This last sermon was hard but so very necessary. So many Christians want churches whose ministry is to comfort in carnality and tickle ears with elegant and consoling words.
But Jesus is our only comfort in life and death. His peace comes only after the carnage of destroying sin. His life is offered through death. His righteousness is the only clothing in which to stand before God. What are your fig leaves?
The father is satisfied and loves you in Christ. Christ’s powerful word drives out the forces of Darkness. The scriptures are a scalpel, but the surgeon is good; a most gentle and compassionate physician.
Come and be healed. Come and rejoice. Come and die.
Filling up the edges
Hebrews 4:12–13For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
We know the revelation of Jesus is painful because it’s like surgery. We keep contact with the scalpel to a minimum. We don’t see it has a great reward because we can’t have it and our sin too. The evil inside us screams and writhes.
Just like the demoniac in the synagogue.
There was a long list of laws and observances; rituals, feast days, sacrifices, washings, and offerings that had to be maintained to be an active member of a synagogue. This is before crowds are called together and so it’s just any given Sabbath in this town.
Yet, here sits a man controlled by the powers of darkness and death looking as legit as anybody. Clean robes and scrubbed nails, saying the right things, doing the right things, assenting to the right things. This is just your typical sabbath and here this guy sits.
He is ritually clean, which means he follows the law precisely. He is welcome right in the worship service with His devil like the whitest new tomb. Think of how “clean,” this fella is. How pristine.
And he’s never had an outburst before. Not for any other traveling rabbi or reading of the word. What kind of preaching does this guy hear? The kind that makes him and his devil comfortable; unchallenged, unoffended and safe.
This is a warning to all of us. As Spurgeon wrote in Lectures to my Students, “People go to their place of worship and sit down comfortably, and think they must be Christians, when all the time all that their religion consists in, is listening to an orator, having their ears tickled…Thousands are congratulating themselves, and even blessing God that they are devout worshippers, when at the same time they are living in an unregenerate…state, having the form of godliness, but denying the power thereof. He who presides over a system which aims at nothing higher than formalism, is far more a servant of the devil than a minister of God.”
If the ministry of this church is only a worship service in which our ears are tickled and nothing more, where we can sit comfortably as white washed tombs with our devils and darkness, than we are self-deceived, and hell bound.
You and I. Apathy is our problem. What does our religion consist of? What is it about? What is our ministry?
It should startle us when there is little difference between us and any middle class American thirty-something suburbanite.
I don’t want to talk to you about idols in some abstract way. Some of our idols are pious looking attempts to hide from Jesus, to hide from the confrontation we so desperately need – right here, in the church. Our fig leaves are sophisticated ways to avoid the gaze and scalpel of God.
Let us not only know Christ, but love Christ in our being and our doing. Let us not only say that He is the Son of God. Let us obey, love and rejoice while clinging to Him with our whole hearts.
Let us not make Him a once-a-week contact or occasional acquaintance. Let us daily, personally, apply to Him for mercy and grace.
Charles Dickens wrote that “There is a Sunday conscience, as well as a Sunday coat; and those who make religion a secondary concern put the coat and conscience carefully by to put on only once a week.”
“The life of Christianity,” says Luther, “consists in possessive pronouns.” It is one thing to “Christ is Savior,” it is quite another to say that “Jesus is my savior, and my Lord.”
With the devils we can say the first but only the children of God will believe and say the second and demonstrate it by what they do. So, we need the surgery. We need the scalpel. To have peace, we need the conflict.
Despite the fact that people try to hide, Jesus is still the great grace giver.
Romans 5:20 Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound”
In the beginning God gave us a universe full of presents and treasures and pleasures. And after we rejected Him, even in judgment there was mercy. His grace followed us into exile and continued to pile up around us. Perfect, absolute justice would have been to just nuke the whole project.
But instead, Jesus continued to speak the whole universe while giving people just enough space to feel the pain and agony and confusion of sin and death. But even then, it was always muted, restrained, meant to call us back to Him. Where sin abounded, grace abounds more.
So He kept giving, and eventually He came, born of a woman, crucified for sinners, to finally heal this broken, rotting world. So why are we pushing Him away? Why are we avoiding Him?
Because it hurts to have Him push where it’s tender, where we’re bruised or scarred, where we’ve sinned. We suspect He wants to perform surgery, and we avoid the appointment. We feign ignorance. We smile and point at how well we’re doing everywhere else.
We clear our throats nervously and point to the new line of fig-leaf skinny jeans, the Rend Collective playlist, or we point at our organic wheat intolerant pizza dough, or the social we attended.
We want to be respectable, we want to do it ourselves, we don’t want to fail, we want people to like us, we’re afraid of being embarrassed, afraid of looking foolish, afraid of the sacrifice, afraid of the pain. But the irony is that we’re hiding from grace. We’re hiding from glory. Before the crown comes the cross and we fool ourselves that we can have the crown without the cross.
You cannot hide from Jesus. He sees through your fig leaves. You cannot hide from His grace, His Word, His blade. You may try to hide, to flinch, to push it away, to let it glance off you casually. But Jesus is alive. And you will meet Him. You will stand before Him. And His glory will smack you in the face and knock you down.
His goodness is heavy. His grace is a scalpel. He will not leave you the same. But Jesus is a good man, the only good man, and you might as well come along cheerfully.
C.S. Lewis wrote, “When any man comes into the presence of God he will find, whether he wishes it or not, that all those things which seem to make him so different from the men of other times, or even from his earlier self, have fallen off him. He is back where he always was, where every man always is…Do not let us deceive ourselves. No possible complexity which we can give to our picture of the universe can hide us from God; there is no [grove], no forest, no jungle, thick enough to provide cover…. It may happen to any of us at any moment. In the twinkling of an eye, in a time too small to be measured, and in any place, all that seems to divide us from God can flee away, vanish leaving us naked before Him, like the first man, like the only man, as if nothing but He and I existed. And since that contact cannot be avoided for long, and since it means either bliss or horror, the business of life is to learn to like it. That is the first and great commandment.”
The demoniac sat in the service week after week. It wasn’t enough. He needed to stand naked before the face of God. In that Moment Christ, the word of God delivered him from the powers of darkness by the power of His word. And in that moment the Father would have clothed Him in Christ.
The gospel that was first preached to you. That you first believed. Return to it. It’s your only hope and it is powerful to save. For it is the great and joyous news that the word of God has been revealed. Behold Him. Behold Him, repent and be delivered, today, forever.
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For steadfast faith JOHN 12:35
O God, what would I be if you were to forsake me? What can I do if you withdraw your hand? What can I know if you do not enlighten me? How quickly the educated become infants; the prudent, simple; the wise, fools! How awesome you are in all your works and judgments! Let me walk in the light while I have light, so that I may not be caught in darkness. Many renounce their faith and become careless and weary in your grace. They are deceived into thinking they know everything and have no need. They feel satisfied and become slothful and ungrateful and are soon ruined. Therefore help me to remain in the fervor of faith, that I may daily increase in it through Jesus Christ, my real and only helper.
Steve Brown, Call
Byron Heward, Prayer
DISCIPLESHIP CLASS: A SURVEY OF THE GOSPELS
Sunday mornings 9AM, through 11/18/18. Childcare provided for children 2-6. Kids aged 7 and up are encouraged to join the adult class.
Wednesday, Sept 26, 7pm at Lannie Brown’s home. Fall meet-and-greet; snacks provided.
MEN’S PRAYER BREAKFAST
Saturday, October 13, 9AM at the church. Breakfast provided. Time of fellowship and prayer. Bring your boys 8 or older.
October 26-27. Why Marriage Matters (Doug & Nancy Wilson); Woodinville Alliance Church, 13940 NE 166thSt. Woodinville, 98072. Please register via link sent through email.
Sumpter, Toby J.. Blood-Bought World: Jesus, Idols, and the Bible (Kindle Locations 744-761). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.