The Stewardship of Grace Pt. #3

The Stewardship of Grace Pt. #3: Proverbs 3:1-12
Preached @ Harambee Church by Pastor Michael Gunn on September 27th, 2009

“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
Hebrews 11:1

“Faith is not opposed to knowledge; it is opposed to sight.”
Dallas Willard

“Stepping out onto the invisible bridge without the assurance of little pebbles to bolster your courage.”
Greg Wright

“God did not give so much to us to improve our standard of living, He did it to improve our standard of giving.”
Mark Driscoll quoting unknown source

In our last week on biblical “Stewardship,” we are going to take a look at trust and its connection to biblical stewardship. Trust is something that we all have are issues with; especially trusting the people we give money to. There are so many people using unscrupulous methods to take our money, and nothing is as horrific as when the church uses those methods to do it, since they are playing on your fears and guilt, and actually destroy the gospel in the process since they direct your devotion toward what we do for our acceptance before God and not what Jesus has done. Any giving to God is an “Act of grace (Devotion)” not an act of merit. We already are fully accepted by God through the work of Jesus on the cross. Our giving is a result of that gift. As Mark Driscoll says, “God did not give so much to us to improve our standard of living, He did it to improve our standard of giving.”

Today I want to take a look at the value associated with giving; trust/faith. What does it mean to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding?”

From the Head…
Obedience Is The result Of A Changed Heart Caused By God’s Steadfast Love (Proverbs 3:1-4)
Our set of verses today begins with Solomon exhorting his son to “Remember” his teaching and to let his “Heart keep my commandments.” You can’t look very far in the scriptures without realizing this is what God cares about. Not religious devotion, but a heart that is given to Him. And then in v. 3 we see the motivation for this kind of heart change (“Let no steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you, bind them on your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart.”

In typical “Proverbial” fashion, we see that the command to obey is completed with a promise of prosperity and success. Words like this are often used to prove a poor theology. Proverbs are statements of basic reality. If you do the right thing, don’t drink too much, eat right, etc, chances are you will live longer. These aren’t existential principles that are formulas for success. They need to be seen in context with all of scripture and even all of Proverbs that make it clear that the righteous don’t always prosper right away (See Proverbs 10:2-3; 16:8, 19; 17:1; 19:1, 22; 21; 9). It also must be seen in light of its literary genre (Primer on morality for his son), which looks toward the future when the righteous will rise (Proverbs 24:16). Whereas some of these consequences are logical, some of them are realized qualitatively, not quantitatively. The main issue in these promises is the fact that justice will ultimately be done (Proverbs 3:31-35). In these verse we are promised that our days will be extended and that we will find favor and success, the very thing that we are trying to gain through disobedience and faithlessness.

Trust In The Lord, Not In Yourself
(Proverbs 3:5-8)
So much of our culture and our parenting and our education is centered on “believing in yourself.” Somehow we think this is a positive message to our children, but after a couple decades of this message we have created self-centered, narcissistic kids who feel entitled to wealth and success, without the work and hardship that success usually takes. As I said in the intro, “Trust” is very hard for us to do and a barometer for us to see how well we understand the gospel. Trust (Batach) is the primary meaning of faith. It has the idea of 1) to trust, 2) have confidence, 3) be confident, 3) to be bold, and 4) to be secure. These parameters all have something to add to the idea of trusting in the Lord. Proper confidence begins in trust/faith. The question is where is our confidence coming from? Our own abilities? Our achievements? Our money? Trust is the linchpin to obedience, honoring the Lord with our wealth, with service, etc. This trust leads to a Whole body (Meaning a psychological wholeness). Trusting in God brings mental healing to our fallen brains. One respondent to my Facebook question (“How do you define faith?”) said “believing God tells the truth.” Do you believe that?

Honor The Lord With Your Wealth (Proverbs 3:9-10)
Here we have context to the verses in regards to trust and obedience. Giving of our money and wealth is a sure sign of our belief that Jesus is all we need. Note the giving here is the “Firs Fruits” of what you make. Giving to the Lord doesn’t mean you spend on yourself all month and then give to the Lord what is left over. God demands to be first in our lives, not an after thought.

Connected with the meter of each of these verse sets the author promises that God will bless you for giving. Here he promises “Fullness” of the things that money can buy (Wheat and wine). Ultimately they are metaphors for happiness. It is wine that “gladdens the heart!” The promise of blessing here is a strong wine that will be a symbol of success and blessing and happiness.

Understand The Discipline Of The Lord (Proverbs 3:11-12)
In our last two verses the author exhorts his son not to “Despise the Lord’s discipline.” This is the verse quoted in Hebrews 12:5-6). Here we have a strange requests, but one that is real important for us as believers; as kids. When we hate discipline, we are in a sense asking God to stop caring. Only in a trusting heart can we truly not despise God’s discipline in our life. The Jars of Clay song “World Apart” is a very scary song to sing:

“I look beyond the empty cross
forgetting what my life has cost
so wipe away the crimson stains
and dull the nails that still remain
so steal my heart and take the pain
take the selfish, take the weak
and all the things I cannot hide
take the beauty, take my tears
take my world apart, take my world apart
I pray, I pray, I pray
take my world apart”

Can you say that with any certainty that God is good enough to handle such a request? Is God’s discipline better than the most loving parent?

…to the Heart
What is it in your heart that holds you back from trusting in Him? Why is it that you feel you have to control everything in your life? How is that working for you in regards to your mental health and relational spheres? How is your lack of trust a sign that the gospel has not taken full root in your heart? What is it that you need to repent of, and believe that that God has forgiven you, so you too can trust Him with your wealth, with obedience, with loving Him and others?


The Stewardship of Grace Pt. #2

The Stewardship of Grace Pt. #2: 2 Corinthians 9:6-14
Preached @ Harambee Church by Pastor Michael Gunn on September 20th, 2009

“Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift!!”

As we continue our series on stewardship, we must remember that our giving of our time, talent and treasures is a consequence of the joy we have in Christ due to the riches He has lavished upon us. It is first because of His grace and mercy and love shown to us, that we can give with the same motivation and desire to bless others with our giving. If we give grudgingly out of guilt or pride or fear, we are not practicing biblical worship in our giving; we are simply giving to ourselves and for ourselves. Last week we saw that giving is linked to joy and grace (2 Corinthians 8:6). In today’s passage we see that this “Grace act” is a result of a heart change that God does to us (See 2 Corinthians 8:16), for the glory of God (2 Corinthians 8:19).

From the Head…
Biblical Giving Is An Act of Praise, Not An Act of Desire (2 Corinthians 9:5)
This little phrase by Paul here I think is important to unraveling some of the rest. Paul is sending ”Brothers” ahead of him to determine if there giving was “Willing” and not an “Exaction.” He has been encouraging them, and saying that they are ready to give, but he needs to make sure that this gift was being given as a response to God’s grace in their lives (2 Corinthians 8:6-9), and not as a way to gain something for themselves. The two words “Willing” (eulogian) and “Exaction” (pleonexian) are important here. The word eulogian means “Blessing or Praise.” As a consequence of God’s grace, we give as an act of praise, not as an pleonexian “Desire to have more.”

Giving To Get Thwarts God’s Blessing of Joy (2 Corinthians 9:6, 8, 11)
It is the previous verse (As well as vv. 9+11) that gives us key context here, so we don’t extract this verse and interpret it too widely and selfishly. The context gives us its interpretative limits. All too often this biblical truth is used to preach a self-centered principle of sowing. It is true that as we sow, we will reap, but the question is what are we reaping here? Poor sowing (As we saw last week) may be a sign of a disingenuous faith, which results in a joyless act. When we don’t understand the gospel of grace, we look to other things (People, events, status, etc.) to give us joy. Since most of us turn to money as a key to secular joy, we are reluctant to part with our money, and therefore are robbed of the joy that we get (Not just for giving) from knowing that we have been truly graced by God (See 2 Corinthians 8:9). I have heard the adage giving is the link to joy and happiness, but I think it misses the point by one step. Giving to get joy makes joy the object of our desires, whereas biblical giving sees God’s glory as that object, and gains the joy from knowing that the act glorifies Him, which is our highest object of affection. When we give like that, God’s blessings are overwhelming, sufficient, and full (2 Corinthians 9:8, 11).

