I do think that many Christians have scandalized the Lord’s name and cause before the ungodly. Many professors make it appear that there is not much difference between the church and the world, but I believe that there is sufficient power in true religion to lift a Christian right up above the world, and to make him live in such a serene atmosphere that, notwithstanding all the trials and troubles that may come upon him, he will be able to say, as David did when he fled from Saul, “My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise. Awake up, my glory; awake, psaltery and harp: I myself will awake early.”
I won’t belabor this episode with a lot of extra remarks. However, I do want to take a moment and discuss how I think this verse ought to be taken to heart by Christians today, especially in the West which has at least a short history of holding up freedom of religion.
As Christians in a secular or secularizing culture, it is important for us to think deeply and carefully about how to represent Christ to that culture. I’ve spoken about what I think is a dangerous and unhelpful battle many wage in the culture war, not because I want to be friends with the world, but because the way many engage with the ungodly culture of the West betrays fear and doubt in who God says He is. Even many who proclaim faith in God’s sovereignty over His creation, when confronted with the foolishness and destruction our culture is putting itself through by its own love of sin find themselves taking up battle where they should not, and fighting in anger rather than serving in love and patience.
“Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Matthew 9:13 CSB
Christians, are we loving our neighbors well? Are we praying for them and seeking to know them and serving them in their needs? If one of the people you are writing angrily about on the internet because of one reason or another suddenly appeared in front of you in distress and in need of the love of Jesus, would you be able to actually give them that?
We need to wrestle with these questions. I know I do. This is why I think it’s important for us to pour ourselves into our ministries where we are. Serve and love your local body. Know the people you live around. Don’t just look for opportunities to give them a sales pitch to church, but be sure that you are walking in a way that reflects the fact that you have been bought with the blood of the Lamb. My prayer for myself, my family, my church, and all of you, is that we will all pursue this humbly and in love for God and neighbor.
We must never dream of terms or truce with evil. To suppose that we can let him alone, and all will be well, is a deadly error. We must fight or perish: evil will slay us if we do not slay it. Our only safety will lie in a determined, vigorous opposition to sin, whatever shape it assumes, whatever it may threaten, whatever it may promise. The Holy Ghost alone can maintain in us this enmity to sin.
Brothers and sisters, fear weighs upon all our minds. The news continues its cycle of drumming out the advancement of this unseen but deadly villain. There is good reason to feel the weight of this on us, because so much mystery surrounds it, both natural and man-made due to the lack of testing.
It is my goal with choosing this sermon to point our minds, hearts, and eyes to the focal point of our faith, to the cross of Jesus. The weight of glory waiting for Him drove Jesus to endure all the suffering and death that He did, and we place our eternal and temporal hope in that truth. Jesus promised his disciples that in following Him, they were not avoiding the sufferings of this life–they were in fact going to walk in their own sufferings, because of the hatred of this sinful world for its holy and just God. The scent of the gospel to those being saved is life, but to those who are not, it is a scent of death, a warning of the wrath to come.
Rest in the midst of anxiety – in His blood
We’ve talked about the fear and anxiety gripping the world as we continue to pass through the ongoing crisis surrounding the coronavirus. The number of cases, and the number of deaths, continue to climb. As an American I don’t always know how this kind of thing weighs on the minds of my brothers and sisters in other nations (though I would love to hear the testimonies of those who are engaging with this, and Jarod and I would like to talk about that on an upcoming Kings Highway Radio episode). But it seems that a lot of my American brethren are struggling with this especially because it’s clear that this threatens not just life, but way of life. I certainly don’t disagree with that. After all, having so many businesses forced to shutter and social interactions ranging from movie theaters to that most crucial to our lives as believers, church services, being disrupted could hardly be more troubling to our hearts. And beyond that, the looming threat of global recession, job loss, and whatever may come beyond it that we cannot see.
The Lord knows all this, and more than that, He rules over it in ways and to ends we cannot know at this time. We don’t long for pain and suffering, but neither should we allow ourselves to buck against it in anger and ingratitude. Jesus knows, and though His rod of discipline may fall, His love is not less for His children. Don’t forget the reminder of the writer of Hebrews that God disciplines those whom He loves, and this time as all other hardships and evils that have befallen us and those who came before us will obey the words of Paul in Romans 8:28: all things work together for the good of those who love God, and are called according to His purpose.
