I try to regularly scan the BBC and Fox News webpages. Here’s what I read this morning
Text: Acts 14:1-7
Main Point: Expect to wrestle against opposition
The Jesus we love and follow was humiliated, tortured, and crucified. Before Jesus’ humiliation, torture, and crucifixion he told his disciples what would happen. Jesus said, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Notice, that Jesus’ victory over the world does not mean ease for us. No, Jesus’ defeat of sin and death means we can have peace while we face the troubles of this world. The resurrection of Jesus works peace, rest, comfort, and endurance in us. By troubles of this world Jesus is referring to the opposition, hostility, hatred, and violence done to Christians for being Christians. This is that ancient and promised enmity between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman (Gen 3:15). God’s people have always been opposed, but God gives his people a mission to rescue and redeem the opposing world through the gospel of Jesus Christ. God gives his people a promise; Jesus will be with us with life and joy as we sacrifice ourselves for the salvation of others.
Today we get back into the Book of Acts and the first missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas. We are in Acts 14. Paul and Barnabas are taking the gospel from the church in Antioch out into the opposing world. This first missionary journey has taken them from Antioch in Syria, into the Mediterranean Sea, across the island of Cyprus, and up to Antioch in Pisidia. There in Antioch, the gospel of Jesus Christ is preached, believed, and opposed. Paul and Barnabas are run out of town and travel southeast to the town of Iconium, or Konya, in modern day Turkey. This is the biblical region known as Galatia.
The point of the story is that as the gospel advances the gospel is opposed. We Christians should expect Jesus’ help as we wrestle against opposition. Let’s read it; let’s read Acts 14:1-7.
Like Paul and Barnabas, we need to
I. Find places for the gospel to advance (1)
As we follow the missionary journeys of Paul, we’ll see how he was intentional with his work. Paul and Barnabas were not aimlessly wandering around looking for someone to share the gospel with; they had a plan of attack
- Paul and Barnabas used local synagogues
From Damascus (9:20) to Cyprus (13:5) to Antioch in Pisidia (13:14) and continuing into Iconium (14:1), when the missionaries entered the city they went for the synagogue. This follows the understanding in Romans 1:16 that the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. The gospel fulfills God’s promises to Adam, Abraham, Israel, and David.
Paul and Barnabas, both Jewish Christians, understood the obligation to take the good news of life with God to the Jew first and also to the Greek. The best place to have these conversations and to announce this good news would be the synagogues were Jews and God-fearing Greeks would gather weekly to pray and hear God’s Word.
We do well to think creatively about where we can meet unbelievers and share the good news of life with God through faith in Jesus Christ. What are the “synagogues” of today? What is our plan of attack? The BSM lunches at Weatherford College Granbury Campus are a good start. There you can sit and talk with college students about religion and the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. We are scheduled to host the lunches on January 19, February 16, and April 20. We meet at the school at noon and we need you to come and speak in such a way that a great number of college students believe. You see,
- Paul and Barnabas spoke with the goal of belief
Our goal must be more than an info-dump. We must not be sloppy, distracting, or confusing with our words. We must speak so that others believe.
As we think about making disciples, this is an important question: do you know how to speak so that people can hear, understand, believe, and be reconciled to God? Do you have the confidence to accurately preach Jesus so that men and women can hear and believe in Jesus? This is discipleship. Please reach out to an elder and let us know if you need help sharing the gospel. We want to equip you to speak the gospel so that people can be saved.
Those who can explain the gospel must find places to explain the gospel. Come to the BSM lunch on January 19. Use your dining room table to invite people into gospel conversations and Bible reading. Let’s plan and pray about how to make a gospel impact with our neighbors in the RV park just down the street. We have work to do and doing that work means we need to
II. Prepare for opposition (2)
Look at verse 2 with me, “But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers.” Some Jews, verse 1, believed, but some Jews, verse 2, stirred up and poisoned the minds of the Gentiles. There are two tactics here in verse 2 that are used against the gospel.
- One tactic is to run the herd over a cliff
The Jews who disobeyed the gospel started and intensified opposition against the church (Louw-Nida 68.9). The unbelievers capitalized on herd mentality. Herd mentality is the tendency for people’s behavior or beliefs to conform to those of the group to which they belong (Oxford Dictionary). The unbelieving Jews wanted the unbelieving Gentiles to stay unbelieving, so peer pressure is applied to keep people from worshipping Jesus.
This type of opposition is mainly accomplished through stirring up fear and anger. “These people are going to hurt you and must be stopped. These people are taking from you and must be destroyed. Get your pitchfork and come with us!” This is a call to discernment. When you are in a group, that group can be your friends at school, your group can be your work, your group can be your neighborhood, your group can be your political party, and your group can be this church. When you are in a group, think about what the leaders of that group are trying to do. Are the leaders trying to stir up fear and anger in you in order to accomplish their will? Are you being radicalized and for what purpose? Even in the church, be aware of the herd mentality and do not let your decisions be made by the manipulation of your emotions.
When it comes to evangelism and making disciples, we need to be prepared for opposition from governments, from employers, and from families. But don’t fool yourself, a herd is not necessarily a bad thing (teams, marriages, families, and churches are herds) but a bad-thinking and bad-living herd is a bad thing. Prepare to be opposed by leaders who turn your friends and family against Jesus and his church. Here’s another tactic
- One tactic is to poison the waterhole
Here I’m quoting Woody from Toy Story, “Somebody poisoned the waterhole.” We need to understand that the enmity between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman is often fought at the level of ideas. Acts 14:2, “The unbelieving Jews poisoned the minds of the Gentiles against the brothers.” The unbelieving Jews were saying things and arguing for things which led the souls of the people to do evil to the church. Ideas have consequences.
