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The Amazing Offensiveness of Jesus

Mark 6:1-13

In this passage we see three aspects of Jesus: we have reason to be amazed by his power, Jesus was offensive to those around him, and we do not want Jesus to be amazed by us.

Be Amazed by Jesus

Leading up to chapter six in the Gospel of Mark there have been quite a few instances that reveal why we should be amazed by Jesus:

-Jesus heals Peter’s mother in law

-Leper is healed

-Paralytic man healed after being lowered to Jesus from the roof

-Man with deformed hand

-Jesus commands the storm to cease

-Jesus heals the demon possessed man

-Jesus heals a woman who had bled for 12 years

-Jesus raises Jairus’ daughter


At this point in Mark it is easy to see why people were amazed by Jesus’ power. However, when Jesus returns to his home town he is met with perplexing questions as to what his true identity is and whether the rumors of his amazing abilities were actually valid. When Jesus returns to Nazareth, the town questions the origin of Jesus’ power because they are obsessed with the source rather than the content of his ability. Second, they wonder where Jesus could have received the wisdom he displays since it was reserved for religious leaders. Wisdom was seen as a divine blessing given by God. The crowd even questions how he could possibly perform such miracles with his hands due to his low status as a carpenter. Lastly, they question Jesus’ ability because he is perceived as the illegitimate son of Mary.

The underlying message is that they cannot fathom how God would use someone with such an inauspicious pedigree in order to do His work. Even though Jesus returns home as a Rabbi with disciples, authority, a deep knowledge of the scriptures,  and performing miracles his hometown refuses to see him as a Rabbi. They refuse to acknowledge Jesus’ amazing power. 


“Underneath all of these questions is the assumption that the people of Nazareth knew who Jesus was and how God was going to bring in His Kingdom.”



Be Offended by Jesus

The people of Nazareth were offended by the claims of Jesus because he was nothing more than an illegitimate child. They were scandalized by the claim that Jesus was the Messiah. However, there is an important distinction between taking offense and giving offense

Taking offense:someone who wants to be offended and will find a reason to be

Giving Offense: Someone who purposefully makes it difficult to be heard

It is an important distinction because Jesus never gave offense to others. Jesus always spoke truth with compassion and wisdom. Jesus seeks the truth with grace not shame. Even still people were offended by him yet they all wanted to be around him. Christians should not measure their success by how much they offend people but by whether or not we are capable of compassionately explaining where we stand with people in a way that they still want to stick around even when they’re offended. Jesus will offend us because he calls us to repentance in the areas of our lives that he is not King. 

“We cannot control whether or not people will actually take offense. But we do not have the luxury of changing the message to make it less offensive.” 

Don’t be Amazing to Jesus

The people who should have known Jesus the most, his hometown, failed to respond to his authority even though they were amazed. Mark tells us that Jesus is actually astonished by the town of Nazareth because of their lack of trust. How is it that the people who knew Jesus and even saw his miracles reject him? Faithfulness to Jesus is not just about proximity to his miracles, but it is about our posture towards Christ. We must remember that unbelief is not simply a matter of a lack of information. Sin causes a rebellious sickness that refuses to give up control. It takes more than a few miracles or knowledge to change our sinfulness. Rather, we need a heart transplant that can only be given to us by Jesus. 

“We need to allow Jesus to reign and speak deeply into our lives even if it offends us.”


Links: Youtube-Full Sermon Transcript


The Essence of Faith

Mark 5:21-43

What does it look like to live a life of faith? 

Desperate for Jesus (How we come to Him)

Mark describes a story in which Jairus, a leader of the Synagogue, came to Jesus desperate for someone to help his dying daughter. Jairus came to Jesus knowing full well that Jesus already had the reputation of being a trouble-maker in Synagogues as a threat to the status quo. But, Jairus sets aside his position, reputation, and personal safety by falling at the feet of Jesus fraught with fear over the life of his daughter.

As Jesus and Jairus make their way to the sick child, Jesus stops in the middle of the crowd after he feels power come out of him. As it turns out, a woman who had been suffering from severe bleeding for years with no hope of being cured pushed through the crowd and touched Jesus’ cloak healing her instantly. 

