Sermon Audio and Notes For Jan 30.

The audio is up from last week's message and can be found here or played in the player on the right sidebar.

My sermon prep notes and outline can be downloaded here in Adobe PDF.


Generational Belief

A week ago I wrote "Dual Covenant IS Replacement Theology" and the principles of that post have a tremendous bearing on how we read the entire Old Testament.  If we hold to a 'Dual Covenant' understanding, then the promises of the OT can be simply relegated to Israel and the Church can be placed under a different paradigm.  However if their is one covenant people, and has always been one covenant people then the OT promises to Israel have some bearing on the NT Church.  (If you have no idea what I am talking about, read that post.)

Throughout the Old Testament we see generational promises made to the Old Testament saints.  For instance:
Genesis 17:7-10 ESV  And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.  (8)  And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God."  (9)  And God said to Abraham, "As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations.  (10)  This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised.
Clearly the OT covenant of circumcision was generational, intended not only for Abraham, but for his sons.  This is not something that was dependent on the faithfulness of his sons, they were to be circumcised prior to their ability to believe.  It was a covenant that was independent of the will of those who entered into it.

Throughout the Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy we see an emphasis on generational blessing and cursing, and a generational expectation.  The faith has always been expected to be handed down parent to child, one generation to the next.  The very curse in the garden was generational.  There are countless examples like Genesis 17:7-10 that we could draw on.
Deuteronomy 7:9 ESV  Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations
 The idea of generational blessing and cursing is an integral component of our faith.  So what does this have to do with Dual Covenants and Replacement Theology?  It has everything to do with it.  If we affirm (which I do not) Dual Covenants, one for the Church one for Israel, then we will presume the generational blessings belong entirely to Israel whereas the Church enters the covenant individually based on their moment of conversion.  I contend that the lack of understanding of the generational nature of God's work on our behalf has given revivalism a foothold and has caused the church to be incredibly individualistic.

If someone asks you, 'How did you come to believe?' it is perfectly acceptable to answer because my parents did and I was raised to believe.  That doesn't sit well with most conservative Evangelicals but it sits very well with the scriptural norm.  I do not deny that everyone must be converted, and that we all 'generationally' inherit Adam's sinful nature, nonetheless in a very real sense parents are a means of grace to their children and many children are converted well before they are aware that they were lost.  Again, I know this will not sit well with many, but why not?

The idea that the Church is blessed in an entirely different way than 'ethnic' Israel is an idea that has destroyed generational Christianity.  In the dual covenant scheme, the generational promises apply only to Israel, and Christan's 'get in' one at a time.  How does this play out practically?  Well for one, kids who have believed and loved the Lord their entire lives are told they aren't 'born-again' and are led down to an altar to be saved... even though they were already redeemed.  This happens more than you think.  It leaves people looking to their moment of conversion as a source of hope, and not to God's faithfulness to them through their parents, grandparents, and so on.  It leaves us feeling helpless as we raise our own children, and even questioning how we are going to manage to get them to have a 'salvation experience' when they have seemed to believe for so long already.  People end up looking at the back of their pocket testament to see their date of conversion, instead of celebrating the faithfulness of their parents in bestowing the faith to them from an early age.  It even leads to generational disrespect towards those who went before us.  Can you see the implications, I am sure there are more.  If you can ditch the bogus Dual Covenant notion, and begin applying the generational nature of our faith to the church, many of these problems go away.

I do not believe someone is saved just because their parents are!  I believe people are saved because Christ atoned for them on the cross.  The reality is that this truth, and the application of this truth to the individual happens through generational means, and through evangelism... not evangelism only.


Missing Link Monday - 01.17.2011

Missing link Monday is devoted to exposing Christ in the 2 Old Testament readings from the Revised Common Lectionary from the previous day.

The first text was Isaiah 49:1-7 follow the link to read the text.

The connection to Christ in this passage is a very direct one.  It is Christ speaking directly through the prophet.  Not much leg work needs done to make the connection.  Isaiah 49:2 connects directly to Revelation 1:16 which is a clear image of Christ.  Isaiah 49:7 makes clear that the speaker is "Redeemer of Israel" which we know is a title only Christ may bear.  The point is that these are the direct words of Christ through Isaiah.