Biblical Giving Must Be A Result of What God Has Placed In Your Heart (2 Corinthians 9:7a)
Ten percent is not a bad place to start our giving, but for some it is too small. The “Tithe” (Which is an OT idea) was actually more than ten percent. After the “Tithes and offerings” it came out to more than thirty percent. New testament giving is a “Heart” thing, not a law thing.

Biblical Giving Needs To be Freely and Cheerfully Given (2 Corinthians 9:7b)
If your giving is “Under compulsion,” then most likely you are giving for the wrong reasons. Whether we give of our time or treasures, our giving ought to be the result of God’s grace and cheerfully done. If we are doing it for the praise of men, or in order to manipulate God into blessing us, we are not giving biblically.

God Blesses Us To Be A Blessing (2 Corinthians 9:8-15)
First we are a blessing to those that we show generosity to (2 Corinthians 9:8-11a). God blesses us, so that we can give more, which leads to the second blessing, which giving leads to God being thanked and praised (2 Corinthians 9:11b-12). Lastly, it leads to the goal of the gospel, the demonstration of the glory of God (2 Corinthians 9:13). When people see us “Submitting” our time, talent and treasures for the benefit of others, they see the reality of the “Confession of the gospel of Christ” in your giving.

…to the Heart
Paul ends this chapter on his knees with the phrase of praise, “Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift!!” Do you see the gospel as that, or are you looking for more? What is it in your heart that acts as a blockade toward being a blessing to others? What idols are you holding on to, that forces you to hold on to your belongings so tightly? Is your gospel teaching you that you need God in order to get more, or is your gospel teaching you that you have everything you need in Christ, and therefore you can use what God has given you to give back to Him for the sake of His glory!!

The Stewardship of Grace Pt. #1

The Stewardship of Grace Pt. #1: 2 Corinthians 8:1-14
Preached @ Harambee Church by Pastor Michael Gunn on September 13th, 2009

As we celebrate Harambee’s 7th year of existence and enter into a new year; albeit a year of change and maybe some uncertainty, we enter in hope, because of the gospel of grace. This year we will be in the book of Acts (Starting November 2009), but we are going to look at stewardship for these next few weeks. Stewardship (Or giving) is a tough subject since it is so connected to our circumstances and idols. Some churches certainly talk too much about giving, while other, such as Harambee do not talk enough about it. It is my apology that we have not preached the full counsel of God’s word. Stewardship is spoken about quite often in the bible, and it is a subject that can bring out many emotions, because we are so controlled by our time and our money. We don’t think that the gospel ought to make any demands on our life; certainly not in the area of what we do with our money. I could take the tactic of causing you guilt so as to raise our giving, but that would be quite un-gospellike. If we have yielded our lives to God, then we have yielded that which is most important to us; our time, talent and treasure. Discipleship is connected to giving and the proper stewarding of the many gifts that God has graced us with. We are called to die to ourselves and empty ourselves and it is there (In Christ) that we find our joy and abundance.

One thing is for sure giving is a heart issue, related to grace, and not related to our procuring a new identity and standing with the Lord. Grace giving is a natural by-product of the gospel working on our lives. It is a sign of grace residing in us. Let’s take a look at 2 Corinthians 8 for the words of Paul on this subject.

From the Head…
First of all, we note that Paul is discussing the giving of the Macedonian church to the Jerusalem church as a way of relief. However the principles of giving here (2 Corinthians 8-9) are good guidelines to stewardship of all kinds. Paul is commending the Macedonian church (These are churches that Paul founded near Greece) to the Corinthians as a way of teaching them in regards to giving. Paul took no money from them (See 2 Corinthians 11:7-9). Paul was a tent maker, and he raised his own support. I too can say the same thing, as I now raise all of my support outside of Harambee, so I am freed up to do what God has called me to do. Paul can talk about giving freely knowing that he has no ulterior motive. So many of the TV preachers preach about giving as a way to blessing, so that they can be the one being blessed.

Giving is not the path to the blessing, it is the result of the blessing (2 Corinthians 8:1-3)
Generosity is an affect, not a cause. Giving sacrificially is a result of the reality of the joy of Christ in our lives. Giving isn’t a pathway, or a work to be done because we ought, but a result of the gospel working in our lives. It is a showing of God’s grace. Joy is connected to contentment, which leads to the ability to live with any means since we are filled in Christ (See Philippians 4:11-13). When we are joyless, we need to create that joy through circumstances and new toys. Paul so clearly indicates this point in verse 9 when he uses the prime example of God’s grace in our life; Jesus’ death in our behalf. He was made “Poor” just like the Macedonian church was, so that we could be made “Rich.” It is when we are content and joy filled in Christ that we can be givers of ourselves and our stuff as an act of “Re-Gracing” to others.

Giving is motivated by a restructuring of our understanding of our possessions (2 Corinthians 8:4-5)
They weren’t motivated by guilt and human expectations, but the desire to participate in what God was doing. This wasn’t done as an expectation of Paul and his people; it was done because they “Gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God, to us (2 Corinthians 8:5). The will of God in this instance was ascertained by the fact that they had given themselves and their stuff to the Lord. This is a key to stewardship; that we see all of who we are and the things we have as the Lord’s and not our own (See Psalm 24:1). It is easier to depart with things that aren’t our own. We live in a culture that emphasizes material possessions as a symbol of our success and significance. This makes giving things up in accordance with God’s will harder for us to obey. The Macedonian church saw their possessions as first the Lord, then they recognized that God was working through the ministry of Paul and his men, so they were happy to participate in the work of the Lord in this circumstance.

Giving is an act of grace and love (2 Corinthians 8:6-8)
While giving is a consequence of grace in our lives, it is also an act of grace and love demonstrating God’s grace and love in our lives. When we withhold giving, we are missing out in the grace opportunities we are given to bless others with a symbol of the grace we are blessed with. Paul is urging Titus and his team to complete what their intentions were, and to demonstrate the grace of God to others through their gift.

Giving is the result of restructured desires (2 Corinthians 8:10-11)
This last point is crucial to biblical stewardship. It was their desire that motivated them to give. Desire is ultimately what motivates us to do anything. We do what we desire. We can try to do something else, but it is the desires of our heart that we ultimately follow. It is a restructuring in this area that happens to us through the preaching of the gospel. If our desires are truly self-centered then giving is not going to be a part of who we are. It is our desires that bring glory to God or ourselves. Anyone can give money and actually have a desire to help others, but if their desires are not motivated by God and His glory, the work is not pleasing to the Lord, because their motives of their heart are self-centered. This is why two people can do the same act, yet one is doing for completely different reasons than the other.

…to the Heart
Anyone can be a giver, and as a matter of fact, many non-believers are more hospitable and gracious in their giving than non-believers. This does not negate the gospel in our lives. Biblical giving to help others is not based on nationalism, moralism, self interest, or guilt; it is based on the grace that God has shown us in Jesus Christ, which restructures our desire and understanding of our possessions, so that we are free to give of ourselves for the glory of God in this world. As believers, we have more reason to be givers than anyone else. There is no greater motivation to care for the world’s poor than the grace of God when we truly understand what that means.

The Mission and Call of God For His People: Jonah Chapter 4

The Mission and Call of God For His People: Jonah Chapter 4
Preached by Pastor Caleb Mayberry @ Harambee Church on August 30th, 2009

Upon finding out that the Ninevites were not going to be judged, we see Jonah’s deep hatred for the Ninevites is revealed when he complains to God. In the final chapter we will see how Jonah’s and our anger is rooted in pride and self-righteousness and how this blinds us to our own dependency on grace and renders our hearts incapable of compassion. Moreover we see that character of God is in stark contrast to the anger and pouting of Jonah. We see that God actually desires grace and mercy over that of judgment and it is from his gracious character that God seeks to teach Jonah about compassion.

