From Suffering to Praise: A sermon on 1 Peter 5:6-11

You Bled: A Good Friday Responsive Reading

goodfridaybloodIn preparation for our 2015 Good Friday service, I wrote the following responsive reading as part of a service that will call our congregation to reflect on blood: its importance Scripturally, its unique role in God’s story of redemption and the preciousness of the blood of Jesus Christ.

Leader reads L / Congregation reads C

L: When in the earnestness of your prayer, sweat formed on your brow, you bled.
C: Your blood, shed for me.

L: When you were arrested and beaten, you bled.
C: Your blood, shed for me.

L: As the nails drove through your hands and feet, hanging you on the cross, you bled.
C: Your blood, shed for me.

L: When they pierced your side, you bled.
C: Your blood, shed for me.

L: While I was your enemy, you bled.
C: Your blood, shed for me.

L: Even when I denied knowing you, you bled.
C: Your blood, shed for me.

L: For the sins of the world, you bled.
C: Your blood, shed for me.

L: For my sins, you bled.
C: Your blood, shed for me.

A: By your blood we are forgiven. By your blood we are saved. We cling to the blood of Jesus. Amen.

Practicing Righteousness, Pursuing Eternal Rewards

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for them you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 6:1).

In prepping for an upcoming sermon on part of Matthew 6, I was struck by the two presuppositions of Matthew 6:1, along with the three specific areas that are then elaborated on. In short, verse 1 serves as the big idea of which the rest of the chapter serves as an explanation and application of verse 1.

Two Presuppositions in Matthew 6:1

Practicing RighteousnessVerse 1 presupposes two important things:

  • We are supposed to practice righteousness.
  • That is a funny statement, but we are to be living out the disciplines of the Christian faith. There are good and necessary out workings of our faith, and we are expected to be applying them to our lives.
  • We are to long for rewards.
  • Unfortunately, too many Christians think that rewards are bad. Never does the Bible condemn pursuing rewards, but instead presents a picture of actively pursuing rewards, crowns, and treasures.

The caution the Bible does provide with respect to pursuing rewards is to pursue eternal rewards, not temporal ones. Pursue treasures that will last forever, not ones that will be pass away. Pursue heavenly rewards, not immediate gratification rewards from those around us. And therein lies exactly the reason that Jesus then elaborates on three specific areas of application.

Three Specific Areas to which Jesus Applies Matthew 6:1

  • Giving to the needy (vs 2-4).
    • “Thus when you give to the needy…” (vs 2)
    • “And your Father who sees in secret will reward you (vs 4).
    • There is a temptation to approach giving to the needy as a means of paying it forward, thinking that it will come back to us in the future. Or we make a big deal about our giving, trumpeting how many kids we sponsor or how many wells we’ve helped dig. There is a reward to our giving to the needy. But for me, I want my reward to come from the Father who sees in secret…
  • Prayer (vs 5-6)
    • “And when you pray…” (vs 5)
    • “And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (vs 6).
    • Daniel went into his closet and prayed. May that be a great example for us that our prayers not be marked by ten-cent words, but rather by humble spirits dependent upon God to move in our lives and on our behalf. But there is a temptation to show off our praying. here is a reward to our prayer. But for me, I want my reward to come from the Father who sees in secret…
  • Fasting (vs 16-18)
    • “And when you fast…” (vs 16)
    • “And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (vs 18).
    • This is one many (most) of us rarely do. But if we do, we want to make sure everyone knows about it. “I’m fasting from Facebook for Lent.” Nevermind my thoughts on that even counting as a “fast,” but notice how self-congratulating it is. And likely, also its own full reward. here is a reward to our fasting. But for me, I want my reward to come from the Father who sees in secret…

Did you see the structure of those sections? Each started with “when you…” and ended with “And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Those sections begin and end by addressing the two presuppositions of verse 1. May each of us ever grow in our practice of righteousness, and eagerly await the day we will be with the Father in glory and receive his eternal rewards.

The Truth Project: Who is Man?

Sermon Notes

On February 12, I had the privilege of guest preaching at CenterPoint Church in Dover, Delaware. They are in the middle of a series entitled, The Truth Project, a challenging look at what we believe and why we believe it. My message, part of that series, addresses the question, Who is man? The short answer: The image of God! Being the image of God is about more than having personality traits in common with God. It is about declaring wherever we are that Jesus is the King. That is what an image does – it points people to the original. Here is the video of my sermon.