Man of Action, Man of Prayer (Nehemiah 1)

Sermon Recap

Nehemiah was a man of action! He worked at the highest levels of Persian government, and was an extremely effective leader. He took on the monumental task of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, and accomplished his goals. But the biblical account of his life does not start with his actions. It starts with his prayer. Nehemiah 1 teaches us that to be a wo/man of action in God’s kingdom, you must first be a wo/man of prayer.

1. Prayer is not mindfulness. It is communion with God.

While mindfulness may be popular, we should not confuse it with prayer. Prayer is not about breathing or health; it is about relationship with Father, Son, and Spirit.

2. Prayer is submission to God.

Nehemiah works under the king of Persia, but he is submitted to the King of heaven.

3. Knowing God in prayer leads us to know ourselves. 

Nehemiah was no John Wayne. He knew himself and knew when it was ok to be emotional (Neh. 1:4, 6-7). He knew himself because he knew his God.. He knew himself because he knew his God.

4. Prayer is action.

We think of prayer as passive. It is in a sense. But it is also highly active! (Isa. 55:11)

5. Adoration praises God. (Neh. 1:5)

We praise God because it is what he deserves and why we exist! (Rev. 5:9-11)

6. Confession is for everyday. (Neh. 1:6-7)

The closer you are to someone, the more you need their forgiveness. Paul says we live and move and have our being in God (Acts 17:28). We should confess everyday.

7. Supplication belongs in the story. (Neh. 1:8-11)

Nehemiah prays in light of Israel’s story. We pray in light of the gospel (Jn. 14:13-14).

8. Confidence in prayer comes in Christ.

In the gospel story, I can know who I am. And I can pray with confidence humility because I know the Father hears me in Christ.

Reflection & Application Questions

  1. Do you have more time for mindfulness or prayer?

  2. Are you joyfully submitted to God? Does your prayer life show this?

  3. Do you believe the way to know yourself is to know your God? Why/not?

  4. Why does Nehemiah start with adoration? Why is that important?

  5. Do you confess your sin everyday? How can you grow in this practice?

  6. Do you make requests to God in light of the gospel story? Why does the gospel give us confidence to make requests of the Father?

  7. How does the gospel give us confident humility? How can you grow in this?

Bridging the Gap (Ezra 10)

Sermon Recap

The first of Martin Luther’s famous 95 Theses strikes at the heart of Christianity: “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’, he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” If being a Christian means walking always in repentance, then Ezra 10 has a lot to teach us about following Christ. If confession is about acknowledging to God the gap between what his Word says and how we actually live, then repentance is about bridging that gap by turning from our sin, to Christ, by the power of the Spirit.

1. Repentance is a mark of Christian leadership. (Ezra 10:1)

Leaders can’t lead you to Christ if they don’t repent. Ezra demonstrates what it takes.

2. Repentance is not an abstract idea. It’s concrete action. (Ezra 10:1-5)

Turning from sin is not a theory; it’s an action. Ezra leads Israel to active repentance.

3. Repentance is communal. (Ezra 10:1-5, 12)

To live in Christian community is to get messy together, even when it comes to sin.

4. Repentance is uncomfortable. (Ezra 10:6-9)

In order to repent, Israel has to get uncomfortable (in the rain and cold!).

5. Repentance needs help. (Ezra 10:9-11)

You can’t turn from sin on your own. We need each other’s help to follow Christ.

6. Repentance gets practical. (Ezra 10:12-17)

Ezra led repentance, but couldn’t do it all. It took others with a practical eye to do so.

7. Repentance hurts. (Ezra 10:44)

Israel’s repentance was costly. It hurt to end ungodly marriages. Repentance hurts.

8. Repent through the cross.

We can’t bridge the gap. But Christ bridged it for us. Now we can repent and believe in him. (2 Cor. 3:17-18; Rom. 12:1)

Reflection & Application Questions

  1. Why is it important to remember repentance is concrete action?

  2. What is one way repentance should be communal in our church?

  3. Why are we hesitant to ask for and receive help in repentance?

  4. What is one practical step you need to take toward repentance?

  5. How might that practical step toward repentance be painful for you?

  6. Why can we only repent through the cross? Why is the ability to repent in Christ such good news?

Mind the Gap (Ezra 9)

(Please note that the Scripture reading begins in the audio at 1:02; some of the announcements were added to the beginning of the recording by accident.)

Sermon Recap

Every time a train pulls into a station in London’s subway system—the Underground—a voice over the loudspeaker tells riders to “mind the gap,” acknowledging that riders could stumble and fall as they step on or off the train. In Ezra 9, Ezra is informed of Israel’s sin and “minds the gap.” He confesses his nation’s sin, acknowledging to God the gap between what his Word says and what they actually do. This passage teaches us about the nature of confession of our sin.

