Sunday, February 18, 2018

Book Review: "The Imperfect Disciple" by Jared C. Wilson

The Imperfect Disciple: Grace for People Who Can't Get Their Act TogetherThe Imperfect Disciple: Grace for People Who Can't Get Their Act Together by Jared C. Wilson

A different angle on disicpleship.

In The Imperfect Disciple, Jared Wilson re-imagines the traditional spiritual disciplines of discipleship through the lens of grace. He writes, “I want to, by God’s grace, give you the freedom to own up to your not having your act together. I wrote this book for all who are tired of being tired. I wrote this book for all who read the typical discipleship manuals and wonder who they could possibly be written for, the ones that make us feel overly burdened and overly tasked and, because of all that, overly shamed” (pg. 230). It’s not that he doesn’t encourage people to do Bible study, prayer, fellowship, confession, etc. He does. But he also shows how we do those things by grace and to access grace and how we aren’t measured at all by our performance of them. It’s not a practical how-to book but instead a very mind-orienting one.

Wilson’s writing voice is fresh, honest, and funny. You can tell that he's a real person, and his humility makes him accessible. Our small group read and discussed each chapter over several weeks and came away encouraged. Recommended.

View all my Goodreads reviews.

[Matt's Messages] "Spiritus Sanctus"

“Spiritus Sanctus”
Following Jesus: The Gospel of Matthew
February 18, 2018 :: Matthew 3:13-17

My plan was to fully jump into Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount this morning. Last week, we read the whole thing from start to finish, and my plan was to start in on the beatitudes this morning. That’s why Marilynn put that cover on your bulletin.

But I guess the Lord had different plans for us!

I’m just not ready to take us deeply into Jesus’ sermon like I wanted to. Hopefully next week, we can do that. But that casserole needs a little more time in the oven!

Instead, I want us to use this time to think together about the Holy Spirit.

In fact, I have a snazzy Latin title for today’s message.

Last month it was, “Imago Dei.” This month, “Spiritus Sanctus.”

Does anybody know what that means?

It’s just Latin for “Holy Spirit.”

“Spiritus Sanctus” was the theme of the Stay Sharp Theology Conference that a group of us attended this week at our district church in Canonsburg.

We go to hear Greg Strand from the EFCA National Office teach us about the Person and Ministry of the Holy Spirit.

It was a really good conference.

Great teaching on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.

A lot of people have said that learning from Greg Strand is like drinking directly out of the fire-hydrant. He just opens up and pours out good teaching, and it’s basically too much!

And Greg always brings more than he can share. Greg brought a 292 page powerpoint presentation, and we probably didn’t make it through half of that during our two days together! But it’s all good.

What I thought we might do today is to review together the major outline of the biblical teaching on the Person and Ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Basically, answering the question, “Who Is the Holy Spirit?”

What do we mean when we say, “Spiritus Sanctus?” Who or what is the Holy Spirit?

For some of us, that’s a very basic question. We’ve known about the Spirit for most of our lives. But perhaps it would be good to be reminded.

For others of us here, we may never have received much teaching on the Person and Ministry of the Holy Spirit.

I remember when we took the teens to the Challenge Conference in 2016. And the teaching there was about how our identity is shaped by the Trinity. God is Father, so we are a family. God is Son so we are saved servants. And God is Spirit so we are sent on mission.

And the teens we had that year at Challenge said that one of things they learned the most that year was just simply who the Holy Spirit is. They didn’t know that much about Him.

It reminded me of those disciples of John the Baptist that the Apostle Paul met in Ephesus in Acts 19. When Paul asked them if they had received the Holy Spirit, they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit!” (Acts 19:2).

We don’t want that. Christians believe in the Holy Spirit.

Greg took us through church history and showed us what Christians have believed about the Spirit (good and bad) ever since the first century.

We don’t want to be ignorant about the Holy Spirit.

So let’s have a little "mini-Stay Sharp" on Him this morning.

And we’ll start at the baptism of Jesus. We just looked at this a few weeks ago, but let’s focus on Holy Spirit here in particular. Matthew chapter 3, starting in verse 13.

Who Is the Holy Spirit?


You remember the story. Jesus knew where John was baptizing by the Jordan River. He came to see John and asked to be baptized himself.

John, realizing who Jesus is, God’s Son, the Messiah doesn’t want to do it.

John thought that Jesus should baptize him. John knew that Jesus was greater than Him. He had just said that. In fact, he said that he wasn’t worthy to untie Jesus’ sandals, much less baptize Him!

He said that Jesus would be doing the baptism and not with water but with...what?

“The Holy Spirit and with fire!”

And John knew that Jesus didn’t need a baptism of repentance!

But Jesus insists.

He says that he should be baptized by John “to fulfill all righteousness.”

That’s Matthew’s favorite word, “fulfill.”

We said a few weeks ago that it meant that Jesus was identifying with us in His righteousness.

Baptism is identifying. It is putting yourself into someone or something–identifying with that. When we get baptized, we are publicly putting ourselves into Christ by repentance and faith. And we’re looking for the next class of people who want to do that. To go public, identifying with Jesus in baptism.

