SERMON TITLE: Justified Peace
TEXT: Romans 5:1-5 (ESV)
SPEAKER: Josh Hanson
It’s great to be with all of you this weekend at Gateway Church. And one thing I want you to know is that God loves you and I love you too.
If you’re new to Gateway — here’s what you need to know about how we generally do things around here when it comes to preaching and sermons. Most of the time, you’ll find us going through a book of the Bible because we want the Bible to drive our focus, we want God’s Word to be our guide, and we want it to speak to our lives — because it has much to say to us. So instead of going to the Bible with our own agenda — or my own agenda as the pastor — we go to the Bible to discover its agenda for us.
So you may find us going through a few verses at a time — which is what today will be like. Or you may find us going through a few chapters of a book. Or — if you were here in our Finding Jesus series — there are even times when you’ll hear a sermon on an entire book of the Bible. But my goal — is for you to be a Bible person — where God’s Word shapes who you are and influences how you live — and my role — is to help you understand the Bible better.
And something else you also should know is that we’re jumping back into a book of the Bible that we’ve taken a break from. In the past few years, we’ve journeyed through the first four chapters of the book of Romans. And — this year — we’re going to get through a few more chapters.
ANNOUNCE THE TEXT
So if you have your Bible please turn with me to Romans chapter 5. We’ll be looking at verses 1-5 together today.
And, if you’re a guest with us, something we like to do at Gateway is let you ask questions that we answer on our weekly podcast. So if you have a question, you can text it in to the number printed on the bottom of the sermon notes sheet or you can submit it on the Gateway app.
Here are the words found in Romans chapter 5. Beginning in verse 1.
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:1-5 ESV)
What comes to your mind when I say the word “peace”? On a daily basis, we’re bombarded with offers that promise to give us some sense of peace.
“Ladies are you unsettled by those wrinkles? Well our lotion will rejuvenate your skin and make you look 10 years younger. And if that doesn’t work, our makeup products will cover those wrinkles.”
“Men, are you frustrated by those gray hairs or that receding hairline? No problem. Try our hair color product — for men — and if you want to have that full head of hair from your youth once again — well our hair transplant team would love to talk to you.”
We can chuckle at these illustrations — hopefully — but haven’t we all fallen for something that promised us peace — only to have gotten the item — or achieved the goal — or received the promotion — only to wind up lacking peace all over again?
You see that’s the dirty little lie most of us try to ignore. We’ve fallen for the lie that somehow we’ll discover peace — or earn peace — or find it in something we achieve — we fall for the lie that someday we’ll get our hands on peace by our own effort. The lie might come from a product or thinking a certain amount of money will give us peace or that finally reaching retirement will smooth out life’s rough waters. And though it’s true — that there is a kind of peace we can experience through our own accomplishment — like making the last payment on your school loan — but — and you know this — any kind of situation we can control can only provide temporary peace — you go from paying off the school loan to having a mortgage. The kind of peace that we can produce is always fleeting.
But what we find in our text in Romans — in fact — what we find in the whole Bible — is that there is peace available that doesn’t have a shelf life to it. That the reason why you and I long for lasting peace is because there is peace that isn’t temporary. Eternal peace isn’t just a figment of our imagination — it’s not just a longing of our heart — it’s real. But it’s not something we can earn — it’s not something we can achieve — it’s not something we can purchase — this peace is something given to us by God. It’s a peace given to those who are justified.
But before we go any further, I need to explain two things. What I mean by the word peace and what I mean by the word justified — the theological term is justification. So what do I mean when I use the words peace and justification?
First, let’s talk about peace. The biblical word we translate in English as peace is much deeper — it has more breadth to it — than what most of us think of when we hear the word peace. One person has said this, “In the Bible shalom [one of the words we translate as peace] means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight — a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights.” (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 10. )
So when I use the word peace today, I’m not just meaning “the absence of conflict” — you know where peace is the opposite of war — when we use the word peace today — I want you to think of being in the full presence and reality of God. Because being in God’s presence allows us to live the shalom life — the full life — the life of peace. So that’s what we mean by the word peace. Living in the reality of God’s presence which empowers us to live the full life — the whole life — the complete life — the life we were created to live. That’s the word peace.
Now the word justified — or justification. A basic definition of justification is “our declared righteousness before God.” If you listen to our podcast, you’ve heard me talk about catechisms — short questions and answers that teach us about our faith — they’re great for kids and adults. Well the Hanson kids know the definition of justification — in fact — they know the definition I just gave you. How? Well it’s one of the questions in the catechism we use as a family. Justification means “our declared righteousness before God.” That God has made a legal verdict — “you are no longer guilty.”
As someone has said, “Justification is accomplished through Jesus’ blood...Jesus died as the representative of and substitute for his people. Those who put their faith in him are spared from the punishment they deserve.” (Thomas R. Schreiner, “Paul: A Reformed Reading,” in Four Views on The Apostle Paul, ed. Michael F. Bird (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012), 33.) Now — often — when someone talks about justification — that’s as far as they go — and that’s beautiful — but there’s much more to justification — there are deeper waters to swim in — because justification is a resurrection kind of event.
Justification is about God giving us life. It’s about us moving from slavery to freedom — like the Israelites in the Exodus story. And justification is what Paul has been talking about in Romans up until this point in the letter.
In fact, let me give you a quick recap of what you may have missed if you weren’t with us when we went through the first four chapters of Romans. And you may find it helpful to go to our website — gatewayepc.org — where you can find all of the sermons from Romans that you’ve missed — if you’re just joining us on this journey.
But here’s a quick recap.
In the first chapter of Romans — Paul tells us that all of humanity — it doesn’t matter your race, your socio-economic status, your education, the language you speak, your gender — all of humanity is trapped in sin and needs to be rescued.
In chapter 2 he tells us that the rescue won’t come by people obeying God’s law. In this church in Rome, there are Christians coming from a Jewish background and others who don’t have a Jewish upbringing. And part of the confusion and division in the church is the role of God’s law. And Paul wants to make sure that everyone knows that rescue from sin doesn’t come by obeying God’s law because…
In chapter 3, Paul says that no one obeys God’s law. We’ve all fallen short. We’ve all missed the mark. We’ve all rebelled against God and his law. So — and this is amazing — God — in his love — and because he always does what is right — God sent Jesus into our world to rescue us. And Jesus perfectly obeyed God’s law doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.
And Jesus did all of this — we see in chapter 4 — so that the promise God made to Abraham — way back in the book of Genesis — that Abraham would be the father of a huge multi-ethnic family — Jesus came to rescue the people who are the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham. People who are justified because of what Jesus accomplished in his life, death, and resurrection. People who are justified by faith in Christ. People who God has given peace.
OK so with that quick recap — let’s go back to our text and see the life of peace — the full life — that’s being offered to us because of God’s gracious act of justifying his people.
BOASTING IN THE HOPE OF THE GLORY OF GOD
And this gracious act by God is why Paul begins chapter 5 with the word “therefore.”
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Because our justification is by faith in what Jesus has accomplished. Because our righteousness — our being made right with God — is not based on anything we’ve done — but is based solely on what Christ alone has done. Because of these truths — we have shalom — we have fullness of life — we have peace with God.
But don’t ever forget that your peace with God comes through Jesus Christ. So if you don’t want Jesus — you don’t want peace — you don’t want a full life. To not want Jesus goes against everything you say you do want. For to not want Jesus — is to want a life of chaos. To not want Jesus — is to desire a life of restlessness. To reject Jesus — is to invite into your life hopelessness and despair
That’s why there’s an assurance in being justified by faith. You see there’s great comfort in being justified because you’re given peace — peace with God — and this peace isn’t fleeting like the wind. And I hope you’ll understand this — and receive this gift — and believe it in the depth of your soul — because something quite common is for someone to believe in Jesus — and yet be anxious — and overly concerned about whether or not they’re really saved. And what I want you to know is that you can have confidence — not cockiness — not arrogance — but you can have confidence in knowing that you have peace with God — you can know that you are saved. And it’s sad to see a Christian who’s anxious about whether or not they’re saved. Work out your faith with fear and trembling — don’t assume it — for sure — but don’t be anxious about it either.
But I know not everyone listening to me is a Christian — at least not yet. And you may be listening and you haven’t really bought in to everything I’ve said about peace. Maybe you’re still confident — that the peace you’re looking for — can be found in this world. So here’s my question — and I ask this because I love you and am concerned for you: If peace is possible, why’s it taking you so long to find it? Or for Israelis and Palestinians to stop fighting? Or for Democrats and Republicans to get along? Maybe the reason why there are so many examples of the absence of peace in our world — even peace at a very superficial level — is because true peace isn’t found here, but is found somewhere — or even better — peace is found in Someone — else?
But here’s what I want all of you to know — if you ever find yourself needing assurance — if you ever find yourself needing to be comforted in knowing that you believe and are saved — turn to Romans chapters 5 through 8. Paul wrote these chapters with the purpose of assuring anxious Christians. And he tells us here’s where assurance is found — here’s where hope is found — here’s where lasting peace is found in our anxiety producing world: Lasting — unwavering — forever stable — assurance, hope, and peace — are found solely in what Christ has done for you. You won’t find this kind of stability in anything you’ve done or will ever do — the kind of sure foundation you’re looking for — is only found in what Christ has done for you.
And here’s one other thing that trips many Christians up. Your assurance doesn’t even come from you doing something that’s called “having faith.” That’s often misunderstood. Many believe that faith is the one thing we have to do on our own. But even faith is a gift that’s first given to us — it’s not something we generate or make happen on our own — it’s a gift we receive from God. And faith is a gift that — when given and received — it’s ready to do its work.
