Posts Tagged ‘the gospel’

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Wedding Homily: Welcome One Another

This is a wedding homily I gave this past Saturday:

[Intro]
One of the joys of working outside the home is the gift of returning home.  Not just because it’s nice to be home or because I get to kick my feet up to relax, but because of the welcome that I receive.  My children are especially good at making me feel welcomed back home, whether it’s them running to greet before I have even gotten out of the car or the giant hugs that I get from them.  There is a particular joy that comes from their delight in my return home and that helps put the troubles of each day in perspective.  Also important to me are the words of welcome from my wife – each brings me into that place we all long for: home.  Paul speaks of welcome at the end of the passage from Romans 15 that we have already heard.

(ESV) Romans 15:7 – Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

Paul addresses these words to the Christian community and it is appropriate to consider these words in light of the smallest, but very important community that exists in a marriage.  In this verse, there is a Command, a Connection, and a Consequence. I want to consider these briefly in light of this wonderful of occasion of your two lives being joined in marriage today.  First, the command…

[Command]
Paul says, “Welcome one another”.  It is a simple command.  At least it’s simple to understand, maybe less simple to apply. The word here that is translated as “welcome” is much deeper than a greeting or anything merely on the surface.  Paul is not describing a casual greeting, but the kind of reception or acceptance for someone else that is rooted in our hearts.  It refers to our opening our hearts to another person.  And in marriage, we are welcoming another person into the most vulnerable and sensitive place in our lives – our hearts.  C.S. Lewis recognizes the inherent danger in this, as he says: to love at all is to become vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safely in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket-safe, dark, motionless, airless space, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. But you are opening your hearts to one another today.  The challenge in marriage is to see this kind of opening of our hearts as something that is done not just today on the wedding day, but rather everyday.  Especially when we become frustrated or annoyed with our spouse.  Especially when we have hurt or been hurt.  Especially when the pressures of finances or work intrude into the peace of our home.  You fight to welcome one another, because to do so is to fight for your very marriage.  This might be through a welcoming word, a welcoming touch, or a welcoming sacrifice of service for the other.

Paul understands the difficulty in this command.  So, Paul offers not just a command, but also a connection to Jesus Christ.

[Connection]
This is the pattern of the New Testament Epistles, especially in Paul’s letters.  The commands of Christianity are always connected in some way to Jesus Christ because we are not able to keep them in our own strength.  So, the command to welcome one another is connected to Christ’s welcome of us:  “just as Christ has welcomed you.”
This leads to us naturally to a question:  How has Christ welcomed us?  Scripture does not pull any punches in describing our lives prior to faith in Christ.  We need only go back in the book of Romans to see this:  in Romans 5:6-10 we get a picture of who we were:  “weak and helpless, ungodly, sinners, enemies” – these are the words used to describe us.  The picture of our lives without Christ is not pretty, but the testimony of Romans is that we were not chosen for salvation because we deserved it or had earned it.  The weak, the ungodly, sinners, and enemies of God actually deserve something far different than the welcome that we receive in Christ.  It can be hard for us to see ourselves in this light.   What becomes clear from Scripture is that Christ does not welcome us because we deserve it, but rather because grace and mercy are at His very heart.  

Just as we have to keep the command to welcome one another alive in our marriages, it is also crucial to keep the connection with Christ alive in it as well.  Again, this is not easy and there will be a hundred other things (many of them good) that will challenge your connection with Christ.  The question then that we must ask is this:  to what or whom should I connect to help me grow in love and welcome for my spouse.  There is no greater help that I know of than a connection to Christ.

Both our keeping the command to welcome one another and our connection lead to a consequence.

[Consequence]
How might you describe the dating scene across America these days?  To me it seems that it is largely about figuring out how one person can present their most attractive qualities and minimize their flaws to another person who is doing the exact same thing.  Too often the flaws aren’t revealed until after the wedding.  Unfortunately, this is the poor foundation upon many marriages are built.  And the consequences are often severe.  But to welcome one another recognizing the welcome we have received from Christ leads to a far different consequence – the glory of God.   There is no greater thing for us to do than to give glory to God. And here we can see the purpose that our marriages may serve within the greater community that we live – giving glory to God.  I found in my own marriage that what galvanizes our relationship more than any other, is for us to both to be focused on something much greater than ourselves or our desires.  As a result, this consequence strengthens our marriages and helps us to grow deeper in the difficult work of an ongoing welcoming and drawing each other into our hearts.

[Conclusion]
A simple message:  welcome one another…But not always easy to apply.  So, we look at the little ways and build from there.

  • Words of welcome for one another.  The kinds of words that go beyond the surface and touch each other’s hearts.
  • A welcoming touch:   a hug, a kiss, or just remembering that physical proximity matters.
  • Being quick to listen, and slow to speak
  • Being quick to apologize and quick to forgive
  • Living in light of the welcome of Christ, so that you learn what the welcoming heart is and does

[Prayer] Pray with me….

Gospel-Centered Reader

This looks like a great list by Timmy Brister:  Gospel-Centered Reader
I’d  love to make my way through this list.  (HT:  JT)

Remember Me

A song that I have been listening to on a regular basis is Remember Me by Matthew Smith (of Indelible Grace fame).  This song appears on Smith’s solo recond Love Shall Never Die: The Road Sessions Vol. 2.  I could not find the lyrics to this song, but I did find the hymn on which the lyrics (with a few changes) are based.  The hymn is written by Thomas Haweis and STEM Publishing has a biography on him here and his hymn titled Remember Me on the same page.  Here is the hymn:

Remember Me by Thomas Haweis.

O Thou from whom all goodness flows,
I lift my heart to Thee;
In all my sorrows, conflicts, woes,
Dear Lord remember me.

When groaning on my burdened heart
My sins lie heavily,
My pardon speak, new peace impart,
In love ‘Remember me’.

Temptations sore obstruct my way,
To shake my faith in Thee;
O give me strength, Lord, as my day;
For good ‘Remember me’.

Distrest with pain, disease and grief,
This feeble body see;
Grant patience, rest and kind relief,
Hear! and ‘Remember me’.

If on my face for Thy dear Name,
Shame and reproaches be,
All hail, Reproach! and welcome
Shame! If Thou ‘Remember me’.

The hour is near, consigned to death
I own the just decree;
Saviour, with my last parting breath,
I’ll cry, ‘Remember me’.

This is a simple, but profoundly Biblical cry for the Christian.  I used  the theme of remembering in a funeral meditation for a believer who had suffered from dementia or Alzheimer’s during her remaining years.  Her memory and ability to cry out in these last days was greatly diminished, but I focused on our gracious Lord who remembers us (Psalm 103, Luke 23:42-43).  In fact, our salvation does not lie so much in the strength of our ability to make this confession, but in the Lord who remembers us, even in our weakness and frailty.

The text of the homily based on the above texts is on the next pages.  I have changed the name of the deceased.

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Matt Chandler: “Jesus want the rose!”

Here’s a video of Matt Chandler at the recent Desiring God Conference on the point of the Gospel.  You must listen to this:

The Prodigal God

Tim Keller’s new book The Prodigal God is now out and is getting great views.  While I have not read this book, Keller’s other book released this year The Reason for God was one of the best things I have read in the last couple of years.  I have listened to the sermon that is the genesis of this book and it can be listened/downloaded here.

Read a review by Derek Melleby (of CPYU) here.

Read a review by Tim Challies here.

Visit the website for the book here.

Tim Keller talks about the book here.

Some Good Thoughts/Links

Read Books Not Blogs:  Here are the main points…

Books require more reflection from the reader

Books are the result of much reflection from the writer

Books bring accountability

The author of this post, Stephen Altrogge, provides more thoughts on each of these main points.  Personally, I have found it helpful to generally restrict my blog reading to blogs of friends and the articles they recommend (with a few exceptions).   Otherwise, surfing the blogosphere could be a serious temptation and/or waste of time – my blog excluded, of course.

Five Trends in the Church Today (D.A. Carson)

Gospel Diagnostics

These links are via pastor & friend David Zavadil.

My friend Ed, has a good post here titled What It means to love the sinner and hate the sin.

Also, sign up to receive email updates from this blog:  Of First Importance.  Yes, that was a command.  By getting new blog posts by email, I make sure I don’t miss a daily dose of Gospel truth.  I am finding I need this more and more.

Football & the Gospel…

In seminary, I discovered I had a problem (among many):  I took college football way too seriously.  I suppose I can blame my dad’s side of the family for this condition, as it is hard to not become indoctrinated in this Saturday religion while attending games at one of the largest football worship centers in the nation:  Neyland Stadium at The University of Tennessee.  My commitment to worship of the pigskin was furthered by attending the University of Georgia.  Football, of course, is best in the Southeast.

Anyway, back to self-discovery…In 2002 UGA had an awesome team and were poised to make a run at the National Championship.  That was, until, they lost one solitary game toward the end of the season.  Once again, UGA lost to the University of Florida – even though UGA should have won.  Or at least were suppose to that year.  We were so depressed that we dreamt about the game that night and then skipped church due to our morosity.  That’s not such a big deal, unless what you are training to do for a living largely centers on a different type of worship held on a different weekend day!  That was a turning point for me…no more could my passion for college football consume my passion for worship of the Triune God and my Savior.

I still care greatly about college football.  I am still as big a fan as one could be, but I won’t let it occupy the supreme place in my heart.  So, this past Saturday, when UGA got absolutely demolished by the University of Alabama I allowed myself to be bummed about the game while it was unfolding, but once it was over – it was over.  The next morning, I had the joy of preaching God’s Word to those gathered in worship and one of the things that I got to talk about was the Gospel.  In fact, I told the congregation that one of the most powerful ways that we can respond to those who reject the Gospel is by our growing more in love with and in awe of the Gospel.  And though I did not say it, the message I was preaching to myself is that the football game is just that.  It is not the Gospel.  It is not the Gospel!  Wall Street might collapse and economic hell ensue, but it is not the Gospel.  Our cars may/will break down again, but it is not the Gospel!  This is the perspective that I was preaching to myself Saturday night as I busied myself, hoping for an epic comeback that did not materialize.  And it is the message I taught our congregation.

What crowds the Gospel out of your life?  And what are you preaching to your heart to counter the false worship that comes so naturally?

Quotation: Spurgeon on Christ

I don’t want to fill up my blog unneccesarily with quotations, but this was too good not to share.  I first read this on Tuesday evening (the last thing I read as I was falling asleep) and have returned to it several times sense.  In fact, I was too tired to read last night, but I had to read this again before I drifted off.

Remember, sinner, it is not thy hold of Christ, that saves thee – it is Christ; it is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee – it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, that that is the instrument – it is Christ’s blood and merits; therefore, look not to thy hope, but to Christ, the source of thy hope; look not to thy faith, but to Christ, the author and finisher of thy faith; if thou doest that, ten thousand devils cannot throw thee down…There is one thing which we all of us too much becloud in our preaching, though I believe we do it very unintentionally – namely, the great truth that it is not prayer, it is not faith, it is not doings, it is not our feelings upon which we must rest, but upon Christ, and on Christ alone.  We are apt to think that we are not in a right state, that we do not feel enough, instead of remembering that our business is not with self, but with Christ.  Let me beseech thee, look only to Christ; never expect deliverance from self, from ministers, or from any means of any kind apart from Christ; keep thine eye simply on Him; let His death, His agonies, His groans, His sufferings, His Merits, His glories, His intercession, be fresh upon thy mind; when thou wakest in the morning look for Him; when thou liest down at night look for Him.”

Quoted in The Forgotten Spurgeon by Iain Murray (Banner of Truth Trust, 1973), page 42.

Josh Harris: Encouraging Unity Among the Educational Camps

One of the most common divisions between people in the church is over the education choices of families. There are generally four camps: public school, private school, home school, or all of the above. Most often identify only the first three camps. There are strong arguments and legitimate Scriptural arguments that are made from every side which is precisely why this can become so divisive in the church. To that end, I share with you Josh Harris speaking to his church about this issue.

I would place myself in the camp that Harris calls “the saved by grace” camp. I do not share this because I view this as a particular problem in our church, but it is, in general, an issue in the evangelical church.

Respectable Sins: Our Cancer and God’s Cure

Introduction & Schedule for blogging on Respectable Sins

Reflections on Chapters 1 & 2

First, a recommendation: Read this book. Get a hold of a copy if you don’t have it and read it. Hopefully, I will be able to communicate the heart of the chapters, but this is no substitute for your own reading and seriously considering the content.

In Chapter 3 of Respectable Sins, “The Malignancy of Sin”, Bridges gives us the really bad news about our sin. The news is so bad that he even encourages us to stick with him, because of the importance of understanding the severity of our sin so that we might understand the blessing of the good news. In this chapter, Bridges wishes us to understand that “sin is a spiritual and moral malignancy. Left unchecked it can spread throughout out entire inner being and contaminate every area of our lives” (23). And just like cancer, our sin can metastasize into the hearts of another person. This is an important point as we often fail to see how our sin affects other people.

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