When Jesus was baptized, it was going the other way. He was identifying with us.

It was right; it was righteous, for Him to get baptized, too.

And so, John took Him down in the Jordan River and baptized Jesus. And then when Jesus came up out of the water, something amazing happened! V.16 again:

“As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him.  And a
voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’”


There is so much there. We keep coming back to it.

For one thing, here is the Trinity, right?

You’ve got the Son being baptized. You’ve got the Father declaring His love and pleasure with the Son.

And there is Somebody else there, too. Who is it?

“The Spirit of God.”

The Spirit of God, also called the Holy Spirit, descends from heaven and lands on Jesus, in some way like a dove.

All three are present in one place, in one event, at one time.  Father, Son, and Spirit.

Who is the Holy Spirit?

He is God.

Notice that verse 16 calls Him the “Spirit of God.” Now, that could just mean that He belongs to God in some way. He is the Spirit that belongs to God.

But other passages of Scripture clearly teach us that the Holy Spirit is fully God Himself.

For example, when Ananias and Sapphira lied about how much money they had made on the sale of their property in Acts chapter 5, the Apostle Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to LIE TO THE HOLY SPIRIT and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? ... You have not lied to men but to God.”

Lying to the Spirit is lying to God.

Or 1 Corinthians 2:11 says that the Spirit comprehends the thoughts of God. And only God Himself can fully know what God thinks! Paul says, “No one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.”

The passages go on and on equating the Spirit of God with God Himself.

When Jesus gave the great commission at the end of the Gospel of Matthew, He told His disciples to baptize in the Name (singular) of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. We might think of that as three names. But Jesus saw them as co-eternal, co-equal, fully divine.

The Holy Spirit is God.

Now, you might think that this is just a settled fact. And it is, as far as I’m concerned, and as far as church history is concerned.

But there are still people who call themselves followers of Christ who do not believe that the Holy Spirit is God. The Third Person of the Trinity.

I talked to two people this week who both say they believe in Jesus who are not sure that God is triune. Father, Son, and Spirit. One God in three persons.

They are not sure that the Spirit is a distinct Person or fully God.

Friends, this Spirit of God who descended upon Jesus at His baptism was God the Spirit.


We Should Worship Him.

We don’t just worship God the Father. We also worship God the Son. And our worship should embrace God the Spirit because they are Three in One.

When was the last time that you specifically remembered in worship that the Holy Spirit is God?

I’m thankful for worship songs like Holy, Holy, Holy that bring out that truth!

"God in Three Persons, Blessed Trinity."

We sang songs about and to the Holy Spirit at the conference.

Holy Spirit, living Breath of God,
Breathe new life into my willing soul.
Bring the presence of the risen Lord
To renew my heart and make me whole.
Cause Your Word to come alive in me;
Give me faith for what I cannot see;
Give me passion for Your purity.
Holy Spirit, breathe new life in me.”

We should worship God the Spirit.

Now, we’re going to see in just a few moments that the Spirit is self-effacing and actually loves to be in the background.

So, it’s not that strange that He isn’t at center stage in our worship all of the time.

But it is right and proper to worship Him, because He is God!


Notice that I’ve said, “He” and “Him” and “His” instead of “It” or “Its.”

We don’t get that from this passage, but when Jesus promises for the Spirit to come in John 14, that’s how Jesus refers to Him.

In John 14, Jesus says, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever–the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”

Do you hear it?

Jesus knew that the Holy Spirit was not an IT, but a Person.

Everything Greg said this week supported that idea.

He showed us that the Spirit has, in some way, emotions (you can grieve Him) and intellect (He knows things), and will (He decides things).

The Spirit is a Person.

And that’s important because that means that we can have a relationship with Him.

We Can Relate to Him.

Our relationship will center on Jesus, we’ll see that again and again. But it will be fellowship with the Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is not just an impersonal force.

Some people, I think, conceive of the Spirit as being like “the Force” in the Star Wars movies. [Did you know that there are 390,000 people in England who consider “Jedi” to be their personal religion?! I think most of them are joking, but that’s what they mark on their census forms. What’s your religion? “Jedi.”]

Whenever I lead an ordination council for pastors, that’s always my first question when we get to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.

“What is the difference between the Holy Spirit and the Force from Star Wars?”

How would you answer that?

Everybody ask that question at lunch today and see how many answers you can get.

There are similarities. The Spirit is powerful. The Spirit is found everywhere.

But other than that they are not very alike.

In Star Wars, the Force, is impersonal and can be controlled by the Jedi’s.

God the Spirit is not controlled!

He is free to do as He pleases.

He is a Person. He can be grieved, quenched, blasphemed.

He is a Person.

So we can relate to Him.

We don’t tell Him what to do.

But He does tell us.

And He’s at work in our lives.

He is so busy in our lives as Christians, and we don’t even realize it.

Greg gave us a long list of His ministries. Pages and pages of notes on what He is up to in our lives.

