Skip to content

Tag: sacrifice

Contrasting a “Me-Centered” Society

If you’ve ever read through the Gospel of Matthew, you’ve probably noticed that Jesus talks a lot about the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven. I believe it’s about 55 times in Matthew – 126 times throughout all four Gospels – that Jesus talks about this kingdom. He tells all kinds of parables and gives all kinds of illustrations to help us understand what the Kingdom of God is like. And of course, Jesus isn’t talking about a kingdom with physical borders and castles and armies and things like that. The kingdom of God is a different kind of kingdom. In fact, when Jesus was on trial before the Roman governor, Pilate, Pilate asks him, “Are you a king?” And Jesus says in John 18:36…

36 Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.” John 18:36

Jesus was saying his kingdom was very different from the kingdom of Rome or any other kingdom that we might be familiar with. You see, unlike most kingdoms, the Kingdom of God is not centered around some physical location like a city or a castle or a country. The Kingdom of God is centered around God. And God of course is not limited by location – he’s omni-present. He’s present everywhere all the time. So God’s kingdom is not defined by a physical location, but it’s defined by the people who carry out the will of their king.

Two weeks ago we looked at the Lord’s prayer and there’s a key part of that prayer – one that you’re probably familiar with – which goes like this: 

“Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:10 KJV

We talked about how, when we pray that, we are inviting God’s will as King to be done on earth and in our lives and in our community – just as his will is being carried out in heaven. 

And so when Jesus is talking about the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven – he’s talking about the people who submit to and carry out the will of God in their lives.

And it makes sense that we should pray that prayer – “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” – We should be eager to carry out God’s will because we know that God’s will is good and pleasing and perfect. We read that from Romans 12:2 three weeks ago:

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2

Our will is often flawed. I can’t speak for you, but I know that my will is often selfish and sometimes I make decisions that hurt others or even myself. We are not perfect people and we do not make perfect decisions.

But God is perfect. And his will is perfect. It’s good and it’s pleasing. We don’t always understand it. We don’t always see the good immediately. But if God really is how the Bible describes Him – loving, just, faithful, and all those other things – then we can trust that his will is good and pleasing and perfect.

And I’ve certainly seen that to be true in my life. I’ve had a lot of regrets doing things my way, but I’ve never regretted doing things God’s way.

But that’s sure not to say that it’s been easy. Doing things God’s way often means doing things the exact opposite of what everyone else is doing. We’ve talked about how the Kingdom of God is very different from the Kingdom of this world. In fact, that’s probably why Jesus talked about it so often. If we are going to live in the kingdom of God, then we need to be prepared to live very differently – different from how we used to live – different from how the world around us lives.

And so that’s what we’ve been talking about for the last few weeks as we’ve been going through this message series – which we’ve titled “Kingdom Living”.

What is God’s will for us in how we should live? If Jesus is our King and His will is good and pleasing and perfect, it would seem to me that we would want his will to be done on earth and in our lives and in our community – just as it is in heaven. And if so, then what is that good and pleasing and perfect will for us? How does He want us to live? What does Kingdom Living look like?

Leave a Comment

The Substitute

For the past two weeks we’ve been theming our messages around the phrase – “No Pain – No Gain” as we try to understand why Easter matters. I think most of us get it, that Easter is not just about bunnies and chocolate eggs and such, but rather it’s a remembrance and a celebration that Jesus Christ died and rose again to life. That part is pretty well understood I think – especially if you’ve had any connection with church for any length of time.

But what might not be so universally understood is why that matters. Why is it important to you and I,  that some 2000 years ago, a man named Jesus died and came back to life again? What difference does it make in your life today?

That’s what we’ve been trying to wrap out heads around in this series – No Pain, No Gain – Why Easter Matters.

And I think we’re starting to get an idea of the gain side of the equation. In our first message, we identified that one thing that everyone of us wants – but very few of us find. And that is complete and lasting satisfaction.

We can certainly be satisfied for a few moments here and there. There is an element of satisfaction in many pursuits in life – from accomplishing great things, or having fun and exciting experiences, enjoying great food and great friends – these all give us a sense of satisfaction. But nothing is lasting. The satisfaction we do get quickly fades away and we’re forced to chase after something else – something more.

It’s like no matter how wonderful the meal is – we find we’re always hungry the next day. But what if we could find true, lasting satisfaction? Satisfaction that didn’t fade away. What if we could live in a state of being fully, completely satisfied in life?

Well, we discovered last week, that that’s exactly how God intended us to live. When God created Adam & Eve – he created them to live fully satisfied lives. He provided for their every need – both their physical needs as well as their spiritual and emotional needs. And for a time, Adam & Eve enjoyed the most satisfying life you can imagine.