Here is a call to not only preach the truth but defend the truth. One herd is telling our neighbors that Jesus and his church are an evil that must be exterminated. We are telling our neighbors that Jesus and his church are a good that must be expanded. Can you defend Jesus, his gospel, and his church when under attack? This is not mere self-defense but the defense of our brothers and sisters for the advance of the gospel. Resources here are first the Bible- daily read and study the Bible thinking about how to advance biblical ideas against opposing ideas (2 Cor 10:4-6). Books I have found particularly helpful on this point are Greg Koukl’s book Tactics and Tim Keller’s book The Reason for God.
Grab onto this: our neighbors are becoming increasingly hostile toward Christ and his church. We need to be full of hope, not fear, and we need to be ready to give a reason for the hope that is within us. Be prepared and
III. Commit to the long haul (3-4)
Paul and Barnabas show us a noble response to opposition, verse 3, “So they remained a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.” Remember this,
- Truth is quickly abandoned and slowly believed, therefore stay the course
Their response to increasing opposition was enduring faithfulness. What had God called them to do? Acts 13:47, “I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.” Maybe Paul is thinking about his own deep-seated long-standing opposition to the gospel; but God saved Paul. Maybe Paul is thinking about Stephen’s faithful witness in the face of fierce opposition; Stephen was faithful unto death.
Many of us are grieved by the anger we see, hear, and feel from your neighbors. Many of us are stunned by the way our neighbors’ souls are being poisoned. How is it that the cross is bent so easily into a swastika? The church must find its prophetic voice against evil and commit to the long haul. People rarely change overnight; remain for a long time with your neighbor and
- Speak boldly
Paul and Barnabas were wildly out-numbered. If they keep this witness up, they’re going to get their heads beat in. where is the boldness coming from? Their boldness comes from knowing God. They continue speaking openly and with complete confidence because of God not because of their situation. The phrase in verse 3 is “speaking boldly for the Lord” but that little preposition is difficult to nail down. Epi generally means on. They were speaking boldly on the Lord; speaking boldly on the subject of the Lord. Also, they were speaking boldly standing on the Lord; speaking boldly with reliance upon the Lord. The Lord they clearly and constantly preached is the Lord who gave them strength.
Jesus is worthy and trustworthy. Jesus is worthy because he is very God who gives us eternal life and complete joy because he gives us his life with God. We preach the worthiness of Jesus, worth more than freedom and ease and power. We preach because Jesus is trustworthy, he will guide us, sustain us, empower us, and give us peace during the storm. We are called to remain for a long time explaining the gospel because Jesus is worthy and trustworthy. To be faithful witnesses, we must
- Seek the Lord’s help (Acts 4:29)
It is good, when boldly explaining the gospel, to beg the Lord to prove it. In Acts 14:3 we see that the Lord bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands. Listen to the church’s prayer in Acts 4, “And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus” (4:29-30).
Miracles served to authenticate the message. Think about healings and exorcisms like a notary’s stamp. The stamp does not create the message but serves to validate it. This is true, listen to this, act upon this.
What should we do with this? This passage convicts me, when I am explaining Jesus, to pray “God prove it to him.” Lord willing, when we go to the college lunch on January 19, I’ll get the opportunity speak boldly about Jesus. I plan to pray this prayer while I defend the faith, “God prove it to him.” Seeing that I believe miracles have neither ceased nor become common, I have an openness to asking the Lord to prove the gospel message as He sees best. This proof can come internally through changing the will or convincing the mind, or the proof can come externally through the miraculous. Remember though, preaching the truth does not require performing the miraculous, but the miraculous requires the preaching of the truth.
Stick around, boldly explain the gospel, seek the Lord’s help and
- Remember that division is necessary (1 Cor 11:9)
Division is all over these seven verses. There are believing Jews and unbelieving Jews. There are believing Gentiles and unbelieving Gentiles. There are the brothers and those who are against the brothers. Verse 4 says, “But the people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews and some with the apostles.” The division in the city happened around Jesus and what he demands. Looking at the church, 1 Corinthians 11:19 says, “there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you maybe be recognized.” The division in the church happened around Jesus and what he demands. The bottom line is that the gospel divides. Jesus said he would divide father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law (Luke 12:53).
Listen, we will divide from others based on whatever is our god. You cannot serve two masters (Mt 6:24) and you cannot avoid division. What you can do is work hard to ensure the division is about the worthy and trustworthy Jesus. What you can do is labor to show how your positions are tied directly to Jesus and the cross-shaped life. I fear that we live in a day when we have made gods out of good things like government, the family, and diversity. We love our idols with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and expect Jesus to get on board, but Jesus will not be co-oped for political gain. Division comes from faithfully preaching the gospel over the long haul and division comes from making an idol out of a good thing. The next time you feel an argument starting, ask if this is about Jesus and his way of life or if the argument is about an idol.
Here’s the final command with three quick qualifications
IV. Do what you need to do (5-7)
Read Acts 14:5-7
Kenny Rogers was right, “You’ve got to know when to hold em. Know when to fold em. Know when to walk away and know when to run.”
- Sometimes, you need to stay like Nehemiah (Neh 6:10-14)
Read Nehemiah 6:10-14 this afternoon. When the death threat came against Nehemiah, he perceived that it was an empty threat meant to intimidate him. God had called him to stay and rebuild the wall around Jerusalem. Nehemiah could not be faithful to the call and run away. Through prayer, discernment, and knowing his situation, Nehemiah was able to see that the threat was empty. Though threatened, Nehemiah stayed and continued the work. Sometimes, you need to stay like Nehemiah. But,
- Sometimes, you need to flee like Paul and Barnabas
Remember, Paul had been a rock throwing Jew who confesses in Acts 22:20 and 26:10 to his involvement in the murder of Christians. Paul understood rage and torture and murder (Acts 9:1). Paul also understood his call to take the gospel to Gentiles. Nehemiah had a calling to Jerusalem and so he stayed. Paul and Barnabas had a calling to the Gentiles and so they stayed as long as they could.