The second text was Psalm 40:1-11

In Hebrews 10:5 we find the author loosely quoting Psalm 40:6-8 and he attributes the quote to Christ.  At the very least Christ quoted this text as his own words at some point.  This text is a celebration of news of deliverance and frankly the entire thing screams of Christ.  Psalm 40:9-11 speaks of the Gospel announcement.

Clearly in the case of both Isaiah 49 and Psalm 40, the text would be entirely missed if it was not preached thoroughly saturated with Christ.  It is only from a New Testament Christocentric approach that these two passages can be understood.


Sermon - 01.16.2011 - Revelation 1:1-20

The link below will take you to the message I preached this morning at Delta United Methodist Church.  The message cut out so the last 5 minutes or so is unfortunately dead air.  Hopefully this will not be the case in the future.  It does cut out for 5 or 6 seconds once before the final cut out as well.  Click the link below, or listen in the player to the right (sometimes it takes a few hours for it to show up in the player to the right, if it's not there, just follow the link below.)

Sermon - 01.16.2011- Revelation 1:1-20

Also below is a link to the outline I preached from if you are interested.

Notes - Rev1 - 2011.01.16



Dual Covenant IS Replacement Theology

I apologize for the length of some of these posts, I need to consider breaking them into 2 days possibly.

The common accusation against postmillennial and amillennial eschatology is that it affirms "replacement theology".  Whenever you read defenses of premillennialism it is inevitable that the 'replacement theology' accusation will arise, every single time.  Essentially, if you do not want to follow the links, replacement theology affirms that the New Testament Church replaces Israel.  The point of contention is whether or not modern day Israel is still the covenant people of God along with the Church also being the covenant people of God.  Replacement theology, asserts that there is one covenant people and it's not Israel. it's the church.  The premillennialist typically holds some sort of Dual covenant theology where they believe that ethnic Israel is still the covenant people of God, as well as the Church, and eventually they will be brought together, and Israel will come to see Christ as their redeemer... when the time is right, but not right now.

Let me say first that I completely disagree with the idea of a dual covenant, there is one name by which people are saved and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, and his people, the church, indeed are the 'true Israel' the real children of Abraham.  So to say that 'national' or 'ethnic' Israel are the chosen, as well as the church, is something I disagree with, and scriptural support abounds for this disagreement.  On the other hand I vehemently disagree with 'replacement theology' as well.  The Church has not replaced Israel as the 'true Israel', the Church simply IS the true Israel.  Moreover Israel was the church before the incarnation.  The Church was born long before Pentecost, the church began when a promise was made that the seed of the woman would crush the serpent in Genesis.

A proper understanding of all scripture centers on Christ as the beginning, as well as the consummation of all things.  In the old testament the believers of Israel and her proselytes (gentile believers) were his people.  In the new testament the believers of Israel and her proselytes (gentile believers) are his people.  There has been no change!  The only difference is that much of ethnic Israel rejected her messiah and much of the gentile world were grafted in by that same Messiah.

Just think of how Israel was created... Promise to Abraham... Delivered from Egypt by blood of passover lamb... delivered through water (Red Sea / Jordan River)... Redeemed by grace even though Law was constantly violated.  The means of deliverance and salvation through the water and the blood, is the same means of deliverance in Christ, and Christ is the embodiment of those events.  Jesus is the bread of heaven... the same as the manna which sustained Israel.  Every old testament redemption finds its fulfillment in Christ, it was Christ in the passover, it was his baptism in the red sea, it was his body that sustained them as manna in the wilderness.  Israel was delivered, redeemed, and sustained by Christ.  The church is delivered, redeemed, and sustained by Christ.  The point is that True Israel and the Church are one body and the Church and True Israel are one body.  Replacement theology assumes a change that has not happened.  Ethnic Israel has always had unbelievers in her midst that stood condemned, and always had a remnant that was the 'true Israel' by faith.  I am not sure how people miss this.