These two stories are crucial in understanding God’s grace because the bleeding woman is the antithesis of Jairus. Jairus has wealth, status, and he was an authority in the synagogue. The woman was a social outcast due to her status as “unclean” from the bleeding, she spent all her money on physicians to no avail, and she was cut off from worship in the synagogue. Yet both are unified in their desperation for Jesus to help them in their life altering predicaments. 

“It’s not just sin and suffering that drive us to Christ. It is meant that even in the good times that we should be driven to Christ.”


Delayed by Jesus (How we grow to trust Him)

As we come to Jesus we may come to realize that his timeline is different than ours. First, the woman had been suffering from her illness for twelve years. Second, while Jesus is on the way to heal the dying girl he stops to talk to this woman, which seems to be a far less urgent matter than the task he was already on. The point in these two scenarios is that the timing of Jesus is not bound by our own intuition or urgency. Jesus chooses to give attention to this woman who has been pronounced unclean or unwelcome in the synagogue because his grace is not confined to status or wealth. 

In order for trust in Christ to grow we must understand that the opposite of faith is not doubt, but it is control. Since Jesus is bringing about our good within the delay he will not be controlled by what we think he should do. Faith requires us to relinquish the control we so desperately desire to have in order to place our trust in God’s ability to determine the best course of action. 

“Delayed, for your situation, does not mean denied. It may not be coming as quickly as you would expect, but because of who Jesus is, we can trust that there is something at play in the situation that God knows and we don’t.”

Dependent Upon Jesus (How we remain in Him)

The good news that is revealed from both of these encounters is that Jesus’ grace and love are compatible with delays. The bleeding woman had hoped to be healed incognito, but once she touched Jesus’ cloak he delays the healing of the young girl in order to bring deeper healing to this woman. Jesus requires more from her than she expected when he calls her out, but he responds to her with love and endearment bringing about a restoration that she was not expecting. 

Likewise Jesus requires more of Jairus than he was expecting. Jairus simply wanted Jesus to cure the fever coming over his daughter. When the news comes to both of them that his child had died Jesus asks that Jairus would simply trust in him. The outcome of such faith is that rather than a cure for his daughter Jairus witnesses a resurrection.

These stories reveal three aspects of Jesus’ character which makes him dependable:

  1. His grace is for you: Jesus forces Jairus to wait in order to give full attention to a woman who had zero status and power in the culture of his day because his grace is for both of them. Jesus’ grace is for us regardless of who we are or what we’ve done.

  2. His power is for you: We see Jesus’ power conquers our greatest enemy: death. Jesus grabs the young girl by the hand and raises her from death and he will do the same for you. The cross is a reminder that Jesus has power over death and he will gently pull us up from the curse of death.

  3. He became weak for you: In Jesus’ humanity we see a weakness after power comes out from him which was used to heal the bleeding woman. This is foreshadowing the weakness Jesus takes upon himself on the cross in order that we may live in God’s power. 

“The delays of God mean that we will sacrifice more than we thought and we will gain more than we hoped.”

Links: Youtube-Full Sermon Transcript


The Power and Goodness of Christ

Mark 4:35-5:20

The apocalyptic literature of Daniel sets up the valuable truth that Jesus is both abundantly powerful and abundantly good. Daniel Chapter 7 dives into a vision of four beasts that erupt from the sea. Each beast is meant to represent the human powers of Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. In the time that Mark’s Gospel was written the audience consisted of Roman citizens who were facing persecution and death from Caesar Nero. Mark wants his audience to connect the power and goodness of Jesus in the midst of the powerful evil they find themselves in.

