Idol Wealth

Second Look: Idol Wealth

[powerpress] When we speak of Jesus being Lord of our lives, we must address the things that are most dear to us. These things are our relationships, how we spend our time, and what we do with our money. They are also the things that we try to relegate to a separate realm, detaching them from our devotional life so we can think ourselves spiritual, while leaving these areas untouched. Jesus makes it clear that this mentality is a deception.

Matthew 19:13-30 (NIV)

13Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.14Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” 15When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.16Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”18“Which ones?” he inquired.Jesus replied, “ ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”20“All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”21Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”22When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.23Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”25When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”26Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”27Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”28Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. 30But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.

We diminish the values of the young and zealous thinking ourselves wiser with age. While this can be true, age does not guarantee wisdom any more than it does beauty. God admonished adults to become like children, yet never for children to be like adults. Could it be that the clarity with which they focus and the simplicity of their values allows them to be more pleasing in the sight of the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God?

An idol is anything that you serve above God and look to for your security, wholeness, and salvation. The things which are your idols are often right in front of you, hidden in plain sight. In the case of this young man, as in many cases, the idol in question is money.

“Whatever your heart clings to and confides in, that is really your God, your functional savior. ” ― Martin Luther

Chicago is an environment that will produce many who are young and wealthy. Regardless of who you compare yourself to, by the world's standards, you are wealthy. Idolatry begins in the heart and can be one of the things that it is easiest to deny. Many times you don't know what your idols are until you are faced with the threat of their loss.

“Rules for Self Discovery:

1. What we want most;

2. What we think about most;

3. How we use our money;

4. What we do with our leisure time;

5. The company we enjoy;

6. Who and what we admire;

7. What we laugh at.”

― A.W. Tozer

The Old and New Testaments have about 800 Scriptures combined regarding wealth, including verses on savings, investments, income, tithing, offering, spending, running a business, family budgets, etc. Jesus spoke about money about 25% of the time, because it has and will always be such a big issue in your life. Jesus' teaching ultimately comes down to your perspective regarding money, its source, and whether or not you trust God to instruct you about what to do with it.

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” (Mark 10:29-31 NIV)

Jesus promises treasure stored up in heaven for those who are generous, and eternal life to those who follow Him in His ways. However, the idolatry of greed attempts to choke out this promise.

Greed is taking more than you need of anything at the expense of others.

It becomes an expense when you have what you need and could do good in the community in which you find yourself, yet hoard or waste your wealth. It is the voice of community that can often help you to discover if the desires within you are pure or subtly sinful.

When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat. This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Everyone is to gather as much as they need. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent.’ ” The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. And when they measured it by the omer, the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed. (Exodus 16:15-18 NIV)

One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. People curse the one who hoards grain, but they pray God’s blessing on the one who is willing to sell. (Proverbs 11:24-26 NIV)

Are there needs in your community while you have more than you need? How has God blessed you to be a blessing?

Once again the solution to this is found in community. We know we're committing outward sins when we are involved in a physical act like adultery. Yet your tone of voice, for example, which can be rude instead of loving, can be unapparent to you without someone else who is objective helping you to evaluate your speech. In the same way, sins of the heart, like greed, can be worked out in community. A Kingdom like Jesus' is a society of interdependent subjects in pursuit of a common goal, the glory of their benevolent King and the well being of their nation. What brother or sister will you allow to speak into your life about such matters, advising you in how you utilize your money?

According to the Bible, it is the love of money, and not money itself, that is evil.

“When I have money, I get rid of it quickly, lest it find a way into my heart.” -John Wesley

The idols of the nations are silver and gold, made by human hands. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see. They have ears, but cannot hear, nor is there breath in their mouths. Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them. (Psalm 135:15-18 NIV)

Jesus was trying to rescue the young man from this condition, but allowed him to go when he refused. There is a price to free will.

A curious Scripture was:

My shield is God Most High, who saves the upright in heart. God is a righteous judge, a God who displays his wrath every day. (Psalm 7:10, 11 NIV)

Wrath is not just in the terrors that people imagine of death, pestilence, or disease. Romans 1:18-28 speaks of the wrath of God in a different way. When God removes His hand, people are given over to their own self-imposed torment.

“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, in the end, "Thy will be done." All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened. ” ― C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

People that I've seen in the city reflect the same type of attitude towards money as Gollum does toward the ring of power in Lord of the Rings, often with similar results in their lives. Money has not saved them, only isolated them and given them greater opportunity for disappointment, bondage, or despair.

