Spoke with friend had just started going to church with his wife…no childcare
Hear from God is not something you can do well without full engagement.
But it’s not just the parents (and those around them) we are concerned about.
We want the kids to hear from God in their own language…we love them too much to do other than provide for them a fun place to hear from God.
Kids learn best in the context of fun, play, and engagement.
Because we believe strongly in the reality of the gospel…adults engage it in here, children elsewhere.
Thank you again for your service to us, and to the little ones.
We have some needs in our children’s ministry: Please consider whether you should serve.
-Fill out a welcome card if you are interested in finding out more.
John Kennedy famously asked at his inauguration in 1961, “Ask not what you country can do for you but what you can do for your country.”
This remains a good question to ask ourselves in all various aspects of our lives.
Another way to pose the question…”If everyone participated (church, community) at my level of engagement could what I enjoy and rely on be sustained?”
Clearly we cannot do everything…but it is good to move through life asking the right questions of ourselves.
This summer, in the fourth inning of a July game between the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals, the Cubs’ first base coach tossed a foul ball to a smiling kid in the stands.
The kid bobbled the baseball and dropped it.
What people saw next in video clips that went viral was a man who sat behind the boy, scoop up the baseball and give it to the woman next to him.
What a jerk!
The world raged against him.
This man was judged and found guilty!
We all saw it with our own eyes…he took that ball from that kid and gave it to that woman…she should have slapped him!
The Cubs dispatched someone to go give the boy another ball; this one was signed by the shortstop…only to discover he already had one in his hand.
What was going on?
The video had gone viral…but the truth had not.
What had actually happened?
The “villain” had wound up with four balls during the game…he gave three to children around him (not his children), including one he had already given to the young man who he had supposedly stolen the ball from.
The fourth ball he gave to his wife, it was their anniversary.
The mother of the little boy said, “Everyone in our section had a great game, most of all our son, who had one of the best days of his life.”
Yeah, he got two balls out of the deal…and the generous man, got a national rebuke.
This story provides many lessons…
One is that it is an example of “don’t confuse me with facts I know what I believe (what I have seen.)”
Many watched the video…and without the full facts formed their beliefs about the man.
It describes a common situation where judgment is made based on a limited view of what is really going on.
A video clip…formed the basis for judging a man…and the judgment, based on incomplete information…was the exact opposite of what was true about the man.
We see the world, our lives…everything through a very narrow lens…a soda straw…and through that straw we see brief, limited clips of reality.
How much of what can be known do you think we know? One percent?
Of course not, we are not anywhere near that much knowledge.
We cannot know how much we know, because we cannot know what we don’t know…we are finite…stuck in space and time.
The truth about the human condition is that we are specks on a speck in space, living for a brief moment in an incredibly small part of the universe.
This truth, the truth of our extreme limitations, has led some to become cynical about all knowledge…they distrust any truth claims.
It should not make us cynics but it should certainly make us humble, much more humble than we normally are.
When it comes to the things that we most need to know, we cannot possibly discover them on our own, these things must be revealed to us by God…I repeat this so often because it is so important to remember.
The fact of our sin is self-evident in human history and individual human behavior.
But the truth of what this means temporally and eternally had to be revealed by God.
As did the solution to this problem of sin.
The greatest “knowledge-needs” of humanity are inaccessible to unaided human reason.
These things must be revealed to us, and thanks be to God, they have been.
Last week we looked at one of the greatest conversations ever experienced on our planet.
The nighttime talk Nicodemus had with Jesus.
There, Jesus summarized the Bible in a sentence…
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
And he went on…
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” John 3:16-18
Verse 16 is famous for its love and hope but what is sometimes missed is the conditional nature of that hope.
The love is unconditional and inclusive…the hope is…conditional and exclusive…”whosever”
This morning we are going to look at a hard passage in Scripture that engages the conditional nature of this hope.
The condition is to “believe”…to transfer trust from self to Christ.
We cannot earn this hope, but we must choose to receive it.
Here’s the passage:
2Th. 1:8-9 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power
The context for this verse was a suffering and persecuted church.
Those who opposed the gospel were brutally attacking these believers just because they believed…people were suffering horribly because of the cruel injustice of others.
This reminder that God is the final judge was not intended to be a celebration of the destruction of non-believers but rather an encouragement to not become embittered, not to lose hope, and to leave justice in the hands of God.
This does not reverse the Lord’s commands to love those who persecute you.
They were not to delight in the final destruction of their enemies or to harbor anger and rage at those who opposed them.
They were to pray for them to turn to Christ and to love them as they had opportunity, in practical ways.
Yet in the face of their terrible suffering and the severe injustice they experienced they were to keep the end in view.
God is just.
Injustice will not finally win the day.