Our EFCA Statement of Faith summarizes it like this:

“We believe that the Holy Spirit, in all that He does, glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ. He convicts the world of its guilt. He regenerates sinners, and in Him they are baptized into union with Christ and adopted as heirs in the family of God. He also indwells, illuminates, guides, equips and empowers believers for Christ-like living and service.”

That’s a lot, isn’t it?

And that just scratches the surface.


Why a dove?

Why does the Spirit (v.16) descend like a dove?

I’m really not sure. From this point on in history, doves are a symbol of the Holy Spirit.

In the 2nd verse of the Bible, the Spirit of God is pictured as “hovering” bird-like over the waters. But that’s mysterious, too. What does that mean?

In fact, almost everything about the Holy Spirit is mysterious!

For example, He is a Spirit!

The Hebrew word for Spirit is Ruach which literally means “Breath.”

The Greek word is “Pneuma.”

It’s supposed to conjure up the idea of wind blowing, the breath of God, the exhale of God huffing and puffing and working His power in the world.

Our word “spirit” doesn’t really cut it, but there are no good words.

“Spirit,” I think, is better than “Ghost.”

Because we think of Casper and Slimer and walking white bedsheets.

There are no perfect words to capture Him.

The Spirit is too mysterious.

Do you remember the story that I call, “Nick at Night?”

John chapter 3. When Jesus met with Nicodemus that one night, Jesus said, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

He is mysterious!

Wind is not the only picture. Hardly!

Water. Fire! Flames of Fire. Powerful Clothes.

These and more are all pictures of the Holy Spirit.

He’s too mysterious to capture with just a few words.

And I think that means that we need to wonder at Him.

We Should Wonder at Him.

We should marvel at Him.

Thinking about the Spirit should lead us in marveling at His amazing work.

He is not a hum-drum subject worthy of scant attention.

No, He is the mysterious, personal, God the Spirit–worthy of our wonder and amazement.

And we should not treat Him as our pet.

I think that the number one takeaway that I heard from the Stay Sharp conference this week was that we should not misuse the Holy Spirit.

We shouldn’t claim things for Him that we cannot back up with Scripture.

We should be careful to attribute things to the Spirit that may or may not be.

For example, we should not treat Him as simply a feeling. That reduces Him to the level of our emotions.

We learned about lots of movements of people over the years that have claimed the Spirit and the fruit of their actions were so far from the fruit of the Spirit, it was scary!

Not that we don’t see the Spirit the working in our lives. We do.

But we need to be careful to not just baptize whatever we want or feel or think and call it the “Spirit.”

The Spirit is mysterious. And He is not controllable.

He is like the wind!

Anybody here able to control the wind?

We can’t capture Him.

He is elusive. He is incomprehensible.

We can know Him in part but He is also beyond our grasp.

Let’s wonder at His work in our lives.


One of the reasons I picked this passage to preach on the Holy Spirit, not because it is about the Holy Spirit, but because it shows the Holy Spirit in His dove-like-descending highlighting the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus Christ!

Even as the Spirit operates amazingly and supernaturally and mysteriously and miraculously, He is always pointing people to Jesus.

The Holy Spirit is Jesus-Centered.

Jesus said that’s what would happen. In John 16, He said, “[The Spirit] will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.”

The Spirit is all about Jesus!

Greg told us that J.I. Packer calls this The Spirit’s Floodlight Ministry.

In His book, “Keeping in Step with the Spirit,” Packer writes, “I remember walking into a church one winter evening to preach on the words ‘he shall glorify me,’ seeing the building floodlit as I turned a corner, and realizing that this was exactly the illustration my message needed. When floodlighting is well done, the floodlights are so placed that you do not see them; you are not in fact supposed to see where the light is coming from; what you are meant to see is just the building on which the floodlights are trained. The intended effect is to make it visible when otherwise it would not be seen for the darkness, and to maximize its dignity by throwing all its details into relief so that you see it properly.

This perfectly illustrates the Spirit’s new covenant role. He is, so to speak, the hidden floodlight shining on the Savior...[His message is] ‘Look at him, and see his glory; listen to him, and hear his word, go to him, and have life, get to know him and taste his gift of joy and peace” [Keep in Step with the Spirit, pg. 66].

The dove points to Jesus as the Father says, “This is my Son.”

Some Christians have made the mistake of ignoring the Holy Spirit.

Other Christians have made the mistake of focusing too much on the Holy Spirit.

But Holy Spirit want us to be Christians, not Pneumians.

Not Holy Spiritists, but Followers of Jesus Christ.

The Holy Spirit is Jesus-Centered, and So Should We Be.

We should be Jesus-centered, too.

The Spirit of God will be eternally happy if we are eternally focused on Jesus Christ!

It was right for Jesus to be baptized, to identify with you and me.

And when Jesus went to the Cross, He was identifying with us yet again.

Jesus was taking our un-righteousness, and in the greatest exchange ever, He was giving us His perfect righteousness!

