad dash out the door and didn’t get a chance to put things away? Whatever God is saying you to offer to Him, do it quickly like this little boy!

But the offering is not the solution. Looking for a solution to your problem is not the ultimate solution. Why? Because the bread and fish would have remained 5 + 2 and not 5 + 2 = 5000+ if it weren’t for Jesus giving thanks and breaking the bread. As best-selling author and local farmer’s wife Ann Voskamp reminds us, “The miracle happens in the breaking … brokenness gives way to abundance.”[6] And now we are getting to the true solution because we never understood the true problem. What was the problem? It was late at night! That was what the disciples’ thought! But that wasn’t the problem! What was the problem? They didn’t have enough money? That was what Philip thought, but they didn’t need money. Money would have only been a temporary fix. I’ll say that again in the present tense for us today: Money is only a temporary fix! So what was the problem? Andrew thought the problem was a lack of resources. But the 5 loaves of barley bread and two small fishes were not enough. No, the problem was that they were sheep and they didn’t have a shepherd to feed them. This becomes apparent in verses 14-15, “Therefore, when the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, This is truly the Prophet, who is to come into the world.’ So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone.” This whole episode reveals the true problem. We think the problem is that we don’t have enough food, or money or friends or love or you fill in the blank. These problems are only consequences of our first problem. And so, we are looking for solutions to secondary problems. Our problem is that we want Jesus to fix our temporary problems, and not our ultimate problem! What is that ultimate problem? Not knowing the future? The crowds thought that Jesus was the Prophet that Moses mentioned in Deuteronomy 18:15-18 (c.f. John 5:46). And so they were ready to take Jesus by force to make Him king. But you can’t force Jesus to be king in order to take care of your secondary problems. As Paul Tripp makes the point in his question that will stop you in your tracks: “Do you want Jesus to be your king for all the wrong reasons?”[7] Do you want Jesus to be your king so that you will have enough food and money? Do you want Jesus to be your king to save your marriage? Do you want Jesus to be your king so that you can know the future and avoid the potholes up ahead on the highway of life? There is nothing wrong with wanting these needs met, but Jesus may walk away if that is all you are settling for. Jesus wants to change your heart! He wants to be the King of your heart, not just your stomachs or your wallets or your detective work to find a solution! He wants to be the King of your hearts and all of your life!

And the only way that this could happen is for Him to become broken. As Ann Voskamp says, “No one is ever wholly fed – unless someone becomes holy broken.”[8] And so the problem was not a lack of money or food or resources, but people who wanted Jesus to settle for being a king that would provide bread for the masses. Jesus instead walks up the mountain alone pointing to a time when He would walk up another mountain alone. This time carrying a cross and being executed on it! He had to lay down His life for the sheep!

He had to be broken because the miracle always happens in the breaking. Jesus had to separate or dis-member. He had to leave the members of the crowd so that someday they would be re-membered. In the future, they would need to be put back together again. You probably know the old nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty. Say it with me, “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpy Dumpty had a great fall, All the king’s horses and all the king’s men, Couldn’t put Humpty back together again.” The crowd of now satisfied people were like that Humpty Dumpty’s army – an army for a new king. As D.A. Carson says, “5000 men were a potential guerilla force of eager recruits willing and able to serve the right leader.”[9] But Jesus knew that he was like Humpty Dumpty. He was going to take a great fall and no army of 5000 men could put him back together again. Instead, He needed to take the great fall so that He could put all of us back together again. And this is why we need to take Communion again this Sunday. We need to be re-membered because our hearts and its problems cause “dis-memberment.”

Is Jesus the King of your Heart? Has He taken care of your ultimate problem? If you have come to Jesus with your ultimate problem – your sin problem and you believe that He climbed another mountain to die on it for those sins, then you are saved. You are now re-membered. He has gathered you into His flock. But if you are still looking for Jesus to just take care of your secondary problems, He won’t until you confess your ultimate sin problem. So the question I asked you first still stands: what’s your problem? It will determine what you want Jesus to do for you – give you bread for a day or bread for all eternity as you find your solution and satisfaction in Him alone.

[1] Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary – Volume 1 (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1989), 309.

[2] Dennis Wiedrick, A Royal Priesthood (Oshawa: Wiedrick & Associates, 1997), 92.

[3] Paul Tripp, “Parenting” DVD Series, Session 2: Targeting the Heart.

[4] Wiersbe, 309.

[5] D.A. Carson, The Gospel According to John – The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991), 270.

[6] Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016), 29-32.

[7] Paul Tripp, New Morning Mercies, June 18 (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2015)

[8] Voskamp, 40.

[9] Carson, 270.


Following Jesus and Relating to Technology

This sermon can be watched or listened to at www.templebaptistchurch.ca!

Who is on a campaign to save the world? Jesus? Yes! And also, Bill Nye the Science Guy! Bill Nye at the most recent Earth Day rally is quoted as saying, “We can save the world!” He is even starting a new TV series on Netflix entitled Bill Nye Saves the World! Mr. Nye, if you are listening, Jesus already did save the world! If we all followed Jesus and the principles found in His Word of loving one another and being caregivers of the earth, there would not be so many ecological and more importantly, relational problems. But there is more to Bill Nye’s quote. One of the things that interests me about Bill Nye is his religious passion for science. He is not the only one. Listen to this quote from Brian Schmidt, professor at Australian University, writing on the World Economic Forum website, Science is humanity’s way of understanding the universe, which allows us to predict the consequences of actions, and ultimately allows us to enhance our lives. We live on a small planet that will soon be inhabited by 8 billion people. To do this successfully, we’re going to need science to solve the problems that will arise when so many people live on a planet that is not designed, naturally, to handle those numbers. In the short term, science helps make our lives better; but in the long term, it will be crucial to our continued affluent survival.”[1] There are many who put their hopes in science to fix our problems: we have a loved one dying of cancer so we turn to medicine, we need more time so we created a computer to help us save time (how is that extra time that the computer saved working for you?), or we cannot meet with people across the ocean so we invent the airplane. Science and technology has helped us a lot. Sometimes we Christians have overstated our concern with science and it seems we are against science and technology. To do so, would be hypocritical! We use technology all the time. Even this microphone right now is helping to proclaim God’s Word. You see, as Tim Challies says, “From the beginning, technology has played a vital role in God’s story in our lives. God has gifted human beings with remarkable ability to dream, create, and invent technologies that serve us as we serve him, technologies that enable us to better serve him.”[2] Challies goes on to say, “Technology is the creative activity of using tools to shape God’s creation for practical purposes.”[3] Technology can be very good, but like all good things, they can become bad if used for evil purposes. This is where the devil often takes a good thing like the Internet that allows us to connect with our missionaries across the globe while tempting us with bad things like pornography. Technology can become idolatrous.

Tonight I want to talk about some practical ways that we can follow Jesus in relating to technology. But first I want to ask a question borrowed from Haddon Robinson. Robinson, when preaching on Numbers 21:4-9 asked this question, “When does a good snake become a bad snake?” Let’s read Numbers 21:4-9 and 2 Kings 18:4 to find out how a good snake becomes a bad snake! And ladies, there are such things as good snakes! You might think that the only good snake is a dead snake, but there are good snakes and they get rid of another of your nemesis – mice! Read Numbers 21:4-9 and 2 Kings 18:4!

