Pad Palooza Recap 2018

The ladies of Sew Quilt Share recently hosted Pad Palooza at Gateway Church. Since female students in many third world countries miss a week of school each month because they lack access to feminine hygiene products, the main purpose of the event was to cut and sew small bags of blessings to support Mission Possible’s outreach to precious young women in the rural areas of Haiti.

The patterns and fabrics for the projects were provided, but volunteers were needed to cut and assemble. We are happy to report that a total of 222 cloth feminine pads were sewn that day and several hundred more were cut out. In addition, 75 blessing bags were also completed!

An additional purpose for Pad Palooza was to open the doors of Gateway Church and invite the community to connect with us. Over eighty women of all ages answered the call to serve and at several points during the day, additional tables were set up to accommodate those who wanted to help! A soup and salad bar were provided for lunch giving an opportunity for connection and fellowship.

Guest speaker Deb Geis, a representative from Mission Possible, shared how God is using this outreach to impact the lives of students in Haiti. These simple bags of blessings are a tool to share the gospel and provide hope to young women in need.

It has been both humbling and exciting to see the hand of God move in the hearts of women all over the world who learn about this outreach to precious young women in Haiti. This past year, 7,600 cloth feminine pads were mailed to Gateway Church from all over the United States, Canada, England, and Australia. Combined with what was sewn at Pad Palooza, enough was provided to assist 650 students! The ladies of Sew Quilt Share are honored to serve as a collection point for this outreach and look forward to seeing what God has in store for the future.

If you would like to connect with others at Gateway Church who have a heart to serve, the next Sew Quilt Share meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, October 23rd from 9:30-4:00. To learn more, please visit our Sew Quilt Share Facebook page.

First Grade Bibles

A few weeks ago, Pastor Josh shared with the congregation that one new area of focus for our Go ministry this year is Bible translation and distribution. As a church, we believe in the power of the Word of God to transform lives, and yet we recognize that there are people around the world who still do not have access to even a verse of the Bible translated into their own language. Because of this, we have made it a priority to partner with organizations that are working on translating and distributing the Word of God to places or people groups who currently do not have access to it.

Here in America we are blessed to have incredible access to God’s Word. We can purchase Bibles almost anywhere, we have Bible apps, we can listen to it online, we can find a copy in most hotel rooms, and most of us have several copies sitting on shelves in our homes somewhere. Because it is so easily available, we often forget or take for granted how exciting it can be to get our very own Bible for the first time. Two weeks ago, however, our Kidway staff was reminded of just how exciting it is, when they had the privilege of presenting almost 40 first graders with their own Bibles. For many kids, this is the first Bible they can call their own, and as our N Main Kidway director observed, “The students’ smiles when they received their new Bibles was unbelievable! It is amazing how much we do not appreciate having a physical copy of the Bible until we get to see the excitement of someone else receiving one.” One first grader was overheard saying, “I have been waiting for this day for a LONG time!”

Hearing that excitement and seeing the anticipation from children is amazing, but also a bit convicting. I find myself asking, “How often am I that excited about God’s Word? How would my life be different if I WERE that eager to read the Bible everyday?” During the presentation of their Bibles, the first graders were encouraged with 2 Timothy 3:16, which says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” Broken down, that means that the whole Bible is God’s very own words. In it, He teaches us how to think rightly, He rebukes us when we think wrongly, He corrects us when we act wrongly, and he trains us how to act rightly. Kids were also given 2 challenges, which are actually great challenges for all of us:

  1. Read your Bible everyday! If God has really told us everything important about everything important in the Bible, it isn’t good enough to just read it once a week at church. Set time aside every single day to be reading and thinking about God’s Word.

  2. Bring your Bibles to Kidway (or church) with you every time you come. We don’t want this to just be a pretty book that sits on your shelf, but we want you to USE it!

Some of the most exciting things for staff the past couple of weeks since Bible the distribution weekend, have been the stories we have heard from parents and grandparents about their kids taking the initiative to be reading their Bibles at home. One boy gave up watching football with his grandpa Sunday afternoon so he could go to his room and “read” his new Bible. And another little girl reminded her mom at bedtime that she couldn’t go to bed until they had read her Bible together. If you are a parent or grandparent, we encourage you to capitalize on the excitement of your kids and start instilling in them the habit of daily time in the Word. And even if you don’t have children in your life, be encouraged by the excitement they have and let it spur you on to a greater commitment to God’s Word in your own life.


The Doctrine Upon Which The Church Stands or Falls

Martin Luther declared that justification by faith alone is the doctrine upon which the church stands or falls. His words and his conviction led to the Reformation, the movement that turned the church upside down, eventually splitting Christianity into Roman Catholic and Protestant. Five hundred years later, justification by faith is still central to understanding what it means to be a Christian.

So what is justification by faith? Justification is the act by which unjust sinners are made right in the eyes of a just and holy God. Jesus’ death on a cross is what makes that possible.

“To be justified in the biblical sense does not mean that one is suddenly made just or sinless. It means that since Christ has suffered the punishment for sin in our place, we can receive the verdict of “Not guilty” or “Sentence served,” and thus be forgiven. According to this image, we are standing in the seat of the accused, sure to be sentenced, but the judge acquits us because Christ volunteered to be found guilty in our place (Romans 3:23-26; 4:24-25; 5:1, 9; 8:31-33; Colossians 2:13-14). (Christianity 101 by Gilbert Bilezikian)”

All Christians embrace the truth of justification. The big question, however, is how does a person appropriate justification, making it personal truth.

According to Luther, and his heirs, we are justified by faith, that is simply believing that Jesus died for me. Period. Nothing added.

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,… (Romans 3:21-24)

Please join us this weekend as we dig deeper into the significance of justification by faith – the doctrine upon which the church stands or falls.


Songs for the Weekend

When we think of all the Jesus has done for us, it drives us to a place of worship. As you worship our Savior this week, praise Him with the songs for the weekend at Gateway.

CR9

Come People of the Risen King
Forever Our King - Red Rocks Worship
Overwhelmed - Big Daddy Weave
It Is Well With My Soul
Lord, I Need You - Matt Mahe

N Main

The Greatness of Our God - Hillsong
Ever Be - Bethel Music
All the Poor and Powerless - All Sons & Daughters
Love Changes Everything - Red Rocks Worship

Check out all of the songs we sing at Gateway on our Spotify Worship List.

We also have created a Beyond Sunday Spotify playlist with songs we commend to you for your enjoyment beyond Sunday. Check it out!

Sin on Trial Q&A

We are sinners, we all fall short, we are labeled as a sinner... then how can we even be called Christ Follower..... and how is it even possible to be Christ like, when sin is everyone’s problem?

As sinners who trust in Jesus, we learn to follow His ways over time. The Bible teaches that there is a process (not a one-time event) of sanctification, which simply means to become more like Christ. You can't find any perfect Christians or Christ-followers in Scripture, including the Apostles. For example, Romans 6-7 illustrate the real life battle between sin and becoming Christ-like. Romans 6 urges us to become obedient to Christ, following His ways, and living for His glory. The Holy Spirit teaches us (gradually, over time) to obey Christ because our sin died in Christ's death, so we should put on the righteousness of Christ--which leads to the fruit of Christlikeness. Furthermore, Paul vulnerably shares his own struggles with sin in Romans 7:15-25. He explains how sin is a stumbling block in this life, even for Christ-followers.

The process of sanctification begins at the point of regeneration and increases throughout one's life. Although sanctification is never completed in this life, it is finished when the Lord returns and glorifies us in Christ (Philippians 3:21).

Sin Is My Problem

When I was a teenager, I remember reading certain Scripture passages that would describe Jesus’ interactions with the religious leaders of his day. Sometimes I’d run across the words “those sinners” in reference to the Pharisees or Sadducees.

I remember thinking…”I’m sure glad that I’m not like them!”

I knew that sin was the problem and that’s why Jesus came to die. But I’d only acknowledge that “I’m a sinner” in a very superficial way. I wouldn’t name my sin. I wouldn’t call it out. I wouldn’t own it. In some ways, I was seeing sin as the problem--which it is--but, I was failing to also see sin as my problem.

If we honestly reflect upon our lives, we should get to point at which each of us can confess sin as ‘my problem.’ But way too often, we just don’t want to go there. So, we blame sin; we put sin on trial; and we want to convict it. We don’t want to be known ourselves as sinners, and we’re unwilling to allow ourselves to be put on trial.

I want to invite you to join me this weekend at Gateway as we continue our “On Trial” series in the book of Romans. This week, we’ll see what the Bible says about putting sin on trial and the hope we have in Christ.

North Main Campus: 6pm on Saturday, 9:15 & 11am on Sunday

CR9 Campus: 9 & 10:45am on Sunday

See you this weekend!


Man on Trial Q&A

The good news at the end of the sermon was that we who are in Christ are free from our sin. Does this mean in eternity, or here and now? I know I'm forgiven of my past present and future sin but I feel like I can't stop doing certain sinful behaviors. What are your thoughts on this?

The Good News is that you are both free from sin's power now and will be for all eternity. A slave to sin, someone who doesn't believe, cannot not sin. But a believer in Jesus always has the option of obedience instead of sinning. This doesn't mean that the struggle against sin is easy (it's not!). And some types of sin are addictive in nature making the fight even more difficult, but if you believe in the gospel, you are free to not sin. Two thoughts on how to better fight against sin and then a reminder. 

First, when tempted to sin ask the question, "What do I think this sin will give me that Jesus can't give me?" Meaning, there's something that you think this sin will give you that Jesus is unable to give you. Could be love. Or fulfillment. Or purpose. Or the feeling of being alive. But recognize the lie. Jesus does give you those things (and more!). 

Second, know your Bible! Read it. Study it. Meditate on it. Memorize it. Without knowing your Bible, you will fall for the lies and false promises of sin. If you don't know the truths and promises of Scripture, you can't use them to fight sin. I have found that memorization of Scripture, in particular, to be the most helpful in my fight against sin. God's Word is a weapon -- a sword -- but you must know it to use it in your spiritual battle.

Now the reminder. Don't forget that Jesus forgives. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9) Wrote that from memory, by the way. Even though we're free from sin's power; we're not sinless...yet (see 1 John 1:8). So, when we fight and fail, repent and know that Jesus forgives you.

 

Volunteer Spotlight: Jeff & Cindy Klein

One of our values at Gateway Church is serving.  As we realize how much God loves us, we look for opportunities to show that love to others by serving them.  Jeff and Cindy Klein are showing the love of Jesus by serving as parking lot attendants at North Main.  Here is a little bit about them.

IMG_1778.jpg

Cindy: Jeff and I have attended Gateway church for about 8 years. When Gateway's North Main campus opened last year, we were so excited for that smaller atmosphere and to get more involved. We saw a need for parking lot attendants and thought what a wonderful way to serve and greet those coming to church and as they leave. We have always believed when you serve the church you are serving God. 


We have 2 daughters Samantha and Carly who both live in Columbus and whenever we can we love to go and spend time with them. Jeff is a huge OSU fan and we both love animals. We have 2 cats and a dog. 

Man On Trial Manuscript

SERMON: Man on Trial
TEXT: Romans 3:9-20 (ESV)
SPEAKER: Josh Hanson
DATE: 9-8/9-18

WELCOME

It’s good to be with all of you this weekend at Gateway Church. And one thing I want you to know — and it doesn’t matter if it’s your first time with us or if you’re worshipping at our North Main campus — one thing I want you to know is that God loves you and I love you too.

SERIES INTRODUCTION

And we’re in week two of our series as we continue through the book of Romans. Last year we looked at the first two chapters and this year we’re looking at a few more and then we’ll pick it back up again in 2019.

ANNOUNCE THE TEXT

So if you have your Bible please turn with me to Romans chapter 3. We’ll be looking at verses 9 through 20 together today.  

And, if you’re a guest with us, something we like to do at Gateway is let you ask questions. So if you have a question during the sermon, you can text your question in to the number printed on the bulletin or you can submit it on the Gateway app.

