Monthly Archives: March 2018

Triumphant Entry – Jesus Showed Up!

Peninsula Community Church 

Triumphant Entry – Jesus Showed Up!

March 25, 2018

Matthew 21:1-9 Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’” The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”

I love this time of year! For one, I love March Madness. One reason I do is the way the NCAA handles their basketball tournament. Every year they include teams that would not be considered under other circumstances. This allows teams that are not very strong on paper to play those who are much stronger. We have seen this played out this year when the sixteenth seeded team UMBC (University Maryland Baltimore County) beat UVA (University of Virginia) the number one seeded team. The tournament was stunned by the win by UMBC and more stunned by the loss of UVA. This was the first time a sixteen seed team beat a number one seeded team. Because of the many upsets they say as of the second round, of this year’s tournament, every bracket has been busted.

The triumphal entry of Christ reminds me of March madness in the sense that the unthinkable occurred. This man, who came as the Savior of the world, showed up not as a warrior, as some had hoped for. He did not show up as a King, as the Jews had wished. He showed up, but in a totally different way than anyone ever thought or had believed He would. In some people’s minds, Christ was a sixteenth seed who did not have a chance to win, but He did and that is the beauty of this story. He showed up! He gave Himself! And by the way, He won the tournament!

The steps taken by Jesus were somewhat strange, but it was all in the design of God and a part of His plan. Jesus asked the disciples to go into the town and get a donkey for Him. He told them where they would find it and what they would say when they found it. The disciples obeyed and found the donkey tied up and as instructed they asked the owner to loan it to them, which he did.

For some, this seemed to be strange, but as Jesus did so often, He wanted to communicate the truth of the Gospel in a purposeful way and in a way we would never forget. He was specific in His choice of a donkey rather than a white steed. He chose not only a donkey, but this was a fold of a donkey, so in essence, He rode an untrained, unbroken donkey baby. It symbolized two things: humility and peace. The very act of riding the donkey was amazing as you cannot ride an animal before it is broken. This is especially true of a baby donkey that is to be ridden through a yelling crowd! Humanly speaking, no rider could do this, but Jesus showed up and in the midst of all of this, an unbroken young animal remains totally calm under the hands of the Messiah who controls nature, and stills the storm.

First, the donkey was symbolic of humility. As we know in reading about Christ, we find that Christ’s entire life was characterized by humility. He was known as being meek and lowly. He stated. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls (Matthew 11:29). While most people confuse meekness with weakness, that is not the character of Christ. Rather than weakness, meekness is in reality strength under control. His act of entering the city was just that, it was an act of strength under incredible control. He could have rushed into the city with proclamations of His greatness, but He chose instead to enter the city with humility. He could have overcome the opposition with a word, but He chose instead to walk out the events of the next week without anger or revenge.

Secondly, the donkey resonated the symbolism of peace. When a warrior would return from battle He would normally ride a grand horse and would be followed by a processional of soldiers as well as prisoners in chains. This would symbolize the victory and battle won, but instead of a steed Jesus came riding on a donkey which was a fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9. Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Jesus showed up. He came. He came with humility and He came in peace.

It is noteworthy that some have suggested that this act by Jesus was no accident. Historians have suggested that as Christ was entering Jerusalem, Caesar was arriving back into town with his own triumphant entry, but his looked so different. He rode a steed with a large army following him and behind them was the mass of enemy soldiers that had been captured. While Caesar came into town with the fanfare of a warrior, Jesus came with the fanfare of a servant. Christ rode this colt and those around Him began to honor Him by placing their coats on the donkey and then proceeded to throw their coats and palms before Him. They began to shout Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 

As awesome as this was, there was some problems. The problem is that they were worshipping Him for all of the wrong reasons. Many of those in the group had a mob mentality rather than a personal acceptance of who Christ is. Many in the crowd wanted a super champion. They wanted a king to rule them. They wanted a warrior to fight for them. The problem was that they were projecting onto Jesus what kind of God they wanted, but that has never been effective. Rather than trying to recreate and reinvent God, we must surrender to who He is already. He is God and that does not change. He showed up, but not as a King or a warrior. He showed up as a servant, ready to give himself on their behalf.

