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The Call to Follow

Mark 1:14-20

All of us are prone to think about ourselves first and foremost even in the midst of the good news that others have. This results in living in a Kingdom of self. Mark begins his gospel by warning us against the pitfalls of the false Kingdom of self and announces the triumphant kingdom that Jesus brings to us.

Kingdom Contrast

Mark places the kingdom of this world and the Kingdom of God side by side in order to contrast their major differences. Mark wants us to see that the kingdom of this world is a broken Kingdom of self. When we live in the Kingdom of self we tend to treat everyone and everything around us as being geared towards serving us.

Mark wants to point us to a truer and better kingdom. A kingdom of life where the true king is enthroned. God’s people have been longing for a king to set them free from the bonds of the world. Jesus arrives and says that the opportune time has come for the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is the active exercise of God’s righteous power and authority with the rightful king enthroned. Jesus says that there is a new king in power that will usher in the healing of the world and a new way of life.

Even though a new king has been announced we still struggle to keep Jesus on the throne of our lives rather than ourselves. The reason we think about ourselves first is because we are born into a reality of sin. The problem is that there are few things that make us more functionally miserable than being self absorbed. It constantly makes us think of ourselves above everyone else which is a horrible experience. Very few people are capable of treating us or seeing us the way in which we want to be seen or treated. All of this is the outcome of living within the confines of a worldly kingdom.

“The Kingdom of self is heavily defended territory...Most sin, far from being a mere lapse of morals or a weak will, is an energetically and expensively erected defense against God.”

-Eugene Peterson

Kingdom Entrance

Jesus says that the Kingdom of God is at hand. In other words this new kingdom is within reach. We are not there yet, but we can see glimpses of its arrival in our lives.

How do we enter into this kingdom that is within reach, yet is not fully recognized?

1) Repent

Repent means more than simply changing one's mind. It means to rethink everything and look at the world through God’s rule. Repenting includes the act of turning away from wasting our time, money, and talents on the Kingdom of self where we try to surpass other people in the rat race of materialism.

2) Believe the Gospel

Believing in the gospel requires trusting the announcement of joyful news. When we trust the good news we turn from our agendas and enter into the kingdom that Jesus brings. We are all leaning on something that we think matters most in this life. If we lean on anything other than Jesus it is another form of enthroning ourselves. Believing is acting on what we know to be true.

“Repent: give up your agenda and trust me for mine.”

Kingdom Life

The call that Jesus gives us to respond through repentance and trust is an ongoing act rather than a one time event. It is the way that we continue in the life of the Kingdom of God. It is something that should be happening in our daily lives. Following Jesus means that knowing him becomes our supreme passion. Jesus is saying that we must die to the Kingdom of self and enter into the Kingdom of God. Jesus calls us to follow him so fully that all other attachments pale in comparison to our pursuit of him.

“Our call is to bring glimpses and tastes of God’s brand new world that is coming here and now...what people need to experience is an outpost of the Kingdom of God in the midst of a world that operates in the Kingdom of self”

Links: Youtube-Full Sermon Transcript


Old News is Good News

Mark 1:1-13

Mark begins his gospel reminding us that the good news occurs in the midst of a grand narrative that has been in the works long before his time. The announcement of a coming Messiah has been prophesied for hundreds of years. God has been at work redeeming his people and Jesus is the climax of that rescue. Mark expresses the importance of remembering how God has worked with the nation of Israel so that we may fully understand the significance of Jesus’ actions.

The Exile

Mark begins his gospel by pointing back to the Prophet Isaiah. Prophets in the Old Testament were responsible for pushing Israel back into the covenant/commitment with God. Prophets were meant to help drive people back into right relationship with God when they began to fall astray. The first section of Isaiah reveals a time when Israel was falling away from their covenant with God to the point that they were becoming spiritually dead leading to their exile. Exile is a term referring to a physical manifestation of the spiritually dead state in which Israel finds themselves. God pushes Israel away from his presence and out of the land promised to them because of their decision to move away from their commitment to God. But, there is good news in the second part of Isaiah which foretells the pinnacle point of God’s grace in a coming Messiah. Our sin places us into a place of exile, but God promises to send one who will lead us out of exile permanently.