All that to say — have assurance! All that’s needed for salvation — for hope — for peace — all that’s needed has been given to you in Christ. And for those who’ve been given the gift of salvation — for those who’ve been justified by faith — as we’ll read later in Romans — nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus. And that’s a solid foundation to build your life on.
But let’s keep reading in verse 2.
2 Through him (Jesus) we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1-2 ESV)
OK. So I’ve got to explain something about the translation of a word — here — but I don’t want to get us bogged down in the weeds and I definitely don’t want this to cause you to doubt or be concerned about your English Bible translation.
The word I’m talking about is “rejoice” — there at the end of verse 2 — “we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” The word comes up again in verse 3 — and in the verses Pastor Robert will be preaching from next week.
“Rejoice” is an OK translation. A few English translations use it — I think — mainly because “rejoice” is a positive sounding word in our English language — and the Greek word — Paul uses — is meant to have a positive meaning. But the English word — that more closely fits Paul’s Greek word — is often viewed negatively today. So what’s the word? The word Paul uses is more like our English word “boasting.” Think of the two words. Isn’t “rejoicing” a more positive kind of word and “boasting” kind of negative?
If you rejoice in your kid’s accomplishments — well that’s good. But if you boast about their accomplishments — well — no one wants to talk to you in the office.
But what Paul wants us to see is that — with as great as shalom is for this life — peace in this life — the life that’s coming — for those who believe in Jesus — for those who are justified by faith — the eternal life of peace that’s coming — well — that’s something to boast about. So Paul is future focused here — and most of us would live much differently if we lived this future-oriented life that he’s describing. Yes we’re to enjoy God’s grace today — but we have an eternal assurance — that gives us much more reason to boast about God’s future grace. A future grace — a future hope — not based on anything we will ever do — a future hope not built on anything we’ll accomplish — because — once again — Paul reminds us that our future hope is based on the grace of God that causes us to boast in the glory of God. The grace of God that Jesus revealed to us when he came to rescue and justify us — making us right with God and giving us this undeserved — hope-filled — peace-full — living in the presence of God for all eternity — let’s boast about it — future.
BOASTING IN OUR SUFFERINGS
But this next part is a bit of a shock. For in verse 3 Paul says...
“Not only that, but we rejoice (or boast...) in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,” (Romans 5:3-4 ESV)
So how about that? Paul tells us that present sufferings are a reason for us to boast — our suffering is a reason to rejoice. Now that’s about as foreign of a concept for us living in the US of A as anything I can think of. So what is Paul talking about — we’re to boast in our suffering?
Paul’s confronting something that so often can rob us of our assurance and hope — suffering. Suffering is a time — for most — not for all — but suffering’s a time when many people question everything they believe. And — for some — suffering’s a time when they give up on God.
I’m currently reading a book by Paul Tripp titled “Suffering.” The book is much more personal than others I’ve read by him because the book is birthed out of his own suffering. If you don’t know his story, Paul Tripp went from feeling fine and doing a 10 mile bike sprint — having lost 40 pounds by eating healthy and exercising — to “feeling a little off” — and going to the hospital for what he thought was going to be a “you’re fine — go back home” kind of visit that led to two years and six surgeries — it led to suffering that caused him many times to plead with God to kill him. Listen to some of his words.
“Physical suffering exposes the delusion of personal autonomy and self-sufficiency. If you and I had the kind of control that we fall into thinking we have, none of us would ever go through anything difficult. None of us would choose to be sick. None of us would choose to experience physical pain. None of us likes the prospect of being physically weak and disabled. None of us like our lives being put on hold. Physical suffering forces you to face the reality that your life is in the hands of another.” (Paul David Tripp, Suffering, 20.)
He writes, “perhaps we curse physical weakness because we are uncomfortable with placing our trust in God…[because] weakness simply demonstrates what has been true all along: we are completely dependent on God for life and breath and everything else. Weakness was not the end for me, but a new beginning, because weakness provides the context in which true strength is found.” (Paul David Tripp, Suffering, 29.)
Later he writes, “independence is a delusion that is quickly exposed by suffering.” (Paul David Tripp, Suffering, 21.) For “Suffering has the power to expose what you have been trusting all along. If you lose your hope when your physical body fails, maybe your hope wasn’t really in your Savior after all.” Because “when the thing you have been trusting (whether you knew it or not) is laid to waste, you don’t suffer just the loss of that thing; you also suffer the loss of the identity and security that it provided.” (Paul David Tripp, Suffering, 28.) And he writes, “It was humbling to confess that what I thought was faith was actually self-reliance.” (Paul David Tripp, Suffering, 21.)
Finally, he writes, “Weakness is not what you and I should be afraid of. We should fear our delusion of strength. Strong people tend not to reach out for help, because they think they don’t need it. [But] When you have been proven weak, you tap into the endless resources of divine power that are yours in Christ.” (Paul David Tripp, Suffering, 29.)
Now both Pauls — Paul Tripp and the apostle Paul — have just shown us a need for refocus in our lives. The apostle has been telling us to look ahead — that’s where our hope is found — in the future promises guaranteed to us. But the apostle also knows that — right now — while we live in this overlap — this time of brokenness that’s moving towards all things being made new — instability moving towards shalom — Paul knows that in this time of overlap — things like suffering and death intrude on God’s people.
But he doesn’t want us to give up on hope because of this intrusion. So he shows us how this intrusion of suffering can actually lead us to even greater — more assured — hope. For suffering can produce endurance. And endurance character. And character hope. (Douglas J. Moo, Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, ed. Gordon D. Fee (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 303-4. )
It’s been said that “Hope, like a muscle, will not be strong if it goes unused. It is in suffering that we must exercise with deliberation and fortitude our hope, and the constant reaffirmation of hope in the midst of apparently ‘hopeless’ circumstances will bring ever-deeper conviction of the reality and certainty of that for which we hope.”
And I know this goes against everything that we’re taught to believe about suffering — “suffering doesn’t lead to hope — it leads to despair — so avoid suffering at all costs.” But the reason for our hope as we suffer — the reason why suffering does lead the Christian to have hope — is because of Christ.
If you’re a Christian, your existence and destiny are bound up in Christ. Paul uses that phrase often — “in Christ” — to describe the Christian. And part of what that means is that just like Jesus’ suffering — because God is sovereign and has used the most horrific act in all of history — the crucifixion of his Son for his glory and for our eternal hope and good — that you — if you believe — being “in Christ” — have been promised that your suffering is headed towards the same destination as Christ’s suffering on your behalf — towards God’s glory and your eternal hope and good.
BOASTING IN GOD’S LOVE
And we know this — we have hope in suffering — because of how Paul ends his thought. He says...
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5 ESV)
Paul says that our hope in eternal — future-oriented — glorious promises isn’t a reason for shame — it’s not a reason for disgrace or dishonor — why? Because God’s love has been poured into our hearts.
So our suffering — your suffering — if you’re a Christian — know this — your suffering is not the result of God punishing you. Yes, there are consequences for our sin, but that’s different than being under the punishing hand of God. And my confidence in telling you this — is because God loves you. And God has poured out his love into you. And proof that he loves you is that God has given his Holy Spirit to you.
We talk about this all the time here at Gateway. Though we all deserve the judgment of God — because of our rebellion and sin against him — God has chosen to extend his love to his people. But — in order to do so — he had to make them holy first. You see, due to our sin — God’s people need to be washed, cleansed, purified — and that’s what the Holy Spirit does. The Holy Spirit makes God’s people ready — he prepares us in this life — for the life that is to come. And God’s Spirit — doing this work to God’s people — is a guaranteed promise. In one of his other letters, Paul writes “when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. 14 The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him.” (Ephesians 1:13b-14, NLT)
And this shows us that God’s love being poured into us — and the Holy Spirit being given to us — were made possible because of what Christ has done for us.
Jesus has given us the guarantee of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus has given us the guarantee of an inheritance — eternal life — our future-oriented hope.
Jesus has given us the guarantee that we are his people for he purchased us — he redeemed us — through the shedding of his blood on the cross.
And he did all of this so that we would praise and glorify him. So that we would rejoice in the hope of the glory of God — that we would boast in his glory.
And though we may suffer — we have reason to boast — because we are at peace with God.
And though you may be suffering — right now — if you look to Jesus in faith — and discover the joy he offers that surpasses all worldly sorrows — you will experience suffering while simultaneously experiencing the peace of God.
And though you may be tempted — when suffering shows up on your doorstep — to abandon everything you believe.
And though your suffering may cause you to question platitudes that you’ve held on to — and theology that doesn’t hold up to the “in your face brokenness” this world can slam in our faces — if you keep your eyes on Jesus and all that he’s done for you in love — you will see the one who didn’t abandon you when suffering came his way. For Jesus endured suffering because of his love for you. And if Jesus so loved you — who else could you possibly turn to when you suffer?
And for all of us — the people of God — followers of Jesus — we can’t fall for the lie that so many are caught up in. That though on the outside they’re pretty good at faking peace — we can’t ignore that on the inside there’s a disturbance in the people of our land.
People are unhappy, unfulfilled, searching for purpose and peace in all the wrong places.
They’re choosing to medicate or isolate themselves from dealing with their lack of peace.
They hesitate to admit that things aren’t working because it’s easier to vegetate in front of Netflix than to excavate the deep matters of the soul.
But we — dear Christians — we have a message of peace — given to us from the Prince of peace — and we can not keep this message to ourselves but must share his message of peace with others so they can join us in boasting in the hope of the glory of God. Let’s pray.
Heavenly Father, thank you for your shalom — your peace — which has made the full life possible. Though we’re the ones who invited chaos and brokenness and division and disease and death into your creation — you — God — have had the final word on the matter — peace will prevail — hope will be found — love will reign and rule. And your final word on the matter was your Son — for he is the Word of God — he is the Prince of peace — he is Love and Hope and the King who reigns and rules.
