Pastor Ben Hernandez

The Narrow Door

Sermon Manuscript: The Narrow Door

Jesus often surprised people with his teachings. He made statements that at times were shocking, revolutionary, and down right confusing. He said things like, “Loose your life to save it.” “The meek will inherit the earth.” “Pray for those who persecute you.” “It is better to give than to receive.”

 We’re going to look at a passage this morning that contains one of those surprising statements. “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able to.” Why does that statement make us a bit uncomfortable? Perhaps, it's because from this passage we learn that not everyone who thinks they belong to the kingdom of God, really does. 

 Now I don’t say that this morning in order to introduce doubts or fears into your minds. The goal is actually quite different. My hope is that through self-examination you might see your doubts and fears driven away. My hope is not to demolish your assurance, but instead to make it exceedingly impossible for false-assurance to linger in your heart. And my hope is that our study of the text would prepare us to come to the Lord Table this morning and enjoy the foretaste of the heavenly feast that awaits those who belong to the kingdom of God.

 If you haven’t already, please make find your way to Luke 13:22–30. We’re in a series on the parables. You need to know up front that not everyone considers this portion of Scripture to be a parable. In fact, most don’t. But I’ve chosen it this morning for three reasons. Number one, it’s has some literary features very common to the parables. For example, Jesus is using an image his hearers can easily understand (a narrow door) to illustrate a heavenly truth. Second, this is an important teaching on the nature of salvation that we find in many of the parables. Jesus puts forth a very clear teaching about what it means to be saved. And third, this section - like the parables - shows us something about the surprising nature of God’s kingdom. Namely, who will be a part of it, and who won’t.

Imagine for a moment that you’re standing in a hallway, lined with doors as far as the eye can see. Each door represents a different religion—a different worldview or ideology. Some might say that they all lead to the place. Or that it doesn’t matter the door you choose, so long as you’re sincere and devout. But what if that isn’t true? What if there is only one door that leads to God? The Lord wants us to know today that there is one narrow door, and it won’t be open forever. 

An Invitation to the Banquet

Sermon Manuscript: An Invitation to the Banquet

How sure are you that you will be in heaven? The story we come to today in Matthew’s gospel was told to people, some of whom were very sure. They had different ideas as to what constituted heaven or the kingdom of heaven. But they were very confident that they would be there. And yet, what if those ideas are wrong? Matthew 22:1-14, is a section of Scripture—if we want to be sure—we need to pay careful attention to.

 It was a Wednesday, of what was no ordinary week. It was the Lord’s Passion Week, in which he was to be betrayed and crucified. Jesus had already made his triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem. The hostility towards him from the religious leaders was growing by the minute. And as he was teaching in the temple, the chief priests and the elders came to Jesus and said, “By what authority are you doing these things?” Well, what they meant by that was this: “We’re at the top of the religious pecking order. We’ve earned our place by strict observance of the law and religiosity. Who are you to come in and do all of this?

 And Jesus looks at them and says, “This reminds me of a story.” Well, it reminded him of three stories. But three related stories that all have to do with the same theme—judgment. Perhaps you’ve noticed already in the parables, that Jesus has a way of turning things upside down. Because a person might think they know exactly what the kingdom of heaven is like, until Jesus tells a story that challenges the way we think. In fact, the story I want us to look at today begins with a wedding feast and ends with weeping and gnashing of teeth.


Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price

Sermon Manuscript: How Much is it Worth

The value you place on something is shown by what you’ll give up for it. For example, a couple years before I met my wife she was living in south Texas with some roommates. One day the apartment they shared caught on fire. I won’t tell you how that happened because I’m saving it for another sermon illustration. But if you’ve ever been in a situation like that you know that you need to act fast. So before Sarah ran out of the apartment she grabbed a few things that were of great value to her…like her laptop, her makeup bag, a pillow, and a pair of Ugg boots. She somehow forgot to grab her Maltese puppy, but thankfully he managed to get out on his own.

 We all value different things. And the value you place on something is shown by what you’ll give up for it—whether that be a financial sacrifice, a change in priorities, or risking your life amidst a small house fire. Well, in Matthew 13:44-46, Jesus talks in terms of value. He tells two very short parables that confront our own value system. In these two stories Jesus essentially asks, “What do you value most? How important to you is your soul? What would you trade for your salvation?” And what He taught was this: finding the Kingdom is like finding something of such incredible value that you’d gladly leave everything else behind to get it.

