Sermon Text for November 19th – Matthew 6:1-4

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. Otherwise, you have no reward with your Father in heaven. So whenever you give to the poor, don’t sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be applauded by people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward. But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

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Sermon Text for November 12th – Matthew 6:1-18

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. Otherwise, you have no reward with your Father in heaven. So whenever you give to the poor, don’t sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be applauded by people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward. But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward. But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. When you pray, don’t babble like the Gentiles, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask him.

“Therefore, you should pray like this:

Our Father in heaven,
your name be honored as holy.
10 Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
11 on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And do not bring us into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.

14 “For if you forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. 15 But if you don’t forgive others, your Father will not forgive your offenses.

16 “Whenever you fast, don’t be gloomy like the hypocrites. For they make their faces unattractive so that their fasting is obvious to people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that your fasting isn’t obvious to others but to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

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How Is the DNA of Your Church?

Just finished reading The Compelling Community by Mark Dever and Jamie Dunlop (a very helpful book, by the way), and in the final chapter the authors provide a number of questions meant to help assess the character of your church that I thought were well chosen:

  1. Is your congregation clear on the gospel? If you were to ask random members of your congregation what the good news of the cross is, how would they answer your question? There’s no reason eave a congregation of new believers couldn’t be able to do this well. But in many of our churches, we’re not there.
  2. Is your congregation telling others the gospel? Church planting is the natural result of evangelism, and it won’t work well without it.
  3. Do your church members teach God’s Word to each other? Is yours a church culture where it’s normal to encourage each other with Scripture?
  4. Does your congregation take their responsibility seriously to guard each other from sin? Are those conversations both honest and grace-exalting?
  5. Is most of the pastoring in your church done by the congregation? Is it unusual for a pastoral problem to come to your attention where ordinary members of the congregation are not already at work?
  6. Do you already see a breadth and depth of relationships that cannot be explained by natural bonds alone? Have these types of relationships come to characterize your congregation?
  7. Does your congregation trust its leadership? Or is it still typical that disunity erupts when leaders make a challenging decision?

Factors That Empty Grace of Amazing (4/4)

The sovereign freedom of God. Ancient paganism thought of each god as bound to his worshipers by bonds of self-interest, because he depended on their serviced gifts for his welfare. Modern paganism has at the back of its mind a similar feeling that God is somehow obliged to love and help us, little though we deserve it. This was the feeling voiced by the French freethinking who died muttering, “God will forgive – that his job (c’est son metier).” But this feeling is not well-founded. The God fo the Bible does not depend on his human creatures for his well-being (see Psalm 50:8-13; Acts 17:25), nor, now that we have sinned, is he bound to show us favor.

We can only claim from him justice – and justice, for us, means certain condemnation. God does not owe it to anyone to stop justice taking its course. He is not obliged to pity and pardon; if eh does so it is an act done, as we say, “of his own free will,” and nobody forces his hand. “It does not depend on man’s will or effort, but on God’s mercy” (Romans 9:16 NEB). Grace is free, in the sense of being self-originated and of proceeding from One who was free not to be gracious. Only when it is seen that what decides each individual’s destiny is whether or not God resolves to save him from his sins, and that this is a decision which God need not take in any single case, can one begin to grasp the biblical view of grace.

Knowing God, pp. 131-132.

Factors That Empty Grace of Amazing (3/4)

More goodness from Packer:

The spiritual impotence of man. Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People has been almost a modern Bible. A whole technique of business relations has been built up in recent years on the principle of putting the other person in a position where he cannot decently say no. This has confirmed modern men and women in the faith which has animated pagan religion ever since there was such a thing – namely, the belief that we can repair our own relationship with God by putting God in a position where he cannot say no anymore.

Ancient pagans thought to do this by multiplying gifts and sacrifices; modern pagans seek to do it by churchmanship and morality. Conceding that they are not perfect, they still have no doubt that respectability henceforth will guarantee God’s acceptance of them in the end, whatever they may have done in the past. But the Bible position is as stated by Toplady:

Not the labors of my hand
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands.
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears for ever flow,
All for sin could not atone

– leading to the admission of one’s own helplessness and to the conclusion:

Thou must save, and Thou alone.

“No one will be declared righteous in his own sight by observing the law,” declares Paul (Romans 3:20). To mend our own relationship with God, regaining God’s favor after having once lost it, is beyond the power of any one of us. And one must see and bow to this before one can share the biblical faith in God’s grace.

Knowing God, p. 131.

Factors That Empty Grace of Amazing (2/4)

The retributive justice of God. The way of modern men and women is to turn a blind eye to all wrongdoing as long as the safely can. They tolerate it in others, feeling that there, but for the accident of circumstances, go they themselves. Parents hesitate to correct their children, and teachers to punish their pupils, and the public puts up with vandalism and antisocial behavior of all sorts with scarcely a murmur. The accepted maxim seems to be that as long as evil can be ignored, it should be; one should punish only as a last resort, and then only so far as it is necessary to prevent the evil from having too grievous social consequences. Willingness to tolerate and indulge evil up to the limit is seen as a virtue, while living by fixed principles of right and wrong is censured by some as doubtfully moral.

In our pagan way, we take it for granted that God feels as we do. The idea that retribution might be the the moral law foGod’s world and an expression of his holy character seems to us quite fantastic. Those who uphold it find themselves accused of projecting onto God their own pathological impulses of rage and vindictiveness. Yet the Bible insists throughout that this world which God in his goodness has made is a moral world, one in which retribution is as basic a fact as breathing.

God is the Judge of all the earth, and he will do right, vindicating the innocent, if such there be, but punishing (in the Bible phrase visiting their sins upon) lawbreakers (see Genesis 18:25). God is not true to himself unless he punishes sin. And unless one knows and feels the truth of this fact, that wrongdoers have no natural hope of anything from God but retributive judgment, one can never share the biblical faith in divine grace.

– J. I. Packer, Knowing God, pp. 130-131.

Sermon Text for November 5th – Romans 11:33-36

Soli Deo Gloria!

33 Oh, the depth of the riches
both of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments
and untraceable his ways!
34 For who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?
35 And who has ever given to God,
that he should be repaid?
36 For from him and through him
and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever. Amen.

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