From the Head…
I want to make three key points from the text in Jonah Chapter 4. First, that man’s hate and anger is rooted in pride and self-righteousness. Second, that our pride blinds us to our own dependency on grace and renders our hearts incapable of compassion. And Third, that God’s grace is dispensed liberally to even the ones we hate.

1. Our pride and self-righteousness is revealed in hatred and anger.
Verse 1 states that it displeased Jonah exceedingly, or it also has the idea that what God did was exceedingly evil. In other words, Jonah felt God did not do the right thing. Jonah believed in his anger that he was more advanced in his view of righteousness than God. Is this not pride? Is Jonah not thinking more highly of himself than he ought?

Questions for reflection: Who are you angry at and why? Are you better than them? Are we quicker to anger than God? The Bible says that God is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. How do you measure up?

2. Our pride blinds us to our own dependency on grace and renders our hearts incapable of compassion
Pride, self-righteousness, and anger are a barrier to mission because it goes counter to the gospel. Jonah has just been blatantly disobedient to a direct command that he heard from God. Disobedience to God’s word was what got Adam and Eve kicked out of the garden and stained humanity with sin. And so Jonah is just as guilty as Adam and any other sinner that has come after him. But instead of Jonah perishing in the belly of the fish and being cast forever away from the presence of God, God graciously hears Jonah’s plea for mercy and gives him another chance. However Jonah’s heart was still very wicked. Though he demonstrated some measure of faith in obeying God’s command the second time, his heart was clearly not in alignment with God’s. Jonah still felt that his people were superior to the Ninevites and that they deserved nothing but judgment. Because of Jonah’s pride that fueled his hate and anger, he was unable to have compassion because somehow he believed that he deserved God’s grace where the Ninevites did not. Once we start to pick and choose who deserves or doesn’t deserve God’s grace, then we’ve absolutely misunderstood the gospel, because the good news is that Christ died for the UN-deserving! God gives grace to the UN-deserving. This is the definition of grace, unmerited favor. No one deserves it, yet God in his love generously bestows it.

3. God’s grace is dispensed liberally to even those we hate
We see in this chapter a glimpse into God’s compassionate heart. God pitied the City of Nineveh. He called it a great city, for there were many people and many resources, but they were wasting it all in opposition to God. And so God announced judgment upon them, but he did so in a way that demonstrated that his ultimate purpose was not judgment but of their salvation. God cared about the Ninevites. God had been personally working on the Ninevite people to prepare them for this time of salvation. Even though they were evil. Even though they were enemies of Israel, God’s chosen people. Even though years later they would return to their evil ways. God still loved them and he purposed to choose them at that time for salvation rather than judgment regardless of whether we think God is right in doing so.

…to the Heart
But not only is God gracious to save those we hate, God is also gracious to expose us of our own hate and lack of compassion. God not only was working on a plan to save 120,000 people from destruction, but he was also, in the mean time, working to reveal the hatred and sin in the heart of Jonah. Why did God choose Jonah? Was Jonah the only man that could do the job? Not at all. God could have sent anyone down there to call out against the city, but he chose Jonah. Why? Because God wanted more of Jonah’s heart. God knew that Jonah was harboring some serious pride and hate that God wanted to deal with. Hate and pride are very destructive. And just as God did not desire the destruction of the Ninevites, he also didn’t want Jonah to be destroyed in his hatred and pride. So God chose Jonah for the task, at least in part, as an exercise in sanctifying his heart. God cares not only about obedience, but he cares about the attitude from which we obey. God loves us enough to put us in situations that test where our hearts are at with God. He did this with Jonah and he is doing it with us today. What situations has God put you in to reveal sin in your heart? Where have you been too quick to judge? Who do you find difficult to forgive? How is God showing you his compassion and to whom are you in turn expressing it to? Our hearts matter to God, so we need to repent of our sinful attitudes and turn to Jesus and acknowledge that we are sinners in desperate need of God’s grace. I think in our humility God will give us hearts to love even those we hate.

The Mission and Call of God For His People: Jonah 2

The Mission and Call of God For His People: Jonah 2
Preached by Pastor Michael Gunn @ Harambee Church on August 16th, 2009

Last week we introduced Jonah as a narrative of God’s grace and mercy toward the people He has called. The Ninevehites were wicked people and totally undeserving of God’s grace, but God’s compassion went out to the brokenness of these people and sent his servant (Jonah) to go and preach in that “Great City.” We also saw Jonah who justified direct disobedience on behalf of his nationalistic racism and hatred of the people in Nineveh. What’s great about this story and the stories in the bible is the fact that God remains faithful even when His people aren’t. Jonah never really deals with his bitterness and racism in this story, but God’s plans are not thwarted. Jonah definitely had his choices, but he ended up doing God’s will and completed the purposes of God in His mission to the world. This passage demonstrates God’s desire to bless all nations, and not just one people group or nation.

This week, we have a prayer of hope; a hope that God can deliver us from the grave.

From the Head
As stated last week, we can get caught up in the fact that modern men don’t believe in human swallowing fish, but if we did, we’d miss an amazing OT narrative reminding us of God’s mercy and grace, as well as HI s call for His people to carry out His mission here on earth. It’s a miracle, because it can’t happen naturally. There are many more miracles in this story beside that one. There is the miracle of the pagan sailors coming to Yahweh, and the Ninevehites repenting to name a couple.

This is an interesting piece that needs to be viewed from at least two perspectives, the immediate and the eschatological (Future).

The Immediate Perspective
The immediate perspective is a true story of Jonah the prophet crying out to his God as the only known source of Hope he had. Our sins and rebellion often place us in the bowels of God’s disciplinary action (See Hebrews 12:4ff). It seems obvious that Jonah is a type of Israel, and in that way a type of the church. Jonah, like Israel was chosen by God to be His people and His witness (Deuteronomy 14:2; Ezekiel 20:5 cf. Matthew 29:19-20; Acts 1:8). Jonah and Israel was disobedient to the call and will of God (Exodus 32:1-4; Judges 2:11-19; Ezekiel 6:1-5), etc. We are hard-necked people and even though the biblical call for us to turn to Him in humility and repentance for our salvation and then rearrange our lives to do His will, we refuse. We are no different than Jonah who tried to flee God’s presence only to realize that God is sovereign, and His will, will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

One of the first perspectives you learn from Jonah’s prayer is how well he knew scripture. Almost every word comes from Psalms or Lamentations. In the time of his distress He turned to the word he knew well as a source of comfort and hope.

More specifically though, He “Called out to the Lord” since “salvation belongs to the Lord” (vv. 2:2, 7, 9). I don’t think we can skirt the fact that these verses begin and end this prayer. In our self-centeredness we reject God, but in reality there is no other choice but to come back to Him for the hope of salvation. There is no other name or way or set of precepts we can do to be saved, we are saved by the Lord. What’s interesting is that in spite of Jonah’s disobedience in Chapter one, the pagan sailors seem to have recognized this reality too (Jonah 1:14-15). Jonah reflects n the fact that any prayer to idols are “Vain” and they “Forsake their hope of steadfast love” (Jonah 2:8).

Another perspective is the fact that in spite our disobedience, God is faithful, and sovereign over the circumstances in out lives. In times of distress, we can either move away from God or toward Him. Jonah paraphrases Psalms 3:4; 120:1, when he says “and He answered me, and you heard my voice” (Jonah 2:2).

Another perspective is the acknowledgment of God’s sovereignty in our adverse circumstances. Jonah recognizes that his circumstance is brutal, but it is God who “Cast me into the deep.”

Another perspective is that often, when we are running away, He appears absent (Jonah 2:4a), but even in Jonah’s predicament He is not only present, but actively present, and Jonah acknowledges this (Jonah 2:4b), as he seeks for that “Hidden” God, only to be delivered by His God (Jonah 2:6).

The Eschatological Perspective
Eschatological means “Future or End.” There is a larger picture happening here. The prophets wrote not with two meanings in mind, but with a series of literal fulfillments until the climax of their prophecy was fulfilled as originally intended.