1. Broken by Sin

How does Ezra become so broken by his sin? First, the Word of God broke in (Heb. 4:12); that Word declared the people’s sin clearly; and this led to Ezra’s brokenness and humility before God (Ezra 9:3-5).

2. Humbled in Prayer

Ezra’s humility in prayer reveals how much he has been broken by his sin. He is honest about his people’s sin. Most striking is the way he prays the character of God, especially his justice and mercy (Ezra 9:13-15).

3. Life in the Word

As much of a model for confession of sin as Ezra is in this passage, he is not an end in himself. We need to see the Priest to whom Ezra points, Jesus Christ. A priest who became sin for us (1 Pet. 2:24). A priest who, on the cross, united the justice and mercy of God in his sacrifice of love for us (Ps. 85:10-11). Our response to Christ should be to “repent and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). And that begins with confessing our sin.

Reflection & Application Questions

  1. Do you feel that Ezra is overdoing it in his confession? Why? Is he overdoing it, or are our hearts callous to the gravity of our sin before a holy God?

  2. When was the last time you confessed your sin to God? What did it sound like? How specific are you able and willing to get in your confession of sin?

  3. Do you tend to emphasize the justice or the mercy of God? Why?

  4. Do you see yourself in light of God’s reality? Do you see the gap between his Word and your life? What keeps you from seeing? Are you distracted? Busy? Unwilling? Proud?

  5. How does a failure to be specific in our confession of sin cheapen the grace of God?

  6. Take time this week to identify one area of sin to specifically confess to God. Ask his forgiveness. Seek practical ways to walk in repentance.

Coming Home to Worship (Ezra 8)

Sermon Recap

If you’ve lived in a foreign country for a long time, coming home would seem like a welcome respite. You would value being rooted and having a sense of belonging that you may never really have in a different land. That’s what Ezra and Israelites sought in returning home and what we find in our worship every single week.

1. Worship Remembers God’s Promise

Genealogies can be boring but they often have important details that shed light on what God is doing. In our passage, the genealogy shows us that Ezra took serious God’s promise to gather His people together in Jerusalem again to worship Him rightly. Everyone was to be properly represented and part of the journey. He holds a greater promise for His church, a vision that we have a foretaste of in our worship.

2. Worship Trusts God’s Provision

In calling for fasting and prayer, one would think Ezra felt desperate after turning down help from the Persian king. Yet our attitude toward this call to trust in God may reveal our own heart postures toward dependence on God. Do we allow our circumstances to dictate when it’s proper to fast and pray or do we understand that we’re always dependent on God, no matter how much we plan and think we have control over?

3. Worship Praises God’s Power

Ezra counts the valuables before and after the journey because it highlights a phrase we see three times in this passage: “The good hand of God was with us.” All these valuables went toward the temple and served to highlight the complete worship service they all celebrated when this second group of refugees returned. It was evidence of God’s power coming through for His people.

Reflection and Application

  1. How do you feel when you finally return home after traveling in a foreign country for awhile? What makes it so relieving to be home?

  2. What are the promises that God has made to His church that we take hold of in our worship? Are these promises foundational to why you worship?

  3. What type of situations typically force you to fast and pray? Does any change in those circumstances make you less dependent on prayer? Why?

  4. What would it look like to regularly trust in God in every moment?

  5. In what ways have you seen God’s good hand upon you? How has it driven you to worship?

Holistic Joy (Ezra 7)

Sermon Recap

The sovereignty of God stands behind everything that takes place in Ezra 7. Ezra tells us explicitly that God is in control of his circumstances when he says “the hand of God” was upon him, advancing his purposes for Israel (Ezra 7:6, 9, 28). God’s sovereign rule in his life does not cause Ezra pain or angst. Rather, we learn in this story that living under God’s sovereignty gives us holistic joy.

1. Under God’s sovereignty, we live whole.

Ezra is not ashamed of his past; rather, his past makes him fully qualified to serve God and his people as a priest (Ezra 7:1-6). He took who God made him to be and gave himself wholly to service. The testimony of Ezra’s whole life spoke to the goodness and sovereignty of his God (Ezra 7:10). “You do you” was Ezra’s motto, but it wasn’t about self-realization or self-aggrandizement. “You do you” meant that Ezra was free to serve God and his people with all that he had and all that he was.

2. Courageous obedience under God’s sovereignty leads to joy.

Ezra’s embrace of God’s sovereignty was not an abstract principle. Instead, it led him to courageously risk his own well being for the sake of God’s glory (Ezra 7:6). And in courageously obeying God—and seeing God answer his obedience with blessing and faithfulness—Ezra rejoiced in the Lord (Ezra 7:27-28). We can courageously obey God under his sovereign hand because we know Jesus sits at his right hand (Heb. 12:2).