 Listen to what Jesus says: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Matt 13:44-46 ESV)

How Well Do You Hear

Sermon Manuscript: How Well Do You Hear?

It’s possible to hear something being said, but to not really hear what is being said. In our house we have an Amazon Alexa. For those of you who aren’t tech savvy it’s a small speaker that can be controlled with your voice. With it you can order things off Amazon, control the thermostat in your house, play music, and more. It has one flaw though. It doesn’t always listen to my wife. I mean, don’t get me wrong the Alexa normally hears what my wife says….but sometimes she doesn’t really hear what Sarah says. The other day, Sarah told Alexa to play Sovereign Grace Music. And so she proceeded to play a Justin Bieber song! And if you’re not familiar with Justin Bieber, you’re not missing out.

 It’s possible to hear something being said, but to not really hear what is being said. Which is probably why it wasn’t uncommon for Jesus to make a distinction between those who heard what he said and those who really heard what he said. He knew that while many would audibly hear what he was saying, fewer would hear his words in a way that reached their hearts. Which is why on a number of occasions Jesus would tell a story and then say, “He who has ears, let him hear.” It was his way of saying, “Pay careful attention.” Because it’s possible to hear something being said, but to not really hear what is being said. And how well you hear will make an eternal difference in your life.

 Pay careful attention then, to the story before us in Matthew chapter 13. Stories have this power, as it would seem to make us laugh or cry. Stories have the power to transport us from one place to another. Stories have a way of illustrating a point or bringing clarity. Stories communicate plot lines and gripping scenes that hold our attention. Stories have a way of conveying meaning. Stories help us remember. Even years later we can remember little details about stories we heard.

 If there was ever a master storyteller, it was Jesus. He told many stories, and when he did, there often were large crowds gathered to hear him. Well, one type of story that Jesus told often was called a parable. By my count, Jesus told at least 27 parables in the Bible. What exactly is a parable? Let me start by telling you what a parable is not. Parables are not fables. A fable normally illustrates a main point or moral lesson but it uses talking animals as the main characters. Fables are not depicting real life situations. Neither are parables allegories. Allegories are stories in which every single detail has some hidden meaning. And if we do that with literature that isn’t supposed to be interpreted allegorically, we might find ourselves believing the wrong thing.

 So what is a parable? A parable is a story that makes a comparison. And this comparison is supposed to illustrate for us a spiritual truth. So, what Jesus does is take complex, hard to understand, spiritual truths and lays them next to some earthly physical story. And it helps us to unlock meaning. The story about the prodigal son, the good Samaritan, the Pharisee and the tax collector, and more – all point to something deeper. Something spiritual. Earthly stories that illustrate spiritual truths.

 James Montgomery Boice said, “Some sections of the Bible gives us grand theology. Some move us to grateful responses to God. But the parables break through mere words and make us ask whether there has indeed been any real difference in our lives.” You see, some of us know the right doctrines and the right things to say when we come here on Sunday morning, but we don’t actually know the biblical gospel. And there has been no change in our lives to show for it.

Charge That to My Account

Sermon Manuscript: Charge That to My Account

Why is it so hard to forgive others? Perhaps, forgiveness is hard because of the emotional energy that goes into it. Perhaps, forgiveness is hard because some people are repeat offenders and we’ve grown weary of trying to reconcile with them. Perhaps, forgiveness is hard because we simply don’t know how to go about it. Perhaps we don’t desire to forgive at times because we feel that justice must be served. And maybe, forgiveness is difficult because we’ve failed to understand how it is that God forgives us.

 The good news is that rest can be found from the baggage of broken relationships. It may be that you carry around the bitterness of something that has happened to you many years prior. It may be that you constantly feel the guilt of a broken relationship. Or perhaps you feel disillusioned by a whole host of fractured relationships. The good news is that Jesus made it possible for you to experience healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

 The book of Philemon is the textbook on restoring broken relationships. Paul, writing under house arrest sends to Philemon this short letter regarding a broken relationship. Philemon is a man with a good reputation. He hosts the church at Colossae in his home. He’s loving towards his brothers and sisters in Christ. He’s also a wealthy man. He has at least one, and probably many indentured servants who are working to pay off their debts.