And to all who put their trust in Him and what He did on the Cross, they receive the  gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).

And the Holy Spirit then continually shines His light on Jesus in our lives so that He gets the glory forever.

[For those who like to track things, I first preached a version of this message a decade ago in the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit series in 2008.]


Previous Messages in This Series:

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Book Review: "Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture" by David Murray

Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout CultureReset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture by David P. Murray

I believe David Murray was talking about me:

“If you picked up this book, there’s a good chance that God has enrolled you in WU [Wilderness University], though you may be reluctant to attend classes. Sometimes I find men who are afraid to admit they need a reset. They are scared of what they will find out about themselves and apprehensive about what changes will be required in their lives. When I talk to them about the adjustments they need to make, they often resist. When I tell them they have to go 20 percent slower, sleep 20 percent more, or reduce ministry service by 20 percent, what they hear is, ‘Life is over, I’m a has-been, I’m just a lazy and unfruitful servant.’ For most of them, however, doing 20 percent less simply takes them down to about 120 percent of what most normal people do with their lives! Less does not mean nothing. Some change does not mean total change” (pg. 189).

And now that I’ve actually read his excellent little book about how to live a grace-paced life in a burnout culture and begun (painfully!) putting his wise counsel to work, I’m really hoping he’s right about the potential results: “And, strangely, the vast majority of them eventually tell me that life on this side of Reset garage has turned out to be even more profitable and abundant. They are doing less but accomplishing more. They have reduced their work a little, but have seen God work more. They have been to Wilderness University, but have graduated with baskets full of fruit” (pg. 189).

That sounds really good, and Murray has even has walked the path ahead of us–the best kind of guide. I’ll be returning to this book again and again.

View all my Goodreads reviews.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Book Review: "Forged" by Liam Hoffman

Forged a Guide to Becoming a BlacksmithForged: A Guide to Becoming a Blacksmith by Liam Hoffman

My son, a budding blacksmith, loves this book, and I can see why.

By providing tips on everything from workspace to tools to safety to teaching your self, Hoffman acts as a personal guide to anyone today who wants to learn this ancient art.

I don't know anything about this stuff myself, but my son is quickly becoming proficient, and he says that Hoffman's self-published book is spot on. Recommended.

View all my Goodreads reviews.

Book Review: "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass Written by Himself"

Narrative of the Life of Frederick DouglassNarrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Douglass’s autobiography is hard to read and hard to put down.

His commitment to minceless truth-telling of the disturbing realities of American chattel slavery makes reading it painful. It would be far easier to look away.

But the writing is straightforward, clear, open-eyed. I was drawn into his story and was surprised when it was over so soon. I think everyone with an interest in American history and race relations should read it.

(By the way, the Yale University Press edition is an excellent way to access it. They provide ample notes on the text including copious details of the pushback Douglass received. There is also an orienting foreword, a timeline of Douglass’ life, etc. It really helps put it into context.)

View all my Goodreads reviews.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Book Review: "He Who Gives Life: The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit" by Graham Cole

He Who Gives Life: The Doctrine of the Holy SpiritHe Who Gives Life: The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit by Graham A. Cole
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Able, even-handed survey of the Bible’s teaching on the Holy Spirit.

Graham Cole has done the Church a service by succinctly sketching out the main lines of the complex data in the Bible about the Third Person of the Trinity and ably assembling them into a coherent picture of His person and ministry.

Cole’s work is a textbook example of theological method. I learned not only from what he wrote but how he wrote it. It’s careful, learned, and cheerful. He does an excellent job of providing balancing perspectives on the many controversial questions about the Holy Spirit. At times, I wished he was more decisive and less tentative about his exegetical and theological decisions, but that just shows how difficult some of the judgment calls are to make in this arena. Wherever a strong conclusion was required by the either the importance of the question or the preponderance of the biblical evidence, Cole did not hesitate to reach it or state it. If I could write a book on this level, I would want to do it on this model.

I especially appreciated how Cole started with the mystery and elusiveness of the Spirit (He is the uncontrollable wind!) and ended with His divine self-effacement. The Spirit of God is perfectly worthy to be made known but is best known as He makes known the Son of God. “The magnificence of the Spirit lies in this self-effacement or divine selflessness. For this reason believers are rightly called ‘Christias’ not ‘Pneumians’” (pg. 284). Highly recommended.

P.S. The glossary in the back was extremely helpful!

View all my Goodreads reviews.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Book Review: "Do We Not Bleed?" by Daniel Taylor

Do We Not Bleed?: A Jon Mote MysteryDo We Not Bleed?: A Jon Mote Mystery by Daniel Taylor

He’s done it again!

I loved Daniel Taylor’s first Jon Mote mystery, especially getting inside the voice-filled head of the main character with all of his seemingly random yet deeply insightful (and completely hilarious!) thoughts vectoring off in all directions and leaving no allusion unturned. I also loved meeting Jon’s special and sweet sister, Judy, who, though limited and hurt in obvious ways, was also more able than most people to see things as they are really are and to trust Jesus no matter what. It wasn’t perfect (the murder mystery plot kind of fizzled), but it was deeply satisfying and thought provoking.