Jesus spoke of the prophets speaking about Him, and Matthew 12:39-40 reminds us that Jonah was a “Sign” of what would happen to Jesus. Last week we looked at the paradox of Jonah in his disobedience and deserving of judgment being a sing of Christ’s judgment on the cross on our behalf. In our passage today, we see a similar admittance of guilt, and a repentant return to the Lord. Again Jonah is describing one who went to their grave and who was resurrected from the “Pit.” The language in this passage is one of death. The idea of being cast into “the deep” and having a “flood” about him are synonymous with Jewish metaphor for death. In Jewish thought the dead were surrounded by the river called “Torrent of destruction” (See Psalm 18:4; 2 Samuel 22:5); and references to the “Roots of the mountains” and “Bars” of the land (v.6) are references to “Sheol,” which is in the mountains and closed off by a gate (See Isaiah 38:10; Job 38:17). Being “Driven away from your sight” is another key phrase depicting the fact that death is what is being described.

This may be hard to put into our usual understanding of this passage, but the prayer/song is hard to deny. Did Jonah dies? Well, if he was truly a foreshadowing of Jesus’ death burial and resurrection ala Matthew 12:39 maybe he was, but what we do know for sure, is that this is at least a metaphor for the fact that Jesus paid that penalty in Sheol on our behalf, and like Jonah, we are guaranteed to be raised from the depths of Sheol, and from the shackles of our sin, and raised to a newness of life, so that we could serve Jesus. We have been baptized into His death, and raised with Him in His resurrection (See Romans 6:4-12).

What an incredible thing, Jesus took on what we deserved, so we could have what we don’t deserve, through the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ our Lord!!

…to the Heart
I pray that this sinks in deep into your hearts this morning! And I pray it releases you to a real freedom to acknowledge that your predicament is ultimately a result of your sinful condition, and that you too are in need of the only one we can call to save us; Jesus, and that He hears that prayer of repentance, and grants us new life, and a yanking out of the pit of despair and judgment! Let us praise Him this morning!!

The Mission and Call of God For His People: Jonah 1

The Mission and Call of God For His People: Jonah 1
Preached by Pastor Michael Gunn @ Harambee Church on August 9th, 2009

“In a day when prejudice and hate inflame men’s emotions and pervert their judgment, Jonah speaks with compelling force about limiting our love and sympathies only to some of our fellow human beings and excluding others from our pity and compassion.”
Frank Gaebelein

We have just completed a series on the gospel and its affect in our lives, and now we open a four part series on the book of Jonah, which is a short but great book demonstrating the gracious love of God for all nations including those nations that are bitter enemies of Israel (See Romans 12:14ff). The gospel is larger than nationalism, and our own desires and God’s people are found in all nations, ethnicities, races, etc. (See Revelation 5:9, 10; 7:9).

Jonah, according to 2 Kings 14:25 was a prophet to King Jeroboam II (To whom he prophesied his victory over the Syrians, and the enlarging of Israel’s borders), and was the son of Amittai from Gath-Hepher. The book with his name on it is placed with the Minor Prophets, but in reality it is a narrative describing God’s grace toward an evil people, with no prophecies made.

This book is a story of God’s grace, and His call of His people to carry out His mission to the “Nations.” This so often lost on a western church that sees church as a haven for “Self Improvement.” The church (Ecclesia) is a gathered group of people to help carry out God’s mission in the world (See John 20:21). For many this sounds like a clashing gong, that only makes the leadership of the church externally minded, without caring about those inside the church, however a full understanding of the workings of the church and the call to “Make disciples,” includes both the nurturing of one another by all people in the body, and the outward thrust of the gospel to the “Nations” (See Matthew 28:19-20). This book, though small is a narrative unpacking God’s intention for Israel (Genesis 12:1-3) in spite of the fact that they had not been the witness to the nations God had intended. Ouch, sounds all too familiar!

In our passage today (Chapter One), we see God’s call and Jonah’s disobedience based on nationalistic pride and bitter hatred for the people whom God loves and calls.

From the Head
What we see right away, is that God is concerned with Iraq as much as He is with America. And like America, God is concerned with their wickedness, and in spite of His love for His creation, His just judgment is fair and righteous. God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11). This is an important thing to understand about God. He is loving and gracious and long suffering, but He is also just and holy (See too Exodus 34:6-7)! Let’s look at Four Questions that might navigate us through this first chapter:

What Was Jonah commanded to do?

Preach the Gospel to Nineveh
He was called to “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” This command is similar to the command of the church from the lips of Jesus in Matthew 28. We so often have excuses of why we don’t share with the people we love. Sometimes those appeals seem legitimate; it could get you killed. Maybe this is how Jonah felt? According to Nahum the prophet, Nineveh was a wicked place (See Nahum 3:1-4). Simply we don’t have excuses, but our hardened, comfortable hearts keep us from caring. Showing compassion and love to people does not mean that we agree with their lifestyle. Jonah was sent to Nineveh to lovingly “Call out against it!” It is a loving thing to proclaim the gospel, even when it appears mean. There are definitely better ways to communicate this truth, but if God’s judgment is a reality, we are compelled to preach the truth of His gospel, and not transform it into a self-help manual! A true gospel calls for repentance and belief.

What was Jonah’s sin? Why did he disobey this direct command, and rather die himself than obey the command?

Jonah Was More Concerned About Nationalistic Pride Than He Was The Gospel
Jonah’s reason for disobedience is found in 4:2. He knew God could/would save them, and that was bad for his people. Jonah was more concerned for Israel (Nationalism) than he was for the gospel and the glory of God.

One commentator wrote, “He knew, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that the repentance of the Gentiles would be the ruin of the Jews, and, as a lover of his country, was actuated not so much by envy of the salvation of Nineveh, as by unwillingness that his own people should perish. Church father Jerome supposes, he really grudged salvation to the Gentiles, and feared lest their conversion to the living God should infringe upon the privileges of Israel above the Gentile world, and put an end to its election as the nation of God.”

This is a racial issue. The apostles had a similar problem until God showed them what He desired (Acts 8, 10, 13, 15 cf. Genesis 12:1-3). This is why we need to think “Glocally” and plant churches that reflect this vision for the kingdom of God, and not merely homogenous ones. Jonah’s nationalistic and racial pride got in the way of the gospel. It was an idol that needed to be expunged. Jonah had bitter hatred for his enemies. Jesus came however and told us to “Love” those who hate and persecute us (Matthew 5:43-44), and Paul reiterates this in Romans 12:17-21. Are we more concerned about the plight of America, than we are with the gospel? What do we think about immigrants coming into our country? Are we more concerned about guarding our tax money than we are God’s purposes in this world? Should we view people not like us differently for the sake of the gospel?

When we harden our hearts to the Lord, we too try to flee His presence. “I won’t go to church!!” But we fail to realize that God is omnipresent, and Psalm 139: 7-10 reminds us that we can’t “Flee from His presence!” I’m sure Jonah was very familiar with these words, but they obviously remained just that; words to him in the midst of his rebellion. Hmm, sound familiar? No one know for sure where Tarshish was, but it is assumed it was the furthest tip of Spain, which would make Tarshish the exact opposite direction from where God had told him to go. It is important to realize that you are better off going to the place God has for you, that being in a safer more comfortable place of your choice.

How did God bring Jonah’s sin to light?

God Brought Jonah’s Sin to the Light Via A Storm
Jonah seemed to have no real conscious issues in regards to his sin. He went into the boat and slept. It took a storm to wake him, and the spiritual sensitivities of pagans to get him moving. It is interesting that Jonah was more willing to die than to obey God in this instance. As the rest of the story will show, it took God raising the “Heat” level to get Him to comply, but this narrative shows us is that God sovereignly moves His people through the people we come into contact with, and the through the circumstances of our lives. We can either use the “Heat” of our lives to turn toward the cross in repentance, resulting in fruitful lives, or we can become embittered towards God, resulting in thorns. Many of the “Storms” in our lives are the result of a sovereign God moving us to where He wants us.

Interestingly enough Jesus used this story, which includes Jonah’s direct disobedience as an analogy for His time in the grave (See Matthew 12:39-40).