A Great Power

Throughout the scriptures we see that water is often viewed as chaotic darkness. When the Jewish people thought of the sea they thought of the clash between order and chaos or the place where God and evil rage against each other. Mark tells us the story of when the disciples were on a boat in the midst of an intense storm. When they look to Jesus for help they are surprised to find him sleeping. In pure terror the disciples wake Jesus up and he immediately rebukes the wind and the storm immediately ceases. The power of Jesus takes the intensity of a storm and commands it into a deep calm. The disciples were astonished at the display of Jesus’ power because they know from the scriptures that only the power of God can control the sea. In this story, Jesus does not conjure a higher power to deal with the storm, but he speaks directly to the wind because there is no higher power than the power Jesus has.


“[Jesus is] the creator of all things with unmatched and unmanageable power and the chaos of the sea is at [his] command.” 

A Great Compassion

When it comes to storms in our lives we can often become reductionistic in our views to the problems at hand. We may think that we simply need to move somewhere else or change a minor detail in our physical, mental, or spiritual lives rather than work on the depths of our problems. But, scriptures gives weight to our physical, mental, moral and spiritual selves and understands that they interlock which means they affect one another. Too often we reduce our world to the physical reality that we can see, touch, poke, or prod. But, there is a deep reality that is missed when we only focus on the physical. After Jesus calmed the storm the disciples ran into a demon possessed man who is so powerful that he is unable to be chained or controlled by anyone. The demon possessed man mimics the reality of what we run to for comfort in the midst of negative circumstances such as: isolation, bondage to addiction, or harming ourselves which doesn’t always mean physical harm. But the goodness of Jesus is demonstrated because he goes to the furthest depths for this man so that we can have the hope that Jesus will come rescue us from the depths of our chaos. 


In the midst of the powerful legion within this man Jesus shows his power by forcing the unclean spirits into the pigs who then drowned in the sea. The connection here is that Daniel sees a vision of a power that will engulf the world, but we see Jesus coming in the midst of this legion and he brings redemption, healing, and restoration. We see Christ’s power over what seems to be the most unimaginable power in the world. The demon possessed man is completely restored due to the deep healing of Jesus.  


“If we reject personal spiritual evil we will be blind to a significant power at work that stirs up our struggle and sin and creates chaos.” 



A Great Fear

Throughout each of these narratives there is an intense fear woven throughout. Fear of the storm, Jesus’ power, and the fear of the demoniac. Fear rises when we find ourselves in the midst of a power that we cannot control. The differences between the power of the storm, the demoniac, and Jesus is that Jesus is the only one that loves us. Just like the other powers we are unable to control the power of Jesus, but we can rest easy knowing that he is good. If the disciples had known Christ’s love and unlimited power they would have been able to remain calm within the storm. We often think that if Jesus loves us that he would not let us go through the storms of our lives, but this is not a Biblical view of Jesus’ love. Rather we should focus on the authority, power, and care of Jesus in the midst of the difficulties that arise in our lives. 


“If we believe he is powerful but not good we are driven away from him. If we believe he is good but not powerful we are driven to pity him. But, if we believe he is good and powerful we are driven to trust him in any and every season of life.”




Links: Youtube-Full Sermon Transcript


Parables of the Kingdom Part 2

Mark 4:21-34


The Light of Jesus will not be Hidden

As disciples of Jesus our job is to put God’s light on display throughout the world. Two parables within the Gospel of  Mark pushes us to put the light of Jesus on display and to sow seeds, but ultimately the growth that occurs comes from God. Jesus starts to subvert the expectations of what the Kingdom of God is meant to be  and the dangers of hiding the light of Jesus in two ways:

1. If you hide it you misuse it: 

In Jesus’ day the only light available to them was fire. If anyone were to put a fire under a bed or basket the fire would spread and burn down anything it could along the way. Likewise, if we hide the light of Jesus from the world we will begin to use it in ways that it was never meant to be used.

2. If you hide it you will lose it: 

Jesus gives a warning that those who misuse the light will have it taken away. We must be careful not to misuse the light that has been given to us through the scriptures and through the example of Jesus. Misuse of the light comes from trying to manipulate the gospel for our own gain. The light must be used for the purpose of  building up the Kingdom for God’s glory.


“We come to Christ because he is the light of the world, but then he sends us out as light.”