Table of contents for No Pain, No Gain - Why Easter Matters

  1. Finding Satisfaction
  2. The Origin of Death
  3. The Substitute
Leave a Comment

The Substitute

Listen to this Sermon!Last week we began a new Easter sermon series entitled “No Pain – No Gain: Why Easter Matters”. And we started off illustrating the principle of no pain – no gain as we talked about how our muscles grow. We had Morgan up here straining his muscles as we talked about how it takes the pain of tearing the muscle fibers in our bodies order for our bodies to repair the damage and make the even muscles stronger than they were before.

In fact I was reading last week that when you are born, you already have all the muscles that you will ever have. The big bulging biceps you have now are a result of that little baby’s muscle being damaged and repaired, damaged and repaired, time and time again. Without the pain of damaging those muscles, you would have no gain in strength. You’d still be as weak as you were when you were a baby. No pain – no gain.

But our purpose wasn’t to talk about body-building. There is a spiritual truth that we wanted to discover. The gain that we are after is not muscles, but rather that inner satisfaction in life that seems so elusive for so many of us.

We talked about how Solomon tried to find satisfaction in all kinds of ways. He looked for satisfaction in wealth, power, hard work, women, pleasure – but it found it all to be meaningless. Nothing gave him true satisfaction.

And we discovered that the reason for this is that God has created each of us with a deep inner longing to be connected with our Creator. Every person on earth has this inner feeling that something is missing in their life. And all of us try to find that missing thing just like Solomon did. But, like the Rolling Stones lament, we can’t get no satisfaction. Because true satisfaction is only found when we are connected with our Creator – when we have a genuine relationship with Him. That’s when we find satisfaction.

Unfortunately, this one thing that is worth gaining is effectively keep from us by sin. We talked about how Adam & Eve – though they were once fully satisfied in their connection with each other and with God – they sinned. And the immediate consequences of their sin was separation. Separation from God and and from each other. Because that’s the nature of sin. It separates. It creates distance between. It severs our relationships.

And because all of us have sin in our life – we are all missing the one thing that we were created for – we’re missing that connection, that relationship, with our Creator. We’re missing the one thing that can bring us true satisfaction.

So what do we do? Is there any way to gain that connection, that relationship, that satisfaction that we so desperately long for? There is, and that’s what we’re going to look at today.

Table of contents for No Pain, No Gain

  1. Chasing Satisfaction
  2. The Substitute
Leave a Comment

Serve Like Jesus

We talked last week about how Jesus ate meals with tax collectors and other disreputable sinners – the lowest of the low – because by simply eating with those people, He was letting them know that they were important to him. The fact of the matter is – God loves sinners. Which is good – because all of us are sinners. If you ate with anyone last week, you ate with a disreputable sinner. Even if you ate alone, you ate with a disreputable sinner.

But that’s ok – because God loves, forgives, and accepts sinners.

And we were talking about eating last week, because we’ve been going through the acronym BLESS. This acronym has been teaching us how we can use our blessings so that we can be a blessing to the people around us.

We started with the B – Begin with prayer. It’s a simple prayer: “Here I am. Send me. Allow me to use my blessings to meet someone else’s need today.”

Then the L stood for Listen. If we want to bless the people around us, we have to actually listen to them – learning what their needs truly are – and we need to listen to the Holy Spirit as He prompts and nudges on our divine appointments.

The E, of course stood for eat. Eating with people is a universal way of letting them know that they are important to us and that we want them to be a part of our lives. This is also a great opportunity for us to practice listening to them – getting to know them and discovering their needs.

And now today, we get to our first S. And this S might not be quite as enjoyable as the E, not as simple as the L, nor as easy as the B. However, this S together with the next S could very well be the most powerful tools we have in bringing people to receive the greatest blessing – that is, their own personal relationship with God.

The first S in our BLESS acronym stands for serve. Now this one out of all our five lessons seems to be the most logical. It just makes sense that if we want to be a blessing to the people in our community, then we ought to serve them.

Think about your own life – how many times have you been totally blessed because someone else served you in some way? Maybe your neighbor mowed your lawn or shoveled your side walk while He was out doing his own. Maybe someone brought a casserole over to your house when you had a family member in the hospital. Maybe your buddies came over to help you build your deck or move some furniture. Maybe someone offered to watch your kids while you and your spouse went on a date night.

When we have people serve us in some of these ways, we just think “Man, you guys are awesome! You are such a blessing to me!”

That’s one of the fantastic things about being part of the church – you have this whole group of people who are willing to step up and help out whenever someone has a need. I know that I’ve been blessed on my many occasions – and likely, so have you.

But what about the people aren’t part of the church – do we serve them too? What about the people that no one really likes? The difficult people? What about the grumpy complainers? What about the people who want nothing to do with the church – nothing to do with you? Do we still serve those people?