Here are three ways we can turn a good snake into a bad snake: 1) Reconfiguration – when we remake it from its original identity; 2) Identification – when we make it our own identity; and 3) Memorialization -when we ask others to take it to become their source of identity. Let’s break each of these down – reconfiguration, identification and memorialization; starting with reconfiguration. Everything has a purpose! You and I have a purpose in life! God has created things good with a purpose in mind. The problem is when we turn those good things into bad things – food for sustenance can become a source of comfort or gluttony; sexual pleasure and closeness in marriage can become a source of selfish consumption of another person; and drugs that help alleviate pain can become addictive and destructive. This is why Tim Challies reminds us to, “Trying to figure out the original purpose of the technology will help us discern how it should be used!’ If we can find the purpose for a technology, we will not be surprised when we learn how it will soon begin to change and shape us. For example, when we understand that cellular phones were introduced to keep businessmen in touch with the office while they were away from it, at home or on the road, we will not marvel that our mobile phones tend to do just that – to keep us in touch, even when we would rather escape. The phone is simply doing what it was created to do.”[4]

Back in Numbers 21:4-9 and 2 Kings 18:4. Originally, the bronze serpent that Moses made was only to be looked at as recorded in Numbers 21:8. That serpent was to be a reminder that God was not just their Healer, but their Redeemer. They were complainers! I hate complaining; it really bothers me! I have a complaint against complaining and so does God! Complaining goes right to the source of not believing God can be trusted to provide for us what we need! Reconfiguring technology’s original purpose is often rebellion against trusting God! It is not always the case as Isaiah 2:4 prophesies what will happen in the last days, probably in the millennium that Christ physically reigns on earth causing great peace, “And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears in pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation and never again will they learn war.” However, often we reconfigure what God has originally purposed as good and use it for evil. Maybe this is why God sent serpents to bite His people in Numbers 21:5-6, “The people spoke out against God and Moses, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this miserable food.’ The Lord sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so many people of Israel died.’” Why so harsh? It was just some complaining! But this was literally biting the hand that fed them. Remember, Moses would have already given them the Law. They would have heard the story of Genesis and how this world was created. They would need reminding that the original serpent in Genesis 3 complained against God, tempting Adam and Eve to be unsatisfied with God, and this ended in death. God will get heavier in disciplining us if we know what we are doing is wrong and we go ahead and outwardly disobey.

That is why I believe God used serpents to cause the death of these complainers. It was a reminder back to the Garden of Eden of not trusting God for His provision. And yet, in this story in Numbers, we find God’s redemption even more than His retribution. The Israelites once bitten were to look at the bronze serpent, reminding them that God was going to defeat the Serpent. In Genesis 3:15 God promised to the Serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” God was going to crush Satan and crush complaining! God was going to be their Redeemer. Have you ever noticed how the sign for medicine is the bronze serpent on a cross? Many medical facilities and personnel do not realize that by wearing and promoting that symbol. Some try to link the symbol to the Staff of Asclepius, the Greek god of healing and medicine. However, medical people using this symbol are actually recalling the gospel! Satan wants to rob the symbol of his demise and attribute to a mythological deity or he adds a second snake to the symbol. But remember how Jesus Christ promised in John 3:14, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” The Cross would crush Satan! Jesus would become sin and Saviour, hell-bound and Healer at the same time. Jesus would show that He was the ultimate Redeemer!

BUT what did the Israelites do in time? They didn’t just look at the Bronze Serpent, they burned incense to it as we find in 2 Kings 18:4! They worshipped it! They made it an idol! The good snake became a bad snake! And here is how this practically relates to our life. We need to stick to a technological device’s original good purpose. For example, if our cell phone was designed to connect us to each other, then that is what we should use it for and that only. I am not saying we should all buy flip phones. In fact, you can’t buy a flip phone with data. Believe me I tried a few years ago. I wanted to simplify my life and trade in my smart phone for a flip phone that only handled calls and texts. But they simply do not sell them anymore.

What I am saying is that if you use your phone to keep up via email and social media, then do that for designated times that you would call people. You shouldn’t use that phone to connect with people all the time, especially during work when that is not in your job description. If your job is to connect with people like mine is in part, then okay. But there should also be times in your day where you are focused on the real, live person in the room next to you. Put the phone down and go talk. Get rid of the distractions. In our family, we adapted an idea from somebody else and have created a device depot. We found that we always had our phones with us and were being notified of another post by somebody or a score from the game. So we created a device depot, which is a box where all our phones and tablets go into when we walk in the door. They are now out of sight. You see, devices can actually divide your family. Actually, the root of the word device is to divide! Device is “a blend of a Middle Age English word meaning division.”[5]  Maybe your resolution is to have no phones at the family dinner table or turn off the TV when you eat! Make sure that good snake isn’t turned into a bad snake through reconfiguration!

So not only can we turn a good snake into a bad snake through reconfiguration, but also we can turn a good snake into a bad snake, especially technology, through identification. Identification is when we make something inanimate and personalize it to the point it becomes our new identity. An example may be our online avatars. Or it could be our social media presence that doesn’t reflect who we truly are. We take pictures of ourselves that are so touched up through Instagram that it is hard to recognize us when people meet us in person. Facebook is another means of doing this. My wife likes to use this quote by William Shakespeare when she talks about Facebook, “God hath give you one face and you make yourselves another.” Is that not a great description of Facebook? As Tim Challies says, “Cyberspace gives us a place to be ourselves apart from our bodies. And in many cases the draw is irresistible.”[6]

Back in 2 Kings 18:4, the people asked gave a name to the Bronze Serpent – Nehustan! The Nehustan went from a fiery serpent to a bronze serpent. If you know anything about bronze, it starts out shiny and then loses its lustre. The Nehustan, like much of technology, starts out as something we try to control and then it controls us. When we name something, we think we are in control. However, as any parent knows who names their child, you can only control them so long. So with technology, we are our data! Tim Challies goes even further and provides this profound insight, “We do well to simply be aware that we do leave trails behind – trails that tell about who we are. Many a husband or wife has been proven a liar by  his or her data trail. Where they insisted they were one thing, the data they left behind them showed them to be another. What is fascinating about all of this data is that in many ways we are our data. We cannot neatly separate ourselves from our data as if we are one thing but our data proves we are another. I may be a fine Christian gentleman, a family man and pastor, but if my data shows that I routinely visit pornographic websites, my data, not my presentation of myself, will show who I really am.”[7] Even our social media presence with our rants or questionable posts need to be realigned with honouring and representing Christ!

In 2 Kings 18, we find the Israelites had become like what they worshipped! They were Nehustan worshippers and instead of staying low and humble before the Lord, they had created other high places to worship. Looking up at the Bronze Serpent eventually led to going up. And like at the Tower of Babel, people have always thought they could ascend spiritually and get up to God. The truth is that we could not go up to God, He had to come down to us, which is why He sent His Son Jesus to come down to earth and to live and die for us. And this is why we must have our identity in Christ and not try to create an online identity that doesn’t reflect Him!

Why? Because everything we do is permanent, at least online it is! And this is the third way a good snake becomes a bad snake. We try memorialize things so that it is our identity is foisted on others. For example, on Facebook, after a Terrorist attack on a country, we may put the colours of the country’s flag where the attack occurred as the background for our profile picture to show our support for that country.

The Israelites supported and memorialized the Nehustan! It was to be wilderness rescue for snakebites in that region, but they carried it wherever they went, not unlike our phones today. When the Israelites settled in Israel, they kept the Nehustan. That is why verse 4 says, “for up to that time.” They needed it for the Sinai, but not for after they settled. It became permanent for the next generation like traditions today.

What I am concerned about with technology today is that all we do online is permanent. You can erase your history, but keen techies will find it. If you take a compromising picture of yourself, there will most likely be a copy somewhere. What a contrast to God and His grace. Psalm 103:12 promises, “As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” God will forgive us, but Satan and humans will continue to remind us of our online mistakes. As Tim Challies asks, “Can we leave a past transgression between ourselves and God, knowing that the evidence of us remains in a database and may someday be drawn out?”[8] It is here where we have to be extra careful to walk in purity. Here is what we are doing in our family to not “make provision for the flesh” (Romans 13:14). Our family doesn’t have cable or satellite, so we don’t have access to some of the worst channels on TV. However, there are still evil things on TV. We have Circle, which limits our online time for each device. For example, Wednesday night I tried to check a website out on my iPad. It was after 10 PM and when I tried to do a Google search, Circle blocked it and said, “It is past your bedtime,” so I went to bed.  We also have Ever Accountable on our phones that Pastor Aaron recommended. For example, if I were to visit a website that was questionable, two of our elders would be notified. Each device we own has the same accountability. It cost us $100/year.

Now are we trusting in these technological guardians to save us? No, if we want to sin, we will find a way! You can’t trust in chariots or horse, but in the name of the Lord our God! (Psalm 20:7) Bill Nye can’t save the world! But we know who can – Jesus! This is why we keep our eyes on Him!


[1] Brian Schmidt, “How Science Will Save the World” article, https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/01/how-science-will-save-the-world/. Accessed April 25, 2017.

[2] Tim Challies, The Next Story – Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 13.

[3] Challies, 23.

