Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Sermon on the Mount 21:Hypocrisy and the Ethic of the Kingdom--Prayer

If you missed the audio of the previous sermon, just follow the link to our page on Sermon Audio and you will find it.

No commentary from me this time; just enjoy the sermon as we continue to hear Jesus' "Gospel of the Kingdom".

Part 21: Hypocrisy and the Ethic of the Kingdom--Prayer

Brief Sermon Overview:

In introducing His kingdom's ethic, Jesus first showed, through a series of contrasts/comparisons, that it stands upon the fulfillment of the Law of Moses. From there He applied the same sort of approach to three notable examples of Israel's practical piety (6:1-18). The second of those involves prayer, and in this passage Jesus effectively demonstrated that authentic prayer belongs only to those who have been renewed and reconciled to God in Christ. The reason is that prayer expresses actual communion between God and men, and there is no communion where a human being is estranged from God. What the world calls "prayer" is really only one more manifestation of fallen humanity's enslavement to a self-referential, self-centered existence. Thus prayer is itself a central feature of the ethic of the kingdom of heaven - the kingdom of the new creation.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hypocrisy and the Ethic of the Kingdom: Almsgiving

Here is the latest in our Sermon on the Mount series. This is part 20 (SOTM-20) and the audio is linked to the right. Again, I encourage you all to start at the beginning (if you haven't been following along) in order to understand the full meaning of, "Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven" and "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Too many people come away from the Sermon on the Mount thinking that Jesus is telling them to "try harder" to obey, or to "be sincere" in our obedience. Jesus isn't merely "reinterpreting" the Law or bringing better clarity to the Law...He's explaining how it is that He's the "fulfillment" of the Law (Matt. 5:17-18) and that His Kingdom comes to all (and only) those who participate in Him.

Remember, Matthew has spent 4 chapters leading up to the Sermon by introducing Jesus as the long-hoped for and promised King/Messiah. As far as Matthew is concerned, the coming of Jesus marks the coming of the Kingdom. The Sermon on the Mount is essentially Jesus' "Gospel of the Kingdom". And the Kingdom has arrived in Him because He has come in fulfillment of the Law (Torah--the Scripture!). Everything spoken of in the OT is coming to its realization in the Person and Work of Christ. The Seed of the Woman is here! God's Kingdom has arrived! And it will continue to grow until the King returns at the consummation where the creation itself will join in the redemption of the Sons of God when we are revealed in glory.

In the Sermon on the Mount, we're not called to obedience, per say...we're called to transformation--we're called to a life of Love . And this is impossible while we're still in our old Adamic nature. The Kingdom Citizen that Jesus describes in the Sermon on the Mount is a person who has come the King, who has been "born again" by the Spirit. The Kingdom Citizen is the one who the Spirit indwells and proceeds to transform back into the image and likeness of Christ. The Kingdom Citizen is the one who, by grace through faith in Christ, has been joined to Christ and has become a "New Creation". The Kingdom Citizen is the one who now is not only capable of "love", but actually lives a life of "love" by the power of the indwelling Spirit. The Kingdom of Heaven (the Kingdom of God) is the Kingdom or Realm of the New Creation and only those who participate in the New Creation are God's Children and Citizens of the Kingdom.

This is what the Sermon on the Mount is all about. It's simply missing the point if we relegate the Sermon to some "Israelite" Kingdom out there in a future "dispensation", or if we determine in ourselves to begin to obey the "spirit" of the Law in obedience to commands. Our righteousness must surpass that of the Scribes and Pharisees. We must be perfect as God is pefect. This is an impossibility that Jesus explains is a reality for those who are joined to Him because He is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets (the Scripture). In Christ, His people are "righteous" because they have been restored to their created destiny as image-bearers.

Remember, Clicking on "Part 20" brings you to the PDF notes for the sermon.

Part 20: Hypocrisy and the Ethic of the Kingdom: Almsgiving

Brief Sermon Overview:

Jesus began His treatment of His kingdom's ethic by considering it in relation to the Law of Moses and its fulfillment in Himself. From there He turned His attention to three religious exercises - alms-giving, prayer, and fasting - that epitomized Israel's practical piety, using those practices to illumine and rebuke Israel's religious hypocrisy (6:1-18). What Jesus specifically sought to show is that, consistent with all men in their estranged condition, the apparent devotion to God of Israel's "holy men" was just that - nothing more than appearance. The reality was that their religious energies and efforts had themselves and their own glory and honor as their true object. Their "righteousness" was the damning pretence of self-righteousness. This message considers alms-giving as the first of the three practices Jesus cited.

