My Body, and Mine Alone? 1 Corinthians 6:12-20

My Body, and Mine Alone?

“So, where’s the harm in a little sexual sin?”

I.  Sexual sin DOMINATES those who abandon themselves to it. 12-14

12 All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. 13 Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body. 14 Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power.        

II.  Sexual sin DISCONNECTS us from the Lord Jesus. 15-17

15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! 16 Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, “THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH.” 17 But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him.

III.  Sexual sin DAMAGES both our body and our soul.  18

18 Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.  

IV.  Sexual sin DISMISSES my importance, identity, and purpose in life. 19-20

19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

A.  My importance:  I am the dwelling place of the Spirit of God.   19a

B.  My identity: I am now a person who belongs to God alone.  19b-20a

C.  My purpose: I now live to bring honor to Him, not pleasure to me. 20b

Conclusion: Therefore…as a Christian, I no longer claim “ownership” of my body—it now belongs to God, and I will seek to honor Him alone with what I do with my body.

3.2.14 Grace in Action (John 7:53-8:11)

Grace in Action

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: If this story were acted out in dramatic form, who would the main characters be? Big Answer: They would be those who Oppose Grace, those who are Objects of Grace, and the One who is the Origin of Grace.

Introduction: Jesus was teaching in the temple in Jerusalem 7:53-82

1.         Jesus stayed the night on the Mount of Olives 7:53-8:1

53 And everyone went to his home. 1 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.

2.         He taught in the temple in Jerusalem 2

2 Early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people were coming to Him; and He sat down and began to teach them.

I.  The Opponents of Grace: Those who insist the Law be applied–to others. 3-8

3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, 4 they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act.

A.  The accusers: scribes and Pharisees 3

B.  The accused: a women set before Jesus for judgment 4a

C.  The charges: She’d been caught in the very act of adultery 4b

D.  Their attempt to trap the Lord. 5-6a

1.  “Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; 5a

  • Leviticus 20:10 ‘If there is a man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, one who commits adultery with his friend’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.

2.  …what then do You say? 5b

3.  Their motives were to trap Him by forcing Him to make an unfavorable                      decision 6a

6 They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him.

  • What were the possible responses to this “test”?  What response could Jesus have made, and what would have been the results and implications of those responses?

1)    He could have sided with the Pharisees, agreeing that she really should have been put to death.  This would have challenged Roman law.

2)    He could have sided with the Romans and the general population, and denied that the women should be executed.  This would have challenged the apparent, assumed application of the Jewish religious law.

3)     He could have done/said nothing—played it safe.

4.     He responded by writing on the ground, and challenging their application of Moses’ law.  6b-8

i.  He began to write with His finger on the ground 6a

But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground.

ii.  He invited any valid witness to begin the stoning of the women, and then continued to write on the ground 7-8

7 But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.

  • Deut 17: 6 “On the evidence of two witnesses or three witnesses, he who is to die shall be put to death; he shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness. 7 “The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.
  • Jesus put His finger on the fact that these were all hostile witnesses, and thus, could not act as witnesses in a (Mosaic) court.  He exposed their failure to keep the Law, but reminding them of the parts of the Law they’d ignored.

5.  They all left the scene, their plot having failed. 9a

9 When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones,

  • Heard it = Note, they heard what Jesus said (“He who is without sin…”), and began to leave. Thus, it is NOT necessarily what they may have read that made them leave…

II.  The Object of Grace: the woman, a sinner caught in her sin. 9b-11a

…and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court. 10 Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.”

III.  Jesus, the Origin of Grace 11b

And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.”

 

 

 

 

2.23.14 Exile and Redemption (Luke Todd)

In this sermon, Luke Todd explores the concepts of Exile and Redemption, looking at the exile and redemption of the tribe of Judah, and perfectly fulfilled in the restoration of people to God through the Lord Jesus.

Exile and Redemption 

2.16.14 Because We Say “I Do” Genesis 2:18-25

Big Idea: What do we mean when we say, “I do”?

Answer:  We mean to say that biblical marriage is a PROVISION given to us by God, a PATTERN for us to follow, and a PORTRAIT for us to enjoy.

I.  Marriage is a PROVISION given to people by God.  18-23

A.  The problem—Without a companion who corresponded to him, the man was incomplete in bearing the image of God. 18-20

18 Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; ” 19 Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. 

B.  The solution—Woman, a companion that corresponded to man. 21-23

21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. 22 The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. 23 The man said, “This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.”

1.  Note the independence from man—women have a direct, personal relationship with God, exclusive of men.

2.  Note the unity with man—the marriage relationship is to retain a clear commitment to the unity between mates.

Application: Since marriage is a divine provision to address human incompleteness it must be received with humble gratitude and joy—like the gift that it was meant to be.

