Blessed are the Un-Offended: For They are the Elect of God (John 6:60–71)

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Blessed are the Un-Offended: For They are the Elect of God (John 6:60–71)

Blessed is he who is not offended by me.
— Matthew 11:6 —

These are the words Jesus spoke to John the Baptist, when John sent his disciples to Jesus asking this question: Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?

If you have never considered the pain of John’s words, it is worth time to ponder.

In John’s Gospel, John the Baptist is introduced as a faithful witness to Christ—a witness who so longed for the kingdom of God that he is willing to lose his kingdom. In John 3:30 he says, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” These are the words John declared, when his disciples came asking him about Jesus and the fact that more people were following him.

With humble faith, John accepted his role as a friend of the bridegroom and thus when the groom arrived, John rightly and righteously slipped out of the way. In fact, after John 3 the Baptist is not heard from again in John’s Gospel.

Nevertheless, this does not mean we do not know the rest of the story. Because we do! In Matthew 14, Mark 6, and Luke 9, we have the report that John was beheaded by Herod the tetrarch after his wife’s daughter requested decapitation as a party trick.

Yet, before his execution, Matthew 11 records the words that John sent to Jesus, as the forerunner to the Lord lay imprisoned, awaiting his deliverance or his death. And why does John ask his question about who he is? Is it because John doesn’t know Jesus, or believe him to be the Son of God? No, it is because things are not going as John anticipated! Continue reading

What Does Jesus Say About You? Four Witnesses, Four Warnings, Four Marks of Faith (John 5:30-47)

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What Does Jesus Say About You? Four Witnesses, Four Warnings, Four Marks of Faith (John 5:30-47)

Who do you listen to? And how well do you listen? An honest answer to those questions will tell you a lot about who you are and who you will be in five, ten, or fifty (thousand) years.

Few things are more important than the voices that we will listen to. And few gifts are more precious than men and women who testify to the grace of God in the gospel. If you are listening to others who speak of Christ, point to Christ, and help you follow Christ, you can know these are not just good friends, they are gifts from God.

On Sunday, we considered a similar line of thought as we heard the testimony of four “witnesses” who all tell us something about Christ. At a time when Jesus’ identity was in question and his actions were inviting opposition and the threat of death, Jesus turns to John the Baptist, his works, his Father, and the Scriptures to declare that he is the true Son of God.

Just the same, we need to hear these voices today, as they tell us who Jesus. Moreover, with these witnesses, Jesus warns us of many deadly symptoms of unbelief. Therefore, if you are looking to see who Jesus is or if your faith is genuine, this sermon may help. You can listen to exposition of John 5:30–47 here.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

Well, Well, Well: A Marriage, a Mountain, and a Messiah: Part 3 (A Sermon on John 4:27-42)

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Well, Well, Well: A Marriage, a Mountain, and a Messiah: Part 3 (A Sermon on John 4:27-42)

In The Magician’s Nephew, C. S. Lewis envisions a world coming to life, by means of Aslan’s song. If you have never read The Chronicles of Narnia series,  Aslan the Lion is the Christ-figure who both creates the world and dies to save the world. And in The Magician’s Nephew, which is the prequel to the more famous, The Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe, we are treated to Lewis’s story of creation.

Here is how he pictures Narnia coming to life.

The Lion was pacing to and fro about that empty land and singing his new song. It was softer and more lilting than the song by which he had called up the stars and the sun; a gentle, rippling music. And as he walked and sang, the valley grew green with grass. It spread out from the Lion like a pool. It ran up the sides of the little hills like a wave. In a few minutes it was creeping up the lower slopes of the distant mountains, making that young world every moment softer. The light wind could now be heard ruffling the grass. Soon there were other things besides grass. The higher slopes grew dark with heather. Patches of rougher and more bristling green appeared in the valley. Digory did not know what they were until one began coming up quite close to him. It was a little, spiky thing that threw out dozens of arms and covered these arms with green and grew larger at the rate of about an inch every two seconds. There were dozens of these things all round him now. When they were nearly as tall as himself he saw what they were. “Trees!” he exclaimed. (64)