Jesus constantly repeats the idea that you can actually lose to gain, and, in this case, generosity with wealth can collectively be used for much good.

Matthew 17:22-27 (NIV)

22When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. 23They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” And the disciples were filled with grief.24After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?”25“Yes, he does,” he replied.When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own children or from others?”26“From others,” Peter answered.“Then the children are exempt,” Jesus said to him. 27“But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”

Obligation vs. Generosity

When you think of God and money, God has given directives that are both for your individual and our corporate benefit. The Old Testament pattern begins with our obligation as the tithe, which begins with the first ten percent of all of our income.

Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. (Proverbs 3:9, 10 NIV)

It is what you owe God, and it is for your benefit as you remember that your source of provision is not your job, the economy, or your ability to hustle. It is the sovereign God who cares for all of creation and has allowed you to continually set your heart at rest in that reality by commanding you to give of what He's entrusted to you. Generosity is a heart attitude repeated in the New Testament that is modeled by God the Father giving His first and best in His only Son, Jesus Christ. He did not give a part, but all of Himself for the greater good. Generosity introduces the idea that the tithe is a floor and not a ceiling to your giving. When you give offerings above and beyond your tithe, this pleases the heart of God when it is done thoughtfully, cheerfully, and for His purposes.

What were the temple tax and tithe? What were they used for?

The temple tax was an annual due above the tithe and had a specific purpose to provide for the regular maintenance of the place of worship. The tithe was given for the food and what would today be the salaries, the basic living expenses, of the Levites and priests who were set apart for full-time work at the temple. God said to bring the full tithe into the storehouse, which used to be the temple, but today is the church. You belong to the universal church, yet are instructed to build your life and serve with others locally. In the same way, there is a practical side to the tithe being given to the local church of which you are a part. God says to bring it into His house, before your favorite charity. There is no biblical statement that says that it can not be split between churches, yet it is practical for the needs of the local house and the expansion of its activities to sow where you are connected relationally, serve regularly, and are being fed. This is the principle of taking care of the house that is taking care of you (Galatians 6:6). Additional offerings above your tithe to help the needy are always encouraged, which God will honor, bless, and add to your heavenly account.

When you give, as a church we hope to eventually do such things as:

1) Continue to pay for the use of meeting facilities as we perpetually to grow as a congregation.

2) Pay for staff members who can preach the gospel, teach the Bible, counsel the church, and administrate the ministry on a full-time basis (Acts 6:1-7; I Corinthians 9). Never forget, time equals souls in the Kingdom, and there are 2.7 million in this city to reach. Statisticians estimate that only 5% of the population of urban environments like Chicago are churched. This would leave an approximate 2,565,000, in the downtown area of Chicago alone, in need of the gospel.

The church will always be propelled by volunteers, but there are those who are set apart by God to expedite Kingdom activity as they devote their careers and livelihood to such a cause.

3) Provide help for the needy of our growing community, helping them to get on their feet (Acts 4).

4) Develop ongoing enrichment and empowering events/conferences to serve our congregation.

5) Supply children's ministry, discipleship, leadership development and outreach material.

6) Purchase additional sound and tech equipment for our worship.

7) Accomplish long-term goals such as developing job training programs for the poor, aid in widow and orphan care, and joining the fight against human trafficking.

8) Advertise the good news of Jesus through our gatherings to our city and beyond.

9) Help plant other churches domestically and internationally.

Everyone can begin somewhere. If every person began to trust God with such generosity, what seems impossible to men can be made possible by our God who multiplies and provides!

This subject is literally a testing of your faith and love for God's Kingdom as you ask yourself, "How can this be done?"

God is very practical and wants to change habits when it comes to things like credit cards, debt, and impulse purchases. When you see all of your money as coming from Him, it can be enjoyed properly, but also consecrated to Christ as you are on mission with Him with your resources. This is when you begin to, as people say, "serve God with your money rather than allowing money to be your god." You begin to work to live rather than living to work. In this case, money becomes your servant, rather than you being the servant of money. God wants to provide freedom to your perspective, heart, and life.

Changing your financial state, but not increasing your wisdom about money, will allow you to end up in the same boat you were previously. This is why we recommend such courses as Financial Peace by Dave Ramsey.