That should encourage peace in our hearts. I don’t write this as one who sits above the fray with no fears weighing on his own heart, but as one preaching this to himself as well. The blood of Christ preached in this sermon is sufficient for all the evils of my life, and by that blood I go before the Father and ask daily for strength, for peace of heart and mind, and for encouragement when I see the black unknown of this world looming before me. I pray the same encouragement for all of you, and I especially pray for those of you who do not know God in Jesus Christ who He sent, that you would feel the weight of His call on your hearts, and turn, and rest in Him.
If you feel so led and can do so without disrupting your own support for your local church, please consider joining the Patreon we have created! My goal is to be able to set more time aside to continue creating content, and as I figure out exactly what I can do with this, I hope to be able to find new and creative ways to serve and minister to my listeners as well.
Jarod and I got together for what may be our last time to hang out in a public place for at least a few weeks, at the new Denton Cigar Company. We spent some time talking about our thoughts on the ever-present fear and anxiety surrounding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Our county along with many others has announced the closure of all public places and called for gatherings to not exceed 10 people.
This has caused a lot of anxiety and frustration among many, especially Christians missing the closeness of worshiping with the body of Christ. We spent some time talking about the issue and going over the reality of what it may look like to navigate this as believers in the coming weeks and months.
Jeremy Young’s Twitter thread breaking down the Imperial College report can be found here.
We also talked about the topic that will be discussed over the next few episodes. We will be going through the book Power Religion: The Selling Out of the Evangelical Church? The title may seem a bit clickbaity, but it is actually a very insightful series of essays from many teachers and leaders within the church on various elements tied together by one element: the effect of seeking after power in one form or another while also trying to be a leader in Christ’s kingdom. If you want to read along with us, it is still available on Amazon.
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I think I shall be quite safe in concluding this morning, that there are some here who are full of doubting and fearing. Sure I am that all true Christians have their times of anxious questioning. The heart that hath never doubted has not yet learned to believe. As the farmers say, “The land that will not grow a thistle, will not grow wheat;” and the heart that cannot produce a doubt has not yet understood the meaning of believing. He that never doubted of his state—he may, perhaps he may, too late. Yes, there may be timid ones here, those who are always of little faith, and there may be also great hearts, those who are valiant for truth, who are now enduring seasons of despondency and hours of darkness of heart.
This episode features the straight audio recorded while livestreaming on the Facebook page Sunday afternoon. So that means all the little pauses and puppy interruptions are still intact. Nevertheless I wanted to read this sermon in hopes of making my position on the fears surrounding the ongoing pandemic clear.
The way a Christian faces difficulties and hardship is important. The Bible does not promise that believers will not face these, but rather promises that God is faithful to provide for His children in the midst of such hardships the faith required to endure. We glorify Him by placing a greater value on the pleasure of knowing Him and by our faith in His provision. Paul teaches in Romans 8:28 that for those who are in Christ, everything serves for God’s pleasure and for our good. This is a tremendous promise which we can hold fast onto in every situation.
Christ is on the throne. His sovereignty over all things does not stop at the border of a disease, of financial strain and recession, or anything else. But I want to remind us all that Christ’s rule does not remove the possibility of suffering. I’ve encountered a lot of American believers especially who think that this is not a big deal and will pass away in a matter of a couple weeks. While I certainly hope that is the case, we need to prepare our hearts for the fact that this may not be the case. If we spend our time in this frustrating moment grinding our teeth and just trying to gut it out, we are not testifying to our faith in God’s great grace and mercy in the midst of all things, nor to our hope in an eternity that makes times such as these look like nothing in comparison to the glory and joy that awaits.
Let us not fear and hide, neither let us act rashly or arrogantly. In all things, I would say that we must stand together in faith, knowing that even if the worst fears come to pass and many suffer or even die, that we have served and loved those around us, and that we have been faithful with the time He has given us.
I have spent a long time debating if I should venture into this, but after talking it over with trusted brothers and sisters I have decided to create a Patreon account to help support this podcast. I have always struggled with the best way to keep this place rolling along, but I’ve been having to put in extra hours to get ahead on certain financial issues, which puts a strain on how much time and energy I can devote. My desire is to reduce the need for overtime and increase my work here. If you enjoy this and find it edifying, I hope you will consider visiting my Patreon and donating, even a small amount. Also, if you have ideas for what the donor levels could receive in exchange, please feel free to drop me a line as the concept for me is still a bit of a work in progress.