Reflection & Application Questions

  1. Do you believe that God sovereignty rules over all things? Where else does the Bible teach this?

  2. How does the Bible hold God’s goodness and his greatness together? Where do we see these two attributes of God in Ezra 7?

  3. How does Ezra follow “You do you”? How is this advice redeemed in his life?

  4. What areas of your life do you tend to hold back from God? How do you fall short of living “whole” before God, under his sovereignty?

  5. Why should the sovereignty of God give us courage to obey? How does disobedience reveal lack of faith in God’s sovereignty?

  6. Why does Ezra rejoice at the end of the passage? When should we expect to see the same kind of joy in our own lives?

Worship Renews Our Joy (Ezra 6)

Sermon Recap

Ezra 6 is the climax of Israel’s return. They were sent home to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem; now it is complete. And with the restart of worship comes its natural outflow: joy. In Ezra 6 we learn that worship renews our joy.

1. Our Joy Is God’s Agenda

In this story, God reveals what he is most interested in. He uses the most powerful empire in the world to decree and finance the reconstruction of the temple in Jerusalem. Politics, economics, wars and civilizations are not ends in themselves. God bends them all in the direction of the worship and joy of his people (see James 1:2-3 and Romans 8:28).

2. Our Joy Is Word-Produced and God-Directed

No building methods are discussed in this chapter. We don’t know how many people it took to build the temple or what they built it with. But Ezra 6:14 says that “the elders of the Jews built and prospered through the prophesying of Haggai… and Zechariah.” God’s Word is what built his house of worship and gave such joy to his people (Ezra 6:16). And when the Word came centuries later, He gave abundant joy to his people (John 10:10, 15:11).

3. Our Joy Comes From Obedience

God’s people had great joy when they obeyed God’s commands and celebrated the Passover (Ezra 6:17-22). Obeying God meant they had to have a party! Our joy comes from our obedience to Him in Christ.

Reflection & Application Questions

  1. What do you think God is most interested in the world? Why?

  2. Why is God’s agenda our joy? What does that tell you about the kind of God he is?

  3. How does God’s agenda give us hope in the midst of trial?

  4. Where do we tend to look for joy? Why are worldly sources of joy bound to fail us?

  5. How does this passage show us that God is our source of joy?

  6. We can’t control our circumstances, but we can control our obedience to God. How does God use our obedience to give us joy?

Worship is the Only Option (Ezra 4-5)

Sermon Recap

Not long after the Israelites put down the foundation for the new temple, they were opposed and forced to stop. The foundation remained untouched for almost 100 years before they began rebuilding. What does it take for God’s people to worship again and why is it necessary for their life?

1. Worship Defines Our Opposition

God’s church has always faced opposition to worship yet only in America do we not really sense this. We’re much closer to the apathy of Israel living around temple ruins, forgetting why worship matters in the first place. How much of our lack of opposition toward our worship reveals how careless our attitudes are toward honoring and glorifying God?

2. Worship Demands Our Repentance

If we desire the presence of God, we must worship. That often means learning to repent from our prevailing postures. This is not simply grieving over our disobedience but also entrusting ourselves to God again in worship, knowing He is good. Very often, worship and repentance go hand-in-hand with one leading to the other.

3. Worship Displays God’s Victory

The prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah immediately play out as the Babylonians help supply the building of the temple in the reconstruction. It’s God’s Word immediately bearing fruit. Yet the beauty is that the greater victory promised in their promises would fully bloom in Jesus Christ, our true temple where we encounter God’s gracious presence and receive His peace.

Reflection and Application

  1. What does opposition to worship look like to you today? What are the “options” you have in life that often tempt you from wanting to worship?

  2. Do you feel like you’re building on the foundation of faith in your life or has it remained untouched for quite awhile now? What is worship necessary to change that?

  3. What is the relationship between repentance and worship? Why do they need one another?

  4. Why is worship not an option for the discouraged and the broken?

  5. How is Christ the true fulfillment of Haggai’s and Zechariah’s prophecies to re-establish the temple of God?

  6. What does it mean in Heb. 12:28 to receive a kingdom that cannot be shaken? How should this affect how we worship?

Living Sacrifice (Ezra 2)

Sermon Recap

Ezra is about the renewal of God’s people in worship. But in order to bring them to renewal, he brings them through deep sacrifice. The Christian life is one of sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2), because worship requires sacrifice.

1. They sacrificed their homes to worship God

God’s people had to leave the home they knew (Jer. 29:5-7) for one they did not for the sake of God’s worship (Ezra 1:5).

2. They sacrificed their comfort to worship God

Ezra 2:64 tells us 42,360 people made a 1678 mile journey from Babylon to Jerusalem on foot in order to give themselves in worship to their God.