Jesus for those among us who are lacking peace — I ask you to show them the way to peace is found through faith in you. Thank you for justifying those who come to you in faith. Thank you for paying the penalty for our sin that we could not pay. Thank you for receiving the punishment that our rebellion deserved. Doing all of these things in love — so that we could hear the words from your Father — “forgiven — clean — no longer guilty— welcomed into my eternal home.”
Finally, Holy Spirit, empower us to boast in the hope of the glory of God. Help us to tell others the Good News of what Jesus has done so that they join us in praising Jesus in this life and in the life to come. It’s in Jesus’ name that we pray. Amen.
BENEDICTION (PRAY FOR: Suffering and in need of peace.)
May you go in peace — boasting in the glory of God — having been justified by faith. Amen.
God loves you. I love you. You are sent.
We serve an amazing God. Take a few moments to dwell on His character and respond in worship with the songs for the weekend at Gateway.
I’m Going Free (Jailbreak) - Vertical Worship
The Greatness of Our God - Hillsong Worship
We Will Feast in the House of Zion - Sandra McCracken
O Praise the Name - Hillsong Worship
County Road 9
Praise to the Lord Almighty - Victory Worship
Rising Sun - All Sons & Daughters
His Mercy Is More - Matt Papa
Broken Vessels - Hillsong Worship
Christ Be All Around Me - All Sons & Daughters
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!
Hopefully, you had the opportunity to hear Mike Kuhn’s message this last weekend on Hagar and Ishmael. Mike ably unpacked the historical and cultural context of the account, perhaps implicating a very different understanding of God’s heart for the nations than what we had before. If you have not had a chance to hear the sermon, we heartily recommend that you do so here: https://www.gatewayepc.org/stand-alone-sermons
If you missed the opportunity to purchase his books, they are available on Amazon. We have included the summary of the books for your convenience.
“Finding Hagar probes the relentless pursuit by the living God of a fugitive woman who falls outside the line of his chosen people. This pursuit ensures Hagar's destiny by giving her an identity as one who is seen and known by God himself.
Hagar's story centers around a deeply personal dialogue with God concerning her past and her future, her story and her dreams; and while his promises are rooted in her reality, they also carry her forward to a new horizon of hope. Often recognized as one of the Bible's most powerful stories of God's love, which is always undeserved and unmerited, this book is a reminder of God's abundant grace towards all people at a time when there is much division and animosity towards the descendants of Hagar. As we witness major displacement of peoples around the world, the story of Hagar - of God's encounter with a displaced and oppressed woman - inspires hope and purpose for today's fractured global community.”
“After living for more than two decades in the Middle East, pastor, author and college Arabic instructor Mike Kuhn wonders if there can be a fresh vision for the Muslim world―one not rooted in media lies or personal fears but in the values of Christ's kingdom. Is the only option to fight, to eradicate, to judge? Or can the mindset of confrontation give way to one of incarnation? In Fresh Vision for the Muslim World, Kuhn challenges readers to love the Muslims down the street and across the world with the love of Christ. Kuhn's vast experience and research show readers that Muslims today have the same hopes and spiritual needs as any of us. With practical suggestions, Kuhn helps readers leave the path of isolation, fear and self-preservation and choose a less-traveled road: a path of self-awareness, empathy, and deep listening. Choosing the latter path is radical. It is difficult. And it is a step toward seeing Jesus Christ receive his rightful place of honor among a people longing to know him.”
SERMON TITLE: Your Place In the Body of Christ
TEXT: 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 (ESV)
SPEAKER: Robert Tansill
Good morning, Gateway! I'm Robert Tansill, your new Associate Pastor, and it is great to be with you this morning. I also want to give a shout out to the North Main Campus. We are glad you can join us this morning. As Josh reminds us every Sunday morning, "God loves you!" This truth is at the heart of the gospel. And this is why we preach; to remind you how much God loves you, and how faithful he has been to you, and will continue to be, as you continue to trust Him in all things.
This morning, I want to take a brief look at the book of 1 Corinthians to see what God is calling us to be as a body, and the part you have to play in it. Growing up in the South, I used to think that to be a Christian all I needed to do was go to church, say a prayer at dinner time and before going to bed, and be nice to people. That was about it. For me, and many others, the guy behind the pulpit who preached every Sunday was supposed to do all the "church work". My role was to show up for an hour on Sunday, pay homage to the Creator by singing songs that I really didn't enjoy with words that I didn't pay much attention too, recite prayers to this distant Being that I didn't think had any real impact on my life, and to listen to sermons that were boring, impractical and utterly useless. The thought that I was meant to have an actual role to play in, what felt like, a disjointed, unsociable, and superficial gathering of people I worshipped with Sunday after Sunday, never entered my mind. I just went to church, did my time, and went home. I was, what author, Dean Inserra, called an "Unsaved Christian" which he describes as, "a person that places one's security in heritage, values, rites of passage (such as a first communion or a baptism from childhood), and a generic deity, rather than the redemptive work of Jesus Christ." That was me to a tee.
Then in 1982 at the age of 17, I put my trust in Jesus and began reading the Bible regularly. And it was at that point that how I formerly viewed the church drastically changed. I no longer saw it as something that I was supposed to do to "put in my time", but rather for what it truly is; a living organism ordained by God for the sole purpose of bringing glory to His name. And what shocked me the most was seeing that I had a role to play in the church that is meant to impact the lives of those I worship with, as well as those outside of the church. But it's not a role that I fulfill in my strength and ability. Rather, it's a role I fulfill which is driven by the power of the One I now acknowledge as my Lord and Savior. This is true for all of those who place their trust in Jesus! And the key passage that helped me see this was 1 Corinthians 12:12-26. So, if you would, turn in your Bibles to 1 Corinthians 12, and let's look at it together.
As you are turning to the text, just a reminder that you can send in your questions about our passage this morning, and we will try to answer them in our podcast this coming week.
ANNOUNCE THE TEXT
The Apostle Paul writes, "12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,' that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,' that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. (1 Corinthians 12:12-26 ESV)
Without going into too much detail, the Apostle Paul is writing to the church in Corinth to correct their thinking about what they are supposed to be and do. And in Corinth, there is a lot to correct! Among the many issues they were struggling with were divisions along social, racial, economic and spiritual lines, the favoring of one leader in the church over another, allowing clear and unrepented sin to go on unchecked (a guy was sleeping with his stepmother!!), and a self-centeredness among many in the church that was eroding it's unity as well as minimizing the person and work of Christ in their lives and in the church. So, what does Paul say to this group of believers (and to us) about what it means to be in the body of Christ to get them back on the right course, and back to being and doing what God has called them to? The first thing Paul says is that,
POINT 1: In the Body of Christ…you are not meant to live in isolation. (vv. 12-13)
Looking again at Paul's words in verses 12-13, he writes, "For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit." In Paul's words, the first thing I want you to notice is that he makes an argument for why those in Corinth, and us as well, are not to live in isolation, but rather are to pursue relationships and unity with one another. And he does it by using the word, "For", which he often uses to either explain why he said what he just did or to show the reason for his argument. In fact, he uses this word at least 98 times throughout this letter alone as he carefully strings together his argument for what the church is called to be and do. And what is the main reason that Paul writing this letter? Said another way, where does Paul first use this word "for", and why?
To find out the answer, you would have to go all the way back to chapter 1, and verse 11. It's there that you see the first time Paul uses this word to support his main argument which is seen in verse 10 in these words, "I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment." Now, listen to how New Living Translation puts this verse, "I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose." That's what the word the ESV translates as "judgment" actually means in this passage…purpose.
Folks, the reason Paul has to even write this letter is because the Corinthians have forgotten their purpose for existing. It's not about them as individuals. It's about what God has created, redeemed, and called them to be for Jesus, the gospel, and God's glory. And to accomplish that purpose, we cannot live in isolation. And that's why, when we jump back to our passage in chapter 12 and verse 12, he uses an illustration of a physical body to try to show what this unity looks like. And what a great illustration it is! It's perfect because it shows how each part of the body functions to fulfill its intended role, while at the same time accomplishing its primary purpose.
That's why the translation called, "The Message", is spot on when it translates verses 12 and 13 like this, "You can easily enough see how this kind of thing works by looking no further than your own body. Your body has many parts—limbs, organs, cells—but no matter how many parts you can name, you're still one body. It's exactly the same with Christ." As you hear these words, you instantly get the picture that Paul is painting. To accomplish our purpose (the purpose God has called us to), we have to be united, which also means we can't live in isolation.
But what is it that unites us? What is the glue that holds us together? Paul gives one answer in two parts. The one answer is Jesus, or "Christ"; the anointed One of God who came to accomplish for us (and in us) what we could never do on our own. This is answer Paul has been fighting to get the Corinthians to see from the very beginning of his letter. Their whole reason for living and their whole purpose for existing is because of Jesus. He's what unites them and holds them together. He's what gives them a purpose as individuals, and as a body. And He does this in two ways. How?
First, He unites them through what He accomplished for them on the Cross. You see that in the phrase, "so it is with Christ." In these words, Paul has in mind God's call on your life, your justification, your sanctification, the righteousness of Christ that you can now claim as your own, your freedom from the bondage of sin, your direct access to Father, your new identity in Christ…all of it, and more! Because of Jesus and what He accomplished for you, God's original purpose for your life is going to be fulfilled, which is to have a relationship with Him and to bring glory to His name in all you do. And this is what the gospel is all about; Jesus doing for us what we could never do for ourselves so that we could become what God originally created us to be; people who love God and want to be in relationship with him and his church.
