Emmaus Church Redlands

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


Gospel Community

Ephesians 2:11-22

Are you prepared to do what’s necessary within God’s definition of success?

In Ephesians, Paul describes that the gauge by which we should be measuring ourselves is whether or not we are good at remembering what God has done for us. We must remember that we were once separated from Christ, but we are no longer strangers or without hope. The mature Christian is someone who is able to quickly and deeply remember who we were and where we are going. It does not do us any good if we are only good at doing “church” once a week if we do not know how to build community outside those walls.

I. Remember that we’re designed for community

Paul uses the conflict between the Jews and the Gentiles to illustrate what it means to be part of a gospel community. The intense animosity between these two groups during Paul’s time spans across generations. But, Paul uses this conflict to express what happens when gospel community enters into the hearts of people. Communities are reoriented from a diverse people because when we experience Christ, radical grace becomes the foundational event in our lives. Our history, heritage, language, or race are no longer what identifies us. When we meet someone who has also been affected by Christ’s radical grace we have immediate commonality with them. We were designed to be united within a community marked by the grace that comes through Jesus Christ.

“We are united but different. We defer to one another but there is no hierarchy. We love without fear of being rejected. We serve people’s needs without being motivated to make sure our needs are met.”

II. Remember that there are distortions to community

We can easily bring our own assumptions into our communities which can create distortions because it misses God’s fullest intention for his people. Thus, we need to be aware of common inaccuracies that rob us of true community.

1. Community is Just Connection

When we make community only about connection it becomes a social networking platform based on convenience. If our goal is simply about connection, then it all falls apart when difficulties arise. There must be something that connects us more than what we have in common other than Christ.

2. Community as Counseling

Although community should be a place where we can be vulnerable, honest, and attempting to help one another through life’s struggles, it becomes a problem when we focus so much on these aspects that we only discuss our problems and forget to implement who Christ is in our lives.

3. Community is Just a Bible Study

Of course, we should be eager to learn more about Scripture. However, when a community becomes focused on transferring information rather than being transformed it becomes an issue.

4. Community Becomes a Clique

Cliques can occur when we have developed deep and intimate relationships with the people around us. We may not recognize it at first but this can lead to communities who turn their backs on newcomers because they lack the ability to immediately push people into the same level of camaraderie. We fail to allow newcomers in because we are more comfortable with those we are familiar with. If we alienate others in our communities then we are out of step with gospel community.

It is important to recognize that we cannot have gospel community without the first three aspects. We need connection, scripture study, and to work through sin. The problem comes when we substitute one or more of these aspects with the true unity that comes from access to God.  

“Without Christ we would not know our brother nor could we come to know him because the way is blocked by our own ego”

-Dietrich Bonhoeffer

III. Remember that we are redeemed to a new community

Before Christ came to reconcile all people to God, there was a time in which Gentiles could be killed if they tried to cross the threshold into the Jewish Temple where God’s presence rested. But Christ has brought peace between these two factions by tearing down the dividing wall and inviting all into a new community. Sin separates us from God and others which means we need access that only comes through Christ so that we can be part of the new community that he brings.

“It is not enough to be brought near to God, we need to be brought in.”


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


Gospel Renewal

Romans 3:21-26

Once we are in Christ we begin a continuous process of renewal. Gospel renewal means that the work of God continues after we are saved. God is not done with us. It is apparent that humans were created to worship something. We will either worship ourselves, creation, our desires or God. When we give ourselves to Christ we are telling the world that we are seeking to worship God alone. Thus the process begins in which God will renew the desires we once had for the flesh into desires that bring about His glory into the world. We are being renewed day by day into the image of our creator.

But what is the meaning of Gospel Renewal?

We have been saved from the penalty of sin

We were made to reflect God’s glory, but time and again we choose to disregard love for God and replace it with lesser loves. We look to our jobs to fulfill our identity or we look for the achievements of our lives to give us significance. We constantly look for places other than the worship of God to find satisfaction. It is because we are inclined to reject God’s love and substitute it for worldly desires that Paul points out in Romans that there is not one who is righteous. We have turned to find glory in creation or ourselves rather than accepting the glory of God. This is a crucial point because without an understanding of the bitterness of our sin we cannot be ready to accept the sweetness of Jesus Christ.

God does not want to give us some quick fix for our tendencies towards hatred over love, lust over fidelity, abuse over tenderness, but He wants to completely renew our inclinations to mimic His glory, goodness, and beauty by experiencing the fullness of His presence which is only made possible by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. God does not just simply sweep our sin under the rug, but he actively deals with it so that we may become renewed creations through the grace that is given to us by the blood of Jesus. We do not need to work to overcome our shame or guilt because God has placed the wrath we deserve on Jesus so that we may be given a renewed life.

“The best thing that could ever be created is the world

God created for us to live in.”

We are being saved from the power of sin

Salvation by grace alone creates an opportunity for cheap grace. Cheap grace occurs when we use the renewed life that God has given us in order to excuse our sinful acts. Paul declares that those who are baptized in Christ have been buried with Christ in death so that we may walk in the newness of life. Once we have accepted the renewed life given to us by God we can no longer actively seek to continue in our sinful nature. If we have been baptized in Christ we have been held under the waters of judgement and we have been raised to newness of life. We now have the glory and spirit of God living within us which means our lives are fundamentally different. We must consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. Renewal in the gospel is not just about one moment of forgiveness, but it means that we walk within this renewed life daily.

