Monday, June 24, 2013

Sermon for 6/24/13 Luke 8

 not a pleasant thought
 locked up and the key thrown away

What can happen? Given enough time and discouragement we start acting like prisoners.

Now add a spiritual dynamic. The Bible says people are attacked by evil in this world. Sin in the world oppresses us. What will we do about it? What can we do about it? We start going our own way, the way that our circumstances direct us.

How did God view that in Isaiah 65? It’s a foul smell. It’s something that will come back to haunt us.

Doing what is right in our own eyes is rarely the right choice. It’s only the right choice when it is in harmony with God’s Word.

We find ourselves imprisoned.
 not with a cage
 not with chains
 not with shackles
We can break all those, like the man in Luke 8.
We are in a far worse prison.
 sinful nature
What will deliver us? How can we escape? Not even through death and destruction.

Only through Jesus.
Only through Jesus coming onto the scene.
Only through Jesus arresting our sin.
Only through Jesus bringing us forgiveness.

Wait a minute. You want to take away THAT???
What do we cling to?
What do we depend upon?
Where do we look for help and hope?
Any place other than throwing ourselves on God’s mercy in Christ will leave us in the same state we were in before, or maybe even worse.

Jesus sent the demons away from the tortured man. They were destroying him. Now they found another target and destroyed a herd of pigs.

When Jesus destroys our sin, it finds another target. It kills him. Jesus dies for sin so that we might have life. What is the result? He rises from the dead. We are found sitting, clothed and in our right minds, talking with him, trusting him.

What do we do? Jesus sent the formerly demon possessed man back to his home. He goes everywhere telling what God has done for him. We likewise are sent home. And we show God’s great mercy and love. Our lives are changed. They are not the same. The prison doors have not only been burst open, the prison has been torn down and the rubble removed. We are unshackled. We are truly free.

Lord, grant us your forgiveness.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Freedom for Ministry - conclusions

Again and again as I read Freedom for Ministry I found myself agreeing with the ideas, at least in principle. There were, however, two areas which caused me disappointment. First, it did not seem that Neuhaus had an overall organizational theme. He did not tie all of his ideas to the concept of freedom for ministry, at least not overtly. The book reminded me more of a series of brief vignettes rather than one cohesive unit. All the chapters did have something to do with the minister and the way he would view Christian ministry. Yet the connections were often less than clear.
Another area of weakness was Neuhaus’ lack of biblical documentation. He described his ideas well, and they were often ideas which had a solid biblical ground. Yet he did not approach the writing in this manner, apparently preferring to present logical and philosophical arguments on their own merit.
The points of view articulated were well reasoned and often startling, at least to a middle-aged adult some thirty-four years from the date of publication. Many social issues Neuhaus addresses are viewed quite differently today. For instance, when he discusses issues of family, sexuality, and abortion the presuppositions of American culture are those of abortion being recently and tentatively accepted, homosexuality being of little influence in culture, and marriage between one male and one female as a norm for adults. Race relations are front and center in Neuhaus’ mind as he writes. Conflict between Christianity and other religions is a relatively minor concern. This book, then, demonstrates that our world is always changing. The conflicts which are important to one generation may or may not be to the next. Yet they are always important conflicts.

Through all of our cultural changes we are left with one abiding truth. Jesus is Lord of all. He is that sovereign whom we serve. Though his authority is disputed in every age and every culture, though his kingdom functions differently from the kingdoms of this world, he remains the Lord in whom all things hold together. It is the responsibility of Christians, and especially of Christian ministers, to be faithful ambassadors for Christ’s kingdom. We do this not by following our culture, but by following our Savior. This is the freedom for ministry which Neuhaus would advocate.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Pursuit of Holiness

Neuhaus concludes his book with chapter eleven, “The Pursuit of Holiness.” Here he evaluates the ordination vows in which most Christian ministers promise to adorn the Gospel with their holy lives. In effect, all the rest of the book hinges upon this critical factor. Are pastors called to be holy saints who live exemplary lives as a sign of God’s holiness, goodness, and mercy? Yes they are, just as all Christians have the same calling. Yet pastors live out those lives of holiness under particular scrutiny by the rest of the world. It is important that the pastor find the balanced and sustainable life of prayer, activity, concern for the congregation, care for the world, and dedication to community, family, and even his own well-being. This is a good testimony to Christ’s work in our lives and in our world.