3. They sacrificed their wealth to worship God

Israel gave extravagantly in order to give God the worship he deserved (Ezra 2:68-69)

4. They sacrificed their individualism to worship God

They gathered as one man (Ezra 3:1) in order to worship God around his altar and promote the unity of his church.

5. They sacrificed their security to worship God

Jerusalem was not a safe place for God’s people (Ezra 3:3). They gave up safe neighborhoods for a ruined city surrounded by enemies—all so they could worship God!

6. They sacrificed their dignity to worship God

They let their emotions out in a lavish display of worship (Ezra 3:11-13). We can sacrifice in these and countless other ways because “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph. 5:2). Christ died as a sacrifice so we could live as one.

Reflection & Application Questions

  1. Why did God require Israel to sacrifice so much in order to worship him?

  2. Why does he call us to live lives of sacrificial love to him?

  3. What have you sacrificed in worship to God in the past? What are you sacrificing in your life right now?

  4. What has God perhaps called you to sacrifice but that you have not wanted to? What is stopping you from sacrificing? Why?

  5. Which of the things that Israel sacrificed in our passage would be the hardest for your to give up? Ask God to give you the faith required to be able to sacrifice in worship!

  6. Why must Christ’s sacrifice precede our own? Why should our worship begin with what Christ gave up for our sake?

Worship Is… (Ezra 1)

Sermon Recap

Ezra is about the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem after it had been destroyed by Babylon in 587 B.C. The temple was where God met with his people, and where they gathered to worship him. We can get a compelling definition of worship from Ezra 1.

1. Worship is the only right response to the presence of God

From Moses to Isaiah to Ezekiel to Peter with Jesus, when people discovered they were with God, they fell down and worshiped.

2. Worship shapes the universe

God raised up one empire and destroyed another (as he said he would in Jer. 25:12-13) so that his worship could continue in Israel!

3. The Word invokes worship

God spoke the universe into being, and calls us in his Word to worship him.

4. Worship is love freely given to God

That was the response of Israel (Ezra 1:5-6). That should be the response of all who worship.

5. Worship is costly and sacrificial

God gave his best for us (Rom. 8:32). We should do the same (Ezra 1:4, 7ff).

6. Worship is by God’s people in God’s place

Worship requires people and place (Ezra 1:3; Heb. 10:25), because we are embodied creatures.

7. Worship gives purpose and meaning to human existence

We are God’s temple now (1 Peter 2:4-5). It is by God’s grace that we are caught up into his purpose for the whole universe, the praise of his glorious grace.

Reflection & Application Questions

  1. What did you learn about biblical worship that was new or surprising?

  2. Are you conscious of God’s presence in your life? Why or why not? Does this lead to worship?

  3. Why must worship be love freely given to God? What would it be if it were coerced?

  4. Why should worship be costly and sacrificial? Does your worship meet this criteria? How is God calling you to change?

  5. Why is people and place so important to God? To us? Do you view yourself and worship like this?

  6. Does worship give meaning and purpose to your life? What competes with worship for meaning and purpose? How can you repent of this and redirect your heart toward worshiping Christ?

In God's Time (Psalm 90)

Sermon Recap

Life gets so busy in the Bay Area that we often don’t take time to assess what it’s all for. We question what our purpose truly is, get disappointed by how mundane things are, and wonder if we’re really making any impact. This psalm challenges us to think about what it means to live faithfully in the face of the cold reality that we all one day will die.

1. Our Circumstance

Psalm 90 highlights the chasm between God and man. He is the eternal Creator and we are mortal creation. He transcends time while we are bound by it. If we are to have an honest assessment of our lives, we must first be oriented by these truths. Ultimately, death is where we all will end up which makes many of us wonder if anything we do matters.

2. Our Consequence

One of the big issues is we think death is the big problem when the real issue is sin. God’s wrath toward sin is manifested in death. Our culture tries to deal with this by either trying to excuse sin or escape it. Both attempts fail because they try to alter the character of an unchanging God to work around us. Instead, what we really need is to see what God has done about our sin.

3. Our Confidence

Thank God this psalm doesn’t end at v.12. It would be so hopeless! Instead, Moses prays that God would display his work and glorious power. He was eyewitness to it in the Exodus, which events all pointed forth to our Messiah, Jesus. In him, God accomplished his greatest work and displayed his most glorious power. By faith in him, our lives find the significance we long for and can live with the confidence we need.

Reflection & Application Questions

  1. What do you think it means to live a life of significance? To have purpose in everything you do? How do you know you’re living consistently that way?

  2. Find all the ways in which this psalm highlights the differences between us and God. How do you experience these differences in your day-to-day life?

