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Weekly Word

Entries in Righteousness (2)

Tuesday
Jun302015

In God We Trust

June 28, 2015-Luke 18:9-30. 

This sermon was preached by Pastor Nick Hauenstein.  The following is only a summary of it.  Please click the audio link at the end of the article to listen.

Today we are going to look at 3 stories: Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax collector, Jesus with the children, and the story of the rich man.  Although these are three very different stories the same spiritual issues lie at the heart of them all.  Thus, Jesus helps us to see through varying circumstances that our approach to God is critical.  If we approach trusting ourselves we will not be successful.  But, if we approach trusting Him then we will.

Parable: The Pharisee & The Tax Collector

Jesus tells a parable of a Pharisee who is in the temple praying at the same time a tax collector is doing the same.  He basically gives us a look at what each of them prays and commentary on why one is acceptable and the other isn’t.

First we have the Pharisee.  He spends a lot of time thanking God that he is righteous and not like that rotten tax collector.  This begs the question, how righteous is this Pharisee?  Well he fasted twice a week, which is way more than the Law of Moses required and most people want to do.  Next he tithed on everything he had even down to the spices he acquired.  He had a very meticulous and exacting ability to do what the Law of Moses required.  No one would question his righteousness by the measures of that day. 

Now this is compared to the tax collector who won’t even look up to heaven.  He admits he is a sinner and cries out for mercy from God.  Notice that his posture before God is very different.  He makes no claim upon God.  He has nothing to offer God and makes no negotiation.  Now Jesus explains to us that the Pharisee was not justified by God, but the tax collector was.  In the society of that day, this statement would have radically blown the minds of the people.  Why would God justify the tax collector over the top of the Pharisee?  His answer is this: those who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted.  So God is not looking for pompous people who come before him reciting their spiritual resume, and believe they are acceptable.  Rather, he is looking for people who know that they are not acceptable and ask for mercy.  If you had the choice, who would you choose to represent you in court, yourself or a famous lawyer like Johnnie Cochran?  Only Jesus can make us righteous.  Thus it is a dangerous thing to try and justify yourself in front of the only one who can make you righteous.  The apostle Paul points this out in Romans 3:9-10.  Just as this Pharisee was not more righteous than the tax collector, so the Jews were no more righteous than the Gentiles.  No one is righteous, not even one!   Let’s move to the next story.

Jesus Blesses The Children

This is not a parable.  It is a life event that Jesus uses much like a parable.  Parents were bringing their children to Jesus hoping to have him bless them.  The disciples were annoyed by this and were telling the parents to leave.  We can only guess at what is in their minds.  In the first century children were the least and the last.  There was a high infant mortality rate and so each child is more of a problem that might never come to maturity.  Why bother Jesus with children who may not survive to adulthood when there are others who are adults?  I know that we can come up with reasons, but that is more a result of the teaching of Jesus than it is our own goodness.  Jesus rebukes his disciples and tells them to let the kids come to him.  Why?  The answer is that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.  In fact, if you don’t receive the Kingdom of Heaven like a child, you can never enter it.  This had to drop the jaws of everyone listening.  Think about that last parable.  The tax collector didn’t approach as one who had proven his place and warranted something from Jesus.  He approached as a child who had nothing to offer and yet begged for mercy.  A child does not receive out of their own merit, but out of the mercy of adults.  Anyone who is justified is a person who sees themselves as a child before God, rather than an adult who has merited favors from Him.  Now let’s look at the last story.

The Rich Man

A religious leader approached Jesus and asks him, “Good teacher, what must I do to have eternal life?”  Most likely this is a test question to see what theology Jesus has and from there to know how to attack him.  Yet, Jesus stops him with a question back at him.  Why do you call me good?  No one is good but God.  Now clearly we can talk about the goodness of people in relation to others who are not so good.  But Jesus goes to the heart of the matter.  Do not compare yourself to others.  Compare yourself to God and in that case none of us are good.  This is important because it is at the heart of the religious leader’s problem.  He does not approach God like a child who has nothing to offer.  His problem is that he believes he has an abundance of goodness to offer God.