God will see to it that His Kingdom Grows

All of the Old Testament is pointing to what Jesus is doing in his ministry. Jesus declares that God’s Kingdom is coming and it is near to us now. This means that everything God promised he would do for His people is being done. God promises in Isaiah that he would give his light to us and as we reflect the light of God in the world others will come to worship God because of the light that they see in us. 

Jesus teaches that the Kingdom of God is here now, but it is not fully completed. The Kingdom is like a seed whose roots are growing strong underneath the soil. We only notice the seed’s growth once it breaches the topsoil. The kingdom’s roots are indeed growing and one day it will burst open in a glorious completion that God himself is creating. Even though we cannot see the growth occurring, the small acts of obedience that we produce contributes to the growth of the Kingdom that is certain to come.

“We know that God has done something, that He is doing something, and we know that He will do something. But for you, you need to be patient.” 


The Kingdom of God Starts Small and Grows Large

When Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a mustard seed, he is not merely saying that the Kingdom is small, but he is referring to what happens to that seed. Seeds start growing small, but then bloom into something far grander than it started. Mustard seeds are the smallest seed, but grows to be a tree large enough to house birds. The Kingdom of God starts small then grows large which transforms it into something completely different. The nature of the Kingdom of God is vastly different than the kingdoms of Jesus’ day or the ones that we know in our current time. The Kingdom of God is not like a boulder that rolls through other nations in order to gain power through domination. But the Kingdom of God is like a seed that comes in quietly, slowly and unseen. God’s Kingdom comes organically, gradually, and gently transforms the deserts of creation into forests of new life. The kingdoms of humanity are about sheer power while God’s Kingdom is about transformation. 

“Jesus says, “You know what my kingdom is like? My Kingdom is the God of the universe, the largest and most powerful being, who became like a small seed to come into the world in order to be buried so that something could grow.”



Links: Youtube-Full Sermon Transcript


Parables of the Kingdom

Mark 4:1-20

Jesus is well known for teaching in parables that can often be confusing. The first parable that Jesus uses in the Gospel of Mark is one that gives us insight to why parables were used for teaching. When the apostles asked Jesus why he teaches in parables he responds with a quote from Isaiah expressing the purpose of parables is to open the eyes of those within the fold while those outside the fold will be able to see but unable to perceive. In one sense the parables are meant to help differentiate between followers of Jesus and those who see but are unable to perceive. Jesus is mimicking what God was saying for Isaiah's ministry revealing that the gospel  will stir faith in some, but many will be hardened to the message causing them to turn away.

 The Disturbance of the Parable

Jesus included teachings in his parables that were often shocking to his audience because they went against the normal conventions of the day. Jesus purposefully used shocking language as a way to elicit a response from his listeners. Jesus taught his audience in a way that forces people to stick around to gain understanding or to write him off. 


Jesus understood a crucial element of teaching a crowd which is: if you do not force your pupils to think deeply about what you are conveying they will not learn it. In our modern day we take for granted the depth of knowledge that exists at our fingertips. Too often people today do not remember what they have been taught because they have access to answers on the internet which means there is little reason to commit what one is learning to memory. By using parables mixed with shocking language Jesus is forcing his audience to think deeply about what it means to follow him and the nature of the Kingdom. Jesus knew that gaining knowledge was a slow, cumbersome, and tedious work that builds upon itself in order to grow in sustainable understanding. 


“The parables of Jesus are dynamic stories that should draw us in to reflect...Jesus arouses the spiritual imagination of his hearers that they might understand the nature of the Kingdom.”


The Details of the Parable

Jesus spends the first parable in Mark discussing the details of the heart’s soil. When seeds of the gospel are planted in our hearts there are many things that are actively seeking to obstruct it before roots are set in deep enough to stick. As a church, we are called to defend one another, to preach the gospel, and help support each other in the removal of these obstructions. 


The Four types of Soil

  1. Hard soil-the seed of the gospel is vulnerable capable of being devoured by Satan

  2. Rocky ground-thwarts root growth making it impossible to stand up to times of tribulation and persecution

  3. Thorny ground-portrays the choking of the word through false teachings within the world or the deceitful security found in wealth

  4. Good Soil-This soil allows for roots to grow deep. These seeds represent the ones who hear the word and yield an unimaginable amount of fruit thanks to the good soil they grow in.


