Thursday, April 25, 2013

Son of Man, Son of David

A couple of very interesting finds in my Bible reading today in 2 Sam.15.

Absalom has hatched his plot and David is fleeing from the city. In his flight, Ittai, the Gittite, comes to him seeking to travel with David. David responds, "Go back and take your brothers with you and may the Lord show steadfast love and faithfulness to you." Ittai says, "As the Lord lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king shall be, whether for death or for life, there also will your servant be."

Compare this to Luke 9-9:57-62 And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.  58 And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. 59 And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.  60 Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. 61 And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house.  62 And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.

Jesus directly identifies with David as the promised heir of the eternal throne of David.

Right after this, David, who now has nowhere to lay his head, goes up the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went, barefoot and with his head covered. He was in a great passion.

The Garden of Gethsemane is on the Mount of Olives. Of course, this is where Jesus was in deep turmoil, as He was being betrayed and essentially cast out of Jerusalem, even as His father, David, was.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Thank God for His Goodness

None is perfectly good, but God alone. We acknowledge that truth here, honoring the perfect Lord Jesus who returned good for evil, laying down His life for those who rejected Him and deserted Him. His goodness led many of them to see their own evil, turn from it and turn to Christ.
         At this meal, we see God’s goodness to us. As a human race, we could not save ourselves but needed God to come to us as a man and redeem man, making him new, making evil man good. And this did not happen to all mankind at once but it is happening man by man, woman by woman, child by child as those who see God’s goodness respond to Him in faith and love.
         In this meal we profess our faith in Christ, trusting Him for our redemption and He holds out His promises, His goodness to us, granting us His promises and making us good in His presence. Our response is thankfulness.

Be Good

Being good is something that we are called to be. It may be difficult for us to say this. After all, didn’t Jesus say, No one is good but God alone? Yes, He did and then he calls us to be good. We are to love life and see good days by being good. So, it is clearly a matter of degree. We cannot be purely good because there is only One who is all good and never does evil and that is God alone. But we are called to be like God, discerning good and evil and then choosing good and rejecting evil.
         Furthermore, this is another fruit of the Spirit. The Spirit, Himself, teaches us what is good and calls us to learn what is good. Of course, God is good and the Lord Jesus is the One good man. If we are to be good, we must learn to be like Jesus. Of His good nature, He naturally discerned the good and the evil and was able to recognize those qualities in others. We are not quite so discerning but should be gaining a love for goodness such that it is becoming our natural bent as we love good and turn away from evil. This is, in fact, what happens to those who are filled with God’s Spirit and we must continue to walk in God’s Spirit on the paths of goodness. To the extent that we have strayed from this good path, we must repent and return.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Already, Not Yet

Already, Not Yet is a common theme in the Scriptures. We are new creatures in Christ and yet not fully made new. We still struggle in a fallen body but the Spirit gives life to our mortal bodies. The Lord has made us joint-heirs with Christ but we have not yet received the promise, the Resurrection of the Body.

As we have been making our way through the fruit of the Spirit, this theme again takes hold. We have the Spirit now and therefore we have the fruit that the Spirit brings into our lives, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. We do, in fact, possess all of these things. Maybe possess is not exactly the right word.  Possess seems to fit for joy and peace but love and kindness are more things that we do. But we understand that these things are a part of our lives. God has worked them into us and we are working them out in our lives before the Lord.

But there is this stark awareness that the fruits of the Spirit are not fully mature in us. We love God and love our neighbor but we are aware of our shortcomings in our devotion to God and service to our neighbor. We have love, already, but it is not yet mature.

This is equally true for the other manifestations of the Spirit. So, we have to keep both what we do have, and what we do not have, in perspective. And keeping both in perspective forces us to rely on Christ, our Savior at every step.

What we do have is God’s promise to us that if we have the Spirit, and thus, we also have the fruit of the Spirit. We do love, for God has manifested His love in us and given us the Spirit of love that we might love others. If our love seems weak, then we look to God’s promise of His Spirit to trust Him that He is, indeed, at work in our lives. If our love seems strong, we need not look too far to realize that we have not yet matured to the point of laying down our lives for the brethren. This keeps us from growing conceited in our obedience and again causes us to look to Jesus to get perspective of where we are in the faith.

So, whether we do well or do poorly, our response is to look to Jesus until we can more accurately walk in the fruit of the Spirit, doing those things God has called us to do in Christ. Looking to Jesus also keeps us from getting carried away with ourselves, thinking we have arrived, when we clearly still have a long way to go.

So, we have the fruit of the Spirit, the promise of even better things to come, and this is a comfort and encouragement to us. But God is not finished with us. He is working out of us all the glory that He has worked into us and one day, when we are actually risen with Jesus in our Resurrected Bodies, we will possess the mature fruit and all the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control that goes along with it.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

God's Kindness

We have been talking about kindness today, realizing how important it is for us to learn and practice kindness. The Table of the Lord is the place to begin to understand God’s kindness to us.
The Scriptures say that His kindness leads us to repentance. God is kind to us. He shows us His love and waits for us to respond to Him appropriately. What greater love has God shown for us in that He sent His only Son to die for our sins? Furthermore, He offers the broken body and shed blood of Christ to us to heal our bodies and to forgive us our sins. And then He raises us in new life in the risen Lord Jesus to be seated with Christ in the Heavenly places. This is all God’s favor, His grace, His kindness. We see it and receive it here at this Table.