John Calvin sorts through the confusion of when to stay and when to go with this advice. “This is the right kind of fear, when the servants of Christ do not run willfully into the hands of their enemies to be murdered, and yet they do not [abandon] their duty; neither does fear hinder them from obeying God when he calls; and so, consequently, they can afford, if need be, to go even through death itself to do their duty” (Calvin, Acts 14, 7).
It is calling that determines if a Christian stays and dies or flees and lives. It is calling that determines if a family stays in the neighborhood or leaves the neighborhood. There are a 1000 things you can do, but what has God called you to do? One on one discipleship can help you sort out God’s call and what faithfulness looks like. With a faithful brother or sisters, pray and talk these decisions out. Sometimes you hold em, sometimes you fold em, sometimes you walk away, sometimes you run but
- Always preach the gospel
Paul is concerned about policies and rights; this will become clear in chapter 16. We should be concerned about policies and rights, but policies and rights are always a distant second to advancing the gospel. We should advocate for policies and rights that serve to advance the gospel.
Verse 7, Paul and Barnabas fled to Lystra and Derbe and there they laid low. There they decided to keep their mouths shut so they didn’t get in trouble. Paul and Barnabas decided to just quietly make tents for the glory of God. No, verse 7, there they continued to preach the gospel.
As we close. I challenge you to do a mental inventory of your preaching this past week. Think about the arguments you got into or the rants you want off on. If you are on social media, I challenge you to sit down this afternoon and do a quick scan of your own page on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. What does this past week reveal about your idols? As we engage the brokenness and the error around us and in us, are you preaching Christ? Does the love of Christ compel you to work for redemption or does your idol compel you to crush your opponent? Do you carry a noose to destroy your opponent or do you carry the cross to redeem your opponent? May the worthy and trustworthy Jesus compel us to preach boldly and stay for the long haul. The Jesus we love and follow was humiliated, tortured, and crucified. Jesus will be with us with life and joy as we sacrifice ourselves for the salvation of others. Let’s go and make disciples of Jesus. Let’s pray.
The phrases broken hearted boldness and contrite correction come from an Ask Pastor John podcast that I highly recommend to you. Listen here. While the podcast is aimed at parents, it has much to say about engaging with our neighbors over issues of politics and race.
- In what way did God comfort, challenge, or correct you today?
- As the gospel advances, the gospel is opposed. What does that mean for your situation (home, work, neighborhood)? What does it look like to bear your cross like Jesus?
- Where can you meet unbelievers and explain the gospel of Jesus Christ? Where can we, as a church, be more intentional about meeting unbelievers and explaining the gospel?
- How would you respond to an angry group of people set on silencing your Christian witness?
- How would you respond to the claim that the Christian sexual ethic is harmful and must be outlawed?
- The love of Christ compels us (2 Cor 5:14). What is the love of Christ and how can you experience it such that you give a bold witness in the face of persecution?
- What does it look like for you to seek the Lord’s help while giving a bold witness?
- Is the division in our country this past week about Jesus and what he demands? How should we respond to the emotions, ideas, and idols that are tempting us and ruling our neighbors?
- What is your calling and how does it relate to your school, your neighbors, and your work? Are you doing what God has called you to do?
Doubts are common among Christians and should be handled with truth and grace. Tim Keller offers good advice for Christians and their doubts.
The only way to doubt Christianity rightly and fairly is to discern the alternate belief under each of your doubts and then to ask yourself what reasons you have for believing it. How do you know your belief is true? It would be inconsistent to require more justification for Christian belief than you do for your own, but this is frequently what happens. In fairness you must doubt your doubts. My thesis is that if you come to recognize the beliefs on which your doubts about Christianity are based, and if you seek as much proof for those beliefs as you seek from Christians for theirs–you will discover that your doubts are not as solid as they first appeared.
Timothy Keller, Reason for God, page xxv
Text: Luke 5:27-32
Main Point: Biblical fellowship overturns the world’s standards.
One of my favorite children’s books is Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss. We have so much to learn from Gertrude McFuzz, the Big Brag, and that plain little turtle whose name was just Mack. You see, “that plain little Mack did a plain little thing. He burped! And his burp shook the throne of the king!” Too often, we underestimate the small things of everyday life. When we think about food, fellowship, and missions I want us to think about plain little people doing plain little things that will shake this world. Listen, biblical fellowship overturns the world’s standards and when we use food and fellowship to make disciples, we can overturn the world.
Recently I read Tim Chester’s book, A Meal with Jesus, and it got me thinking about the way Luke writes his Gospel and regularly mentions meals. So, I read through the Gospel of Luke and noted every time food or drink shows up. I was amazed at how much Luke talks about food and drink. If we add fasting to the list then there is a reference to either food, drink, or fasting in every chapter in Luke; some chapters have multiple references to food, drink, and fasting. You know, it’s almost like Jesus knows food and drink are ordinary everyday things that all of humanity can always relate to.