Now, because there has always been one church, one true Israel, and because they are one and the same institution, we would have to say that the Dual Covenant people practice replacement theology in reverse.  Looking backward on history they replace the church with Israel!  They should see Israel as the old testament church, instead they replaced the church with ethnic Israel, and are left trying to put everything together with some dual covenant nonsense.

Is this even important?  YES!  The point, church, is that Israel's story is your story!  The call to "remember when the Lord brought you out of Egypt" is a call to you.  It is your history, it is your family, it is your promises.  Moreover when thinking back to old testament church, the promises that we have seen fulfilled in Christ are their promises, their redemption, their grace.  We are one! Our separation is that we exist chronologically after Christ, and they existed before him, but remember he is not only omega, but alpha as well. We have had the fortune of seeing the things they longed for.



Salvation Experience!?

I am not a big fan of personal testimonies.  One of the big ideas in modern evangelism is to share your personal testimony with people.  Most of the time when you hear people tell their testimonies it is an embellishment to make them appear worse than they were before they were saved, and better than they are now, but that is beside the point.  When people want to talk about their moment of salvation it usually comes back to some time when they heard the word preached, were at a revival, in a conversation with another believer, in the backseat of a car, or whatever.  I have heard testimony after testimony like these, and I think that every one of them is wrong about their moment of salvation.  I can think of a few significant moments that I can remember when I became acutely aware of the work Christ did for me, but those were not the moments I was 'saved', and the reality is that memories change, and I probably do not even remember those moments exactly as they were.  Moreover, at my baptism I was inaugurated into the covenant community that professes belief in the work Christ did for us, so in some sense that was a salvific experience because in that moment I was identified with my salvation experience (please I am not saying baptismal regeneration here, but I most certainly am not rendering baptism a simple rite of passage either).  Nonetheless I was not 'saved' at my baptism.

There is a huge misunderstanding in Christian testimony, and the sharing of testimonies often misses the Gospel altogether.  I am not against the community of faith sharing various personal testimonies, but I am against the sharing of 'salvation testimonies', I will explain why, after I share my salvation testimony.

So here is my testimony:
Jesus, the son of God, 2000 years ago in real history lived a legally, ethically, morally perfect life which led Him eventually to a garden.  Jesus knelt in that garden called Gethsemane in prayer and agreed to the eternal plan of the Father to drink 'the cup'.  The cup was indeed the cup of wrath against all sin (Psalm 75:8).  After Jesus prayed he was led out of the garden, put on trial and sentenced to die on a Roman cross.  On the cross Jesus endured the punishment for the sin of the world and drank down that cup of wrath.  As he consumed the last of that cup the rocks tore into pieces (because the world is held together in Christ) and the veil temple was torn (because Christ is our protection/mediator in the holy of holies).  When done, he proclaimed 'It [the cup] is finished'.  Jesus died, the wrath of God was consumed by Him.  On the third day after his death Jesus rose again, validating that He is Son of God, and that He was victorious over sin.
The question that will be asked is "how can you share your testimony without mentioning yourself?"  I guess what I wonder is why other people's testimonies contain so much about themselves.  I only contributed one thing to my salvation, and that was the sin that necessitated it.

Jesus' life, death, and resurrection is my salvation experience.  It is my experience because my sin was in Christ as he was enduring the wrath of God.  It is my experience because Christ rose victoriously over sin on my behalf.  It is my experience, because his perfect righteousness has been given to me.  It is my story because it was His body, given FOR ME.  It was His blood, shed FOR ME.  That is my experience.

Here is why I do not like 'personal testimonies', because the historical salvation experience I shared above is the salvation experience of everyone who has ever believed whether they know it or not.  Personal testimony should give way to corporate testimony!  We all share the same testimony which is why we are united.  We have all been adopted by the same Father, through the same means.