“Jesus says here that it is not about our technique or trying to change ourselves or the ground. He stops and says ‘it’s God’s providence that is on display here.”


The Depth of the Parable

Everything that we do should be geared towards planting the gospel. Our job is to plant the seeds not to determine the outcome. Even when it looks like nothing is happening it is crucial that we keep the goal of planting seeds in mind because the depth is the most important thing. We may not see the roots that are growing within the people around us, but those roots must take hold deeply first before we begin to see the growth on the surface. Too often we become obsessed with trying to take away the weeds, thorns, and rocks in people's lives, but we are not the gardner. The growth that occurs in people's lives is solely from the miraculous work of God because only He can produce growth.


“The seed of the gospel is freely and lovingly scattered to any and everyone. It is the soil that matters. God alone is the one who prepares the soil to receive the seed.”





Links: Youtube-Full Sermon Transcript


Slaves Set Free

Mark 3:7-35

Jesus did not come to simply fix the sin or moral problems of the individual. Jesus is Israel’s long awaited Messiah; God’s anointed one. Jesus came to liberate everyone from captivity of the dark powers within this world. Jesus came to set us free from the wickedness and power plays of the kingdoms that seek to bring us down with their hellbent agendas. It is difficult in our modern views to think about the ideas of slavery or the power that modern kingdoms seek to control, but Jesus’ gospel of liberation, freedom, reconciliation, and redemption are just as potent against powerhouses who falsely seek authority as it was in his day. 

“Jesus did not come to merely dismiss our minor imperfections or show us a more moral or better way of life. He came to liberate us from spiritual slavery.”

Just like Israel, we can all become enslaved to our own desires which acts out as rebellion against God. The tragedy in Israel’s story is that even when they were God’s covenant family they polluted their own land by choosing to rebel, insult, and fight against God’s Holy Spirit who was in their midst. Israel defaced their temples by putting up idols as physical  representations of the dark powers which ruled the pagan nations around them. Isaiah prophesied a new exodus would be lead directly by God’s spirit present in the Messiah. This Messiah would forgive the sins of the people thus freeing them from demonic bondage.  

“The people of Israel had become enslaved to their own passions; their own depravities. Enslaved to the wicked and hostile world around them.”

It is crucial to remember that Jesus does not call sinners and tax collectors to show them that there isn’t anything wrong with their actions nor to condone the fact that the pharisees were engaging with pagan slave masters. The point is that Jesus calls the worst and most vile enemies of God because if God’s restorative grace is not for them it is not for anyone. 

“This Messiah would forgive the sins of the people setting them free from demonic bondage.”

The scene is set with a confrontation of cosmic proportions when the Scribes accuse Jesus of having power from Beelzebul rather than the Holy Spirit. But, Jesus declares his authority comes from the God who promised to rescue his people and cast down all other rivals to His kingdom. Jesus’ exorcisms throughout his ministry are not just morality plays about individual deliverance, but they are the evidence of the cosmic upheaval of the pagan powers surrounding God’s people. The dark kingdoms of this world are being overthrown and their tyrants are being cast down and plundered. Jesus’ liberation from the self inflicted wounds of idolatry and spiritual adultery is unfolding before the watching crowds. Jesus declares that the kingdom which sets the enslaved free is available for those who would believe the gospel.

“The beginning of the new exodus is exactly what the good news, the gospel, is all about. God’s Holy Spirit returning once again to dwell with His people...this Spirit would be present in the Messiah and he would do all of this by the power of God.”

Links: Youtube-Full Sermon Transcript

Kingdom Authority

Mark 1:21-34

An Undeniable Authority

The Gospel of Mark unpacks the difference in Jesus’ authority from other Jewish leaders when he visits the synagogue. The Jewish community would gather at the synagogue to be taught by scribes who would often quote well known rabbis in order to give their teaching authority. However, Jesus was different from these teachers of the Torah. Jesus did not speak authoritatively in the academic sense, but spoke in a manner that gave him rule, dominion and power. Immediately Jesus demonstrates this power by rebuking the demon out of a man. Jesus showed his authority in his teaching by demonstrating his power over unclean spirits.