SERMON INTRODUCTION

As many of you know, 1945 marked the end of World War 2. The world was at war with Adolf Hitler and his allies. Hitler led the German army on a mission to conquer the world and to establish a “superior race.”

Starting as early as 1933 — long before the war began — Hitler and the Nazi’s began establishing prison camps to house political enemies, Jews, homosexuals, Gypsies, Poles, and Russians. As the Nazi’s gained power, these camps became more numerous.

Then war broke out in 1939. Throughout the early years of the war, Hitler kept the German people’s approval and support. The war wasn’t in Germany, so they weren’t faced with the reality of what was going on.

But when the war was over, the press began to explore the concentration camps. And the German public — who had supported Hitler — were forced to come face-to-face with what they had supported and it shocked many of them.

They were guilty of supporting Hitler — guilty of ignoring the signs that millions of people were suffering and being murdered in their backyards. They were standing before the world — guilty — with no place to hide — the Germans were guilty of supporting something far more evil than they’d ever imagined.

Now our text in Romans tells a similar story. It’s going to show all of us that we’re guilty of something far more evil than we’d ever imagine. That we’re all living our lives either oblivious to — or in outright defiance of something true about us — that we’re guilty of something that’s wicked to its core. And that’s the verdict we find in our courtroom today — but the verdict is on us this time — in these verses we’re on trial and we’re all found guilty.

POINT 1

Paul begins — in verse 9 — with, “What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin,” (Romans 3:9 ESV)

If you remember from last week, Paul emphasized that there were still some benefits of being a Jew — like being entrusted with the Word of God. So Paul asks, “Well since we have this benefit, are we better off than the Gentiles when it comes to our guilt?” And his answer is, “No, not at all.”

And he gives his reason when he says that “both Jews and Greeks” — that means everyone — all people — are under sin. So what does that  mean — to be under sin?

It means that all people are under the power of sin — are a slave to sin — think of it as being trapped by sin. This doesn’t mean that we sin “every now and then” but that everything we do is stained by sin — is influenced by sin. And this isn’t a popular message in today’s culture — not even among church people — but it’s one of the most important messages we can share.

You see, we all know something’s wrong with the world — even that something’s wrong with us. But what you understand to be the problem dictates what you believe is the answer to our problem. For instance, some people believe that the main reason why the world is broken is an unequal distribution of wealth. So the solution to the problem — as they see it — is to control the economy so there are no poor or rich — a level economic playing field is the solution.

Others see our problem as the result of a lack of knowledge — “if people weren’t so ignorant then our world would be a better place.” So the solution is better education — better education will solve what’s wrong with us.

Gender inequality, religious oppression, abuse of power, racism...what do you see as our problem?

Well what Paul suggests — and really what the entire Bible suggests — is that our problem isn’t an unequal distribution of wealth or a lack of knowledge — or the many other things we suggest to be our problem — these things are all results of the real problem — which is sin. That we’re all addicted to sin. We’re all under sin — influenced by it — enslaved to it.

Now, we humans do a wonderful job of hiding our sin. We often think way too highly of ourselves — thinking we’re better than we actually are and not nearly as bad as we show ourselves to be. And something easy to do — is to give a guilty verdict — not toward ourselves — but toward the Bible. Where we say that the Bible is guilty of being overly harsh. It’s full of unrealistic standards and out of date moral codes for our modern age. Maybe there are some people as bad as the Bible describes, but surely not everyone is that bad — especially not me. So instead of letting Bible reveal to us our guilt, we try to pull the rug out from under the Bible and declare it to be guilty of being overly harsh and judgmental. Maybe that’s how you respond to the idea of sin being what’s wrong with us.

Others of us — however — may reject the idea that sin is our biggest problem for an entirely different reason — not because you reject religion, but because the Bible doesn’t line up with your religious beliefs. You believe in a religion that’s all about your desires and preferences being met. When religion is a benefit, you bring it out of the closet. When it holds you back, you stuff back in the closet and lock the door. And you do this because religion — to you — is about what makes you feel good. “Just enough religion in my life to make me feel good, but no more than that — thank you very much.”

Maybe you let religion out of the closet when it comes to things you’re good at and you stuff it back in the closet when it comes to things you’re not so great at. For instance, say you don’t struggle with lying — well — I’m sure — that “not lying” is part of your religion and you probably have a hard time with people who lie. Not lying is something you can obey — and that makes you feel good. But say you struggle with being generous — well — everyone knows that the church is out for your money, right — so you don’t have to actually be generous. And those generous people, well they’re just the religious radical folks — who wants to be like them? And what’s dangerous — here — is that you’ve created a religion where you’re king or queen because you always pass the religious test.

Others of us — though — may feel that every bad thing that’s happened in your life is because you’re being punished by God. And though disobedience may be the reason for your circumstances — it’s important to remember that living in a broken world means we experience the consequences of other people’s sin too.

And finally — and I hope this is you — others of us read about us being “under sin” and you rejoice. Why — because this doesn’t seem like a very joyful news does it? Here’s why you may be rejoicing. You know that you were “under” the power of sin — that you were a slave to it — sin was your master — and you’ve been set free from its power. And you know you did nothing to earn your freedom — you did nothing to get out from under the power of sin — but you’re free nonetheless — so you rejoice.

Four very different ways to respond to the news that we’re all under sin. How are you responding?

SUMMARY OF POINT 1

One pastor has said that this message — that we’re all under sin — is about as popular as hearing the words “your tumor is malignant.” But — he says — our message is vastly more hopeful. “Your tumor is malignant” may or may not be hopeful news, because the doctor may or may not have a cure for your cancer. But the news of “you’re under the power of sin” always has a cure — there’s freedom from the power of sin.

And if you desire freedom — well — keep listening because we’re going to discover how to be free from sin’s power. But before we find freedom, we must understand how bad our enslavement to sin actually is.

So it’s going to get pretty dark here — you’re going to feel the weight of a guilty verdict upon your shoulders — you’re going to want to kick and scream and rebel against this news — but the whole time I want you to keep thinking:  “This is good for me to hear — it’s good for me to face my reality — and the reality of every single person alive on this planet — for without knowing the truth about our enslavement to sin — we won’t rejoice in the freedom that’s offered to us.”

POINT 2

Let’s begin in verse 9 again. “What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written: (and here Paul is going to quote the Bible — the Old Testament — to show us that this verdict — that we’re guilty of being enslaved to sin — isn’t something he’s coming up with — it’s not something I’m coming up with — this is something the Bible makes clear.

So you’re view of the Bible is going to be very important here — especially if you say you’re a follower of Jesus. Are you going to let the Bible reveal to you who you are and what our biggest problem is — or are you going to reject what the Bible has to say?

And Paul’s going to quote from the psalms — and some other Old Testament books — as he reveals our problem. Paul begins by saying how many people are righteous? He says that...) "None is righteous, no, not one; (to be righteous is to be right with God — so anyone who is under sin is not in a right relationship with God. They’re not living the right way — God can’t find a single person living a life free from sin’s power. He says that...) 11 no one understands; (And how many people — under sin — seek for God?...) no one seeks for God. 12 (And how many have turned aside?...) All have turned aside; together they (the “they” is the “all” people just mentioned. So all people — everyone together...) have become worthless; (who does good?...) no one does good, not even one." 13 "Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive." "The venom of asps is under their lips." 14 "Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness." 15 "Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 in their paths are ruin and misery, 17 and the way of peace they have not known." 18 "There is no fear of God before their eyes."” (Romans 3:9-18 ESV)

Another Bible translation says, “They race for the honor of sinner-of-the-year, [they] litter the land with heartbreak and ruin, [they] don’t know the first thing about living with others, they never give God the time of day.” (The Message)

It’s kind of like — slow down Paul — why so cheery?

To show us how enslaved we are to sin — Paul mentions four things. Our being. Our words. Our actions. And the cause.

Our being. Our words. Our actions. And the cause.

But he starts by making sure we know what shapes his worldview — the Bible. In verse 10 he writes, “as it is written:” (Romans 3:10a ESV)

Paul allows the Bible to shape his understanding of the world — and what our real problem is — and what the problem is for people who don’t believe in Jesus. But what about you?

  • What shapes your worldview?
  • What shapes your view of what’s wrong with us?
  • What influences your view of people who don’t believe in Jesus?
  • The question being asked is, “What’s your authority?”
  • What do you turn to in order to understand why things are the way they are?
  • Paul turned to the Bible. What do you turn to?

Fox News? Twitter? Facebook? The GOP or DNC? You’re favorite podcast or preacher online? What do you turn to as your authority?

In turning to his authority — the Bible — Paul begins with our being.

He writes, “"None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one."” (Romans 3:10b-12 ESV)

By “being” — I mean — our core — “what’s wrong with us at our core?” And what Paul says — what the whole Bible says — about our core — isn’t great news. In fact, it’s not only alarming but it’s in your face offensive.

  • None of us are right with God. Bam!
  • None of us understand God. Bam!
  • No one seeks God — I should explain this one.

It’s pretty common to think that there are people — who don’t believe in Jesus — that are seeking God. Seeking Him through other religions or spiritual experiences or some kind of path to enlightenment. But Paul would disagree.

  • They may be seeking some kind of religious experience, but that’s different than seeking God.
  • They may be seeking truth, or peace, or eternal life, or happiness, or even relief from a guilty conscience — but seeking these things isn’t the same as seeking God — and it’s easy to confuse the two. Only God can give them these things — but just because someone is searching for things only God can give — well that doesn’t mean they’re seeking Him.
  • Have you ever had someone seek you out, but they weren’t really looking for you — but were looking to get something from you? That’s what Paul’s meaning here.
  • As a dad — I rarely get this — but my wife experiences this all the time. “Mom! Mom! Mom!” Do you know what happens when they find her? Never once have I heard our kids say, “My most magnificent Mother. I just wanted you.” It’s always, “Mom, what can I have to eat? Mom, can I go play basketball? Mom, when’s dinner? Mom, what are we doing today?” You’d think our kids were looking for their Mom, but they’re actually looking for something else.
  • And sin causes people to seek things from God — while not seeking Him at all.

And what we find — throughout the Bible — is that God is the One who seeks us out. Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” (John 6:44, ESV)

“Well — Hanson — what about all of those places in the Bible where we’re told to ‘seek the Lord’?”

Two quick things — cause someone’s texting this question in as I speak. Almost always, the command to ‘seek the Lord’ is given to God’s people. Meaning, the command’s are given to people who God has already begun a relationship with. Whether that be the Jewish people in the Old Testament or Christians in the New.

But there are places in the Bible where all people are commanded to “seek the Lord.” “Now surely God wouldn’t give us a command that we couldn’t obey on our own, right — that wouldn’t be fair” — that’s the objection — “God wouldn’t say ‘seek the Lord’ if people couldn’t actually ‘seek the Lord.’”

OK. Then “be perfect” because that’s a command in the Bible too — no excuses — be — perfect. Hmmm...seems like there are commands in the Bible that we have to caveat with “without God’s help the command can’t be obeyed.” And all Paul’s saying is that “seek the Lord” is in the category of “to obey this command you’ll need God’s help.”

And if this isn’t offensive enough — Paul goes on to say — “no one does good.” Now — we looked at this a few weeks ago — doing good things is much different than the motive behind what you do. And Paul’s talking about our motivations — the reason why you do the things you do.

For instance...

“Once in a kingdom long ago, a gardener grew a huge carrot. He decided to give it to his prince because he [was devoted to] and loved his [ruler]. When he gave it, the prince discerned his love and devotion, and the fact that he expected nothing in return. So as the gardener turned to leave, he said: “Here, my son, I want to give you some of my land so that you can produce an even greater crop. It is yours.” The gardener went home rejoicing. A nobleman heard of this incident and thought: “If that’s what the prince gives in response to the gift of a carrot, what would he give me if I gave him a fine horse?” So the nobleman came and presented the prince with a fine [horse] as a gift. But the prince discerned his heart and said: “You expect me to give to you as I did to the gardener. I will not. You are very different. The gardener gave me the carrot. But you were giving yourself the horse.” (Charles Spurgeon used this illustration frequently.)