  3. What are the ways you tend to excuse away your sin or escape it? Why doesn’t it work?

  4. How does Jesus display the work and glorious power of God? How have you seen it at work in your life?

  5. What do you think v.12 means in actual practice; ”So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom?”

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Listen to God (Psalm 81)

Sermon Recap

This might be the most important psalm of the Psalter. It describes a time central to Israel’s holy calendar, sits at the center of the Psalter’s structure, and has a theme that is at the heart of Israel’s spiritual life. It gives us much to reflect on as we begin a new year.

1. God Listens to Us

Before God even calls us to listen to him, he already is listening to us. The first half of the psalm actually focuses on all the way God has listened to us and responded in kind. It reminds us that we are in relationship with the Creator of all things and that our prayers never fall on deaf ears.

2. We Must Listen to God

We have a responsibility to listen to God for our own good. Romans 10:17 reminds us that faith for us comes from hearing God’s Word. Listening and reflecting on all the ways God has delivered us and warns us of disobedience helps us to follow him in worship and faith.

3. We Don’t Listen Well

The problem with all this though is we’re not very good listeners. We’d much rather complain or listen to our counsel. Israel has countless examples of doing this and suffering the consequences of it. If we take careful stock of our lives, we can probably highlight ways we’ve done the same.

4. Jesus Listened to God

Jesus listened to the Father perfectly in his life and died our death due to our sinful disobedience. In Jesus, we don’t merely have a moral example to follow; we have a Savior who becomes the one we can be in relationship with, who listens to us and speaks to us so we might listen, learn, and live.

Reflection & Application Questions

  1. Have you ever had a time where you doubted that God was even listening to you? Why? How did you handle that period of life?

  2. Do you spend as much time listening to God as you do talking to him? Is your relationship with him a two-way conversation or more one-sided? What would it look like for it to be more balanced?

  3. Are you more prone to complaint or following your own counsel? Have there been times where you’ve seen that hurt you more than help?

  4. How does Jesus help us listen to God the way God desires? How might you grow in listening to God in 2019?

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Christ Our Priest (Psalm 110)

Sermon Recap

The concept of a priest has changed a lot in today’s culture. Most people learn about what they do from movies and television rather than actual experience. It’s even odder to envision the role of priests in the Old Testament. Our psalm today is a Davidic song that foreshadowed a priest nobody in Israel’s context could comprehend but would become our Messiah, Jesus Christ.

1. We All Need a Priest

Christmas is a time of year where the holiday messages conflict with struggles that fill many of our hearts. To deal with this dissonance, many of us look to secular priests to intercede for us. For some, it’s the bartender, for others, it’s the yoga instructor, for others, it’s our own children. King David recognized his need for a priest, different and greater than the ones that existed in his day.

2. We All Need a Perfect Priest

The problem is most of the secular priests we seek out aren’t perfect enough for us. They can never truly satisfy our need for meaning, hope, and purpose. David sensed this in his own life. This is why he prayed for a priest in the order of Melchizedek, one who would also be a king who would eternally mediate for his people.

3. We Need Jesus Our Priest

Jesus fulfills David’s prophecy in our psalm. He is able to be our perfect priest because he is without sin, with no beginning nor end, eternally interceding for us at the right hand of God. He is the only priest who became the perfect sacrifice for us. This is why he satisfies the longing of our hearts to find peace for our anxieties, hope in our difficulties, and joy in our sadness.

Reflection & Application Questions

  1. When you think of a priest today, what do you think of? How different is that from the image of the Old Testament priest?

  2. Who are your secular priests? Who do you search out and go to when you feel guilty, sad, or broken? Who do you go to in order to find comfort and peace?

  3. Why do secular priests fail us? Why can they never truly fulfill what we need them to do?

  4. Why does it matter that Jesus is a priest in the order of Melchizedek rather than the normal Old Testament priests we read about? What differences are there?

  5. Why do we need Christ to be our priest? How different are our lives when we look to him to intercede?

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Christ Our Life (Psalm 16)

Sermon Recap

The human mortality rate is 100%. Every last one of us will die one day. But Psalm 16 says that that is not the last word on us. Psalm 16 says that there is hope of resurrection for all of us through Jesus.

1. Prayer

Everyone prays at the holidays. We pray when we ask one another for presents! A prayer is simply a request, asking for something I can’t get on my own. Psalm 16:1 is King David’s request: “Preserve me.” Just like God preserved Joseph and all his people through him (Genesis 45:7-8), David (and Jesus after him) could trust that God would preserve his people.

2. Joy

This psalm focuses on true joy, rooted in eternal things. Temporary things can give happiness in the moment; only eternal things can give true and lasting joy. This Psalm finds the God of joy in 1) Suffering (Psalm 16:2); 2) Community (Psalm 16:3); 3) Material blessing (Psalm 16:5-6); and 4) Wisdom (Psalm 16:7-8). None of these things give true joy. All of them point the way to the God of joy.