Monday, November 17, 2008

I Couldn't Resist

I'm not really a "Garfield" fan (I prefer "Get Fuzzy" and "Calvin and Hobbs") but Mrs. Moogly showed this to me and I couldn't resist. Enjoy!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Singe best one-off Sermon on the Role and purpose of The Law

Please listen to the sermon. Click the play button to the right in the "Law of Moses and the Ethic of the Kingdom" link. You can listen to it here, or you can download and listen later.

As I say in the title, this is the single best one-off sermon that I've ever heard on the role and purpose of The Law. I've spent some time in my own writings as well as linking other sites, articles and audio trying to show that Jesus has completely fulfilled the Law or Torah (which is to say, the entire Scripture) in Himself. By doing this, by fulfilling the Law in Himself, He shows Himself to be the true "Israel" (the One that the Law prophesied of). Jesus has fulfilled the calling of "Israel" because He is the true "elect" Son of God who is, in Himself, what Israel was called to be--the faithful son, servant, disciple, and witness.

We misunderstand the purpose and role of The Law because we misunderstand the purpose and role of Israel--and they are intimately connected. As our Pastor states in his notes (and the full PDF link will be provided as with the previous Sermon on the Mount Series posts): The Law defined "Israel" and demanded that the convenant nation be "righteous" by authentically and faultlessly fulfilling its identity and calling; (by) being God's son, servant, disciple and witness.... The Law demanded that Israel be Israel....

Remember, Paul tells us (in agreement with the whole of the Scripture) that the Law served the Promise. This tells us that the Law was not intended to behave in any way that did not directly implicate the promise. So the question becomes...what promise? Paul tells us that the promise is the covenant that He made with Abraham. And since the Law, which came well after the promise, "does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise" (Gal. 3:17), it is the promise, the Abrahamic Covenant, that is the progenitor or source of the Law (and thus Israel) which, Paul says, only serves to bring the promise to its fulfillment. In other words, the Law is the means by which the promise moves forward (as a first-level fulfillment) and is but one stage along the path of the ultimate fulfillment of the promise. And that fulfillment, as Paul says, is coming of the (singular) Seed to whom the promise had been made--Jesus, the Christ.

So as you can see, the Law served the promise by prophesying of the One to whom the promise was made. The nation of Israel, as the "first-level" fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant (as the "seed" of Abraham and the (elect) "son" of God), was also prophetic as it spoke (in and of itself) of the One who to come who is the true "Seed" of Abraham and the true (elect) Son of God. The New Testament (especially Paul) has never viewed the nation of Israel as the heir of the promise, as the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant. Jesus Christ is everywhere understood in the NT as the true Israel and the One to whom the promise was made; and that's because Christ is the One who is the fulfillment of all the Scripture. It is Christ alone who has accomplished the purpose of God; and He does so not primarily because of what He does so much as who He is! He fulfills the Law not simply because He perfectly obeyed the commandments (which is how contemporary Christianity so often understand this); He fulfills the Law because He is the One of whom the Law spoke of as the true and perfectly righteous human being ("Israelite", in the redemtive historical context). Jesus is the "seed" of Abraham and the Covenant (promise) is fulfilled only in Him!

Here are the notes and brief summary of this message which is a continuation of our Sermon on the Mount series at SGCC. Please read the notes (click the "Part 19" link) in conjunction with listening to the sermon. The notes only go so far; the audio fills in the spaces.

Part 19: The Law of Moses and the Ethic of the Kingdom

Brief Sermon Overview:

In Matthew 5:17-48 Jesus addressed in broad terms the relationship between the ethic of His kingdom and the Law of Moses. That relationiship follows the larger biblical structural pattern of promise and fulfillment (5:17-18), and this message considers and summarizes the core aspects of that pattern as applied to the Law of Moses by Jesus in this context and throughout the New Testament.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The "Day After" Rant

This is an off-the-cuff "rant"--take it for what it is.

Obama is President…so what?! I (reluctantly) voted for McCain (who I still say really didn't want to win based on his choice of Palin for VP and the way he ran his campaign), but I don't think this nation will now implode (or explode) because Obama is President. Even if he is a "secret Muslim" or a Socialist or the most liberal man who ever walked the face of this earth; even if he can't trace his ancestry back to Africa (whatever that's supposed to prove!) and is not really "black" at all (I wish the Radical Christian Right morons would just shut up and quit giving my Lord a bad name!! Do they even know what the Gospel is? I doubt it!!); anyway, even if Obama is the "anti-Christ", so what?! My life hasn't ended because my guy didn't win the White House.