To this a pastor said, “It is who we are serving in our hearts that matters, not how we are serving with our hands. Without faith in Christ, good deeds are not truly done for God, but for ourselves — and thus are not truly good.” (Tim Keller)

Who we are — the core of our being — our motivations — are enslaved to sin — and this affects our words.

Paul says, “"Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive." "The venom of asps is under their lips." 14 "Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness."” (Romans 3:13-14 ESV)

Our words are enslaved to sin. Jesus said, “Out of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34) — which is a quote from the Old Testament — meaning who we are affects what we say. I’m sure we’ve all had moments where we’ve said something — something hurtful — something racist — something demeaning to someone else — and — maybe not right away — but later on — we think, “What in the world was that?” And then we’ll excuse ourselves by saying that we were tired or I was born with a temper or something else is to blame — not that these venomous words reveal something that’s wrong with us.

The younger brother of Jesus warns, “Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way. 3 We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. 4 And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. 5 In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. 6 And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. 7 People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, 8 but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. 9 Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. 10 And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!” (James 3:2-10 NLT)

What an indictment on our words. With them we praise God and with them we curse people made in God’s image. And with our words we say, “I’m not guilty of being enslaved to sin” and we believe the lie as it comes out of our mouth. And our words influence our actions.

Paul writes, “"Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 in their paths are ruin and misery, 17 and the way of peace they have not known."” (Romans 3:15-17 ESV)

We live in a violent world. Who we are — our being — influences what we say — our words — which lead us to do some really wicked things — our actions. We live in a world where the golden rule is said to be, “Do unto others before they can do unto you!” (Grant Osbourne)

Will Durant wrote a book in 1968 titled Lessons From History. In it he said, “In the last [3,500] years of recorded history only 268 have seen no war.” And I think that’s a pretty generous assessment. I did some checking and couldn’t find a single year — since 1968 — without a war going on in the world.

We love violence. From violent sports to horror movies — and I know — it’s all in good fun, right? Just for entertainment. Like violent video games which are the most popular video games in our country. (Source

We love violence. Did you know that during World War 2, it’s estimated that it cost $225,000 to kill one enemy soldier? What do you think the cost of our love for violence is today? The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost the US nearly six trillion dollars by some estimates. (Source)  If you add up sports, video games, and movies — we spend billions and billions of dollars on violence.

Now — I’m not trying to play judge and jury here — I see this as much in my life as in yours — I just want us to see how we love violence — can we admit that — yet we long for peace. But peace is always elusive, isn’t it? Peace between nations — peace within our souls — we can’t seem to find peace.

Do you know someone who’s always looking for that something or someone who will satisfy the longings of their heart? And they just keep going from this to that trying to find fulfillment. From this relationship to that one — this job to that one — this church to that one — something’s out there that will give them peace — if only they could find it. Maybe that’s you?

SUMMARY OF POINT 2

And what’s caused all of this? “"There is no fear of God before their eyes."” (Romans 3:18 ESV)

We don’t fear God because — if we did — we wouldn’t be so resistant — so defiant — when He tells us that our problem is that we’re enslaved to sin. And our enslavement to sin reveals itself in the words we speak. And the words we speak lead us to act in violent ways. If we feared God, we’d see that — unlike us — He’s pure and holy — completely free from sin — that His words are reliable and true — and that His actions are always for our good.

But Paul’s not finished yet. He wants to reiterate the importance of God’s Word in shaping our view of what’s wrong with us.

POINT 3

Verse 19. “Now we know that whatever the law says (and by “law” — Paul means — the Old Testament — so whatever the Old Testament says...) it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:19-20 ESV)

Our once chatty mouths — spewing out evil things — like deception, curses, and bitterness — are silenced. In Paul’s day, if you were on trial and you had nothing more to say in your defense, you’d put your hand over your mouth to show that you were done. If you were too chatty, a court official would hit you in the mouth to let you know that you’re done. And what Paul’s saying is that all of us have no defense. We don’t have an argument that’ll render us a not guilty verdict. The whole world is accountable to God — God’s in the judge’s chair — and all of us are guilty — guilty of being enslaved to sin.

The evidence is in our being. The evidence is in our words. And the evidence is in our actions. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.

CHRIST CONNECTION

This is Paul’s understanding of the human problem — of our problem — that the foundational problem with all of us is that we’re enslaved to sin. And this isn’t just Paul’s idea — this is what the entire Bible suggests is our problem — that our greatest problem — is sin. That we’re all addicted to it. We’re all under it. We’re all enslaved to it — sin is our master.

And if that’s our problem, what’s the solution? The solution is that God sent His Son to be our liberator — our redeemer — our rescuer. Jesus came to set captives free. When Paul says that none are righteous — that none are right with God — he’s not saying “there’s no way to be right with God” — what he means is that there’s no way for you to be free from sin without outside help. You can’t do what’s necessary in order to free yourself from sin’s power. But someone can — and did — what was necessary for you to be free.

God sent Jesus to live a life free from sin’s power, to pay the penalty of your sins on the cross, and raised Him from the grave — breaking the chains of our enslavement to sin so that you can be free to live for God.

And this isn’t just true for you, this is true for every person. The view of the Bible is that all people — the people you work with, your neighbors, the people you see in the grocery store, your family members — all people are enslaved to sin apart from Christ’s liberating work on the cross. And this view — this biblical view of all people — should motivate you to help them find freedom in Jesus — for He is the only answer to their greatest problem — their enslavement to sin. Only the gospel — the Good News of what Jesus has done in His life, death, and resurrection — can break the chains of sin that they’re enslaved to.

The only way to be justified — to be declared not guilty — to be free — is faith in Jesus.

CONCLUSION

We’ve been put on trial today. And though these words are hard to hear — they’re good for us. It’s good for us to face our reality and the reality of every single person alive. Because if we don’t face the truth — that our greatest problem is sin — we won’t rejoice in the freedom that’s offered to us in Jesus Christ. Jesus is offering you freedom today. Freedom from the sin that’s enslaved you. Will you receive the freedom He’s offering you today? Without Jesus you’re verdict is guilty. But with Jesus — the verdict you receive is God’s eternal love. Let’s pray.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father, thank you for revealing to us what our real problem is. These are shocking words to hear — in many ways — they’re hard to hear — they’re sobering. But — Father — they give us a reason to rejoice. For out of the darkness of our enslavement to sin came Your Son — Jesus — bringing us the light of freedom.

Help us to receive the freedom that Jesus is offering us. The freedom to have the core of who we are completely changed — set free — from sin’s power. The freedom to have our words be used to share Good News — instead of used to spread curses and bitterness. The freedom to have our actions be for the good of others and Your glory.

Spirit — for all of us who are free — remind us to rejoice. For those whom Jesus has set free from sin — are free indeed. And this is Good News — this is reason to overflow with great joy as we celebrate the freedom You’ve given us. We pray all these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

God on Trial Q&A

I must have missed the sermon on Romans 1:18-32. I can’t find it in the archives. Satan is attacking what people believe about homosexuality in our culture. I would love to hear a sermon on what the Bible says and how we as christians should respond to these issues. 

Here is the link to the sermon from Romans 1:18-32 -- Exchange the Truth for a Lie. Over the year a few sermons have been preached on how to respond to the current trends in our culture. One series, Trending Now, did just that.

God On Trial Manuscript

SERMON: God on Trial
TEXT: Romans 3:1-8 (ESV)
SPEAKER: Josh Hanson
DATE: 9-1/2-18

WELCOME

It’s good to be with all of you this weekend at Gateway Church. And one thing I want you to know — and it doesn’t matter if it’s your first time with us or if you’re worshipping at our North Main campus — one thing I want you to know is that God loves you and I love you too.

SERIES INTRODUCTION

And we’re starting a new series today — actually — returning to an old series is more like it. We’re jumping back into the book of Romans this weekend. So if you have your Bible with you, go ahead and open it up to Romans chapter 3.

And, if you’re a guest with us, something we like to do at Gateway is let you ask questions. So if you have a question during the sermon, you can text your question in to the number printed on the bulletin or you can submit it on the Gateway app.

Now since we’re jumping back into the book of Romans, let me catch all of us up in case you weren’t with us a year ago when we started this book.

The book of Romans is written by the apostle Paul. And at this point in his life, he’s been preaching the gospel for over 20 years. And — to summarize the first two chapters of Romans — God has offered a gift to all of us — the gift of salvation. And this is incredibly Good News — that’s why we call it the gospel — the word gospel means Good News. That no matter what kind of sin you’ve brought in with you, no matter how bad you’ve been or how good you think you are — any of us can have a right standing with God because of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Now in this letter, Paul’s talking to Jews and Gentiles — Gentiles are non-Jewish people. And he says, “If you’re a Jew — Jesus loves you. And if you’re a Gentile — Jesus loves you too. If you’re a Jew — you need to believe the gospel. And if you’re a Gentile — you need to believe the gospel.” He’s saying that the gospel doesn’t discriminate based on your ethnicity or color or gender or background — so the gospel is to be proclaimed to all people because the gospel is for all people.  

This is how Paul says it in chapter 1. He writes, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it (the gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith."” (Romans 1:16-17 ESV)

In the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed — that God is doing everything right — perfectly — He’s doing things the way it should be done — and all of this is made known to us in the gospel.

Paul then goes on to list all of the ways we rebel against this Good News. The ways we try to justify our disobedience and unbelief. The ways we try to make substitutes for God because we’re afraid of Him. Wait — what? We’re afraid of God? Why are we afraid of Him?

We’re afraid of Him because He’s unbelievably loving and gracious — which sounds great — until you realize that to be loved by Him and to receive His grace means that you respond by joyfully submitting yourself to Him. And all of us are scared of doing that. Because we’re so used to abuse of power and people having ulterior motives and dishonest leaders that we project all of that junk on to God. And so instead of embracing His love and grace — we run from Him because His love and grace will cost us too much — it’ll cost us our submission.

And in our running from Him, there are even times in our lives when we put God on trial. Where we say, “OK. I’ve responded to You. I’ve tried doing what You asked me to do. And what have I got to show for it?” We play judge and jury as we put God on trial.

READ THE TEXT

And the best way to think of our passage — is to think of this as Paul’s conversation with an imaginary heckler who’s arguing against all that Paul’s said about grace and the gospel and us running from God — and this heckler is accusing God of being unfair and unjust. This heckler is putting God on trial. He asks...

“Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision?” 2 Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. 3 “What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God?” 4 By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, "That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.” 5 “But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us?” (I speak in a human way.) 6 By no means! For then how could God judge the world? 7 “But if through my lie God's truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner?” 8 And why not do evil that good may come? — as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.” (Romans 3:1-8 ESV)

SERMON INTRODUCTION

Now we’re going to look at these accusations being made against God — but I want to pause and ask you:  What kind of accusations do you make against God?

Now you may be quick to say, “Why I’d never do that” — and maybe that’s true for you — but maybe not. I’m sure you’ve heard of Plato — not Play Do — every dad’s second worst nightmare — the first is fingerpainting — not Play Do — but Plato. He lived 400ish years before Jesus was born.

Well he wrote a story where the gods were put on trial. And in the story, a young man is asked, “Is something good because the gods love it or do the gods love it because something is good?”

And this stumps the young man for awhile. But he answers the question in a way that — nearly 2,500 years later — we still answer the question. He says that, “Doing good is to do something the gods approve of in hopes that they’ll do something good for you.” You obey the gods to get something from the gods — that’s the young man’s answer.

But what happens when the gods — or in our case — God — what happens when God doesn’t return the favor? What happens when you do this or that with the expectation that God will do something in return — and nothing happens?