Leave a Comment

God Is With Us (or What’s the Big Deal About Christmas?)

How many of you have heard at least 10 Christmas sermons during your lifetime?

I’m 33 years old – I grew up in the church – and I’m sure that I have averaged at least 3 Christmas related sermons every year. In fact, growing up we had the five advent Sundays so I’m sure I heard at least 5 Christmas sermons every year. But even at just three sermons per year – in my 33 years of life, I have heard just under 100 Christmas related sermons.

That seems a lot to me. Does the Christmas story really warrant that much sermon time? Do you ever get the feeling that Christmas is ‘over-celebrated’? What’s the big deal about Christmas anyway?

I’m not anti-Christmas, but why do we focus so much on Jesus birth? That’s just one aspect of his life. Why not his baptism? That was significant. Or the 40 days he spent fasting in the wilderness? There are no special days on the calendar that we celebrate that! The only thing that even comes close to Christmas is Easter – when we celebrate Jesus’ death & resurrection – and even that is celebrated way less than his birth.

Think about it. Even outside the church culture – think of retails stores. They spend 2 months selling Christmas – as soon as halloween is over, they start selling Christmas stuff. From November 1st through the bulk of December, the focus is Christmas. That’s 1/6 of the year. That’s a lot of Christmas!

Christmas music in another example. We have a whole genre of music dedicated to Jesus birth. We don’t have passover music – we don’t have Jesus’ baptism music, we don’t have Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness music – but we have album after album after album of music celebrating Jesus birth.

I look in my Bible and there are maybe 10 pages in my Bible about the birth of Jesus. The Gospel of Mark & and the Gospel of John don’t even include Jesus’ birth in their Gospels. There are two chapters in Matthew and two chapters in Luke – in my Bible about 10 pages of Christmas out of the 2300 pages of Scripture.

Yet at the same time, there are 65 pages of Job and his friends arguing about why God allowed all that bad stuff to happen to Job. If the Bible talks about Job about six time as much as it talks about Jesus birth, why do we take a whole month every year to preach about Jesus birth – and not job? We preach on Christmas (those ten pages) 2,3,4,5 times every December, but you’ll be lucky in five years just to get one sermon on Job.

So what makes Christmas such a big deal? What is so significant about the birth of Jesus Christ? What, in those ten pages, has had so much impact on life as we know it?

Leave a Comment

The Fulfillment of Hope

In the month of December, we’ve been looking at the Bible as a History of Hope. Sometimes it difficult to put the whole Bible together – to see how one story connects with the others – to see how the old Testament fits with the new Testament. But over the past couple of weeks, we’ve been trying to do just that and what we’ve discovered is that the whole Bible is really the Christmas story. Everything in the old testament points us ahead to the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ – and everything in the new testament is a result of the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the central figure of world history. And it’s not just history – it’s HIS STORY – God’s Story.

And so today we’re going to continue looking at God’s story. Two weeks ago we started in the beginning – with God creating the heavens and the earth. And He made the perfect system for a perfect life. That was basically, as long as mankind looked to God as the source of everything they needed in life and as long as they looked to God as their ultimate authority, their relationships with each other and with God would be sweet and life would be awesome.

But of course, we know that Adam and Eve chose to reject God as their authority and as their source – and as a consequence, their relationship with God and with each other was broken. And although the consequences of their sin would effect mankind for the rest of history, God made a promise to Adam & Eve – that one day He would set things right again.

Well, then we fast-forwarded last week to Mount Sinai – where God made a covenant – or an agreement with the Israelites. And the basic gist of that agreement was that as long as the Israelites looked to God as the source of everything they needed in life and as long as they looked to God as their ultimate authority, their relationships with each other and with God would be sweet and life would be awesome. Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

The problem with that agreement was, that because the Israelites were all born with a sinful nature that they inherited from Adam & Eve, (just like the rest of us) it would actually be impossible for the Israelites or anyone else to fully obey God. Man was just too sinful. That rebellious nature in us kept us as slaves to sin. We couldn’t obey God even if we wanted to.

But God knew about that and He offered us another bit of hope. He allowed the Israelites to bring a lamb and offer it as a sacrifice for their sins. In other words, instead of that person being put to death for their sin (as they deserved), a lamb would be put to death in their place. The lamb would take their punishment.

Of course, the blood of those lambs couldn’t take away their sin, but it gave the Israelites hope that one day, the Lamb of God – Jesus Christ – would die in their place and His blood would take their sins completely away.

So that’s where we left it last week. There’s more to this story, so let’s see what happened next.

Table of contents for A History of Hope

  1. The Beginning of Hope
  2. Old Testament Sacrifices – Symbols of Hope
  3. The Fulfillment of Hope
  4. A Future of Hope
Leave a Comment