Trees indeed! And in the context of The Magicians’ Nephew this new world was coming to life in the presence of an evil witch and crazy, self-absorbed Uncle. In this way, the creation of Narnia does not match the creation of our world, where God in his eternal perfection made the world good and very good (Genesis 1). Continue reading

Getting Back Into John’s Gospel: An Introduction to Jesus Christ in John 1–2

john03When John Calvin returned to Geneva, after being exiled from the city for three years, he picked up right where he left off. Rather than preaching some preacher-centered ‘I’m Back” message, he simply preached the next verse in the Bible. So great was Calvin’s commitment to verse-by-verse exposition, he made no fanfare for his return to the pulpit. Rather, he preached the next verse in the text and pointed people to Christ.

This week, our church did something similar. In March 2020, we were forced to stop gathering for two months. And though we continued to preach the Bible (online at first and soon after together), we moved from John to Psalms and Joel and other scriptures. In leaving John, we always planned to come back, and by God’s grace we were able to do that on Sunday.

Picking up where we left off, we overviewed John 1–2 to remember what those chapters said. In seven portraits from those two chapters, we saw a beautiful picture of Christ. And in return, we learned two important things about ourselves. You can find those nine truths in this sermon: Getting Back Into the Gospel of John. You can also find our earlier sermons here, plus other resources on John’s Gospel.

May the Lord bless this series and permit us to continue to study the Gospel of John.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

How John’s Prologue Placards the Glory of God’s Son: 10 Things About John 1:1–18

john03Sunday we begin a new sermon series on John’s Gospel. Whereas other sermon series may need an introductory sermon, John gives us his own in his opening “prologue.” In what follows, we will note ten things about those opening 18 verses.

1. John 1:1–18 introduces us to themes that will run throughout John’s Gospel.

In his commentary on John, Colin Kruse paints two word pictures to describe John’s opening verses. He says that the prologue functions like (1) an overture that introduces an opera or (2) a foyer to a theater “where various scenes from the drama to be enacted inside are placarded” (John, 52). With these visual aids in place, he helps us “see” how John 1:1-18 previews many themes in John’s Gospel.

These themes include,

  • Jesus’s pre-existence (1:1a / 17:5, 24)
  • Jesus’s union with God (1:1c/8:58; 10:30; 20:28),
  • the coming of life in Jesus (1:4a/ 5:26; 6:33; 10:10; 11:25-26; 14:6),
  • the coming of light in Jesus (1:4b, 9/ 3:19; 8:12; 12:46),
  • the conflict between light and darkness (1:5 / 3:19; 8:12; 12:35, 46),
  • believing in Jesus (1:7, 12 / 2:11; 3:16, 18, 365 5:24 6:69; 11:25; 14:1; 16:27; 17:21; 20:25),
  • the rejection of Jesus (1:10, 11/ 4:44; 7:21; 8:59; 10:31; 12:37-40; 15:18),
  • divine regeneration (1:13/3:1-7),
  • the glory of Jesus (1:14/ 12:41; 17:5, 22, 24),
  • the grace and truth of God in Jesus (1:14, 17/ 4:24; 8:32; 14:6; 17:17; 18:38)
  • Jesus and Moses/the law (1:17/ 1:45; 3:14; 5:46; 6:32; 919; 9:29),
  • only Jesus has seen God (1:18/ 6:46), and
  • Jesus’ revelation of the Father (1:18/ 3:34; 38; 12:49-50; 14:6-11; 17:8). (52)

2. John 1:1–18 demonstrates a very clear chiastic structure.

In his article, “The Pivot of John’s Prologue,” Alan Culpepper makes a compelling argument for a chiastic structure in the prologue. Continue reading

Seeing is Believing: Returning to John’s Gospel

john03In the Spring of 2020, our church began a new sermon series on the Gospel of John. Little did we know that things would get really weird in March of that year, when the onslaught of Covid-19 led us to stop gathering for eight weeks. During that time and after, we looked Psalm 90–106 and Joel. Thereafter, our church studied Daniel, 1 Peter, and Proverbs 1–9, to name a few. Yet, it has always been the hope to resume our sermon series in John.