Now, is there a place to celebrate the effects that the Gospel has had on our lives?  Absolutely!  If personal testimony is the sharing of Gospel fruit, the edifying of one another because of what Christ has done for us, and celebrating how that has affected our families, our lives, our peace, then great!  However when it comes to salvation experience, we all have the same one, that happened at the same time, through the same person.

If someone asks you to point to your moment of conversion, point them to the true historical narrative of your salvation.... which occurred nearly 2000 years ago.


Missing Link Monday - 01.10.2011

Missing Link Monday” is devoted to viewing the OT and Psalm reading from the Revised Common Lectionary with the focus on the Christ.  Recall again that Christ himself has proclaimed that the OT finds its fulfillment in him, and that the scriptures all point to him.  It is incumbent upon us to approach all OT scripture with the presupposition that it indeed points to Christ.

Reading 1: Isaiah 42:1-9
Reading 2: Psalm 29

Reading 1: Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law. Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it: "I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols. Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them." 
(Isaiah 42:1-9 ESV)

The beginning of this text is loosely quoted at the Baptism of the Lord.  (Note that this week is 'Baptism of the Lord Sunday' in the lectionary.)  Later in the text we read "I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness." We are reminded of this text in Luke 4:18, yet in Luke we read Jesus applying this text to himself, effectively announcing that he is the fulfillment of this text.  The link in this text is clear, and it is made explicitly by Christ.  Now, as it is clear that this text is about Christ, and the 'servant' referenced in this text is him, what does that tell us of the meaning of this text?  It tells us of his faithfulness to burning wicks (a horrid smelling thing) and bruised reeds (useful for nothing), in other words his faithfulness to people like us who have done nothing to deserve it.  He brings forth justice, He is given as a covenant for the people, light for the nations... and so on.  Now, the danger of preaching a text like this is not making the link to Christ primary, but instead taking the 'servant' to be you.  Of course Christ is exemplary and we should be about the same things he is, but the 'Servant' in this text is Him, not you.


Reading 2: A Psalm of David. Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness. The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD, over many waters. The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty. The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon. He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox. The voice of the LORD flashes forth flames of fire. The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness; the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. The voice of the LORD makes the deer give birth and strips the forests bare, and in his temple all cry, "Glory!" The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD sits enthroned as king forever. May the LORD give strength to his people! May the LORD bless his people with peace! 
(Psalms 29:1-11 ESV)

This text at the outset seems a little tougher to show it's relation to Christ, or how it traces back to Him, but it certainly does.  Take a quick look at Psalm 29:1 and then look at Revelation 5:11-14.

Psalm 29:1 - A Psalm of David. Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength
Revelation 5:11-14 - Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!" And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!" And the four living creatures said, "Amen!" and the elders fell down and worshiped.

The very first verse of the Psalm is crying out to heavenly beings to worship the Lord, to ascribe to Him glory and strength.  In the Revelation we see with greater clarity what the Psalmist writes of.  The living creatures in heaven are doing exactly what the Psalmist commands saying, "Worthy is the Lamb.. to receive, power, wealth, wisdom, might, honor, glory, and blessing."  Of course "The Lamb" references the Christ.  In revelation we see the picture of the Psalm reading, and we see that it is Christ that this Psalm refers to.  Moreover we see countless references to the "voice of the Lord", knowing that Christ is the eternal word of God, and is the very 'voice' of the Godhead.  This 29th Psalm, like all other Psalms has its real understanding when viewed in light of the new testament revelation of the Christ.


Methodists are Mythical Creatures #2

For those who did not read last Thursday's post, this is a continuation of it.  You don't necessarily need to read that post to get the gist of what is being said here, but you would do well to read it.  What I am doing is making the assessment that a Methodist is a mythical creature (ie a true Methodist does not exist) if you define Methodist by the same definition of John Wesley.  Again, I point you to the previous post if you are looking for a little more background info and context. (Please don't comment on this post unless you have at least skimmed the beginning of last Thursday's post.)

Again, this post is a response to a tract Wesley wrote entitled "The Character of a Methodist" and we continue in paragraph 6.