What I’m getting at — is a commonly held view — where Christianity is all about “what makes God work for me?” Where your beliefs — your religion — is nothing more than, “What do I need to do in order to make God do what I want Him to do?” And that’s a way we put God on trial. Because when He doesn’t do what we expect of Him — what we may even demand of Him — well the accusations we throw His way are nearly never-ending.

And that’s what we find in our verses. We find four questions that reveal the motivations of our heart and why we put God on trial — and what these motivations reveal — is that many of us have adopted a “what makes God work for me” mindset. So let’s look at these four questions and also at two obligations that are found in our verses.  

QUESTION 1

Here’s the first question. “What’s the advantage?” What’s the advantage? If that doesn’t scream — “how does this work for me” — I don’t know what does. Look with me in verse 1.

“Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? 2 Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God.” (Romans 3:1-2 ESV)

Now imagine someone — our imaginary heckler — interrupting Paul. Well what did Paul say that’s caused this interruption? In chapter 2, Paul says that being a physical Jew isn’t what matters — something the people have believed for thousands of years. Paul says that what matters is being a Jew on the inside. It’s not being physically circumcised that matters — again a practice going on for thousands of years — it’s a circumcision of the heart that matters.

Basically, Paul has argued for a complete rethinking of what it means to be in a good standing with God. Are you in a good standing because you’re Jewish or because of something else? And Paul argues that just because you’re a Jew doesn’t mean you’re in a good standing with God. And it’s hard to convey how radical — how shocking — this would’ve been for Jewish people to hear.

So Paul’s imaginary opponent asks, “So what’s the advantage of being a Jew then?” And what’s the expected answer? “Well, if it’s being a Jew on the inside that matters — whatever that means — and not being a physically Jewish person — Paul — what’s the advantage of being a Jew?” And the expected answer is “Nothing”, right? But that’s not Paul’s answer. He surprises us by saying, “Much in every way.” “So what’s the advantage Paul?” He says, “Here’s an advantage — you’ve been given God’s Word.”

Now, in verse 2, Paul says “To begin with…” which is kind of like saying, “Well, the first advantage is...”. And if someone says, “The first advantage is...” what do you expect to come next? A second and maybe a third or fourth advantage, right?

It’s as if Paul starts to make a list of advantages, but gets distracted. But thankfully, Paul picks his list back up again — six chapters later — in chapter 9. Now we won’t be in Romans chapter 9 for another 3 or 4 years, but let’s go ahead and finish his list. Here are some of the other advantages of being a Jew.

Paul says, “They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.” (Romans 9:4-5 ESV)

Paul does a mic drop at the end. “If you think there’s no advantage of being a Jew, how about this one? Jesus was a Jew — the Savior of the world comes from your people.”

Think of how we get excited — here in Findlay — when Ben Roethlisberger or Aaron Craft come to town — they’re our hometown heroes — and let’s be real — they throw or shoot a ball for a living. But they give our community a connection to the world — “we’ve got some guys who’ve done some things in sports.” Well Paul’s like, “Is there an advantage to being a Jew? OK — how about this, “When the Savior of the world wants to participate in his hometown parade, He doesn’t head to Findlay, Ohio — he heads to Israel. Advantage Israel.”

But isn’t this a question we ask? What’s the advantage of being a Christian? Or what’s the advantage of going to church? What’s the advantage of being in a Life Group? Or of serving in the church? We’re always asking “what’s the advantage...for me?” And instead of looking for the advantage — we should focus on our obligation.

OBLIGATION 1

Because here we find our first obligation — something’s required of us. What is it? This. We’ve been entrusted with God’s Word — to share God’s Word. We’ve been entrusted with God’s Word — to share God’s Word.

The Jewish people had been entrusted with God’s Word — the Old Testament — that was their advantage. And throughout the Old Testament they’re told to be a witness to the nations — they were supposed to be a visible testimony of what it means to live in submission to the God who created everything. But get this — they were to not only be obedient to God’s Word — they had an obligation to share it with others. And the Jews had failed — they were entrusted with God’s Word, but they had failed to share it. And the question for us — who follow Jesus — is this:  What will we do with God’s Word that’s been entrusted to us?

There are people all around our world who don’t have God’s Word. Over one billion people don’t have the whole Bible translated in their native language. One hundred and sixty-five million people don’t have a single verse of the Bible in their language. The numbers are staggering — the number of people who have no access to God’s Word that we’ve been entrusted with. And we have a responsibility — we have an obligation — to get God’s Word to them.

This is why we value supporting Bible translation ministries here at Gateway. One area that we’ve stepped up our involvement in — is in the translation of the Bible into languages it’s yet to be translated in. Both in written and oral forms, print and digital, audio and even in picture format. We recently made a $7,500 commitment to IllumiNations — an organization working to get the whole Bible in the languages of 95% of the world’s population, the New Testament in 99.9% of the world’s population, and some portion of the Bible in 100% of the world’s population — all by the year 2033. When you give to Gateway — you’re helping to get God’s Word translated and into the hands of all people.

To be entrusted with God’s Word is a high honor — but it comes with a responsibility. We’ve been entrusted with God’s Word — to share God’s Word.

QUESTION 2

Here’s the second question. “Is God unfaithful?” Is God unfaithful? Look with me in verse 3.

“What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? 4 By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, "That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.”” (Romans 3:3-4 ESV)

I like one translation that reads, “God keeps his word even when the whole world is lying through its teeth.” And another that says, “You (God) will be proved right in what you say, and you will win your case in court.”

Here’s the question being asked: If God’s people are unfaithful, does that mean that God’s unfaithful?

Just so we’re clear — our unfaithfulness never alters God’s faithfulness. We learned this when we looked at the book of Lamentations — we learned that God is faithful — always. We saw this in the book of Jeremiah — that though we’re promise-breakers — God is a promise-keeper. Just because we break our promises doesn’t give us the right to question God’s promise-keeping.

Imagine a young man enrolled in college. He comes from a rich family, so paying room and board, tuition — all that stuff — is no problem. He has excellent health and above average intelligence. The college he attends is one of the best in the nation — his teachers are all top quality.

So — would you agree that he’s been set up for success? He doesn’t have to worry about money or his health. He’s smart and in one of the best colleges — with the best teachers one could hope to study under — so he’s set up for success, right?

So what if I told you that he never graduated. “Well why not,” you may wonder. What if I told you that he didn’t graduate because he decided to party away his college years. He didn’t take his classes seriously. And he ended up getting kicked out of school.

Now — him flunking out of school — does that mean his family failed him? Or that his teachers were at fault? No way. Does his unfaithfulness mean that everyone else was unfaithful? Not at all.

Well many of us are like that college student. God’s given you all kinds of advantages to succeed. From ordinary things like the country you live in to the skills and talents He’s blessed you with. And then there are the extraordinary advantages God’s given you — like His Word — the Bible — and His people — the church. Yet in spite of all of these advantages — we’re often unfaithful — neglecting these gifts — and then we blame God when something goes wrong in our lives. We put God on trial — accusing Him of not being faithful — when we’re the ones who’ve been unfaithful. How sick is that?

But then there’s this truth as well:  Our unfaithfulness doesn’t frustrate God’s plans. Our unfaithfulness doesn’t disrupt His will from being accomplished. God’s purpose will be done regardless if we’re faithful or unfaithful.

“Well — Hanson — what’s the point of being faithful then?”

  • Being faithful is an opportunity for us to fulfill God’s purpose. If we’re unfaithful we’ll see God’s purpose fulfilled through others.
  • When we’re faithful, we see God’s will done in and through us. If we’re unfaithful we see God’s will done in and through others.
  • Being faithful is an opportunity for us to see God glorified as friends and family members come to faith, coworkers find hope and peace, and the nations find joy in Christ — through us. Being unfaithful is an opportunity for all of that to be accomplished through others.
  • Which opportunity sounds better to you?

QUESTION 3

The third question. “Is God unrighteous?” Is God unrighteous? Look with me in verse 5.

“But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) 6 By no means! For then how could God judge the world?” (Romans 3:5-6 ESV)

If “our sinfulness serves a good purpose, for it helps people see how righteous God is. Isn’t it unfair, then, for him to punish us?” This is what the heckler is asking — is it right for God to punish the Jewish people?

Now you may not wrestle with this question. Maybe you’re not a Christian and you think it’s wrong for God to punish anyone — regardless if they’re a Jew or not. Or maybe you’re a Christian and you dismiss this question — because — of course it’s right for God to punish the Jews — they killed Jesus. Two different reasons to quickly skip this question.

What Paul’s actually trying to get at is a belief — held by the Jews — that because they were God’s covenant people — people to whom God had made promises — that they were immune from being punished by God.

Now if you were here during the Finding Jesus series — you may be thinking, “But they were being punished all of the time in the Old Testament. How could they possibly think they’re immune from God’s punishment?” Well all of that’s history now. And for a few hundred years things have been going good for the Jews. A Jew in Paul’s day would think, “Sure, our ancestors did some things that deserved God’s punishment, but surely He won’t punish us — we’re much more sophisticated than our ancestors were.”

You see, they had a false sense of security. They thought that “because I’m a Jew — God’s punishment can’t possible be for me.” And there are many people today who fall for this same lie. Maybe you’ve got reasons why God can’t punish you.

I’m a good person. I pay my taxes. I haven’t cheated on my spouse. I go to church. I give to Red Cross. I walked down the church aisle or raised my hand to accept Jesus or was baptized or prayed the sinner’s prayer. Do any of those things make you immune to God’s punishment?

Now some of you may be confused because I just said some things you’d quickly dismiss, but there were other things — in that list — that you’re certain do make you immune from God’s punishment. But let me say, that list didn’t contain anything that makes a person immune from God’s punishment.

So what makes a person immune from God’s punishment? It begins with repentance — which means turning from your sin — and faith — which means turning to Jesus and trusting in what He’s done for you. But faith in Jesus is much more than saying, “I believe in Him” or walking down an aisle or praying the sinner’s prayer. It may start in one of those places, but really believing in Jesus means you believe what He’s said in the Bible about submitting your life to Him. And then you begin the journey of making sure that how you live aligns with what you believe. Does what you believe — when you say that Jesus is my Savior and my Lord — does that align with how you’re living?

Is Jesus Lord of your time? Lord of your relationships? Lord of your money? Lord of all that you are? Is your life submitted to Him?

For the Jews in Paul’s day, what they said they believed and how they were living didn’t line up. And though there was misalignment, the Jews thought there was no way that God would punish them. And they couldn’t have been more wrong.

QUESTION 4

The final question. “Is God a just Judge?” Is God a just Judge? Look with me in verse 7.

“But if through my lie God's truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? 8 And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.” (Romans 3:7-8 ESV)

“How can God condemn me as a sinner if my dishonesty highlights his truthfulness and brings him more glory?” Now we’re getting into the depths of craziness. Here’s what’s being said.

“OK. We get it — God’s perfect and we’re not. We sin — He doesn’t — we get it. But what we hear you saying — Paul — is that God ultimately uses our sin and our imperfection to show off how great and perfect He is. But how about this, Paul? God wouldn’t look all that great — would He — if we were perfect right along with Him? So in a way, He needs our imperfection — He needs our sin — in order to show off how great He is. And if that’s the case — Paul — the more we sin — the more amazing He looks.”

Now before you’re quick to dismiss this thinking — let me take it a step further.

Judas Iscariot — the man who betrayed Jesus. Does Judas have a right to say, “Come on God, Your whole salvation plan needed me to betray Jesus. No betrayal — no cross. No cross — no resurrection. No resurrection — no salvation. Can’t you see — God — how I’ve done the kindest act in all of history? Look at all of the people who’ve been saved because I betrayed Jesus. How can You possible be just in judging me?”

Is it right for God to judge Judas for betraying Jesus? Is God just to judge us — even though our sin — in a way — shows off His sinlessness? You bet God is just. Paul says, “Their condemnation is just.” Paul doesn’t even defend God — he just says, “Anyone who thinks that God’s an unjust Judge deserves what’s coming their way.”