Since when did we as "Christians" start believing that we had the "right" to...well...anything! Oh yeah...it's in our Constitution. So what?! Did the early Church have any "rights"? Well, yes they did, I guess; they had the right to be persecuted unto death! And they rejoiced!! The greatest growth in the Christian church came as Believers were faithful to Christ all the while being persecuted throughout the world (beginning in Judea, Samaria and unto the ends of the earth). And do we see anywhere in the NT where we, as Christians, are said to have any "rights" whatsoever?! Do we see in the NT a call for us to act like the most despicable people possible in our opposition to someone that we don't agree with?! Where in the NT are we called to despise individuals who don't agree with us? We are called to LOVE all people! EVERY HUMAN BEING has been made in the image of God and because of this EVERY HUMAN BEING deserves to be treated with integrity and respect (as God defines it)!!

This continued waste of time and energy decrying and fighting against this Political Monster of our Government (national as well as local) is really beginning to...aggravate me!! If "Christians" were as concerned with sharing the Gospel as they seem to be with creating a Sacral Society (which isn't the same as a "Gospel Society"--see Constantine and the Roman Empire), then much of our angst with the government would go away--because true Christians would vote according to godly principles and possibly even take office themselves. The goal of the Christian, however, should not be a (supposed) Christian government but sharing his faith and being used by the Spirit to help build the Kingdom of God! Christ never promised to us a Christian nation (until He returns, that is); what He promised us is that while we will be persecuted in this world (because His Kingdom is not of this world) He will never leave us nor forsake us; He promised that His grace is sufficient for us and that we can endure and even triumph in all things through His Spirit who strengthens us; He promised that all things work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose; He promises that one day He will return! And then there will be a righteous rule over all the earth because only then will it be truly His rule.

Christ's Kingdom is a present reality (as those of you who have been following our Sermon on the Mount series have been shown); but it's a reality that is spiritual, not earthly. America is not the Kingdom of God...it never has been! The Church (the true Church made up of true Christians) is the Kingdom of God that is in this world but not of this world. It's hard to fathom the absurdity of calling America a "Christian" nation...as if Christ Himself has ever ruled this country. Sure, we should do our part to spread the gospel--but it's not by all the hate-mongering, political activism that seems to captivate our "Christian Leaders". Our hope is not in government but in Christ! We should be better students of the NT. The Apostles never called on us to be political activists (in the worst sense of the word); they called on us to live by faith and to share the Gospel hope that is within us. Our calling is to make disciples not governments (here or in Iraq!).

Obama is now President; and the world will not end because of it, not even America (and there is a difference no matter what Bill O'Reilly thinks!). I hope that we (those of us who call ourselves Christians) can get our eyes back on the ball, or as Paul says, "...forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call in Christ Jesus." Our goal should be to faithfully live out our lives as God's Children by the power of the indwelling Spirit; which is to say, honoring our Lord and Savior by living lives of love!

We who claim the name of Christ--who are we? Republicans? Democrats?...or Christians?! After all the mud-slinging and Political idolatry we've witnessed during this election (and past elections, of course), I'm not sure Christians even know what being a "Christian" means. All I can say is that Christ is my Messiah...not McCain, or Bush, or Reagan (don't shoot me!) or Clinton or Obama or this constitutional amendment or that law or this policy or...!

Thank God it's over!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Sermon on the Mount-15-18

Here's the last four Sermon on the Mount links that get us caught up in our Sunday morning series. These are the last of the sample cases in which Jesus shows that He is the fulfillment of the Law. Remember, He's already stated in the Beatitudes and the Similitudes what the Kingdom Citizen looks like and then He warned them not to misunderstand what He was going to say to them next; He tells them not to begin to think that He's come to abolish the Law or the Prophets (the entire Scripture--the Torah). Actually, He says, He came to fulfill the Torah! His is the "righteousness that surpasses the Scribes and the Pharisees" precisely because He is the fulfillment of the Law, so that for the people to have a surpassing righteousness it must be in connection with Him.

So in these verses from 5:20-48, Jesus is using various aspects of the Law (specifically in relation to "love") to prove that He is the fulfillment of the Law and the righteousness that is found in it--it's all about Him! The only way that someone listening to Jesus is not going to go away defeated with what He his saying is to realize that he must come to Him who is this Righteous One because in and of ourselves there is no possible way that we are or could ever be the person spoken of in 5:20-48.