But there is a second way that Jesus unites us, which we see in verse 13 in the phrase, "For in one Spirit…". And this is where all that Jesus has done for us as individuals are used to unite us together as a whole. What Paul has in mind here is the Spirit of Christ, also known as the Holy Spirit. He is the one Jesus talked about in Acts 1:8 when He said, "But you (plural!) will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." He is the third person of the trinity, and He is the one who takes all that Christ has accomplished for us and applies it to our lives daily. He is the one who constantly reminds us that we are no longer to live for ourselves in isolation, but for Jesus, and His purpose for our lives. And He is the one that unites us together around this purpose in spite of our social, racial, or economic standing.
That's why Paul says, "Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit." Because of the work of Jesus and His Spirit, those things which once caused division have now been joined together to serve His one purpose. All those barriers that divided the Corinthians, and which can still divide us today, are now gone in Christ. Because of Jesus, who is the object of our faith, we are once again able to see our original purpose. And, because of His Spirit, we are enabled, or empowered, to fulfill it together. But as I said at the beginning, to do that, we can't live in isolation.
But we have to ask the question, "Why do we do that?" As long as I've been a pastor, I've heard time and time again from people that they don't feel plugged into the church. But let's be honest. For some of you, you just want to come to worship, and then go home. You don't want to be a part of a Life Group, you don't want to serve in a ministry, and you don't want to join the church. You just want to do your thing, and then leave. Believe me, I get it! I do.
You're running your kids around from dance to soccer to baseball...your boss has you working 50-60 hours a week...your college professors load you down with schoolwork that's a mountain to climb before your next class...and church seems to be the easiest thing to make a "box" to check off in your life with the least amount of commitment on your part because life is pulling you in so many directions.
But if you have put your trust in Jesus, that way of thinking is not an option. As we've already said by looking at verses 12-13, God has called you for a purpose, Christ has redeemed you for that purpose, and the Spirit is enabling you to fulfill that purpose. And because of that, the second thing Paul wants us to see is…
POINT 2: In the Body of Christ…you are not insignificant. (vv. 14-20)
Look at verses 14-20. Once again, using the word, "For", to explain the purpose that God has called His church to, and the part each of us have to play in it, Paul addresses a segment of the Corinthian church that felt as if they had nothing to contribute because of their social, economic, or racial standing, or because they weren't gifted in the same way as others in the church. And he does so by showing them that, because of what God has done for them through His Son and His Spirit, it is absurd to think that they don't have a part to play in the body. This is one of the outcomes of being redeemed. God gives us a "Kingdom purpose".
In fact, "The Message", once again captures how they were feeling in verses 15-16 in an almost humorous way when he says, "If Foot said, ‘I'm not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don't belong to this body,' would that make it so? If Ear said, ‘I'm not beautiful like Eye, limpid and expressive; I don't deserve a place on the head,' would you want to remove it from the body?" The answer? Of course not! Why? Because they are important to the body of Christ just the way they are. They don't need to try to be anything other than what God has created and redeemed them to be. Instead of feeling insignificant, or envious of others in the church, they need to understand that they have a particular and significant role to play in the body that contributes to the overall purpose that God has called His church to. We are not all gifted the same way for a reason because, as Paul says in verse 17, "If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?"
Look at what Paul says in verse 18 that drives home the point that each of us has a particular part to play in the church that is important and significant to the body as a whole. He says, "But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose." Do you hear what Paul is saying? This thing called, "the church", is not supposed to be just a group of people who come together one day a week to worship God, and then go home. Rather, it's is a group of people that God has individually chosen, redeemed, gifted, and given a particular and significant role to play for the benefit of the body, and the glory of God.
In fact, look at the wording Paul uses to show how invested and actively involved God is with His church. He says God, "arranged the members in the body", meaning he, "specifically placed or put them exactly where He wants them". And He did this, "as he chose", showing that God is intentional about where He wants them to use their gifts in the body. There are no insignificant or unimportant parts in this body. Every part has a function that contributes to the overall purpose; a function that God Himself has "arranged and chosen", which is empowered by His Spirit, and specifically tailored to meet the various needs in the body. As the author, Sam Allberry, writes in his book, "Why Bother with Church?", "The membership of every local church is no accident; it is by divine design. There is no one there who is a spare part, a third foot, or second nose. There is no one there who is not necessary, or who doesn't need the rest of their church."
But, that's not all Paul has to say on this issue. There is another group in the church that he addresses. And, unlike the previous group that felt like they had nothing to contribute, this group is self-sufficient, arrogant, and see themselves as really important. And because of this attitude, Paul addresses them and their role in the church, which we'll sum up this way…
POINT 3: In the Body of Christ…you are not to consider yourself as more important than others. (vv. 21-26)
One of the greatest dangers in the church occurs when people overstate their importance in the body of Christ. It manifests itself as an attitude of control which does not value others around them, is self-seeking, and is self-sufficient. But what does it sound like?
Continuing the body illustration, Paul writes in verse 21, "The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,' nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.' And then in verse 22 he adds this, "On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require". What does he mean?
As people who have placed their trust in Jesus, we should never look down on others in the church as if they are less important in the body. When we do that, not only are we thinking more highly of ourselves than we should, but we are also devaluing that person that Christ has redeemed, and that the Spirit is empowering. They are just as important to the body as you are. They may actually be more important than you think.
That's what Paul means when he says, "the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable." He's talking about those in the body who don't seem to have the power or prestige that some in the body might claim for themselves. They may even be considered as "weak" by some. But once again, Eugene Peterson beautifully captures Paul's thought in verse 22, when he says in, "The Message", "You can live without an eye, for instance, but not without a stomach." So, what does that look like in practical terms? Two illustrations come to mind.
When I was in seminary in New England, my wife and I had a couple of opportunities to go see the Boston Pops, which at the time was led by John Williams as its conductor. Typically, I'm not a big orchestra guy. But, knowing that my wife enjoys stuff like this, and being the fantastic and humble husband that I am, I decided that we should take advantage of this opportunity. Also, the tickets were free!
As we were sitting in the balcony watching the orchestra play, I became fascinated with how all these different and individual parts worked together to create this complex and incredible piece of music. Ninety-three individuals were playing their different instruments at just the right times with each person focused on their particular part. Yet, at the same time, they were all in perfect harmony, with John Williams guiding the way.
As they were working through each piece of music, with the trumpet section blaring one moment and the violin section screeching in the next, all of a sudden the music would abruptly stop, and a guy stands up holding a metal triangle, striking it so that it makes a loud, "TING!" that reverberated through the auditorium. Then he sits down, and everybody else picks up right where they left off without missing a beat. And what was so intriguing about all this is how integral that guy playing the triangle was to that whole piece of music. It was almost as if everybody else in the orchestra was playing their hardest just so that the guy on the triangle would get the honor. It truly was a sight to behold, and a wonderful example of the way the church is supposed to be as it pursues the purpose God has given it to accomplish.
And what does that guy playing the triangle look like in the body of Christ? He looks like those who are doing the work of the kingdom, but not in a way that often draws the glow of the spotlight. Often, they are the ones working behind the scenes using their gifts for the benefit of others in the body. It's the person who is taking care of your child in the nursery so that you can worship without having to worry about them or the person who brings a meal to someone in the body that needs one.
And that is why the Apostle Paul says in verse 24, "But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another." By using the word, "compose", Paul wants us to understand that we all have a part to play in this body. And to do that well, we can't live in isolation, view ourselves as insignificant, or consider ourselves as more important than others. As Paul said at the beginning of our passage, we are all one in Christ, and we all drink of the same Spirit. Simply put, we should neither view ourselves any better or any worse than anybody else because the ground is level at the foot of Cross!
God takes us, as broken people, redeems us by giving His Son to die for our sins, gives us His Spirit who endows us with gifts that are to be used for the benefit of the body and the glory of God and blends us together so that we are united for one purpose. That's what Paul has in mind when he uses the word, "compose".
And what does it look like when it all works together? Paul tells us in verse 26, "If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together." This is the way the body of Christ is supposed to look. And if you have experienced any pain or hurt in the past as a result of the church, my encouragement to you is give it to God, who has the power to take our pain and use it for our good and his glory and to pick up your triangle, and get ready to play. In spite of what you think you see around you at this very moment, there is something much greater going on that we won't fully grasp until we stand before our God and Jesus, which author Paul Tripp sums up in these words, "Embedded in the larger story of redemption is a principle we must not miss: God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things in the lives of others."
Folks, if you trust Jesus Christ, then this is what you have been called to, and nothing less. This is what Christ died for, and what the Spirit is working to accomplish. You are needed and wanted in the body of Christ. Please, for the sake of Christ, take this call seriously. For to God, and God alone, belongs all the glory.
Let's pray together.
Father, thank you for calling us, redeeming, giving us your Holy Spirit, and giving each of us gifts that are meant to be used in this body for your glory. I pray that as we leave this place, you would show us where and how you want us to be used as we work together to accomplish the purpose you have called us to. And for those in this body who feel isolated or insignificant, I ask that you would show them how much this body needs them, and the role that you have specifically picked out for them to use their gifts for the benefit of this body as a whole. And for all us, help us to not think more highly of ourselves than ought, but rather to serve one another as Christ has served us. And until the day when Christ Himself returns for his church, may we continue to be faithful as we live out our faith before a lost and dying world. For this is what you have called us to. Father, we love you. And we ask all of this in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Worship the Lord with gladness this week as you remember all He has done for you. Need some songs to sing? Check out these songs for the weekend at Gateway.
Even So Come - Chris Tomlin
Good, Good Father - Chris Tomlin
Ever Be - Aaron Shust
In Christ Alone - Passion
Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) - Chris Tomlin
County Road 9
Greatly To Be Praised - Citizens & Saints
Nothing But The Blood - Citizens & Saints
Exalted Over All - Vertical Worship
O Come To The Altar - Elevation Worship
What A Friend We Have in Jesus - The Sing Team
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!