[4] Challies, 61-62.

[5] Source: http://www.dictionary.com/browse/device. Accessed April 25, 2017.

[6] Challies, 101.

[7] Challies, 183.

[8] Challies, 153.


What Should We Fight For and Flee From?

This sermon can be watched or listened to at www.templebaptistchurch.ca!

My philosophy is to WIN! I know it doesn’t sound politically correct in our culture where everybody gets participation medals, but the reality is that there are winners and losers in life. The young men on my baseball team that I coach understand we are there to WIN! Now, I have defined a win as more than just having the top score at the end of a contest because you can still win a game and not play very well. A WIN for me stands for Work hard, Improve your skills and Never give up! This philosophy has served me well as most of the teams I have coached have overachieved. However, I had to learn the hard way. One of my regrets in life was when I was playing college basketball and our team underachieved, I got frustrated with my team and their lack of effort, so I threatened to give up. This undermined team unity and when I realized what I had done as a senior member on the team, I immediately wrote a letter apologizing to the team and saying that I was all in with them. I learned a good lesson as a 21 year old that you never give up.

God’s philosophy is to not give up and to WIN as well! He wants you to win because He has WON! Today is Palm Sunday where we celebrate Jesus riding on a donkey as the coming champion over sin, death and the demonic world! He just had to suffer and lose His life first! Christ’s suffering was not self-inflicted like my critical and cowardly approach to my college basketball team. No, Christ suffered for His team, His Church, you and I! And yet, He still won because in the kingdom of God, winning looks like losing! As Jesus said in Luke 9:24, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.”

That sounds noble and inspiring until we get into the thick of the temptations and the trials! It is at that moment that we go either into fight or flight mode! The problem is we often fight and flee the wrong things! And this is why Paul emphasizes to his protégé and spiritual son Timothy that he must fight the good fight! “Fighting the good fight suggests voluntary athletic agony – the kind that takes place in a grueling race or boxing match.”[1] Champions voluntarily beat their bodies to make it their slave in order to win! (1 Corinthians 10:27) Timothy was such a champion! He was even circumcised as an adult to win people to Christ! (Acts 16:3) We may think of Timothy as timid, but he was not! He was actually honourable – that is what his name means “honour”! Throughout this book, Paul is charging Timothy to hand off the ministry to the church and thus honour those in his congregation who were discipling well – widows (1 Timothy 5:3), elders (1 Timothy 5:17), masters or what we would call employers (1 Timothy 6:1). Timothy would read the letter written by Paul to him and hear the words “To Honour, my true son in the faith … Honour widows! Honour elders! Honour masters!” All of these groups of people were to be honoured because of their hard work and not giving up. And yet, I am sure there were times when they wanted to give up – after their husbands died, after they fought battles against false teachers or after they had a hard time with their employees. This is why Paul tells Timothy and the church at Ephesus to “Fight the Good Fight!” Let’s read what that good fight was all about in 1 Timothy 6:11-21. Read 1 Timothy 6:11-21!

Fighting or Fleeing! Most of us, are doing one of those two things right now. If I were to ask you the question: “What are you fighting for right now?” Some of you might say time! Others of you might say you are fighting for more money. Or some of you might be fighting for a relationship and a name comes to mind. And if I were to ask you, “What are you fleeing from?” Some of you if you are being honest would say that you are fleeing a responsibility or fleeing debt or fleeing a relationship. We are usually fighting or fleeing and sometime doing both at the same time, which is why we feel like we are chasing our tails!

But what if we are not fighting for the right things and fleeing from the right things! We often fight and flee the wrong things! Here is what God says we should be fighting for and what we should be fleeing from:

What are to fight for?                                                           What are we to flee from?

  1. Faith in Christ (v. 11-13)                                             – Faith in the temporary (v. 9-10)
  2. Purity in belief and behaviour (v. 14-16)                  – Impurity (v. 14)
  3. Generosity in good works & good things (v. 18)     – Greed (v. 11, 17)
  4. Truth in God’s Word (v. 20-21)                                  – False words (v. 20)

Let’s unpack what we are to fight for and flee from. Think of it as playing offense and defense at the same time. You fight and you guard simultaneously! What are we to fight for first? Faith in Christ! This is foundational! But notice I didn’t say, fight for Christ! To its extreme, that mantra “Fight for Christ” has been used in wicked ways when we think of the Crusades and the slaughter of our enemies in the name of Christ. No, Jesus doesn’t need us to fight for Him! He is fighting for us! And this is why fighting for faith in Christ is very different. This is an attack on our doubts and our desires! Look what verse 12 says, “Fight the good fight of faith.” In order to reiterate the point, Paul had just used the word “faith” in the previous verse as describing one of the things Timothy was to pursue. It is surprisingly easy to forget Christ rather than have faith in Him. Paul reminds Timothy that he was “to take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” Timothy was to remember his public confession of faith, which most likely points to his baptism,[2] but more importantly, emphasizes that our faith must be public. We must confess Jesus before people! Two verses come to mind (one a warning; the second an instruction)! The first verse is Matthew 10:32-33 and comes straight from the lips of Jesus, Therefore, everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.” The second verse is Romans 10:9, “That if you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Do you believe Jesus is your Lord and God raised Him from the dead? Have you confessed this belief out loud, with your mouth before people? You need to do that today to be saved! This is the good and best confession you could ever make! And to encourage you Jesus made this same confession about Himself before Pilate! (v. 13) What a thought as we head into a week ending with Christ’s trial, crucifixion and resurrection!

But in order to make such a confession so, you have to flee from what you have been trusting in. You see, atheists and agnostics have faith! They just have faith in the wrong things – in temporary things! We humans often put our trust in what we can see, hear, feel, taste and touch! But all those things are temporary. What we see now, is gone tomorrow. I saw an orange yesterday in the fridge, it is now gone as somebody probably ate it or it became moldly and needed to be thrown out. This week my wife threw out here blow dryer in the garbage because it worked one morning and then suddenly it didn’t! You ate breakfast this morning and it is almost finished being digested, which is why you can’t wait for our snacks and coffee in the GO Café! On a more serious note, I can recall my friend’s voice as we played together as children but he drowned in a canoeing accident many years ago and I can’t hear that voice any more. Even his voice in my head is very faint. Life here on earth is temporary. Our senses help us with the science of life, but our senses don’t save us! Paul describes all these temporary pursuits as dangerous. Verses 9-10, “But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” Notice again how these pursuits pull us away from faith in Christ. So is your faith in Christ or is your faith in the temporary?

Faith in Christ is the only way to eternal life, to righteousness, to godliness, to love, to perseverance (to never give up) and to gentleness. I was reminded of this by Pastor Aaron who is teaching on suffering from a curriculum entitled 9 Marks in our Next Chapter discipleship class. Aaron quoted Mark Dever as teaching that “A belief in hell encourages a behavior in mercy.” You see, if there is a hell where vengeance is the Lord’s, then you don’t have to take up vengeance yourself and instead you can pursue mercy and gentleness. Isn’t Christ compelling? Even the seeming paradox of fighting for gentleness can only be found in Christ![3] Jesus made that gentle and good confession before Pontius Pilate when He could have with one word wiped out that little twerp! Jesus was gentle, all the while fighting for our salvation! Do you see how faith in Christ then causes you to pursue righteousness, godliness, love, perseverance and gentleness? Fight for faith in Christ and flee faith in the temporary!

But we can’t just fight for faith in Christ and flee the temporary, we must also fight for purity in belief and behaviour and flee impurity. Where do we find the idea of fighting for purity? Look at the imperative in verse 14, “you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul seems to be drawing upon the image used elsewhere in the New Testament about the church, Christ’s bride, being spotless and pure. In fact, Paul uses that imagery in Ephesians 5:25-27 in his letter to the very church Timothy is pastoring. However, Paul is exhorting the Ephesian church’s pastor to be pure as well. Friends, I hope to teach you more about purity and technology the last Sunday night of this month. Here is what I want you to understand for now as I quote Tim Challies, “We now have an entire generation (100% of men and 20% of women) that is addicted to porn. If you were born after 1980, you have probably been exposed to porn because we have unlimited access to unlimited amounts of pornography. It is actually far more difficult to avoid pornography than it is to find it.”[4] The only way to fight for purity is to flee from it! In the next letter Paul writes to Timothy, Paul exhorts Timothy to “flee youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22) It is almost verbatim from the last letter, but this time the exhortation is more communal. The church should be a place where you don’t think you have it all together, but can be honest about your brokenness. God will use the church to make you whole! This is why you flee impurity and run to community. You run to the church to help you with your impurity!