Let’s start in Luke 5, so you know where we are heading, and we will trace out what Jesus is saying about food, fellowship, and missions. Read Luke 5:27-32
Let’s start with the big overarching truth
I. Jesus came to overturn the world’s standards
This means Jesus is not ok with the way things were or the way things are. God’s people, the Jews, need to change, and the world, the rest of us, need to change. So how do we change? We change through Jesus. Jesus changes us. This is because
- Jesus is a greater and stronger reality (Luke 1:46-55; 6:20-26; 16:19-26)
In Luke 1, Mary understands that the coming of Jesus is the means by which the humble are exalted, the proud are scattered, mighty kings are brought down, the hungry are filled, and the rich are sent away empty. The worldly thing for us to avoid is envying the rich, despising the poor, cowering before mighty kings, and making heroes of the proud. Jesus is a greater and stronger reality. Jesus, the one who laid aside his wealth and became poor, gives his life and joy to the poor, the hungry, and the weeping. The life and joy of Jesus means possessions and power are no longer our goals. Wealth and power cannot give life.
This is a warning for the rich and a promise for the poor. There is more to life than what you have or don’t have. The more, abundant life and complete joy, are found in Jesus and not in the things we have. Jesus came to overturn the world’s categories of value and meaning.
- We are commanded to use meals to overturn the world’s standards (Luke 14:12-14)
Listen to Luke 14:12-14, “Jesus said also to the man who had invited him, ‘When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
Alexander Strauch says, “The practice of Christian hospitality is truly distinctive from the world’s practice of hospitality because it reaches out to unwanted needy people who cannot reciprocate” (Hospitality Commands, 24).
The tendency among us is to use meals to gain advantage. Without thinking about redemption, without the mind of Christ, we gather people who are like us and people who can help us. The guest list is made up of people and families who will move us forward or lift us up. Think for a moment about your breakfast table, your lunch table, and your dinner table; who is there that isn’t like you? Think of your parties and your barbeques; who is there that cannot repay you?
Now, updating our guest lists can be dangerous, patronizing, and wickedly self-righteous. The danger is we do a head count; there’s one poor person, one crippled person, one lame person, and one blind person. But Jesus is not setting up a quota or party style affirmative action. Jesus is challenging our self-centered near-sighted worldly approach to meals and parties and galas and banquets. Are you doing this party because you want to belong? Are you inviting these people because you want to get ahead? Or, are you doing this party because out of the overflow of life and joy in Christ you want to offer belonging and share what you have?
The gospel that overturns death with life, sin with righteousness, and makes outsiders into family is the gospel that propels us to offer belonging and friendship with those who are cast out. Who are these today? The poor, crippled, lame, and blind of our day look like foster children, immigrants, the mentally ill, the elderly, the lonely and others like these. It’s people not in your tribe or circle.
Jesus came to overturn the world’s standards. Are we living with him, like him, and for him? Are we gathering like Jesus or is our guest list another form of scattering as we keep people out? More than a hot meal, are we offering acceptance and belonging? Know this,
II. Fellowship is more than food
Now, we’re Baptists and that means when I say “fellowship” you may hear “food” and that is partially true. Fellowship often involves food, but fellowship is more than food. What I mean is
- Food is necessary but not necessarily fellowship (Luke 11:3; 13:26-29)
In Luke 11:3, Jesus teaches us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Jesus understands that food is necessary for physical life, but food is not necessarily fellowship. We know this is the case because in Luke 13 Jesus casts into hell those people who ate and drank with him. Those people were near Jesus, even sharing a meal with Jesus, but they did not know him, and he did not know them; there was a meal but no fellowship.
Let’s build a definition of biblical fellowship
- Fellowship is sharing and sharing is caring (Luke 15:2)
In Luke 15:2, the Pharisees complain that Jesus receives sinners and eats with them. To receive a sinner is to welcome the person and bring them in offering friendship and belonging. So, it is possible to share a meal with a person without caring for the person. It is possible to share a meal with a person but not hear her stories or share her joys. It is possible to serve a person without offering to help carry her burdens. The Pharisees kept the hurting at arm’s length, but Jesus embraces. The Pharisees open their wallets, but Jesus opens his home.
Fellowship is the sacrificial offering of belonging. Rosaria Butterfield says it well when she says the gospel comes with a house key. The gospel-meal must be served on a plate of acceptance and friendship. So,
- Intentionally use food and offer fellowship (Luke 3:11; 12:29-31; 5:30-32)
John the Baptist tells the repentant, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise” (Luke 3:11). Instead of worrying about food and drink, we are commanded to advance the kingdom. Rosaria Butterfield gives a helpful mindset when she encourages us to open our homes so that strangers become neighbors and neighbors become family. When the guests are gone, pause and ask what you gave them. Did you merely give a meal? Did you talk about yourself and what you think? Or, did you offer a listening ear, a gospel word of encouragement, a gracious word of correction, and acceptance?
Now, we’re back to Luke 5; we’re back to Levi, Jesus, and a feast. Looking at Luke 5:27 and 28, what did Jesus do and how did Levi respond? Jesus said to Levi, “follow me.” Levi left everything and went with Jesus. Then in verse 29, what do we see? They are at Levi’s house putting on a big feed. The outcasts are there at the table and the Pharisees are scandalized, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus’ answer is crucial to the proper understanding of fellowship. Looking at verses 31 and 32, what is the goal of food and fellowship? In verse 31, the goal of food and fellowship is healing. In verse 32, the goal of food and fellowship is repentance.
It doesn’t matter if you have a small eat-in kitchen or a sprawling dining room, meals can be opportunities to meet physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Jesus shows us how to intentionally use food to offer fellowship. Jesus offers a meal, around the table Jesus offers acceptance, and with acceptance comes healing and restoration through calling sinners to repentance.