Thankfully, and under the Lord’s providence, we plan to restart this series next Sunday. In that sermon, I will give an overview of the whole Gospel. The following week, I will (Lord willing) restart a verse-by-verse exposition of John’s Gospel. That first message will begin where we left off in John 3 with the incredible encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus. Today, for those in our church or others who might benefit from a sermon series on John’s Gospel, I share the five messages that we preached in 2020.

Continue reading

A Grace That Endures: Eleven Words of Comfort in Times of Crisis (Psalm 119:25–32)

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Amazing grace, How sweet the sound / That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I am found, / Was blind, but now I see.
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, / And grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that grace appear / The hour I first believed.

These lyrics are the opening words to John Newton’s famous hymn Amazing Grace. And they recall his miraculous conversion from a trader of slaves to a slave of Christ. And if you have tasted the grace of Christ  in your life and experienced the forgiveness of sins, the regenerating work of the Spirit, and the undeserved love of the Father, then his lyrics are precious beyond words. For in Newton’s hymn, we find a testimony of grace that recalls our salvation as well.

Yet, Amazing Grace is not only a hymn of salvation, it is also a hymn of preservation. For it continues . . . Continue reading

The Seed of the Woman is Born: A Sermon on Matthew 1–2

1920x1080 CradleWhen you preach a sermon, you never know exactly how it will be received or what responses it will generate. And this week, in response to last week’s message about serpents and serpent slayers, I received two pictures.

Apparently, adding a few snakes to the Christmas decor works out well, as it celebrates the victory of Christ. Adding a live snake to your tree is another story.

In this week’s sermon, we took up the theme of Genesis 3:15 again and watched how Matthew presented Jesus as the seed of the woman in Matthew 1 and Herod as the seed of the serpent in Matthew 2. In between these two rival kings, the Magi are presented as the kings of the earth who must make a choice to serve one of these two kings and not the other.

Matthew calls all of us to see the spiritual warfare around us and to choose wisely. Truly, the world is filled with the serpent’s seed, but there is one king who was born of a virgin and who proved to be the long promised seed of the woman. At Christmas, it this Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who we celebrate, worship, and proclaim.

And to help you see the connection between Genesis and Jesus, you can listen to this sermon here. If you want to think more about this biblical theme, I encourage you to pick up one of these books. There’s still time before Christmas.

Soli Deo Gloria and Merry Christmas, ds

The Seed of the Woman Has Come: The Real Reason for the Season (Genesis 3:15)

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15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
— Genesis 3:15 —

When we lived in Indiana, our parsonage was located next to the church. The church sat at 1200 North Ewing, our home was next door at 1202 North Ewing. At the same time, our house sat next to a snake pit. And to be clear, I’m not talking about the church. Rather, I am referring to the swamp-ish depression that ran alongside the parking lot, what we might call 1198 North Ewing.

Indeed, right next to the church building, the place where the bride of Christ would gather every Sunday, there was a nesting-ground for snakes. It was very much like Genesis 3. And how did we know that we had a snake infestation?

Well, every year, we had snakes in our garden, on our driveway, and in our house. And during the five years we lived there, I became quite skilled at picking up the shovel and beheading the snakes that drew near.

Now, why do I bring up snakes, especially as at Christmas time? The answer is that Christmas is often filled with trees and lights, but not enough trees and snakes. It’s like we get our messaging about Christmas from the Victorian Era of Charles Dickens, instead of letting the victory of Christ over the serpent be the reason for the season.