It reminds me of how we can either fight against each other (impurity usually leads to anger) or we can fight with each other. This past Friday the kids were off school, so I took my 3 boys to play laser tag. We started out every man for himself. We shot each other. Then we teamed up. A squad of 4 Stairs acting like elite soldiers and we started fighting back the enemy with great success. We stopped fighting against each other and starting fighting with each other. We just had to stay close to each other. I think Paul had in mind that purity was a community project. Back in 1 Timothy 6:14 he urges Timothy to “keep the commandment.” Paul doesn’t even say what commandment, but Timothy knows what Paul is talking about. The command is to love one another – the top ethic of the kingdom – Love God and people. If you love, you will not lust! How could you love the touched up picture of the naked guy or girl on the screen if you thought about how they are created in God’s image and have been deeply loved by God that He would send His Son for them and because you love Jesus, you would love them too!

Furthermore, this is all grounded in our belief about God and His Son Jesus! Jesus is going to come back! Verse 15 declares, “which He will bring about at the proper time – he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen!” A high view of God and His majesty will cause us to fight for purity in belief and behaviour and flee impurity!

And it will also lead us to fight for generosity in good works and good things while fleeing from greed! With Christ as our Master, money can become our servant! Without Christ, money will become our master! Warren Wiersbe puts it this way, “Riches can lure a person into a make-believe world of shallow pleasure. But riches plus God’s will can introduce a person to a life that is real and ministry that is lasting.”[5] The danger is that money rises up to want to be our master again! Christianity leads to economic lift! When you come to faith in Christ and realize that you work for God, you become a better employee. Usually this leads to promotion and remuneration and since you are not spending your money on yourself as much or your vices (alcohol, tobacco, lottery tickets), you have more money. Your family experiences more economic freedom, but then that affluence can lead you away from God and eventually become your downfall. Brian Chapell puts it this way, “The jaws of prosperity open wide and are ready to devour a fresh harvest of the rich.”[6] This is why Paul says in verses 17-18, “Instruct those who are rich in this present world (that is all of us here today) not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of which is life indeed.” Did you catch that last part? The Christian dream life is not more stuff here, but more stuff up there! That stuff is the relationships for all eternity with God and His people!

So we are fighting for faith, purity, and generosity while fleeing from the temporary, impurity and greed, but we still need to fight for truth in God’s Word and flee false words! God’s Word will help us guard against “worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called ‘knowledge,’ which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith.” (v. 20-21)!

What a contrast to how Jesus fought for us while fleeing heaven! We fight and flee the wrong things. As I close and head into the Lord’s Supper, I want us to think about what happened after the Last Supper. Jesus was betrayed by one of His own disciples, and when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus, another of His disciples, Peter, took out his sword and started fighting. Jesus said to Peter, “Put the sword into the sheath; the cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?” (John 18:11) Jesus would then go on trial and before Pontius Pilate make this good confession, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My Kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews, but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm…You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Do you see how Jesus defines fighting the good fight? Not fighting for the things of this world, but fighting for the people of this world! He fought for you and I! And everyone who believes truth hears His voice! If you believe truth and hear Jesus’ voice fleeing to him for salvation and fighting the good fight, you are welcome to participate in this supper remembering the cup Jesus drank for you!

[1] R. Kent Hughes & Bryan Chapell, 1-2 Timothy: To Guard the Deposit (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2012), 165.

[2] George Knight, Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Commentary, 1992), 264.

[3] Walter Liefield, The NIV Application Commentary on 1 & 2 Timothy (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 209.

[4] Tim Challies, Sexual DetoxA Guide for Guys Who Are Sick of Porn (Adelph: Cruciform Press, 2010), 10.

[5] Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary – Volume 2 (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1989), 238.

[6] Chapell, 171.


Why Do Need a Church Family?

This sermon can be watched or listened to at www.templebaptistchurch.ca!

Why do you need a Church Family? Aren’t we connected more than ever? We have Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter that can keep us constantly connected. I had one of you tell me that your friends know more about your kids than you do because they keep up with them on Facebook. So why do we need a church family? Isn’t that something of yesteryear when our parents and grandparents or great-grandparents went to church to gain a sense of community? And yet, despite a huge boost in social networking, we are more lonely than ever. I came across an article entitled “Chronic Loneliness is a Modern-Day Epidemic” that caught my attention. Did you know that loneliness has doubled since the 1980s? “Back in the 1980s, 20% of the population felt lonely, now it is 40% of the population.”[1] Do you feel lonely? What is surprising is that this article was in Fortune magazine. You would think that Fortune magazine would be concerned with helping us grow our sense of financial security, not our sense of community. Maybe they are realizing that one can be asset rich and community poor.

However, you can find a sense of community in other places. I hang out with families in our community who all have an affinity for baseball. We spend our summer travelling from town to town to watch our sons play ball. Does that provide the sense of community we need? Yes, to a degree. Maybe you have some other places you find a sense of belonging? Our family considers it a blessing to have these baseball families in our lives, but we have also found that more is needed.

I’ve even attended an NA meeting where I experienced a deep sense of community. You know, NA (Narcotics Anonymous)! You might be wondering why I was there. I was there to celebrate a friend who had stayed clean for a year! I noticed at NA how people cared for each other. They held each other accountable, calling them all the time to make sure they weren’t in trouble. They had common creeds. It was powerful. They celebrated milestones. But my friend later on went back to seeking drugs as her choice to find comfort.

You see, I am going to make the bold claim today that you can have a sense of community in other aspects of life, but what you really need is to belong to a church family. I hope that it is Temple Baptist Church, but my prayer is that you would belong to a church that believes, teaches and lives out the truths of the Bible. “You were created by God to have a sense of belonging and purpose. This is why you were born into a family.”[2] And yet, maybe our family hasn’t given us that sense of belonging and purpose to its max. Maybe we have even been rejected by our family? As Jeff Reed says, “It is not just enough to belong to a family and community – we must belong to a family and community of purpose. Life is not to be spent meaninglessly, strolling through decade after decade with no sense of purpose. This is one of the main reasons why God gave us the Church! God’s design for the local church is for it to be a family of families with strong, intergenerational roots.”[3] And I would add multi-ethnic roots. Look around at our church. What other gathering happens each week where you have people from every generation, every background, and every race who voluntarily assemble to peaceably celebrate one thing? It is the church and that one thing that we celebrate is Jesus Christ and what He has done for us!

This is why the Apostle Paul, a guy who used to hate the Church and who use to kill Christians, describes how he longed to be with his spiritual son Timothy and the church at Ephesus that Timothy pastored. They shared an uncommon commonality in Jesus Christ. Paul goes on to make some audacious statements about the church. Let’s read them in 1 Timothy 3:14-16! You will find these few short verses as very challenging. The challenge will be: do you want to belong to a church family to find your sense of belonging and purpose? Read 1 Timothy 3:14-16!

Why do you need a Church Family? You need a church family to gain a sense of eternal belonging, to have unmovable support, to know the unchanging truth and to know your undeniable Saviour. It starts with belonging. Notice how in verse 14 Paul says to them, “I hope to come to you before long.” The Apostle Paul was a single man who travelled a lot. He had a lot of knowledge being trained by the finest Jewish teachers (Gamaliel as described in Acts 22:3). Education alone won’t give you a sense of belonging. Maybe it actually causes distance between you and others as you speak too far above people or they can’t relate to things that consume your thinking? Paul also had responsibility. He founded many churches and had concern for them (2 Corinthians 11:28). Despite his education and responsibility, Paul still yearned for a personal connection. As he says in his letters to other churches, he always has this desire to see people face to face. For example in Romans 1:9-12 he says, “For God… is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you always in my prayers making requests, if perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you. For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you that you may be established; that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine.” This is a good word for the Facebook and email generation. Written communications keep us connected, but nothing beats being in someone’s presence. Facebook can’t beat face to face. Your local church provides that sense of belonging. I’ll get really practical. If you are checking us out as a church, take the risk and get to really know us up close and personal. See if we really are who we claim to be! Join a small group and find a sense of belonging. We want you to know how much you are loved by God and us! Yes, we are not perfect, but neither are you. Bring your brokenness and problems, and we will help shoulder it with you.