It seemed, however, unrepeatable. Boy, I’m glad I was wrong about that!

Jon Mote is back again. A little more “hinged” this time. A little more “together.” But not all the way there. You feel the whole time like he might be pulled under by the currents in his own mind. This time, there is a murder among the residents of the group home at which Judy lives and Jon works. The setting is perfect for sharp thinking about disability, personhood, dignity, and the image of God. It’s also good for guffaws and belly laughs. Taylor’s mind is very nimble! I disappeared into this book for several hours and came out with a big grin on my face.

Do We Not Bleed is not for everyone. If it was a movie, it would be rated PG-13. The language is crude (though realistic for the characters depicted) and the evil is...evil. If you don’t tend to read modern murder mysteries, you might want to steer clear of this one, too. But it is also God-entranced. Not only is Jon Mote back, but Judy Mote is too, and she, as always, steals the show. I feel like I know these folks, that they are kin. And I’m hoping they visit us again.

View all my Goodread reviews

Sunday, February 11, 2018

[Matt's Message] "Jesus' Sermon on the Mount"

“Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
February 11, 2018 :: Matthew 5-7 

I finally came up with a title for our sermon series on the Gospel of Matthew. It’s not especially clever, but I think it’s good and captures the essence of the book and what I’m hoping this series accomplishes in our lives this year.

I’m going to call this series, “Following Jesus.”

The Gospel of Matthew is a theological biography of the Lord Jesus Christ which invites us to follow Him by faith in all of our lives and to invite others to follow Him, too.

“Following Jesus” was the title of our last message in this series. When we studied the end of chapter 4 there.

The Lord Jesus began His public ministry preaching, “Repent [turn-around, do a U-turn!], for the kingdom of heaven is near.” And He began calling disciples to follow Him.

What’s our Hide-the-Word verse right now?  “‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’” Chapter 4, verse 19.

Jesus is calling us to follow Him with our lives.

And He is calling us to invite others to follow Him, too. That’s our mission.

Matthew’s gospel ends with the Great Commission. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make [what? FOLLOWERS] disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to very end of the age.”

That’s the point of Matthew. Introducing us to Who Jesus is, the most compelling person ever to live, and calling us to follow Jesus and invite other to follow Him, too.

But what does it mean to follow Him?

What does Jesus want from His followers?

How should we live if we belong to Jesus?

That brings us right up to chapter 5 and what has often been called, “Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.”

Matthew chapters 5, 6, and 7 are the first and foremost of the five major blocks of Jesus’ teaching in the Gospel of Matthew.

Marilynn has the first two verses printed on the front of your bulletin.

“Now when [Jesus] saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them, saying...”

And there are 3 full chapters of Jesus’ teaching them.

Jesus was a master teacher. There was never a greater teacher than our Lord Jesus.

And this was, perhaps, His greatest single teaching.

We’re going to take several weeks, a couple months at least, to unpack it.

It’s rich and powerful and radical and challenging.

You know this stuff. Maybe not every verse, but this is some of the most familiar and favorite passages of holy Scripture.

And we’re going to study them all in depth.

And it’s going to really challenge us.

Some of this stuff is really hard to live out.

I mean, “Love your enemies?”

That might be the hardest one of all of them!

This morning, I’m going to read it to you.

The whole thing.

It won’t take that long. I’m not going to stop and explain any of it.

We’ve do that over the next several weeks.

Today, I’m just going to read it to you.

It struck me this week that Jesus delivered the whole thing at one time, and it’s really not that long in Matthew’s version.

It’s about the same number of words as one of my sermons on a Sunday morning.

And Who better to preach the sermon this morning, that Jesus Himself?

I want to emphasize that this is JESUS’ Sermon the Mount.

These are His words. If we have a problem with them, then we have a problem with Jesus. These words all come with His authority.

Think about this. When Jesus gave the great commission and He said, “teach them to obey everything that I have commanded you,” He’s talking about the Sermon on the Mount! Among other things, of course. But this is what He commanded His disciples.

And to be disciples, we need to receive this teaching.

At this point in His ministry, Jesus was a rock star. There were big crowds following Him wherever He went. And verse 1 says that when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside.

Does that remind you of anybody? The exact same words were used of Moses in Exodus 19, 24 and 34. I think that’s on purpose.

Jesus is like a New Moses. Not just giving a new law, a new Torah, a new teaching. But being a Rescuer and Redeemer. A new and greater Moses.

And He sits down. That’s the position of authority in this culture. I stand to preach. But in that culture when you had authority you sat down and taught with that authority.

And notice that out of the crowd, Jesus calls His disciples closer and delivers the teaching straight to them. Others are listening, but He’s talking to them about being His disciples.

He’s going to talk about discipleship, and the Kingdom of Heaven (which has come near), and about righteousness, and about eternity, and fulfillment of the promises, and about how to live and how to pray.