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Imperative Indicative

Chapter ten, “The Imperative Indicative,” describes the preaching task in more detail, laying out the concept of the pastor as a man of God, not merely an administrator. While pastors will not neglect attendance at the various meetings of the church, at the hospital bedside, or in the homes of those confined to home, pastors will often neglect the many hours of study, prayer, and preparation needed to handle God’s Word consistently. Neuhaus urges the pastor to discover the indicatives in Scripture, those statements which describe the saints. From that indicative, from the description of us, springs the imperative, that which God commands. In preaching and teaching, this is the message we have. Describing God’s people as God sees them, then exhorting them in light of their identity, is exactly what our people need.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Importance of Being a Preacher

In chapter nine, “The Importance of Being a Preacher,” Neuhaus urges the reader to take the task of preaching very seriously. Our world needs to hear a bold declaration of God’s truth. This is the unique role of the preacher. Though presentational styles and congregational reactions will differ, the proclamation of God’s Word is indispensable. Neuhaus speaks at length about the attractiveness of the rhetoric of American black churches and the care taken by their preachers to work with words and rhythms. This kind of engaging rhetoric is an undervalued tool in bringing the truth of God to our world.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Search for Community

In chapter seven, “The Search for Community,” Neuhaus describes the Church as a distinctive community. In his discussion, though, the idea of the Church always appearing the same in different times and locations is discarded. Though there are similarities which cross cultural bounds, there are also very different individual characters to the local church. Neuhaus warns that when we look for one perfect view of the Christian community we will always be disappointed. Rather, he suggests, we should seek the identity we naturally find in our time and place.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Sacrament and Success

Chapter six, “Sacrament and Success,” evaluates the definition of a “sacrament.” Neuhaus observes that the term was originally used for the pledge that a soldier would make, a pledge of fealty. In this sense all churches are, by nature, sacramental. We find that the body of Christ always asserts certain truths and pledges loyalty to those truths. What defines the success of a church is, however, rather amorphous. Is the church successful because of its budget, its numbers, or the size and prosperity of its staff? The church of Jesus is rather successful insofar as it is faithful to its covenant nature. We are successful before God as we hold fast to the nature and identity the Lord has given us, and as we function in our society within that God-given role. Again this is an instance of our uneasy role as ambassadors of a disputed sovereign. God’s kingdom flourishes in a different manner from earthly kingdoms. It will not be readily recognized or understood. So be it. Let God be God.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Reconciliation against Resignation

In chapter five, “Reconciliation Against Resignation,” Neuhaus draws a sharp distinction between the two concepts of reconciliation and resignation. He observes that in Christ God has reconciled the world to himself. God has never been reconciled to the world, nor has he resigned himself to its sinful state. Christian ministry, by its nature, is a divine instrument of change. On the contrary, much secular counseling, which took its original concepts from the Church then stripped them of their role of reconciling people to God, teaches people to resign themselves to the way our world is. A secular counselor will help clients accept themselves, endure their struggles, and wait for change. Sadly, some Christian counselors have now adopted the goals of secular counselors, rather than holding to their biblical roots. A biblical minister is an agent of change, bringing the Word of God to the lives of people who need to be reconciled to God.

Sermon for 6/2/13 Luke 7:1-10

They say there are no atheists in foxholes.
Maybe more appropriate to this time of year, as long as there are final exams there will always be prayer in school.
What kind of bargains do we try to make with God?
 I’ll live a life for you if You get me through this time of trouble.
 You provide me with a job and I will always be faithful to my church.
 I’m going to pray at the start of each work day and You will promote me and get me a raise.
 I’ll give to the church building campaign, You provide me with the money to do that.
How often our attempts at a bargain are centered upon ourselves!
 what we will do
 what we promise
 what we sacrifice
 what our desires are
 how we are going to be rescued, glorified, and privileged
By the way, we do it as a church too, not just as individuals. Lord, bring in ____ so WE can ____.
This is the exaltation of the Christian, not exalting the Christ.
It seeks salvation by the Law, not by grace.
It’s that false gospel the Galatians were believing.
The splendid glories that we build, like the glorious temple that Solomon built, all come to dust.
Is it from a desire to please God? Sometimes, yes. Always mixed with a desire for our own glory.
(Use the perfect motive illustration)
Enter the centurion
 people think he is worthy
 he thinks he is unworthy
 touched with a dying servant, very tragic
Jesus’ reaction? I’ll come and heal her.
Remember a faithful Jew can’t come into the Gentile centurion’s house without defiling himself.
Jesus is willing to be polluted so as to save this man from a foreign background, a man he’s never met.
Centurion’s reaction? Just say the word.
Jesus says the word. Not because of the centurion’s faith. Because of his ability.

What is our reaction? What do we desire in times of trouble? What sign do we want? Jesus has given us his very word. He has made promises, and he has never failed in his promises.