If the unjust do not turn to Christ then they will finally and fully experience the fruits of their choices.
Even though they may control the legal system or live in a privileged state in the present, no one escapes justice in the end.
Either they will obey the gospel and Christ will take the weight of their sin on himself, thus satisfying God’s justice or they refuse to obey the gospel and they will take the weight of their sins on themselves.
This is a comforting truth and this is a terrifying truth.
It is comforting as you look around at the vast amount of injustice that is seemingly going unpunished in the world.
When the powerful prey on the weak and the wicked destroy the lives of the righteous it can cause one to question the justice of God…is he truly good and is he truly powerful?
But we can be comforted by the fact that justice will finally win the day.
Not comforted in the fact of the destruction of the unjust but comforted in the victory of the just God.
There are few things that cause more anger and anxiety than to see and experience injustice…it has happened to some degree to us all.
The sense of helplessness and hopelessness can be profound.
But God is our help and our hope and he will bring justice.
He intends for us to work for and pray for justice now, but we do not have to become hopeless or bitter when in spite of our efforts injustice seems to prevail.
This comforting truth is also a terrifying truth.
Christ our Savior will return as the judge of all the earth.
Those who do not obey the gospel will experience his justice personally.
It is easy to think about the legendary “unjust” getting their due…the Hitler’s of history.
But it is difficult to imagine the more “normal” people around us who reject the gospel experiencing the justice of God in their lives.
But if we are to take the Scriptures and Christ, seriously we must imagine just that.
CS Lewis famously wrote:
“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.” (C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce).
The exclusive nature of the claims of Christ can be troubling for some and infuriating for others.
Who is Jesus to believe that he is the only way? What kind of arrogance is that?
Who are Christians to believe that many sincere people are wrong? How unkind is that?
It is not arrogant or unkind if it is true…that is, in the end the question that counts…is it true?
Everyone is exclusive in their view of truth.
Those who believe there is no absolute in terms of religious truth are absolute in that belief.
That is they believe the person who believes in absolutes is absolutely wrong and that they are right to not believe in them.
If they believe they are right (that there no absolutes) and others are wrong, then what do you have but a person who is absolute in their belief that their are no absolutes.
If they are unsure about whether there are absolutes…then they admit to the possibility of them.
Everyone believes something is true, real…even those who say you cannot know…believe that you cannot know. (That is a truth claim)
The fact is everyone believes something is true and something is not true.
Those who believe Jesus is not the only way believe that He and his followers are wrong.
It is important as you consider verses such as the one for today and struggle with the exclusive nature of its claims that you keep in mind that either this verse is true or it is not.
It is not most important how you or anyone else “feels” about it.
If this verse is not real, then we should disregard it along with all the rest of Scripture.
If this verse is real, then it has very real bearing on our beliefs and behaviors today…and into the future.
We cannot merely “keep our options” option and just accept all views of reality as equally valid or equally invalid.
Everyday, everyone makes decisions about how they will live…those decisions require conclusions about what is true/real and what is not.
Belief is not a fixed reality…truth is…some believe what is true…some do not.
This is a fact whether we are discussing gravity, Big foot, or the claims of Christ…it is either true/real or not.
It doesn’t matter what people feel, or how many vote for or against it…truth wins in the end.
We need to align ourselves with what is true.
Here is my main objective this morning…in the second week of our fall season of closing the gap on faith and love…reaching out to others with the good news of Jesus.
I would like us to try and think clearly, reasonably about the exclusive claims of the gospel in the Bible…and the implications for those who reject the gospel.
Faith is not opposed to rational or reasonable thinking…it depends on it.
Is. 1:18 “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.
God will not be put on trial…but here he invites us to come and think with him about deep things…about redemption.
Not as his peers…but as his creation…his children.
The Bible itself is a book of historical narratives, poems, analogies, examples and principles.
It is a God inspired/human written book that doesn’t just say “Shut up and believe…don’t think have faith!”
It is full of reasons, experiences, thoughts, insights, commands, warnings and blessings…from God…given to shape our thinking and living.
The Bible is God’s word to us, telling us what we most need to know that only he can tell us.
Faith is not the absence of reason and evidence…faith is the presence of confidence
We have faith in God for good reason…he has made himself known in many ways.
The greatest of these ways is in the incarnation…Jesus’ life, death, resurrection.
This week feeds into next week where we will try to…
Set the exclusive gospel claims in balance with the larger perspective of a life lived as a faithful steward.
So…today as we consider the exclusive claims of Christ and the consequences of not believing and receiving the gospel…let’s look to Jesus.
Does he quality as the subject matter expert on this?
Why trust his claims of exclusivity?…he said he is the “only way to God”…is there reason to believe him?
Last week we looked at the verses just prior to John 3:16
Jesus said “No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven…me!”
