Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Core Values

Sermons on Friendship

I have had the privelege over the past four weeks of preaching a mini-series at GFC on the topic of friendship.

Below are the individual sermons. I came at the sermons with a bit of a different approach. Since we, as elders, had wanted to address the core values of our church again, we thought it would be best to address the topic of friendship under the five headings of our core values.

So the first message was basically answering the question, ‘Why prioritize friendship?’ After that we thought through what truth, authority, humility, freedom, and delight have to do with friendships.

Over the course of the series we offered the following definition of Christian friendship: Two souls knit together as one in the pursuit of God through commitment to ongoing fellowship.

Delight and the Word of God

Warning: If you look down at the text below, you may see sheer volume and be tempted to not bother reading this post. The point of blogs is to appeal to people with short attention spans–this I know. But, let me urge you to read on through the end of this post.

Any post I would write that’s this long probably isn’t worth your time. But this is merely a collection of verses from Psalm 119. These are words that God himself has spoken; they are worth your time.

In thinking about delight this week, I came to read Psalm 119, and was amazed by what I saw. 

Have you ever considered the relationship between the Word of God (your Bible) and delight? David did. At length.

Read the verses below and watch how his affections (his emotions, his passions) are stirred by the Scriptures. Does this reflect your heart? I know I’ve got a long way to go. But man, was this a blessing to think about!

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Ps 119 14 In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.

Ps 119  16 I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.

Ps 119  20 My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times.

Ps 119  24 Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors.

Ps 119  35 Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.

Ps 119  40 Behold, I long for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life!

Ps 119  43 And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, for my hope is in your rules.

Ps 119  46 I will also speak of your testimonies before kings and shall not be put to shame,  47 for I find my delight in your commandments, which I love.  48 I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes.

Ps 119  49 Remember your word to your servant, in which you have made me hope.  50 This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.

Ps 119  52 When I think of your rules from of old, I take comfort, O LORD.

Ps 119  69 The insolent smear me with lies, but with my whole heart I keep your precepts;  70 their heart is unfeeling like fat, but I delight in your law.  71 It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.  72 The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.

Ps 119  74 Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice, because I have hoped in your word.

Ps 119  81 My soul longs for your salvation; I hope in your word.  82 My eyes long for your promise; I ask, “When will you comfort me?”

Ps 119  92 If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.  93 I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life.

Ps 119  97 Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.

Ps 119  103 How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Ps 119  111 Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart.

Ps 119  113 I hate the double-minded, but I love your law.  114 You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word.

Ps 119  119 All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross, therefore I love your testimonies.

Ps 119  123 My eyes long for your salvation and for the fulfillment of your righteous promise.

Ps 119  127 Therefore I love your commandments above gold, above fine gold.

Ps 119  131 I open my mouth and pant, because I long for your commandments.

Ps 119  136 My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law.

Ps 119  139 My zeal consumes me, because my foes forget your words.  140 Your promise is well tried, and your servant loves it.

Ps 119  143 Trouble and anguish have found me out, but your commandments are my delight.

Ps 119  147 I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words.  148 My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise.

Ps 119  158 I look at the faithless with disgust, because they do not keep your commands.

Ps 119  161 Princes persecute me without cause, but my heart stands in awe of your words.  162 I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil.  163 I hate and abhor falsehood, but I love your law.

Ps 119  165 Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.  166 I hope for your salvation, O LORD, and I do your commandments.  167 My soul keeps your testimonies; I love them exceedingly.

Ps 119  171 My lips will pour forth praise, for you teach me your statutes.  172 My tongue will sing of your word, for all your commandments are right.

Ps 119  174 I long for your salvation, O LORD, and your law is my delight.

Some More Thoughts on Delight, Part 2

This, of course, is following up on yeterday’s post, and continues where it left off.

Delight Drives Obedience

The heart which is converted is a heart that God has changed, so that is enabled to see that supreme delight is found only in God. This is why Jesus could say in John 14.15, ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments.’ He is not speaking of love as a feeling of guilt that compels us to obey when we really don’t want to; rather, he’s speaking of love as the will-directing affection of the converted heart, whose desires conform to the desires of Christ himself.

In other words, I obey because my delight is in God. Therefore, my obedience is my joy, because the commandments he gives are the very things I want to do. Of course, we must not discount the battle of the affections spoken of in places like Romans 7 and Galatians 5, but nevertheless, the inclination of the Christian’s heart is to obey, because we acknowledge that the commands are good, life-giving, and delight-giving (Ps 19.7-10)!

The heart that delights in God is the heart that obeys God’s commands.