Jesus then goes on to answer the main question by listing 5 of the 10 commandments.  Do these.  The religious leader responds with the statement that he has done all of these things since he was a child.  Of course he does not recognize the trap he has fallen into.  Jesus purposefully leaves off coveting because he knows that this is part of the man’s real problem.  Jesus tells the man that he is missing one thing: sell your possessions, give the money to the poor, and come follow me.  It says that the religious leader went away sad because he was very rich.  The implication is that he can’t obey the command Jesus has given him.  His heart is too attached to the wealth he had amassed to approach Jesus with the right posture.  He wants to hold on to all his wealth and be acceptable to God, even though his heart was full of coveting.  Jesus then states that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to be saved.  But, with God all things are possible.

Now there were not an abundance of rich people like this man.  So when they marvel at the words of Jesus, they do so because they saw his riches as proof that he was acceptable to God.  Yet, Jesus is saying that these are the very things he has to give up to be acceptable.  His “resume” was the best of the best.  He was a rich man and not a poor child.  He was a Jew and not a gentile, a male and not a female, obedient to the law and not disobedient.  Yet, it is all about exalting himself before God.  Look at how great I am, God!  Surely you want me on your team.  But, God will humble those who exalt themselves, and He is looking for people who know they don’t deserve a spot in His family.  Know this, you cannot buy your way into heaven, nor can you merit it by any number of good deeds.  This kind of goodness cannot be achieved by any man, no matter how great the distance between him and other men.  In reality, acceptance by God must always be preceded by surrender of those things that are in the way.  The rich man must sell his possessions.  The fishermen must leave their nets.  The tax collector must leave his booth.  And they all must then follow Jesus as those who have nothing to offer him but themselves- and that of little value.  This necessity of surrender in order to follow cannot be avoided because we will not follow Jesus without tossing them aside.  In fact we will be like a slave chained to a wall; unable to obey the command to follow.

In verses 23-25, Jesus then brings the point home to his listeners.  What is it that firmly attaches you to this world and keeps you from following Jesus?  This is no easy command that everyone must sell all their possessions in order to follow Jesus.  No it is something much harder than that.  He is asking you to surrender precisely what your flesh doesn’t want to surrender.  To obtain the things you want in life, you often lose your soul.  But to gain your soul, you will have to give up those things that have become idols between you and God.  Jesus is asking you to let it go and come follow him.

This causes Peter to pipe up and declare that he and the other disciples have given up their homes (and livelihood for that matter) in order to follow Jesus.  Jesus then recognizes this and declares that anyone who gives up something to follow Jesus will be repaid many times over in this life and will also have eternal life.  Now Jesus is not promoting a doctrine of “Give $1 and God will give you $100.”  He is saying that you will be repaid, but it will be something different.  The person who gives $1 in order to get $100 is now in a worse condition.  He is using God to get what he really wants, money.  This is not only idolatry, but it is using God pursue that love.  If you lose money to follow Christ, He promises to take care of all your needs.  If you lose family to follow Him then you will receive multitudes of brothers and sisters in the Church.   Yes, you are paid back, and it will be more than you had, but it will be different than your flesh would hope.  You have to choose between the desires of your flesh and Jesus.  You can’t have both.

Let’s bring this to a close.  Christianity is a religion that stresses the inability of man to justify himself.  We are justified by the grace of God through our faith in Him and Him alone.  Paul points this out in Philippians 3:5-9.  He lists his resume in the flesh and then says that he counts it all as rubbish in order to have Christ.  Next to Jesus all my goodness is like filthy rags.  So, which will I chose?  Will I cling to my own righteousness and insist on being accepted (exalting myself)?  Or, will I let go of it and cling to the righteousness of Jesus?  This same issue is explained in Ephesians 2:8-10.  No one will be able to stand before God and boast in themselves. They will only be accepted by the grace of God and through faith in His Son, Jesus.  Salvation is not a reward because of the good things we have done.  It is a gift to those who believe Jesus so that they can then do good things in His name.