Jesus is the author of all creation which means that there is an in depth knowledge and authority that can only be shown by the one whom all creation is subject to. Those witnessing Jesus’ power could not articulate it, but they were experiencing the authority of the author of all creation.

A Healing Authority

The undeniable authority that Jesus has leads to a healing authority. Jesus’ authority expresses itself in mending, renewing, and healing. As the kingdom fleshes itself out in our lives the brokenness we experience becomes renewed under the authority of Christ. This healing is both spiritual and physical because God’s good creation is not just spiritual but is physical as well. We must remember that what we do in day to day life of the physical realm is important. Jesus came to redeem all things and as we join with him in his work to renew creation what we do with our lives matters.

Jesus’ power and healing authority is the same today as it was in the synagogue all those years ago. In the midst of the inconsolable things of life, Jesus has healing power over our lives. Even though everything won’t be fixed here and now we have hope that Jesus will one day renew all things.

How is Jesus’ Authority Demonstrated?

  1. There is a time coming when all sin will be done away with, and brokenness in every form will be healed.

  2. We should join Jesus in asking God for healing

  3. Recognizing that the broken aspects of our lives are not defeats

“Inconsolable things’ are the sins and miseries that will not be eradicated until heaven comes home, the things that only Jesus, and no one of us, can overcome. We cannot expect to change what Jesus has left unfixed for the moment. The presence of inconsolable things does not mean the absence of Jesus’ power, however. Rather, it establishes the context for it. There in the midst of what is inconsolable to us, the true unique nature and quality of Jesus’s power shows itself to be unlike any other power we have seen.”

—Zack Eswine

A Resurrecting Authority

Jesus’ authority does not subjugate as the kingdoms of this world do. It does not destroy as kings of this world tend to do. Jesus’ authority resurrects, revives, and brings life. When we are healed by Jesus’ resurrection power it leads us to serve the kingdom that has true healing authority. Our lives become marked by hospitality and generosity as we begin building life giving communities right where we are. When Jesus’ authority comes to bear in our lives it gives us a new sense of priorities that reverses the need for dominating others. We do not do this in order to pay anything back but experiencing the healing authority of the kingdom blooms a desire to spread to others what our Savior has done for us.  

In the midst of this we must be careful that we do not confuse business with service. When we see all the inconsolable things of life it can be easy for us to serve in ways that are not effective. We must be careful that we do not trade true Christ honoring service for anxious business. Now, sometimes this comes into our lives because we see all the inconsolable problems of life which makes us apathetic because there is so much that we do not know what to do.

But there are two other reasons that tend to surface in our business:

1. We become busy in our vanity

2. We become busy in our laziness

“In the midst of the inconsolable things of life we have to distinguish from business and service. Business often masquerades as service...a busy Christian is a blasphemous desire to do God’s work for Him.”

Links: Youtube-Full Sermon Transcript

The Importance of Confession

As Paul approaches the end of his letter to the church in Philipi, he implores his readers to remember that they are a work in progress. As human beings we can become tied up in the human tension which consists of a desire for perfection while being fully aware that we are not close to this goal. Paul reminds us that even though he is an apostle he has not attained this perfection. It is important for us to understand the tension of who we long to be and who we really are in order to avoid a life of hypocrisy.

Human Tension

Humans live in the tension of having a genuine desire to live for God, but struggle in the process. We want to live lives that mimic love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. Yet, even though we may sincerely desire these things, we find that it is incredibly difficult to do so consistently. We somehow fall short of living the lives we wish we could. As we grow in our awareness of our flesh and sinfulness our dependency on the cross enlarges.

Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy... He who is alone with his sins is utterly alone.”

-Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Within this tension the gospel gives us hope to press on. Paul declares that there is no height nor depth that the cross cannot go, in order to bridge the gap between us and God’s holiness. By God’s grace Christ makes us his own; we belong to him. The question is: how do we live in the knowledge that we belong to Christ despite the human tension that we find ourselves in?

We sense that we should want to know God and live accordingly.

And yet, while I feel I want it, I fail to obtain it.

The Mistaken Ways of Resolving the Tension

Rather than resolving the tension of our sin and the process of God’s transformative grace we try to move forward quickly. We can easily become dishonest with the fact that our transformation is ongoing and pretend to be further along in the process than we are. The ideal of perfection becomes tantalizing to the point that we would rather pretend to be perfect than be honest about our shortcomings.  

  1. Pretending

    We tend to hide our sin from God or others by pretending that everything we do is acceptable. We can create habits of avoiding those who would keep us accountable for our actions which naturally turns into a form of isolation. We begin pretending to be someone we are not in order to hide our shortcomings. Hopelessness erupts in our lives when we believe that life in Christ is only available to the spiritual elite.

  2. Performing

    In order to cover our failures, we bury our sin in busyness to impress God and/or other people. We put on our best moral performance to meet everyone’s expectations of us in hopes that the tension we desperately hope to avoid will disappear. The outcome of such a performance is hypocrisy rather than peace. We become trapped in the cycle of seeing the sham of our performance which leads to the sense of belonging to our sin, rather than Christ, which returns us to our habit of performing.

If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything.

-Mark Twain

Pretending and performing only furthers the dichotomy between the people we pretend to be and our true selves. It binds us into a false assumption that we belong to our sins rather than exist under the banner of God’s grace through the cross of Christ.

Confession: The Gospel Key to Resolving the Tension

Paul discourages us from using the old system of law or titles in order to pretend that we are living in perfection. Instead, Paul encourages us to use any means necessary in order to grow in the reality of grace even if that means revealing our shortcomings. As we mature, we will grow in our understanding of how holy God is which, in turn, reveals the depths of our sin while simultaneously revealing how good God’s grace is in light of the cross. Being a mature Christian is not about perfection, but the realization that there is always room to grow.

The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”

-Timothy Keller

The key for pressing forward to Christ is the discipline of confession.

The two types of confession

  1. We must come to terms with the fact that we are unable to free or protect ourselves from our shortcomings.

  2. Recognize that Christ has made us his own

    Confession is simply admitting these two truths before God which provides us with the hope to move forward. Confession is the act of examining our lives so that we can bring our shortcomings before God and humbly receive the truth that the only way to freedom is moving towards Christ. We also confess our knowledge that Christ has made us his own despite our failures which means we do not have to pretend that we are spiritually pure. We confess that we have sinned and that we belong to Jesus Christ.  

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.

Philippians 3:11

Do we live as though we belong to Christ or do we live as though we belong to our failures and shortcomings?

Links: Youtube-Full Sermon Transcript-Lent Guide



Fulfillment in Christ Alone

WHAT WE WERE CREATED FOR

Humans are fundamentally searching creatures. We are constantly seeking validation and fulfillment outside of ourselves to satisfy a longing deep within each one of us. Even children are searching for connection through experiences of tasting sweets or watching movies that they have seen a multitude of times. As we grow, we continue to seek out what gives us purpose, value, and inner joy. If left to their own devices, humans naturally begin to stuff their lives full of things that break, get lost, or get old and rusty in the hopes that something will satisfy the longing of their hearts. The heart is so complex, deep, and intricate that its desire to be known cannot be satisfied through imperfect desires or people.  Unless we find our place in Christ all other longings will leave us wanting more.

“Because you made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless

 til they find thy rest in thee.”

 -Augustine

Jesus points us towards what we were truly created for when he says: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then, in his joy, he goes and sells all that he has and buys the field” (Matthew 13:44). We must realize that the good things that leave us momentarily satisfied are simply glimpses of the reality which our hearts truly long for. The reality that only exists in the Kingdom of God. When we find the reality of the kingdom, and kingship that we are searching for, we will sell all we have in order to gain it. However, we must be wary that we do not settle for achievements of the flesh which fails to accomplish true confidence.