And so, to make Christmas more meaningful, I suggest we add a few pictures of dead snakes to our holiday decorations. Let me know if you have a crafty friend on Etsy who can work that up for us.

For as strange as it sounds to think about snakes at Christmas time, the fulfillment of Genesis 3:15 is why we celebrate the birth of Christ. His birth in Bethlehem is but the first step for the Son of God towards the cross on which he would hang like the bronze serpent (see John 3:14–15). And by keeping the impaled serpent in view at Christmas time we are reminded that the babe born in a manger is the Victorious Warrior who now reigns on high.

In truth, Christmas is a war memorial. Or at least, we discover the military imagery as soon as we read the birth story in light of the Big Story. In fulfillment of all the Old Testament prophecies (see Isa. 7:14; 9:6–7; 11:1ff.; etc.) we celebrate at Christmas the arrival (read: invasion) of God’s king entering the enemy occupied territory.

Accordingly, the goal of Christmas is not to merely coo over baby Jesus, but to bow down before him as the King of kings and Lord of lords. For it is the victorious Christ whose birth we celebrate. And we celebrate his birth because in his life and death, we finally see the head of the serpent crushed, just as God promised at the very beginning.

The Seed of the Woman

The first promise of the gospel, the protoevangelion found in Genesis 3:15, was the theme of this week’s sermon. And in that sermon, I tried to show how this promise is enlarged and illustrated in the history of Israel. And for those celebrating the birth of Christ this year, this sermon outlines how the birth of Christ begins to fulfill the promise of the seed (singular) of the woman coming to crush the seed of the serpent, and thereby saving the seed (plural) of the woman.

This is a gospel promise that runs from Genesis to Jesus and one that is outlined in the chart below and in the sermon entitled “The Seed of the Woman.” Indeed, as Christmas draws near, may we celebrate the fact that the babe born in Bethlehem is the killer of serpents and victorious warrior-king. Continue reading

The Supremacy of Christ: Living for His Glory and Not Our Own (Hebrews 9)

1920x1080-it-is-finishedImagine that you were writing the script of your life. In your story, the place was yours to decide, as well as the people, the problems, and the pleasures. As the author of the story and the inventor of your universe, you got to decide how you would do it.

So, how would you do it?  How could you write up something so large, so complex, so weighty? And would it even be possible to write a grand story without imitating the story that God has written?

As I tell my kids all the time, all the best stories—the epic novels, the literary masterpieces, the Jeremy Bruckheimer movies—all of them plagiarize from the greatest story ever told. And in God’s story, we find a God who designed the whole universe to glorify his Son.

And knowing that, it is not too much to say that the heavens above us, and the trees around us, and the blood flowing in us, all of these elements were made by God to play a part in the story of God’s glory.

Just the same, the sacred history of Israel is filled with texts and tabernacles, priests and promises, crises and christs (i.e., anointed ones) that bring us to the cross of Christ and the new covenant that holds it all together. In fact, when we speak about the cross, it takes the entire Bible to understand its meaning. And without all the Bible, we would miss much of Christ’s glory. That said, if there was one chapter in the Bible that put all the pieces together, it might be Hebrews 9.

Hebrews 9 is a chapter rich in biblical theological intratextuality, which is a complex way of saying: Hebrews 9 is an explosion of biblical glory, which brings together all the elements of God’s story—the the covenants, the priests, sacrifices, etc. And when all of them find their fulfillment in Christ, we see that the story of the universe has a place for us, if we will draw near to God in Christ.

In other words, the Bible teaches us to stop seeking our own glory or to use God to write our stories. Instead, we are called to see and savor the supremacy of Christ in all God’s Word and God’s world. Hebrews 9 helps us to do that. And this last Sunday I preached a message on this glorious chapter, as the culminating sermon in our series on the cross. You can find the sermon here, and the rest of the series here.

May the Lord use this meager attempt to declare God’s glory to help us all delight in the supremacy of Christ and to live for his glory over and above our own.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds