Reverse the Curse

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth….And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:1, 31) What a beautiful picture of God’s original creation: organized around the magnification of His creative glory and untainted by the destruction of sin with everything operating at the apex of its created purpose. This is how God intended the world to be.

However, since the Fall of humanity in Genesis 3, “creation was subjected to futility…groaning together” (Romans 8:20, 22) for a return to its original condition. No aspect of the creation has escaped the distorting effects of sin’s curse. In particular, men and women, alone created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27), have suffered greatly.

In the first chapter of his letter to the Romans, Paul describes the extent to which sin has affected each and every human being. Paul highlights three aspects of our humanity in particular that have been distorted by sin:  Read more of this post

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Why Do You Worship?

Worship BG - Not To Us

This blog post was adapted from a sermon that I gave at the Harvard Avenue Student Ministry youth group on Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Key Text: 1 Corinthians 11:17-34

WHAT IS WORSHIP?

You and I are worshiping every second of every day. We are continually pouring ourselves out for people, causes, things, or experiences. Worship never stops.

So what is worship? It is much more than just singing songs or playing an instrument (though that is certainly part of it). Christian worship is a biblically faithful response to a biblically faithful understanding of God. It is both internal and external. The internal spirit of worship comes from experiencing and treasuring the beauty and worth of God as presented in the Bible. This results in an external response that shows what we have experienced and treasure. Worship begins in the heart as a matter of spirit and truth, and then flows out of the heart to impact every part of our daily life.

The opposite of selfless Christian worship is selfish worship, or idolatry. Idolatry is an unbiblical, unfaithful understanding of God and/or an unbiblical, unfaithful response to Him. Just like true worship, idolatry begins internally long before it manifests itself externally. And like true worship, it eventually flows from our heart to impact every area of our life.

John Calvin famously said, “The human heart is an idol factory.” Because of the sinful tendencies of our heart, we can twist things that are meant to bring glory to God and make them into idols. In other words, sin is not just doing bad things, but also making good things into ultimate things. This turns selfless worship into selfish worship. This is the very issue that Paul is addressing in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34Read more of this post

He is Risen: 5 Reasons the Resurrection Matters

 

West Country Safari

This Sunday is the highlight of the Christian year: Easter. Even though Christmas gets most of the attention, Easter is just as, if not more, important. It is the day we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior from the dead, a feat that no other person has ever accomplished on their own. In fact, the resurrection of Jesus three days after His crucifixion is the event that our entire faith and hope hinges on. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul refers to it as a matter of “first importance” and says that “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and our faith is in vain.”

Here are five reasons that the resurrection matters:

  1. Ensures our faith is legit
    The entirety of the Christian faith is dependent on the resurrection of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:12-26). We believe in a living, reigning Savior who is now the exalted head of the church, who is to be trusted, worshiped, and adored, and who will some day return in power and glory to gather His Bride the Church and reign as King over the earth.
  2. Ensures our regeneration
    In His resurrection, Jesus secured for us a new life like His: a human body and spirit perfectly suited for fellowship and obedience to God forever  (1 Peter 1:2-5). We have been “made alive together with Christ and raised up with Him” (Ephesians 2:5-6). The reality of the resurrection gives us the power needed for Christian ministry and obedience to God (Philippians 3:10). This resurrection power also allows us to gain more and more victory over the sin that remains in our lives (Romans 6:14; 1 Corinthians 15:17). In baptism, we see this pictured (Romans 6:4,11).
  3. Ensures our justification
    By raising Jesus from the dead, God declared His approval of Christ’s work of redemption on the cross (Romans 4:25). God was essentially saying there was no penalty left to pay for sin, no more wrath to bear, and no more guilt or punishment. All had been completely paid for by the substitionary, atoning death of Jesus. In saving us, by virtue of our union with Christ, God’s declaration of approval of Jesus is also His declaration of approval of us.
  4. Ensures our future resurrection
    Jesus is the “first fruits” of the new humanity, with bodies that have been made perfect and are no longer subject to weakness, aging, or death (1 Corinthians 15:20, 23, 42-44, 53). In fact, Jesus refers to Himself as the “resurrection and the life” in John 11:25-26. The New Testament connects Jesus’ resurrection with our final bodily resurrection several times (1 Corinthians 6:14, 15:12-58; 2 Corinthians 4:14)
  5. Ensures our eternal reward
    Because of the resurrection, everything we do on earth has eternal significance, both for us and for others. Though we may face struggles and trials here on earth, we are promised a heavenly reward where our suffering for Christ will be repaid (Colossians 3:1-4).

This Easter, remember the vital importance of what we are celebrating: Christ, as an innocent substitute, died the death that we should have died for our sins and then, to show His acceptance of this sacrifice, God the Father raised Jesus from the grave three days later, accomplishing the final victory over sin and death and making the reconciliation between God and humanity possible. What an amazing day!

-Lawson
Learn It. Love It. Live It.

[image credit: Wurz on Flickr]

Know Your Enemy: The Danger of Underestimating and Accommodating Sin

This blog post was adapted from a sermon that I gave at the Harvard Avenue Student Ministry‘s Winter War Games event on Saturday, February 1, 2014.

Key Texts: Judges 2:11-17; Romans 8:5-13

What is the greatest enemy of the Christian? No doubt there are many enemies we face as believers: Satan, demonic powers, the temptations of the world, and sin just to name a few. Each of these is dangerous and something we should be on guard against.

However, Scripture tells us consistently that our greatest enemy isn’t Satan. It isn’t the demons. The greatest, most dangerous enemy for any Christian is his or her flesh. J.C. Ryle realized this: “Sin and the devil will always find helpers in our hearts.” My greatest enemy is myself. Your greatest enemy is yourself. From the day we are saved until the day we die, our new spiritual nature will be at odds against our old sinful flesh nature. Our hearts are idol factories! (Martin Luther) We must recognize this enemy that lives within us and take it seriously or it will overcome us.

In 1886, Robert Lewis Stevenson published The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In the book, the respected Dr. Jekyll has an evil living within him that manifests itself periodically in the form of Mr. Hyde who goes on violent, lustful rampages. At first, Dr. Jekyll is appalled by the actions of Mr. Hyde, but as time goes on, he comes to enjoy the release from morality that his evil side offers.

At one point Dr. Jekyll says, “I had learned to dwell with pleasure as a beloved daydream on the thought of the separation of these elements. If each, I told myself, could be housed in separate identities then life would be relieved of all that was unbearable: the unjust might go his way delivered from the aspirations and remorse of his more upright twin, and the just could walk steadfastly and securely on his upward path doing the good things in which he found his pleasure and no longer exposed to disgrace and penitence by the hands of this extraneous evil.” Thinking he could control the two, he develops a potion that allows him to switch between the good Dr. Jekyll and the evil Mr. Hyde whenever he takes it. However, the more he feeds and enjoys his evil nature, the more it controls him. Eventually, Dr. Jekyll gets to the point where Mr. Hyde takes over at random times and can’t be subdued by the potion. Recognizing that eventually Mr. Hyde will completely consume the once honorable Dr. Jekyll, Jekyll pens a note that ends with “I bring the life of that unhappy Henry Jekyll to an end” and commits suicide.

See how deadly our indwelling sin is? It wars against us in our pursuit of holiness. It tries to take us captive, lull us to sleep, and lead us away from the God who redeemed us from the curse. It promises temporary relief and pleasure, and the more we accommodate it like Dr. Jekyll did, the stronger it grows until it eventually kills us.

Let’s look at how this played out in the nation of Israel.  Read more of this post

The Church as the Means and Goal of Missions

This is the ninth post with my sermon notes from the Cross Conference (CrossCon) that was held from December 27-30, 2013, in Louisville, KY. To see my other sermon notes from CrossCon, click here

Speaker: D.A. Carson                                     Key text: 1 John 4:7-16

What does sin do?

  • Defies God- this is what makes sin so heinous; it challenges God’s sovereignty
  • Utterly corrupts individuals- every dimension of our human existence has been twisted by sin
  • Corrodes all social relationships- we have to cover up, point fingers, and lie. Do we pursue things with equal passion for others or only for ourself?
  • Issues in death- sin leads to both physical and eternal death

What does the gospel do?  Read more of this post

Hope for the Homosexual

This blog post was adapted from a sermon that I gave at the Harvard Avenue Student Ministry youth group on Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Key Text: Romans 1:16-32, 12:1-2

Homosexuality and same-sex unions are a hot-button topic in America today. Many in the church have had a hard time responding to these issues in a biblical way that balances compassion with truth. Unfortunately, some Christians have approached the LGBT community with hate that turns people away from the gospel while others have compromised the biblical truth in regards to homosexuality in the name of tolerance. Neither of these represents Christ well or offers help for those who struggle with same-sex attraction. The goal of this post is to summarize the biblical view of homosexuality and outline the only hope for those in the LGBT community: the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Read more of this post

Hoarding: Buried Alive

 

Parked next to a hoarder.

Have you ever watched the show Hoarding: Buried Alive on TLC? It’s a crazy show that follows people who struggle with hoarding stuff in their houses. This isn’t your typical, everyday pack-rat though. They are so obsessed with their stuff that they have literally buried themselves alive with piles and piles of clothes, pots, furniture, and other junk. Some even have dead rats and expired food buried underneath all the stuff.          Read more of this post

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