3. Resurrection

The first Christian sermon ever preached (by the Apostle Peter) quoted this psalm to show that the Old Testament predicted that Christ Jesus would rise again from the dead (Acts 2:23-32). Things in this world can show us God, but they aren’t the path to God. No, the “path to life” (Psalm 16:11) is Jesus himself, who came to earth at the first Christmas, who died for our sins, and who rose again from the dead to give us life eternal.

Reflection & Application Questions

  1. What do you usually pray for? Why? How do your prayers compare to this Psalm?

  2. What is your refuge, the place or person or thing you go for safety and security? Is it God? When was a time you went to him for refuge?

  3. How does suffering point the way to God and his joy? How do people in your life point to God and his joy? How do material blessings? How does wisdom point to him?

  4. Why doesn’t that path to God begin with us? Where does the path to God start? Why?

  5. What would it mean if God “abandoned” Jesus’s “soul to Sheol” (v.10)? What hope do we get from knowing that he didn’t?

  6. In what way is Jesus the “path to life” (Ps. 16:11)? What are the “pleasures forevermore” at God’s right hand (v.11)? Knowing that, how should we live?

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Christ Our Sacrifice (Psalm 22)

Sermon Recap

In Luke 2:34-35, Simeon tells Mary, Jesus’s mother, that “a sword will pierce” her soul because of her child. Psalm 22 foretells that anguish in detail. It described the sacrifice of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, to atone for the sins of his people.

1. The Abandoned Son

In Mark 15:34-37, we hear Jesus praying Psalm 22 which he is hanging on the cross. While many people have rejected God through the centuries, only Jesus was abandoned by him. But God abandoned Jesus, not because Christ had sinned, but because he took our sin on himself so he could atone for it.

2. The Cost of Atonement

Atonement means, literally, at-one-ment. We ran from God and rejected him. Christ died so that the hostility our sin created could be put to an end. His sacrifice was the costliest one ever given, as St. Peter said in 1 Peter 1:18-19: “you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” God paid the highest price possible for you, to be at-one with you. That means he will never abandon you.

3. The Hope of Faith

Faith looks back and knows that “he has done it” (Psalm 22:31); or as Jesus said in John 19:31, “It is finished.” Knowing that Christ has atoned for us is the foundation of our faith. And faith produces hope (Psalm 22:26-27) through any trial in this life, which, in turn, produces praise and worship in our hearts to God (Psalm 22:22-23).

Reflection & Application Questions

  1. Have you ever felt abandoned by someone? How did it feel?

  2. Jesus lived his whole life in perfect, loving relationship with God the Father. Then, on the cross, he was forsaken by God when he became sin for us. What do you think that was like?

  3. How could David describe Jesus’s crucifixion so accurately 1,000 years before it happened?

  4. Psalm 22:4 says that God is “enthroned on the praises” of his people. If God were to make a throne from the praise that you give him, what kind of throne would it be? Why?

  5. What does it mean to you that God paid way more for your atonement than he paid for anything else in the universe? We are surprised when a painting is sold for $450m. Are we shocked that God would pay an even higher price to save us—the blood of his own Son?

  6. If God has paid the highest price in the universe to redeem you, do you think he will ever leave you or forsake you?

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Christ Our King (Psalm 2)

Sermon Recap

Psalm 2 foretells of the coming Messiah, the Christ who would be God’s King over his people.

1. You Need a Better King

Psalm 2:1-3 tells of a world that is determined to have a king other than God, a world in rebellion against him. Whatever we love most in the world is our king. And you serve what you love. The things other than God that we set on the throne of our heart will ultimately hurt us. But God promises a better King.

2. Christ Is the Better King

Psalm 2:6-9 shows that God’s King would be identified with him. His throne is on Zion, where God’s temple was. He would be called God’s Son. Christ is the better King. Because he provides the peace that no other king in this world can provide.

3. Take Refuge in the King

What you love gives you peace. If Christ is our King, if he rules our heart, we are promised peace in this passage. Psalm 2:12 invites us to take refuge in Christ. He is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), and he alone can bear the full weight of our hope, expectation, longing, and desire and give us peace in return.

Reflection & Application Questions

  1. Psalm 2:1-3 describes an entire world in rebellion against God. How have you contributed to rebellion in the world against God?

  2. If it’s true that you serve what you love, what are you most tempted to serve besides Christ? Why?

  3. How is Christ a better King than whatever you are tempted to love instead?

  4. Christ Jesus, God’s King, died for your rebellion so you don’t have to. How does this demonstrate his goodness? How does the cross and resurrection prove he is more powerful than any earthly ruler?

  5. Where do you look for peace besides Christ? Why won’t it provide ultimate peace?

  6. In what way do you need to take refuge in Christ today? How will you do that?

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Normal Glory (Titus 3:12-15)

Sermon Recap

Paul closes his letter to Titus in the same way he began: normally! But in the midst of the normal of this letter—and the Christian life—we see the glory of God revealed in Christ and in his church. 