As I said in the podcast, please DO NOT donate if it will interfere with your giving to your local church. That needs to be your first financial giving priority and I do not want to interfere. But if you are able and willing, I hope you will join me as I and Jarod try to build this podcast out into something we can all enjoy and grow from.
If you missed it, I did a livestream while I was recording on the Facebook page. Follow this link if you want to see this sermon read unedited for mistakes, coughing, etc.
I won’t belabor this final episode of the year, except to wish you all a merry Christmas and happy new year. I ran a little poll on the Twitter account to see what people would choose for the Christmas episode, and this sermon won out by a large margin. I found it very fitting as well.
Right before things began to officially blow up in my life earlier this year, I recorded an episode called “Joy in Place of Sorrow.” In it I talked about two phrases from Scripture that struck me as being very central to the day to day life of a Christian: “Rejoice” and “Do not fear.” Furthermore, they both seem linked directly to the greatest commandment: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength; and the second which is like it: love your neighbor as yourself. If you are loving God completely, you will rejoice in all circumstances, and that love will kill what Brother Spurgeon here calls “slavish fear,” the fear that drove Adam and Eve into hiding in the garden.
I have been put through a crash course in these truths this year, and as we prepare to close out one year and begin a new one, I want to say to you, my listeners: Rejoice in the coming of Christ, every day. Do not fear the Lord, but call out to Him and seek to worship Him in everything you do. Let that love spill over to how you treat your neighbors, how you love the people close to you and the strangers you meet. I have seen a disturbing trend of many Christians digging in trying to find safety for their traditions and I want to tell you: stop. Safety is not why we are here. Love is why we are here, and we must have our eyes open to those around us, for every way we can show it.
We don’t do it out of fear, but because of the love He has shown us. Do not let your thinking be so high that you cannot lower yourself to the level of Jesus loving the poor, broken, desperate people around Him. If you want to show the truth of Jesus, let your hands match your words, brethren. I pray that I will live as consistently with that as I can in this coming year.
The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.-1 Timothy 1:15
There is so much that could be said about this verse. It is, perhaps, one of the phrases of Scripture that could be said to best describe the whole of a Christian’s confession and walk: the command to listen and believe, the confession of faith in the one hope any man has in this life or the next, coupled with the cry of insufficiency and guilt. It seems that the Gospel is always that dual cry–I am unworthy, I am a sinner, I hope in Christ alone!
And hope is what I want to talk about a little here, in the context of everything that we’ve been going through lately. I started working on this episode over a week ago and it’s taken me a while to have the time to finish everyone and do the editing I needed to do. In that time, the US inaugurated a new president, that president has begun to take actions in his new office, and the reactions I have seen in the media and amongst my friends have been…well, I don’t think “shocking” is the right word. But I think words like “disappointing” and “frustrating” are up there.
It is not my intention to support or attack Donald Trump. Neither is it my desire to discuss the ins and outs of particular political issues. What is my desire, is to speak firstly to my brothers and sisters in Christ on both sides of this issue, and then to my friends who are not of the body of Christ.
My brethren: come on, guys.
I don’t mean to make light of this or act like it’s no big deal, because it is. This life, this world is real, and everything we do has consequences. You, I and Trump will stand before God to account for our lives and how we used what He has given us. At the same time, I feel that both Trump supporters and detractors within Christianity have forgotten something very important: namely, the source of our hope. This is true no matter which side you find yourself on. I have seen his detractors absolutely lost, awash in despair and fear–and these are Christians. Yes, my friends, I know many of you believe that supporting a liberal political agenda in certain areas automatically makes you a heretic who would just as soon attend a Unitarian Universalist church as believe in the God of the Bible, but it has been to my great blessing in my time living here in Denton to get to know many men and women who I disagree with on particulars of law and government, and who worship the one true God with me every week.