THE WRONG KIND OF CONFIDENCE

  1. Putting our trust in religious behavior rather than the work of Christ

  2. Attaining salvation through our own desires or giftings

  3. Becoming watch dogs of heresy rather than shepherds of truth

Paul urges the church in Philippi to be cautious about putting their confidence in anything other than the saving grace of Christ. It is too easy to place one’s confidence in deeds, works, titles, or relationships. But Paul emphatically denies the notion that any of these can offer fulfillment for oneself or favor with God. We have no confidence in the work of the flesh. It’s not through circumcision and law keeping that brings about salvation, but it is the circumcision of the heart through Jesus Christ who came to fulfill the law. The mark of a new believer is not physical circumcision, but the spirit of God, at work in us.

THE RIGHT KIND OF LOSS

It is important to note that it is not ambition or the celebration of hard work that is wrong. However, we must never lose sight of that fact that compared to Christ all is rubbish. Nothing can come close to the importance of one’s identity solidly planted in the restorative nature of God himself. Paul is not saying that all human achievement is worthless, but he is saying that compared to Christ, and without Christ, it is worthless.

“Indeed, I count everything as loss, because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord. For his sake, I’ve suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, in order that I might gain Christ.”

 Philippians 3:8 

HOW DO WE LIVE OUR LIVES IN THE RIGHT KIND OF LOSS?

  1. Recognizing that everything that comes our way is an opportunity to gain more of Christ

    Everything that comes our way in life is our opportunity to move towards Christ. In everything that is pleasant, we give thanks to Jesus. In everything that is difficult, we lean on him for strength. We constantly live in the tension between thanks and dependency on Christ. This is counting all things as loss.

  2. Hold things gently

    As we interact with the things of this world, we will consistently demonstrate that the achievements of the flesh are not our ultimate treasure. Everything we achieve in this life will be given its value based on the value we have in Christ. This means that we will hold everything loosely because compared to Christ it is not something worth holding on too tightly. Those who hold the spoils of this life loosely will find that generosity is a natural outpouring. When we refuse to hold tightly to the temporal nature of things that rust and corrupt, we become generous.

  3. Trust that we will not lose our joy

    Experiencing loss in this world is an unfortunate side effect of the fall that we all must face. We will experience it. But, even in the loss of all things we will not grumble because our joy is Christ. This is the kind of loss that leads to life and what we were created for.

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others who do not have hope.”

1 Thessalonians 4:13

THE BEST KIND OF KNOWING

In order for us to move past the wrong kind of confidence and push forward into the right kind of loss we must have a personal knowledge of Christ. This is not simply a knowledge of the historicity of Jesus; rather, this is the kind of knowing that makes us say that Jesus is our lord and our savior. The kind of knowing that becomes a fountainhead from which the rest of the aspects flow.

KNOWING CHRIST

  1. Biblically

    Christians are Bible people; thus we know the grand story of redemption and the reality of Christ through scripture. It is not simply a book that we read but it is the very essence of our lives. We are tethered to scripture because it is how we come to know who we are in Christ.

  2. Theologically

    We come to know Christ through the theological truths of the Christian faith which include: salvation, the trinity, humanity, and even scripture. It covers the basic theological truths because without these truths we cannot truly know Christ.

  3. Personally

    If all we have is knowing Jesus theologically and doctrinally, we reduce knowing Christ to the legalistic snare of avoiding error. Personally knowing Christ is more than orthodoxy and articulating the correct theology or doctrine. Knowing Christ personally means we commune with him as we learn from him. The love we have for him begins to grow and mature as we think of him and talk with him. We find that in Christ we are home. The longings that exist deep inside of us find rest and fulfillment in Christ alone.

“We can’t have confidence in the flesh and gain right standing before God. We have right standing before God, because he has found us.”

DOES CHRIST LOOK SO GOOD TO US THAT EVERYTHING ELSE, BY COMPARISON, SEEMS EXPENDABLE?

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