Friday, April 16, 2010

No Confidence in the Flesh

A number of years ago, I came across some sermons that changed me, and of which I need constant reminder. In the 80's and 90’s, Pastor Lon Solomon of McLean Bible Church taught on living by grace. I have an old cassette tape album called “Living By Grace” which includes the message “No Confidence in the Flesh”.

In “No Confidence in the Flesh", Lon Solomon says that most Christians are saved by faith, but live by works. This describes much of my Christian life. And I’m sure others fall into this as well. So here’s an outline of Lon Solomon’s message ...

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Phillipians 3:1-7 (NIV)
1Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you.
2Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh. 3For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— 4though I myself have reasons for such confidence.
If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.
7But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.

Summary: “God’s plan for believers is that we lean on his grace and not human resources.”
Many Christians have lost what means to simply walk hand in hand w/ Jesus.
The grace of the God is his desire and ability to meet your every need.
• v. 1-2 is a warning - watch out for false teachers that put confidence in human resources.
• v. 4-6 is a testimony - Paul had every human resource that you could possibly have.
• v. 3 & 7 is a declaration - Paul threw it all away to simply rely on the grace of Jesus.

Phillipians 3:3 “For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh.” (NIV)
In verse 3, Paul gives 3 marks of what it means to live for God …
• Fully depend on the Holy Spirit.
• Fully focus on Jesus.
• Put no confidence in human resources.

Phillipians 3:7 “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.” (NIV)
Why did Paul consider all of his human works to be a loss? Because they distracted him from living by faith.

If we are fully depend on God, does that mean that we do nothing? Does that mean that Christian practices like bible study, prayer, fellowship, witnessing are useless? No, Christian practices are useful. God can use them and the work we do. But we can’t trust in those things – they are not an end in themselves.
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If you’re like me, you’re easily distracted. You were saved by faith, but somewhere along the way you began to think that your Christian life is all about the things you do. Paul reminds us what we need to do have the abundant life the God offers us - depend on the Holy Spirit, focus on Jesus, and put no confidence in human resources.

Other related verses that I keep coming back to …
• Romans 1:16-17 “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” (NIV)
• Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (NIV)
• John 15:4-5 “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. ‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.’” ( NIV)
• Luke 10:41-42 “‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’” (NIV)
• John 10:10 “... I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (NIV)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Follow up on why celebrate Good Friday

This is a post by Bob Thune of Coram Deo in Omaha, Nebraska. I really like this reason for celebrating Good Friday and the idea of fasting between Good Friday and Easter. The blog can be found at http://www.cdomaha.com/blog/

Lamentation Before Celebration

It seems that American Christians are all about celebration. In fact, some churches have intentionally chosen the adjective “celebratory” to describe their worship style. Everything has to be upbeat, positive, encouraging (“Positive, Encouraging K-Love…”). After all, life itself is discouraging, depressing, and difficult enough; shouldn’t church be uplifting?

The Bible does indeed encourage us to “rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil 4:4). However, true celebration takes into account the gravity of mourning and suffering. The writer of Ecclesiastes tells us that lamentation is good for us: “The mind of the wise is in the house of mourning, while the mind of fools is in the house of pleasure” (Ecc. 7:4). And the Apostle Peter reminds us that suffering is crucial to proper rejoicing: “To the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation” (1 Peter 4:13). To put it another way: Redemption and Consummation ring hollow without a realistic assessment of the Fall.

We want to celebrate exuberantly on Easter Sunday. To that end, we gather first for a somber and melancholy observance of Good Friday, this Friday at 7 PM at Suckau Chapel. Our Good Friday worship gathering will indeed be worshipful… just not in a celebratory way. We’ll reflect on the gravity of sin, the seriousness of God’s wrath, and the dark reality of that beautiful, scandalous night.

The early Christians used to fast between Good Friday and Easter Sunday as a way of identifying with the hopelessness, grief, and pain of the early disciples. Perhaps you would find it worshipful to do the same. Whatever you do to mark the weekend, I hope you’ll not attempt to muster up a joyful spirit on Easter Sunday without embracing the fear, darkness, and lamentation of Good Friday. It’s the biblical path to true, joyful, gospel celebration.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Good Friday....Easter

Well I am a few days late with a blog post but I decided I would still write one.

We have an opportunity to share our personal thoughts about life, God, church, etc on this blog. Please understand that this post is not supposed to come across as complaining or wanting to cause an uproar....this is my own humble opinion and I will continue to submit to the direction and leadership of the church. (now you may be excited to see what I write)

Lets start with Good Friday. This is very special day in our Faith. This is the day that our God whom we worship was murdered on a cross. This moment changed history FOREVER! Jesus' death paid for the sins of the world and so much more. (On a side note, I am reading Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die by John Piper. My goal is to read one reason a day from easter to Pentecost, the birth of the church.) I think we should celebrate this with a special service on Good Friday, much like a Christmas Eve service. It would be an opportunity to focus on the cross, the horrible nature of our sin, the humility of Jesus, and the sacrifice of God. It's a time to think about a perfect relationship, that our minds cannot comprehend, being separated - God the Father having to turn his back on God the Son. Maybe it is a special communion service.

Now to Easter, please try to understand the point of this is a desire for people to come into a relationship with God. I will admit I was not at the Easter service this year so some of my thoughts my be based on stereotypes. I don't understand why a church would have an Easter cantata. This is one of the two days out of the year that people go to church, Christmas being the other. Those two days should be the most "seeker friendly" and by seeker friendly I do not mean watered down. I know there are people that need to have their traditions because they either know someone or have personally been effected by a certain tradition (this one being an easter cantata). I also know that during this past Easter cantata at least one person was moved to tears and desired her brother to hear it, so I do understand that God uses what ever he wants to get His word out. Also people want to use their gifts and talents to glorify God (i.e. singing).

Its one thing to point out "problems" or "issues" but it is important then to provide a solution. For those people that need to have a cantata, why not a Palm Sunday cantata. That is a special, joyous occasional as well. Hosanna to the King as he makes his way into Jerusalem. Okay, so what do I mean by "seeker friendly" then. I will share some personal thoughts and some ideas that came from Mark Driscoll's post about Easter. Driscoll had six points: Keep your message short, keep it simple, keep it invitational, keep it special, keep it personal, and keep it biblical. I will build off of those with a few of my own thoughts. Most of the time when people share the gospel they focus on the cross and what it did to pay for our sins but with out the resurrection it would not have any power over death. The resurrection seems to get pushed to the back of the shelf but I don't think it is intentional. I love Easter for the reason that it pushes the resurrection into the limelight. It would be really cool to have a baptism service as part of the easter service demonstrating the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord. The gospel should be at the center of the message and people should have an opportunity to respond. People, both Christian and not, should be challenged to confess their sins and repent. The power of the day/weekend should be magnified. This is getting long enough and I think you get my point.

We worship an amazing, living God!