“Repentance is not just the turning away from death it is turning to life.”

A New Exodus

Mark continues his gospel with the baptism of Jesus. The imagery of water and sin are constantly placed together in scripture. Whenever we see sin in the Bible we see water soon after because it is a symbol for God cleansing the world. During Noah’s time, God cleanses the world of sin in the waters of judgment. In Egypt, we see the Israelites passed over by the blood of a lamb while the Egyptians are later engulfed in water. These symbols are key elements in Jesus’ baptism. Now that the righteous one has entered the judgment waters and the Heavens have opened up in peace we may be certain that if we enter the grave in Christ we will rise again with Christ. Jesus is the promised one who gives us the new exodus out of the exile brought by our sin.

“Christianity is not just a better moral code or sentimental sweet nothings. It is a new identity as a beloved child of God.”

The Wilderness

Jesus leads us through a new exodus and into the wilderness. When we read about wilderness and temptation we often assume that it is a punishment because God is displeased with us. But what if it is a sign that God is at work within us? Unlike Israel's time in the wilderness where God’s people continued to rebel, Jesus is sent in the wilderness but continues in obedience towards God. Surprisingly, scripture also describes the wilderness as an intimate time between God and his people. Wilderness is where people are stripped of their strength, dependencies and idols turning their attention towards God. Although there are certainly times where we place ourselves into an unpleasant wilderness due to our actions, we cannot immediately assume that wilderness is a result of God’s displeasure; rather, it is God’s refinement so that we find pleasure in Him.

“As Christians we are always in one of three phases. You are either entering a season of wilderness, in a season of wilderness, or exiting a season of wilderness. But be encouraged because what it means is that your Heavenly Father is refining you.”

Links: Youtube-Full Sermon Transcript


Gospel Identity

2 Corinthians 3:12-4:6

We all know that we are going to die one day but we  tend to push our entire lives towards making a mark on the world that will prove we had significance. We hope to impact the world around us so that when we pass on our lives will live on in people’s memory. It is because of this goal that the idea of being forgotten once we die stings our pride. The sting of being forgotten comes from a misplaced identity. Our identity is where we locate our significance. Identity is what matters the most about us. If our identity is rightly located being forgotten loses its sting. But often our identities are misplaced.

Four areas we misplace our identities:

  1. Our performance-I am what I do

  2. Possessions-I am what I have

  3. Pleasure-I am what I want

  4. Popularity-I am what others think of me

Living Blind

When we do not live every aspect of our lives before Christ we are living blind. Paul says that even when we eat and drink we should be doing so with the glory of God in mind. This means that there is nothing in our lives that is too mundane or basic to be under the umbrella of God’s glory. We are living blind if we do not recognize that everything, including the most foundational aspects of our lives, was made to give glory to God. The issue of living blind emerges when we are consumed with our own story rather than the story of Jesus. We place our identity in our performance, possessions, pleasure, and popularity rather than focusing on how our lives can be joined with creation in giving glory to God. We labor for significance in the wrong places all the while feeling as though we are losing the battle which we are if we do not place our identity in Christ.

We must take an honest account of our lives to determine whether we are living for Christ or for ourselves.

Self-Glory Diagnostic:

  1. We parade in public what should be private

  2. We are too self-referencing

  3. We talk when we should be quiet

  4. We care too much about what people think of us

“Our identity apart from Christ is always misplaced.”

Seeing the Light

The only way that we can come into the light from living blind is through the words of renewal that God has spoken into existence post fall. We are being recreated through Christ into new creations. In order for us to find out who we are we must start with whose we are. The core of our identity is not what we do but who we belong to. This means that everything we do should flow out of an understanding that our identity belongs in Christ. The place of our self is service to one another for the sake of Christ.