OBLIGATION 2

And it took us awhile, but now we find our second obligation. “We’re to obey God’s Word.” We’re obligated to obey God’s Word.

Earlier we saw that having God’s Word is no guarantee of eternal life. Having a Bible in your home or a Bible app on your phone is useless if you don’t open it up and read it. The Bible isn’t a lucky charm — where having a Bible in the house will keep bad things from happening to you — even going to a church that faithfully preaches the Bible is no guarantee that you have eternal life — you have to obey God’s Word.

And obedience — true, lifelong, obedience — is fueled by faith in Jesus. And faith — along with repentance — faith is always a result of God’s Spirit awakening your spirit to new life. And new life comes from hearing God’s Word proclaimed. So look at that — even though being in a church that faithfully preaches the Bible is no guarantee that you have eternal life — being in a church that faithfully preaches the Bible is still very important. For the Holy Spirit uses God’s preached Word to give new life — which results in faith and repentance — which are always followed by a life of obedience. Always.

And part of obeying God’s Word — going back to our first obligation — is sharing God’s Word with the nations.

I mean, can you even imagine what it’d be like to not have the Bible? We can know what God is like because we have His Word — imagine only being able to guess what God is like — imagine never having heard of Jesus? Do you think — if you had to guess who God is — that you’d come up with a God who sent His Son to pay the penalty for your sins? Let me just tell you — you’d never come up with that. How do I know? Because no other religion even comes close to Christianity. People who don’t have access to the Bible always guess in a god who’s going to accept them or punish them based on what they do.

Where your only source of hope — for what’s coming after you die — is to hope that you’ve done enough good to outweigh the bad. Can you imagine growing up without God’s Word — or not having the opportunity to hear sermon after sermon preached from God’s Word? Not having the Bible study resources we have access to? Some of you come from families where the Bible was an important part of life. Some of you can’t think of a generation in your family that didn’t believe in Jesus — is there any advantage to that? You bet there is. But will you take advantage — of your advantage — will the nations benefit from your advantage?

CONCLUSION

Here’s the bottom line: If we put God on trial, then He’s accountable to us. But if He’s accountable to us, He’s not really God. But if God puts us on trial, then we’re accountable to Him. And not only can God put you on trial, but He has put you on trial.

God is loving and gracious — but He’s also a just Judge — and you will have your day in His court. And if that sounds frightening to you — it should — but let that fear drive you to the One who took your punishment upon Himself on a cross.

Jesus went to the cross for your advantage — not His — so that you can escape the punishment your sins deserve. And Jesus proves to you that God is faithful — always. When you hated Him, mocked Him, and rebelled against Him — God didn’t return you in kind. He waited patiently for you — giving you unearned mercies every day of your life — things you’ve taken advantage of — often ignored — things you may have even used in your accusations against Him. God’s always been faithful to you even when you were unfaithful.

And Jesus shows us that God always does the right thing — even when it cost Him pain, suffering, and His own death — that’s how committed God is to doing the right thing for you — Jesus died for you. What else could God possibly do to show you both how much He loves you and how far He’s willing to go to do the right thing for you?

And Jesus shows us that God is a just Judge. There’s a wonderful promise in the Bible — if Jesus has taken God’s judgment upon Himself for your sins — then you never have to fear God’s judgment — Jesus paid your sin debt in full.

And the only response to receiving such love and mercy and grace — is the response of obedience. Being faithful with what you’ve been entrusted with — God’s Word — and sharing it with the nations. Being faithful in obeying God’s Word out of love for all that Jesus is and all that He’s done for you. Not putting God on trial — and not doing things for Him in expectation that He’ll do things in return for you — but looking to all that He’s done for you in Jesus and saying, “Here I am, God. Ready to obey. Not ashamed of the gospel. For it is the power of my salvation — and it is the power of salvation for all who believe.” Let’s pray.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father, thank you the Good News of Your gospel. What an advantage given to us — an advantage we don’t deserve. What faithfulness You’ve shown us — faithfulness to us even though we’ve been unfaithful. How assuring it is to know that You have — and will always — do the right thing — even when it cost Jesus His life. And what freedom we have in knowing that You are a just Judge — and that for all who have turned from sin and turned to Your Son — You have judged Jesus in our place.

Help us to live our lives in response to this Good News. Sharing Your Word with the nations as we’ve been entrusted with this responsibility. And help us to live — not trying to make Good News happen — not trying to earn Your love or our freedom — but to live in response to the love You have for us — in response of Your love for us as displayed in Jesus. It’s in His name we pray. Amen.

 

Songs for the Weekend

Listen to these songs for this weekend at Gateway.  Meditate on the words. Worship our steadfast, forgiving, mighty God.

N Main

Breaking Through - Bethel Music
God Is Able - Hillsong
With Everything - Hillsong
God With Us - Thank You

CR9

You Brought Me Back to Life - Citizens & Saints
The Solid Rock - The Dispatch
Ever Be - Bethel Music
In Christ Alone - Sovereign Grace
Jesus, Thank You - Sovereign Grace

Check out all of the songs we sing at Gateway on our Spotify Worship List

Finding Jesus: Daniel Q&A

I know the Bible is God's word. And all Scripture is God-breathed and essential to help correct, rebuke, train,and teach in righteousness, so the man of God can be thoroughly equipped for all good works... But is it possible for us Christians to turn the Bible into an idol???? And would this be wrong?

I guess it's possible. It could be viewed as a good luck charm or something. But, honestly, I think the Bible is far more neglected than it is idolized by most Christians in the US. This article shows research from last year on how little the Bible is read by American Christians. The data seems to indicate that we're far from idolizing the Bible.

In today’s sermon you referred to God loving Jesus more than us. Can you tell me where I can find this in Scripture?

This isn't found in any one place in Scripture, but is the conclusion from looking at many verses in the Bible. For instance, in 1 Peter we read, "For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes 17when he received honor and glory from God the Father. The voice from the majestic glory of God said to him, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”" (1 Peter 1:16-17) God the Father says similar words when Jesus is baptized, yet in all of the other baptism stories in the New Testament, not once does God say these words about another person. There's a unique pleasure that God has in Jesus.

In John 3 we read, "The Father loves his Son and has put everything into his hands. 36And anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry judgment.”" (John 3:35-36) Here the Father's love for Jesus is emphasized with the fact that God has given everything to Jesus and that through belief in His Son others will be given eternal life (and the consequence for not believing). Again, emphasizing a unique love relationship between the Father and the Son.

In John 5 we read, "So Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does. 20For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he is doing. In fact, the Father will show him how to do even greater works than healing this man. Then you will truly be astonished. 21For just as the Father gives life to those he raises from the dead, so the Son gives life to anyone he wants. 22In addition, the Father judges no one. Instead, he has given the Son absolute authority to judge,23so that everyone will honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son is certainly not honoring the Father who sent him." (John 5:19-23) Here, again, we find a uniqueness of the Father and Son's relationship. Jesus only does what the Father wants Him to do. We often do things that displease God. The reason for Jesus' obedience, in verse 20, is said to be because of the Father's love for Jesus and that Jesus was shown everything that the Father is doing. This also shows the unique love relationship the Father and Son have as we, Christians, do not see all that God is doing. The verses continue by highlighting more of the uniqueness of the Father/Son relationship when it comes to judgment, giving life, etc...

More examples could be given, but those should be enough to show that 1) There is a unique relationship between the Father and Son that is different than all other relationships, 2) The Father's love for Jesus is included in what makes their relationship unique, 3) Jesus' obedience and work, done on our behalf, were all accomplished because of the love His Father has for Him.

Finally, I don't want this to convey the idea that God doesn't love us. He does! In fact, a tremendous blessing for the believer is that God loves us with the same love that He has for Jesus. And, to be clear, God does loves all people; even people who don't believe in Him. The point I was making in the sermon is the false idea that a loving God can't send people to Hell. Out of His love for Jesus, God will send people -- even people He loves -- to Hell who reject Jesus. Why? Because of His greater love for Jesus. 

Last Sunday there was the teaching that God loves Jesus infinitely more than he loves us. Where is the biblical passage that supports this contention? It was also taught that a loving God can “send” people to hell. It was my understanding that by the gift of free will, people are allowed to “choose” hell (a.k.a eternal separation from God). Has Gateway changed it’s core principles on this position?

 

For your question about God loving Jesus, please see my response to the question directly above this one. Regarding God sending people to Hell, Gateway hasn't changed it's position. Since Gateway was established, she has been part of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Our theological positions are posted here and here on our denomination's website and here on Gateway's website. I'd encourage you to look at the Westminster Confession of Faith's Chapter 3 (read all of it, but particularly point 3), Chapter 5 (points 2 and 6), Chapter 9 (points 3 and 4), and Chapter 10 (points 1, 2, and 4) for an understanding of the beliefs Gateway has held regarding your question since she began over 15 years ago.

 

So something Pastor Josh said on Sunday I’ve been wrestling with. He made the comment that God loves Jesus infinitely more than He loves us. First of all, I think we often think too highly of ourselves so a proper understanding of our place is necessary. However, I’m not able to rationalize that statement with scripture. The first passage that jumped to my mind was John 17 and Jesus’ prayer, specifically verse 23. “...so that the world may know that you sent me and love them even as you loved me.” This would seam to imply Gods love for us is equivalent to the love He has for Christ. This would make sense because when God looks at me, he doesn’t see me, but Christ’s imputed righteousness upon me. So if God sees Christ when He sees me, how does He distinguish His love between us? I agree with everything else said around that statement. That how can God be holy and just and loving and not look at sin and condemn me to hell? The fact that he hasn’t struck me dead is a grace unto itself and it’s only because of His unmerited mercy and grace towards me and the rest of us - and the fact that when He sees me, my sin has been attained for by the blood of His Son. Just hoping you could help me understand the statement better in context of the Text. Thanks!!

The context, in which I made that statement, was a conversation I had with a young man who believed that a loving God cannot send people to Hell. My statement about God loving Jesus infinitely more was directed toward the false idea that God loves people who reject Jesus just as much as He loves Jesus. God does love unbelievers, but He loves Jesus in a different way than He loves them (I used the phrase "infinitely more" to show just how different God's love is for Jesus). John 17 is referring to people who believe in Jesus, not all people in general, or people who reject Jesus. Thus God's love, as stated in John 17, is His love for people who believe in Jesus. God loves them -- those who are in Christ -- with the same love He has for Jesus. This is made more clear with Jesus' statement in John 17:25 where he says that the "world doesn't know You" compared to Him and those who are in Him who do know the Father. All that to say that the "them" being referred to in John 17:23, are believers. Not all people in general.

Finding Jesus: Daniel Manuscript

SERMON: Daniel
TEXT: Daniel 3 (ESV)
SPEAKER: Josh Hanson
DATE: 8-25/26-18


 

WELCOME

It’s good to be with all of you this weekend at Gateway Church. And one thing I want you to know — and it doesn’t matter if it’s your first time with us or if you’re worshipping at our North Main campus — I want you to know that God loves you and I love you too.

 

SERIES INTRODUCTION

And welcome back to all of our college students. I got to hang out with some of you this past week at your kick off dinner. College students — free food every Thursday night at our North Main campus. Hint. Hint.

Speaking of hints. In the end of the gospel of Luke, there’s an interesting story about Jesus. After He’d been killed on the cross, Jesus appears to two men who thought He was dead — He somehow hid who He was from them — so they had no idea who they were talking to. And these guys had high hopes for Jesus, but His crucifixion had crushed whatever hopes they had about Him. And when Jesus shows up on the road, He gives them — and us — a hint as to how we’re to read and understand the Bible.