 Onesimus happens to be one of those servants. Likely, Philemon treated him well. Paid him the going wage for his work, and treated him as part of the household. One day, however, Onesimus takes off. He steals something from Philemon on his way out - maybe property, maybe money—or both. And he makes his way to Rome.

 As providence would have it, Onesimus comes into contact with Paul. Paul most likely was the man who led Philemon to Christ. And because Paul lives to tell people about Jesus, he shares the gospel with Onesimus as well. The word of truth came to him at the right time. In the midst of his brokenness and sin, Onesimus believes on the Lord Jesus Christ and is wonderfully saved. He’s a changed man.

 But Paul knows that something needs to happen. If Onesimus has indeed been changed by the gospel, he must now make things right with Philemon. And while Paul would love to keep Onesimus around—he’s become his Father in the faith—he sends him back to Philemon. And he sends along a letter urging Philemon to forgive Onesimus. And he doesn’t ask him to merely overlook the offense or forget the whole thing happened. Instead, he makes a passionate plea that Philemon receive him, no longer as a slave, but as a brother in Christ. He urges him to forgive Onesimus and to become reconciled to him.

And the reason why Paul can write this so confidently is that he understands so well the way in which God has forgiven him. This letter is not the opinion of Paul regarding forgiveness. Rather, it is the inspired Word of God. And it’s forgiveness that is shaped by the gospel.

 This morning, as we take a look at the latter half of Philemon I want to first spend some time laying out some principles regarding forgiveness. By no means exhaustive, but some general principles that will help us grow in how we wade through the mess of broken relationships.

An Uncommon Appeal

Sermon Manuscript: An Uncommon Appeal

We all know the pain of broken relationships. Wouldn’t you agree with me? There isn’t a person in this room that has not experienced a divided relationship. As early as childhood, we know what it’s like to get into a squabble on the playground. We all know what’s like to have a friendship that goes sour because of something that was said or done. Some of us know what’s it’s like have a roommate that drives you insane, and you simply can’t get along. And if you’ve ever been married you know that no marriage is immune to hurt feelings or moments of tension. Unfortunately, some in here know the devastation of divorce.

 There’s a common denominator in this—in all broken relationships. Maybe you call it irreconcilable differences. Or perhaps lack of communication. Maybe even an unwillingness for someone to give in. I call it sin. You see, something happened between Genesis 2 and Genesis 3 that has colored all of life. Adam and Eve used to walk in harmony with God. The Bible says they were naked and not ashamed. Meaning there was authenticity, openness, and intimacy with each other and with God. But in Genesis 3, Adam and Eve are no longer walking with God in open fellowship. Instead, they’re hiding from him. They’re trying to conceal themselves. It was their sin—their offense against God—that fractured their relationship with Him, and each other. And as long as we still live in the brokenness of this world, we will continue to experience the brokenness of relationships.

 Let me ask you: what did you do the last time someone wronged you? What did you do the last time someone hurt your or offended you? What’s your default response? Perhaps you try to get even. Maybe you go your separate ways. Or perhaps you try to ignore the offense. And instead of dealing with it you allow yourself to grow bitter and resentful.

 What if you’re on the other side of things? If you’re the one who caused the offense, how quick are you to apology? How well do you own your own sin against others? When someone confronts you, do you become defensive and dismissive?

 At some point or another, each one of us is a “Philemon.” We’ve been wronged by someone else. And at some point or another, each of us is “Onesimus.” We’ve been the offender. And of course, many a times we find ourselves so deeply entrenched in conflict, that we find ourselves in both places. But if we want to have healthy relationships, there must also be reconciliation. Sin is never just a personal matter, it’s relational. If you’re not committed to reconciliation in your everyday relationships, one day you’ll wake up a very lonely person. The good news, however, is that the gospel has the power to change all of that.

 We come to the small letter of Philemon this morning. And it’s a letter that tells an uncommon story about reconciliation and forgiveness. We want to spend this week and next, exploring one basic truth before us: The gospel not only changes us, it changes our relationships. The gospel, when encountered, reconciles us to God. But it also has the power to reconcile us to each other. It changes the way we handle conflict, the means by which we forgive others, and the very foundation from which we approach our relationships.