It is in the local church where you can know and be fully known and accepted. You need others to reveal who you really are. C.S. Lewis said it best in his book The Four Loves where he wrote an essay entitled “Friendship”: “In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets and he says this of his two closest friends. Now that Charles (Williams) is dead, I shall never again see Ronald’s reaction to a specifically Charles joke. Far from having more of Ronald, having him ‘to myself’ now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald … In this, Friendship exhibits a glorious ‘nearness by resemblance’ to heaven itself where the very multitude of the blessed (which no one can number) increases the fruition which each of us has of God. For every soul, seeing Him in his or her own way, doubtless communicates that unique vision to all the rest. That, says an old author, is why the Seraphim in Isaiah’s vision are crying, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’ to one another (Isaiah 6:3). The more we thus share the Heavenly Bread between us, the more we shall have.”[4] Tim Keller explains, “Lewis is saying it took a community to know an individual. How much more would this be true of Jesus Christ? You will never be able to know Christ that much by yourself. You must be deeply involved in the church … Only if you are part of a community of believers seeking to resemble, serve, and love Jesus will you ever get to know Him and grow into His likeness.”[5] I think of how many people in the church have shaped my life including you here today. My birthday was this week and I had 150 well wishes on Facebook from all over the world. You see, these are not just Facebook friends; they are friends. I could go many places around the world and I would be welcomed as family. Why? Because they are my brothers and sisters in Christ! As Jesus said in Matthew 19:29, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life.” You need a church family to have an eternal sense of belonging.

Being a part of a local church family in order to have an eternal sense of belonging is a slam dunk for me, but there is more. There are three more points that can be made. Not only do you need a church family to have a sense of eternal belonging, but you also need a church family because of unmovable support. Paul calls the church a pillar in verse 15. Think about a pillar. Pillars are visible, supportive and unmovable. Pillars do not exist for themselves. The church functions from generation to generation as an unmovable support. Even when certain members of the church move away or die, we can still look to the church to be an unmovable support. This is becoming more apparent to me. My parents are getting older. Some day they will go see Jesus. I am leaning on the church now and will lean on the church during their homegoing to see Jesus and the church will be there for me after they go home. It is the church that is an unmovable support. Do you recall when Hurricane Katrina hit the gulf coast in the U.S.? Government and other agencies came into provide relief. However, it was the church that kept going back year after year to rebuild. I found that in Cuba when Lori, Josiah and I visited. Hurricane Matthew devastated much of the eastern tip of the island. The government came in with instant relief efforts, but it is the church that provides ongoing and unmovable support. The Church lasts! Jesus declared in Matthew 16:18, “I will build by church and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” Despite many who have tried to wipe the Church off the face of the earth, it has prevailed! You need a church because it is an unmovable support. Long after your family and friends are gone, the church will be there for you. As Jeff Reed reminds us, “Members of the church are to treat one another as they would members of their own family.”[6] You see, God loves you and He wants to show you through His family. As Psalm 68:6, “God makes a home for the lonely!”

This leads us to the third reason why you need a church family. Not just to gain a sense of eternal belonging, not just to have unmovable support, but also because the church points us to unchanging truth. Paul calls the church in verse 15, “the pillar and support of the truth.” Martin Luther summarized this verse by saying, “The church is God’s mouth house.”[7] He meant that God and His people talk at the church. We hear God’s voice at the Church. But notice that I didn’t put the church equal with the truth. Our Roman Catholic friends put Church edicts on the same level as Scripture. But it can’t be when edicts made by leaders like Pope Leo X offered the sale of indulgences for those who gave alms to rebuild St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome in 1517. This is why 500 years ago Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the Wittenberg door of the local church and one of the main reasons why we are Protestants today. You can’t buy your way into heaven! It’s all through faith in Christ and His grace. Instead, the church is supposed to faithfully point to the unchanging truth of God’s Word and His grace! As Bryan Chapell declares, “The truth of God’s Word is the bedrock, mortar and bricks of our lives.”[8] The church acts like a gatekeeper for society. This is why the church must never lose its prophetic edge. Some compromise, but we cannot! Dietrich Bonhoeffer stood up against Hitler and the Nazi’s calling their actions evil. It was one of the reasons that cost him his life. The church must continue to speak out against evil: racism, abortion, euthanasia, discrimination against those who are different than us, bullying, human trafficking, sexual disloyalty and unfaithfulness outside of marriage. These are difficult times, but as a church we must take a lead on this front. Some of you need to be lawyers and doctors standing up for the truth.

Where does this truth lead to? It is actually very personal, not just to the victims, but to the ultimate victim Jesus Christ. He is the Creator of each human being! Of you and I! Our crimes have been great against our Creator God! And yet, because He loved us so much He came down to earth. Verse 16 calls this a mystery: “He who was revealed in the flesh, was vindicated in the Spirit, beheld by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.” Let me give you some summary words for each of Christ’s actions:

  • The Incarnation – “He was revealed in the flesh (appeared in a body)”
  • The Vindication – “was vindicated by the Spirit meaning every time He was rejected, the Holy Spirit, would display in Him the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22). Jesus was also vindicated when He rose again (c.f. Acts 2:24). You know the saying, “You can’t keep a good man down!” Jesus was truly good and innocent and His death deserved to be vindicated, which is why the resurrection is emphasized!
  • The Resurrection – “was seen by angels meaning that the angels first announced His resurrection (Mark 16:5-6). “Many times holy angels have been associated with the life and ministry of our Lord.”[9] (Hebrews 1:14; Galatians 3:19)
  • The Proclamation – “was preached among the nations(our job)
  • The Recognition – “was believed on in the world
  • The Ascension – “was taken up in glory

Do you believe in Christ and what He did for you? Do you believe He really was fully human who lived in the power of the Holy Spirit who died on a Cross for your sins, rose from the grave leaving an empty tomb, has been proclaimed to the nations and sits at the right hand of God in heaven? This is the gospel!

This is our confession. “It is the duty that man owes God!”[10] Either you deny this truth about Christ or you believe it. Have you ever really examined the truth claims of Christ? And this is why you need a church family! They will lead you to Christ. Oh, you can read the Bible for yourself and believe in Christ. You can have a vision of Christ. But God has always used a human agency called the church to disciple people and to teach them everything Jesus commanded. You need a church family!

My parents remind me of this truth. My father has been suffering with a back that has immobilized him. They actually left Florida to come home this week. When I talked to them on the phone, they were pretty discouraged, but when I started talking about church and about you, they perked up immediately. They love the Church because they get to know Christ more through it. Because of Christ, you’re family! I’m so thankful for Christ and for you!

[1] Source: http://fortune.com/2016/06/22/loneliness-is-a-modern-day-epidemic/. Accessed February 21, 2017.

[2] Jeff Reed, Belonging to a Family of Families (LearnCorp Resources, 1997), 5.

[3] Reed, 6.

[4] C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves (London: Fontanna Books, 1960), 58-59.

[5] Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God (New York: Dutton, 2008), 127.

[6] Reed, 25.

[7] I was introduced to this term in Bryan Chapell’s class lecture, Heritage Seminary, February 22, 2017. I then found a greater explanation at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mouth-house. Accessed February 25, 2017.

[8] R. Kent Hughes & Bryan Chapell, 1-2 Timothy: To Guard the Deposit (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2012), 98.

[9] Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary – Volume 2 (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1989), 224.

[10] George Knight, Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Commentary, 1992), 182.


What Do You Look for in a Leader?

This sermon can be watched or listened to at www.templebaptistchurch.ca!

“’Close the emergency doors!’ ‘They’re already closed, Sir,’ the first officer replied to the captain, whom he would have addressed as E.J. under less stressful conditions. “Send to the carpenter and tell him to sound the ship,’ responded the captain. But the carpenter had already perished in the attempt to make repairs. As the hull rapidly took on water, the instruments on the bridge clearly indicated the ship’s rapidly declining chances of survival. While the steam sirens screamed in agony, the captain barked out several orders at once: ‘Wire distress signals,’ ‘Fire the rockets in case any ship can offer assistance,’ ‘All hands on deck.’