“And he (Jesus) said to them, "What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?" And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, "Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?" 19 And he said to them, "What things?" And they said to him, "Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see." 25 And he (Jesus) said to them, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" 27 And (verse 27 is key because this is why we’ve been doing this series — this is how we know that the whole Bible is telling one story — watch what Jesus does here...and...) beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:17-27 ESV)

You should circle the phrase “all the Scriptures” in verse 27 of your Bible. That’s why it’s OK to find Jesus in all of the Bible — including the Old Testament. Because Jesus tells us that the whole Bible is about Him — even the Old Testament prophets — the books we’ve been looking at in this series.

And I just mentioned circling a word in your Bible. I’ve been encouraging you to bring a Bible with you during this series because most of us — if we read the Bible throughout the week — we read from a physical Bible. And if that’s the case — which research suggests it is — we should bring our Bibles with us when we gather together.

I mean if you sign up for golf lessons, you’ll get more out of the lessons if you bring your golf clubs, right? You could pay for the golf lessons, sit and listen to someone lecture on how to golf — you could even watch the instructor swing his clubs — but if you never bring your clubs with you — well — the lessons aren’t going to be all that helpful. But if you bring your clubs and learn how to use them during the lessons — you’ll become a better golfer. And the same is true if we bring our Bibles to church with us — I think you’ll find that what happens here at Gateway will start to connect with your life throughout the week in a way that won’t happen if you show up without your Bible.

DANIEL OVERVIEW

So if you have your Bible please turn with me to Daniel chapter 3 — Daniel chapter 3.  

And, if you’re a guest with us, something we like to do at Gateway is let you ask questions. So if you have a question during the sermon, you can text your question in to the number printed on the bulletin or you can submit it on the Gateway app.

DANIEL 3

And like we’ve done each week in this series, let’s start with a highlight reel of the book of Daniel before we jump in to chapter 3. The book is written by a guy named Daniel. He lived in exile during the same time period as some of the other prophets we’ve looked at — like Jeremiah and Ezekiel. And his ministry overlaps the reigns of the Babylonian king — Nebuchadnezzar — and the Persian king — Cyrus — which dates the book between 605-536 B.C.

At this point in history, Babylon is the world power. You may remember — from previous weeks — that the Babylonians defeated the Assyrians and are now conquering other nations. And one of their strategies, was to deport — to exile — the professional class out of the lands they had conquered. They’d deport the artists, scholars, military leaders, and government officials to Babylon — they’d integrate them into the Babylonian culture — assimilate them into their society — and here’s why.

When you do this, you take the culture makers out of the nation you’ve conquered and indoctrinate them with your culture. Then after a generation or two they accept your values and culture as the norm. The people you’ve conquered lose their distinctions — lose their beliefs and values and religious systems — and adopt your culture. It’s quite the strategy — don’t just conquer with military force — conquer through assimilation — and within a generation or two — you have an entire people who’ve abandoned their values and have adopted yours. And — dare I say — this is a strategy that’s worked well here in the US as we Christians have been assimilated by our nation’s culture and values and — in many ways — have lost what should make us distinct.

And as I said, Daniel was brought to live in Babylon. And it’s helpful to think of the book as made up of two parts. The first part — chapters 1-6 — tell the stories of Daniel and his friends. These stories give us a glimpse as to what it means to live faithfully while in exile. Daniel and his friends end up working for the king. And there’s a story of the king having a dream and God gives Daniel an understanding of the dream and how to interpret it. And the king responds to the whole situation in a way that you’d think he had converted to worshipping Daniel’s God. Listen to these words that come from the king’s mouth. “Truly, your (Daniel — your) God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery."” (Daniel 2:47b ESV)

Sounds like the king believes in Daniel’s God, right? But as we’ll see today, people can say they believe all kinds of things about God without really believing in Him after all.

The second part of Daniel — chapters 7-12 — is full of different prophecies and visions about the future. And many Christians love to get caught up in creating timelines and creating maps that show which modern day countries are being referred to in these prophecies — but here’s the point of the second half of Daniel:  God’s in control — that’s the central theme of the book — the sovereignty of God — God is in control of all things — including the world powers that are at war with His people.

Now — if we’re honest — we judge this idea of God being in control. Especially when things aren’t going our way — we can all — even the most faithful of us — begin to think — “God, You paying attention to what’s going on down here?”

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Christian or not — we make judgment calls about things all the time — especially about things going on in the world. Making judgments about things is pretty normal.

We make judgments about what to wear — or what not to wear — salmon colored pants are on my “not to wear list” — by the way.

We make judgments about how to raise our children. How to invest in our future. What to eat. Whether or not to exercise. How to spend our money. And so on.

But something all of us need to recognize is that none of our judgments are perfect — except my decision to not wear salmon colored pants. None of us are perfect and neither are our judgments. All of us — if we’re honest — can look back on our lives and see some judgments we made that were bad calls.

Maybe it was a judgment we made about someone on a first impression or whether or not to eat those oysters that smelled a little funny — we’ve all made bad judgment calls before.

And in our story — in Daniel chapter 3 — we’re going to see someone make a terrible judgment call. And it’s one that many people make today.

Let’s begin in Daniel 3 — verse 1. And — to give you a heads up — Daniel actually isn’t in our story. I know some of you were excited — because — after the last few weeks you were like “OK. Daniel. I know this book. He’s the guy that’s thrown in the lion’s den.” And that’s not the story we’re looking at today. Sorry to disappoint.

But Daniel isn’t in our story and we’re not really sure what he’s doing while this is all going on. So the guy whose book we’re reading is missing in action for this story. Alright — let’s start in verse 1.

“King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its breadth six cubits (So that’s 90 feet tall by 9 feet wide for all of you struggling to convert cubits to feet in your head.). He set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. 2 Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent to gather the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces (that’s everybody who’s anybody) to come to the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 3 Then the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 4 And the herald proclaimed aloud, "You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, 5 that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace." 7 Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

8 Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans (Chaldeans are fortune tellers — they...) came forward and maliciously accused the Jews. (So these guys are jealous of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. And...) 9 They declared to King Nebuchadnezzar, "O king, live forever! 10 You, O king, have made a decree, that every man who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image. 11 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace. 12 There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon:  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up."

So get this. Abandoning God to worship false gods resulted in punishment — they were exiled. Now — in exile — not abandoning God to worship false gods results in punishment. Do the wrong thing — get punished. Do the right thing — get punished.

13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. (Now you need to know that Nebuchadnezzar has been gracious to these guys. Along with Daniel — he’s appointed them to leadership positions in his kingdom — so he’s been good to them and he’s thinking — “this is how you pay me back?” They’re not just disrespecting him — they’re embarrassing him.) So they brought these men before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, "Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. (“I’m giving you a second chance.”) But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?"

Now Nebuchadnezzar just made a judgment call about God. It’s one that’s made all the time. It’s a judgment call about the god you worship. The word worship comes up nine times in this story, which happens to be the same number of times the fiery furnace is mentioned. And that’s the conflict — the tension — who will they worship? God or Nebuchadnezzar? But there’s another key word — the word “deliver.” “Who is the god who will deliver — or rescue — you,” the king asks. Another judgment call made by the king — “surely your God can’t rescue you from my hand.” What kind of judgment calls do you make about God?

I recently talked with a guy who’s made a judgment call about God. His god is a god who is only love. And his problem with the God of the Bible — is that though He’s love — He’s also wrathful. And what this guy couldn’t understand is how a God — who is love — could send people to Hell because they don’t believe and follow Jesus. For him, a loving God can’t send people to Hell.

So I said to him, “The issue isn’t that the Christian God is less loving — it’s that He’s more loving than you’re giving Him credit for.” I said, “If someone tries to harm my daughter, it would be unloving for me to watch her be harmed and do nothing. My love for her would cause me to do something. And if that’s true for me, how much more so is that true of God’s love for Jesus? The reason why people are punished in Hell for all eternity isn’t because God is unloving — it’s because of the infinite love He has for Jesus. God loves Jesus infinitely more than He loves any of us. So if someone rejects Jesus, the most loving thing God can do is send them to Hell. Otherwise His love for Jesus is all a sham. And if His love for Jesus is a sham, so is He love for us.” The guy said he needed to think about that some more.

But it’s not just non-Christians who make judgment calls about God — we Christians do this too. Like, “Well of course God isn’t with me now, think of all of the horrible things I’ve done this past week.” Or “if only I would’ve spent more time reading my Bible this week — then God would’ve gotten that cute girl to notice me.” Or “maybe that’s why I’m suffering — I should’ve served at the soup kitchen instead of going to the movies on Friday night.” We — Christians — make judgment calls about God just like non-Christians. But let’s see how Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego respond — what’s their judgment call about God?

16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. (“Our minds are made up.”) 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to (do what? Our God is able to...) deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will (what? God will...) deliver us out of your hand, O king. (What faith, right? What boldness. What confidence. If only we had faith like them, right? Well...let’s keep reading.) 18 But if not (wait — what — if not? What happened to “God is able to deliver us and God will deliver us?” Here’s what’s happening.

They’re not doubting God’s ability to deliver them — they’re just not certain what God will do. Just because we obey God doesn’t mean we won’t get burned. Up to this point in history, God’s never delivered anyone from fire — He’s done all kinds of miracles — but nothing like this. So they don’t know what God will do. And the point isn’t their commitment to God — they weren’t trying to make a point about having bold faith — they’re making a point about the God they worship. And here’s their point — this is why they were willing to face the furnace:  God’s worth it. God is worth it. Is the god you worship worth being thrown into the furnace for? If not, maybe you need to reconsider who you’re worshipping.

“But if not,” they say...), be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up."

19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury (he’s fiery hot now), and the expression of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated (“They’re gonna know just how mad I am.”). 20 And he ordered some of the mighty men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. 21 Then these men were bound in their cloaks, their tunics, their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace. 22 Because the king's order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace.

What? They stood faithfully for God — they refused to worship the statue — and this is what they get — they get thrown into the fire? Do you want to know a secret about the Christian faith? Only people who really know who God is — who’ve made accurate judgmental calls about God based on His Word — only people who really know who God is are willing to get thrown into the fire for what they believe in.

Could be something you’re dealing with at work — where your boss has asked you to do something dishonest. It can be tempting to bow down and worship the golden statue of job security.

Or when you’re out with your friends and they pass around an inappropriate picture — it can be hard not to look because you want to be “one of the guys.” It can be tempting to bow down and worship the golden statue of peer pressure.

Could be when your boyfriend wants to take things physically farther than you’re comfortable with — it can be hard to not go there because — if you don’t — maybe he’ll leave. It can be tempting to bow down and worship the golden statue of feeling loved by someone.

An all to real truth about the Christian faith is that obeying God doesn’t mean things will always turn out the way you want them to. Sometimes obedience gets you thrown into the fire. As someone has said, “Biblical faith has the assurance to say, ‘I know my God is able to deliver me.’ It has the confidence to say, ‘I believe that my God will deliver me.’ But it also has the submission to say, ‘But even if he doesn’t — I will still trust him.’”

24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste (So he’s sitting in a spot where he can watch the men burn and he sees something that shocks him). He declared to his counselors, "Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?" (Another problem for all of you math lovers — this one’s simple though. How many guys were thrown into the furnace? Three, right?) They answered and said to the king, "True, O king." 25 He answered and said, "But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods." (The language used here means some sort of spiritual being. The fourth person — who’s delivering Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from being burned in the fire — is divine.)

26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!" Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. 27 And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king's counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them. 28 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king's command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way." 30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.” (Daniel 3:1-30 ESV)

Now before we get to excited for the king, do you remember the story from Daniel chapter 2? How the king had a dream and Daniel interpreted it for him and then the king responded with what sounded like belief in God — that all came before this story — where he’s forcing people to worship him or be thrown into the fire. Given how he’s been acting, I think it’s safe to say that Nebuchadnezzar didn’t really believe in God at the end of chapter 2.

And in verse 28, we see something that looks like belief again — but look in verse 28. Does the king say “Blessed be my God?” No. He says, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.”