There are many false assumptions about prosperity in the Kingdom. In God's covenant and through His principles of wisdom, diligence, patience, and favor, He gives you the power to produce wealth (Deuteronomy 8). When you do produce wealth, it becomes a heart issue to stay close to your source. It is a matter of using wealth, no matter how much, for its intended purpose so that you are not only blessed, but, like God, are a vehicle of generosity to others. This is what the wealthy young man Jesus encountered missed, but it is the opportunity you are commanded to seize.

God shows us His miraculous provision when we follow His directives.

When you trust and obey God like a child, you are literally breaking the shackles of fear that have held you, and possibly your family, captive for generations. By acknowledging Jesus as your Savior and God as your source, you are freed through the discipline of giving from the idolatry of wealth. You can experience His miraculous provision as you obey His commands and serve our world.

 Second City Church- Second Look Sermon Series 2013

The Chief of Sins, The Chief Shepherd, and His Chief Objective

Second Look: The Chief of Sins, the Chief Shepherd and His Chief Objective

The chief of sins is pride, which is ultimately the root of all that separates us from God and makes us slaves of sin. Jesus is God incarnate, the chief shepherd, who humbled himself to buy us back from our slavery to sin. Now, his chief objective is restoring the world through His church that we might one day enjoy Heaven on earth.

The Chief of Sins

Matthew 18:1-14 (NIV)

1At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. 3And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. 6 “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. 7Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come! 8If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. 9And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell. 10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. 12 “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.

There is a delicate balance between loving God with all of your mind and having the trust to receive instruction like a child. We are commanded to, and commended when, we do both. Pride towards God and others is what gets in the way of this.

"There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people, except Christians ever imagine that they are guilty themselves ....The essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil; Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind...As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you..." - C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Why the analogy of a child?

A child is a trusting soul. However, a child lost in a department store knows when they are lost. They have no trouble acknowledging it because they feel the fear, the anxiety, and the threat of uncertainty. Even if someone tries to help them, they are usually not open to a stranger's help, because they have been trained to be on guard. When they are found, they cling to their parent and won't let them go as long as the memory of that experience remains. This is how you will be when you have a true revelation of God.

Jesus said to cut off that which causes sin in your life. It is often pride when you have been forewarned of the detrimental effects of your sin but you refuse to cut off that which is destructive.

“If you ask me what is the first precept of the Christian religion, I will answer first, second and third, Humility.” – St. Augustine

Is Hell Too Heavy a Price to Pay?

In regards to hell, Jesus used the word Gehenna. Gehenna was a region where trash was taken and burned. When you talk to those who have been exposed to the church and the non-Christian alike, they bring up the idea of "hellfire and brimstone" preaching as if it is a slight on the church and part of why they have, in an enlightened way, opted out of such fear tactics to decide their fate. The popular opinion is that because the mass of our culture has rejected such an idea, it is no longer relevant or true, that it is an antiquated, outmoded, and primitive concept. You can deceive yourself into thinking that because the mass does not embrace it, you have the right, even the intellectually liberated obligation, to throw off such ideas or institutions that promote them. In doing so, you throw off Jesus, who spoke more about hell than any other teacher. The truth is that you will have to wake up to this reality no matter how long you put off the thought.

"Grace doesn't overlook sin, it empowers obedience." -Bill Johnson

It is ironic that those who ordered the crucifixion of Jesus were those who deemed themselves the most religious. They lacked humility and, therefore, missed the grace of God. The apostle Paul was initially no different, yet changed his speech from being a Pharisee without equal to the chief of sinners as he aged.

"Christ sends none away empty but those who are full of themselves." - C.H. Spurgeon

The Chief Shepherd

Why the analogy of the sheep?

We are like sheep, because we forget God's love and truths, wandering continually into the wolf's lair. Thanks be to God that we have a chief shepherd and under shepherds who fight for us!

The chief objective of God the Father expressed through his Son, Jesus Christ, is to reconcile a lost and dying world to Himself. This is the message of the cross where He is on a mission to create an ever growing community of worshipers whom He loves and who love Him! People often get offended about the talk of numbers in the church. Numbers are people, their stories and their lives, none of which are disposable to God. Jesus speaks in these terms and says very specifically as the good shepherd that He will leave the 99 going in search of the lost 1. He declares that there is more joy over the 1 found than the 99 not in need of His salvation. Make no doubt about it: We are here as a church to reach people with the love and gospel of Jesus Christ. He cares even when others do not. He is here to save and change your life today.