God’s means for renewal and freedom from the power of sin:

1) Identity in Christ

God looks upon us with delight and he is pleased with us because of our identity in Jesus Christ. God does not pour shame upon our mistakes but washes his judgement over Jesus so that we are resurrected alongside him in newness of life.

2) We have power in the Spirit of God

We have been given a renewed desire within the holy character of God through his Spirit. It cultivates a desire of holiness, obedience, and guides us as we seek life in Him. The Holy Spirit gives us the power to overcome our fleshly desires so that we can serve God in wholeness.

“Gospel renewal does not come from feeling more guilty or demanding more of ourselves. Gospel renewal comes by God’s means”

We will be saved from the presence of sin

One day God will make all things new bringing back the glory that existed before the fall. We are pilgrimaging towards the day that death and sin will no longer exist. The promise that we will be saved from the very presence of sin guarantees complete renewal of all of creation. We have confidence that all things will come together for the good of those who are in Jesus since the outcome of the new Jerusalem is assured through God’s promise that he will make it a reality himself. This promise gives us a hope that allows us to endure the trials, tribulations, and temptations that come our way because we know the truth that God will end the tension that we face. God promises that one day we will be free from the presence of our fleshly desires and will live in a redeemed glorified state where we will no longer have to fight the tension of living for him.


Links: Youtube-Full Sermon Transcript


Gospel Conversion

Matthew 28:16-20

Conversion has become a major taboo in our culture today. Converting people is something that we do not often hear in civilized conversation because of the negative connotations that are often affiliated with it. In order to understand the importance of conversion we need to come to an understanding of what conversion means. The most basic definition of conversion is the process of changing or causing something to change from one form to another. It is a complete transformation. Conversion means that you become something that you weren’t before. Rather than conversion being a manipulative tool or a way to control the behaviors that we find unsavory, conversion is the transformation from death in our sin to being alive in Jesus Christ.

Why would we want anyone to be Converted?

A major theme in the gospel of Matthew is that God has been at work to redeem the world throughout history. A common question that exists in the midst of humanity’s shortcomings is how will God remove the broken intentions and desires that exist in our world? How will God reconcile his creation to himself? The answer is that one will come who will bridge the gap between Heaven and Earth who is Jesus Christ. Every human being has been seeking satisfaction in earthly appetites which always leaves them grasping at straws. Every human longing, want, and desire was ultimately desiring Jesus Christ and now he has come. We want to convert people because every longing that they have can be fulfilled in Jesus whether they know it or not. Everything else in this world will pass away except the promises of Jesus who vehemently states that he will be with us forever.

“Why would we want anyone to experience this new birth, eyes opened to see Jesus? It’s because it is everything they have ever desired, whether they realize it or not.”

Three Distorted Approaches to Making Disciples

When we approach people with the proposition of conversion we must remember that we are not the ones who are transforming them because God is the only one who has that power. In one of the last conversations Jesus had with his disciples he warned them that there would be many who would claim to know Christ but would end up leading people astray. We must be aware of how we are representing Christ so that we do not unintentionally lead others away from truth.

1. The Parrot Approach

The Parrot approach focuses on converting the mind. Proper conversion is not about getting other people to think like us or mimic our jargon. The pitfall in this approach is that we often begin to think that people are born again if they just say the right religious phrases or have the correct theological answers. One could be saying all the right things or repeating what we have told them, but could still be dead inside. Following Christ is about more than mere information, it is about complete transformation. The outcome of the Parrot Approach is not disciples of Christ, but disciples of us.

2. The Puppet Approach

The Puppet approach focuses on colonizing the will of others. Jesus explains that disciples will come from every tongue, tribe, and nation. Jesus will renew humanity right in the culture that they are in. This emphasizes the fact that people do not have to look exactly like us to be followers of Christ. Too often we make conversion about acting exactly like us. In this approach, people live bound in the strings of our expectations rather than living in the freedom of their own transformed worship to Christ.

3. The Party Approach

The Party approach focuses on emotional highs for conversion. Jesus promises to be with us to the end of the age which is eternal rather than a moment or a season. Regardless of how we feel in a moment of our lives, God’s word still rings true. We often think that conversion is about experiencing a series of emotionally charged moments so that others will finally want to give their lives to Christ. Jesus wants to transform the inside not leave us endlessly searching for another high.

“We are commissioned to go after more than just right thinking, right actions, or right feelings. Jesus wants the whole person.”


The Key to True Conversion

The key to conversion is to understand that we are commissioned and God converts. It is not in our own power that conversion happens because in those circumstances we end up manipulating minds, wills, and emotions. When we allow God to convert others it leads to true transformation of the whole person. Conversion must be rooted in the power of Jesus Christ not rooted in our own power, personality, or persuasion. If we allow God to get their heart the rest will follow.

Then what is our task in the conversion process?

1. Proclaim the gospel

The best way to learn how to share the gospel is to allow God to do a work through the gospel in our own lives. People need to see that there is one who is true and on high in our lives rather than hearing people who preach from a pedestal. We need to share how Jesus has given us the newness of life which is offered to all.

2. Pray

Everyone around us is seeking to know the Lord. Sometimes we take the weight of conversion on our backs by believing we must persuade people into conversion, but it is only in God’s power. Once they are converted it is our job to bring them into the fold and teach them how to live a Christ centered life. So, ask God to change the hearts of the people around you. Ask God to give you the opportunity to share how Jesus has changed your life forever.

“What the heart most wants, the mind finds reasonable, the will finds doable, and the emotions find desirable.”

-Timothy Keller


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