And he’s going to disagree with the religious leaders of the day. And He’s going to speak with authority.

You’re going to hear a lot of things as I read this to you, but I want you to at least hear this. Listen to Who Jesus say He is and how He says it.

Because the Sermon on the Mount is about how we should live as His disciples, but also why. And that’s because of Who Jesus is.

These words, this sermon, is Jesus’ Sermon.

And He is the Lord.

So, it’s important that we listen.

[Read every word of Matthew chapters 5, 6, and 7]

Jesus is Lord. And this is His Word for us today.


Previous Messages in This Series:
01. The Genealogy of Jesus
02. The Birth of Jesus Christ
03. The Search for Jesus Christ
04. The Baptism of Jesus
05. The Temptation of Jesus
06. Following Jesus

Sunday, January 28, 2018

[Matt's Messages] "Following Jesus"

“Following Jesus”
The Gospel of Matthew
January 28, 2018 :: Matthew 4:12-25 

Today is our Annual Reports and Vision meeting right after the worship service this morning, and I hope you stick around to eat and fellowship and participate.

But I know that not everyone will stay, so I’m going to “cheat” this morning and cast my vision for 2018 now, before the meeting. I have two main things to emphasize for 2018 for our church, and both of them are in our passage for today. In fact, both of them are in our first Hide the Word verse of the year, which is also in our passage in Matthew for this morning. So it’s all coming together.

This is our sixth message in the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew has shared the genealogy of Jesus so that we know Who He is and where He comes from. Matthew has told us about Jesus’ miraculous birth and the meaning of His names. Matthew has informed us about the people searching for the newborn king, some searching to worship Him, some searching to try to kill Him. Matthew has described the forerunner of the Messiah, John the Baptist, who was calling people to repent and then was asked to baptize Jesus Himself. When Jesus was baptized, the Spirit of God descended on Him like a dove and God the Father said, “This is my Son, whom I loved; with him I am well pleased.”

And then Jesus was put to the test. That same Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan.

And Jesus passed the test!

Where Adam had failed.
Where Israel had failed.
Where everybody had failed.

Jesus succeeded.

Using the word of God and believing the promises of God, Jesus said “No” to every temptation, and the devil had to leave Him, and angels came and attended Him.

Jesus passed the test!

And now, Jesus will begin His public ministry.

There are a number of things happened between verse 11 and verse 12 that Matthew doesn’t tell us about. Read the first few chapters of the Gospel of John and you find out that Jesus did a number of significant things before the beginning of His ministry in Galilee starting in verse 12.

All of the Gospel writers are selective. They choose which historical things they want to share with us and place them in a particular order so that we understand the theological picture that they are drawing for us in their authorized biographies of Jesus.

You can tell that some time has passed because of what Matthew says in verse 12.

“When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he returned to Galilee.”

I don’t think that happened the second after Jesus was baptized or the second after Jesus was tempted. This is a little bit later in time. Perhaps up to a year. We’ll find out more about John being put in prison when we get to chapter 14.

So after spending some time in the South, Jesus now moves North. Let’s read the next few verses.

“Leaving Nazareth [His hometown], he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali–to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah: ‘Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, along the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles–the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.’ From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.’”

The title of this message is “Following Jesus” which is what it’s all about.

Jesus calls His first full time followers, and by the end of the chapter, He has crowds and crowds of followers.

Following Jesus is what it’s all about.

And that’s what our church is all about. We are all about bringing people into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ, otherwise known as “discipleship,” being a follower of Jesus Christ by faith.

And that’s what Jesus calls us to in this passage today.

Matthew begins by telling us that Jesus took up residence in Capernaum which is the northern region of Galilee.

Now, is that where the Messiah was supposed to be? Is that where the Messiah would show up and do His thing?

In chapter 2, King Herod asked the Bible scholars where the Messiah to be born. Where was that? Bethlehem. Like David.

So if He’s the Messiah, why isn’t Jesus bursting forth from Bethlehem?

Well, because that’s not the only prophecy about the Messiah that needs to be fulfilled!

Remember, “fulfilled” is one of Matthew’s favorite words! Look at verse 14.

“Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali–to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah [chapter 9, verses 1 and 2]: ‘Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, along the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles–the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.’”

The Messiah is here!

The King has arrived.

The fulfillment of Isaiah 9 has arrived on the scene.

I love the imagery here. “The people living in darkness have seen a great light.”

The darkness of sin, the darkness of evil, the darkness of oppression. The darkness of despondency.

A now...light!

“On those living in the land of the shadow of death...a light has dawned!”


From sadness to joy. Why?

Because Isaiah 9 is being fulfilled.

Matthew quotes verses 1 and 2 of Isaiah 9. Do you know what Isaiah goes on to say just a few verses later as the reason for this joy?

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.”

And He will reign for ever and ever!

That’s what Matthew is saying.

Matthew is seeing that Isaiah 9 is being fulfilled in Jesus.

And not just for the Jews. Did you catch that?

He’s ministering in “Galilee of the Gentiles.”