As the King of this Kingdom, Jesus is calling for all to enter in through Him. The Scribes and the Pharisees are on the outside looking in because they rely on their own righteousness. They follow the letter of the Law but miss its point! The people must have a righteousness that surpasses that of the Scribes and the Pharisees; and the only righteousness that does is Jesus' righteousness. He's not calling us to work harder, or to be sincere in following the Law. He's telling the people that He is the fulfillment of the Law and it's His righteousnes that they must possess! And isn't this what the NT interpreters of Jesus also say? All the writers of the NT agree with this because, in fulfillment of the OT, this is what Jesus is saying here and throughout His ministry. "Come to Me, ye who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest..." (Matt. 11:28-30 cf. Isa. 45:18-25; 55:1-13; etc.).

Enjoy...and try to read through the PDF links while listening to the series from the beginning on SermonAudio (see SGCC sidebar).

Part 15: Unfaithfulness and the Ethic of the Kingdom

Brief Sermon Overview:

Love is the essence of the kingdom's ethic, and so Jesus appropriately began His treatment of that ethic by considering the general interpersonal enmity that is fundamental to all human relationships in the old Adamic order. From there He turned His attention to a close counterpart, namely the enmity - that is, the lovelessness - that exists within the marital relationship. Specifically, Jesus used the Decalogue's seventh commandment forbidding adultery to show how adultery ultimately concerns marital lovelessness, regardless of whether spouses remain physically faithful to one another. Adultery is a matter of the heart, and this is the reason that even an apparently justified divorce can render a person an adulterer. In the kingdom of heaven, obedience to God's commandments consists in conformity to the law of love.

Part 16: Duplicity and the Ethic of the Kingdom

Brief Sermon Overview:

Jesus continued His presentation of the ethic of His kingdom by considering the Law's instruction regarding oaths and vows. This is the first of His example cases in which it is clearly evident that He was, in some manner, altering the Law of Moses. Those who start from the premise that the Lord's intent was to recover and reaffirm the pure "moral law" tend to find Him simply calling for sincerity and integrity in the use of oaths and vows, but that was not the case. Both the way Jesus articulated Israel's historical understanding ("You have heard that the ancients were told, you shall fulfill your vows...") and His own response to it ("but I say to you...") show that He wasn't insisting upon integrity in oath-taking. Rather, He was declaring that, in His kingdom, there is no place for the oaths and vows that were prescribed and provided under the Law. Like every component and aspect of the Law of Moses, all such pledges had reached their own prophetic fulfillment in Christ Himself. They, too, had "served their purpose in their generation" and were passing away in the new creational kingdom of heaven.

Part 17: Exactness and the Ethic of the Kingdom

Brief Sermon Overview:

Jesus' next example case is also drawn from the Law as received by Moses at Sinai - not the Decalogue but the broader ethical instruction that followed it (Exodus 21:12ff). The "eye for eye" commandment is notable in that, rather than being a discrete law in its own right, it provided the philosophical and ethical framework for the entire Mosaic Code: The "eye for eye" commandment showed Israel how it was to understand and enforce the various laws and directives contained in the Law of Moses. And what it showed them was that justice in the Israelite kingdom was to be exact, with the primary concern being that the sons of Israel show no leniency or deference in applying the Law's sanctions. There was to be no pity or sparing in carrying out the Law's requirements (ref. Deuteronomy 19:15-21). Where violation of the Law occurred, righteousness made no allowance whatsoever for compassion or compromise. It is precisely at this point that Jesus’ response becomes problematic: Whereas the Law demanded exactness, Jesus was calling for deference. So far from demanding perfect justice, the sons of His kingdom are to yield to injustice. To all appearances, this demand set the Lord squarely against His Father and the Law of Moses, but the apparent disparity disappears in the discovery of how the "eye for eye" commandment - like the Law in its entirety - is fulfilled in Christ. Jesus wasn't annulling the kingdom principle of exactness; His call to yieldedness presupposes that the demand of exactness has been fulfilled.

Part 18: Discrimination and the Ethic of the Kingdom

Brief Sermon Overview:

Jesus' final case example served to focus His teaching regarding the ethic of His kingdom. Throughout this passage He has shown how the Law of Moses has found its fulfillment in Him and how that fulfillment has brought to life what the Law itself proclaimed and anticipated, namely the realization of love as the essence of the righteousness of God's kingdom and its citizens. Thus Jesus closed out this section by revealing the true nature of love as a divine attribute and its place as the core obligation of the sons of the kingdom - the true sons of God. Divinely derived and empowered love is the ethic of the kingdom of heaven, and life in accordance with this love is life in the perfection of God - life in the human authenticity of man as "image-son" (5:48).