1. God’s Glory in Us Is Personal

We may think of Titus 3:12-15 as the Nebraska of the Bible—flyover country. But Paul lists names of saints for whom Christ died in this passage. It is deeply personal material that reflects God’s glory because:

  1. God is (tri-)personal.

  2. God made us personal to bear his image.

  3. The church is beautifully personal… and therefore glorious.

  4. The church is most gloriously personal when built through relationships

2. God’s Glory Is Devoted, Fruitful, and in Process

God’s glory comes through in us when we are devoted—totally given over to worshipping and serving him. That devotion will make us fruitful and enable us to serve the needs of others. And yet, God knows we are in process, that we haven’t arrived, that we are still learning to follow Christ. This should both humble and encourage us at the same time.

3. God’s Glory in Us Is Normal

Paul closes his letter with something normal—greetings. But for the Christian, even this most normal of things should be shot through with the glory of God. God’s glory is normal. It’s normal because it dwells in the heart of your neighbor. It’s normal because, if you are in Christ, it dwells in you. C.S. Lewis said it well in his sermon, “The Weight of Glory,”

The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and godesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship…. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations—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 splendours.… Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour, he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ… the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.

Reflection & Application Questions 

  1. Why is it significant that God is personal? What does this mean for Christian theology?

  2. Why is our personhood of great significance to God? 

  3. How should our personhood as image bearers shape how we engage the church? How should it inform the way we build relationships?

  4. In what way should you grow in devotion to good works? How have you been fruitful lately? How have you failed to be fruitful? 

  5. Why is it humbling that we are still in process? How is it encouraging?

  6. Do you believe that God’s glory in us is normal? Why is this difficult to believe? Why is it so important for us to believe? 

  7. What is one person God has placed on your heart that you want to grow in relationship with?

Proclaiming Glory (Titus 2:15-3:11)

Sermon Recap

God’s desire is for us to proclaim His greatness and glory as we go about our everyday lives. To bring us to that place, we must understand where we come from, how God changes and transforms us,  and how He wants us to make Him famous in the places He has us.

1. Know Where You Come From

We often have a hard time confronting our pasts but to come to God means reckoning with our history. We need to see how disobedient, foolish, and broken we were so we may know how great a salvation we have and have empathy toward those who do not believe in Christ yet.

2. Own What You Now Have

In the midst of our sinfulness, God met us with goodness, mercy, and loving kindness in Jesus Christ. By pouring out His Spirit upon us, we become a new creation, redeemed, regenerated, renewed as well as heirs to an eternal life gifted to us by God. None of this is ours to claim by our own power but granted by His grace alone.

3. Show Who the Church Is

God changes us so we might witness to a world that desperately needs Him. We do this by deed and by declaration. Good deeds are not for God but for our neighbors, ways in which we love those who aren’t like us and lay down groundwork to engage in conversations about Jesus. We also declare Jesus to this world because people need to know who Jesus is and what He has won for those who believe.

Reflection & Application Questions 

  1. Are there things in your past that you have a hard time discussing or thinking about? Why? What does it take for you to be able to talk to someone else about it?

  2. When you think about a time when you didn’t know God or walked away from faith, what was your life like? What were your desires like? How did Jesus change them?

  3. In what ways has your life changed because of the gospel? What would it look like to live by the Spirit in your everyday life?

  4. What does it look like to do good works for your neighbors rooted in our Savior’s grace? Why is it different from the good works your neighbor does?

  5. How do we grow in declaring the gospel in a world that needs to hear it? Who are the people in your life that you long to talk to about Jesus? Take time and pray for those opportunities!

Revealing Glory (Titus 2:11-14)

Sermon Recap

Paul uses the word “appear” twice in Titus 2:11-14, the word that we get “epiphany” from. There are two epiphanies, revelations of Christ and his grace in this passage. They point to God’s glorious grace being revealed to us and through us to the world. 

1. Grace Revealed to Us in Christ

Titus 2:11 and 2:14 show us the glory of God’s grace in Christ. It is a grace that is without borders, a grace in which God gives himself, a grace that redeems us, and a grace by which Christ cleanses us and makes us his

2. Grace Revealed Through Us to the World

Paul says we need to be trained, disciplined to live for Christ, because his grace is revealed through us to the world around us (Titus 2:12). We need to put off ungodliness and worldly passions and put on self-control, righteousness and godliness. We need to do all that so that we can give faithful witness to Christ and his grace! We have beautiful feet (Romans 10:14-15)! We have been sent to this place to reveal God’s grace.