Beaux Williams Ordination Service

SERMON MANUSCRIPT: Suffering and Glory

This morning as we recognize the calling that God has placed on Beaux’s life to be a shepherd, I want us to consider some important words by another shepherd. Most of you are well acquainted with the Peter. One day Jesus stepped onto Peter’s boat. And that was a day that forever changed Peter’s life. Up until this point he had been and ordinary fisherman. When Jesus got onto Peter’s boat there was a huge crowd behind, wanting to hear a word from him. And so there he was, sitting on Peter’s boat—just a little off the shore—and he was teaching the crowds.

 But when he finished, he turned to Peter and told him to cast his nets into the water. Now, you have to know Peter had been fishing all night and he hadn’t caught a thing. He figured it would be a waste of time. But he did as Jesus said. And when he lifted the nets out, they were breaking because of all the fish he had caught.

 Peter’s response was to fall to his knees and say, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8). You see, Peter’s journey of faith began with a deep sense of his own sinfulness—the fact that he was unworthy to stand in the presence of Jesus Christ the Lord. And it was that recognition which led to Peter’s decision to drop his nets, leave everything, and follow Jesus. That day changed his life forever. And as we’ve listened to Beaux’s testimony this morning, it is clear that his life has also been changed forever because of Jesus.

 Just like everyone who comes to know the Lord, there’s a gradual progression of our faith. The road is sometimes uneven. There’s setbacks and trials. But it is the faithful hand of God that moves us along the path of Christ-likeness. If you know anything about Peter, he was part of the inner circle. And at times he seemed to really have it together. Jesus once asked his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” And it was Peter who quickly said, and rightly, said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:15–16). But there were also times when Peter completely misunderstood Jesus. One time he rebuked Jesus, as if he knew better (Matthew 16:22). And of course there was that critical moment when he completely failed. He denied Jesus three times.

 But that wasn’t the end of his story. Peter grew from that. Peter experienced restoration. And what Jesus said about him came true. After Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Son of the living God, Jesus had said to him, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.” Well, that brings us to 1 Peter 5. In this letter to the churches, Peter is now writing to Christians who are exiles. And when he gets to chapter 5 he’s writing as an elder to his fellow elders. He’s writing as a shepherd to fellow shepherds.

Jesus Shaped Living: Fellow Servants in the Lord

Sermon Manuscript: Fellow Servants in the Lord

We live in an era where the ability to connect with people has never been easier. Cell phones, email, social media…all of that has made communication incredibly easy. And yet, never before has it been more difficult for people to connect at deeper and more meaningful levels.

 Almost twenty years ago, a professor of Public Policy at Harvard, named Robert Putnam wrote a book about entitled, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. And in his work he “warns that our stock of social capital – the very fabric of our connections with each other, has plummeted, impoverishing our lives and communities.” When we speak of social capital we are saying our social networks have value. The people we know, the depth of those relationships, and the benefits that flow from those relationships determine our social capital. Putnam tells us loneliness, isolation and rugged individualism has exponentially increased in the United States over the last 25 years. Here are some of his findings:

•    Attendance at Club Meetings drop 58%

•    Family dinners drop 43%

•    People are having friends over 35% less

•    Church attendance is down 20% 

•    The amount of people who bowl is up 10%. The amount involved in leagues down 40%. Hence, the title of Putnam’s book is “Bowling Alone.”

 Well, if you’re familiar with the contents of the Bible, you should know that Christianity is a faith that is meant to be lived in the context of community. Or to put it another way, we need each other. Now that’s not to say that relationships aren’t difficult at times. Even within the church. I heard a poem once that went something like this:

To dwell with saints above

That will be glory;

But to live with saints below,

That's another story.

 But despite the difficulties, genuine relationships can be a powerful tool by which God works in our lives. As I think back on my own life, my growth as a Christian is inextricably tied to other people. People who taught me, people who were patient with me, people who encouraged me, people who loved me enough to correct me… people who invested in me.

 Here’s what I want you to see this morning: The gospel advances when we invest ourselves in the lives of others. It would be easy for us to gloss over these last 12 verses—thinking there isn’t much to be said. But every name here represents a person in the life of the Apostle Paul. But all of these people had partnered together with Paul for the spread of the gospel. And if we believe that the gospel is the good news—the greatest news, then wouldn’t we want to see it spread? Or to put it a different way, you and I can’t serve God unless we invest in the lives of others.  

Jesus Shaped Living: At Home and At Work


Joseph Parker once said that, “Real Christianity is both a doctrine and a life.” In other words, what you believe, and how you behave are not meant to be at odds with one another. You see, over the last 11 weeks we’ve been studying the book of Colossians. And shown to us is the pages of this small letter is the supremacy of Christ in all the universe. Jesus is…

             The one through whom everything was created, seen and unseen.