Delight Displays God’s Love

Augustine, again, reflected on this great truth. He put it in the form of a question:

‘Why do I mean so much to you, that you should command me to love you? And if I fail to love you, you are angry and threaten me with great sorrow, as if not to love you were not sorrow enough in itself.’

To not love God is to have sorrow. It is to be ever pursuing joy in what can never give it. You are the proverbial hamster, endlessly running in your little wheel hoping that someday, somehow, you’ll finally get where you want to be. But you won’t. That is a great sorrow!

But here is a marvellous thought: The greatest command of God is to love him. To love him is to have delight in him. To have delight in him is to have the very thing we’ve been looking for our whole lives! God commands what we already desire–even though we didn’t know how to get it!

God’s love is displayed in his command to delight in him (cf. Ps 37.4), because this alone is where we will find true joy. What love! He could have demanded anything at all of us, but he commands this: Get great delight in me.

Some More Thoughts on Delight

Over the next couple of days, I’m hoping to toss out some snippets of thoughts that I’ve been reflecting on lately. I’d been hoping to develop each of them more, but time has not allowed. If any of them seem interesting to you, you can develop them on your own a little more.

Our pastor has been preaching on delight as a core value of our church these past two weeks. Last night at TAG I heard from several of our people again, just how revolutionary this has been to them, to think about delighting in God–and how important that it be a core value for us! 

Here are some of the things that stuck out to me as I’ve reflected on the sermons these past few weeks. I’ll give the first two today and then hopefully follow up with some more tomorrow.

 

Delight is Central to Conversion
Here’s how Augustine described his conversion experience:

During all those years [of rebellion], where was my free will? What was the hidden, secret place from which it was summoned in a moment, so that I might bend my neck to your easy yoke? … How sweet all at once it was for me to be rid of those fruitless joys which I had once feared to lose! … You drove them from me, you who are the true, the sovereign joy. You drove them from me and took their place, you who are sweeter than all pleasure, though not to flesh and blood, you who outshine all light, yet are hidden deeper than any secret in our hearts, you who surpass all honour, though not in the eyes of men who see all honour in themselves…. O Lord my God, my Light, my Wealth, and my Salvation’ (Confessions, trans. R.S. Pine-Coffin, 181; emphasis my own).

For Augustine, delight was the essence of God’s converting grace. Which means, then, that…

 

Delight Displays Grace
Augustine wrote: ‘Without exception we all long for happiness. … All agree that they want to be happy, just as, if they were asked, they would all agree that they desired joy.’ Augustine knew that the will was free–but free only insofar as it would pursue what would bring it joy. In other words, the will is bound only by this rule: it will always seek its pleasure. We all desire true happiness (which is found only in God), but our wills are unable to choose to delight in God, because that would require a change of nature; that is, a change in the object of our heart’s affections.

How can any man’s heart change? Only by God’s grace, changing his nature. Hence, ‘[s]aving grace, converting grace, in Augustine’s view, is God’s giving us a sovereign joy in God that triumphs over all other joys and therefore sways the will’ (John Piper, Legacy of Sovereign Joy, 59; emphasis original). Grace, then, is God’s active changing of our heart’s desires so that we can truly desire him above all else, freely choose him, and as we love him, find in him our true soul’s joy. Our wills are always free to choose to do those things in which we delight, but they are never free to choose what our wills will delight in. That is why we need God’s grace; and that is why delighting in God displays God’s grace. 

The heart that delights in God is not a natural heart–it is a heart that has been supernaturally transformed.

Augustine and Delighting in the Love of God

I was away from GFC this week, preaching at another church. That meant that I had to wait till this afternoon to hear Paul’s sermon on delight in God. It caused me to think hard again about the presence and / or absence of delight in God in my heart and in my life. I highly recommend it to you.

As I was listening, my thoughts went back to Augustine (as they just about always do). Here’s a passage from Augustine, where he thinks about the delight in God that is ours in Christ. Imagine: God commands us to delight in him, because he knows that’s where we will find the greatest delight! That’s amazing!

Who will grant me to rest content in you? To whom shall I turn for the gift of your coming into my heart and filling it to the brim, so that I may forget all the wrong I have done and embrace you alone, my only source of good?

Why do you mean so much to me? Help me to find words to ex­plain. Why do I mean so much to you, that you should command me to love you? And if I fail to love you, you are angry and threaten me with great sorrow, as if not to love you were not sorrow enough in itself. Have pity on me and help me, O Lord my God. Tell me why you mean so much to me. Whisper in my heart, I am here to save you (Ps 35.3). Speak so that I may hear your words. My heart has ears ready to listen to you, Lord. Open them wide and whisper in my heart, I am here to save you. I shall hear your voice and make haste to clasp you to myself. Do not hide your face away from me, for I would gladly meet my death to see it, since not to see it would be death indeed. 

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Taken from Confessions, trans. R.S. Pine-Coffin (Penguin Classics ed.), 24.

No Wonder They Hate It

This past Sunday at GFC, the preacher taught on Core Value #4: Authority. That was good for my heart to hear. When we, as elders, sat to discuss what we wanted to include in this series (i.e. What are our core values?), authority wasn’t the first thing that came to mind. 

As we reflected on the biblical guidance for Christian leadership and where that intersects Canadian culture, however, we quickly realized that this was something we needed to speak to. Our culture hates authority. The very fact that one person might have the ‘right to command’ another person to do something just makes our skin crawl. 

But that begs this question: Why? Why would we hate it so much and so instinctively? 

To be sure, the reasons are numerous. We have seen authority ill-defined and often-abused. We’ve seen people in authority positions without authority qualifications, and that makes us question the legitimacy of it all. We’ve all be subject to authorities who have made us do things we just don’t want to do. We could go on and on.

But I would argue that there’s something more at play–something deep-seated in our very nature as humans that makes us want to either (1) reject authority and rebel against it, or, (2) seize authority and use it for our personal gain. What is it in us that makes us act this way?

I think the answer is simple: Authority is rooted in God, defined by God, is good and is a part of what it means to be God.

Since we’re created in his image, it only makes sense that we would be created to reflect this reality. But ever since the fall, we’ve done with authority what we do with every other part of the image of God in us: we either deny it or distort it.

The authority of God the Father cannot be questioned. Throughout the Old Testament, his Word stands. He declares the end from the beginning, and his will is brought to pass. In the gospels (especially John) we see that it was the Father who sent the Son. The Son speaks the words that the Father gave him to speak, and does the works the Father gave him to work. 

The authority of Christ is a present reality. At the Great Commission Jesus said, ‘All authority has been given to me…’. In Ephesians 1, we’re told that Christ (after being raised from the dead) was seated at the right hand of God the Father, ‘in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion…’ with ‘all things under his feet…’. 

Christ will not always hold on to that authority, however. In 1 Corinthians 15, we read that at the end of this world, Christ will hand all things back over to the Father, who is the true, ultimate authority–even within the Godhead, where all are perfect equals. Authority, then, existed in eternity past (where there was no sin) and will exist into eternity future (where there will be no sin).

This tells us why we hate authority. We hate it because we’re rebels by nature. We hate God and everything that he is. Authority is intrinsically good. Authority is a part of what it means to be God. It is not a result of the fall–rather, it is merely perverted and hated because of the fall.

As Christians, we are called to rightly reflect the image of God as we were created to. Our response to perversions of authority in the world is not to reject all authority, but to esteem and praise right authority, and to respond to bad authority rightly and humbly: by submitting ourselves to it (1 Pet 2.13-17).

A Few Thoughts on Christian Freedom

I must confess: when Paul first asked me if I’d be willing to preach on one of GFC’s core values, I got excited. But when I found out the value he had in mind was freedom, my excitement was dampened. The notion of freedom isn’t something that has historically ‘fired me up.’ 

When I thought of freedom, the first thought in my mind is Christians taking liberty in moral issues and then when confonted, just chalking it up to ‘freedom.’ Knowing that it could be abused in this way, I wasn’t all that happy about preaching it as something we should pursue.

But that was before I studied it… and my mind was changed completely. By the time Sunday rolled around, I was super-excited to preach it!

I began the message by attempting to begin to answer the question, ‘What is Christian Freedom?’ Answering that question alone could be at least 3 sermons. Knowing that my answer would have to be somewhat incomplete because of time constraints, I gave this opening definition of Christian freedom:

Christian freedom is the ability to participate in the life of God so that our desires are conformed to his, our will becomes his, enabling us to always do what we want without necessity or coercion.

In other words, it is the ability to always act for our joy and for his glory—and have those two as one.

By ‘participate in the life of God,’ I meant

  1. Freedom of Access to God as Father
  2. Freedom from the Law in God the Son
  3. Freedom to Live in God the Spirit

Where once we had no freedom to approach God in prayer, now our prayers are acceptable and pleasing to him. Where once we had no freedom from the Law, but were at once both commanded to work and condemned to die, now we have freedom from works and freedom to rest in justification. Where once we had no freedom to please God or to do as we desired, now the Spirit of God indwells us, conforming our desires to his.

The more we participate in the life of Holy Trinity, the more we’re conformed to him from the inside-out. Because of the work of the Holy Spirit, we gain true freedom of will so that we may choose and desire whatever we want, and since what we want is in line with the character of God, what brings us joy will be the same things that bring him glory. And he gives us the power to do it.

That’s a great thing to think about!

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