Here it is good to urge the confrontational among us to slow down and get to know the other before you bring the hammer down. Offer belonging before you deliver the blow. It is also good to call the timid among us to speak up and plead with the one you know to repent. Jesus wants us to see our tables as a means for making disciples.
III. Use food and fellowship to make disciples
Here are some principles and practical advice. First, we need to understand that
- The lack of food and the luxury of food are both a trap (Luke 12:19-30, 45; 21:34)
Proverbs 30:8 shows us the trap, “give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me lest I be full and deny you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.”
It is the rich fool of Luke 12 who says to his soul, “you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” The good life for the fool was defined by the abundance of his possessions, storing up good stuff for himself. It is the wicked servant later in Luke 12 who says to himself, “‘My master is delayed in coming’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk.” Jesus warns us all, “watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down by dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and [the return of Jesus] come upon you suddenly like a trap” (21:34).
While the poor need to be warned about jealousy, envy, and bitterness, people with plenty of grocery money need to be warned about making life about fine dining and mixed drinks. It is a problem if you cannot enjoy a meal because the rich are there, and it is a problem if you cannot enjoy a meal unless alcohol is there. Our first principle for using food is understanding that the lack of food and the luxury of food are both a trap. Here is our second principle for food and fellowship
- Be a servant of others, do not be a slave to serving (Luke 17:7-10; 10:40)
We Christians must not think of ourselves first and foremost as independent and free from others. It is not my house, my body, my money, my food, and my stuff. We Christians do not get to go first; we are called to serve all. Like a slave coming in from the fields, we do not expect to be served but to serve. Once we have served, we do not look for a thank you but acknowledge that our hospitality, serving a meal to others, is merely what has been commanded. Luke 17:10 is pointed, “So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” The picture Jesus paints of the way Christians live is every day all-day servants of others.
That call to serve is for those of us who don’t open our homes and don’t share our tables because we’re too busy or the house is too small. But what about those who do serve constantly, trust in themselves that they are righteous, and treat those who do not serve with contempt? What about the Marthas out there?
In Luke 10 we see two sisters who are hosting Jesus with their house full of strangers. Martha is slaving. She says to Jesus, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her to help me.” Jesus’ answer helps us keep the way we serve in check. Jesus says, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42). Mary sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to him.
There are at least two dangers here. The first is that we wake early and get to work serving others but do not first sit at the Lord’s feet and listen to him. If hospitality pushes out every day read and pray, then we are getting hospitality wrong. So practically, this call to every day read and pray does not mean don’t open your home and don’t share your table. Instead, it means avoid the second danger of making hospitality the goal. Here is the danger of stressing and fretting until every part of the family, home, and meal are manicured but no one brings Jesus to the table. So, with Mary and Martha, Martha is not wrong to serve but is wrong to prioritize the details of serving over being with Jesus. If you bring Jesus to your table, no one is going home complaining about a cup going empty or dust bunnies in the corner.
Concerning hospitality, we need to fret about being with Jesus and we need to fret about bringing the presence of Jesus to the table. Consider this
- Jesus regularly used meals to help accomplish the mission (Luke 5:27-32; 7:36; 9:10-17; 14:1; 15:2; 22:7-23; 24:30)
Again, from Luke 5, why did Jesus eat with sinners? He ate with sinners in order to draw near to them to know them, offer healing, and call sinners to repentance. Butterfield again says it well, “Jesus ate with sinners, but he did not sin with sinners.” Jesus’ goal in the meal is a relationship for restoration. In Luke 7 Jesus goes to eat in the home of Pharisee and there he brings forgiveness to a sinful woman. In Luke 9 Jesus feeds the 5000 as an invitation for all to come to him to be fed with righteousness, love, and acceptance. In Luke 14, Jesus is again eating in the home of a Pharisee and there he heals a man. A meal in Luke 15 is the context for Jesus’ parables about the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son. Around that table, Jesus offers a word of correction to the Pharisees who are the older brother.
The Passover meal and Lord’s Supper in Luke 22 is a clear example of Jesus using a meal to accomplish his mission. The details of the meal become teaching points about service, sacrifice, and the need for the new covenant in his blood. And don’t forget the resurrection meals with the disciples in chapter 24. Through asking questions, teaching, breaking bread, and eating broiled fish, Jesus is using meals to accomplish the mission. Seeing that Jesus is our example, this means
- We should use meals to help accomplish the mission (Luke 14:12-14; 15:2; 19:1-10; 22:7-23)
Intentionally use food and offer fellowship to build a relationship where healing and repentance take place. Luke 14:12-14 teaches us to mind our invites; are we bringing the outcasts into our homes? Luke 15:2, are we receiving sinners and eating with them or are we afraid for our stuff and for our children? Jesus’ interaction with Zacchaeus in Luke 19 gives us some encouragement to go after an invitation from others; that stranger may become a neighbor and then family with you around his table, not your own.
We use the Lord’s Supper each month as a reminder that we are family. The Lord’s Supper is the reset button on our hospitality. Are we eating with Jesus and are we eating with our brothers and sisters? We host 5th Sunday fellowship meals as a training ground to equip you to do the same on a smaller scale in your home. What I mean is, at the 5th Sunday meal at the end of this month, bring a lot of food (enough food to feed your family a full meal plus some) and don’t sit with your friends; use the meal to make new friends.
Here’s the point: simple biblical fellowship is meant to overturn the world. Let’s be intentional to use ordinary meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) as opportunities to bring healing and plead for repentance. Let’s be intentional to accept invitations to ordinary meals knowing we need healing, and we need our brothers and sisters to plead with us for repentance. Depending on your schedule and needs, I want every person or family to commit to offering hospitality once a month. Start with a Saturday meal that includes praying for our worship gathering the next day. Or, start with a Sunday meal that includes a discussion of a song we sang together, a reading, or the sermon. Use an evening meal for family worship together. I would love to see every home open at least once a month with the goal of offering belonging and acceptance while we all grow in repentance. May God bless our efforts and remove our excuses.