3. The Hope of Grace to Be Revealed

We can only be part of revealing God’s grace if we put our hope in Christ (Titus 2:13). Without hope, we can’t reveal God’s grace. With hope, we can go with courage into our neighborhoods with the gospel of God’s borderless, self-giving, redeeming, cleansing grace.

Reflection & Application Questions 

  1. Why is it significant that God’s grace is without borders (Titus 2:11)? What is the alternative?

  2. What does it mean to you that God gave himself in Christ? Do you take this for granted?

  3. From what have you been redeemed? What lawlessness do you need deliverance from? 

  4. Do you believe that you are cleansed and belong to God? What shows you this?

  5. In what ways is God using you to reveal his grace to others right now? Name some people that he has put in your life and wants to show his grace to through you!

  6. What sin, selfishness or desires do you need to put off in order to put on Christ and display his grace to others? What does repentance look like for you today?

  7. How does our hope in Christ’s return strengthen us to do good works and share the gospel with neighbors? How can you put on hope today?

Walking in Glory (Titus 2:1-10)

Sermon Recap

In Titus 2:1-10, Paul teaches that our daily existence should fit with the gospel. Titus should teach “what accords with sound doctrine.” Our lives should fall in line with the gospel. The Christian walk should shine with the glory of gospel as its transforming power is worked into the church by the Holy Spirit.

1. Healthy Teaching

This is true because faith in Christ produces love in our lives (see Galatians 5:6). This is the case because our faith in Christ puts us under his authority as Redeeming King and under the Father’s authority as Creator. Healthy teaching leads me to recognize that the earth and everything in it belong to God (Psalm 24:1), and by faith I submit gladly to him. 

2. Life on Life Discipleship Makes a Healthy Body

From the instructions of Paul to Titus regarding the life of the church, there are 6 ideas we should apply to ourselves and our life together as a church:

  1. Healthy members are particular and local, not abstract and universal.

  2. Healthy members learn from each other.

  3. Healthy members live in love for weaker brothers and sisters.

  4. Healthy members aren’t obsessed with their rights.

  5. Healthy members recognize their unique responsibilities and callings in God’s kingdom. 

  6. Healthy members beautify the gospel.

Reflection & Application Questions 

  1. Why is there such a biblical emphasis on faith producing love (Gal. 5:6; 1 Tim. 1:5)? 

  2. Do you know the Apostle’s Creed? Have you memorized it? Meditated on it? Take a few moments and read it over. Consider memorizing it and making it part of your devotional life. See New City Catechism Q31

  3. The Christian faith says that we are under authority. Do you live as under authority? In what ways is this normal for you? In what ways do you need to grow in submission to God? 

  4. Life on life discipleship requires relationships with others. What discipling relationships are in your life? How have these helped you or others to grow?

  5. Do you willingly live in love and give up your rights for the sake of others? What’s one way you should grow in this?

  6. What are your responsibilities and callings in God’s kingdom? Do you gladly embrace these? 

  7. Does your life beautify the gospel? In what ways does it? In what ways does it fall short? 

Protecting Glory (Titus 1:10-16)

Sermon Recap

Paul uses strong language to attack the false teachers—legalists—in the church in Crete. He teaches Titus in this section how to protect the church from legalism: by preaching the gospel of God’s grace in Christ

1. Legalism vs. the Gospel

There are many ways Paul opposes legalism to the gospel in this passage. There are 6 ways we see Paul oppose them:

  1. Legalism rebels against grace. It is fundamentally opposed to the gospel (Eph. 2:4-9).

  2. Legalism centers on self, not Christ. It is about us, what we get and what we can do (Tit. 1:11).

  3. Legalism puts human rules in God’s place. See Titus 1:14 and Colossians 2:17.

  4. Legalism lies about God’s truth. Paul appeals to Crete’s reputation in Tit. 1:12-13 to show these legalists are opposed to gospel truth. 

  5. Legalism destroys the church. It overturns whole churches (Tit. 1:11) by undermining the foundation of the church—the gospel of Christ.

  6. Legalism is plausible to broken people; the gospel makes no sense. See 1 Cor. 1:18. 

2. Protecting Glory by Preaching the Gospel

Advice is a form of law—do this and you will live (better!). As a church, we want to give Christ before advice. To protect God’s glory in the church, we need to preach the gospel. This means we should:

  1. Know the gospel.

  2. Preach the gospel to yourself.

  3. Preach the gospel to each other.

Reflection & Application Questions 

1. Why is legalism so attractive to us? 

2. Why is legalism so destructive to the church?

3. What is one way you see a tendency toward legalism in your life?

4. Do you know the gospel? Is it YOUR story? Does it define everything about you and direct all that you do in your life? 

5. What does it mean to preach the gospel to yourself? If you want to better understand this, watch this great teaching from Jerry Bridges:

6. What does it mean to preach the gospel to each other in the church? What are some ways you can do this? What should you avoid when you try to do this?