May God enable us to let go of the things we take pride in and accept His grace.  We can sophisticate ourselves in our religion to the point that we have excluded ourselves from the very God we claim to love.  Eternal life has never been achieved by anyone.  It is offered to those who can offer nothing in return; those who see themselves as merely a child.  Thus the simple prayer of a child says simply, “I did it.  I liked it.  I am a sinner and beg your forgiveness.”  No negotiation; only surrender.  Let us hear what Jesus is telling us today and surrender everything that can stand in our way to following Him.

 

 

In God We Trust Audio

Thursday
Sep052013

The Sun of Righteousness

We apologize that there is no audio for this sermon.

As we reach the last chapter of Malachi, we are given the assurance of God’s Judgment.  Just as chapter 3 guarantees that the promised Messiah would come, so chapter 4 unequivocally states that the promised “Day of the Lord” would come.  In similar ways we were told that the Messiah’s coming would be a “cleaning” time and the Day of the Lord would be a time when the wicked are removed.

So let’s look at this prophecy of the Day of the Lord.

God Has An End For The Proud

Vs. 1 refers to “The Day.”  Throughout the prophet you find the long form of this phrase, “The Day of the Lord.”  It refers to a time when God rises up and judges the world.  It is sometimes shortened to just “The Day,” but the context always makes clear that the same issue is at hand- Judgment Day.  Just as we would use D-Day in our society and it is clearly understood, even when used metaphorically, The Day of the Lord was understood to be a day of raising up the righteous and putting down the wicked.  Though it may seem like it, God’s judgment never tarries forever.  He has a particular end planned for those who refuse to turn from their wicked ways.  It would be well for our generation to recognize this timeless truth that God’s judgment always comes.  Thus what goes around comes around.

Now verse one particularly refers to the proud.  This term refers to their puffed up nature.  They are filled with the air of their own ideas or the ideas of other men.  This causes them to stick out among other people.  However, when judgment comes they will wish that they didn’t stick out so much.  When God’s judgment comes, the wicked are not as substantial and big as they seem.  Like a balloon filled with hot air, so they are quickly deflated and destroyed.  They are removed quickly and swiftly in whatever means God sends.  A great picture of this for our era is a man like Hitler.  He makes a big substantial impact upon this world but, when judgment comes, he and all his plans are gone in a day.

The imagery of an oven is used.  God’s judgment is like an oven that burns up the wicked.  No matter how great the tree in this world, it is nothing when the judgment of fire begins to reduce it to ash in a great conflagration.  In fact the burning is so great that no branch or root is left for them.  They are completely removed from the equation with nothing to remain.  Now compare this to the words of Jesus, “I am the vine and you are the branches.  He who abides in me and I in him, bears much fruit.”  “If anyone does not abide in me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.”  Thus Jesus employs this metaphor as well for his followers.

Now we can see how pride is connected.  It was pride that kept many in Israel, and especially the religious leaders, from even connecting to Christ, much less remaining in Him.  Those who reject God’s offer of salvation are left to go into Judgment Day swelled up with their own pride.  It will not go good for them.  You can save yourself such a demise by putting your faith in Jesus and what He did at the cross, rather than the empty ideas that you or other “great men” have come up with.

