Sermon Summary: What Did Jesus Accomplish?

What Did Jesus Accomplish?
Ephesians 2:11-22

Through Abraham, Moses, and the prophets God revealed Himself to Israel and through the covenants He made with Israel salvation and redemption were made possible. God worked through Israel in a special and particular way, in order that all nations might receive salvation. Since the Gentiles (everyone who isn’t Jewish) were outside of the covenant they were “without God and without hope in the world” (v.12).

But Paul is boldly declaring that those who were far away have been brought near, those who were not children of the covenant have been made children of God, those who were without God and without hope are now able to claim that Jesus is their peace. Because God has reconciled both Jews and Gentiles to Himself, we ought to be reconciled to one another. Paul tears down any excuse for racism or prejudice through the cross.

Paul infuses the Church with hope, faith, and love by reminding the Ephesians what Christ did:

  • He took those who were far away and brought them near through His blood (v.13)
  • He became our peace (v.14)
  • He united us and destroyed the barrier and dividing wall of hostility (v.14)
  • He reconciled both Jews and Gentiles to God through the cross, and put an end to our hostility (v.16)
  • He preached peace to those who were far away and to those who were near (v.17)
  • He gave us equal access to the Father (v.18)
  • He is building us into a “dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” (v.22 – aka: the Church)

Because of this, we ought to daily cling to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, remembering from where we came. We were without God and without hope, but Jesus Christ has become our peace. May we also proclaim peace to those who are far away and to those who are near. We cannot preach the peace of the Gospel to those who are far away if we all stay where we are! Some of us must go as missionaries, all of us must send missionaries. We must prayerfully pursue opportunities to proclaim peace to those who are near us throughout each day.

Questions to consider:

  • Is there racism or prejudice in you? Do you believe that people need to be like you if they’re going to become more like Christ?
  • Do confess that apart from Jesus Christ you are “without God and without hope?” (maybe God desires to remind you of this truth through your continued struggle against sin – to show you who you would be without Him!)
  • Would you be willing to go far away to proclaim the peace of Christ if He clearly told you to go? Are you willing to do all you can to support those who have received that calling?
  • Are you being faithful to proclaim peace to those who are near? Are you praying for opportunities to share the Gospel with your family/friends/co-workers/neighbors/etc.?

Pentecost Makes You Mount Sinai

This past week I spent some time studying Pentecost (Acts 2) for a class I’m co-teaching entitled “The Story of the Church,” where we’ll be exploring Church History in order to better understand ourselves and how we should live today.  Since we’re looking at Church History, it only seemed appropriate to start the class off with Pentecost: the day the Church was born.

What is Pentecost?
Pentecost occurs 50 days after the second day of Passover (see here for a more detailed explanation).  Pentecost is primarily a day to celebrate Moses receiving the Law/Torah from God on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19:16-20).  As I read that and re-read Acts 2:1-4, the parallels between Sinai and Pentecost became abundantly clear:

  • Fire – “The LORD descended on it (Mt. Sinai) in fire.”  On Pentecost, tongues of fire descended and came to rest on top of each believer’s head.
  • Wind – Ex. 19:16 describes a great storm surrounding Sinai, a thick cloud covers the mountain and a trumpet blast is heard – I don’t think it’s reading between the lines too much to take this as a reference to a wind storm that’s so loud it sounds like trumpets.  On Pentecost a violent blowing wind fills the entire house where the believers are gathered.
  • Language – God wrote the Law on the tablets for Moses to deliver to Israel.  The Holy Spirit empowered the disciples to speak the Gospel to people in their own native language (even though the disciples didn’t actually “know” the language).

The coming of the Holy Spirit made each Christian a living, walking, talking, breathing Mount Sinai!  Amazing, simply amazing.  Think about that!  You have the gift of the Holy Spirit active and at work IN YOU!

Look at Jesus’ words in John 14:12-18.  Jesus actually says that it’s BETTER FOR US that he goes away so that the Holy Spirit would come!  In verse 17 he says this about the Holy Spirit, “But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”  Don’t miss this – Jesus says the Holy Spirit is with them (present tense), but that he will be in them (future tense).

Teenager, Parent, Adult, whoever you are – don’t neglect the Holy Spirit.  Don’t live as if you need to live the Christian life on your own (as if that’s actually possible – it isn’t!).  Don’t live as if it is your responsibility to convert the world and turn others to Christ to receive salvation – do your part and be obedient in evangelism and the Great Commission, but recognize that you need to be guided by the Holy Spirit and trust Him to do the convicting and saving through your words and actions.

Pentecost makes you Mount Sinai… and yet, it makes you so much more – because no one was ever saved by perfectly obeying the Law, but only through the Gospel of Jesus Christ which the Holy Spirit proclaims.

Chevy Trucks, Security, & the End of the World

As I was watching the Super Bowl last weekend (and having my heart broken… again… by a deflating loss to the Giants.  I really can’t stand those Manning brothers), I was paying more attention to commercials than I usually do.  It’s well known that Super Bowl commercials are pretty special, and they better be at $3,500,000 each!

Last year we used Walt Mueller’s “3D Guide to Media” and his “Download” curriculum to help us “Discover” the meaning, “Discern” the message, and “Decide” what to do with the Media we watch/listen to/read/consume.  Here’s my favorite commercial from this year’s Super Bowl, and I used this last week to kick off a new series in Youth Group looking at different Media (Music, Music Videos, TV, Movies, Advertisements, etc.):

DISCOVER the meaning
Obviously, since this is a commercial, they want to convince us to buy a Chevy truck as our next car purchase.  The idea they’re trying to sell us it twofold: 1. Chevy trucks are better than Ford, and 2. Chevy trucks will keep you safe when other trucks won’t.