His Chief Objective

It is impossible to love Jesus fully without loving his bride, which is the church. It is difficult at times because of the pride in our hearts and the sin in our midst. Nonetheless, Jesus is building his church.

Matthew 18:15-20 (NIV)

15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector. 18 “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

There is just as much religious, unregenerate behavior in the traditional church as the non-denominational church. They both represent cultures in which people can become comfortable and hide.

Who can be a part of Jesus' church?

Those who have been born again, having repented of their sin and put their trust in Jesus' death on the cross, burial, and resurrection from the dead are part of God's church.

There is a difference between calling yourself a Christian and being a part of the church that Jesus is building. Podcast Christianity is not being a part of the church. Nor is sitting home watching your favorite TV minister or gathering together with your Christian buddies. Though these are wonderful outlets for receiving encouragement, they do not encompass Jesus' requirements or purpose for His local body of believers. You must be engaged faithfully as a consistent participant of the church.

There is both a universal expression and a local expression of the church.

Wanderers and vagabonds only identify with the universal church because it is more comfortable. It lacks any type of accountability or pruning capabilities because there is no commitment.

The church is:

1) A house of worship and prayer for all the nations. (Luke 19:19-48; Matt. 18)

2) A family where issues are worked out as we grow together into the image of Christ. (Matt. 18)

3) A place of instruction and teaching from the Bible. (Acts 2)

4) A series of local bodies of government and God-ordained leadership. (Acts 15)

5) A community of repentance and discipline. If you can't be excommunicated, it is a social club, not the church of Jesus Christ. (I Corinthians 5)

6) A gathering where the sacraments of baptism, communion, and holy marriage are practiced.

7) A haven of relational encouragement, fellowship, and accountability. (James 5:13-20)

8) A people on mission with Jesus. (Matthew 16)

How do you know where God has joined you?

You begin with prayer, but it does not end there. I did not pray to find out whether I belonged to the Fisher family. I accepted God's providence. I asked myself the question, who is feeding me, clothing me and paying my bills? Who is teaching me to grow into a man and equipping me to survive in the world. That is my family, that is my home. It is the place where you were born (again), where you are known, where you work to make yourself known and have been asked to contribute as a viable member of the household. It is very practical and more obvious than it seems, but all of these ingredients must be working together to find your place.

A selfish Christian looks solely to have the church serve their needs. Though this is a benefit, it does not end there. If that is all that church is to you, you will ironically, in the end, lose the very thing that you were searching for. Jesus repeatedly said if you find your life you will lose it, but if you lose your life for Him and the gospel, you will find it.

I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon. (Philippians 2:19-24 NIV)

Laziness will be a killer in your walk with God. If you are only in the church as long as people keep you there, you will soon be out and find reasons to justify why.

Your love for God will be tested when you don't get your perceived needs met, but instead show up to worship God anyway.

“Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy's will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

Don't look for things from people that should only come from God. This includes your security, fulfillment, value, and rest. Don't look for things from God that He has ultimately delegated to people. This includes your spiritual community, your accountability, and your practical outlet for service. You love God by loving His people and the world that He died to reach.

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. (Hebrews 6:10 NIV)

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:23-25 NIV)

We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:19-21 NIV)

I encourage you to ask the question as to whether you show up to worship God because you feel that you are being entertained in the place that you are. Being a part of the church is about worshiping God the Father, Creator of everything seen and unseen, through His Son, Jesus Christ. However, in the West, with our consumer mentality, we shop for the best experience that will satisfy our whims and desires. Many bring the engrained marketing slogans of our culture into the church and act as if it is a shopping network, rather than a family to which He joins you. We don't choose our family. God chooses it for us.

Offense will expose the true object of your worship. If your church experience is about you, and not the Jesus who is building His church, there will soon be some relational disappointment or rub to give you reason to leave, inevitably worshiping the one you were there for anyway.

There is validity to hurts that have been experienced in the church, i.e. - money or sexual scandals. However, we only get knocked off course when we had the wrong person on the pedestal in the first place. The object of esteem should always be Christ Jesus, the perfect one. It is then that love for His imperfect bride will continue.

Second City Church- Second Look Sermon Series 2013

It Is All About Me

Bad Religion: It's All About Me

The saying, "It doesn't matter what I do, as long as I believe," is often heard in Christian circles. Bad religion can be equated to a lazy man's philosophy. Though we are offered peace with God through what Jesus has done for us, the daily decisions that we make determine both our present and eternal destiny. To walk in a life worthy of the calling that God has placed upon us, we must understand the way that the kingdom of heaven works and acknowledge why what we do matters.

The Way Things Work

Jesus often taught in parables which were comparisons or similitudes explaining the dynamics of life. Jesus referenced the parable of the sower as of utmost importance (Mark 4:13), because it described the realities of a growing or declining relationship with God.

Matthew 13:1-23 (NIV)

1That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9Whoever has ears, let them hear.” 10The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” 11He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 13This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. 14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “ ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. 15 For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’ 16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. 17 For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it. 18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

Religion is often thought to be a quick fix rather than a process of growth.

The four examples of responses to the Word of God being preached are different types of heart responses that we can have. The truth is that we determine what type of heart that we will have.

Scenario 1:

When we do not understand the depths of how God's Word should transform our lives, it is because we have not studied. Bad religion has you sit in worship gatherings endlessly, yet perpetually remain the same.

One who is full loathes honey from the comb, but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet. (Proverbs 27:7 NIV)

If you are humble and hungry, you will find a way to continually find nourishment from and utilize what you have been taught.

Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Your commands are always with me and make me wiser than my enemies. I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes. I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts. (Psalm 119:97-100 NIV)

To understand the Scripture, you should look to:

Memorize the Word. (Retain it, so that it is available and useful.)

Meditate upon the Word. (Discover its meaning and application.)

Manifest the Word. (Find a way to put it into action.)

Scenario 2:

People have no root (a private life with God as an anchor), so when opposition or criticism comes because of your Christ-centered convictions, you have no strength from which you can pull.

In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. (2 Timothy 3:12, 13 NIV)

The Greek word used for persecution literally meant: To harm, do evil to someone, ill-treat, injure; to prejudice, to create a bias against, ill-affect, or create antipathy towards.

The gospel brings adjustment and redefinition to our identity and character. Just because someone is bringing correction to your life does not mean that it is hate speech. In fact, Proverbs 27 continues to state:

Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses. As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:5, 6, 17 NIV)

Scenario 3:

In the world, people are driven by the strange combination of pleasures and fears.

It is the ploy of the enemy to perpetuate a paralysis in our routines to lead us to ineffective living where we make no impact for the Kingdom of God. It is much like the lion tamer with the chair in his hand pacifying the otherwise ferocious cat by inducing a lack of focus in the beast.

"It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about 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 a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased." - C.S. Lewis (Weight of Glory and Other Addresses)

Scenario 4:

Jesus is clearly looking for a return on His investment in us. A life that produces a crop 100, 60, and 30 times of what is sown into it, means that, through the commands of Scripture, our life is marked by the spiritual disciplines of prayer, fellowship, tithing and offering our finances, evangelism, discipleship, and service to faithfully, steadily, advance the gospel. This brings increase to the Kingdom of God through His church, which is to be the pillar and foundation of the truth in any society.

Why What We Do Matters

Matthew 13:24-43 (NIV)

24Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. 27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ 28 “ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ 29 “ ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’ ” 31He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” 33He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough. 34Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. 35So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.” 36Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” 37He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, 39and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. 40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.

The religious life is also often seen as a "good idea" rather than an assignment as you follow Christ. First, we can see that what we do counts, because, on the day of judgment, Jesus will have His angels separate the wicked from the righteous. The wicked will be cast into eternal torment while the righteous inherit the Kingdom of God. It is only through Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection that we are made righteous, played out through the obedience that follows our trust in him.

The church is to be the quintessential combination of both wisdom for the world's ills and virtue to provide manpower towards these solutions.

"Hope is one of the theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought the most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since that Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth, and you will get neither." - CS Lewis, Mere Christianity, Part 44 (1952; Harper Collins 2001) 134.

Jeremiah 29:4-7 speaks of the importance of cities as centers of intellectual thought, power and commerce. The formulation of ideas in these centers shape society as a whole. Metropolitan areas were the focus of Paul's missionary journeys.

Have a vision to be more than transient in this city. The habits that you develop now are the ones that you will have later under more strenuous circumstances, only exacerbated. The disciplines that you develop in the rigors of the city can mark your life.

“The local church is the hope of the world, and its future rests primarily in the hands of its leaders.” -Bill Hybels

The rule of God is presented as a far better option in which to live all areas of life.

Matthew 13:44-52 (NIV)

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. 45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. 47 “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. 48 When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. 49 This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous 50 and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 51“Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked. “Yes,” they replied. 52He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”

Bad religion is that which is compartmentalized rather than a life-shaping revelation.

A half-hearted approach to your faith was never an option in God's mind. We are to be on mission with Jesus Christ to redeem the world through his gospel, which is the only meta-assignment that will truly satisfy.

At the crossroads of calling, when you are trying to decide what to do with your life and time, a good question to ask is: "What will I look back and say that my life has meant in God - the only thing that lasts eternally?"

"If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death..." - C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity)


- Find one way this week to throw your lot deeper into Christ's Kingdom to produce a crop 100, 60, or 30 times what has been invested in you.

Second City Church- Bad Religion Sermon Series 2013

I Just Cant Get Over You

Man on a Mission: I Just Can't Get Over You (God's Peace)

*** Matthew 5:21-26 ***

As we begin the year we are getting on the same page in a unified manner to officially launch our church in the next several months.  (Leading expectations in a church plant)

Last week, we talked about Jesus calling his people to be a city set on a hill, a city within a city, as we will aspire to be as 2nd City Church.  To do so, we are unpacking the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus tackles the things that are essential to a healthy Christian life.  These include how we prioritize our relationships, our service and our money.

Beef with you:

I was angry with my friend: I told my wrath, my wrath did end. I was angry with my foe: I told it not, my wrath did grow.” ― William Blake

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. (Matthew 5:21, 22 NIV84)

Explanation and significance of: Angry (Greek: orgizo) - enraged Raca - means "empty-headed" and was a personal, public affront.  Name calling was extremely insulting in Jewish culture because it challenged the identity of the individual by stripping the significance attached to one's name.  Think of lible suits. Sanhedrin - the official adjudicating body of the Jews handling matters of the law except when impinging upon Roman rule You Fool - also implies moral failure Hell - Gehenna

It is not ok in the church or in life to carry around grudges.  The anger that Jesus speaks of often originates with a pride in our own righteousness.  This is the inner working of murder which precipitates disparaging speech about others when you are pressed.  It is often overlooked because it is so commonplace in our environments.  However Jesus takes it very seriously because it is the seedbed of bitterness which destroys individuals, households, churches and societies.  I.e. - the ethnic tensions in Chicago We never really recognize how much the grudges that we carry shape and limit us in life.  There is no one who can say they are unaffected without sincere self-evaluation.  It is the motivating factor for both discrimination and merciless judgments against one another.  It removes any motivation to build relationships or move beyond your own desires or needs.  It is a self-absorbed and loveless existence.

* The church should be a place of esteem, affection and commitment  as we consistently engage one another to model Jesus' love while building his Kingdom together.  This is what we will aspire to be as 2CC

Beef with me:

Why would Jesus be so emphatic about these issues?: Ultimately, life is about relationships; relationship with God our Creator and relationship with one another.  This is the summary of the two greatest commands which sum up the law and the prophets which he came to fulfill.

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23, 24 NIV84)

It is not ok to ignore the offense that others have with you, whether it be a co-worker, spouse or friend.  We all have blind spots which precipitate our selfishness and it is the pain that others experience in their interaction with us that can at times point out our sin.  God is clearly saying that you can not both be "spiritual" and negligent of the relationships into which he has sovereignly placed you.

What he is not speaking about is taking on the burden of the things that damage relationships that are not under your control.  What Jesus is enforcing by taking matters to the heart is that we need to take responsibility for our own actions and treat others in their own shortcomings with the grace that we ourselves have been shown in Christ.

C.S. Lewis articulated clearly why we will begin the reorganization talking about relationships:

“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously - no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.”

― C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

We live in two extremes in life.  We are products of the fight or flight psychology, but God calls us to deal with relationships squarely and righteously.

Breaking Free:

“Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny. (Matthew 5:25, 26 NIV84)

In the Jewish culture, there is no record of debtor's prison. The implication here is that it was a Roman institution.  What this meant for the people of God is that you lose your political immunity per se if you choose to allow yourself indulgences because of your position or walls with which you shelter yourself.  You, in a sense, remove yourself from the amnesty and protection of God until you treat others with the dignity and seriousness with which he views them.

Duke University did a study on “peace of mind.” Factors found to contribute greatly to emotional and mental stability are:

1. The absence of suspicion and resentment. Nursing a grudge was a major factor in unhappiness.

2. Not living in the past. An unwholesome preoccupation with old mistakes and failures leads to depression.

3. Not wasting time and energy fighting conditions you cannot change. Cooperate with life, instead of trying to run away from it.

4. Force yourself to stay involved with the living world. Resist the temptation to withdraw and become reclusive during periods of emotional stress.

5. Refuse to indulge in self-pity when life hands you a raw deal. Accept the fact that nobody gets through life without some sorrow and misfortune.

6. Cultivate the old-fashioned virtues—love, humor, compassion and loyalty

7. Do not expect too much of yourself. When there is too wide a gap between self-expectation and your ability to meet the goals you have set, feelings of inadequacy are inevitable.

8. Find something bigger than yourself to believe in. Self-centered egotistical people score lowest in any test for measuring happiness.

Source unknown

Javert vs. Jean Val Jean in Les Miserables and Acts 9 Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. (Hebrews 12:14, 15 NIV84)

Now is an opportunity to get connected to God through Jesus and his grace - the new walk that begins as you receive his forgiveness provided by his death, burial and resurrection.

As we go into next weeks 2nd prelaunch, we can ask ourselves the question, not only who are our friends that we can invite, but also those who need Jesus who are in whom we've hated, had broken family or romantic relationships, those to whom we've lied, or owe us something.  Treat it as an extension of grace.  Who have been your downright enemies to whom you can show the grace that you've been shown?

2nd City Church – Man On A Mission Sermon Series 2013

A New Response

Man on a Mission: A New Response

Christmas is all about Jesus and His mission to save the world.

At the holidays, God's intention is that we would recalibrate, mending and going deeper in our relationships with Him and one another.

We will look at the response of two individuals to the coming of Jesus, and how we can reorient our lives based on their examples. God wants a fresh response from us.

Matthew 1:18-25 (NIV)

18This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”22All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).24When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

The Bible becomes a mirror to us. Holiday parties and our prep - like the wedding banquet of the Lamb for which we are preparing. The first and second coming of Christ.

Joseph's response

Our paradigm of worship has been shaped by our experiences. Whether it be dead religion or a dynamic walk of trust and obedience to God, the holidays are a good time to evaluate the camp in which we find ourselves.

Joseph could have missed the worship of God if he was only looking at his natural circumstances - a pregnant fiancée that he'd never been with, the shame of his commitment in a small community, the inconvenience of their trip to Egypt.

However, what he learned to do was see his circumstances, as the very things God was using to bring Joseph to Himself and to Joseph's life's purpose.

The chance meeting with the angel was no coincidence. What we call coincidence is better explained as God's providence. What encounters have you had that you can rightly acknowledge as God's providence to call you to a deeper place in your faith?

Matthew 2:1-16 (NIV)

1After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: 6“ ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” 7Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” 9After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.13When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” 14So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”16When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.

Herod's response

King Herod was a paranoid man whose pride and stubbornness eventually destroyed his own family.

As Herod did, we try to get rid of anyone who may infringe on our sense of independence. Though Herod had front row seats to the coming of the King of Kings, He rejected Jesus along with the personal transformation that could have been his.

The fate of his family line.

Salvation is what God intended for Herod, but he would not even think of abdicating his throne, wrecking his own life and family in the process.

How is it that we can be like Herod - suspicious and resistant when anyone begins to speak of another KING that may threaten our place on our own throne?

Our response

Jesus comes to reorient our every day living. Life was never the same for Joseph when he said "yes" to the call of God.

Saying "yes" to Jesus implies new and renewed commitments.

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21 NIV)

He came to save us from our sins, meaning that we must both acknowledge and turn from them to live as the child of God that He has called us to be. Anything else is a farce and a mockery of this season He had made holy.

Religious faith vs. genuine faith

It goes beyond mere head knowledge. Herod had head knowledge but would not respond appropriately to the reality of Jesus. Joseph, on the other hand, sought out the directives of God and allowed the commands of God to change him, despite the personal cost. We can be like Joseph:

1) Begin to open the Bible again over the holidays and, through prayer, search out God's directives for your life. 2) As you read, find the places where you've been like Herod, and begin to abdicate your throne. Allow it to be a mirror to you, and, with His help, make the necessary adjustments.

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you–unless, of course, you fail the test? (2 Corinthians 13:5 NIV)

Second City Church - Man on a Mission Sermon Series 2012