Peace! Be Still!

“And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?’” (Mark 4)

Why are we so afraid when storms in life arise? Have we forgotten who it is who dwells in our hearts? He is the Prince of Peace, the One who has the power to rebuke the fierce winds and the raging waves so that they lose all their fury and become calm as a sea of glass. Fear only prevails where faith is absent, but in order for faith to overcome fear we must recognize clearly that the One to whom we have entrusted our lives is both mighty and loving. He cares for us and will not allow us to be swept away by the waves; with but a word from his lips – “Peace!” – and we shall be safe. By faith hear him speak the word “peace” to your hearts and watch the storm die down!

Lord, help us to trust in you instead of being afraid of the storm.

Ikthus East Sermon, 10 September 2017

SPIRITUAL GROWTH AND THE WORD OF GOD

Therefore, put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. (James 1:21)

Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation. (1 Peter 2:2)

But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4)

I. PRELIMINARY REMARKS

In order to be changed by the Word of God we have to personally experience his life-changing power in the Scriptures.

A. TASTE THE GOODNESS OF GOD IN THE WORD OF GOD

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! (Psalm 34: 8)

Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts. (Jeremiah 15:16)

B. SEE THE GLORY OF CHRIST IN THE WORD OF GOD

In the power of the Spirit we see by faith the life-transforming beauty of Christ in the Scriptures. We become what we behold.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Cor. 4:6)

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. (1 John 1:1-4)

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life (John 6:68)

II. SOME BENEFICIAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE WORD OF GOD

A. THE WORD OF GOD IS PRECIOUS

The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces. (Psalm 119:72)

Of course, gold and silver may give material comfort in this life; God’s words give eternal life and joy.

B. THE WORD OF GOD IS PLEASURABLE

How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! (Psalm 119:103)

Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts. (Jeremiah 15:16)

To the spiritual person, spiritual pleasures are sweeter than earthly pleasures. Depending on the kind of person you are, the Word of God is either foolishness or sweet.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. (Romans 8:5)

The Word of God can give sweet comfort to the soul and sweet peace to the heart. Illicit pleasures, on the other, not only torment the conscience but also destroys lives.

C. THE WORD OF GOD IS POWERFUL

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

III. APPLICATION

A. MEDITATE

Oh, how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. (Psalm 119:97)

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. (Joshua 1:8)

But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. (Psalm 1:2)

B. PRAY

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. (James 1:5)

C. MAKE USE OF TEACHERS (WHETHER IN PERSON OR IN BOOKS)

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-12)

D. APPLY WHAT YOU HAVE LEARNED.

What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:9)

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” (Matthew 7:24-27)

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (James 1:22)

PRAYER

Lord, thank you for your precious Word which, through the power of your Spirit, has saved us by revealing to us the beauty of Christ’s person and the glory of his saving deeds. Through your word, we have experienced the joy of your salvation. Help us to love your word, to meditate on it always, and to obey it without fail, so that we may grow not only in knowledge but most of all in holiness. In Jesus’ name, amen.

I am the Door

An Ikthus East Sermon, April 2016

TEXT: John 10:7-10

INTRODUCTION:

There’s a saying that goes this way: “Jesus is the Answer. What is the question?” The point of this saying is not that Jesus is the answer to all kinds of questions, but that Jesus is the answer to the deepest questions in life. That is, the only way to find true meaning and purpose and satisfaction in life is by entering into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. And I think that’s the point of all these metaphors that Jesus used to describe himself. They are figures of speech that communicate in a very powerful way who Jesus is for us. When he says, I am the light, it’s a powerful way of saying that through me you can have true enlightenment. When he says I am the bread of life, it’s a powerful way of saying that through me you can have true satisfaction, and when he says I am the door, it’s a vivid and powerful way of saying that it’s through me that you can enter into eternal life.

1. JESUS IS THE DOOR TO SALVATION

(a) Jesus is the only way to be saved.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.” (John 10:7)

According to New Testament scholar William Barclay –

“But when the sheep were out on the hills in the warm season and did not return at night to the village at all, they were collected into sheep-folds on the hillside. These hillside sheep-folds were just open spaces enclosed by a wall. In them there was an opening by which the sheep came in and went out; but there was no door of any kind. What happened was that at night the shepherd himself lay down across the opening and no sheep could get out or in except over his body. In the most literal sense the shepherd was the door.”