August 11, 2019
Comments prior to message:
It’s a great privilege to be here. I want to thank Pastor Kelly for the invitation. Your church has also hosted Dr. Hikmat Kushua a friend of mine from Beirut. So I had heard of you before coming.
Our passage is Genesis 16. You will know it as the story of Hagar’s flight and God’s meeting her and sending her back to Sarai.
Reading: Gen 16:1-16
When I was a new dad, my youngest daughter used to get a little perturbed with my lack of attention to her. She would sometimes take my face between her two hands and turn my head toward her as she said in her best 3 year old English “Daddy look at me.”
What she expressed is what I think every human being desires at some level, to be seen, to be noticed, to be the object of someone’s attention.
This primitive story includes slavery, polygamy, tying a woman’s worth to child-bearing and petty rivalry. We might consider it so ancient that it has little to do with modern times.
Yet it tells of the most basic and fundamental human need, the need to be loved, to be noticed, to be the object of someone’s affection. It’s all the more beautiful because Hagar probably never dreamed of being the object of God’s affection. It was an encounter that changed her life.
Let’s consider it under two headings. First “a fight and a flight.” Then “a finding and a future.”
A Fight and A Flight
Some have pointed out that Sarai’s actions parallel those of Eve in Genesis 3. She took Hagar and gave her to Abram. Abram listened to the voice of his wife. So the parallels are there, but one thing is not there. God did not prohibit Sarai from doing what she did as was the case with Eve.
In fact, putting ourselves in Sarai’s place, might help us feel her desperation. She can secure no heir for Abraham though that is the role assigned to her by her family and society. He on the other hand is absolutely convinced from his God that he will have a vast progeny that will bring blessing to all the world. Every time he comes home speaks of Yahweh’s promise, it must have been like a knife in her gut. He is in his 80’s and she in her 70’s. And the wait has gone on far too long.
It was a common custom of the time. Remember, until this time, Sarai has not received God’s promise. That comes later in chapter 17. So far, we know only that Abraham will have a son, not Eliezer, his servant, but his very own son. Sarai has no options and soon it will be too late. Her decision to give her slave to her husband as a wife must have been painful for her, yet it was the only way.
But it’s not all self-sacrifice, is it? Sarai sees in her maidservant Hagar an opportunity to “obtain children by her” (v. 2). Literally the Hebrew says “I may be built up from her.”
So, who is Hagar? She is the servant of Sarai, perhaps acquired during their sojourn in Egypt.
A slave girl... owned by another. Hagar is a means. Her time is not her own. Her labor and energy are not her own. Her future is at the disposal of her owner. In fact, she doesn’t even own her body. And now, she doesn’t own her womb.
She’s in child-bearing years, which at that time may well have been her teens. But let’s say that she is in her 20’s. And she is given to a man that is in his 80’s. Think about that.
We usually consider Hagar’s bearing Ishmael to be a point of honor for her. That does come later in the story, but I wonder how the Egyptian slave girl felt as her future was decided for her, her husband was assigned by her mistress and her womb was useful only to sire the family progeny.
The all-important thing is to provide an heir for Abram. Hagar is there to save the old man from the shame of childlessness and to keep him from looking like a fool because of these outlandish promises. That’s her role in the story.
Hagar looks down on Sarai
Sarai makes the decision. Generally, a middle Eastern wedding, then and now, would be accompanied with a lot of dancing, singing and celebration. You might be surprised to know that the couple’s honeymoon night, the consummation of the marriage, in other words, is carried out while the wedding guests wait outside. It’s the ultimate invasion of privacy to our minds, but that’s the way it works.
But you get the impression here that it was done quietly, that no one was waiting outside to celebrate the marriage other than Sarai herself.
The disastrous result is that Sarai perceives that her servant has become arrogant toward her. The text says literally that she has “become small in Hagar’s eyes.”
Her pregnancy must be a vindication for Hagar. She was a slave, after all, who must have carried out the menial tasks that were deemed too low for the woman of the house. Now she was a mother. Now her son would be the heir of Abram who we have already been told was a man of great wealth.
She looked lightly on Sarai (v. 4). The word is clear—a non-verbal communication through the eyes.
Sarai received this belittling glance not as a secure woman, strong in all God’s promises, but as a weak, wounded individual whose very purpose for life was now threatened. “May the wrong done to me be on you” (v. 5), she rails on her husband—a middle Eastern way of speaking. She wounds others in her pain.
Abram does little to resolve the issue. “She’s in your power,” literally “in your hand.” That phrase “in someone’s hand” becomes a key to understanding this passage. “She’s subservient to you. You have the power here. She’s in your hand. Do as you like with her.”
So the wounded Sarai proceeds to wound Hagar. “The Hebrew verb used here implies that Sarai subjected Hagar to physical and psychological abuse.
She mistreats her—the sparseness of detail arouses our curiosity only to leave us waiting in vain for more detail.
Whatever it was that Sarai did results in Hagar’s flight.
She runs in the direction of Egypt, perhaps hoping for the familiarity of home, but now as a pregnant refugee, a woman with no male guarantor or protector alone on the road, disoriented, abused and not knowing where home is.
A fight, one in which Hagar was not totally innocent, leads to a flight. (8 m 36 s)
Syrian and Iraqi Refugees
Let’s pause for just a moment to make some connections
Hagar, as we know, becomes the mother of Ishmael who has been associated historically with the Arab peoples of the Near East. This is because the biography of Muhammad, the founder of Islam, traces his lineage to Abraham through Ishmael. Now the association isn’t entirely accurate because the Bible speaks of the Arab people as coming from three sources—Keturah another wife of Abraham and Joktan one of Noah’s descendants through Shem. Also, the Arabs of today have amalgamated many other ethnicities to become a vast people group largely characterized by the Arabic language. Nevertheless, there is an identification of Hagar and her son Ishmael with the Arabs and with Islam such that, observing Hagar, if you will—the mother of the Arabs in her flight—brings to mind so powerfully the flight that is taking place again in today’s Middle East.
We’ve watched with horror and disbelief as thousands have taken flight from war zones, crossing the Mediterranean in rickety boats. We can see a parallel with this story.
Think of Syria only.
Damascus, once the proud Caliphate of early Islam. 5 million refugees. That’s almost 1/4 of the population. 6.6 million Syrians are internally displaced. That means ½ of the population of 22 million has been displaced either internally or externally. Since the beginning of the war nearly a half million have been killed. 1 in 10 Syrians have been wounded or permanently disabled since the war began in 2011.
To put it in perspective, if you took the states of the southeast and dumped them all on Mexico and Canada. And then you take the whole northeast… They’re fleeing to the west of the US. Proportionately, that’s the scale of the displacement we’re talking about in the Middle East.
In Iraq, the same thing is happening. 3 million displaced people within Iraq and many more fleeing to neighboring Turkey and Jordan.
We live in Lebanon—home to about two million Syrian refugees. People who are working with Syrians realize that everyone has a brother, cousin, uncle, father who has fallen victim to the war. Sometimes they’ve just fallen out of contact. Their families don’t know where they are and whether they’re dead or alive.
Hagar’s Arrogance and the Arab Spring
Hagar must have felt herself vindicated when she was pregnant with Abram’s heir. He was, after all, a wealthy man. How swiftly the tables turned and she found herself subjugated to a cruel master and took to flight. In much the same way, the people of the Middle East and other war-torn regions, began with the hope of the Arab Spring and today find themselves beat up and fleeing for refuge to any place where they can find safety, security and hope. The Arab Spring has turned to a bleak Arab winter with no hope and perennial questions.
Its critical to make the connection because God is still speaking through this story. God is about to encounter the refugee Arab woman. So let’s get back to the story. (12m49s)
A Finding and a Future
A finding that leads to a future hope. ”The Angel of the Lord found her…by a Spring of water in the wilderness.”
Who is the Angel?
Who is this Angel of the Lord? I developed my idea of angels from a painting my grandmother hung over the guest bed in her home where I often spent the night. It was a glowing, loosely robed being with huge wings ushering two small children across a rickety bridge. That’s not the picture here. The Hebrew word “malak” just means messenger. One who is sent by the LORD (YHWH) with a message.
When we let the text itself explain to us who the angel of the Lord is, we’re on solid ground. And Hagar clearly thinks she is talking to Yahweh. “So she called the name of the LORD (YHWH) who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing.” (v. 13)
So, I’m working on the assumption that this is an appearance of divinity…sometimes called a theophany or a Christophany. In John’s words “no one has seen God at any time. The only God, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.” (John 1:18)
We make a mistake if we assume that Christ only appeared in the Gospels. He wasn’t sitting behind the curtains in the drama of Scriptures until his name was called. He was active throughout. He told the disciples and the Jewish leaders of his day that Moses wrote about Him (Jn 5:46) and that Abraham rejoiced in seeing His day (Jn 8:56) and that all that was written about him in the Old Testament Scriptures had to be fulfilled (Lk 24:44).
But you might need more than my opinion to be convinced. How about John Calvin?
John Calvin: But let us inquire who this angel was…The ancient teachers of the church rightly understood it to be the Eternal Son of God in respect to his office as mediator. -John Calvin, Harmony of the Law
When we observe this encounter, we are seeing how the great “revealer of God”, the one who makes him known, the second person of the Trinity responds to a broken refugee woman fleeing her oppressor.
This is, frankly, infinitely more important than the political rhetoric which we hear from the politicians and pundits. We’re about to hear from the King of kings and Lord of lords. If this “sent one” could really be Christ, then what he says transcends anything we hear from our contemporary leaders. We’re seeking to hear the command of Christ and if we hear it, we must obey.
I promise you that if you will allow yourself to see Christ in this passage—the eternally existing Logos of God, you will see it differently. You will see how this encounter sets the trajectory for this woman’s future.