One wonders what other thoughts and emotions stirred in his heart just then. Less than one year earlier, the aging captain had tarnished his excellent record in an embarrassing collision with the HMS Hawke. Soon thereafter, he had damaged his newly repaired ship again by sailing it over a submerged wreck. After patching up the broken propeller blade, the captain had determined to patch up his reputation to quell rumors of his deteriorating capacities. This voyage was to have done just that.

Sticking his head into the radio room, the captain directed, ‘Send the call for assistance.’ ‘What call should I send?’ the operator asked. ‘The regulation international call for help. Just that,’ came E.J.’s reply as he hurried away.

When the captain began this journey, he set a course. He set the speed. He alone was responsible for the safety of the ship and its passengers. But the course he set took his ship into peril, even though he had been warned of the danger. And the speed he set ultimately determined their fate.

Although policy clearly dictated ‘moderate speed and maximum comfort,’ the captain had treated his new charge like a sports car on a road with no speed limits. He had thought that arriving ahead of schedule would be just the trick to remove the stain from his reputation. During the most dangerous part of the journey, the confident captain had left his third-in-command on the bridge while he boasted to his dinner guests how the ship could be cut into three sections and each would float. He believed the ship to be unsinkable.

Little more than an hour after this boast, he issued his last command: ‘You have done your duty boys; now every man for himself.’ Captain Edward J. Smith perished with more than one thousand other passengers in the icy Atlantic that night. His reputation went down with the Titanic.”[1]

What a reminder from Bill Thrall in his book The Ascent of a Leader that many of us are driven by past wounds and make decisions that eventually will cause us to hit our own iceberg. The first man, Adam, hit his own type of iceberg. Like Captain Smith, Adam was enjoying luxury. Adam was in paradise, the Garden of Eden. And like Captain Smith, he abdicated his role to another, to his wife Eve. Eve was then deceived by a serpent and broke the only rule God gave Adam and Eve. And from that time on, we have always been looking for a leader who would steer us in the right direction.

What do you look for in a leader? Last week we learned from 1 Timothy 2 how important women are and their role in the church. We learned that God is restoring the creative order and defining the roles of men and women in His Kingdom. To catch up on the 1 Timothy 2, I have developed a chart that you can see on the screen behind me as well as a chart I have placed in your sermon notes on how God is restoring the creative order.

creative-order-chart

We learned that the Bible teaches “male-female partnership with male leadership.”[2] 1 Timothy 2:11 teaches, “A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness.” Therefore, women are to submit themselves to the leadership of their husbands and the elders in the church. However, that submission is first to God and husbands and elders must be demonstrating they themselves are following God. Steven Tracy teaches, “A wife must not submit to her husband when obedience to him would 1) violate a biblical principle (not just a direct biblical statement); 2) compromise her relationship with Christ; 3) violate her conscience (if not just her preference or based on self-centeredness); 4) compromise the care, nurture, and protection of her children; 5) enable (facilitate) her husband’s sin; and 6) mean that she or others will be physically, sexually or emotionally abused.”[3] Husbands are to love their wives with a self-sacrificial love. Elders/Pastors are to lay down their lives for the sheep.

And so we are going to focus on male leadership today. In other words, what is the role of men in the church? Simply, be a leader! Men, lead in your home and lead in the church! We are going to find out what the specific characteristics of a leader are from 1 Timothy 3:1-13. We are going to see how God is restoring the Creative Order for men as well. I am praying that two things happen today: First, that God would show us as a church who are our leaders. We are actually in a leadership deficit! However, I believe God cares for His Church so much. He actually has the leaders already here; we just have to find them. Therefore, at the end of the service I am going to give you time to fill out a card of the names that God brings to mind as leaders. Some questions will help us identify those who are already serving as leaders even if they don’t have the position as leader. The second thing I am praying for is that some of you men who are sitting on the sidelines would get into the game. That you would step up as leaders in your home first and church second. Maybe some of you will feel the call of God today to be a leader in the church? Maybe you have been holding back and you have not surrendered your life to Christ? Maybe you have not fully surrendered your life to serve Christ as a pastor, missionary, elder or deacon? You come see me afterwards! But let’s first read 1 Timothy 3:1-13! Read 1 Timothy 3:1-13!

We start out by reading in verse 1, “It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.” Being an overseer or elder or pastor (the words are used synonymously in the NT) is a fine work. Today, elders and pastors are not esteemed as they were once in a community. Some of that is for good reason with moral failures and abuse scandals. However, may I remind you men out there that there is nothing harder and nothing more rewarding than being a good leader in your home and a good leader in your church. Ask Ed Hodgins, a high level leader in the educational world, how hard a transition it has been to church world. God will give you a desire for this work. Yes, “church leadership can attract some people with mixed and sometimes outright sinful motives.”[4] I once had a man tell me he wanted to be an elder after his first Sunday at church. I said get to know and love the people first. He never came back. And yet God will give you a desire for the work. I love my work as a pastor. It is never boring! My wife Lori was saying to me as she was watching the recent elections in North America that I could be a good political leader. First of all, she thinks way too highly of me. Second, why would I want a demotion to become prime minister, premier or president? Leading in God’s Church is the highest calling I could ever have.

But you have to be qualified! These qualifications are listed in 1 Timothy 3:1-13! I find these qualifications very sobering. I want to briefly examine each one, but first we need to summarize the qualifications of a church leader. A church leader is a Christ-like man called by God who leads first by example and character and competently manages his family, emotions and money well. He should be able to control his anger, his tongue, his alcohol, his money and his lust. He should be a man of prayer, humble and teachable. If he is an elder he will lead through a shepherding ministry. If he is a deacon he will lead through a serving ministry. What are the qualifications of an elder?

  • “Above reproach” (blameless) – Not sinless but “there is nothing about you or your past that would be an embarrassment to the church and name of Jesus Christ.” (Dr. Dave Barker) THERE IS NO CONCERN ABOUT YOU! Some of you may be thinking, “Wow! In my old life I’ve done a few things I’m not proud of!” But have you confessed those things? Have you personally reconciled with others you have wronged? Has your reputation been irreparably been damaged from your past? These are questions you need to ask yourself.
  • “The husband of one wife” – a one-woman type man, whose eyes are only for his wife. No creepers!
  • “temperate” – careful and balanced; Warren Wiersbe says, “Short tempers do not make for long ministries.”[5]
  • “self-controlled” (prudent) – “with mind” = using your head (cf. 2 Timothy 4:5)
  • “respectable” – orderly
  • “hospitable” – has a love of strangers, the word is used of opening their home to travellers, not just someone who holds tea parties. Elders must love the outsider!
  • “able to teach” – not necessarily a preacher, but one who can explain the doctrines of the faith to others.
  • “not addicted to wine”“wine is not always around them”; they don’t turn to substances for comfort or satisfaction
  • “not pugnacious” – not a brawler, argumentative, a quarreler (c.f. 2 Timothy 2:24-26) “An elder must listen to people and be able to take criticism without reacting.”[6] (Warren Wiersbe)
  • “gentle” – “Gentleness is the Elder’s normal style!”[7]
  • “peace-loving” – seeks reconciliation
  • “free from the love of money” – This is very dangerous because one can’t serve both money and God as Jesus taught in Matthew 6:24. However, many times we look for a successful businessman to become a leader in the church. Kent Hughes puts it this way, “If a man is drunk on wine, you’ll throw him out. But if he is drunk on money, you’ll make him a deacon.”[8]
  • “manages his household well, including his children under control with all dignity” – “to stand in front of to protect.” “The children must reflect the character of their father’s leadership.”[9] (George Knight) “If a man’s own children cannot obey and respect him, then his church is not likely to obey and respect his church leadership.”[10] (Warren Wiersbe)
  • “not a new convert” – In order to not fall into the snare of the devil, you must not be a recent outsider or have a bad reputation with outsiders.
  • “a good reputation with outsiders” – This evidences a consistently both inside and outside of the church.