I love that. Matthew is the most “Jewish” of the gospels, but he’s always reminding the Jews that Jesus is also for the Gentiles!

The Magi to the Great Commission. Matthew reminds his readers that Jesus is for both Jew and Gentile.

For both insiders and outsiders.
For both native born and foreigners.

And that’s good news for us. Because that’s what we are.

We are transplants. We are immigrants into the promises of God.

But the light has dawned, even for us.

And Jesus begins to preach. Verse 17.

“From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.’”

Hmmm. That sounds kind of familiar, doesn’t it?

Where have we heard that before?

John the Baptist, right?

To repent means to make a U-turn. To turn around in your thinking and your direction. To change your mind.

It’s a change of heart that leads to a change of life.

You’re going down the road in one direction and you realize that you’re going in the wrong direction, so you do a 180 and head in a new direction.

That repentance.

And it’s the first step of truly following Jesus.

Point Number One for today is simply:


And the way to begin is to repent.

You can’t go Jesus’ direction if you are just going in your own.

“Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.’”

So near it’s here!

The kingdom is near because the King is near.

The light has dawned. The Messiah has arrived.

The kingdom is upon us.

So, repent.

Have you repented?

Have you turned from sin and turned to Jesus?

Are you repenting?

Four weeks ago, I asked you, “Of what sins do you need to repent these days? Where is the Lord working on you? What sins is He putting His finger on and asking you to confess and turn away from? ... What needs to change in your life?”

Do you remember what you said then?

Do you remember how you answered?

Have you changed?

Are you repenting?

Are you producing (like John the Baptist said, producing) fruit in keeping with repentance?

Because it’s not just John the Baptist who says that we need to do it!

It’s Jesus.

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

Turn your life over to the Lord and start going in His direction.

Follow Jesus.

That’s exactly what Jesus asks Peter and Andrew to do. V.18

“As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.  ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed him.”

Isn’t that interesting?

Two brothers, Peter and Andrew. They probably had another brother named Isaac and a sister named Robin. But Matthew left that out of the story.

They are fishermen. They are fishing. Not with poles but nets. Great big circle nets that they throw out in the water, trap a bunch of fish and pull back up into the boat.

The Gospel of John tells us that Jesus had a prior relationship with these men. They had followed him before as, perhaps, part-time disciples. But they had returned to their thriving business in Fishtown, Galilee.

Yet on this fateful day, Jesus approached them and called them to give up their nets and their businesses, and come follow Him.

I think it’s great these are just “regular Joes.” They are just hard working blue collar guys, and Jesus thinks they’d make great disciples.

Notice that they don’t pick Him. He picks them.

That’s different from most Rabbi/Disciple relationships of that time period.

Normally, the disciple picked a rabbi, and hoped that the rabbi would allow them to follow him.

Here the Rabbi has picked His disciples.

“You, there. Come follow me.”

Think about what that means.

It’s a lot more than just physically following Him.

For Simon and Andrew, it meant dropping their nets, and leaving their businesses.

That’s a big deal, isn’t it?

For their friends James and John, it even meant leaving their family. Their dad. Verse 21.

“Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.”

“And their father!”

That’s a big deal!

Following Jesus meant that (in priority at least), Jesus became their number one allegiance.

Following Jesus meant making Jesus their first commitment.

They made a break with everything to follow Jesus.

Are you a follower of Jesus?

Are you following Jesus?

One way to know is to see if you’re hanging on to your nets.

Or if there are relationships that come ahead of Jesus for you.

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

The King is here.

Follow Jesus.

We use that word “follow” very lightly today.

Like, you can "follow" someone on social media.

How many “followers” to do you have?

How many people to do you “follow?”

I think it’s a fine way to use the word, but truly following Jesus is a lot more than just “liking” Him and agreeing with Him. Nodding your head at what He says.

Following Jesus means obeying Jesus as your Lord and Master.

And it means becoming like Jesus and following His example.

Following Jesus means total commitment and total attachment to His cause. To His Kingdom.

Are you following Jesus?

He’s inviting you.

“Come, follow me.” He says.

“Come get behind me. Follow in my trail. I’ll show you the path to walk.”

Notice that He doesn’t say, “Come follow my teaching.”

He could! But He doesn’t. He makes it more personal than that. “Come, follow me.”

We aren’t called to follow Christianity.  We are called to follow Christ.

Are you following Jesus?

That’s point number one of the vision I want cast for Lanse Free Church in 2018.

That we would truly be disciples.

That we would follow Jesus.

Wherever He goes. Whatever He says. Whatever He wants.

He’s the Rabbi. He’s our Leader. He’s our King.

Now, that’s going to mean personal change.

You don’t sign up to follow Jesus and then stay the way you are.

Some people think that grace means that we don’t have to change.

If you are saved by grace, they reason, it’s all free, so you are free to stay the same.

But that’s not the way it works. Abe is going to talk about that next week in his sermon. I’m going to be here listening to it. I can’t wait.

Grace changes us.

You come to Jesus as you are. You don’t have to get cleaned up first. Salvation is a free gift to sinners.

But grace changes you. When you come to Jesus, you repent. You make a U-turn, and then you follow Jesus and He changes you.

Lots of course corrections along the way. Some of them small and some of them big.

But you don’t stay the same following Jesus.

Are you following Jesus?

That’s the goal for 2018, to grow as followers of Jesus. And we’ll have to help each other get there.

You don’t follow Jesus on your own. You follow Jesus with other Jesus followers. That’s why we have a church.

Simon and Andrew and James and John now had each other. And they were going to follow Jesus in community for the rest of their lives.

Following Jesus is a team sport, and this is the team. We help each other to do it.

Let me ask you some pointed questions about following Jesus:

1. Are you repenting of sin?
2. Are you meeting with the Lord regularly?
3. Are you connecting with other believers?
4. Are you using your gifts to the serve the Lord?

Those aren’t the only questions to determine if you are following Jesus, but they are good ones.

We’re talked about repentance already. How about meeting with the Lord?

I mean reading your Bible and praying.

Not to go through the motions, but to follow Jesus.

How about connecting with other believers. Somebody knows you and how you are doing as a disciple. Are you doing that?

A link group, a class, a Bible study, a one-on-one get-together, a prayer-partner, that sort of thing?

And are you doing something with your gifts? Are you serving the Lord and His church?

Following Jesus means doing what Jesus wants you to do.

Not what I want you to do. But what Jesus calls you to do.

“‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said.”

We’re going to learn how to do that in 2018. The Gospel of Matthew will light the way.

It’s not going to be easy. But it’s going to be good!

You can guess what the other main point is going to be.


Follow Jesus and fish for people to follow Jesus. V.19

“‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’”

They were fishermen. Now they are fishers of men.

They are no longer going after salmon but after souls. No longer going after minnows but after men.

Part of being a disciple is making more disciples.

Let me say that again.

Part of truly being a disciple means actively making new disciples.

And it’s not optional.

You don’t get to say, “I don’t have the gift for that. I don’t have the gift of evangelism. I’m not a people person. I’m not a talker. So count me out.”

Jesus says, “Come, follow me, and I WILL MAKE YOU fishers of men.”

He’ll do it!

I would imagine that Andrew, James, and John might tried to get out of this. They were fishermen, not salesmen!  Of course, old Peter thought he could do whatever he wanted to do! He had a big mouth.

But Jesus says, “No. It’s not optional. This is what my disciples do. They fish for new disciples.”

Now, that’s going to look different for different people.

But if we aren’t fishing in some way, shape, or form, we are not being disciples!

We are not following Jesus.

Thankfully, Jesus says that He will do the work of making us fishers of men.

At least, He said it to Peter and Andrew, and I think it’s here in the gospels to give us the same idea.

He will make us people-fishers if we allow Him to.

And that’s exactly what we need to do.

And it’s what I want us to focus on in 2018. Fishing for people.

Anybody remember this fishbowl?

Ten years ago, we set out this fishbowl in the foyer and we encouraged everybody to think about whom they are praying for and hoping to talk to about Jesus.

And we put their names in this fishbowl and we committed to praying for them.

And I still carry around in my Bible the names of the people we prayed for back then.

And praise God, a number of these people have trusted Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord since we began praying for them ten years ago.

Some of them are in this room right now.

Some of them have trusted Jesus and have died already.

And some of them, we’re still praying for.

I want do it again.

Abe is our prayer coordinator for the Wild Game Dinner.

He and I are going to put this fishbowl out in the foyer with little blue cards that say, “Please pray for...” and then you put a name down. Put your name on there, too, if you would. So we know who we are praying with.

And Abe is going to get those names to prayer warriors. Our prayer meeting, our Harvest Prayer Time, myself, and other folks that are going to commit to praying for these precious people.

And we’re going to do it beyond the Wild Game Dinner.

It’s not just for the Wild Game Dinner.

It’s for anyone that you are praying for...that you want to fish for!

We’re not going just going to pray fro them. We’re going to pray for you. We’re going to pray for opportunities. And for boldness!

Following Jesus means fishing for people.

It’s God’s work, but He wants to do it through us.

“‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’”

What are we fishing with?

What is the bait?

It’s Jesus Himself.

We aren’t trying to get people to buy into the church or some philosophy or even some movement.

We are trying to get people to consider the claims of Christ and give their lives to Him and His kingdom.

Look how precious He is. V.23

“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. [What a ministry!] News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.”

Now, we’ll see that many y of those turned out to not be true followers.

But see how attracted they all are to Jesus.

What an amazing Person!

That’s Whom we want to introduce people to.

Jesus is the Good News.

We’ll talk about His teaching. And we’ll talk about His healing. Those will come up again and again. But look at the middle one in verse 23 again.

“Preaching the good news of the kingdom.”

The kingdom is near. The light has dawned.

And the kingdom is good.

The kingdom is good news.

Because of the good news of the King.


Previous Messages in This Series: