Preaching was very difficult for me on Sunday. Preaching from Isaiah 6 is one of my favorite texts. It practically preaches itself. The text was not my issue. I love that text. I wanted to encourage our people to catch the vision of a Holy God. However, my aim was to lead our people to turn from legalism and run from being anti-nomians. I really muddled through it though. I chased some rabbits and did not honor my intent. I really desired to show how much we need the grace of God in light of a Holy God. The same God in Isaiah chapter 6 that the prophet sees and proclaims, "Woe is me!" is the same God that came in the flesh and atones for our sin to make us the righteousness of God. My aim was to encourage our people to walk away with a High view of God and a realistic view of themselves, as sinners saved by grace.
I really struggled with being fearful of men this week. I disguised it to myself as wanting to serve our people. But the truth is that my pride of wanting to impress this week put my preaching into shackles. I was humbled this week by my inability to really connect my points and thoughts. I just did not feel confident in my presentation.
Somethings I really wanted to say...
Jonathan Edwards, In his Resolution #8 said,
Resolved, to act, in all respects, both speaking and doing, as if nobody has been as vile as I, as if I had committed the same sins, or had the same infirmities and failings as others; and I will let the knowledge of their failings promote nothing but shame in myself and prove only an occasion of confessing my own sins and misery to God. July 30
Jesus was talking to his disciples and told them how to keep from being arrogant self righteous jerks:
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.'But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted."
Jesus contrasted the Pharisee who believed himself to be righteous with the tax collector (read sinner, despised) who humbled himself before the One who could take him out, God. How many times do we look down our noses as Christians and thank God that we are no "like" other men. Last time I checked we ALL fall short. We all fall short of the glory of God. Even though I am justified by faith through grace, I have to wake up every day and preach the Gospel to myself. I have to be what I am. In other words, I am righteous in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21 - For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God)and therefore I have to remind myself that if Christ is my atonement and I am in right standing with the Creator because of the cross of Christ then I have to live in that identity. (Colossians 2:6-15)
Legalism is like thumbing or noses at God. A friend of mine told me that when he was a kid he wanted to help his dad carry in the groceries. He would pick up the heavy bags and because of his pride he would struggle all the way into the house. He would spill the cans out of the bag instead of asking or letting his dad help him. This is us! It's not going to change our Father's love for us if we do or don't do His requirements. But our pride causes us to think that we can do it all on our own. Does God delight in those who obey His laws and keep His commandments? You bet. But we have to know that it is only through the power of the Holy Spirit enabling us to yield and do good works that we are able to anything. Jesus even says that apart from Him we can do nothing. The deeds we do on our own apart from being compelled by love for Him - are filthy, bloody tampons. Gross. But true. When we do things for His glory and from His power we display the great grace of God. When we realize His great mercy on us, the rebels, the enemies of God we acknowledge our inability to do anything good apart from the vine we are given the grace to accomplish his purposes in our life.
Therefore we should also not abuse grace. "May we go on sinning so that grace may abound?" Hell no! (That is the emphatic greek) One of my favorite authors on grace and the disciplines, Jerry Bridges, writes in Transforming Grace, "Those that abuse God's grace for the sake of worldliness has never bore witness to the awesome splendor and majesty that is found in the death of Jesus on the Cross. Grace is never cheap. It is absolutely free to us, but infinitely expensive to God...Anyone who is prone to use grace as a license for irresponsible, sinful behavior, surely does not appreciate the infinite price God paid to give us His grace." When God ceases to be our treasure we are easily inticed by the world and her charms. Consider the famous C.S. Lewis quote:
If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in the slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
Or John Piper's admonition;
Do we love the world, more than we love Jesus? Do we believe Him when He says, "If you love me you will keep my commandments."? His commandments or yoke is not burdensome. They are light. Delight in Him! Love God! Love Others! However, our pride and the love of self is always there isn't it? Evil is right there with me, as Paul would say. We have a great enemy alive inside of us - Indwelling sin. However we must be reminded that we are now the house of the Holy Spirit and He is fighting on our behalf. Then the external enemies supply the internal enemies with weapons. The world and Satan are constantly bonbarding us with temptation and inclinations to sin - to dishonor our beloved King. How do we fight this enemy? With pea shooter regulations, as Dr. Piper calls them? No, we cling to the promise that greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world. And that when we are the branches and abide in Jesus, He gives us fruit. He enables us to do great things! We must fight along side of our King as well. We must fight! We must kill sin. We must mortify temptation.
When you become so blind that the maker of galaxies and ruler of nations and knower of all mysteries and lover of our souls becomes boring (emphasis mine), then only one thing is left - the love of the world. For the heart is always restless. It must have its treasure: if not in heaven, then on earth.
“Never let us reckon that our work in contending against sin, in crucifying, mortifying, and subduing of it, is at an end. The place of its habitation is unsearchable; and when we may think that we have thoroughly won the field, there is still some reserve remaining that we saw not, that we knew not of. Many conquerors have been ruined by their carelessness after a victory, and many have been spiritually wounded after great successes against this enemy…There is no way for us to pursue sin in its unsearchable habitation but by being endless in our pursuit.” - John Owen
Look to the cross, and hate your sin, for sin nailed your Well Beloved to the tree. Look up to the cross, and you will kill sin, for the strength of Jesus' love will make you strong to put down your tendencies to sin. - C.H. Spurgeon
So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. Romans 6:11-13
To be continued...