 

In regard to deacon qualifications, they are the same as the elders “except for the omissions of ‘able to teach,’ ‘gentle’ and ‘not contentious in interpersonal relationships.’”[11] And of course, we want deacons to be gentle and not contentious. Why are these two qualifications missing? Probably it goes to the function of a deacon. Deacons are never said in the Scriptures to rule or govern. It is when one is governing that they need to be reminded to be gentle and not contentious. 1 Peter 5:3 commands elders not to lord it over their flock. A deacon is to be a servant. “There is nothing self-promoting in the word deacon.”[12]

Verse 11 is also controversial whether it describes deacon wives or deaconesses. You will see this in the margins of your Bibles for this word “deaconess,” especially if deacons are non-governing leaders taking authority over the church. We know that by 110 AD that churches along the Black Sea had deaconesses. How? The earliest extant Roman document regarding Christianity, a letter from Pliny to Emperor Trajan, describes Pliny torturing deaconesses.[13] It was recognized that women assist men in the leadership of the church and this is why I women are “to be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate and faithful in all things.” Oh how many times have I seen men who miss out on being a leader because their wives disqualify them. A ministry wife can destroy a man’s ministry with their attitude and how they treat people. “An elder or deacon must have a wife who has a respectability that matches his own.”[14]

Now this list is sobering. Who is qualified? Actually we all should be! When you look at this list, would you say that only leaders in the church should have these qualifications or should all members have these character qualities? Return to the definition: A church leader is a Christ-like… Notice that it is Christ that enables us through His Holy Spirit to have and display these godly characteristics.

I fear some of you are sitting on the sidelines because you don’t think you measure up. Who does? Christ does! And He’s in you! Furthermore, some of you are on the sidelines because you or your family have been burnt in the past. It would be wrong for me to tell you that becoming a leader won’t be hard and you won’t suffer. Paul told Timothy in another letter, “Indeed, all you desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12) I could inspire you with stories from my own life as pastor’s kid with how God helped me when my father was attacked by those in the church. But the ultimate reason why you need to step up and lead in your home and in the church is because Christ did so for you. Can you imagine if Christ would have stopped when He was maligned and rejected by the chief priests and elders of Israel? When His brothers rejected Him? When those He loved yelled, ‘Crucify Him!’ Yet, Christ led by dying on a Cross for you! Men, that’s why we lead! I am wondering no matter your age if some of you would dare to stand up and say I want to lead like Christ did for me. I want to lead God’s family. I want to lead in my youth group! I want to lead in my family! Because Christ did! Stand up! Afterwards I want you to come up and talk to me.

For the rest of us, we believe that “elders and deacons should be elders and deacons before they are named elders and deacons.”[15] When you are selected as an elder and deacon, you already have been one in function for a while. You should be a person who is leading and serving whether you have an official title or not. This is important because as my grandfather used to say, “Some people grow when you give them responsibility, most just swell.” Now we need your help. We want to be a church that trains and raises up leaders for God’s Kingdom. We don’t want to sink the ship because men were busy with the luxuries of life that last for a couple of hours, when many are speeding to death and eternity without Christ.

List all the names of men (young and old) at Temple[16]:

1)    Who you respect enough to follow as an Elder? 

2)    From whom you have learned the Word of God?  

3)    Who you would go to if you needed counseling in your spiritual life?

4)    Who you would seek out help with a physical need?

 

Some of these men may not be ready to lead yet, but we will watch and mentor those you identify. As you leave today, please hand the cards to our ushers. Let’s conclude by praying for God to raise up Christ-like leaders!

[1] Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol & Ken McElrath, The Ascent of a Leader (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1999), 8-9.

[2] Andreas J. & Margaret E. Kostenberger, God’s Design for Man and Woman (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2014), 20.

[3] Steven R. Tracy, “What Does ‘Submit in Everything’ Really Men? The Nature and Scope of Marital Submission,” Trinity Journal 29NS (2008): 267-312.

[4] R. Kent Hughes & Bryan Chapell, 1-2 Timothy: To Guard the Deposit (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2012), 77.

[5] Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary – Volume 2 (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1989), 221.

[6] Wiersbe, 220.

[7] Hughes & Chapell, 82.

[8] Hughes & Chapell, 82.

[9] George Knight, Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Commentary, 1992), 161.

[10] Wiersbe, 222.

[11] Knight, 167.

[12] Hughes and Chapell, 87.

[13] Robert J. Morgan, On This Day, “This Superstition…” – January 25 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1997).

[14] Hughes and Chapell, 90.

[15] Walter Liefeld, The NIV Application Commentary Series on 1 & 2 Timothy, and Titus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 139.

[16] Questions adapted from Walter Liefeld, The NIV Application Commentary Series on 1 & 2 Timothy, and Titus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 127.

 


God Can Turn Your Bad Into Good

This sermon can be watched or listened to at www.templebaptistchurch.ca!

What is God doing with the bad things in your life? Anybody have any bad stuff in their life right now? Maybe you have a disease. I spent time at McMaster Children’s Hospital in Hamilton this past Monday meeting with a surgeon to consult about my daughter’s gallbladder that has left her in chronic pain after every meal she has eaten for nearly four months. Nevertheless, I wondered as I sat in the waiting area about all the other children there who might be experiencing more life-threatening situations: what is God doing with the bad stuff in your life? Your hurts? Your pains? Your trials?

What is God doing with the bad stuff in your life? Some of you think God is ignoring it. May I remind you that God never ignores or excuses sin – sin done by you and sin done to you. There will be justice! We know from Galatians 6:7, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” You may think you are getting away with things, but God is showing mitigated mercy to bring you to repentance. He is long-suffering with our sin so that we will return to Him, but God never ignores sin.

Others of you think that God caused the bad stuff in your life. You think that God should have stopped your loved one’s death. You wonder why God isn’t giving you a job or a spouse. You wonder why you were born into the family you were born into. Does God really know what He is doing? I believe today’s sermon will help to answer that question. You see, we are concluding our series in the Book of Genesis. We started out with how God made this universe incredibly good and we humans turned it into bad by wanting to do what we wanted to do. Like what I heard this week when my kids came home from school after the first snowfall and informed that the school is not allowing any student to pick up snow this year. That saddened me! One of the things that helps overcome the cold for us Canadians is that we get to play in the snow, but schools are now invoking no snow-touching rules. How great a temptation is that? I guess one too many snow balls and ice balls have been thrown and too many tears over destroyed snow forts. God made snow fun and good (for the most part); we humans make it bad. It has been said, “The fool looks at what is good and sees it as bad.”[1] Our need for control destroys life! Paul Tripp reminds us, “Children come into the world as self-appointed little sovereigns. It is stunning to see the body of a child who is not yet able to talk stiffen in anger, not only because she is not getting her way, but because she already believes that it’s her right to have her own way.”[2] Adam and Eve were to give dominion over the earth as they fell under the dominion of God. Since then, we still want to reign, but without God as the Supreme Ruler. “You see, a desire for even a good thing really does become a bad thing when it becomes a ruling thing.”[3] This is at the core of our hearts – rebellion – and explains it all the trouble, addiction, strife, shame, guilt, greed, lust and hate in this world.

Sadly, our rebellion has tainted all of creation. We have seen time and time again through the life of Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph how deeply we want to take our own path and yet, God somehow keeps His promises and plan on track. This is the great truth for us today! It can be found in the last chapter of Genesis – Genesis 50! We are going to learn from this passage that God can turn our bad into good! In fact, He is an expert at turning bad into good. Theologians call it redemption. I call it rescue because I, like you, have bad stuff in my life that I desperately need God to make good. You may wonder what it is? Well, I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours! Or better yet, let’s confess our sins to God and let Him turn our bad into good.

My confession is that I have been redlining it. God was so gracious to give me an object lesson about what is going on in my soul. A couple of Saturdays ago, we went as a family to cut down a Christmas tree. Anybody else cut your own Christmas tree as a family tradition? We decided to take my wife’s old van since it was dirty and the needles from the tree would further dirty it! We would then clean it afterward. As we drove out into the country south of town, we noticed that the thermometer gage on the van was starting to rapidly go up to the red zone. We pulled over and let the engine cool down. I started it back up and we were able to make it to the Christmas tree farm. Then we started back home. The engine redlined again. I pulled over. It cooled down so I could go a little further. Then when I pulled over one more time, it wouldn’t start – Lori’s van had died. We got a tow to the garage. A few days later, the mechanic called us to show us how the engine had overheated due to a catastrophic loss of coolant. The lines and engines were all rusted and seized up. It was a reminder that I had been redlining it in my personal life. I had overcommitted and tried to be God by fixing everybody’s problem. I forgot to pray the prayer, “Release me from craving to straighten out everybody’s affairs.”[4] I had turned the good God gave me into something bad.