Learning to Be Kind

When we think of being kind, we may tend to think of it as an add-on virtue, something that is good but not necessary. We all know people who seem successful at what they do that do not show a great deal of kindness. But being kind is not an add-on virtue, one that is optional. It is another fruit of the Spirit that is fundamental to our lives as Christians.
         Acts of kindness flow from the internal belief, the dogma, of thinking of others more highly than you think of yourself. If you really do not think of others more highly than you think of yourself, you will, not only, not be kind but you have begun to travel down the road of self-indulgence that eventually leads to self-deception in deceitful lusts. Keep in mind, I am not talking about just treating others as if they were more important than you. I am talking about what you think inside your head, what thoughts are generated in your heart of hearts about others? Until you get your thinking straight, your actions will not consistently follow.
         Being kind flows from the idea that you are trying to improve the lives of others. In kindness, your thoughts, words and actions are all conspiring to this end. A failure to think this way always puts yourself at the top of the who’s most important list. But when you put others at the top of that list, it dramatically changes the way that you behave, think, speak and act. You get out of serving only self and begin to serve others in the right way.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Growing Up in Faith

Patience is a virtue that we sometimes feel is lacking in our lives. Even in Communion, we see how the immature are impatient, as our little ones clamor for the bread and for the wine, not wanting to wait to partake with the rest of the body. But we are like that. We sometimes do not think of others but only of ourselves, like a little toddler who just does not know any better. This is one reason why it is so beautiful that we all partake together with our little ones. We get to see what it means to grow up into Christ, to learn to defer to one another, to overlook our immaturities and shortcomings, to look around and be glad that we, and some of the others, are growing up, learning to wait, thinking of others more highly than ourselves.
         Essentially, that is what Communion is, learning to be like Jesus, the One who was the ultimate example of thinking of others more highly than Himself. He waited upon His disciples patiently, although, at times, upbraiding them for their unbelief when they should have known better, exhorting them to grow up in their faith. But He patiently taught them and was willing to give Himself wholly to and for them, waiting for them to grow up in the faith. We, too, must grow up in our faith, believing all that God has done through the crucified, resurrected, ascended and ruling Lord Jesus Christ.

Sin of Impatience

Today, we look at patience as a spiritual fruit. This means that patience must necessarily be a part of the life of the believer.  Patience is revealed in us as we wait upon others. Patience is also manifested as endurance, what we might call perseverance. We must be patient in both of these ways.
         In this exhortation, I would like us to think about the patience or lack of patience that we show with others. In an earlier sermon, we saw that patience is a direct application of love. Love is patient. And, now we see that patience is also an expectation of all who call themselves Christian.
         Are you patient? Are you willing to wait upon the Lord as He teaches others what you already know? Or, do you get impatient with them, revealing your impatience with the Lord? Are you patient with your spouse as you realize that you do not see things the same way? Do you try to enter into her world and understand where she is coming from? Are you patient with your boss when he does not seem to fully understand the situation you are in? Are you patient with those who report to you as they must learn all the things you learned long ago? Are you patient with your children as they try to grow up but constantly make childish mistakes? Children, are you patient with your friends and siblings, or do you get easily bothered by them?
         It is a lack of love that lashes out, gets frustrated, is irritated and constantly reveals impatience. So, we must confess our impatience as sin and ask God to teach us how to love, thus revealing this fruit of the Spirit called patience.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Death AND Resurrection

The disciples recognized Jesus in the breaking of bread. We, too, recognize Jesus in the breaking of bread. He was broken for us. His blood was spilled out. He gave all of Himself to us so that He would be in us and we would be in Him. In addition to this, we all partake of one loaf, thus we are one with one another.
         This is another of those seeming paradoxes of our faith. This brokenness of the loaf is of the essence of the unity of the faith. We can only be one if we come from the One, the Lord Jesus and if we all partake of the One signifying our unity around the broken body of Jesus and the shed blood of Christ. We all drink of it. We are all one through suffering, death, brokenness and blood. This is what it means to gain the victory through the cross of Jesus.
But it is not just cross. Today, we also celebrate Resurrection. We do not only partake in His death but we also partake in the risen loaf, the risen Jesus, the One who was dead and who is now alive. So, the loaf now signifies the Resurrection life of Jesus, which we have partially entered into even now and we have the hope that one day we will also be raised in our bodies, having put on immortality, that we will live and reign with Jesus, world without end. Amen.

Easter Exhortation- Believe

Today is Resurrection Day, the most glorious of Christian holidays. We last met on Friday, remembering the Lord’s death on the cross. But we knew that Sunday was coming when we would also remember His victory over the gruesome death of crucifixion. We now see the vindication of God over the enemies of Christ and the hope of our own victory over sin and death. Today is the day that the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.
         All of the disciples failed to look forward to the Resurrection of Jesus. They could not comprehend either that He would die in Jerusalem or that He would be raised from the dead. They missed them both. But even after the cross, they did not look towards the Resurrection. And even after the Resurrection, even after the empty tomb, they still were slow to believe that Jesus had actually risen and defeated death. They even failed to believe the witnesses that these things were true.
         Let us not be unbelieving but believing. Let us look to the empty tomb with joy in our hearts and hope for our future. Jesus is risen, indeed, and this changes everything about what we will face in our future and how we will gain the victory that is ours through our risen Jesus.