Like the crowd, we can celebrate Jesus for the wrong reasons. We can try to pigeon hole Jesus into our vision of who He should be and what He should do. When He does not live up to our expectations, we hold that against Him. We can turn against Him, as the crowd did, when He does not live up to our expectations. Remember one week He was being praised, four days later He was rejected and there were calls to crucify Him.

He showed up! He showed us the way of victory. He did not come to fight the war we wanted him to fight, but to fight the war that we did not even know we were in. And so, we call this the triumphant entry of Jesus, not because He came and conquered nations and empires, but because He came and conquered sin and death. He showed up in all of his humility to bring peace, not from a military or political perspective, but from the soul. He showed up to give us life, eternal life with Him.

He still shows up today to lead us in triumphant processional as found in 2 Corinthians 2:14-17 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ. Colossians 2:15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

He still shows up today in the most interesting places. He shows up on our job, in our home, our car, our schools, and more. He shows up in our need and desperateness. He did it then and He still does it now. He shows up to change our lives. He shows up to make a difference in us. He shows up to conquer death and all sin in us.

There is an action on our part that is required. If we are going to trust God with our lives, we must receive Him for who He is, and not what we project Him to be or want Him to be. Perhaps we need to get off our high horse, and get onto our donkey. Instead of pride and arrogance, we need to humble ourselves in peace. To do so, we have to move away from fame and power, and move towards service. We have to step away from self-centeredness, and move to treating others how we would want to be treated. It means we choose humility over arrogance. Gentleness over violence. Generosity over greed. And then, we will begin to change.

When we are riding a donkey, it becomes much easier to not take ourselves so seriously, to laugh at ourselves, to honestly evaluate our brokenness, to find rest from trying to constantly prove ourselves as powerful and worthy. When we step down from our high horse, and onto our donkey, we relinquish our entitlements, our preferences, and our selfish desires. What entitlements can we hold on to, if Jesus, as the King of the World, gave them all up. He showed up and He still does today. Do you see Him? Has He shown up for you?

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To Find Yourself, You Must Lose Yourself

Peninsula Community Church

March 18, 2018

To Find Yourself, You Must Lose Yourself

1 Corinthians 6:11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

In the text that leads to the passage we just read, we find some insight as to why Paul uses the words he does. Listen to 1 Corinthians 6:1-10 When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases.  Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers! Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

While he defines one’s life before Christ in verses 1-10, Paul makes a powerful statement in verse 11. And such were some of you. Paul is saying you did these things but not any more. You were sexually immoral, you were greedy, and you walked in ways that did not honor God, but not any more. You were, but not now. You did, but no more. You have been changed and now walk in a way that honors God. This was the basis of Paul’s word of hope in 2 Corinthians 5:17 when he stated “we are a new creation in Christ.” We are not just becoming, we are, because of what Christ has done in us.

Here Paul suggests three key actions that have taken place in our life that position us to live this new life in Christ. We are washed. We are sanctified. We are justified. Let’s take a look at these for a moment. First, Paul states that we have been washed. What Paul is saying is that sin defiled us. It created a sense of dirtiness in us, but Jesus has washed us and has purified us. We see this in Isaiah 1:18.“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

The idea of washing represents the salvation that is ours through Jesus Christ. The reason we no longer do the things we use to do is that we have been washed by the water of salvation and by the blood of the lamb. The undeniable truth is we are clean. We are restored. You see, unless we are washed, we will continue to be governed by the old ways of doing things. Recently, I replaced the filters at our house for the heating system. All of them were clean except one. That filter was clogged and dirty. The result was that it prevented air from flowing through the filter the way it should. The system was not as effective, as it could be, as a result of the dirty filter. So it is with us when we have been soiled by the sin and the cares of the world. We become ineffective. We must be washed so that we do not live as we did, but as Christ now sees us.

Secondly, Paul states that this is not you any more because you have been sanctified. John Piper has stated that ”Sanctification” is a very irrelevant word, but it is not an irrelevant reality. It’s like a hundred technical medical terms. Nobody but doctors use them, but your life depends on the reality they stand for. The word “Sanctification” comes from two Latin words: sanctus which means holy, and ficare which means make. So to sanctify means to make holy. 

In Biblical sanctification there are two components. First, we are purified and cleansed, but we are also set apart for service. We are not just cleansed to be put on a shelf, but we are cleansed to be used in the Kingdom of God. We are set apart for a purpose. Oswald Chambers said this about sanctification. Sanctification means being made one with Jesus so that the nature that controlled Him will control us. And then he asks Are we really prepared for what that will cost? It will cost absolutely everything in us which is not of God.

You see sanctification calls for us to change our behavior and our ways. It calls us to act differently and to conform our ways to God’s ways. To be sanctified is to be set apart and to be cleansed from sin and wrong attitudes. Sanctification is something that happens to us but it is also a choice. We choose to die to the old ways of doing things. We die to self, so we become alive with Him. We cannot live unless we die. We cannot truly live life completely until we give up our failures, our sin, and our attitudes that prevent us from accomplishing God’s will. That is why we are not them. That is why we do not live like them any more. We are sanctified.

Thirdly, Paul stated that we are justified. To be justified is to remove the penalty of sin and the guilt associated with sin. Too often, we try to carry the weight of past sin. Instead of freedom, we live in the bondage of past sin which has already been forgiven by Christ. We are not them nor do we live like them because we are justified and are free to live the way God planned. In the movie US Marshall we see the infamous Sam Gerard going after Mark Sheridan who was framed for the murder of two government agents. In the end, Sheridan was found to be innocent and at the end of the movie he proclaims “I am righteous.” In other words, I have been justified. The false guilt is no longer mine to carry.

But how does this all happen? Colossians 3:1-3 gives us insight into what needs to happen. If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. In Romans 6:6 we find that We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. In Galatians 2:20 Paul reminds us that I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

The real issue here is we must reorder our lives in alignment with God’s will and His ways. Prior to salvation, we lived in alignment with the enemy’s purpose and plan, but no more. Now we are in alignment with His word and His purposes. The problem sometimes is that we fail to envision what it means to be a passionate follower of Christ, thus we make little progress toward living the life we have been called to. The undeniable truth is that the ruined can be made right. The evil can be turned into a testimony of grace. Our failures become a doorway to grace and mercy.

The goal in denying self is to totally surrender our hearts, minds, lives and more, so we no longer live but Christ lives and reigns in us. What does that mean to us? We must deny ourselves. We must make choices and decisions that honor God. Self denial in fact summarizes the entire Christian life. In considering self denial, it must never be confused with self rejection.

The Scripture reminds us of the power of this process. Matthew 10:39 states Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. And then in Matthew 16:25-26 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

The problem is that when we attempt to master our life apart from Christ, we actually lose our life. However, when we die to self and live for Christ we will for the first time be able to do what we want to do or should do. This means we are free to steal, lie, and murder all we want to but we will not have a desire to do so. Conversely, we will be truthful, transparent, helpful, sacrificially loving, and will do so with joy and will be motivated by the desire to do so. Our life will be caught up in God’s life and we will now want what is right and whole.

This means we will come to the place where we will trust that His way is right. We will keep on entrusting ourselves to the One who judges righteously (1 Peter 2: 23). That is, we lose our life and so in reality we save it. Erich Fromm rightly said, “The most widespread misunderstanding is that which assumes that giving is ‘giving up’ something, being deprived of, sacrificing. People whose main orientation is a non-productive one feel giving as an impoverishment.” What he is saying is that we have a tendency to look at what we might be giving up rather than what we might gain.

Let me explain it in this way. To live a healthy life I must make choices about what I eat and what I do with my life. I must die to my desires. Years ago my idea of a snack and sometimes even lunch was a bag of potato chips and a large soda. As I wanted to improve my health, I chose to not eat chips and drink soda any more. Prior to this decision I did not even consider this, I just did it. But after the decision, I would often struggle to make the right choice, but now I do not desire those things. They do not tempt me any more, as I have died to that desire.

When we die to self and God begins to control our existence we are more aware of what brings pleasure to God and what honors Him. Being dead to self is the condition where the mere fact that I do not get what I want does not surprise or offend me and has no control over me. We will, as St. Francis of Assisi said, “wear the world like a loose garment, which touches us in a few places and there lightly.”

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What is Hidden Will be Revealed!

Peninsula Community Church 

What is Hidden Will be Revealed!

March 4, 2018

Genesis 3:8-13 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

How many played hide and seek as kids? We probably all did this at some point in time. It was fun to run and hide. The one who was it had to hide their eyes and then count to fifty or whatever the predetermined number would be. Once the counting was over, the person who was it would try to find those who hid. The goal for those who hid was to make it back to base before they were found or tagged. I remember a time when we were playing hide and seek with our kids. Michelle had hidden so well we could not find her. So, the kids and I went downstairs to watch TV and one of them would run upstairs from time to time, as if they were looking for her. She was not happy with us because we did not look for her. While this is a game, hide and seek in real life has a different consequence. This is especially true when we play hide and seek with our sin and our shortcomings.

This morning we continue to look into the subject of spiritual transformation by focusing on the sin that is in our hearts. This discussion is important to transformation as sin causes us to do strange things. It causes fear and shame, it causes us to hide from the realities of our life, and it causes us to blame others for our circumstances. But, “how did we get this way?“ To understand this we must turn our attention to the Garden of Eden. It is here God in His wisdom created mankind with the ability to choose right from wrong. He created us with the ability to decide what we will choose to do. Because of the ability to choose, we must not under estimate the power of free will. Because of free will, we have the ability and freedom to make bad choices and do things that are opposed to God’s way of thinking.

The natural outcome of our wrong choices or sin is seen in this story. The natural inclination is to hide our sin and shortcomings as a result of fear and shame. The problem revealed  is that we are afraid we will be exposed for who we are rather than for what we want people to think we are. When it comes to the transformation of the heart, we cannot be truly transformed until the hidden things of the heart are revealed. We cannot stop at just knowing the truth without setting into action the inward changes that redeem our mindsets and give us a new hope.

As we review the passage before us today, we find that Adam and Eve were frightened, they covered up their shame, and they try to hide from God. What a statement! No one taught them this, but they were motivated to do so because of their sin. This was amazing because as a creation of God they had ever thing they needed. As a creation of God, they had no concerns or cares. As a creation of God, they lived in the Utopia most people only dream of today. They were  a creation of God and were created as a perfect being, but now they were filled with fear.

This action exposed a process that is so common to the work of sin. We see something we want. We covet that thing, person, or attitude. We take hold of the item and then once we have indulged in that pleasure, we try to hide the results of our actions and the sin we have committed. It is amazing how skilled we can be at hiding sin. We are so good there are times we hide our sin so deeply, we believe we have taken care of it, only to find it has festered which effects us later. Unfortunately, when sin is hidden it can be exposed at the most inopportune time. Scripture reminds us that we can be assured that our sin will find us out (Numbers 32:23).

Notice four reactions of Adam and Eve to the sin they committed. First of all, they hid. The first response to sin tends to be to hide the sin rather than expose it. The greatest way to hide is to deny. Dallas Willard suggests that denial is a form of rationalization. We rationalize our sin and try to justify its existence. We try to suggest that it is not hurting any one but ourselves. We try to suggest that everyone else is doing it, so, it is okey for us to indulge. We even try to say that no one will ever find out about it so it is okey. We regionalize our sin, but I want you to know that if you are renationalizing your sin, you probably need to expose it and deal with it.

The second response to their sin was that they were afraid. Hidden sin leads to a distorted view of God. When we refuse to confess our sin and wrong doing, we often have a view of God that is less than what God intended. We believe that God is a God that punishes us and is just waiting to wipe us off the face of the earth. Rather than accepting the forgiveness of God, Adam and Eve were guilty of walking in fear and trying to hide their sin.

The third response is they were ashamed of what was up to that point a natural way of life. Because they recognized their nakedness for the first time, they were now ashamed. The remedy they chose was to cover themselves in an effort to remove the shame. As then, shame has always had a powerful effect upon us. It demoralizes us and causes us to be ineffective in many ways. It can also cause us to overcompensate for the hidden areas of our life.

John Piper in dealing with the subject of shame had this to say. “Because sin is alive in our bodies and because we are beset with weakness, the kind of shame we often experience is a potent combination of failure and pride. We fail morally (sin), we fail due to our limitations (weakness), and we fail because the creation is subject to futility and doesn’t work right. We also fail to live up to other people’s expectations. And because we are full of sinful pride, we are ashamed of our failures and weaknesses, and will go to almost any length to hide our sin from others.This means pride-fueled shame can wield great power over us. It controls significant parts of our lives and consumes precious energy and time in avoiding exposure.”

The fourth response is they blamed others. Notice a critical factor here. Rather than take responsibility for their sin, Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent. They refused to take ownership of their sin and their part of the issue. Please note you might be hiding your sin, if you are blaming others. In blaming others, we try deflect our problems from ourselves. If we can make someone else be the cause of our sin, then we can put that on them and therefore we fail to take responsibility.

So what is the answer? Let me give you two things for your consideration this morning. First, we must allow the light of the Gospel to shine into the darkness. Rather than hide from God and hide the sin in our hearts, we must expose the sin and bring it into the light. Dallas Willard stated that “The only path of spiritual transformation today lies through illumination. The prophetic illumination of the human soul in its lostness is emphatic, starkly clear, and is repeated over and over again, from Moses and Samuel to Jesus, Paul, and John. This illumination must be gratefully and humbly accepted and applied to oneself above all.”

To do this, we must take ownership of our sin and not deflect or hide it. We must allow the light of the Gospel to penetrate the darkest areas of our hearts. It is not by accident that Scripture is replete with verses that speak to the power and necessity of letting the light shine into our hearts. The only path to transformation lies in the power of illumination to expose the hidden areas of our hearts.

In Psalm 119:11 we find the Psalmist proclaim I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. And then in Psalm 119:105 he states Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. John in his writings also addressed Jesus as being the light in John 1:4-5. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. In 1 John 1, John says This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 

Secondly, we must understand that sin does not make one worthless, it only causes us to be lost. The problem with hidden, unconfessed sin is that it can create a mindset that we are failures and there is no hope but that is not God’s plan. Listen to the promise of Scripture. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1). And finally, James stated, Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working (James 5:16). There is healing and there is power in bringing our sin into the light.

Ruth Graham, Billy’s daughter, during Billy Graham’s funeral, stated that she had failed big time in her life. Her first marriage ended in divorce. She fell in love with a second man. She married this man after being warned by her family to not marry him. She married him and within 24 hours she knew something was wrong. In less than five weeks she left him. She knew she had to go home and face her dad. She took the long two day ride home and as she wound her way up the road to the house, she found her dad standing there. Rather than condemning her, he took her in his arms and welcomed her home. There was no guilt and no shame exhibited. By Billy’s reaction she experienced a better understanding of who God was. That was her father and that was her God.

Today Jesus is standing with open arms to receive you. There is no guilt, shame, or condemnation only acceptance and forgiveness. He invites you home to receive His love and grace.

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