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

(b) All those who teach any other way are false teachers who rob the sheep of true life.

“All who came before me are thieves and robbers…” (John 10:8a)

“But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: if anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:8-9)

“Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.” (1 John 2:22-23)

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.” (1 John 4:1-3)

(c) We who teach and preach should be careful to offer in our preaching and teaching not the wisdom of this world, but the gospel of Jesus Christ – because only the latter saves.

“Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe… [We] preach Christ crucified…” (1 Corinthians 1:20,21,23a)

“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and vain deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” (Colossians 2:8)

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16)

(d) True Christians stick to Christ and his gospel; they will not listen to false teachers. They can discern the true from the false.

“All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.” (John 10:8)

“So Jesus said to the Twelve, ‘Do you want to go away as well?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.’” (John 6:67-69)

“They are from the world; therefore, they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” (1 John 4:5-6)

“Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting.” (2 John 9-10)

2. JESUS IS THE DOOR TO SAFETY.

“I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out find pasture.”

“To be able to come and go unmolested was the Jewish way of describing a life that is absolutely secure and safe.” (William Barclay)

See Psalm 121, especially verse 8. See also Romans 8:35-39. There is absolute safety in Christ.

3. JESUS IS THE DOOR TO SATISFACTION.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

“Men lead lives of quiet desperation.” (Henry David Thoreau)

It is possible to have everything and still feel empty. It’s also possible to have nothing and yet have everything.

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:7-8)

The apostle Paul was living life to the full even though he was in prison because he found satisfaction in Jesus Christ.

“I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11b-13)

Paul could rejoice and be at peace – even in prison. Abundant life is not dependent on circumstances.

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice… do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4,6,7)

The abundant life does not consist in owning a lot of material things.

“Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 11:15)

The abundant life consists of faith in God’s faithfulness, which gives rise to a sense of security, and results in a life of generosity and good works.

“As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

The abundant life is a life of unselfish giving and not selfish hoarding. It is the life which Jesus lived.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:24-25)

Reflections on Genesis 1

I’ve started my 2014 Bible reading plan and first on the list is Genesis 1:1-2:3. Here are some of my reflections:

1. The Creative Power of God. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (1:1) Creation owes its existence to God; all creatures owe their existence to God. By God’s Word out of nothing they came to be.

2. The Dignity of Human Beings. (a) They, male and female, alone of all the creatures on earth, are created in God’s image. (b) God gave them dominion over the earth and the living creatures on it. (1:26-28)

3. The Providence of God. God has provided for the sustenance of the creatures that he has made. “You shall have them for food.” (1:29) “[To] … everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” (1:30)

4. The Goodness of Creation. “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (1:31) Creation, as God originally made it, is beautiful and good. And even after the fall we still see significant remnants of this beauty and goodness.

5. The Sacredness of the Sabbath. “And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” (2:2-3) Even the omnipotent God rested! Rest is important, the day of rest is sacred – i.e., not to be violated but to be treated with reverence. There are a number of positions people hold regarding the Sabbath (some say it’s been changed to Sunday, some say what matters is the principle of rest in one day out of seven and not a specific day); the important thing however is: God rested, so should we.

Happy New Year!

I hope to blog more often this year. God willing, I hope to reread Calvin’s Institutes, this time in the Beveridge translation. Also, I plan to read the ESV Study Bible (I gave away my hard bound copy to my pastor and bought a leather bound copy instead) including the notes – hopefully!

Here are some ESV Bible reading plans. And here’s a reading plan for Calvin’s Institutes.

Year of the Bible

This year for me is the year of the Bible. I plan to read other books less and the Bible more – much much more! Last night I read the whole of Mark, II Corinthians and Ecclesiastes straight through into the wee hours of the morning, and I really enjoyed it! Incidentally, I’m shifting to the Holman Christian Standard Bible; I gave my English Standard Version to my wife. Click here for Bible reading plans you might want to use for 2009. (I’m using the Discipleship Journal Reading Plan.)