Now some will point out that these words were written to Israel and were fulfilled in  70 AD when Jerusalem was sacked by Rome.  Was it fulfilled?  If you go through the passages regarding “The Day of the Lord,” you will notice that even though much of the passage is to Israel, often it scopes out to the surrounding nations, and ultimately to even the whole world.  To help us understand this I would ask you to picture the type of telescopes that can collapse to a small length.  Usually they are made up of 3-5 pieces that look alike, but differ in their size.  The smallest piece fits into the next larger piece, which fits into the next larger piece, etc…  The warning of judgment is not just a single prophecy whether for Israel in AD 70 or for the whole world in AD 2013.  Rather it is a reminder of a principle that applies to every scope of our existence: God will come and judge.  I need to take this truth to heart as an individual.  However, we need to take this to heart as a community, and as a nation, and as a world.  Thus the Day of the Lord did come for Israel.  In that Day the righteous went out and were blessed while the wicked were cast down and all their great pomp turned to ash.  This does not mean there is no more day of the Lord.  In fact the Apostles not only warned of the Day of the Lord before AD 70, but through the Apostle John we are warned after it, that the Day of the Lord for the whole earth is still coming.  God will come and He will execute judgment on those whose pride cause them to cast His ways aside and plunge into wickedness.  God warned that this present time of the Gentiles will end with a Day of Judgment.

A New Beginning For Those Who Fear God

In verses 2-3, God turns to those who followed Him.  Though they lived in a time when wicked men walked in pride and held the reins of power, and though they lived in a time when righteousness made you a target while wickedness helped you get ahead, this appearance would not last.  God would eventually intervene.  This “Day of Truth” would reveal the reality of the power of the wicked and the “good” they had obtained.  When the wicked were being destroyed under judgment, God would bring the righteous through it and give them a new beginning.  In fact, beyond this life, we need to understand that the “bad” we have endured in this life is not the totality of our experience.  God has great good for those who trust Him and fear Him.  There is a new beginning.

Malachi uses the imagery of a dawning day.  A new sun will rise on that morning and it will be a sun that shines its light on all the wickedness.  It will be a day when the righteous are exalted and the wicked are removed.  There will be no big struggle.  Darkness will be gone as quickly as you turn the light on in a room.

Notice that this sun of righteousness is personified when it states it will rise with healing in HIS wings.  Thus the light is connected to the coming Messiah.  His coming will be like the rising of a righteous sun that brings healing to those who have trusted God, the land, even the whole earth.  This healing includes physical but is intended to speak to those deeper wounds of our heart and soul.  In fact, the physical healings that Jesus did were to be a sign that He in fact could heal the wounds of their soul, especially the deep, festering wound of sin.  Don't get too hung up on the word "wings."  If the context was talking about a bird or building then it might be a good interpretation.  However the word points to the extremities of something.  Thus in context the messiah would have healing in his "hands" or the "hem of his garment."  This again points to Jesus and his ability to heal.

Now many conspiracy theories would jump on a verse like this and say that Judaism and Christianity just borrowed their theology from the ancient sun religions and this is proof.  However, the truth is that the ancient religions were the twisting and “progressive” ideas of men in collusion with fallen angels.  What were they twisting?  The original truth that God gave Adam, Eve, and Satan in Genesis 3:15.  The day will come when the seed of the woman will crush the head of the serpent.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognize that Satan would have a vested interest in co-opting this idea and trying to twist it to his purposes.  And, it doesn’t stretch the imagination to see that men who quickly grew tired of waiting on God, had itching ears for “better interpretations.”  The ancient sun religions were cheap copies of the prophecy God gave at the fall and from demonic sources.

Lastly it will be a day of release.  The image is that of a young calf who has been cooped up in a pen.  When they are released they go jumping forth, kicking, and mooing their delight.  When it speaks of trampling the wicked, the image is that the wicked have become so insubstantial that they are like ash on the ground, or salt in the street.  In the present day, no one would dare tread on the wicked.  But in the Day of Judgment their great pomp, power, and presence will be reduced to ash as the righteous go forth simply kicking it up like a child.  The beauty of this is in its equity and simplicity.  The wicked are like the chaff that will be blown away and not remembered, but the righteous shall join in a new day and be given new strength and joy.  This is our heritage and our inheritance.  Let’s walk in faith!