            The one that holds everything together.

            The one who has accomplished redemption and reconciliation through his blood.

            And the one who is your life, provided you come to saving faith in Him.

 These are truths not to be believed only, but lived. Because when a person comes to know these truths there should be a radical transformation. So far, Paul has applied these truths in some general ways. The fact that we need to put off remaining sin and put on instead certain qualities. But in the verses we just read, Paul gets more specific. And he gets much more personal. He takes the supremacy of Christ and applies it to marriage, family, and work. And I would submit to you, that these areas are perhaps the greatest barometer of how we are doing when it comes to living out the gospel.

 Something to think about this morning: Is Jesus supreme in my home? Does the supremacy of Christ give shape to my marriage and how I parent? Is Jesus supreme in job? Does the supremacy of Christ give shape to how I perform at work and how I relate to my employer?

 Last week’s passage ended like this: “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” And when Paul said everything, he actually meant everything. Which is why Paul takes the next step to show us in this passage that we must bring all of life -  every sphere of our lives, every moment of our lives under the Lordship of Christ. Seven times in nine verses Paul references the Lordship of Christ. He should motivate everything in our lives. No sphere of the Christian’s life goes untouched by the influence of Jesus.

 A Not So Easy Text

I think we should begin, however, by acknowledging the fact that these verses don’t sit well with our modern social structures, especially as it pertains to marriage, gender, and the home. Whether or not you agree with every aspect of the #MeToo movement, you have to acknowledge the fact that our society needs to grapple with the abuse of power. In fact, many outside the Christian faith would say that these verses in Colossians 3 are supportive of the abuses of male authority. Not surprisingly, one professor at Harvard Divinity School calls these “texts promoting patriarchal violence.” But if that’s your understanding of these verses, then you haven’t really come to understand them as God intended for them.


Jesus Shaped Living: Putting on the New Self

SERMON NOTES: Putting on the New Self

Clothes can say a lot about a person. What you wear might indicate the kind of job you work, or your spending habits, or your personality. And as we all know, certain occasions call for certain attire. Well, I can remember one particular instance when I wore something that did not fit the occasion. When I was in seminary I was a part-time associate pastor at a church outside of Boston. And one particular weekend they were having a special dinner. And somehow I failed to realize that this was more of a formal event. And so I showed up wearing jeans and an untucked shirt. And when I got there I thought, “uh oh…I’m underdressed.” And it was too late. There wasn’t time to go home. And everyone else coming into the building was wearing their best attire; dresses, slacks, coats, ties. And here I am, feeling terribly out of place. And I thought maybe no one would really notice. And then someone kindly leaned over to me and said, “I guess you didn’t get the memo huh?” And now by God’s grace I have a wife who prevents me from making such mistakes.

 Well, in our portion of Scripture this morning Paul tells us about the kind of clothes that are fitting for the saints. And to be clear, he’s not talking about a cotton poly blend garment. He’s talking about the very character that should be worn by those who are walking in close fellowship with the Lord. In chapter 3, Paul uses the metaphor of taking off and putting on clothes as a way of helping us understand what should be true of those are believers.

 You see, in the same way we dress our bodies every day, we dress our souls. But the sobering reality is that at times we dress in the wrong attire. The character we dress ourselves in is not an accurate reflection of who we are in Jesus Christ. So we need to be asking ourselves the question, “Does the character of my life reflect the person that I am in Christ? What does my behavior and my attitude say about me? Have I put on the Lord Jesus Christ? (Romans 13:14), When people see me, what do they really see?”

 Taking Off and Putting On

Now to recap where we’ve been, Colossians has brought us face to face with the supremacy and sufficiency of Jesus Christ. He is the image of the invisible God. All things were created through him and for him. He holds all things together. He is the very center of the universe. And when a person becomes a Christian, they are then united to Christ Jesus forever. Our lives are then intertwined with the life of Jesus. So much so a Christian can say things such as…

 I have died with Jesus Christ

I have been raised up with Jesus Christ
Jesus Christ is my life
I have the hope of glorification with Jesus Christ

 And because of that, two things should happen: 1) We are to take off the old way of life. The habits, the patterns, the thoughts…everything that characterized our lives before meeting Christ should be removed. 2) We are to put on the new life. It’s not a matter of simply not doing certain things, but instead replacing them with a new way of life. New habits, new patterns, new thoughts. There should be nothing short of radical transformation that occurs when a person becomes a Christian. And an ongoing one at that, where our behavior is progressively being brought into line with our new self. If we’ve truly come to know the Lord Jesus Christ, then we need to dress the part. What we wear on the outside, should be a display of what’s on the inside.