Here is the good news: God can turn our bad into good! As Charles Spurgeon said, “When we can’t trace God’s hand, we can trust His heart!” Let’s find out how to trust God’s heart from Genesis 50! Read Genesis 50!

There are many ways God can turn our bad into good, but three are found in Genesis 50: 1) God can turn our strife into unity! 2) God can turn our guilt into grace! And 3) God can turn our grief into hope! Let’s unpack further these three ways God can turn our bad into good starting with turning strife into unity. Jacob’s family can be summed up in one word: dysfunctional. You have a father who had four wives, of which only one he loved. That wife stole idols from her own father and lied about it. You have the wives buying and trading conjugal rights to their husband. You have one son who loved to flaunt that he was the favourite of his father. This ended up causing his brothers to be jealous and actually sell him into slavery all the while making up a lie that he was killed by wild animals in order to explain their brother’s disappearance to their father. You have another son who slept with essentially his step-mother – his father’s wife. You have a daughter who was raped and her two brothers take revenge by killing a whole town for the rape. Their sense of justice was exaggerated as ours often is too. So it’s no wonder why this family was divided and full of strife. Now, I realize that some of you come from dysfunctional families, but Jacob’s family would have been a huge money-maker for therapy sessions by the psychologists. And yet, what do we see God doing? Well, this family that was separated by grief, greed and geography for a long time, was brought together by God. God turned their strife into unity. “At the end of Jacob’s life, his sons are united in faith in God’s good sovereignty and in His promises for the holy land.”[5] Genesis 44-49 describe how the family is reunited and Jacob calls his sons to remember the promises of God. Now if God can reunite a family like Jacob’s, could He not your family? Could God not turn your family full of strife into a family full of unity? I believe He can! He can reconcile the “irreconcilable.” I have said this before, but my former Senior Pastor Rick Baker said something many years ago that stuck with me, “There can never be irreconcilable differences between believers in light of the gospel.” A great example is “First Baptist Church and First Baptist Church in Christ in Macon, Georgia. The churches have been around the corner from each other since 1887! At one time, there was only one First Baptist Church in Macon, a church made up of whites and their black slaves that outnumbered the whites two to one. There has been much animosity between the two churches for years until a shooter killed nine black church members in Charleston, South Carolina last year. The two pastors from the churches in Macon, Georgia decided to get together and out of that relationship formed a dialogue between the churches. The two churches even sat down to a big meal before Thanksgiving and took time to share and listen to each other’s stories.”[6] Do you see how what was once bad God can turn to good? God turns evil into good!

God can turn strife into unity, but He can also turn guilt into grace. After Jacob dies and is buried, things from the past start to surface, which is often the case. Families often come together one last time to remember their loved one and this can force a long-coming collision. In the case of Jacob’s sons, we read in Genesis 50:15-17, “When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, ‘What if Joseph bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong which we did to him!’ So they sent a message to Joseph saying, ‘Your father charged before he died, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to Joseph, ‘Please forgive, I beg you, the transgression of your brothers and their sin, for they did you wrong.’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” The brothers were still full of guilt for selling their brother Joseph into slavery and they also knew that Joseph being the Prime Minister of Egypt put them in a precarious situation if Joseph sought revenge without the buffer of their father. So the brothers use the favourite trick from their family’s playbook – they lie! At least it appears to be a lie because there is no record in Scripture of Jacob telling Joseph to forgive his brothers.

Furthermore, the brothers invoke the name of God when they say in verse 17, “Please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Notice, “Their appeal is not to bloodlines, but to spiritual roots and relationships. Joseph would certainly not recriminate against some fellow believers, those who worship the God of Jacob.”[7] Obviously, the brothers still needed some work if they were using lies, but what they had right was that they appealed to God. They called themselves servants of God! Friends, you might not have it altogether, but I challenge you to make your appeal to God. For God’s sake, seek forgiveness and reconciliation. It is a ripple effect of the Cross. I know that forgiveness is not one time. Forgiveness often requires a rerun! You have to forgive numerous times! This is why Jesus told us to forgive our brothers seventy times seven! (Matthew 18:22) Any person married longer than a week knows how seeking and granting forgiveness is almost a daily exercise!

I love how Joseph responds to the brothers’ guilt! “Joseph, on his part, refuses to play God and assumes then that retaliation has no place in a situation where God transformed their evil to bring about so much good.”[8] Check out Genesis 50:19-20, “Joseph said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place?’ ‘As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.’” This may be the key verse of the book and possibly the whole Bible. We humans have either intentionally or unintentionally acted in evil ways, but God has meant it for good! God has redeemed our bad and made it for His good by preserving many people to life through His Son Jesus Christ! God can turn our guilt into grace! To be a follower of Christ who enjoys His grace, you have to show grace to others as well! Grace is the value of God’s family!

God turns our bad into good, our strife into unity, our guilt into grace and our grief into hope! We see this most evident in the death of Joseph! As Joseph was about to die, he gathers his brothers (the same ones he forgave) and gives them his final words, “’I am about to die, but God will surely take care of you and bring you up from this land to the land which He promises on oath to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.’ Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, ‘God will surely take care of you, and you shall carry my bones up from here.’” (Genesis 50:24-25) Egypt had become a place of prosperity for Joseph. It was a rags to riches story for Joseph in Egypt. Imagine going from prisoner to prime minster. And yet Joseph would rather be buried in the future Promised Land than to have a pyramid built for him! He wanted the brothers who sent him to Egypt to take him out of Egypt! Why? Because his burial was an act of faith in the promise of God and a future resurrection! Do we want a memorial on earth or a mansion in heaven? This is a great diagnostic question about whether we are storing treasure on earth or in heaven.

You see, probably the worst evil, the one that causes the most fear, is death and this is why we cling to the things on this earth. And yet, only God can turn our grief into hope! And we know this best because of what happened to Jesus. 2000 years ago, God sent His Son Jesus to earth in the form of a little baby. From the earliest of moments, Jesus experienced strife and there was an attempt on His life as a toddler, which provides comfort for all you who had violence in your home as children. Like Jacob’s family, Jesus had to flee to Egypt for relief. However, despite being mistreated and threatened, Jesus did not respond with either retaliation or even in a hard heart of unforgiveness. He actually took on our guilt so that we could receive God’s grace. 1 Peter 3:18 declares, “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.” That verse proclaims not only that God used Jesus to turn our guilt into grace, but also our strife into unity with God. And God also turned our grief over death into hope. You see, “the cross was the worst thing that has ever happened, but by God’s plan, it became the best thing that ever happened.”[9] At the Cross, God turned the ultimate bad, the death of His innocent Son, into the ultimate good.

And this is what the Communion table is all about. God has once again turned bad into good. Our first sin as humans was to eat the forbidden fruit. It broke fellowship with God. And this is why it is so incredible on the night Jesus was betrayed, he took food and created fellowship with us. God turned separation into fellowship. This offer for fellowship is for you today. All you and I have to do is declare that we were bad, but because of Jesus, God has made us good. Is that how you see yourselves? Is that what you believe? Do you believe God can turn your bad into good through Christ? If so, you are welcome to participate in Communion today. If not and you are still thinking you are good enough or maybe too bad to be turned good, please pass the bread and cup on by and think about the Cross. We will pass out the elements and all take them together as we embrace the liberating truth that God can turn our bad into good.

[1] Paul Tripp, Parenting – 14 Gospel Principles that Can Radically Change Your Family (Wheaton: Crossway, 2016), 130.

[2] Tripp, 113.

[3] Tripp, 143.

[4] David Jeremiah, Discovering God (Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers, 2015), 362.

[5] Bruce Waltke, Genesis – A Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), 617.

[6] Source: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/a-more-perfect-union-georgia-churches-bridging-racial-divide-history/. Accessed December 5, 2016.

[7] Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis (Chapters 18-50)NICOT (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1995), 704.

[8] Waltke, 617.

[9] Tripp, 119.