6. [A Methodist] is therefore happy in God, yea, always happy, as having in him "a well of water springing up into everlasting life," and overflowing his soul with peace and joy. "Perfect love" having now "cast out fear," he "rejoices evermore." He "rejoices in the Lord always," even "in God his Saviour;" and in the Father, "through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom he hath now received the atonement."
 Again, we see John Wesley declaring, only not explicitly, that a Methodist is perfect.  Of course we know that Wesley taught Christian perfection, but this tract goes a long way toward telling us what this "Christian Perfection" looks like.  Wesley uses very absolute terms to describe a Methodist, a Methodist is "always happy".  This is a standard which the Christ Himself, though perfect, never obtained.  Happy always is a perfection beyond perfect, an utter impossibility.  Can you yet be happy when the name of God is blasphemed before you?  My fellow United Methodist, are you a Methodist by Wesley's standard?  I have never met a man or woman who was happy for 24 straight hours, let alone happy 'always'.  Beyond always being happy, the Methodist also "rejoices in the Lord always",  um, yeah... no comment.  Essentially what we see Wesley saying is that the Methodist is someone who perfectly keeps the Law.  Now let's be fair, Wesley is not saying that a Methodist is justified by the Law, he is saying that a justified Methodist upholds the Law completely.  Again let's be fair, I know that many will falsely make this accusation, but he is not falling into the Galatian error of justification by works.  Let's move on to the eight paragraph.

8. For indeed he "prays without ceasing." It is given him "always to pray, and not to faint." Not that he is always in the house of prayer; though he neglects no opportunity of being there. Neither is he always on his knees, although he often is, or on his face, before the Lord his God. Nor yet is he always crying aloud to God, or calling upon him in words: For many times "the Spirit maketh intercession for him with groans that cannot be uttered." But at all times the language of his heart is this: "Thou brightness of the eternal glory, unto thee is my heart, though without a voice, and my silence speaketh unto thee." And this is true prayer, and this alone. But his heart is ever lifted up to God, at all times and in all places. In this he is never hindered, much less interrupted, by any person or thing.
Does this even need comment?  I certainly believe this tract to adequately describe the desire which the Spirit grants believers.  We long in our inward parts for this perfection, this perfect union, this absolute uprightness.  Yet let us be clear that we still struggle and fail constantly to reach the standards of God, the very standards which we desire to reach.  However according to Wesley a Methodist is someone who does not fail, does not sin, does not cease in prayer... EVER.  The Methodist is "never hindered, much less interrupted, by any person or thing."  Are you convinced yet that a Methodist in Wesley's terms is a figment of the imagination?  Again, I am not saying that it is okay to NOT pray without ceasing, it is sin to stop, which is why we continually need the blood of Christ!

10. For [The Methodist] is "pure in heart." The love of God has purified his heart from all revengeful passions, from envy, malice, and wrath, from every unkind temper or malign affection.
 11. Agreeable to this his one desire, is the one design of his life, namely, "not to do his own will, but the will of Him that sent him." His one intention at all times and in all things is, not to please himself, but Him whom his soul loveth. He has a single eye.
As if this is not enough, and I have skipped much, to prove that a Methodist is a mythical creature, let me sum up the whole shebang with the entire 13th paragraph.  For those who love Wesley (and much of what he has done and said I love) please explain what follows to me.

 13. All the commandments of God he accordingly keeps, and that with all his might. For his obedience is in proportion to his love, the source from whence it flows. And therefore, loving God with all his heart, he serves him with all his strength. He continually presents his soul and body a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God; entirely and without reserve devoting himself, all he has, and all he is, to his glory. All the talents he has received, he constantly employs according to his Master's will; every power and faculty of his soul, every member of his body. Once he "yielded" them "unto sin" and the devil, "as instruments of unrighteousness;" but now, "being alive from the dead, he yields" them all "as instruments of righteousness unto God."
So member of the United Methodist Church, or other Wesleyan tradition, have you met the standard of Wesley's sect?  Later in the tract Wesley asserts that what he has put forth is just basic fundamental Christianity.  The reality is that he has just expressed the Law from the New Testament to the utter neglect of the Gospel.  This tract is an utter fail, one which could lead followers of Wesley in only two possible directions, the first being despair, for they will never achieve the 'Methodist' standard.  Or the other being delusion, actually believing they have met that standard, though they obviously have not.