“The light coming in the midst of darkness of living for self and shining a light on the glory of Jesus Christ wakes us up to whose we are.”

Becoming who we are

What does it mean to be created for the glory of God?

Glory simply means God’s character and attributes going public for all to see. As we grow in the goodness, grace, and work of God by making him the primary aim of our lives we are being transformed into the image of God so that the world can see God’s character and attributes on display. Greed transforms into generosity, arrogance transforms into humility, and covetousness transforms into satisfaction. What  was lost in the fall is being restored in those who worship the creator and walk in his light. Our identity is not our self-promotion which is where we naturally lean, but as new creations in Christ we are being restored to be reflections of God which is what we were originally created to be in the first place.

“We tell stories that begin and end with us and that’s what makes this so incredibly difficult. That’s also what makes it so incredibly glorious. God is at work in the midst of the body restoring his image in us through one another.”

Links: Youtube-Full Sermon Transcript


The Wonder of Resurrection

Luke 24:1-12

In the difficult seasons of our lives it can be easy to succumb to the coldness and hostility of a broken world. We can become focused on the anxiety we feel to the point that we miss out on the immense beauty that is constantly around us if we were to simply take a moment to look. It may even come to the point that we believe that death, disappointment, and frustration will win out in the end. But on Easter we are reminded of the fact that death does not have the final say. The resurrection reminds us to pause and look at the truth around us rather than the despair we may feel. The truth is that God is at work in bringing life from death.

A Counterintuitive Word

Easter is a reminder that all of our preconceived notions about death are challenged. On the first Easter when the apostles arrived at Jesus’ empty tomb they still believed that death had the final word and so they were perplexed about Jesus’ missing body. They were greeted by two heavenly messengers who asked “why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” Any notion that Jesus’ body was stolen or that he falsified his death are taken off the table with this one question. All previous beliefs about death’s power over resurrection power are turned on their heads in light of the risen Lord. The problem is that rather than seeing Jesus in his resurrected glory, the disciples are only given a word of resurrection. This is something we can relate to today because we may not have the obvious view of resurrection power but we have been given a word proclaiming its existence.

“The resurrection isn’t forcefully obvious,

but resurrection and resurrection life is clearly visible.”

A Contrary Belief

We live in the tension of Jesus’ resurrection and our current experience which is that death is final. Just like the disciples, when these contradictory truths collide it is not surprising that we often respond with unbelief. It is important to note that unbelief is not synonymous with a belief in nothing, but simply means that we believe in something else more fervently. When people struggle to believe in the resurrection of Christ it is because they believe in the reality of death and all its affects more robustly.

When we are faced with the death of a loved one, we are often desperate to reassure the one who is departing that their life mattered. Of course, there is nothing wrong with expressing our gratitude towards those who have had a tremendous impact on our lives or reminding them of how much they mean to us, however in these moments we often believe something about death that is not entirely true. We can often push to remind the individual that their life mattered because we erroneously believe that death is about to win, thus snatching the meaning from their lives. A world without resurrection life can lead us into believing that life is a slow surrender to death.

What if death is real, but not final?

What if Jesus is not just past, but present?  

What if Jesus were to meet us here?

Beauty of a Concrete Hope

If resurrection life is true how do we step into it?

The Easter message calls us from our old understanding of death to a new belief in resurrection life. The reality is that death is foreign to us because it was something that was not meant for us, but entered the world with sin. We are all sinned against-some of us in heinous ways- which can cause us to believe in death more than the resurrection life. But the hard truth is that we have also sinned by contributing to the violation of peace and beauty of resurrection life. Humility is the best thing for God’s people because it is there that we trust Christ who takes our sin upon himself. Resurrection life begins when we die to ourselves. The resurrection life tells us that we can finally rest because we do not bring resurrection upon ourselves, but Christ brings it to us.

“We cannot live before we die to ourselves.

When we die to ourselves we become alive in Christ.”


Links: Youtube-Full Sermon Transcript