Jesus is putting himself forward as the subject matter expert on truth itself.
And as the subject matter expert on truth…no one in the NT spoke more on the reality of Hell than Jesus…for instance
Matt. 10:28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
Jesus, said that he alone was the way, the truth, and the life…he was the door…not a door to eternal life.
So as you contemplate your own life and lifestyle…as well as the lives of people God has placed in and around your life…let’s go to Jesus, let’s start with him.
To consider how we should live in light of the claims of Jesus.
This morning we will look at two things that point to Jesus’ authority and his claims to exclusivity:
- Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s movement in human history
- Jesus is a singularity in human history
- Jesus the fulfillment of human history:
The OT points to Jesus.
Starting in Genesis, the way God provided for Adam and Eve’s shame in the garden…through a sacrifice pointed to the way God would provide or our sin and shame.
Then the prediction of Eve’s future offspring who would crush the serpent Satan…this offspring of course was Jesus.
The entire Exodus story…from start to finish points to Jesus.
The Tabernacle, the portable structure where the presence of God dwelt among his people during the Exodus.
And the Temple, the large structure where the presence of God dwelt among his people in Canaan.
Both pointed to Jesus
Each of these structures were made in two compartments.
The first and larger one was called the Holy Place, the smaller area was called the Most Holy Place or the Holy of Holies.
In this inner place what was called the “Shekinah glory” the visible symbol of God’s presence was revealed.
Between the two spaces was a “veil”, a thick curtain that barred access into the Holy of Holies.
No one was allowed to pass through into God’s presence except the high priest, and he only on the annual Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).
The priest could enter there only by taking the blood of a sacrifice for sins.
God gave these instructions to his people…generations before Christ came.
God set the stage of human history for the entrance of Jesus into the world.
The book of Hebrews over and over calls Jesus “The High Priest” who did not need a sacrifice for his sins but was the sacrifice for our sins.
When Jesus died the curtain that separated us from the Holy of Holies was torn, top to bottom.
All of this historical foreshadowing and the many different predictions that were fulfilled in Jesus.
Along with the incredible and lasting impact his life has had on human history demonstrate him as the center of human history.
- Jesus is a singularity in human history
A singularity is in theory where matter becomes infinitely dense in black hole.
It can also refer to something that is absolutely unique.
We can say “She’s one of a kind” and it is true that each person is unique…but it’s also true that all people are in many ways, similar.
Jesus is truly, absolutely, unique in all of human history.
His birth, his miracles, his death and resurrection…all absolutely unique…only one among the multiple billions.
The exclusive nature of his truth claims aligned with his unique life demand that we pay careful attention to him.
We have done this before, but it important to go through this regularly.
As you think of your life and the lives of others around you.
- In all of human history there have been four kinds of people
- Not unusually wise and good who do not claim to be god
- Unusually wise and good who do not claim to be god
- Not unusually wise and good who claim to be god
- unusually wise and good who claim to be God
- In all of human history there is one person in that forth category…Jesus.
- Therefore he is either a liar or lunatic (in which case he would not wise and good) or he is who he said he is…there are no other valid options.
Jesus is the subject matter expert on truth itself…what did he say?
John 14:6 “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Matt. 10:28 “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
Exclusive, absolutist claims…from Jesus.
They are claims about ultimate destiny.
So what do we do with all of this?
Part of that answer we will address next week…when we tie the reality of the exclusive and absolute claims of Jesus to our calling to be found faithful as his stewards.
- Have you believed the gospel? Have you personally transferred trust from self to Christ?
Matt. 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Rest from what?
Trying to earn and deserve. Rest from fear and doubt. Rest from insecurity. Our sins wear us out…rest from our own sin.
Rest into the acceptance of God our father.
- Are you a believer, a follower of Christ who has been paralyzed by questions?
So many questions:
-God’s sovereignty and human responsibility
-If God exists and is powerful and loving…why is there so much evil and suffering.
-Divisions among believers
-Ministers who abuse people, leaders who fail
-Science: reason and revelation
I understand being paralyzed by questions…but it is important that we are mobilized by answers.
Deut. 29:29 The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.
Sure there are questions…but we have profound, life changing answers.
Ponder the questions…but act on the answers.
Psa. 34:8 Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.
Clearly this is not God advocating to take a “blind leap of faith”…it is an invitation to experience him personally.
This is an offer from God to begin to accumulate personal experience with God.
To do so we must not be paralyzed by questions…even good ones.
We must be mobilized by answers…we have enough of them to live a life of reasonable faith…and to taste and see that God is good.
He has put eternity in your heart…it knows it was made for him.
Are you in touch with the reality that is deep in your heart?
To finish the message this morning…hear the story, the personal testimony of who has believed the gospel.
Crystal and Lindsey