I'd love to hear from a real 'Methodist' respond here, I've always wanted to meet a fairytale creature.


Presupposing Good News

Matthew 4:21-22 is a great text to test yourself with if you are a pastor, teacher, parent, or anyone else who plans to share Christ with others.  So I would ask you as you read the text to take about 15 seconds before you read on, just to think about the critical point that should be shared from this text.  

And going on from there [Jesus] saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. (Matthew 4:21-22 ESV)

Seriously take a few seconds to consider what you would teach from this passage.

The common teaching on this text focuses on the immediate response of the disciples to Christ's call.  The teachings I am accustomed to hearing exhort us to hear the call and respond immediately like the disciples did.  We hear of the sacrifice that the disciples made to follow Jesus, and the amazing leap of faith they took to follow this preacher.  Most preaching I have heard is a very man centered, and man exalting view focusing not on the calling of Christ, but on the response of the disciples.  This approach takes this passage to be Law, a calling to immediate obedience, to be willing to lay it all down.  I hear preachers ask questions like "What is keeping you from dropping your nets", or "Are you willing like Zebedee to let your children drop all to follow Christ."  This type of preaching on this text is an utter failure to give the congregation anything.

Of course on the flip side the Calvinist is likely to take this text and lay out the case for irresistible grace, and use this text to speak of the effectual call of Christ.  I definitely think the Calvinist approach is better in that it puts Christ and His will front and center, but it still falls short in offering good news to anyone.  If you take this approach you will give your people wonderful evidence for the truth of your system of theology, and I do think this text makes a good case for irresistible grace but if it is preached this way it falls short of actually offering that irresistible grace to anyone.  Reducing this text to a diatribe about effectual call removes the fact that this story is news for you.  This is the place where the Calvinist preacher needs to be careful, the tendency is to explain the details of the Gospel, but failing to actually deliver that Gospel to the people as something done for them.

How I would approach this text to preach it?  First as I preach I am called to feed the sheep, and to give good news.  So I approach every text knowing that it is either directly proclaiming good news, or pointing to good news, and it is my job to make that connection and give it to the people God has entrusted to me.  Often times, especially if the text is a heavy law text, I must walk the people down a very dark road to bring them to grace, nonetheless I know approaching the text that the end goal is to arrive upon the good news of Christ who lived, died, and resurrected for us.  I know that is where I am going, but the text I preach determines the route I take.  So as I approach Matthew 4:21-22 I am looking for good news.

This approach almost immediately eliminates the possibility of preaching that "you better drop your net right now if you plan on ever being Jesus' disciple".  At the very least it eliminates the possibility of that being the main point. So begin to look at the text, find a few good commentaries and try to glean some historical context looking for good news.  Here is what you find.

It was always an honor to you and your family if you followed a prominent rabbi.  You would also note that Jesus had been gaining prominence in the Synagogue since as early as 12 years old.  Jesus was already rising in fame as a teacher and for a Jew to be asked by him to be a disciple would be a tremendous honor both to him and his family.  The word 'immediately' in our text speaks not to the greatness of the disciple, but to the greatness of the Christ whom they would immediately follow.  Moreover you would learn with a little study that the reputation of a rabbi was tightly related to the prominence of his disciples. The best rabbis would select the brightest and most promising of disciples because their students reflected them.  It is the same reason ivy league schools will court the most intelligent high school students for their university.

Put this together, Jesus a rabbi growing in prominence reaches the age where he is going to call his disciples.  He calls common fishermen.  He sacrifices his own reputation as a teacher to call those who would not likely ever be called by anyone.  What is the message here?  undeserved GRACE.  The greatest of all teachers stoops down to call the common men as His disciples.  That is the message here.  The point is not that God is so sovereign that his grace is irresistible, the point is that he is so good to me the lowliest of low that I cannot resist this good grace.  The point is not that the disciples were so obedient in the immediate response, the point was that they received an offer they never in a million years would have expected to receive.