And if you keep reading in the book of Daniel, you’ll see that though the king’s had an experience with God — he doesn’t believe — not in a way that’s caused him to make a right judgment call about God. Even though he’s seen this miracle — Nebuchadnezzar has made his judgement about God — and he’s still not ready to believe.

FINDING JESUS IN DANIEL

Now about that fourth person in the fire — He’s our thread that helps us find Jesus. Throughout the Bible, we find mysterious figures who show up in various stories. Sometimes they’re described as men, other times as an angel, and other times it’s even wilder — like bushes that are on fire yet don’t burn up. And these are called Theophanies. So what’s a theophany? A theophany is a “manifestation of God” — they signify the presence and glory of God.

In Genesis 18, Abraham is approached by some mysterious men-like beings. They warn him about the judgment coming on Sodom and Gomorrah. But what I want you to notice — the next time you read Genesis chapter 18 — is how the text says again and again that God is speaking to Abraham as he talks to these mysterious men.

I’ve hinted at the story of Moses and the burning bush — which you’re probably familiar with from the book of Exodus. Later in Exodus, God appears as a cloud during the day and as fire at night. The cloud and fire are the presence of God. When Moses is given the Ten Commandments, God descends on the mountain in the form of smoke, and fire, and earthquakes.

A man named Joshua finds himself face to face with the “commander of the Lord’s army.” Joshua asks, “Are you on our side or on the side of the enemy?” And the commander replies, “No.” Which is a way of saying, “Wrong question, Josh. The right question is...are you on My side?” And do you know what Joshua does? He worships this mysterious commander. Now in the Bible — when people start to worship an angel — the angel always tells them to stop — but not this time — so this isn’t just some regular old angel. Who alone is worthy of worship? God is.

And there are other stories of these mysterious figures — doing divine-like things — being worshipped — all things we’d associate with God — including this fourth figure in the furnace who delivers — who saves Daniel’s friends — the one who Nebuchadnezzar says is, “like a son of the gods” is — in reality — the Son of God. For Jesus is the One who rescues — He’s the deliverer.  In fact, His name — Jesus — means “God saves.”

But Jesus has another name. Immanuel, which means “God with us.” You see, these Old Testament theophanies all point us to Jesus — God in the flesh — because they remind us that Jesus is our God — our Savior — who is with us.

And we make judgment calls about His presence with us all of the time, don’t we? “If only He’d show up physically — like He did in the furnace — then I’d really believe” — maybe you’ve thought something like that before. But an important part of our faith is to understand that — though theophanies are real experiences — they’re more like solar eclipses than a sun rise. Solar eclipses happen — they’re just not the norm. But a sun rise — well that’s the norm.

So we understand God’s every day presence in our lives in other ways. The Holy Spirit is God’s presence in our lives. Jesus promised that He would send us the Holy Spirit to be our Teacher, Helper, and Guide. And in the book of Acts we see Jesus fulfill His promise — the Holy Spirit is God with us.

The Bible is often overlooked for the gift of God’s presence that it is. The Bible is not God, but it is His Word. And Peter tells us something quite profound about the Bible. He says, “I was there on the mountain when the voice of God said, ‘This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.’” Then Peter goes on to say that we have access to something even more powerful than being on that mountain with him when he heard the voice of God. Do you know what it is? Peter says it’s the Bible — the Scriptures — for in them we have God’s Word to us.

Finally, the church is a way to experience the presence of God. We’re called the temple of God’s Spirit and the body of Christ — to be with God’s people is to be in God’s presence.  

CONCLUSION

These are all ways we can experience God’s presence in our lives. Even when we find ourselves in a fiery furnace situation. Jesus won’t always protect us from the fiery furnaces of life — but He’ll always walk through them with us. And — as the Bible tells us — at “just the right time” — God sent His Son to save His people — to deliver us — not just from a fiery furnace — but from a fiery Hell.

The Bible tells one story. I hope that as you read it, you’ll be excited to discover how what you’re reading points you to Jesus. For He is the point of the whole Bible. Let’s pray.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father, thank you for Your presence in our lives. We ask You to help us make better judgmental calls about who You are. We know this means that we must be in Your Word — for in it — You have revealed to us who You are.

Jesus, for anyone going through a fiery furnace experience — I ask that You would assure them of Your presence. Often — when life is hard — we judge You to be absent, uncaring, maybe even non-existent. Please forgive us for not trusting in Your promise to never leave us.

And Holy Spirit, remind us of the many opportunities we have to experience Your presence with us. Through God’s Word to us — the Bible. Through the church — the body of Christ. And through Your daily guidance in our lives. Help us to trust in Your presence with us. We pray all these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

 

 

Finding Jesus: Ezekiel Manuscript

SERMON: Ezekiel
TEXT: Ezekiel 36:22-37:14 (ESV)
SPEAKER: Josh Hanson
DATE: 8-18/19-18

WELCOME

It’s good to be with all of you this weekend at Gateway Church. And one thing I want you to know — and it doesn’t matter if it’s your first time with us or if you’re worshipping at our North Main campus — one thing I want you to know is that God loves you and I love you too.

SERIES INTRODUCTION

And if you’re just joining us, we’re in the fourth week of a series where we’re looking at some books of the Bible that may be less familiar to you than others. We’re looking at the Old Testament prophets.

Now I can imagine someone thinking, “What in the world do the Old Testament prophets have to do with my life? Give me a sermon on relationships or money or parenting...but the Old Testament prophets — this seems so impractical.” And here’s what I hope we’ll all realize. We — if you’re a believer in Jesus — we stand in a long line of people who’ve gone before us in church history. And they’re part of God’s story — and so are you. And their God is your God. The God of Abraham and Isaac, the God of Jacob and Moses, the God of David and Isaiah, the God of Jeremiah and Ezekiel — is your God. And the God who spoke to them thousands of years ago is the same God who speaks to you today in the Bible. And what unites us together is that we’re all part of the same story — God’s story — a story with Jesus at the center. And these Old Testament prophets have much to teach us about Jesus and the story we’re part of.

So that’s why we’re spending five weeks in the Old Testament prophets. We’re looking at them and seeing how their story points us to the bigger story the Bible is telling — the story of Jesus. And today we’re continuing our series in the Old Testament prophets by taking a look at the book of Ezekiel. So if you have your Bible — and I hope you’ve brought one with you today — go ahead and open it to Ezekiel chapter 36. We’ll begin in verse 22.

And, if you’re a guest with us, something we like to do at Gateway is let you ask questions. So if you have a question during the sermon, you can text your question in to the number printed on the bulletin or you can submit it on the Gateway app.

OVERVIEW OF EZEKIEL

And while you’re finding Ezekiel 36, let me give you a quick overview of the book of Ezekiel. The book is written by a prophet named...Ezekiel. And he lived during the same time period as the prophet Jeremiah. But unlike Jeremiah — who stayed mainly in and around the city of Jerusalem — Ezekiel is in exile. When the Babylonians invaded the nation of Judah they exiled the king of Judah and around 3,000 of the nation’s leading citizens — Ezekiel being one of them. And in the opening verses of chapter 1, Ezekiel tells us that he’s in exile living in — what today is — the country of Iraq. Something obvious is that he’s familiar with Jeremiah’s new covenant message — what we looked at a few weeks ago — but we don’t know if the two prophets ever met.

Like the prophet Isaiah, we know that Ezekiel was married. And he writes about his wife’s death in the 24th chapter of his book. His name — Ezekiel — means “God strengthens” or “may God strengthen,” which is appropriate for a prophet in exile and in constant need of God’s strength for survival. He was about 25 years old when he was sent into exile and in his book he speaks on a number of themes, but the central theme is the holiness of God, which the people of Judah have dishonored.

If you remember back to the first week in this series, we looked at the calling of Isaiah. Where the prophet had a vision of God. And what were the angels crying out in Isaiah’s vision? They were crying out “holy, holy, holy.” Isaiah goes on to warn the people about dishonoring God’s holiness — but they ignore his warning. And now — over a hundred years later — the people are still dishonoring the holiness of God — even after being sent into exile. But now the nations are watching — foreigners are seeing God’s people dishonor His holiness — God’s people are being terrible witnesses to the watching world.

And just as Isaiah prophesied, God’s judgement comes. They’re punished because they’ve abandoned God. Jeremiah experienced God’s judgment from within the city of Jerusalem. Ezekiel — however — experiences God’s judgment in exile. He’s out in the land of darkness that the people were warned about. He’s out in the wilderness — out in the land of despair — out in the land of death. And the question this book raises is this: “Will the people be brought out of the land of death and back to the Promised Land — the land of life — will they experience a resurrection?”

I’m sure you’re familiar with the rescue of the soccer team in Thailand that happened last month. The team had a tradition of taking new members deep into a large cave system to write their name on a cave wall.

The team entered the cave for what was supposed to be an hour-long trip, but ended up in the cave for more than two weeks as a flash-flood trapped them. They were able to find a small dry beach which would be their home for two weeks — but — at the time — they had no idea if it would be their grave.

Now two things. Were they alive on that beach in the cave? Yes — they were alive. But were they dead? Yes — without a rescue — that cave is their grave. They don’t know if help’s on the way. They don’t know the world’s watching and rescuers are working to get to them. All they know is they’re in exile — in a place of darkness — a place of despair — they’re in a place of death.

Now — we should celebrate the good work the rescuers did to bring the soccer team up out of the cave — up out of the grave — up out of that place of darkness, despair, and death. It’s stories like these that emphasize a goodness in mankind. If you ask a person on the street, “Are most people good,” they’ll probably say, “Yes.” It’s a common assumption that — while there are bad people in the world — most people are good. There’s even a country song titled “I Believe Most People are Good.” The chorus says, “I believe most people are good...I believe the world ain’t half as bad as it looks; I believe most people are good.” And many people would agree.

And let me say — maybe to your surprise — that the Bible agrees — but it makes an important clarification. There is an inherent measure of goodness in people because all people are made in the image of God. Men and women do good things — like rescuing a soccer team out of a flooded cave.

But what the Bible clarifies is that though men and women — being made in the image of God — can do good things — because of sin — all people are totally depraved. You see, the Bible’s more honest about us than we are.

Can we do good things? “Yes!” But are we depraved? The Bible says, “Yes again!”

So what does that mean — to be totally depraved? It means that though man is not as bad as he could possibly be — sin — not goodness — controls our hearts apart from God. So even though people do good things — the gospel disagrees with Luke Bryan — who wrote the song I quoted from earlier — for the Bible says “being good isn’t based on what you do — being good has to do with your heart. And apart from God — it’s not that your heart isn’t good — or even that it’s bad — apart from God a person’s heart is dead.” The opposite of a good heart — according to the Bible — isn’t a bad heart — it’s a dead heart. How about that for a shocker?

And this is why the Bible can be very irritating. Culture says that our hearts are basically good — not bad — and especially not dead — so the idea of resurrection seems silly to many. “Why would I need to be resurrected? I’m not dead.” But the Bible says because of the sin that lives within each of us — our hearts — apart from Christ — are spiritually dead — thus we all need a spiritual resurrection.

Which leads us to our passage in Ezekiel. Here are the words found in Ezekiel 36. Beginning in verse twenty-two.