In what ways is this story similar to Jesus’?

Jesus Took On The Punishment For Our Sins
His death is substitutionary on behalf of us. In this sense, Jonah being thrown over board was voluntary and on behalf of the rest of the sailors on the boat. But even in a different way, Jesus’ death is congruent to Jonah’s because Jonah deserved his punishment for his sin, and while Jesus doesn’t “Deserve” His punishment, He takes on our punishment that is deserved. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” reminding us that Christ became who we are, so that we could become who He is. In that sense, His death is like Jonah’s and “Deserving” because Jonah deserved it, and He (Jesus) took that on Himself, so in that sense Jesus can say, “Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale…”

Jesus’ Death, Burial and Resurrection Was a Literal Miracle
Jonah’s narrative is a fanciful story apart from a God who not can intervene, but has the power of miracle. Jonah being swallowed by a whale is no more fanciful than a person being raised from the dead, or a god who creates the universe with a word. We could try to figure out that a man could be swallowed by a whale and live (As many men have done), but that wouldn’t make it a miracle, just a fortunate coincidence. We begin with the belief that there is a God who reveals Himself, and is sovereignly able to control what He has made, and from there we are able to explain the world around us. One writer says that “Christians believe in one big, bold miracle; God. As a result, everything fits into place. The rest of the world (Non-Believing World) denies God, the creator and needs a miracle to explain everything created.” Once you begin with the belief/presupposition that there is not God, then you explain the world with natural assumptions, and miracles don’t fit, but either way, we begin with a simple faith act.

Jesus uses this story literally to display the literal claim of His Easter miracle. He would be one day killed, buried and risen for the forgiveness of sins and the demonstration of God’s power over the most heinous thing known to humanity; Death!

…to the Heart
It is certainly a privilege to be on God’s team and active in the purposes by which He has called us. But so often, we place idols and ideals in front of the gospel, and turn church and fellowship into something it’s not. We exist in community because of God and His purposes and His glory that we are to proclaim to the nations. There is no doubt that this includes us loving and nurturing one another, but we do this in the context of mission. What are those heart issues that cause us to “Flee” God’s presence? What is it in your life that you know you don’t want to do no matter what God seems to be telling you? We should never serve God of guilt and duty, but we are called to serve Him out of love and gratitude. This is our call, and I hope that looking into Jonah’s life gives us all a window into our own. We too are often hardened in certain areas, and have racial/ethnic or nationalistic prejudices that kill our desire to proclaim God’s glory to those that live around us.

What Do You Believe?

What Do You Believe? Select Text
Preached @ Harambee Church by Pastor Michael Gunn

“We sin because we believe the lie that we are better off without God, that His rule is too oppressive, that we will be free without Him, that sin offers more than God. This is true of every sin and every negative emotion.”
Tim Chester

“Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ! Assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

“There is no sin greater than ignorance”
Rudyard Kipling

We have been going through a series on the gospel, and today is the last sermon in that series. We have looked at:
1. The Gospel Story from Genesis to Revelation, taking a look at how God’s story has unfolded in His full revelation, and how it is about Him and His glory, and not about us.
2. How We “Gospel” One Another, where we were encouraged to “Bear one another’s burden’s” and “Spur one another on to love and good deeds.”
3. How the Gospel Changes Us, which showed us that it is God and His power that saves us and changes us. We also saw that the gospel is not about personal transformation, but repentance for our sin, and trust that what Christ did on the cross is sufficient for our salvation.

Today we are going to take a look at five key truths that are important to our continuing growth in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Note: This sermon is predominantly pulled from Tim Chester’s book You Can Change: God’s Transforming Power For Our Sinful Behavior and negative Emotions (Particularly Chapter five).

From the Head…
“Behind Every Sin and Negative Emotion Is A lie”
“”The root of all behavior and emotions is the heart.” This is an important truth to understand. When we fail to understand that sin is a heart issue, we will see sin solely as an outward behavior and furiously work to curb behavior without dealing with the motives and underlying issues that cause the behavior. For instance stealing is an outward behavior that our society frowns upon, so it may behoove society to curb theft by changing the behavior of thieves; but the fact of the matter, we often steal because of greed, which many people are, but do not necessarily commit the act of theft. Or we lie (Outward behavior) because we fear man, or what will think of us (Inward thoughts).

As humans, we have all “exchanged the truth of God for a lie” (Romans 1:25), because we don’t really believe that we are better off without God. We can do it better. This is the sin of the garden, not eating fruit. Adam set humanity onto a rebellious trajectory, by choosing to be his own god and run his own life. Man isn’t the solution to his problems; he is the cause of them, and needs a new set of hard-wiring to live in this world differently, with a different set of paradigms helping him/her make decisions. We see this issue in Ephesians 4:17-24. Man’s problem is futile thinking and ignorance. The ignorance Paul is talking about here is the ignorance of the saving gospel of Jesus Christ, not personal “Enlightenment!” Note that this ignorance is due to the “Hardness” of our hearts. It’s not more education we need to destroy this kind of ignorance, it is a heart change we need!! Many intelligent people are hateful and ignorant. It’s not more education they need (“Knowledge is Power” may be true to gain power, but does nothing to fight the issues of our heart); they need a transformed pattern of thinking. Peter writes similarly to believers in 2 Peter 1:9 when he says “Whoever lacks these qualities (Christian Character) is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.” English preacher/theologian D. Martin Loyd-Jones said this, “Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?” 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 commands us to “Take very thought captive!” All too often, we allow our thinking to rule us, and we believe lies about who we are, who God is, what He has, or hasn’t done for you. We are to “Guard our hearts, because out of it is the wellsprings of life” (Proverbs 4:23).

What are the lies about God (Or fail to believe) that wreak havoc on our souls? Psalm 62:11-12 reminds us that Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this; that power belongs to God (Greatness and Glory), and that to you, Oh Lord, belongs steadfast love (Goodness and grace).”

1. God Is Not Great; So I Need To Take Control
Sometimes I live here! This is a blatant disbelief that God is sovereign and in control, and that He has the power to work out any situation we find ourselves in. We see horrible things taking place in the world, and we conclude that God is either not loving, or not powerful, or worse, neither. When we are freaking out over money, jobs, life’s decisions, circumstances, etc. we are acting atheists. Even in death we are told, “Not to grieve like the gentiles who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). God is greater than even death (Romans 8:37-39; 1 Corinthians 15:55-58). When we don’t trust God’s sovereignty, we will try to control our involvement; and quite often bring more harm to the situation.

2. God Is Not Glorious; So I Often Fear Others
I was going to change the wording of this, because we don’t often use the word “Glorious,” but as we (The Elders) pondered this word and the way it was being used, and I decided to stay with it, especially as Tim Chester uses it. If God is “Glorious” then we don’t have to “Fear” others. How is this related? When God is seen in His glory, we no longer need to seek our own glory, which so often leads us to care and even fear what others think. Our fear of man causes so many issues in our lives. We are literally controlled by what others think, and since we are trying to please others so that we can gain a saving grace, we can no longer serve them. If I need you to be happy, I am using you (My children, wife, friends, etc) for my own good, and not their own. We become “needy,” give in to peer pressure, become over-committed because we can’t say no in fear that others will think lowly of us. We fail to confront sin, because we want others to like us. When we seek our own glory, we will always end up destroying God’s! In our culture, we are told that we are the most important thing, yet we are a people full of anxiety and low “Self-Esteem.” Culture’s cure for poor self-esteem is to build that up with self-indulgent means, instead of bowing the knee to a big God. We become dependent then on the one thing or person that seems to bolster our self-esteem. As Tim Chester says, “Low self-esteem is thwarted pride.” Trying to bolster someone’s self-esteem is just using a heart issue (Pride) to secure change. It only exacerbates the problem causing either an arrogant, prideful person, or a defeated one knowing that they don’t “Measure up.” The only way we can destroy our fear of man, is to rightfully fear God. Only God is worthy to fear (See Isaiah 40:25). In Psalm 18 the Psalmist is meditating on who God is and what He has done.

3. God Is Not Good; So I Need to Look Elsewhere
This one for me is the hardest. My rebellion doesn’t necessarily come from hardcore outward acts of debauchery, but they come from little mental indulgences that God may be powerful, and He may be sovereign, but He isn’t good and loving. It causes fear (Since it is related to #1) and it causes me to seek joy in other things beside Him. It is easy to believe that God’s desire is to rob your joy, when in actuality he is championing your Joy by demanding obedient allegiance to Him. Hebrews 11:24-26 reminds us that joy found outside Christ is fleeting (See too Jeremiah 2:13). If we do not see God as good, we will look elsewhere for the “High Life.” This is the debate Jesus had with the woman at the well in John 4. It is interesting how Jesus takes the story to worship. She was playing with sexual addictions trying to find happiness, but it kept coming up empty (5 Husbands), and Jesus spent most of the dialogue trying to get her to see that sex, nor religion (She tried to talk about worship location), was the answer, He (Jesus) was (See John 7Z:37-39). In a world of gross sin and horrible atrocities, it is easy to look toward God for an account of Himself, but as Job found out, we won’t get one. He is God, and His ways are not our ways. St. Theresa of Avila sums it up in a quote in regards to the Lord’s Prayer and God’s subsequent will; “Do you want to see what He does to those who pray ‘Thy will be done’ in sincerity? Ask His glorious Son, Who said this when He prayed in the garden. As the Lord uttered it with strong resolve and an entire will, the answer was to give Him such an overflow of travail, pains, sufferings, and persecutions, that at the end He gave His life by the death of the cross. See there , then, what God gives to those who love Him most. This is how we know what it is to know His will.” If we look only to a horizontal view of reality, we will only see pain and meaningless. It is only when God removes the scales from our eyes that we can truly see life vertically, and place our hope and our happiness in His sovereign and “Good” hands!

4. God Is Not Gracious; So I feel I need to Prove Myself
The parable of the “Prodigal Son” is often seen as relating to the son(s), whereas in reality it is a story on the grace of our Lord. We try so hard to please Him in religion, but we forget that our status with Him is not based on us, but on Him and His grace to us. We see this mostly in the oldest son’s disdain for the graciousness of His Father. Only when we understand God’s grace can we truly serve Him in love for and not for a reward. Time Chester demonstrates the son’s attitude in the following outline:

Restless Anger
The older brother became angry and refused to go in” (Luke 15:28)

Joyless Duty
“All these years I’ve been slaving for you” (Luke 15:29)

Anxious Performance
“I never disobeyed your orders” (Luke 15:29)

Proud Comparisons
“This son of yours has squandered your property with prostitutes” (Luke 15:30)

…to the Heart
Are you serving God with Joy? Are you mad at God because He hasn’t “Come through” for you? Are you helping others so that they will praise you? Are you wracked in worry and anxiety because of circumstances in your life? Are you critical, and do you feel it is hard to forgive people that have “Wronged” you? Do you look down on others that don’t measure up to your expectations and standards? Do you gossip about others? Do you fear what tomorrow may bring?

If you have answered yes to any of these questions most likely you are struggling with believing the truth of these attributes about God. When the gospel is about you, and God exists for your happiness, then it is sure that we need an attitude adjustment. When we begin to fully trust God in these areas, we will find the life and happiness we are looking for.

In order to grow in these areas we need to first grow in our trust of God, secondly we need to fight off temptations by reminding ourselves not that the temptations are sin, but that we fight it positively by reminding ourselves that we have all we need in Christ, and lastly, it is imperative that we exist in community and listen to godly believers with scripture open reminding us of all we have in Jesus.

How The Gospel Changes Us; Pt. 1

How The Gospel Changes Us; Pt. 1, Select Scriptures
Preached @ Harambee Church by Pastor Michael Gunn on July 19th, 2009

“In the past 50 years, people with mental problems have spent untold millions of hours in therapists’ offices, and millions more reading self-help books, trying to turn negative thoughts like “I never do anything right” into positive ones like “I can succeed.” For many people, including well-educated, highly trained therapists, for whom “cognitive restructuring” is a central goal, the very definition of psychotherapy is the process of changing self-defeating attitudes into constructive ones. But was Norman Vincent Peale right? Is there power in positive thinking? A study just published in the journal Psychological Science says trying to get people to think more positively can actually have the opposite effect: it can simply highlight how unhappy they are” (Emphasis mine).
John Cloud

“…by making life easier for ourselves in minimizing the nature and seriousness of our sin, we become greater victims of it. We are in fact not healing ourselves. Those who say that they already feel bad enough without being told about the corruptions of indwelling sin misread the path to peace. When our people have not been taught well about the real nature of sin and how it works and how to put it to death, most of the miseries people report are not owing to the disease, but it’s symptoms.
John Piper

There are literally thousands of programs in our culture that promise change. From fad diets and workout programs, to self-help philosophies and Viagra, we are promised that our lives will change as a result of using their product, eating their foods, and believing their program. A lot of this has to do with what you desire to change. If you are overweight and out of shape, then a good diet and workout program may be just what you want. If you’re feeling down, then maybe counseling or a self-help program may provide some relief, but when it comes to our spiritual life, the bible doesn’t offer a self-help program, or even a promise that our depression and doldrums will go away as a result of belief in Jesus. The bible is concerned with humanities real problem; sin! So many of us come to Jesus for personal fulfillment and transformation. The “Good News” as we have seen it is that in spite of my sin and ongoing imperfection, Christ has died in my place for that sin, and I can have eternal life in spite of my sin. So often we place our own “Personal” testimony before the gospel, when our life’s transformation will never be perfected on this side of eternity. So it is important to remember that our transformation is ongoing, and our “Good Works” are made possible by the saving atonement of Jesus.

Religion Doesn’t Help Anyone Become Holy (Colossians 2:20-23)
It only appears to be that way. Because we are so bent on being our own gods, it appears natural that piety brings on real holiness, because it is the individual who is doing something, not necessarily anything that God is needed for. Paul reminds us that piety (“Self-Abasement”) is of “No use against fleshly indulgence.” The word for “Fleshly Indulgence” (Plasmone Sarx) literally means the things that “Satisfy” or “Fill” our desires. What Paul is saying is that these deep seated desires cannot be thwarted by acts of piety, that do nothing to change the human heart, but only produce more actions that satisfy the flesh, because they are a result of human activity, and not of the atoning work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in our lives. Pious acts gives us the powerful feeling that we are holy and righteous, while our hearts sins lie dormant at the core of our being, waiting for opportunities to crush us. This is why religious people struggle to repent, because they either are too proud to admit their sin, or too devastated by their sin to acknowledge God’s forgiving love through His Son’s work on the cross.

So if works of righteousness does not save us, what does save us? If it’s God’s grace, then why should we really care about growing in grace, and being changed at all? That’s precisely the rhetorical question that Paul asks in Romans 6:1. I hope to be able to take a stab at that answer in the next two weeks as we look at “How the Gospel Changes Us.” Today there are three key realities that we need to know in order to begin to be transformed by God’s grace.

From the Head…
The Need For Change is Realized By Understanding The Depth of Our Sin (Romans 6:16)
Humanities problem is poor worship! We are enslaved to worshipping the wrong gods. As Martin Luther reminds us, we are “Idol Makers” constantly breaking the 1st command. Everyone is living for something to make them happy, or to give them security, value or identity. The way we get these things enslaves us to them. Verse 12 shows us that we are enslaved to our “lusts” (Desires/epithumia). This word does not necessarily mean desires that our unhealthy or even evil, but it gets to the issue that causes us to sin; desires run amuck! This goes far beyond our actions, and the changing of our behavior, but forces us to go deep into the recesses of our own hearts.

Change Begins When We Are United In Christ (Romans 6:3-5)
When Paul begins to answer verse one, He reminds them of their union with Jesus’ death and resurrection. We are connected to His past and the future in Him. It is this resurrection power that gives us the ability to “Walk in the newness of life.” What does he mean? There is a term that theologians use to describe what happens to the human heart at the time of repentance; it is “Regeneration (Palliggenesia)” The term is used only two times in the NT. The first is found in Matthew 19:28 where Jesus uses it to talk about the final age when He sits on the throne, and His people will sit with Him. The word “Regeneration” was a term used by the stoics to speak of a time when fire periodically comes to earth to “Purge” the cosmos of evil. It is a term of great upheaval and change. The second time it is used is found in Titus 3:5, where Paul is telling Titus that we are saved “Not on the basis of deeds we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of the of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.” Our union in Christ brings this type of change to our human hearts. As we will see, it doesn’t immediately wipe out the presence of sin in our lives, but we have been freed from its enslaving power in our lives. What’s important to note here: Salvation is not inner peace, or personal enlightenment, or self-improvement, it is about Jesus as our savior.

Change Continues As We live Out Our Identity Daily (Romans 6:6)
As we continue on in Christ, we live out the gospel and our new identity in Jesus. This is an ongoing aspect in our life, as we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. We continue our walk in the same manner we came to Christ; by faith (See Colossians 2:6-7; Galatians 3:1-3). We trust that Christ saves us, we trust that He forgives us, we trust He changes us (Philippians 1:6) and we trust that He is good and loves us.

… to the Heart
We need to understand that we aren’t justified in any way by the law. Law shows us our need for Christ, but it doesn’t save us. Being a nicer person or better husband doesn’t make you closer to God; we are made righteous and are close to God because of the gospel. Legalism is appealing to us because it first, makes holiness manageable, and secondly, makes holiness our own achievement (See Philippians 3:4-9). We need to repent of our righteousness, just as much as our need is to repent of our unrighteousness. Change begins with a repentance that leads to hope in the forgiving gospel of our Lord! When we recognize our sin, it is then we can take it to Jesus, and be forgiven for it (1 John 1:9).

Gospelling One Another

Gospelling One Another; Bearing Each Others Burdens; Galatians 2:11-16; Preached @ Harambee Church by Pastor Michael Gunn on July 12th, 2009

“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
Galatians 6:1-2

From time to time we talk about “Gospelling” one another. We have DNA groups to help us with that, we may even talk about it in our Missional Communities, but what does it mean? It’s a term we use to encourage people to be in one another’s lives in order to spur one another to apply the gospel in all areas of our life (Hebrews10:24-25). This is what Christian community does; it meets together enough to be in each other’s lives so that we can help one another with the weaknesses we all have (See Galatians 6:1-2). Love and encouragement includes the strength to confront one another when we step into sin, with “Gentleness” and humility. It’s not accusatory, but it desires the restoration of the other in the truth of the gospel.

In our passage today, Paul confronts Peter for a sin that was truly destroying the truth of the gospel. His confrontation may seem harsh, but Paul’s concern is for Christ and the gospel over relationship and appearances. Note the issue in our passage is not just a sin, but the damage it was doing to the gospel, and to those around Peter.

The interpretation of this passage has had many applications in the early church:
Ebionite’s: Used it for an attack on Paul
Marcion: Used it as an attack on Peter and his alliance with the Jews
Celsus+Porphyry (Roman Critics of Christianity): Used it to attack Christianity’s “Pettiness”
Tertullian (Church Father): Arguing against the Marcionites felt that Paul over-reacted
Origen, Chrysostom + Jerome (Church Fathers): Staged event so to condemn “Judaizers” more effectively
Clement of Alexandria: Thought that “Cephas” was not Cephas/Peter the apostle
Augustine: It is a case of truth (The Gospel) over rank (Assuming Peter was the “Leader”)

I am hoping to use this passage today to not only to point out Peter’s sin, but to demonstrate Paul’s method of “Gospelling” his brother Peter, who had fallen into an old pattern. Our goal as we gospel one another is not to be a busy body, nor to be a self righteous meddler, but to honestly and humbly love one another enough to speak the truth in love.

From the Head…
The Necessity of The Confrontation (Galatians 2:11-14a)
What was the problem Peter faced? Antioch was a churched established, as a result of the persecution church after Stephen was stoned (Diaspora), by the preaching of the gospel by men from Cyprus and Cyrene (Acts 11:19-20). Antioch was a diverse church that Barnabus and Paul were sent to for at least a year to “Establish” them in the faith (See (Acts 11:22-26). This is the first place that the believer’s were called “Christians” (Acts 11:26), which wasn’t necessarily a positive term. It is during this time that that the incident of Galatians 2:11-16 most likely took place.

When Peter was with the gentile believers he had no problem eating with them, since his understanding of the dietary laws were deconstructed in the gospel (See Acts 10-11). However when the men “From James” (Men from Jerusalem) came he changed his behavior to accommodate their cultural and religious beliefs. Normally this may have been an ok missional strategy (1 Corinthians 9:19-23), but in this incident, Peter is dealing with believers and his behavior is hypocritical and unbiblical, and it was hurting the gospel of justification. He was knowingly or un-knowingly making the gentile second-class citizens because they did not worship God the way the Jews did. This is an unbiblical form of “Cultural Imperialism,” which can and often does lead to racism.

What is at the heart of Peter’s issue?
I think there are two related issues that Peter demonstrates; first is “Fear.” This appears to be Peter’s struggle (See v.12). This led to his denial of Jesus when Jesus was arrested. The second possibility is related to the first; “Fear of Criticism.” Acts 11:2 indicate that these men often came to Peter and criticized him. These men, were from the Jerusalem church (Men from James) who were believers, but who felt that worship should be done according to Jewish custom, even though the gospel had given man the freedom to worship God directly through Jesus, and not the signs of the Messiah. Fear is paralyzing because it allows outside influences to control your decisions. This is not something Paul necessarily struggled with (See Galatians 1:10). Paul’s issues were more connected to pride, which usually lends to a personality that can confront more easily, but needs to be tamed with a biblical humility.

Again, when we confront someone, we need to keep this type of thing in mind. We may have a personality that allows us to confront, but in our sin we can become prideful because others are not as open and honest as you are. A third issue for Peter (Again relating to his fears) is a form of Prejudice. It is easy in our prideful, sinful condition to think of others as inferior to us. We do this with gender, race, ethnicity, education, political interest, artistic opinion, etc. This can be sticky in the sense we can easily fall into a relativist position on truth, or we can equally fall into a rationalist position on truth, which deifies the “Subjective Knower.” It is imperative that we put time in the word, and theology, knowing what we believe, and humbly “restoring” one another when we fall (See Galatians 6:1-2).

Paul confronts Peter, because he is harming the gospel, by not aligning himself with the “Truth of the gospel” (Galatians 2:14a; see too 2:5; Colossians 1:5). Paul’s concern here is first and foremost toward God and His word, and then secondarily toward those that Peter was leading astray like Barnabus and the other believers (Galatians 2:13). It is not as though Peter doesn’t know the gospel, or believes in it, but this is an area of his life that he obviously struggles with. We can “Know” the gospel, but not believe it in certain areas of our life, and that often hurts our actions and decisions. What is impressive here is Peter’s attitude. Here is a younger, ex-persecutor of the church confronting him and he is willing and able to hear him.

The Essence of The Confrontation (Galatians 2:14b-21)
It is important to note that Paul’s concern here is the gospel, and not some culturally constructed moral issue. When he wants to motivate Peter, he doesn’t hinge on his behavior, but the fact that the gospel of justification calls us to another place in our thinking and our lives (Galatians 2:15-16). It is important to note here that Paul is clear that both Jew and Gentile are justified by faith in Jesus and not by any work of the law (Galatians 2:16, see specifically “So also we have believed in Jesus Christ in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.”). This seems obvious, but there are many now who teach that Galatians is not about “Justification,” but about ethnic spiritual markers such as circumcision, dietary laws, etc. What these Jewish believers were saying is that we are saved through the Messiah Jesus Christ, and through that this is expressed through the Jewish customs and law. Paul is clearly saying that NO, the gospel frees us from the need to carry out the types because the ceremonial law has been fulfilled in Jesus. Peter was living hypocritically because of his fear of those that thought otherwise. His hypocrisy led others astray, because they respected Peter. Paul is attempting to align Peter’s actions with the truth of the gospel. This includes reminding him of his identity, and the fact that he is not “Justified” by the words of man, and the customs of man, but by the work of Jesus on the cross. When we are aligned with this truth, we can live in harmony with others that don’t hold our beliefs and customs, because we don’t need their approval, or the culture’s approval for our self worth. We can live out our biblical convictions, and speak them freely in spite of opposition, because we are motivated by God and His truth, and not the culturally concocted truths that govern every culture and generation.

Basically Paul was saying if you believe in Jesus and not works, then why are you adding cultural customs to believers so they can be right with God? We are right with God because of Jesus, and not what we do!

…to the Heart
I hope we can see the significance of these verses in our own lives and discipleship! First let’s look at the significance of being in line with the “Truth of the gospel.”

First, that the gospel is a truth. It includes the fact that we are weak and sinful, that we seek to control our lives by being our own saviors and lords, however, God’s law was fulfilled by Christ for us, that we are now accepted completely though we are still very sinful.

Second, that this gospel truth has a vast number of
implications for all of life. It is our job to bring everything in our lives in line with the thrust or
direction of the gospel. We are to think out its implications in every area of our lives, and seek to bring our thinking, feeling and behavior in line. Next, the gospel truth is radically opposed to the assumptions of the world. But since we live in the world, we have embraced many of the world’s assumptions. Christian living is therefore a continual realignment process of bringing everything in line with the truth of the gospel.

In this case Peter’s racism is a sin because of the heart issues of pride and self-justification. It is this self-talk judgment that judges our selves based not on Christ, and our sin, but on our cultural “Norms” and others who appear to fall short of them.

It is in these type of areas that we need to help “Restore” one another to the truth of the gospel, so we stop hindering the gospel, and costing undo anxiety in our own lives and relationships!

God’s Story: The Power and Purpose of the Gospel (Selected Scripture)

God’s Story: The Power and Purpose of the Gospel (Selected) Preached @ Harambee Church by Pastor Michael Gunn on July 5th, 2009

“Most men are not satisfied with the permanent output of their lives. Nothing can wholly satisfy the life of Christ within his followers except the adoption of Christ’s purpose for the world that he came to redeem. Fame, pleasure, riches are but husk’s and ashes in contract with the countless and abiding joy of working with God for the fulfillment of his eternal plans”
J. Campbell White
Mission Leader

God’s goal in creating this world is to display His own glory (Isaiah 43:7)! Because of the sin that is so ingrained in our humanity, we rebel against this very idea, and subsequently either refuse to glorify God or mitigate it through our own religiosity. It is easy to get “Working” for God, and in reality be working against God and His glory in this world. It is easy to get caught up in seeing God’s work in salvation as an isolated work He did for our own sake. We build our churches with this in mind. “How can we make our churches grow?” And “How can we please the people in the church to make them stay,” becomes the strategic vision of our churches that have forgotten the purposes of God in salvation.

While it is true that there are many themes in the bible, I believe those themes are interwoven into one purpose of God; His own glory.

I would like to take a look at God’s story as it relates to His purpose, which should help us understand and yield to his will more perfectly! I want to look at some of the highlights of His story here today:

From the Head…
Act 1 Creation (Genesis 1:26-27)

Humanity is created last and called “very good” (1:31), and made in God’s image. We are given the task to fruitfully multiply, and have “Dominion” over the earth and to “Subdue” it and “Fill” it (Genesis 1:28). Our purpose is clear as little image bearers of God, display His glory (Isaiah 43:7; Numbers 14:21). We are to fill this earth with His glory!

Act 2 The Rebellion
As in all subsequent thrillers the good is upset with a dilemma the rest of the story works to resolve. As we see in scripture the grand-story (Meta-Narrative), humanity wasn’t content in the god glorifying work that God had given them, but desired to make their own name great (Genesis 3:1-7; 11:1-4). This is man’s bent; glorify himself. To this John Piper writes, “The instinct of self- preservation in fallen man seeks fulfillment not by trusting God, and thereby exalting His name, but by employing his own human genius, thereby making a name for himself.”

Acts 3 The Promise (In 7 Scenes)
The rest of the bible unpacks a simple promise made in Genesis 3:15. In this verse we see the protagonist/hero of our story (God) promising the antagonist that he will be judged for his deception. His judgment will be a crushing blow of destruction heaped on him by the “Seed” of the woman, which piques interest in the fact that a woman was never poetically referred to as having “Seed,” but was usually seen as the “garden” that the seed was placed. This is a reference to the fact that an offspring would one day come from a woman to destroy evil (See Genesis 22:17-18 cf. Galatians 3:8). This act has at least 10 scenes where God demonstrates His faithfulness to this promise.

Scene #1 The Call of Abraham (Genesis 12:1-2)
This is in clear contrast to the story at Babel, where humanity desired to make it’s own name great, but in the call of Abraham, God promises to make Abram’s name great, which will result in God’s glory (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:20-21). God intends to be glorified through His people (Isaiah 49:3).

Scene #2 The Exodus
In the Exodus, we do not see the faithfulness of the people of Israel, but we see the faithfulness of God to His promise to redeem His people to display His glory to the nations (See Exodus 14:4, 18; Ezekiel 20:5-9 cf. Psalm 106:6-8).

Scene #3 The Commands of Glory: The Giving of the Law
When God called His people, He clearly expressed His desire that they would glorify only Him (Exodus 20:3-5). To have “No other gods before Him,” simply commands the honor due His name. To love God is not to serve Him, but to delight in Him. It is in honoring God and worshipping Him that we find our joy! And as John Piper writes, “god is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him.” The rest of the commands become natural as we find our delight in the Lord!

Scene #4 Disobedience and Wandering
Even when God gives us clear commands that would honor Him, we simply don’t desire to obey Him, but God in His mercy often spares us for “His name’s sake” (Exodus 20:21 cf. 13-14), which means to protect His glory, which is the reason He created in the first place

Scene #5 The Desire For a King
Even though God was Israel’s king, they desired to be ruled by another, and requested a king to rule over them. In spite of their insubordination, the Lord remained faithful to His promises “For His name sake” (1 Samuel 12:19-23). Preserving a people for Himself was more important in His plan that to destroy them for their sin.

Scene #6 A Sanctuary of Glory
In spite of humanities sin, Solomon (David’s Son; 3rd king of Israel) built a temple in order to honor the name of the Lord, and to request His blessing on the people of God (See 1 Kings 8:41-45).

Scene #7 Exile and Restoration
The exile of God’s people had to have been a horrible time in Israel’s history. It must have felt that God was abandoning them and His promises to their fathers, but once again through His mercy, and because of His promise and His own glory; He redeemed His people (Isaiah 48:9-11; Ezekiel 36:22-23, 32).

Act 4 The Promise Fulfilled
In the New Testament we find the fulfillment of what the Old Testament has pointed to. Jesus is the hero of this story. His work on the cross pays the just penalty for humanities’ rebellion. It is Genesis 3:15 realized! However, we come to realize that Christ came, not as the sole purpose to save us from our sin, but to glorify His Father in Heaven (2 Corinthians 4:6; John 4:34; 7:18; 12:27-28). God’s glory is represented in showing His righteousness through the righteous work of Jesus on the cross (Romans 3:25).

Act 5 The Consummation
In the end, Jesus the hero returns to establish what He began in His church; a kingdom that will glorify God on the earth (2 Thessalonians 1:9-10; Revelation 21:23). God finishes His story with a creation that glorifies His name in all the earth.

… to the Heart
Everything God does is for His glory! His purposes work toward that end. Salvation is a by-product of this end, because His glory is displayed in His supreme love for His people, and His desire to keep His promise and show mercy and grace to a rebellious people. His glory is also displayed in a righteous judgment to all who continue in rebellion.

We will never be in perfect concert with god’s story, and His will in our lives, but His story reminds us that we exist to glorify Him (1 Corinthians 10:31), but we will always fall short in our faithfulness, but He is always faithful, and it is because of that that we can rejoice and have hope that in our imperfections we are accepted, because of His perfection!!