II.  A God-given PATTERN for marriage: Heterosexual, Independent, Permanent, Physically Intimate 24

24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.

A.  Heterosexual = …a man…his wife

B.  Independent = …shall leave his father and mother

C.  Permanent = …shall be joined (cleave)

D.  Intimate sexually = the shall become one flesh

These attributes of biblical marriage exclude…

Polygamy = multiple wives

Polyandry = multiple husbands

Homosexuality= of the same gender

Application: Since marriage is a divine pattern given to man, it must be followed with precise obedience.

III.  The divine PORTRAIT of marriage is one of healthy, emotional intimacy between husbands and wives, and of the relationship between the Lord and His Bride, the Church. 25

A.  A healthy marriage is an experience of intimacy between a husband and wife

25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

Application: Since marriage is a divine portrait of joyful intimacy, it is meant to be gratefully enjoyed as a blessing from God.

B.  A healthy marriage provides a matchless portrait of the love that exists between Jesus and the church.

Eph 5: 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.

Conclusion: How are we at Grace Bible Church to respond to this truth?

1.  Gratitude for the provision of marriage.  We did not create marriage—it was given to us, by a loving Creator.

2.  Obedience to the pattern given to us for marriage.  Like Jesus, and the Apostles Paul and Peter, we must glean principles from the account of this first, historical marriage celebrated by human beings.

3.  Rejoicing that when we have Christ, we have the Groom, and need never despair of our failings, and our disappointments in this life, and in our marriages.

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Daniel 6:1-28 Liars, Laws, Lions, and the Lord Who Saves

I.          The plot of men against Daniel 1-16a

A.        Daniel distinguished himself above all others in his service to the king. 1-3

It seemed good to Darius to appoint 120 satraps over the kingdom, that they would be in charge of the whole kingdom, 2 and over them three commissioners (of whom Daniel was one), that these satraps might be accountable to them, and that the king might not suffer loss. 3 Then this Daniel began distinguishing himself among the commissioners and satraps because he possessed an extraordinary spirit, and the king planned to appoint him over the entire kingdom.

B.        Motivated by envy, peers of Daniel conspired to discredit him before the king. 4-5

1.         They could find no ethical failures in Daniel 4

4 Then the commissioners and satraps began trying to find a ground of accusation against Daniel in regard to government affairs; but they could find no ground of accusation or evidence of corruption, inasmuch as he was faithful, and no negligence or corruption was to be found in him.

2.        They determined to use Daniel’s faith against him 5

5 Then these men said, “We will not find any ground of accusation against this Daniel unless we find it against him with regard to the law of his God.”

C.        They tricked the king into creating a law that made it illegal to pray to   anyone by him (for one month), punishable by death. 6-9

1.         They made it illegal to pray or petition any god or person (other than     King Darius) for one month 6-9

6 Then these commissioners and satraps came by agreement to the king and spoke to him as follows: “King Darius, live forever! 7 “All the commissioners of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the high officials and the governors have consulted together that the king should establish a statute and enforce an injunction that anyone who makes a petition to any god or man besides you, O king, for thirty days, shall be cast into the lions’ den. 8 “Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document so that it may not be changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which may not be revoked.” 9 Therefore King Darius signed the document, that is, the injunction.

2.         They made it punishable by death to break the new law 7b

shall be cast into the lions’ den.

D.        They witnessed Daniel breaking their law, and pressed charges against  him before the king. 10-16a

1.         They spied on Daniel praying to the Lord God 10-11

10 Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously. 11 Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and supplication before his God.

2.         They pressed charges against Daniel, and demanded that Darius put       Daniel to death 12-15

a.         The charges were pressed 12-13

12 Then they approached and spoke before the king about the king’s injunction, “Did you not sign an injunction that any man who makes a petition to any god or man besides you, O king, for thirty days, is to be cast into the lions’ den?” The king replied, “The statement is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which may not be revoked.” 13 Then they answered and spoke before the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or to the injunction which you signed, but keeps making his petition three times a day.”

b.         The king was heart-sick that he’d been tricked into executing Daniel 14

14 Then, as soon as the king heard this statement, he was deeply distressed and set his mind on delivering Daniel; and even until sunset he kept exerting himself to rescue him.

c.         The conspirators insisted in Daniel’s execution—that very day. 15

15 Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, “Recognize, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or statute which the king establishes may be changed.”

3.         Daniel was thrown into a lions’ den to be killed 16a

16 Then the king gave orders, and Daniel was brought in and cast into the lions’ den.

II.         The presence of God on behalf of Daniel 16b-24

A.        God was present in the conscience of the king 16b-18

1.         Darius hoped that God would deliver Daniel 16b

The king spoke and said to Daniel, “Your God whom you constantly serve will Himself deliver you.”

