Sermon: 1 Timothy 4

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The Simplicity of Simplicity is Simple

I read this sentence, which struck me as one of the most ironical sentences I’ve ever read.

The Evangelical Commitment to a Simple Lifestyle is a lengthy document.”

How is that not funny? People wrote a lengthy document on how to live simple. People who live simple don’t write lengthy documents about how to live simple. That’s called an oxy-moron, among other things.

Besides being “radical,” perhaps the latest fad word about following Christ is “simplicity.”

I’m a guy who is all for simplicity. I hate stuff. Simplicity is my middle name. I love keeping things simple. I was simplistic before simplicity was cool. I know simplicity when I see it.

That’s why this new call to simplicity strikes me as funny. Almost 8,000 books show up on Amazon about simplicity. This stupid piece of kitsch is a perfect example.

stuff

Anyone who believed this would never buy this!

You don’t need a book to tell you how to be simple. You don’t. Just stop doing most stuff, quit buying stuff, throw stuff away, and boom, you’re left with simple!

Some people call this obedience to Christ; I call it garbage day.

There is a simplicity in following Christ. If we truly did it, all we’d do is do what He said. That’s it. You don’t need a book on that, besides the one He wrote.

Beware of the theology that over-explains the simple. You are being fed human philosophy, not biblical discipleship.

In the lengthy document, The Evangelical Commitment to a Simple Lifestyle, there is very little of the Bible and much of fitting in with a hip version of Christianesque philosophy.

Be not deceived by the simplicity that is in Christ.

Radical Faith is Faith Without Anything Radical

There are many books out about radically following of Jesus. They always make me nervous.

What bugs me most about these “radical” books is how little in the way of radical they contain.

In fact, most pretty much say the same old stuff.

A recent one I read said part of radically following Christ was to do all we can to stop global warming. Really? That’s radical? That’s following Christ?

Of course, this radically following Jesus book, with a whole chapter on environmental stewardship, quoted exactly zero verses from Christ about it.

That’s fine if you want to sustain your environment, Jesus certainly doesn’t say not to. But He also never puts it as a prime area of faith, or even mentions it.

Unless “radical” means “stupid,” I fail to see how any of these books capture radical discipleship.

Although we like to use extreme terms, attention grabbing titles, and adrenaline pumping rah-rah stuff, God steers away from it.

Jesus does not seem radical to me. He seems quiet, going about His business, doing what His Father told Him with the full expectation He would be rejected.

In fact, one of the most radical aspects of discipleship is the total absence of radicalness.

Christianity is day-to-day. Choice after choice. Step by step. Typically it is made up of mundane obedience minus excitement.

We are running a very long race with patience, not radical effort here and there when we feel emotionally pumped up enough.

We’re in it for the long haul, not the short sprint.

Want to be radical? Then have a faith that does not resemble the world and its interests, its desire to be attention grabbing and radical, rather than peaceful, quiet, and obedient.

The Virgin Birth And You

The virgin birth of Christ is one of those things Christians affirm, the world mocks, and everyone is confused by.

Christ was born in the flesh, as a baby. Unlike all other babies, He was not created from the natural reproductive process. He had no physical father.

Rather, somehow or another, God placed within Mary the fetus that was Christ. This does not mean God had sex with Mary, please don’t go there.

God brings things into existence by His Word and His Spirit. That’s what happened, and then Jesus was born.

The virgin birth isn’t just a doctrine, it’s also a very cool explanation of spiritual life.

Jesus told Nicodemus he had to be born again. Nicodemus was confused, “Do I have to re-enter my mother’s womb and be born again?” Typical natural person’s response.

Jesus was, of course, talking about spiritual birth, being born as a child of God. Spiritual rebirth.

Here’s our linkage:

Just as the spiritual Jesus Christ was born through spiritual means to be physical; we physical people are born again through spiritual means to be spiritual.

Got it?

You must be born again. Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God.

Christ was made like us so we would be made like Him. It is through the Spirit that Christ was made like us, and it’s through the Spirit we are made like Him.

Just as Christ had a virgin birth, so to do believers have a rebirth that is of divine means, not normal physical means.

When we are born after the same manner of Christ–by spiritual means–Christ is not ashamed to call us “brothers” since we now have the same Father.

There is coolness here. Enjoy the coolness.

Merry Christmas.

Justified In The Spirit

1 Timothy 3:16 says that Jesus was “justified in the Spirit.

That is a confusing idea to us because of how we typically define “justified.”

Repeatedly we have been told that “justified” means “To be declared righteous.” This is fine, since that’s what it means.

Unfortunately, what comes next in people’s explanation of “justified” undermines that definition!

Typically, what comes nest is, “You were a sinner, but God changed His mind about you and now thinks you are righteous. You’ve been taken out of the sinner column and placed into the righteous column. God is really happy with you now!”

“Justified” then seems to have its place in God’s head. Justification is a cosmic mind-game. Yes, you are a sinner, but God decides to ignore that and think of you as righteous anyway.

This is where it all falls apart.

“Justified” means “to be declared or shown righteous.” Jesus Christ was never a sinner. The phrase about Jesus being “justified in the Spirit” means that God has declared that His Son is righteous, and through the Spirit He shows this righteousness through all He said and did.