Take it further, Jesus knew the people he was choosing.  He knew one would betray, he knew the others would run and hide, He knew the weakness of them.  Yet he still chose them.  Jesus condescended in so many ways on this earth, and this passage is a prime example of his condescension for people like us, yet we strip this passage of all of its goodness when we make it about OUR immediate response, or the irresistible effectual call.

If you are ever placed in a position where you are called on to preach or teach, make sure that you are presupposing that your text leads to good news.  Mine the text for precious gems of grace and deliver that grace to your people.  The sheep in America, and I imagine around the world, are starving for the good news of a good Christ that condescended for them.  When people hear this news, and it is impressed with reality upon their hearts, then they too will drop their nets and follow immediately, not because of their great courage, but because of his great offer.


Missing Link Monday - 01.03.2011

Jeremiah 31:7-14 and Psalm 147:12-20

This is the first installment of “Missing Link Monday” which is devoted to viewing the OT and Psalm reading from the Revised Common Lectionary with the focus on the Christ.  Recall again that Christ himself has proclaimed that the OT finds its fulfillment in him, and that the scriptures all point to him.  It is incumbent upon us to approach all OT scripture with the presupposition that it indeed points to Christ.

Reading 1 – For thus says the LORD: "Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, and raise shouts for the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, 'O LORD, save your people, the remnant of Israel.' Behold, I will bring them from the north country and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, the pregnant woman and she who is in labor, together; a great company, they shall return here. With weeping they shall come, and with pleas for mercy I will lead them back, I will make them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble, for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn. "Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, and declare it in the coastlands far away; say, 'He who scattered Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.' For the LORD has ransomed Jacob and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him. They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion, and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the LORD, over the grain, the wine, and the oil, and over the young of the flock and the herd; their life shall be like a watered garden, and they shall languish no more. Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow. I will feast the soul of the priests with abundance, and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness, declares the LORD." (Jeremiah 31:7-14 ESV)

This passage is pretty straight forward and does not require much time to make the connection.  The clear line being “For the Lord has ransomed Jacob...”  This language is clear of a price paid to set free the people of Israel.  Moreover “...from hands too strong for him”, implies that this is a work entirely of God and therefore grace because Jacob was in the clutches of an enemy, sin, which he could not deliver himself from.  He who scattered, will gather as a shepherd... again we see very Messianic language pointing to the One, Christ, who would gather the lost sheep of Israel.  If you are looking through the lens of the Gospel, and knowing that Christ is the fulfillment of the prophets, and approaching this text with that in mind, it is nearly impossible to miss the fact that this reading screams of the Gospel and points with clarity to Christ.

Reading 2 - Praise the LORD, O Jerusalem! Praise your God, O Zion! For he strengthens the bars of your gates; he blesses your children within you. He makes peace in your borders; he fills you with the finest of the wheat. He sends out his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly. He gives snow like wool; he scatters hoarfrost like ashes. He hurls down his crystals of ice like crumbs; who can stand before his cold? He sends out his word, and melts them; he makes his wind blow and the waters flow. He declares his word to Jacob, his statutes and rules to Israel. He has not dealt thus with any other nation; they do not know his rules. Praise the LORD!
(Psalms 147:12-20 ESV)

In this text we see the power of the Lord in the created realm, we see authority over the harvest, over peace, over the strength of a fortified city, over snow, and ice.  We also see the power of His word and statutes.  If you qualify this passage with Colossians 1:16 or the beginning of John 1 you begin to see who the authority figure that is doing the work in this passage is.  It is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ.  This section of this Psalm should be preached so as to open a window into the character and mind of Christ.  Notice the role of ‘his word’ in this passage and the power accompanied with it.  Moreover notice the role of the Lord towards Israel, notice that he has dealt more thoroughly with them, he has come as one of them, for them, their rejection of him is nearly unthinkable, but it is that very rejection that opens the door for the gentiles to be grafted in.