2.         Darius took steps to prohibit the conspirators from killing Daniel in the night 17

17 A stone was brought and laid over the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the signet rings of his nobles, so that nothing would be changed in regard to Daniel.

3.         Darius spent the night fasting and worrying about Daniel 18

18 Then the king went off to his palace and spent the night fasting, and no entertainment was brought before him; and his sleep fled from him.

B.        God was present in the den of the lions 19-24

1.         …saving Daniel from the lions 19-23

19 Then the king arose at dawn, at the break of day, and went in haste to the lions’ den. 20 When he had come near the den to Daniel, he cried out with a troubled voice. The king spoke and said to Daniel, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you constantly serve, been able to deliver you from the lions?” 21 Then Daniel spoke to the king, “O king, live forever! 22 “My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths and they have not harmed me, inasmuch as I was found innocent before Him; and also toward you, O king, I have committed no crime.” 23 Then the king was very pleased and gave orders for Daniel to be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den and no injury whatever was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.

2.         …punishing Daniel’s enemies by the same lions 24

24 The king then gave orders, and they brought those men who had maliciously accused Daniel, and they cast them, their children and their wives into the lions’ den; and they had not reached the bottom of the den before the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.

III.        Conclusion:  The Praise of Darius and the Prosperity of Daniel 25-28

1.         Praise from the king: Darius honored the Lord God 25-27

25 Then Darius the king wrote to all the peoples, nations and men of every language who were living in all the land: “May your peace abound! 26 “I make a decree that in all the dominion of my kingdom men are to fear and tremble before the God of Daniel; For He is the living God and enduring forever, And His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed, And His dominion will be forever. 27 “He delivers and rescues and performs signs and wonders In heaven and on earth, Who has also delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.”

2.         Prosperity for Daniel: he “enjoyed success” 28

28 So this Daniel enjoyed success in the reign of Darius and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

Conclusion:  God’s people can rest assured that He is with them in exile—to protect, save, and in the end—vindicate them before their enemies.  There is no stone, soldier, or seal that can stand before the power of God to rescue from danger, and deliver from death–be it in a lions’ den…or even a grave.

 

 

Daniel 1:1-2 History and the Hand of God

In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.  2 The Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the vessels of the house of God; and he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and he brought the vessels into the treasury of his god.

I.  The History of the Fall of Jerusalem 1-2

1:1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon

A.  God’s king was defeated 

1.  The loser, Jehoiakim, king of Judah

  • Gladly served as vassal king to Egypt, and then to Babylon.
  • To raise tribute to pay to Egypt’s king, Jehoiakim used the forced, unpaid labor of his own countrymen.
  • Could not be trusted, either by Jews or Egyptians, or Babylonians. 
  • Notoriously attacked anyone who suggested “bad news” to him.  When he was read the writings of Jeremiah the prophet, (whom he later arrested and held prisoner in an empty well/cistern), he took out a pen-knife and cut up the Scriptures!  (Jer 36:22ff)

2.  The winner, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon

  • Nebuchadnezzar” = one of the most amazing, imposing military/ruling kings in the human history. 
  • Three deportations to Babylon: 605, 597, and 586 B.C.  The Babylonian army destroyed Solomon’s Temple in 586BC.

B.  God’s city was surrounded and sacked 1b

Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.

1.  The loser, Jerusalem, capital of Israel

  • “besieged it” = one of the three main attacks on the city of Jerusalem by the Babylonians.  While the initial defeat happened in 605 BC, the city finally was destroyed in 586 BC.
  • Deu 28: 49 “The LORD will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as the eagle swoops down, a nation whose language you shall not understand,
  •  F.B. Meyer offers a poignant description of the siege and fall of the city of Jerusalem.  After describing the influx of citizens from the country, and its horrible drain on the resources and infrastructure of the city’s few, precious resources, he goes on to describe the final days of the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem.

…So much for the earlier months of the siege:  but as the days passed on, darker shadows gathered.  It was as though the very pit of hell added in human passion the last dread horrors of the scene.  The precious sons of Zion, comparable to fine gold, lay by scores in the recesses of the houses, broken like earthen pitchers, the work of the hand of the potter!  The women become cruel, and refused to spare from their breasts for their young the nutriment they needed for themselves.  The tongues of the sucking babes become so dry and parched, that they could no longer cry.  Young children, whose weakness constituted a first claim, asked for bread, and asked in vain. (Jeremiah—Priest and Prophet, F.B. Meyer, Christian Literature Crusade, page 143.)

  • After the fall of Jerusalem in 605 BC, the nation of Israel did not exist as an independent, self-governing state for over 2,500 years, until 1948.

2.  The winner, Babylon, capital of Mesopotamia

  • There was a remarkable renaissance of learning, music, literature during the Second Babylonian kingdom.
  • The city of Babylon itself would impress even if it existed today, for sake of its defensive walls, canal system, parks, gardens, palaces, temples, roadways, gates, and cavernous public buildings.

C.  God’s temple was pillaged. 2

2 The Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the vessels of the house of God; and he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and he brought the vessels into the treasury of his god.

1.  The loser, Solomon’s Temple…  2a

  • Note:  The Lord “gave” both the king of Judah (Eliakim) and the sacred utensils of the temple into Nebuchadnezzar’s hand.  [Arguably, Nebuchadnezzar also was given the youth of Judah—as had been prophesied to Hezekiah by Isaiah the prophet (Isa 39).]
  • As horrific as the thought is, the texts argues that God’s relationship with Nebuchadnezzar was much like that of an offended landlord hiring out a mercenary to forcibly evict His people off of the land, and out of the city of Jerusalem!  Thus, it is more true to say that Nebuchadnezzar did not steal the Temple’s treasure, but received it from the hand of the God of the Temple!

2.  …the winner, the temple of Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian gods 2b

  • and he brought them to the land of Shinar, = (Gen 10-11: Nimrod settled and built a human-ruled kingdom, people settled, against God’s will, Tower of Babel…)
  • to the house of his god(s), and he brought the vessels into the treasury of his god. “along with some of the vessels of the house of God…” =  the symbolic humiliation of God, and the safe-guarding of the vast wealth taken from the Temple in Jerusalem.  In the culture of the ancient Middle East, temples were also as banks–they were the safest place to store material wealth, such as the items that Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the Temple in Jerusalem.

II.         The hardest part of the story:  It was the hand of God that handed over His people and their city!  2

2 The Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the vessels of the house of God; and he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and he brought the vessels into the treasury of his god.

  • It is notable that the God here is Adonai—the personal, Hebrew name for God.  Despite Nebuchadnezzar’s presumption that he himself was responsible for the defeat of Israel—the text allows for no such possibility.  
  • Psa 44   12 You sell Your people cheaply, And have not profited by their sale.

A.  His means of destroying and pillaging His people: Nebuchadnezzar, God’s “servant”!

  • Nebuchadnezzar, “My servant” (!):  Jer 25   8 “Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Because you have not obeyed My words, 9 behold, I will send and take all the families of the north,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will send to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, My servant, and will bring them against this land and against its inhabitants and against all these nations round about; and I will utterly destroy them and make them a horror and a hissing, and an everlasting desolation. = Like a boss paying a private contractor, God “paid” Nebuchadnezzar to defeat Israel.

B.  His reason the discipline of His people: their disobedience 

  because you have not obeyed My words…  

  • From Moses (Deut, Lev) to Solomon in the dedication of the Temple, to Isiah 39, Jeremiah, Zephaniah, Ezekiel and Habakkuk, it had been made abundantly clear in their Scriptures that the price of persistent, unrepentant sin against God, and violation of His covenant with them would result in His forcible eviction of His people from their own land, for 70 years.

III.        The (oftentimes hard) mystery of God’s Hand in Our Suffering

A.  Is God really the author of hardship?  God is frequently named as the source of hardship and suffering in the lives of His dearest saints…

  • It is Job crying out, “   17 “For He bruises me with a tempest And multiplies my wounds without cause. 18 “He will not allow me to get my breath, But saturates me with bitterness. (Job 9)
  • It’s Naomi complaining, after the death of her husband and both of her sons in a foreign land, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. 21 “I went out full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has witnessed against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?”
  • It is Jeremiah saying, “ 7 O LORD, You have deceived me and I was deceived; You have overcome me and prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all day long; Everyone mocks me.  8 For each time I speak, I cry aloud; I proclaim violence and destruction, Because for me the word of the LORD has resulted In reproach and derision all day long. Jer 20
  • It is David saying, “He has weakened my strength in the way; He has shortened my days.”  (Ps 102) = “God, You’ve made me WEAKER, not stronger, and You’ve SHORTENED my life expectancy!”
  • It is Psalmist who wrote, “You sell Your people cheaply, And have not profited by their sale. (Psalm 44:12)
  • But it is also Jesus fervently praying to God that the experience of the Cross might be avoided, but that He would put God’s “will” before His own, and go to that Cross.
  • It is Jesus crying out with a loud voice on a dark Friday afternoon, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?!”

CONCLUSION: So where is there hope to be found in suffering?

THE CROSS!  We don’t always know what God is accomplishing in our dark nights, but we DO know what He accomplished on the DARKEST day of human history—the day Jesus hung on a Cross.

  • From  a historical point of view it was just another Roman crucifixion—just another case of a government used by religion to get rid of a Troublemaker…
  • But in view of the hand of God in the crucifixion, something utterly amazing and marvelous happened… heaven’s door was opened for sinners!
  • The who, what, where, and whens of history will never bring us to the deeper meaning behind the things that happen to us–only God possesses the WHYs that we long to know.  And despite the darkness that might best describe the present chapter of your life–believers are blessed to know the end of the “book,” the whys of history–God is at work to bring about His own glory displayed in all creation, and the promised redemption of His people!
  • Alas! and did my Savior bleed, and did my Sovereign die? Would he devote that sacred head, for sinners such as I?  By God’s plan, YES!
  • Hope is found when we press beyond the mere history of trouble to see the hand of God at work in our lives through the greatest hope—the Cross of Christ.
  • Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

Christ into the City: Corinth (Series summary)

With this final sermon of our series, Christ into the City, we can make some broad, general observations about the expected effects of believers in Jesus entering into their surrounding culture (the city of Portland, in our case!), and simply talking about Jesus in a way that invites our family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc., to enter into a relationship with Him.

But, as we’ve seen over these past weeks in our sermons on Acts 16-18, when the good news of hope and forgiveness found in Jesus Christ bump up against the values of our culture, of any culture, that culture will inevitably bump back!  But, along with opposition and indifference, we can also count on the Lord Himself reaching into the hearts of those who hear our message, and calling people to relationship with Him.

In Philippi, we saw that the values of the culture bumped up against the materialism and profiteering nature of that culture, when slave-owners brought Paul before the town judgment seat because in driving a demonic spirit from their slave-girl, he’d destroyed their hope of continued profit off of her fortune telling.

In Thessalonica, we found that the good news of Jesus was offensive and threatening to the leaders of the synagogue there, as they saw Paul’s message taking hold of many of the members of their synagogue, particularly members who were very influential and prominent in their city.

In Athens, we found the simple, but astounding, claims of the gospel both offending and intriguing the intellectual gate-keepers and philosophy teachers of that city.

In Corinth, we find that the claims of the gospel can enter into the grittiest, most worldly culture imaginable, and powerfully convince people that there is hope beyond the simple satisfaction of their sensual desires.

In each city Paul, preached in (save Athens) the gospel was met with suspicion, opposition that led to persecution, and eventually, an appeal to the Roman government to intervene against this new religion brought to their city by this Jew from Tarsus.  But…in each city people believed in Jesus, and found deliverance from sin, hope for the future, and a genuine, spiritual community in which to belong, grow, and thrive!

In this sermon, we discuss both the need for courage in our speaking of Jesus to the surrounding culture and of the dynamic of opposition that we may well find as we seek to speak out of Him.  That’s the bulk of this sermon.  But the primary idea that I wanted to express is that for Christ to be truly brought to the city, to our city, we must open our mouths and speak of Him—clearly, courageously, often, and with great sensitivity and humility.  Many in in the United States and Europe today speak ruefully of the concept that we are now a Post-Christian socity:  our cultures values, laws, customs, lifestyles, etc., no long reflect a respect for the teachings, beliefs and practices of Christianity. This is demonstrated in many ways, from our entertainment industry to our financial crises, to our soaring rates of divorce, to our confusion regarding sexual ethics and the definition of marriage, to our educational system.  Well-meaning Christians sometimes seem to mourn the loss of a supposed Christian culture in the West.

However, I believe that our responsibility and tremendous opportunity as Christians in this time, wherever we are, is to view our culture as being decidedly Pre-Christian and waiting for someone to share with it an answer that truly works—the answer of the gospel of Jesus!  Let’s stop grieving over a past temple of our old practices and habits, and start reveling in the amazing opportunities and fascinating, precious people that the Lord has put before us!

We were hard-wired by God Himself to be obedient, effective followers of Jesus Christ, including witnesses to the gospel of Jesus–right where we’re at; here, today, at this specific time in history.  Let’s embrace that idea, and stop the hand-wringing over what our world has come to, and how tough it is to be a Christian, and how no one’s interested in Jesus anymore, etc!  Let’s stop the whining and complaining!  Instead, start planning to witness the amazing, earth-shaking power of the love of God, when it is turned loose in a culture–a culture like ours, when we simply open our mouths and tell people about Jesus.  We were made for this moment!  That’s how Paul seemed to have viewed his culture, and his place in it, and I believe our efforts and hopes should be set along the same lines as those of the great Apostle!

Blessings, Pastor Ken

Psalm 139:13-16 God knew you before we knew you…

This portion of Psalm 139 speaks of God’s relationship to human life in the womb, before birth occurs.  In fact, the Psalm even argues that God’s Personal relationship to every human life exists before a person even possesses a physical body!  

I.  God decided to create you before you were conceived. 13-14

13 For Thou didst form my inward parts; Thou didst weave me in my mother’s womb.  14 I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Thy works, And my soul knows it very well.

A.  It is GOD, and not us, who creates. 13

13 For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.

This verse takes away the argument that it is solely an issue between a father and mother whether or not they will conceive a child—God claims a proprietary (ownership) right in the matter.

1.  He formed our inward parts = our deepest, core identity. 13a

13 For You formed my inward parts; = kidneys = the deepest organs, most inaccessible. Ancient cultures/languages referred figuratively to the kidneys as the seat of the innermost core of one’s personality.

2.  He wove us in the womb. 13b

You wove me in my mother’s womb. = covered, protection and concealment.  = like the veils of the Temple and Tabernacle, intricately woven fabrics designed as the boundaries and borders of places where the Almighty God chose to dwell with His people.

B.  God’s creation of life—all life—is a cause for grateful praise. 14

14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.

Application: There are no “unwanted” or “excess” people with God, so all can thank/praise God for life itself.

II.  Before you existed God knew you. 15-16a  

15 My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; 16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;

A.  God knew you before you were “know-able” 15a

15 My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, = Our physical structure, our bones, were always present and observed by God.

Illustration: Part of the Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe v. Wade was based in the court’s admission that the greatest minds of science, medicine, and theology had been unable to reach a consensus on when human life began, and so the Court would not bother itself with that issue.  But the Bible does tell us when life begins—it begins when God identifies it, names it, knows it—long before we can “see” it with our technology and scientific application.

B.  God made your body as a dwelling place for Himself 15b

And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; = woven (roqem) together in a skillful fashion, in the womb= Allusion to the roqem work of the tabernacle, the Psalm goes further, implying not only that God has made the infant in the womb, but also that the infant is being woven into a dwelling for God.  What tragedy it is that some would claim the right to violate and destroy this marvelous place of divine dwelling!

C.  God saw you before you were “see-able” 16a

16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; = (go’lem = embryo, fetus) = unformed substance = David’s substance (material aspect) BEFORE it was formed, as in conception.  This is how the verse has often been understood.  But an embryo or a fetus (medical names given to the unborn person) does have a form, a recognizable structure!  However, David states that God recognized us when we could not be seen, by the human eye, microscope, or any other instrument of measurement.   This means nothing less than the astounding assertion, by David, that God recognizes, plans, and sees human life before the life exists in a physically recognizable form!  As Pastor Ray Stedman said, “There is not a subatomic particle anywhere in the universe over which God is not absolutely sovereign.”  Apparently, to God, human life begins BEFORE conception—although it is at that time that human life becomes merely recognizable to other humans. According to this text, life begins when God began life—when God said, “Let there be…”, “and there was…”!

Application:  A God who took such care in creating you, from the yesterdays of eternity past, can be trusted to care for your life today.

III.  Before you were conceived God determined each day of your life. 16b

And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.

God has a plan and purpose for us, before we’re even born!  Cf. the acknowledgement of purpose and identity of unborn children in the Bible:  God knows and orders the events and course of human life before that life sees the light of day: There are a few places in the Bible where the lives of the unborn are mentioned.

Ishmael = Destiny foretold: Hagar conceived with Abraham, prophecy about the child in her womb  (Gen. 16)

Jacob and Esau = Destiny foretold (Gen 25)

Samson = Destiny, Consecration to ministry “set apart to the Lord” from the womb, “will begin to deliver his people from the Philistines” (Judges 13:5-7,16:7)

Jeremiah = Consecration, “from the womb”: Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

John the Baptist = Consecration, response to Messiah.  Leaping in the womb at the presence of the Lord Jesus (who was in Mary’s womb!) (Luke 1:39-44)

Paul = consecration: set apart “from the womb”: Galatians 1:15 But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased

Jesus = Consecration, from the womb (Isaiah 49:1 Listen to Me, O islands, And pay attention, you peoples from afar. The LORD called Me from the womb; From the body of My mother He named Me.),  49:5 And now says the LORD, who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, To bring Jacob back to Him, so that Israel might be gathered to Him (For I am honored in the sight of the LORD, And My God is My strength), = “from the womb” = before birth God has a relationship with people.  Purpose and role in life, from the womb: Isa 9   6 For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. 7 There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this. = The gender, political role, reputation, accomplishments, extent of power, source of power, etc., are all known and told regarding this Child, Jesus Christ.

What about us today, here at Grace Church?  The God who knew you, loved you, and then created you—can be trusted with your life today.

Acts 18:1-8 Christ into the City: Part 9: Κόρινθον

Introduction: Leaving Athens, Paul arrived in Corinth 1

1 After these things he left Athens and went to Corinth.

Athens = intellectual capital of the region/ancient Mediterranean world

Corinth = political capital, cultural capital, financial capital.  Geography: located in the narrowest part of Greece, between the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas. Culture: Much wealth, much opportunity, much immorality, host of the Isthmian Games every two years.

Big Question: What can we expect if we seek to bring Christ into our city?  Answer:  If we intend to bring Christ to our city, we will need to find true companions to share life with, we’ll need to stick to a Christcentered message despite rejection, and we can expect to see a vibrant, growing, diverse, multi-cultural community of God’s people. 

I.  We need to have COMPANIONS if we are to bring Christ to our city. 2-3  

2 And he found a certain Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, having recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. He came to them, 3 and because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and they were working; for by trade they were tent-makers.

A.  We are not meant to live our faith in isolation.

B.  Paul found people with whom he shared things in common, like Aquila and Priscilla…

1.  They shared a common homeland.  (Pontus, Asia Minor)

2.  They shared a common religious background—Judaism.

3.  They shared a common trade—tent makers.  Probably in Corinth for the same reasons, to make money sewing and repairs tents for tourists at the Isthmian Games.

4.  They shared a common experience of being evicted from a city because of their religion.

C.  The growth of their relationship:  Life-long friendship in ministry with Aquila and Priscilla.  (Ephesus, Rome, etc.)

Application: We must have quality, long-standing relationships with Christian companions if we are to sustain a life-long goal of reaching people for Jesus in our city. We will most likely enter into these relationships through the routine, normal events and circumstances of life—so we should always be alert!

II. We’ll need to stick to an exclusively CHRIST-CENTERED message if we are to bring Christ to our city. 4-6

 4 And he was reasoning in the synagogue every Sabbath and trying to persuade Jews and Greeks. 5 But when Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul began devoting himself completely to the word, solemnly testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. 6 And when they resisted and blasphemed, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be upon your own heads! I am clean. From now on I shall go to the Gentiles.”

A.  The Christ-centered message: Jesus is the only hope of every human being in the world!  Believe on Him and finds forgiveness, life, and hope!

Cf. 1 Cor 1  21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. = Paul didn’t cater his message to make it more pleasing and reasonable to the city.

Cf. 1 Cor 2:1 And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God.  2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. = Paul purposefully limited all of his teaching and preaching to the facts of the death (and resurrection) of Jesus Christ.

B.  The resulting conflict: hostility and blasphemy/insult.  As we’ve learned in the other cities of Paul’s journeys, when the gospel pushes against the privileges and interests of a group, that group will push back against the gospel!

C.  The decision of Paul: Withdrawal from the synagogue, immersion into the culture of Corinth—the Gentiles.

Application: The message that we’ll share with our city will only be the gospel of Jesus Christ—and we will not share any other message as if it were the gospel of Jesus Christ.  It is very tempting to design a type of “gospel” that will not alienate us from others, and that others will not criticize or scorn.  But to present anything other idea or action as a means of salvation is a terrible thing to do–only faith in Jesus alone can save!

III.  We should expect a distinct COMMUNITY to form—the church!  7-8

7 And he departed from there and went to the house of a certain man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God, whose house was next to the synagogue. 8 And Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his household, and many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and being baptized.

A.  The process:  Hearing, believing, being baptized = all active verbs.  Literally. “As they continued to hear the message of Jesus there was a continuous stream of Corinthians believing in Jesus and identifying with Him and his church by being baptized.”

B.  Who made up this new community of God’s people, the church of Corinth?

…God-fearing Greeks, like Titius Justus

…Jews, like Crispus (former leader of the synagogue!)

…Paul, Silas and Timothy

…Aquila and Priscilla

…many Corinthians =

…Erastus, the Treasurer of the town (2 Tim 4:20)

…Phoebe, who lived in nearby Cenchrea (Rom 16:1-2)

…Stephanas (1 Cor 1:16),

…Fortunatus and Achaicus (1 Cor 16:17)

…Sosthenes (1 Cor 1:1)

…and a great number of people whose lives were changed, and changing–as they joined this new, grace-filled community of God in the city of Corinth = 1Co 6: 9 …fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God. = People with all sorts of hang-ups and sins and problems started showing up at this church in Corinth!  They did not show up to church perfectly resolved, completely improved, never-again-to-relapse, etc., but they came as they were–needy, eager, and hopeful.  

Do we every find ourselves grateful that these types of folks are NOT in our churches, when we should be frustrated and deeply concerned that very few of them ARE with us?!?!  Why aren’t more drunkards, thieves, homosexuals, etc., flocking to our churches to find hope and healing, and why doesn’t it bother us that they aren’t here?!

Application: When a Christian keeps sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, we can expect that people will hear, believe, and be baptized into the faith.  As this happens, we should fully expect that our community—this church—will continue to attract a widening array of different kinds of people from different kinds of backgrounds—all seeking to learn more, go deeper, and live out a life in Jesus Christ.

A bit of background on Corinth

Ancient and modern Corinth, Greece
Although modern Corinth is much smaller than ancient Corinth, both in size and population, the presence of modern homes, farms, and other structures has limited excavation of the ancient city to a mere fraction of its total area. The above picture contains both ancient and modern Corinth, and the area is believed to be where the synagogue of Paul’s day was located.

In case you would like to familiarize yourself with the background of this coming Sunday’s sermon (Christ into the City: Corinth), here is a brief survey of ancient city.  While two thousand years have passed, and it seems our North American culture is vastly different from that of an ancient Roman city—historians and archaeologists have provided ample evidence that we today in North American, perhaps more intently in our larger cities, could in many ways be considered cultural twins of Corinth.  Many of us might feel right at home living on the eastern slopes facing the Aegean Sea in that giant metropolis.  In fact, we might even be eager to live in Corinth, given the wonderful climate, cutting-edge culture, great wealth to be gained there, and the endless opportunities of pleasure and recreation found there…

Geographically, Corinth had a more-than-adequate water supply for its 700,000 residents, plentiful food sources, and a pleasant climate.  It couldn’t have been better situated for success and wealth, being positioned at the cross-roads of the ancient Roman world between North, South, East, and West.  Its location brought endless opportunities for trade and enrichment to the Corinthians through the variety of goods available in the city and the taxation of merchandise being transported through the city.  Corinth stood on a five-mile-wide isthmus (a narrow neck of land between two large bodies of water), separating the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas.  Rather than sail along the treacherous, rocky shores of Greece (over 200 very dangerous miles) merchant boats would sail to one of Corinth’s two harbors (one on its western side, one on its east), haul their boats out of the sea, and drag them along a marble-paved, well-greased road called the diokos.  The vessels were then put back into the water on the other side of the isthmus, and they continued on either to Asia (if they were going east) or to Italy (if they were going west).  Offering all that a merchant or sailor might look for in a port, Corinth became the favorite port-of-call for those who made their living on the seas.  Click here for a great map of Paul’s Second Missionary Journey.

Economically, being a major cross-roads town made Corinth one of the richest cities in the world.  Though the ancient city of Corinth had been destroyed centuries earlier by the Romans, Julius Caesar had rebuilt the city just 150 years before.  The city had the odor of new money wafting through its narrow, ancient Mediterranean alleys and streets, much like Gold Rush San Francisco or 1980’s Silicon Valley.  It was full of ex-slaves who had gone into business, worked like slaves to make a profit, and then became enslaved to their money and possessions!  If a person was quick on his feet, could smell a good deal and strike quickly to take advantage—he just might become wildly rich.

Culturally, Corinth was one of the most cosmopolitan cities of the ancient world, with Romans, Greeks, Europeans, Asians, and Africans making up its population.  Restaurants, trade-guilds, temples, businesses and shops abounded—along with a thriving adult-entertainment industry providing sexual services of all imaginable varieties, and some that we might have trouble imagining!  The multi-cultural nature of Corinth resulted in many varieties of beliefs and customs found in the city.  The Isthmian Games were held every two years, bringing much wealth and tourism into the city.  At the games, athletes from the ancient Mediterranean world would compete in events such as javelin throwing, foot races, wrestling, long jump, etc., drawing huge crowds to the festival associated with the competition.  Many tourists purchased tents to stay in during their stay for the Isthmian Games.  It is probable that it was to make some money from his trade as a tent-maker that Paul chose to travel to Corinth, of all places.  Another tent-maker couple, Aquila and Priscilla, had recently left Rome, and likely had chosen to go to Corinth for the same, economically-driven reason as Paul.  But aside from the usual practice of supporting himself through tent-making, Paul had another, deeper agenda in his heart as he made the trek from Athens to Corinth: He sought to extend the gospel of his Lord Jesus Christ into the city of Corinth through the preaching of that gospel of Jesus Christ.  But how to accomplish such a task in such a place?  Corinth as decidedly the most un-Christian city in the ancient world before it had even heard about Christ!  Its temple of Aphrodite, which daily sent scores, if not hundreds, of both male and female prostitutes into the streets and squares of Corinth below to perform sexual acts with tourists, visitors, and residents was already legendary in the culture of ancient Rome.  The general party-spirit of the city gave rise to the term Corinthize, which described the most morally base behavior imaginable:  On the stages of theaters across the empire, the classic character of The Corinthian appeared—always drunk, staggering across the stage, and acting the part of the fool.  As it is informally said of Las Vegas today, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” the same could truly be said, “What happens in Corinth stays in Corinth!”

This Sunday, we’ll hear what does happen in such a city when a determined, unknown travelling preacher named Paul arrives with a message of hope and forgiveness to a truly burned out culture, exhausted by its own relentless pursuit of pleasure and meaning…