EZEKIEL 36:22-37:14

“"Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. (So right away we’re confronted with something that goes against everything we think about ourselves — that part of us that's so certain — even if we don’t say it out loud — that part of us that thinks, “I. Am. Awesome.” Because you’re not — and neither am I. God says, “I’m not doing this for you; I’m doing this for the sake of My holy name — which — by the way — you’ve dishonored.”) 23 And (this is God speaking) I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. (So get this. God’s goal is that the nations will see His holiness through the work He’s doing in us. God is always global-focused. We get caught up in our own little worlds — not God. He’s not satisfied with just you believing in Him. He’s not satisfied with the United States being a Christian nation — whatever that means. God has a heart for people of all nations — and that’s why He’s saved you — if you believe in Jesus. God’s saved you so you will show His holiness to the nations. How does your life show the nations the holiness of God? God continues...) 24 I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. (God kicked them out of the Promised Land and He’ll bring them back in — God’s going to make it happen. The Jews aren’t going to revolt. They’re not going to sneak away or fight their way out of exile. It’s God — and God alone — who will take them out of exile and bring them back into the Promised Land. God says...) 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. (Remember how the people had abandoned worshipping only God? They’d started mixing in other religions. They’d traded in the pure, unadulterated worship of God for a “choose your own religion” deal — and this made them filthy to God. Their worship disgusted Him. It made them unclean. But notice how gracious God is. For He makes them clean anyway. They don’t make themselves clean — God does it for them. And God says...) 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh (that’s the old heart — a stone — spiritually dead — heart) and give you a heart of flesh (a heart that’s spiritually alive). 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Notice who’s doing all of the work. God is, right? He’s giving the new heart. He’s giving His Spirit. He’s doing all of it — we’re the recipients — we’re the ones being acted upon. God says, “I’ll give you a new heart, put a new spirit in you. I’ll remove the stone heart from your body and replace it with a heart that’s God-willed, not self-willed. I’ll put my Spirit in you and make it possible for you to do what I tell you and live by my commands.”

A great question to ask yourself is this: Is my heart God-willed or self-willed? Which way does your heart lean? Towards signs of being spiritually dead or alive?

The people aren’t going to be asked whether or not they want a new heart. God’s not going to give them the option to accept or reject His Spirit. He knows how wicked, and rebellious, and stone-hearted these people are. And if He gives them the option they’ll never accept Him or His Spirit — that’s what we’ve been seeing in the Old Testament prophets — left on our own, every one of us goes our own way. We all reject God. We all check the box “Do not accept these terms and conditions. No new heart. No Holy Spirit. No resurrection.” Left on our own we all reject God — we choose death, not life — but thankfully He doesn’t leave us on our own.

God goes on to say — and this is really off the charts gracious of God — if you really get just who these people are — who we are — for God says to them...) 28 You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. (There’s the new covenant promise we saw in Jeremiah. God refuses to break His promise — remember He’s a promise-making and a promise-keeping God — and He’s promised them the Promised Land and even though they don’t deserve it — He gives it to them anyway. That’s grace! God says...) 29 And I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses. And I will summon the grain and make it abundant and lay no famine upon you. 30 I will make the fruit of the tree and the increase of the field abundant, that you may never again suffer the disgrace of famine among the nations. (There’s coming a time of fruitfulness and prosperity and abundance and life. War and invasion and exile will be over. The people will be made clean.) 31 Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations. (When you begin to understand how gracious God has been to you — you hate your sin — but the opposite is also true. If God’s grace is cheap to you — if it’s not worth much — you don’t hate your sin. You may hate the consequences of your sin — you may be irritated with the results of your sin — but you don’t hate your sin. And — listen — with all of the love I have for you — let me tell you — you either hate God or hate your sin — there isn’t another option. Do you hate your sin?)

32 It is not for your sake that I will act, declares the Lord God; let that be known to you. (Could God be any clearer? God’s not doing this because the people deserve it. A more frank translation says, “I’m not doing this for you. Get this through your thick heads! Shame on you. What a mess you made of things, Israel!”

God tells them to...) Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel. (Hate your sin!) 33 "Thus says the Lord God: On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and the waste places shall be rebuilt. 34 And the land that was desolate shall be tilled, instead of being the desolation that it was in the sight of all who passed by. 35 And they will say, 'This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden, and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited.' (There’s a complete transformation from death and destruction to life and flourishing. A city destroyed is now prosperous. And the result?) 36 Then the nations that are left all around you shall know that I am the Lord; I have rebuilt the ruined places and replanted that which was desolate. I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it. (The promise-maker is the promise-keeper — this will be done. Guaranteed.) 37 "Thus says the Lord God: This also I will let the house of Israel ask me to do for them: to increase their people like a flock. 38 Like the flock for sacrifices, like the flock at Jerusalem during her appointed feasts, so shall the waste cities be filled with flocks of people. Then they will know that I am the Lord."

God’s doing it all. How many times have we read, “I will” and “I am” referring to God? God’s cleansing them of their iniquities — of their sin. He’s giving them His Spirit — so they will have life. He’s giving them a new heart — so they will desire and obey Him. God’s making a point. And just in case they’re not getting it — in case we’re not getting it — God gives Ezekiel an illustration — a vision — a visual so we understand just how desperate we are in need of God to do this resurrection work in and for us. Let’s continue in chapter 37.

1 The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. (In a time of war and invasion, not everyone gets a proper burial. And in this vision, there’s a valley where a slaughter has taken place and the corpses were left on the surface of the ground — they’ve been there for awhile — there’s nothing but bones on the ground.) 2 And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. (Dry bones — they’ve been out in the sun and weather for a long time.) 3 And he (this is God speaking...He...) said to me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" (OK — so pause. Can bones live? Can they get up, walk around, head over to Main St. deli and order a sandwich? The answer is “No,” right? That’s how we’d answer, but that’s not how Ezekiel answers.) And I answered, "O Lord God, you know." (When God asks you a question that you’re certain you know the answer to — sometimes the best reply is — “God, why don’t you tell me the answer.”) 4 Then he said to me, "Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. (“Preach Ezekiel, preach to these dead, dry, lifeless bones! Preach My Word to them.”

What’s the craziest thing God’s asked you to do — wasn’t this crazy was it? Since it wasn’t this crazy, did you obey? Whenever God asks you to do something that you think is crazy, I want you to think of this moment in Ezekiel’s life — maybe go drive to a cemetery and stand over a grave — and say, “OK God. I’ll do what You’ve asked. Because what You’re asking me to do ain’t “Preach to dry bones crazy.”) 5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6 And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord." (“Preach to these bones Ezekiel. Because through your preaching of My Word these bones will experience a resurrection.” I mean, how stupid does this sound? “Ezekiel go preach to a bunch of bones and tell them to listen to the Word of God — tell them to live — tell these dry bones to know that I am God.” It all sounds ridiculous, right? Hold onto that thought, because it’s going to crush your pride in a moment.) 7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8 And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. (So through Ezekiel’s preaching something incredible happens. A resurrection takes place. But notice that there’s no breath. They’re physically all put together — but there’s no breath — there’s no life in them.) 9 Then he said to me, "Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live." 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army. (Now we’ve got a resurrection! This army was dead — but now they’re alive. So God explains the vision.) 11 Then he said to me, "Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, 'Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.' 12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. 14 And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord." (The promise-making God is a promise-keeping God.)” (Ezekiel 36:22-37:14 ESV)

The people are in exile. They’re physically alive, but — the picture you need to see is that though they’re alive — they’re dead. Those boys in the cave were alive. They could talk to each other. They could move around on the beach. They were perfectly free — nothing was imposed upon their free will — they could’ve tried to swim out of the cave on their own — but they chose to stay put. But can you see that though they were alive — without outside help — without a rescue — without a resurrection — they literally needed to come up out of the grave — without a resurrection they’re dead?

That’s the picture in Ezekiel. Ezekiel shows us — not just the state of the people in exile — Ezekiel shows us the spiritual condition of everyone who doesn’t have faith in Christ. You’re not trapped in a cave — you’re trapped in a sinful — totally depraved — body. And it’s your place of exile — it’s your place of darkness — it’s your place of death — unless you experience a resurrection.

So how do we experience this resurrection? Ready for that crushing of your pride I promised? Through what seems like the dumbest thing ever — through preaching. Spiritual resurrection comes through God’s Word being preached and proclaimed.

When I stand up here — while you’re watching the video or finding your Bible — whatever it is you do before I preach — do you know what I’m doing? I’m praying. I’m praying through Ezekiel’s vision. I hear God ask, “Josh can these dry bones live? Can these people — many of whom who are spiritually dead — who do all sorts of good things and think those good things make them right with Me — can these people — Josh — can they live?” And I always reply, “God, only You know. But I’m going to preach as faithfully as I can so Your Spirit will give new hearts and new life to all that You choose.”

Every week, as I prepare my sermon, I pray that the miraculous would happen while I preach — that people who come here spiritually dead — thinking that because they’ve got bones, and skin, and are able to move, and think, and do all sorts of things that make them think they’re alive — I pray that you — if that’s you — that you would experience a resurrection — that you would be given a new heart — as God’s Word is preached.

FINDING JESUS IN EZEKIEL

And this theme of resurrection is a way we find Jesus in the whole Bible. A man named Abraham is told by God to kill his one and only son — it was a test of Abraham’s faith. And as he prepared to strike his son with a knife God calls out for him to stop. And it’s said, “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, "Through Isaac shall your offspring be named." 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.” (Hebrews 11:17-19 ESV)

A foreigner named Naaman had leprosy — which was a death sentence — and he went to a prophet to be healed. He was told to go wash in the Jordan River — dip down into the same water that one day Jesus would be baptized in. And when he came up out of the water he was healed — he was resurrected.

We read stories in the Old and New Testaments of widows receiving their children back from the dead. Jesus stands at the tomb of his friend — who’d been dead for several days — and commands his deceased friend to live — and the guy walks out of the tomb — alive.

And all of these resurrection stories point us to the resurrection story — the resurrection of Jesus. That though He was killed on a cross, three days later the tomb was empty — for death could not keep Him in the grave. As the angels told the women, “Why are you looking for Him here. He’s not dead; He’s alive.”

And these resurrection stories also reveal to us something troubling about ourselves. That though we may be physically alive — breathing, talking, going to work, enjoying hobbies, and doing good things — that without Christ we’re all spiritually dead because of our sin.

Speaking to followers of Jesus, Paul writes, “And you were (what? Paul says you were...) dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked (notice — they were physically alive — they we’re walking around...), following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience — 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like (who? So who’s included in the “you’re physically alive, but spiritually dead” condition? Like...) the rest of mankind. (That’s everyone — including you — if you don’t believe. And that would be a hopeless, dark, and depressing situation if it wasn’t for Paul’s next two words. Two of my favorite words in all of Scripture.) 4 But God (The promise-making God is a promise-keeping God. And He’s promised not to leave us in darkness, despair, and death — He will not leave His people in spiritual exile. But God...), being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were (here it is again...) dead in our trespasses, (When we were spiritually dead, what did God do? He...) made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved — 6 and (God) raised us up with him (What is that? That’s resurrection. God raised us up from the dead...) and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:1-7 ESV)

CONCLUSION

We find in Ezekiel what we find in the whole Bible. As much as we want to be the diver who comes up out of the water to rescue a trapped soccer team — that’s not who we are in God’s story. We’re on the soccer team. We’re the ones trapped in a land of darkness — spiritual darkness. We’re all caught in a cave of eternal death. We may be breathing. We may be physically alive. We may be doing all kinds of good things. But we’re trapped on a beach in a cave of death — spiritually dead — in need of a rescue — in need of a resurrection.

And Jesus is the Rescuer. He’s the diver who went into the cave of death to rescue us. He’s made our resurrection possible by defeating death on our behalf on the cross. Jesus is the One who brings us up out of the grave and gives us eternal life.

“Jesus, Can these dry bones live — can they be resurrected?” “Yes,” He says. “Live,” Jesus says. “Be resurrected,’ He says. “Yes, they can live — because I have given My life for them.” Let’s pray.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father, give life to these dry bones. Give us eyes to see the spiritual darkness and death we’re trapped in unless we’re given the life You’ve made possible. Life through the resurrection of Your Son, Jesus. Thank you for sending Your Holy Spirit to give us new life so we can step out of the darkness of spiritual death and into the light of eternal life with new hearts that seek to obey You. And Father, help all of us — who’ve received the amazing gift of resurrection — help us to know that a dead world is watching. They’re looking to us to see Your holiness — to see Your resurrection power. Help us to not dishonor Your holy name, but to live the resurrected life You’ve made possible so others might be given this life too. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.