- In what way did God comfort, challenge, or correct you today? It may be through Sunday school, a Scripture reading, a song, the sermon, or talking with someone along the way.
- What are the necessary ingredients to a good meal with others?
- When are you going to have another member, couple, or family into your home for biblical fellowship?
- How can your dining room table become a means through which Jesus overturns the priorities of the world? Where does the world go wrong regarding food and fellowship? How will you address this?
- Looking at Luke 14:12-14, how can you practice this command more faithfully?
- How do you define fellowship? I said fellowship is sharing and sharing is caring. How can you improve on that definition?
- Do you tend to stress about not having enough food or do you tend to lust after fine food and drink? How does this approach to meals hurt your practice of biblical fellowship?
- As you seek to be more open and hospitable, how will you protect your time with Jesus (every day read and pray)?
- As you seek to be more open and hospitable, how will you ensure that you keep healing and repentance the priority instead of a manicured home, family, and meal?
- Make a list of church members, people in your neighborhood, coworkers, and classmates that you want to move from strangers to neighbors to family. Start inviting these people over on your once a month (or more) day for hospitality.
- If you already practice regular hospitality, does the Gospel you offer come with a house key? How can you increase your generosity? Would a different table or appliance be a help?
Here is a list with links to the books that are helping me think through food, fellowship, and missions:
- Yertle the Turtle by Dr. Seuss
- The Gospel Comes with a House Key by Rosaria Butterfield
- Hospitality Commands by Alexander Strauch
- A Meal with Jesus by Tim Chester
If you only buy one, get Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories. For years, I have been working to not underestimate the power of the ordinary, stop comparing myself to others, be content, and let go of my pride. Yertle, Gertrude, and the Worm are my heroes.
This is your invitation to join with Mambrino Baptist Church as we daily read God’s Word. On January 1, 2021, we will start the M’Cheyne Plan and, Lord willing, follow it together during 2021 and 2022. We will read the “Family” readings in 2021 and the “Secret” readings in 2022.
Resources to help
You can find the plan here. Print copies are available in the church foyer. The weekly plan is printed on the back of the bulletin for Sunday’s gathering.
Talk with Pastor Paul if you would like to join the YouVersion Bible Plan.
Here is a daily devotional to help understand and apply what we read. Copies are available in the church foyer.
Here is some helpful information from M’Cheyne himself on daily Bible reading.
Here is the M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan on Apple Podcasts.
Text: 2 Corinthians 5
Main Point: Jesus reconciles sinners to God.
Today we take up the weighty and wonderful; today we rejoice over the Gospel and we answer the call to missions. As we begin, I want you to understand that one of the reasons for the gospel is also one of the greatest hinderances to missions. We need Jesus because we are self-centered, and we don’t tell the good news because we are self-centered. One express reason the Son of God took on flesh, lived a righteous life, died an atoning death, and rose again is because I love me some me and that’s nasty. Jesus died and rose again to break my slavery to put myself first. Jesus died and rose again to propel me out for the good of others. Jesus died and rose again to break your slavery to self and to propel you out for the good of others. So why do we not go to our neighbors and plead and pray and persuade? We don’t go because we are selfish. We don’t give because we are selfish. We like our stuff and our time and our work to get more stuff. May God open our eyes to our sin and give us holy motivations so that we enjoy the gospel and engage in missions.
Read 2 Corinthians 5
We start with
I. God’s Gospel
I say “God’s Gospel” because the gospel is God’s work on our behalf. It’s not “our gospel” because we did not plan our salvation, ask for salvation, or accomplish salvation. The gospel is 100% the work of God. 2 Corinthians 5 focuses on at least five different aspects to the gospel. Here’s the good news
- The good news is Jesus died for all (14)
In verse 14 we see clearly that one has died for all. Here is the redemption mission of Jesus. Jesus wants to bring us to God, and he secures the righteousness required and the payment for sin required. Jesus died and rose again to transform us. Out of this reality comes a new way of thinking about the people around us.
Sin and selfishness can take so many different forms. Sin and selfishness can take the form of greed, or racism, or anger, or sexual immorality, or laziness. If you’re like me, then you are really good at seeing other people’s sin. Let’s capitalize on that skill. What do all those sinful people doing all those terrible things need? They need the death of Christ to transform them. Surely this is substitution and atonement; Jesus died in their place to pay the penalty for their sin. But more than the deposit of Jesus’ payment to their account, there is the communication of Jesus’ death and resurrection that frees them from slavery to sin and selfishness. Jesus’ death and resurrection are payment and liberation. Jesus’ death for all is the good news that the worst most disdainful sinner can be changed. Do you believe this? The good news is Jesus died for all and
- The good news is Jesus transforms our lives (15)
Look at verse 15 and tell me why Jesus died. Jesus died because you are a selfish punk. Jesus died because I am a selfish punk. Students, kids, tell me, who’s Christmas list are you the most concerned about? We are all slaves of self who need to be transformed, empowered, and redirected. We want to put more stuff in our closests, but Jesus transforms us to seek the good of others.
One step toward transformation is admitting that we are selfish. Own your selfishness, call selfishness sin, and understand that it is sin worthy of death. God has promised to judge you for your sin of selfishness, and I am right there with you. The good news is Jesus came to transform us and
- The good news is Jesus makes us new (17)
Listen, you are not a good person because you give your Christmas presents to the poor. You are not a good person because you meet needs and right wrongs. We become good when Jesus makes us new.
Verse 17 tells us to be in Christ is to be a new creation. The old has passed away and the new has come. We receive the Holy Spirit now, who is the guarantee of the total transformation to come.
To be made new is to know, believe, and experience that Jesus’ death on the cross 2000 years ago frees you from sin and selfishness. True, you didn’t see Jesus’ crucifixion but you heard about it and you believe it. This faith is joining in with Jesus. Your sin becomes his sin; his death becomes your death. His life becomes your life. His righteousness becomes your righteousness. His love for others becomes your love for others. Trusting Christ is depending on Christ to pay for your sin and make you new.
It is true that this transformation is painfully slow but when Jesus returns, he will bring this work to completion. This newness, this union with Christ, is for the world and it is for God. Our union with Christ makes us a source of good in this world and our union with Christ makes us acceptable to God.
- The good news is Jesus reconciles us to God (18-19)
Looking now at verses 18 and 19 we see that Jesus is not trying to win God over from hating us to loving us. All this death, life, and new creation is from God. It is God the Father who is reconciling selfish punks to himself through God the Son. God the Father is reconciling haters of God to himself through the death of God the Son. Salvation produces treasuring God and loving others so that we die to self in order to win people to Christ. Christians love and depend on Jesus because Jesus brings us home to God.
- The good news is Jesus makes us the righteousness of God (21)
2 Corinthians 5:21 is the gospel in one verse, “For our sake God made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
For us, for our good, for our benefit, and for our sake the Father sent the Son to bear our guilt, so that in Jesus we can become the righteousness of God. God our treasure is gained through Christ our righteousness. In a sense, getting to God requires the right credentials. If you don’t measure up, then you don’t get in. How then can selfish sinners get to God? Jesus is the way to God. It is the sacrifice of Christ that takes away our sin and it is the righteousness of Christ that makes us acceptable. Without Jesus taking our sin and giving us his righteousness, we could never enter the presence of the God we love. Jesus as the only way is why we pray in Jesus’ name and worship the Father according to the Son.
This is almost unthinkable, all of us sinners who trust Jesus to make us righteous become the righteousness of God. Jesus gives us, his enemies, the righteousness of God so that we can be welcomed in by God. That’s the gospel; now
II. The Mission
- The mission is persuade to others (11-13)
The mission is to bring others along with us as we trust Christ to take us to the Father. In verse 11, Paul says that we persuade others. This persuasion involves us convincing our neighbors to act on the truth that Jesus came, died, and rose again to bring us to God.
The rest of verse 11, plus 12 and 13, call for the rejection of manipulation as we seek to persuade others. We don’t use health, wealth, or power to entice someone to repent and believe in Jesus. We love people, we serve people, and we explain the gospel to people. The church, like its apostles, must be marked by persuasion but not by worldly manipulation. We do this work knowing God knows us and judges the work. Alongside persuasion is pleading.
- The mission is to plead for others to be reconciled to God (18-20)
Look at verse 18 with me, “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
We, the reconciled, have the awesome ministry of reconciliation. Think about it, why does your neighbor sin in ways that wreck you? It is because your neighbor is cut off from God. How will your neighbor reconcile with God? Reconciliation happens as you warn about sin, preach and teach the gospel, and God reconciles your neighbor to himself through Christ. God has committed to us the word of reconciliation so that we can be instruments for reconciliation.
Look at verse 20, how does God make his appeal? God makes his appeal through us. You become God’s mouth. God plans to speak through you. Because of Christ and for Christ we beg, implore, plead, and beseech our neighbors to turn from selfishness to Christ. God help me to do this. God helps us all to join in God’s work of reconciling the world to himself through Christ.
Here is our mission: we exist to make disciples of Jesus Christ who love God and love others. Here is
III. Our motivation
God does not merely give us a job to do. God, in his kindness, also clarifies why we should go to our neighbors and the nations and beg them to be reconciled to God. We have already seen that we don’t work according to the world. We don’t use manipulation or depend upon outward appearances. So, what is going on in the heart of an ambassador for Christ?
- We are motivated by putting on our heavenly dwelling (1-8)
Chapter 4 clarifies that being an ambassador is costly work. 4:8 describes us as afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, struck down, and always carrying in the body the death of Jesus. We are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake. Death is at work in us. Outwardly we are wasting away. We groan under the prospect of pain and death, but we know there is more and better on the other side of death. Like Jesus, we do our work under the cross looking forward to the resurrection.
2 Corinthians 5:2 says we long to put on our heavenly dwelling. This is not the desire to get rid of the body like the body is bad. This is the desire to put on the glorified and immortal body. We want what is mortal to be swallowed up in victory. We are motivated to run hard toward the age to come when persecution, pain, and death will be no more.
Verse 8, we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. Forget Christmas presents; I want to be with Jesus. Forget my 50th wedding anniversary; I want to be with Jesus. Forget grandkids and retirement; I want to be with Jesus. We are motivated to take the gospel to the nations because then the end will come and death will be no more, our bodies will put on immortality, and we will see Jesus face to face. We are motivated by heaven to get to work. Here’s another desire
- We want to please Jesus (9)
Verse 9, “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.” If we are here, we are living for Jesus. If we are in heaven, we are living with Jesus. No matter where we are, we want the Jesus who loves us and fought for us and died for us and rose again for us to be pleased with us. This is not a debtor’s ethic where we mope around trying to pay Jesus back so maybe one day he will think the sacrifice of himself wasn’t a total waste. Instead, the gospel gives us the freedom of being fully loved. We can’t earn Jesus’ love; we can’t earn more of Jesus’ love. The gift Jesus gives us is the ability to live out of the fullness of his love.