And at the same time, I see Trump-supporting evangelicals who are being very unloving and unkind to those who are not, by posting nasty memes and jokes, attacking and fighting extensively online, and in general not displaying an ounce of the grace they have been shown by our King. That is inexcusable, and deserves rebuke. You are living as though the hope you have in this life and for the future of this country lies solely in the hands of Donald Trump. Let me assure you right now: that is untrue, and if you truly believe that, you are hoping in something foolish. Not because Trump is or isn’t good, but because he is another sinful human who will ultimately only be able to accomplish what God allows him to.
Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.
Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry.-Psalm 146:3-7
We do not hope in a man who is going to be dead some day. We don’t hope in a man who is dead already. Nor do we simply hope in some kind of theoretical idea that may or may not actually be true or realistic. We hope in Christ, and Christ alone.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.-1 Peter 1:3-9
So am I saying that we should just give up on caring about politics? No, certainly not. But we need to be very careful that as Christians, we do not engage this debate as unbelievers who have no hope beyond this life. We can engage each other in love, we can show tenderness, mercy and even, yes, weakness, knowing that even if what we go through leads to suffering, it is suffering that leads to greater joy. We ought to follow our consciences, we ought to make our cases boldly and with truth in hand, recognizing that ultimately both the left and the right in this country have at their core a humanist line of thinking that believes, “If I use the power of government in just the right way, I can perfect man at last. We can be free from pain and want, we can live perfect comfortable lives and be happy forever.”
Ultimately, neither will be able to achieve their goal, as long as that hope is based in humans and not in Christ alone. When Christ is King, all other things fall into place perfectly, rest and work and pain and joy all function in their right way, until the time comes for Jesus to set all things right, to wipe every tear and judge every injustice. We cannot, and should not, use the tactics of secular humanists, because those tactics insult the truth of the Gospel. I would be talking for hours here if I detailed this more, but I want to move on to my friends who have not believed the Gospel.
My message to you is not largely different, except that I do not bring with it an expectation that you will hope a certain way. Rather, I bring an invitation, a command even: repent, of your sins, your fears, and your faithlessness, and believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He alone is King, and Savior, and Friend to all who are hurting and in need. Do not rage against the truth. Do not fear the One who made you. I am calling you to let go of your foolish ideas of autonomy for yourself, and realize that you are much more “you” that you could ever be when you are with your Father, who made you and knows you.
This too shall pass, for good or ill. Trump will leave office one way or another, and someone else will be there. If God is willing, this country will see another day and will repent of the wickedness that is spread across the land in so many hearts. I sincerely hope, because of the hope I have in Jesus, that you will be one who turns in faith in our living hope, Jesus Christ the Son of God.
On a purely personal level, the 46th Psalm is one of my favorites. But this psalm, and this sermon, speak to the day to day struggles as well as the major traumas that we all experience in one way or another, and it is eerie in particular how much the last section of this week’s sermon reminds me of the fears so many of us have about our current political climate: unrest, violence, wars and rumors of wars, uncertainty. But for most people these kind of fears are almost theoretical until they produce real, present fruit.
I know people who are facing down the possibility of losing their jobs, fearing what will happen if they suddenly are unable to continue providing for their families. I know some who are facing down illness, in themselves and in family, that threatens livelihood and life itself. And I know people who have suddenly, with no control at all, found themselves thrust deep into personal turmoil, feeling like the world is pulling them deeper down into drowning depression and dread. No matter the cause, there is a whole world of strife, fear, and frustration that stands in the way of our joy.
This is why it is crucial for the believer to understand that the nature of his relationship with Jesus extends beyond the simple matter of salvation and going to heaven. So many of us hear about Jesus Christ as though the transaction that occurs here is “I intellectually assent to the idea that Jesus died on the cross and rose again, therefore I will go to heaven when I die.” But that is such a shallow understanding of who Christ is, and who we His church are in relationship to Him, that it’s no wonder so many believers struggle to find hope even as they hold the greatest hope there could ever be.
We stand upon the Rock of Ages. Think about the parable Jesus told about the houses, one built on rock and one on sand:
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”-Matthew 7:24-27
The storm will come. The earth will give way. The mountains will someday be thrown into a wild and tempestuous sea. But those who have lives that stand rooted on Jesus Christ can and will endure all of this–not by their own strength, not by their own wisdom, but because they have real hope in the eternal God who has made us. Even our greatest sufferings, even our final sufferings, will ultimately serve for our good and for His glory.