Response of the Angel
So what does this Word of God, this Sent One of YHWH do?
He finds her
It’s a very common word, “to find.” But when it is used in reference to God “finding someone” it is almost always talking about a saving, a rescuing. The vine found by God and he transplanted it to a fertile field…the vine being Israel. David was found by the Lord behind the sheep and placed on the throne of Israel. The angel of the Lord was in pursuit, until he found.
He asks two questions
First he calls her by name, her personal name “Hagar.” Neither Abram nor Sarai have done this. We only know her name from the narrator.
He has two questions in one short sentence. Where have you come from and where are you going? What is your story? What is your future? What’s brought you to this place and what will you do about it now?
Isn’t it interesting that the eternal word of God, the pre-existent Christ, meets with an abused woman in flight and he has a question for her. Tell me about yourself.
She knows the answer to the first question: “I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai.”
But he knows the answer to the second question. Where are you going? And he begins to open up her future.
Future (Angel’s words)
Return to your Mistress and submit to her. v. 9
The picture starts off bleak. “Return to your mistress and submit to her.” Again, now for the second time, “submit to her” literally, the angel is saying “submit under her hand.” Just as Abram had said that Hagar was in the hand of Sarai to do with as she pleased (16:6), so the Angel now confirms that Hagar is to return and place herself under the hand of her mistress. Return to a place of servitude…a place from which abuse led you to flee.
Well this seems like bad news. But the Angel has only begun. There are more elements to the angelic announcement and please follow me carefully here because what you’re about to hear may be a little different from what you’ve heard about this passage before.
I will multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude (v. 10)
First, “I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude.” Good news, right? Don’t you wonder if Abram came home one day and said “guess what Yahweh told me.” He said I would have my very own son, my very own and then he took me out to look at the stars and he said if you can count those stars, then you can count your descendants. Don’t you think Hagar overheard that? There can be no doubt that this is a declaration of blessing.
Behold, you are pregnant and shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael because the LORD has listened to your affliction (Gen 16:11)
Second: “Behold you are pregnant and you shall bear a son and you shall call his name Ishmael because the LORD has listened to your affliction.”
Can you not see this woman melting into tears under the beauty of this declaration? His name is “God is listening.” Why? Because Yahweh himself has heard your affliction. She thought of herself as just Hagar the runaway slave. Who am I to be heard of God? But wait, it was her affliction that he heard. What does it mean? Hagar knew. The rough words that were exchanged, the abuse, the moans, the despair. God himself hears and responds.
Now God has given one hard word “return to your mistress and submit under her hand.” And he’s given two amazing and overwhelming words of grace and favor “I will multiply your offspring so that they can’t be numbered” and “you will have a Son and call him Ishmael for God has heard your affliction.
3 more words will define this woman’s future.
He shall be a wild donkey of a man (v. 12)
He will be a “wild donkey of a man.” Now in our day we use the word donkey (or a synonym) for someone who is obstinate, headstrong and stupid. But that’s not how it is being used here. In fact, the text specifically uses a different word from the insulting word used for a beast of burden. The word is used of a desert donkey sometimes called an onager, what we in Arabic call the jaḥsh al-barrī. It is an animal that is renowned for its sturdy isolationism and its absolute refusal to be domesticated.
Quote from Sarna:
“Like the wild [donkey] among the beasts, so are the Ishmaelites among men. In their nature and destiny they call to mind the sturdy, fearless, and fleet-footed Syrian onager (Heb. pereʾ), who inhabits the wilderness and is almost impossible to domesticate.”
Do you see what’s happening here? IF God were saying, “your Son is going to be an obstinate, headstrong, stupid beast of burden” that would hardly be something that would comfort and cheer Hagar. What he says is “your Son will throw off the chains that bind you. He will be as free as the desert donkey, running wild, undomesticated.” You are to submit under your mistress’ hand. He will cast off all that binds him.
His hand against everyone and everyone’s hand against him
The next phrase, in typical Hebrew fashion, repeats and further explicates the preceding phrase. “His hand against everyone and everyone’s hand against him.” It’s a difficult phrase to understand because it’s so compact. It’s nine words in English, only five in Hebrew. It uses the same words that Abram used of Hagar’s submission to Sarai in v. 6: “Your servant is in your hand.” Only here Hagar hears that everyone is in Ismael’s hand and everyone’s hand is in/on him. It’s not so easy to translate, but it seems to be saying that Ishmael will be a struggler. He will fight to keep himself free and independent. He will live an isolated life and will not easily submit to attempts to subjugate him.
He will live over against his brothers
The final phrase is “he will live over against his brothers.” If you’re reading the NIV, the translation says “he will live in enmity against his brothers.” That is an unfortunate translation that has contributed to much misinformation.
There is a separation here. As we know Ishmael and Hagar were later cast out of Abraham’s house at the time of Isaac’s circumcision. Ishmael must have been about 14 years old at the time. Abraham does not want to do it but God instructs him to send Hagar and the boy away. As a result, he lives in the wilderness of Paran (Gen 21:8-21) which is the north Sinai—over against his brothers, right? By the way Gen 17:20 promises that 12 princes will come from Ishmael. They are listed in Gen 25:12-18 where it also says that “he settled over against (or “opposite”) all his kinsmen.”
So in summary, when the eternal logos meets this runaway slave girl he gives her some hard news “return to your mistress and submit under her hand.” But he also sweetens it with some wonderful news “God hears your affliction and your son will be greatly multiplied. He will cast off the chains of subjugation and live as a free man. He will not live among his brothers, but over against them.” In other words, your freedom will come through your son Ishmael.
I know that this message of grace to Ishmael may run counter to things you’ve heard in the past, but that’s exactly why I’m here. I’m here to challenge that.
I suspect that this encounter with the living God…the living Christ…caused Hagar to hold her head high as she returned to Sarah and Abraham. She did exactly as she was instructed and found her future and her hope.
Truth is, Ishmael was not the promised seed. He was not the son of the promise. Isaac was. But does that mean that Ishmael is rejected? Remember that Ishmael was the only son for 13 or 14 years. During that time, he was thought by Abraham to be the son of the promise. It was only a later revelation from Yahweh that revealed to Abraham that Sarah was to be the mother of the promised son.
Does God’s grace to one or to some mean his absolute rejection of the others? No. His grace spills over, even to the reject, to the son of the refugee slave woman.
In fact, Ishmael was the first son of Abraham to receive the sign of the covenant—circumcision.
But this story is familiar, isn’t it? Because you and I were “strangers to the covenants of promise, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, having no hope and without God in this world. But God being rich in mercy through his great love with which he loved us, he made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
So when you look at the sons of Ishmael today, despite all you hear in the media, remember that God’s grace was abundant enough for you and it’s abundant to Ishmael as well.
In fact, God is finding Hagar again today. Here are a few photos of Syrian, Iraqi and Kurdish Muslims crowded into the churches of Lebanon to hear God’s word and to participate in singing his praises.
I love Hagar’s naming of this Angelic messenger. She calls him “אַתָּ֖ה אֵ֣ל רֳאִ֑י” You are a “God seeing me” or “the God of my seeing.” (v. 13) The name she gives him reflects two realities—she has seen him, but he is the one who is seeing her.
She explains it “truly here I have seen him who looks after me.” And that’s literally the way the text reads—he is looking after me. I’ve seen the one who is pursuing me. He’s come to find me and I saw him. I met him. I encountered him. My life is on track now. I know what I’m supposed to do and how I’m to live. (28m)
Conclusion-Application: On mission with Christ
…Could it be that the loving eyes of the Father are turning toward the Muslim world? That he is again seeing the daughters of Hagar, the sons of Ishmael with a longing love. Could this massive displacement lead to their encountering Jesus through the body of Christ…through churches likes yours and mine? Through people who are his children even though they don’t deserve to be and they’re willing to point others who don’t deserve to be his children in the direction of the Father’s love through the Son’s death and resurrection?
News outlets can’t see it. But to us who know Him to be both loving and sovereign it makes perfect sense. Do we know him that way? If this was the pre-incarnate Christ, we shouldn’t be too surprised that he meets with a woman by a water source. He did it in his incarnation as well. And after that encounter, he invites his disciples “lift up your eyes and look on the fields, for they are white for harvest.” Maybe God is, once again, in pursuit. Maybe he wants to use us, the body of His Son, to pursue those he loves.
You and I are the body of Christ—given life by the Spirit of Christ to carry out the mission of Christ in the world. “As the Father has sent me, so send I you.” If the tattered and torn and abused fugitives are to meet Christ today, he or she will meet him in our skin. She will hear him through our words. She will encounter him in our eyes.
You may say to me, “that’s a heavy load to bear and I have no training in this kind of thing.” Start here: “where have you come from and where are you going?”
Then listen. Listen to what comes back at you and listen to the leading of the Holy Spirit. And remember that Christ is “looking after” Hagar. To be like him, you’ll want to do a little pursuing yourself. Don’t kid yourself that you can’t do this. He has given you the gifts of the Spirit. You’ve known Him a long time. You can do it. You’re his body. For Hagar, the “sent one” was the preincarnate Christ. For today’s migrants, it’s you and me. We are his “sent ones.”
Let us pray.
Take a few moments to set your hearts and minds on Jesus as you worship God with the songs for the weekend at Gateway Church.
How Great You Are - Sovereign Grace
God With Us - MercyMe
Jesus Paid It All - Kristian Stanfill
With Everything - Joel Houston
County Road 9
Psalm 18 - Citizens & Saints
Beautiful, Scandalous Night - Sojourn Music
How He Loves - John Mark McMillan
Call Me Higher - All Sons & Daughters
No Longer Slaves - I Am They
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!