Here are a few things to notice about the commercial (in no particular order):

  • The music (Barry Manilow’s “Looks Like We Made It”) is upbeat, positive, and hopeful despite all the destruction.
  • The main guy simply nods his head when he hears “Dave didn’t make it” because he drove a Ford.  Meanwhile, none of their Chevy’s are dented, scratched, none have broken windows, they’re simply dirty.  The message is clear, drive a Chevy and you’ll be safe.
  • Transformers seem to have a role in the destruction of the world… really?  Then there’s a random UFO, a huge chasm in the middle of the earth, asteroids, a volcano spewing lava, and even frogs falling from the sky (symbolic pointing back to the Plagues of Frogs against Egypt).

DISCERN the message
This is a brilliant commercial for a number of reasons.  It feeds off the “buzz” surrounding the Mayan Apocalypse and people’s general fearfulness and desire for security.   People really are talking about this Mayan Apocalypse… they don’t believe it, but it has them talking about the end of the world, what that will be like, when it will come, and who will survive (in case you didn’t know, supposedly, Twinkies and Cockroaches are the only two things that will survive a nuclear fallout).

A few insights, implications, and questions:

  • The Hidden Message About Women.  Where are the women?  The one guy has his dog, but none of the men have their wives… why is that?  What does that communicate about being a man – all you need is your truck and a dog?  What’s the message here telling men about what it means to be a man?
  • The End Will Come, But We Won’t Know When.  In Matthew 24:36-39 Jesus clearly says, “About the day and hour no one knows.”  Judgment will come, that much is certain.  But we do not know when.  If someone comes telling you that the end will come on a certain day, I think it’s fair to cross that date off as a legitimate option.  The point: We should be ready for “the end” to come any day.
  • Judgment Will Be Complete, No One Will Escape (even if they’re in a Chevy truck).  2 Peter 3:10 and Acts 2:19-20 both point to natural disasters as one of the means through which God will judge the Earth.  God has never lost a game of hide-and-seek.  God’s judgment should make us fear!  By God’s grace, those of us who are trusting in Christ Jesus will also be judged, but we have an Advocate who has already taken our punishment upon himself (Romans 8:1-2, 31-33).
  • God Judges In Order To Re-Create.  God does not delight in destruction, he rejoices in re-creation, redemption, and restoration.  Revelation 21:1-5 opens the final two chapters of the Bible where we are given a glimpse of the New Heavens & New Earth.  God’s Judgment is our HOPE, not our destruction.

DECIDE what to do
Do we actually believe this stuff?  This is why we need to evangelize, send missionaries, and talk about the Gospel of Jesus Christ with people… because we actually believe this will happen and we don’t want people to perish under judgment, we want them to find life and hope because of God’s judgment!

If we don’t believe that the end of the world actually will happen (not because a Mayan calendar tells us it will) then live and let live and don’t worry about any of this.  I’m not going all wacky and gloom-and-doom on you here… Scripture clearly teaches that there will be an end.  Are you ready for it?

And are you ready to take the opportunities you’re provided with to encourage people to Hope in Christ?  We’re going to hear a lot of talk about this Mayan Apocalypse… be prepared to contribute to the conversation.  Use this commercial in your conversations.

Take the liberty to tell people, “Jesus is my Chevy truck.  I’m not going to be safe because of anything I’ve done.  I believe that Jesus is the only one who can keep me secure when God decides the end is here and it’s time for judgment.”

Taking More Love Than You Make

Sure sure, I love the Beatles too.  But I hope the love I take is greater than the love I make… because if I’m honest, my ability to love is very very limited.  But God’s ability to love is infinite.

Just look at a few verses from the book of 1 John

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1)

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” (1 John 3:16)

“We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)

Finally, one of my favorites that time and again reminds me why I can claim God’s love as my own (hint: it’s not because I’m worthy):

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)

So while the Beatles have a catchy saying in “The love you take is equal to the love you make”… I’m very thankful to disagree.

A Good Warning When Disciplining Your Children

I just read Jeremy Piere’s post Watch Your Conjunctions in Parenting, and absolutely loved it.  I frequently find myself correcting my language in disciplining my four year old son when it sounds like I could be communicating a conditional love.  I know some would say I’m over-reacting and thinking too much, but I’m convinced that how I discipline him now will directly determine how I will discipline him when he’s older… and I’d like to start off right!

I’ve taken to discipline with the moniker, “You know I’ll always love you and nothing could make me love you less, but you need to stop ______ and _______ instead.”  Sure, there have been times when he’s totally taken advantage of that and intentionally disobeyed and then looked at me and said, “But you still love me, right?”

Here’s a gem from the post linked to above, I really want to encourage every parent (regardless of how old your kids are) to read this post:

Watch Your Conjunctions in Parenting, by Jeremy Piere

“I love you, but you need to obey.”

Every English-speaking parent has said that phrase at some point or another. It’s our attempt as parents to express commitment to our children even as we require them to obey: “I love you despite anything you do, but you also need to obey what I tell you.” I’d like to take issue, however, with using the conjunction butbetween these phrases. Using but may be communicating something we don’t want to say—namely, that there is some kind of conceptual opposition between “I love you” and “You need to obey.” …

The but has to go. Try so instead. “I love you, so you need to obey.”

This conjunction more effectively communicates the logical relationship between the two concepts. It’s not a relationship of opposition, but of grounding. The reason you are to obey me is because I already love you. This is how parents can be grace-based while insisting on obedience. We should never communicate even a hint of opposition between parental love and children’s obedience.