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Archive for December, 2010

 

Jesus, when He was being tempted by Satan, said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

The idea of “every word” is especially important when Jesus gave the requirements necessary to be His disciple. In Luke 9:23, He said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” One of the crucial words in that sentence is “daily.”

Disciples, or following learners, of the Lord Jesus Christ are to follow Him every day – not just when we feel like it or when it’s convenient or if it isn’t too hard or if it doesn’t “cramp my style” too much. “Daily” means exactly that – every single day.

Everyday obedience. Everyday denial of self. Everyday learning. Everyday loving. All of this is what a disciple is according to Jesus.

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I’ve misapplied one of Jesus’ parables for years. I understand it, but when I “put myself in the story,” I was the wrong person. I thought I was the tax collector, when actually I was the Pharisee.

The parable is in Luke 18:9-14 and reads as follows:

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt. “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

When I read the parable and reflect on it, I realize that the Lord Jesus is setting up a contrast – the Pharisee is the “bad guy,” the example we do not want to follow, and the tax collector is the “good guy,” the example we do want to follow. The clear implication is that the tax collector “went down to his house justified,” while the Pharisee did not.

All of that information was a large part of why I misapplied it for so long. Jesus told this parable to “some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous,” and I don’t trust in my own righteousness as the basis of my standing with God, therefore I wasn’t the target of His parable. I recognize my sin just like the tax collector, so doesn’t that mean I’m following the good example rather than the bad one? Not exactly.

I know that I was following the bad example of the Pharisee because every time I read this parable I thought to myself (never out-loud), “God, I thank You that I’m not like this arrogant, self-righteous, holier-than-thou Pharisee. I don’t do any of those things! Not only that, but I thank You, Lord, that I’m not like the people the Pharisee talks about, either – the bottom of the barrel. Look at all I do for You.” Who am I in the parable? I am the Pharisee and I ought to be the repentant tax collector.

After discovering my misapplication, I realized that I “play the Pharisee” on more occasions than I’d like to admit. I thank God for the fact that I’m not like other people based on what I eat or don’t eat; how committed to the Lord I think I am as opposed to how uncommitted I see others to be; what kind of books I read compared to the kind others read; how I dress for church compared to what other people wear; and dozens of others.

Realizing that you’re the Pharisee should cause you to pray, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” It did for me. The parable shows us that we should move from Pharisee to tax collector – it’s a large step and a small step at the same time, but it’s one that can be made. If we humble ourselves, we’ll be exalted by God. All of this, of course, is predicated upon understanding and applying the parable correctly.

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“Blessed be the Lord God”

 

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old.” (Luke 1:68-70)

Lord God, we bless and praise You because You have visited us in the person of Your Son Jesus Christ. He, being fully God, fully equal with You, fully enjoying all of the privileges of deity, took the form of a servant by taking on humanity and becoming one of us. He visited us – all because of His grace, mercy, and love. I pray that we would never lose sight of the fact that Christmas is about a visitation from our Lord and Savior.

But, Father, we’re thankful that He didn’t just visit us like a tourist. He redeemed His people – all of us who put our faith and trust in Him alone for our salvation are rescued and delivered from You wrath the penalty, power, and ultimately the presence of our sin. We praise You for our salvation, which we did nothing to earn and can do nothing to keep – it’s all by Your grace. Lord, may we serve You because we’re grateful for what You’ve done for us – not so that we might put You in our debt, or try to earn Your blessings, or not because we think You’ll “hammer” us if we don’t.

Father, we also bless You because You have revealed all of this first through Your prophets in Your Word. We wouldn’t understand the real “reason for the season” if it wasn’t for Your Word. We’d be completely in the dark, but we’re thankful that we’re not. Through Your Word, we know that Jesus, the baby born in the manger, grew up and lived a perfect life that we could never live, died for our sins as our substitute, and victoriously rose again from the dead – all for the redemption of His people.

We bless You because You because You have blessed us int he name of Jesus, amen.

  

 

 

 

 

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Sermon in a Sentence

This morning, I was privileged to preach on Isaiah 9:6-7, a prophecy written about Jesus Christ, the coming Messiah, some 700 years before His birth. Here is the sermon in one sentence: The promised Messiah will be fully God and fully man; characterized by divine wisdom, divine power, fatherly care, and sovereign peace; and will reign forever.

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People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves that we have been liberated.” (D.A. Carson)

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“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:12-13)

It was said of British preacher D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones that after a worship service in which he preached, he would say to everyone in line to speak with him, “Keep on.” He may have had Hebrews 3:12-13 in mind when he said it. All of us, not just preachers, are to exhort and encourage each other daily. God uses that kind of interaction to help keep us on the right track and keep following our Lord Jesus Christ.

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“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:25-26)

A prayer:

Lord God, we come to You in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, whose first and second coming we celebrate this time of year. We recognize that we have no one in heaven to be our advocate – our defender – besides You. If You don’t keep and sustain us, we would surely fall and be defeated. And we rejoice the You do this only because of Your grace, not because we’ve earned it.

I pray that we would be able to say that there is nothing on earth we desire that compares with You – that You are what we want more than anything else. But we have to confess that it isn’t always true. Sometimes we want health, or security, or wealth, or success, or popularity, or well-behaved kids, or even a day off more than we want You, Lord. Forgive us our idolatry, which we can only receive through faith in Jesus Christ. May we repent of our sin and desire You more than anything or anyone else, which only Your Holy Spirit can give us the power to accomplish.

Our flesh and our heart fail us in all kinds of ways – we know that and You know that. But You will never fail us! Not one promise that You have made to Your people will fail to be fulfilled. We know that we can take You at Your word, Father. We praise You because You are the strength of our hearts. You strengthen us in our mind, affections, and will. And You are our reward in heaven and on earth. To have You as our portion makes everything pale in comparison.

Father, by Your grace and strength, may we be able to say, “I’d rather have Jesus than silver and gold; I’d rather have Jesus than riches untold.” We pray for Your glory and our good in Jesus’ name, Amen.

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