Maybe you grew up in a home where you never felt good enough. You were always trying to do your best in order to earn your parent’s love. Some people become missionaries in an attempt to earn God’s love, thinking if I do enough then maybe God will like me and let me come home.
That is not the gospel. Instead, the gospel says God loved you while you were still an enemy doing everything displeasing (Rom 5:8). And 2000 years ago, Jesus did everything required to make you pleasing to God. It is Jesus’ work that makes us pleasing to God. Do you believe this? Can you rest in Jesus’ love or do you keep getting on the hamster wheel of works trying to be good enough?
Jesus says in John 15:9, As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love.” The infinite love is already there. The love of Christ for us is foundational. The already-possession of the infinite and personal love of Christ for us is the reason we obey. The love of Christ controls us so that we live lives pleasing to Christ. It is the experience of perfect love that drives Christian obedience. We are motivated to please the One who loves us perfectly.
- We are also motivated by the reality of judgment (10)
Look again at 2 Corinthians 5:10, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”
Perfect love does not negate judgment; Jesus loves us and he will judge us. Our thinking, our personalities, our loving, and our doing are all deficient; and yet Jesus loves us perfectly! Jesus came to redirect our hearts away from loving self to loving God and neighbor. Jesus will come again to judge us according to the standards of loving God and loving neighbor. The good news is Jesus empowers us to meet the standards he will use for judgment.
So, how will Judgment Day look for you? Everything you have done, whether good or evil, will brought forward and receive its just reward. Jesus is calling us to be among the saints who know the perfect love of Christ and therefore seek to live out towards others the perfect love of Christ. To love like Christ is to work and sacrifice so that others turn from selfishness to Christ. Jesus is inviting us to trust him for life, love, and judgment. So, while we do have an honest fear of judgment and a desire to please our King,
- We are also motivated by Christ’s love (14-15)
I’ve been hinting at verses 14 and 15, now let’s bring those verses forward so we can think about them and obey them. The reason Paul no longer lives for self but lives for Jesus is because the love of Christ controls him. Paul has been mastered by Christ’s love for him. This mastery comes from a deep awareness of personal sin and an even deeper awareness of Jesus’ love and redemption. Paul is controlled by Jesus’ wonderful and life changing love for Paul. It is Jesus’ love for us that should control us. If you want to be controlled by love you must think about your sin and root it out with Christ-bought Spirit-empowered repentance. If you want to be controlled by love you must think about Christ’s life, death, and resurrection as his love that empowers your love. To be controlled by Christ’s love is to be thinking constantly about Christ’s love. We must make time to think about and abide in Jesus’ love. Jesus is calling us to do what we do for him and because of his love. This means
- We are motivated by a new way of looking at people (16-17)
The old way of looking at people is prejudging people as helpful or unhelpful, an asset or liability, an enemy or an ally in our cause. We size people up along the lines of if they can help us get ahead in this world. The new way of looking at people is to see one for whom Christ died. The love of Christ must then control us so that we willingly die for the redemption of that person. The gospel propels us to see people first through the lens of the love and death of Christ.
Embracing the death of Christ for all and the need for all to be born again makes us look at others in a new way. Paul writes in verse 16, “From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come.”
We must view Christians according to their status as new creations. We must view Christians, with whom we disagree, as new creations. The love of Christ must control us as we listen to Christians with whom we disagree. The love of Christ must control us as we correct those who are in error. In an argument, lead off with telling yourself that this is one for whom Christ died. He is a new creation. She is a new creation. Pray for an increase of love and work for an increase in obedience. We know those who have been united to Christ have resources for love and sacrifice and self-denial that the world does not have. We must love one another more and we must demand more of one another.
I ask you, do you view your brothers and sisters according to Christ or do you view your brothers and sisters according to some worldly standard like beauty, finances, race, or politics? What do you see when you look at a person? Church listen, if we can do what Christ’s love calls us to then we will be so different from the world. Accepting our fellow church members according to their new creation status instead of according to the flesh and the world’s standards means we will have incredibly high standards of love and self-denial while refusing to judge people according to the world’s standards of beauty, finances, race, and politics. This does not erase our differences and certainly does not erase the need to correct sin. Love and judgment demand that we correct sin in one another, but regarding one another according to Christ means we have a radically different standard by which we offer real acceptance and meaningful friendship. The love of Christ must control us so that we can move beyond the factions and selfishness of our day. We must no longer live for ourselves but for Christ.
There is much more to be said and Lord willing we have many days ahead together to sort these things out. For now I want to ask us to consider how much the gospel has transformed the way we view others. Do we regard one another according to the flesh; according to masks and politics, finances and race? Or do we regard one another according to the love of Christ? May the love of Christ for each of us and for all of us control us as we move toward one another, listen to one another, and talk to one another. God help us live with high standards and even greater love.
- In what way did God comfort, challenge, or correct you today?
- What is the gospel of Jesus Christ?
- When you consider the worst sins effecting our city today, why should selfishness be at the top?
- How does Jesus’ death for all transform the way you think about “those people” who aren’t like you?
- When we share the gospel with our neighbors, why should we persuade them and plead with them?
- How does the promise of heaven motivate you when you suffer for the gospel?
- What is the difference between obeying because you are loved and obeying in order to gain love? How do you generally live?
- What would it look like for you to be controlled by the love of Christ?
- Do you respond to your brothers and sisters according to Christ’s death and Christ’s love or according to some standard you have set up as more important (income, race, politics, a mask, or looks)?
- How would your neighborhood change if you looked at your neighbors through the lens of Jesus’ death for sin and Jesus’ love for sinners?