“Justified” for us should mean the same thing. In other words, we should think of our justification along the same lines as the justification of Jesus Christ.

The issue isn’t one of “you used to be a sinner but now God thinks you are righteous,” but rather who you are in Christ declares and shows that you are righteous.

In other words, Christ, by His Spirit, mortifies the deeds of the flesh, makes you the righteousness of God, and equips you to do the righteousness of God.

Being a justified person means that you now have part in declaring and showing the righteousness of God.

That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

When we walk in the Spirit, we are showing and declaring God’s righteousness. It is then that we realize the full extent of justification.

Being Justified is not a mind trick, nor is it a legal declaration in some heavenly courtroom, nor an accounting device in God’s ledger.

It is much more than that. It is bodily taking part in the righteousness of God and declaring it loud and clear. This is all done by the Spirit at work in us and our being exercised by His doings.

Don’t minimize these great Biblical words. Especially don’t do this to justify your sin. You cannot live in sin, walk in the flesh and declare God’s righteousness. You can’t, doesn’t happen that way.

Justification is a huge deal. Yes, it is what makes us right with God, but it is also what equips us to declare His righteousness. God won’t leave you alone, He will have you declare His righteousness!

“In Him we have redemption through His blood…” (Ephesians 1:7). To identify with the death of Jesus Christ means that we must die to everything that was never a part of Him.

“God is just in saving bad people only as He makes them good. Our Lord does not pretend we are all right when we are all wrong.”
Oswald Chambers

Curiosity, Dead Cats, and Faith

Curiosity is what did in humanity. I heard someone say the serpent in the Garden of Eden had the easiest job ever.

Humanity was going to eat that fruit. This is our assumption, of course, being born into a race of people who have already eaten the fruit!

I think Adam and Eve were pretty cool with things until that idea sprang up. It took another creature to spur the thought.

Curiosity is usually seen as a bad thing.

“Curiosity killed the cat” is the old saying. So, clearly we can learn from this that curiosity can be a good thing. Clearly it has redeeming qualities, amen?

Curiosity is generally frowned upon by those in authority. Much of religion that people have a problem with, is human power enforced with fear.

Human power fears curiosity. Curiosity might throw back the curtain revealing the tiny man back there running the show. It’s why the Church burned scientists.

God does not seem to mind curiosity. He’s big enough to handle it. He seems fairly thrilled to have people who have the guts to ask the impossible. He frowns upon group thinking, and even warns us not to go on the broad road.

However, curiosity can still be dangerous, it did lead to Adam and Eve’s sin–I wonder what would happen if we ate that fruit?

There is a curiosity that is contrary to faith. A curiosity that is testing God rather than wonderment.

When curiosity says “I wonder if I can get away with not listening?” Then you’re in bad curiosity.

Curiosity and faith are linked. Curiosity and sin are linked. “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” Curiosity has a place, but one must also be careful.

Knowing when to be curious and when to shut up and do what you’re told is part of the fight of faith. Choose wisely.

I believe this is one reason why faith isn’t about knowing rules, but knowing the Rule Giver. If you don’t know the character of God, you’ll have a hard time discerning between faith and testing God.

You won’t know when to be curious and when not to be. Know God. Know when to be curious.

When “I Don’t Know” is Good and Bad

My kids began playing a trivia game with friends at school. In an effort to make sure my kids are doing good things, I began playing it as well.

Through playing this game, it has become clear to me that there are certain things I know and other things I have no clue. I have gotten many questions wrong about actresses and actors, the TV show Friends, and stuff about the periodic table.

I have been on this planet for over 40 years. I have now had plenty of time to learn what I wanted.

Therefore, I must conclude that the stuff I don’t know at this point in life, I don’t know simply because I didn’t want to know it.

I will grant the point that there are many things that are beyond our knowing: unrevealed wisdom of God, truly how life is created in the womb, where life was before that, how everything has not yet flown apart, why women think the way they do, etc.

There are subjects where “I don’t know” has to be the definitive word. I am not speaking about those things.

I am speaking of stuff that could be learned.

Trivia games also reveal to me how much completely stupid stuff I know. Why do I know who sings “Free Falling” and all the lyrics? Why do I know that Michael Jackson’s Thriller album is the top-selling album of all time?

I almost feel dumber having known these things.

Especially in light of the fact that I can’t quote many verses, or remember where they are found.

If I have time to play a stupid trivia game, do I not have the time to learn things in the trivia game? Do I not then also clearly demonstrate I have time to learn things that God would have me to learn?

I believe entertainment will be one of the big things used against us on the Day of Judgment. “You had 1,300 hours on Candy Crush, yet you don’t know the Beatitudes? According to spell-check, you didn’t even know how to spell Beatitudes right the first time. Seriously?”

There are many things I didn’t know, that I now know. The reason I know them is because I wanted to know them. I really did.

Yes, there are many things I’d like to know that I don’t know, but apparently I really didn’t want to learn them, otherwise I’d know them.

It might be priorities, that’s the best spin. But it’s probably more laziness and apathy. Satan is an artist at distraction.

You will stand before the Lord one day, what ought you to learn before that point? Not the cast of Friends, I can tell you that.

There are many things I want to know. I will prove how much I want to know them by the test of whether I learn them or not.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.