SERMON TITLE: Finding Jesus
TEXT: Deuteronomy 4:44-6:25 (ESV)
SPEAKER: Josh Hanson
It’s great being with all of you this weekend at Gateway Church. And one thing I want you to know is that God loves you and I love you too.
And we’re in the final week of our Finding Jesus series — where I’m covering an entire book of the Bible in one sermon. And in this series — we’ve been looking at the first five books of the Bible — the books written by Moses.
We began in the book of Genesis — and there — we learned that God reigns. Through Joseph’s story — we saw how God uses all things — even evil and wicked things — for his glory and our good. And God proved this to be true when he used the death of Jesus for his glory and our eternal good.
In Exodus — we learned that God rescues — and that the Christian faith is primarily a religion of rescue. And through God rescuing his people out of slavery in Egypt we were reminded of the better rescue story — Jesus rescuing his people from their slavery to sin.
In Leviticus — we saw that God redeems. Because he is holy, unholy people — like you and me — can’t survive God’s presence. And in his love for us — Jesus paid the price for our sins with his blood — providing redemption for his people who are now welcomed into God’s presence.
And last week — in Numbers — we were reminded of how Jesus has reconciled us to God. He has restored the relationship between us and God that we had destroyed.
And the idea of Finding Jesus, comes from a story found near the end of the gospel of Luke. And in this conversation Jesus tells us how we’re to read and understand the whole 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 (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)
Here Jesus tells us that the whole Bible is about him. And he even began with the writings of Moses.
And like previous weeks in this series — I’m going to introduce you to a book of the Bible — I’ll give you an overview of the book. And then we’ll focus in on one section which I’ll use to show you how to find Jesus. So let’s turn to our book for today.
ANNOUNCE THE TEXT
If you have your Bible please turn with me to Deuteronomy chapter 4. We’ll begin in verse 44.
And, if you’re a guest with us, something we like to do at Gateway is let you ask questions that we answer on our podcast. So if you have a question, you can text it in to the number printed on the bottom of the sermon notes sheet or you can submit it on the Gateway app.
OVERVIEW OF DEUTERONOMY
Now the book of Deuteronomy takes place with the Israelites just opposite of the Promised Land. And this book is essentially the last words of Moses — his final speech to the people before they head into the Promised Land. Moses isn’t going with them — because of his own sin — so this is the end of the road for him.
And the book is broken up into three parts. The first part has more of a dark tone as Moses recounts their story. And Moses challenges this new generation to be different than their parents. Instead of rebelling — he tells them to obey — to trust God and his faithfulness. And it’s here that Moses reminds them of the Ten Commandments — which we’ll look at more closely in a moment.
Also — it’s here that we come across the Shema — a special prayer for the Israelites. A prayer they prayed twice a day and — the point of the prayer — was to remind them of their commitment to the One true God — the God who rescued them out of slavery in Egypt — the God who’s always been — and always will be — faithful to them. So as they’re about to enter a land full of many different religions — Moses wants them to know that loyalty to the true God — is the only way to live.
The second section of the book is full of laws and commands. Think of this section as a repeat of the laws that were given to them 40 years ago. So a lot of what you read here — you’ll have read in Exodus and Leviticus. But this was important for the people — because — they weren’t the generation originally given these laws — that was their parents. And Moses ends this section by reminding them about the promised blessings for obedience and the promised curses for disobedience.
Which brings us to the last part of the book — Moses’ final speech. Here Moses tells them to choose love — to choose obedience — to choose life. But after telling them to choose these things — Moses predicts their failure. Yeah...he knows them — he’s been with them for 40 years.
And though he wants them to choose life — he knows they’ll choose death just like their parents.
And though he wants them to choose obedience — he predicts a time of exile — “your entry into the Promised Land will only be temporary” because future generations will disobey God and will be kicked out of the land.
And though he wants them to choose love — Moses tells them they have hard hearts that are incapable of truly loving God.
But the book doesn’t end in despair. For — near the end — Moses tells them that after the exile — God will somehow transform their hard hearts. And one day they will choose to respond to God’s love with obedience.
And the book ends with Moses handing off his leadership position to Joshua. And then Moses climbs up to the top of a mountain — so he can see the Promised Land — and then he dies. And that’s how the first five books of the Bible end.
Now — some good news. God’s story doesn’t end here — because that’d be kind of depressing. God’s story continues — the story of a faithful God to an unfaithful people keeps going right into the next book of the Bible — which will get to at another time.
So — now — after learning about God reigning, and rescuing, and redeeming, and reconciling us — now we come to God ruling — to his commandments. As I’ve said in this series, Christianity does have rules and commands we’re to obey — but first and foremost Christianity is a religion of rescue. And those who’ve been rescued by God are to know and obey his rules in response to his love for us.
Yet we can’t talk about rules without acknowledging two things ingrained in us from society. First, we’re told that some rules — though this seems to be arbitrary and always changing — but there are some rules that society says everyone must obey. And — second — all other rules can be ignored. And — often — the “feel free to ignore them” rules are the ones that come from God.
Now hear me out. Some of the rules society tells us to obey are good and should be followed. Traffic rules are good. If you don’t believe me, I’ll take you to some countries I’ve been to. Even after 24 hours of travel — and no coffee — you’ll be wide awake because their traffic laws are optional.
But even though society has some laws that are good — often the decision as to which laws we’re supposed to follow — and which ones we aren’t — is subjective. And even if it’s not an official rule — like the law of the land — sometimes the pressure society puts on us to conform to its standard of right and wrong — goes against our faith.
Now nearly all of God’s commands go against our natural desires because our desires are influenced by sin. And knowing there’s no part of us left untouched by sin — we should be cautious in trusting ourselves — even collectively as a society — as having the final word on what’s right and wrong. And that’s why we — if you’re a follower of Jesus — that’s why we must turn to God’s Word — to his commands — his rules — and allow God — for he’s completely holy and uninfluenced by sin — to tell us what’s right and wrong.
And even though most of us don’t like rules because they feel oppressive. Here’s something to consider about God’s rules — his rules are freeing. Obeying God’s rules leads to freedom because he knows what’s best for you — he knows how you should live if you don’t want regrets, or to cause pain to others, or even to yourself.
RE-ANNOUNCE AND READ THE TEXT
So let’s turn to our passage for today. Deuteronomy chapter 4. Beginning in verse 44.
“This is the law that Moses set before the people of Israel. 45 These are the testimonies, the statutes, and the rules, which Moses spoke to the people of Israel when they came out of Egypt, 46 beyond the Jordan in the valley opposite Beth-peor, in the land of Sihon the king of the Amorites, who lived at Heshbon, whom Moses and the people of Israel defeated when they came out of Egypt. 47 And they took possession of his land and the land of Og, the king of Bashan, the two kings of the Amorites, who lived to the east beyond the Jordan; 48 from Aroer, which is on the edge of the Valley of the Arnon, as far as Mount Sirion (that is, Hermon), 49 together with all the Arabah on the east side of the Jordan as far as the Sea of the Arabah, under the slopes of Pisgah.
5:1 And Moses summoned all Israel and said to them, "Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the rules that I speak in your hearing today, and you shall learn them and be careful to do them.
“If you want to live — if you want to know freedom — then listen and respond to what I’m about to say to you.”
2 The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. 3 Not with our fathers did the Lord make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today. 4 The Lord spoke with you face to face at the mountain, out of the midst of the fire, 5 while I stood between the Lord and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the Lord. For you were afraid because of the fire, and you did not go up into the mountain. He said: 6 "'I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
Rescue comes first — then rules. And God is the one who rescues. And having been freed, the people are now told how they must live.
7 "'You shall have no other gods before me.
God demands exclusive loyalty from those he’s rescued.
8 "'You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 9 You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 10 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
God’s jealousy means he will have nothing less than 100% of his people’s devotion. Why does he expect this? Because his people have 100% of his love. If you don’t want to give God 100% of your devotion why would you expect to receive 100% of his love?
11 "'You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
God’s name represents God — so — to mess with his name — is to mess with God. And you don’t want to do that.
12 "'Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. 15 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.
Sabbath rest is a gift from God. As slaves in Egypt — the people never got a day to rest. And this command — to break free from their labor and rest — among other things — is meant to remind them of God breaking them free from their enslavement in Egypt. And our rest is to remind us of God breaking us free from trying to save ourselves as we rest in all that Christ has done for us.
16 "'Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
This commandment wasn’t originally just for young children — it was given to adults. Treat your aging parents with honor and respect — regard them as someone of great value and worth.
17 "'You shall not murder.
Life is sacred. Protect it.
18 "'And you shall not commit adultery.
Marriage is sacred. Protect it.
19 "'And you shall not steal.
This command has many applications — but — as slaves — they were stolen property. In Joseph’s story — back in Genesis — when Joseph talked about being sold into slavery he describes himself as being “stolen out of the land of the Hebrews.” (Genesis 40:15, ESV)So this command — in addition to being against thievery — has sanctity of life implications.
20 "'And you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
We’ll keep it simple — don’t lie.
21 "'And you shall not covet your neighbor's wife. And you shall not desire your neighbor's house, his field, or his male servant, or his female servant, his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's.'
The 10 Commandments. Now — again — you may look at these and see them as oppressive — as burdensome — as restrictive. So a little United States fact for you from the Internet. (Kevin DeYoung, “Five Reasons to Obey the Ten Commandments,” thegospelcoalition.org, October 9, 2018, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevin-deyoung/five-reasons-obey-ten-commandments/) Do you know how many laws there are in our country? No one knows. We’ve got over 20,000 laws on gun ownership alone. In one year, 40,000 new laws were added in our country.
OK. So God narrowed his laws down to ten. Compared to all the laws in the United States — do you really want to say that God’s oppressing you with too many rules?
22 "These words the Lord spoke to all your assembly at the mountain out of the midst of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, with a loud voice; and he added no more. And he wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me. 23 And as soon as you heard the voice out of the midst of the darkness, while the mountain was burning with fire, you came near to me, all the heads of your tribes, and your elders. 24 And you said, 'Behold, the Lord our God has shown us his glory and greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire. This day we have seen God speak with man, and man still live. 25 Now therefore why should we die? For this great fire will consume us. If we hear the voice of the Lord our God any more, we shall die. 26 For who is there of all flesh, that has heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of fire as we have, and has still lived? 27 Go near and hear all that the Lord our God will say, and speak to us all that the Lord our God will speak to you, and we will hear and do it.' 28 "And the Lord heard your words, when you spoke to me. And the Lord said to me, 'I have heard the words of this people, which they have spoken to you. They are right in all that they have spoken. 29 Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever! 30 Go and say to them, "Return to your tents." 31 But you, stand here by me, and I will tell you the whole commandment and the statutes and the rules that you shall teach them, that they may do them in the land that I am giving them to possess.' 32 You shall be careful therefore to do as the Lord your God has commanded you. You shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. 33 You shall walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you shall possess.
6:1 "Now this is the commandment — the statutes and the rules — that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, 2 that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son's son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. 3 Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey. 4 "Hear, O Israel:
The word “hear” — or “listen” — means more than just hearing the words. It implies responding to what’s heard. To truly listen includes a response. And what are they responding to?
The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
They’re responding to who God is and — as we’ll see — what he’s commanded — but their response is to come from their heart — it’s to be a response of love. Meaning — because they’ve been loved by God — as evidenced in him rescuing them out of slavery in Egypt — and because they love him in return — they’re to obey his commandments.
6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. 10 "And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you — with great and good cities that you did not build, 11 and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant — and when you eat and are full, 12 then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 13 It is the Lord your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. 14 You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you — 15 for the Lord your God in your midst is a jealous God — lest the anger of the Lord your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth. 16 "You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah. 17 You shall diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and his testimonies and his statutes, which he has commanded you. 18 And you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord, that it may go well with you, and that you may go in and take possession of the good land that the Lord swore to give to your fathers 19 by thrusting out all your enemies from before you, as the Lord has promised. 20 "When your son asks you in time to come, 'What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the Lord our God has commanded you?' 21 then you shall say to your son, 'We were Pharaoh's slaves in Egypt. And the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 22 And the Lord showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes. 23 And he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land that he swore to give to our fathers. 24 And the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day. 25 And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us.'” (Deuteronomy 4:44-6:25 ESV)
Our obedience today — matters for the next generation. Parents — think of your kids. Your obedience today — your following Jesus now — matters to them — and they don’t even know it.
Maybe you’re not a parent — but you’re part of this family of faith — your obedience today matters for the next generation of Christians in this church — and they don’t even know it.
FINDING JESUS IN DEUTERONOMY
So let’s find Jesus. I’ll show you two ways. One way we find Jesus is by asking, “How did Jesus view God’s rules?” One day he was asked by an expert in the law — a lawyer — about which of God’s commands was the most important. “And he (Jesus) said to him (the lawyer), "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets."” (Matthew 22:37-40 ESV)
Earlier I compared the ridiculous amount of laws we have in the US with God giving us ten. Well Jesus just narrowed it down to two — so how about that? And — by the way — he quoted from Deuteronomy when he narrowed everything down to two rules. So that’s one way to find Jesus — go and discover what he thinks about God’s rules.
But another way to find Jesus — in Deuteronomy — and as we think about God’s rules — is to know that the God who gives rules is the God who does rule. Later — in Deuteronomy — God will be called Lord of lords — meaning — God is the Ruler of all rulers — he’s the King of all kings. And in the New Testament — this title — is given to Jesus. The apostle Paul describes Jesus as “King of kings and Lord of lords.” (1 Timothy 6:15 , ESV) Twice — in the book of Revelation — the apostle John calls Jesus “King of kings and Lord of lords.” (Revelation 17:14; 19:16, ESV)
And Jesus — the One who reigns and rescues — Jesus — the One who redeems and reconciles — is also the One who rules. And as King, as Lord, as Ruler — he’s given his people commandments — not to oppress us — but to show us what it means to truly be free.
Now you may be here and all of this talk about rules and commandments goes against every fiber in your body. Here’s something for you to consider. God loves you. And because he loves you — he’s told you the very best way to live. His rules aren’t meant to be harsh or oppressive — that wouldn’t be a very loving thing for him to do — his rules offer you a kind freedom you haven’t even dared to dream about. I’d encourage you to explore what it means for God’s rules to be evidence of his love for you.
Maybe you’re here and you have a deep longing to feel like you belong — you feel like no one understands you — that you don’t fit in anywhere — that no one gets you. Well the church is called a family. And God’s family — like any healthy family — has some rules. And though it may be uncomfortable — and a bit scary — and may even seem to go against your uniqueness — in fact — it’s when you conform to God’s rules — that your longing to belong begins to find fulfillment.
And for all of us who believe — something we must always fight to remember — because this is something we so easily forget — something we must fight to remember is that we don’t obey God’s rules in order to pay him back for the bad things we’ve done. Jesus is our Redeemer — he paid the penalty for our sin — so if you believe in Jesus — you have no unpaid bills to God. But this doesn’t mean responding to God’s love in obedience is optional.
And don’t believe the lie that freedom is found by disobeying God’s rules — that lie leads to death. Always has — always will. But the freedom you long for — the freedom to belong — the freedom to be loved — the freedom to love others — is found not by disobeying God’s rules — but by responding to his love in obedience.
Do you want freedom? Do you want to be loved? Do you want to belong? Ask God to give you a heart that desires to obey his rules in response to his love for you. Let’s pray.
Heavenly Father, thank you for the freedom that’s found in being loved by you and by obeying your commands. You’re a tender Father who wants the very best for his children. So you’ve shown us the very best way to live in your commands to us.
Jesus — you are King, you are Lord, you are Ruler over all. Help us to respond to your authority as our Lord — in love — in the same way you responded to your Father’s authority when you walked on this earth. You knew his commands and you obeyed them all because you loved your Father. Help us all to see that our love for you is most clearly shown in how we live for you.
Finally, Holy Spirit, show all of us the freedom that’s found in obeying your commands. From those of us who’ve believed for decades to those of us who aren’t sure what we believe — our hearts cry for freedom. Our souls long for this brokenness and corruption and death and disease and the things that rob us of our freedom — we long for these things to be no more. And that is your promise to your people — one day a world free of these things will be the home of God’s people — the day when they live in the eternal Promised Land. May we all trust Jesus to lead us home. It’s in his name that we pray. Amen.
COMMUNION (JOSH WILL MOVE TO COMMUNION TABLE)
Today as we turn to the Lord’s Table, we’re reminded once again of God’s faithfulness to us. This meal is a powerful display of God’s love for us — his love for us that compels us to love him in return and respond to him in obedience.
On the night he was betrayed, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:24b-26 ESV)
And with these words our Lord commands all believers to eat this bread and to drink this cup in true faith and in the confident hope of his return in glory. God graciously declares to us that our sins have been completely forgiven through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. (Adapted from the Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 75, 80)
PRAYER (COMMUNION SERVERS COME FORWARD)
Father, we give you thanks for your Son, Jesus. For his obedience and suffering during his life on earth, and for his giving up of his body and blood on the cross. Give us assurance that our sins are pardoned through his blood and may your perfect love drive out all fear. Fill our minds with your peace and turn our eyes to Heaven, where Christ is at your right hand interceding for us. Enable us to offer up ourselves in service to you and to all your children. And unite us with each other through your Spirit so we continue in the living hope of our Savior's coming in glory. Amen.
At this time, ushers will be passing trays with the bread and the cup down your rows. You may take the bread immediately, but hold on to the cup, which we will all drink together.
Let’s feast on God’s grace together.
PRAYER (TRANSITION FOR WORSHIP TEAM)
Let’s pray. Heavenly Father, in your wisdom, you have made all things and you sustain them by your power. You formed us in your image, setting us in this world to love and serve you, and to live in peace with one another. When we rebelled against you — refusing to trust and obey you — you did not reject us, but still claimed us as your own. Then in the fullness of time, out of your great love for us, you sent your only Son to be one of us, to redeem us, to heal our brokenness, to cleanse us from our sin, and to defeat our greatest enemies of Satan, sin, death, and Hell. And now, you call us your sons and daughters. In response to these great truths, we now praise you in song together. Amen.
BENEDICTION (PRAY FOR: want assurance of God’s love)
May you go knowing that God loves you and respond to his love in obedience. Amen.
God loves you. I love you. You are sent.
We have been given the great gift of singing to express our thanks to God and proclaim how amazing He is. As you sing this week, check out these songs for the weekend at Gateway and let your lips overflow with praises to our great God.
Christ is Risen - Ghost Ship
Lord I Need You - Matt Maher
All the Poor and Powerless - All Sons & Daughters
Hallelujah What a Savior - Austin Stone
County Road 9
Only King Forever - Elevation Worship
Even So Come - Chris Tomlin
How Deep the Father’s Love - The Dispatch
Father You Are All We Need- Citizens & Saints
Check out all of the songs we sing at Gateway on our Spotify Worship List.
Did you know we are called to pray for our leaders if we agree with them or not? I didn't realize this until later in life. I came across this article by David Platt a few months ago, and it reminded me to stop being frustrated with how things are going on in the world around me and to pray. This article has challenged me to pray for those in leadership no matter the capacity. I am also asking God to work in the lives of those who refuse to have relationships with each other based on some prejudice - be it culture, creed or religion. He is the only one who can break those barriers. Finally, I have been convicted to pray for my lost friends and family. May He give me the open doors I need to share what He has done for me. If you are at a loss as I was, just stop and pray.