Jesus Shaped Living: Dealing with Sin

Dealing with Sin

JC Ryle, the great Anglican theologian wisely said that “He who would make great strides in holiness must first consider the greatness of sin.” As we study the verses read for us this morning my hope is that we would do so by considering the greatness of sin. And by greatness I mean the serious nature and gravity of our sin.

 It's incredibly easy to gloss over our sin. We become skilled at rationalizing our sin so that we don’t really have to deal with it. But if sin is an offense to God’s very character, then why would we ever want to minimize or ignore its destructive power? Every time a believer comes face to face with their sin, from the depths of their should they should say, “I want to be done with this.” Have you been there? Do you ever think “Why do I keep doing the things that I do?” Do ever long to rid yourself of some habit, thinking, “If I could only be free from this!” Do you ever hope that some day that you will begin to see the fruit of righteousness outweigh the pattern of sin in your life?

 As much as I desire for us to come to grips with the severity of our sin, I’ve been praying this week that we would come to know and experience freedom from those things that enslave us most. I want you to know this morning that not only is this passage calling us to make a decisive break with the sinful tendencies we have carried into the Christian life - but it is possible. Think about the one sin that you simply wish you could be done with. I want you to know that Christ has made it possible for you to have freedom from that sin.

Union with Christ

And we’re reminded that we can have freedom because of one word in verse 5. “Therefore.” The term “therefore” points us back to the description of union with Jesus that we talked about last week in verses 1 through 4. When a person becomes a Christian, instantly their life is intertwined with the life of Jesus. We become one with him. And because of that, we live a very different life than before. Why?

because you have died with Jesus Christ

because you have been raised up with Jesus Christ
because Jesus Christ is your life
because you have the hope of glorification with Jesus Christ

 You see, our union with Christ gives us a whole new identity. As Christians, we’ve died to the old world and have now been raised with Christ into a heavenly world. And it's only because we have this new identity that we can live out the divine commands of Scripture. And not only are we enabled to see our sin put aside, but we must deal with it. If you’re a believer, it is impossible for you to be content with running from God’s will for you life - which is your holiness.

Jesus Shaped Living: Focused on the Things Above

Focused on the Things Above

What do you think about, when you’re not thinking about anything in particular? That may seem like a strange question at first. But it’s an important one. What do you think about, when you’re not thinking about anything in particular? In other words, when you’re not forced to think about something specific, where does your mind go? Where do you find your thoughts drifting towards? Put another way: What occupies your thoughts in the moments you are free to think whatever you want?

 John Owen, the great seventeenth century preacher, once said that “…voluntary thoughts are the best measure and indication of the frame of our minds.” If you want to know how spiritually minded you are, take an inventory of your thoughts. How often do you think about the glories of Jesus Christ? How often do you think about eternity? Do you find that your mind naturally gravitates towards these things?

 I think our text this morning presses us to ask such a question. The Lord, through the Apostle Paul, is urging us to see that our minds matter. Why? Because one of the keys to living the Christian life is to have the proper mindset. If we have any desire to live out the Christian faith, we can not do it without properly orienting our minds. Don’t believe me? Listen to what Paul says on two different occasions in the book of Romans:

 [5] For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. [6] For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:5-6)

 [2] Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind. (Romans 12:2)

 What happens with our minds is a matter of life and death. And the only way to experience true change, is to change our minds. The central idea of these four verses is clear, simple, and direct: Seek and set your mind on the things above. The only was to live out who we are in Christ is to orient our minds toward heavenly thinking.

 Now chapter three is a bit of turning point in the book of Colossians. In the first two chapters, Paul has laid out for us, in glorious terms, the doctrine of Christ’s supremacy. And from this point forward Paul is going to apply that doctrine to everyday living. And that’s not to say the first two chapters were impractical or wanting in application. But as the letter builds you begin to see an indispensable reality - believers are united to the supreme, sufficient savior who is is the center of the universe. And without that, all of our attempts at Jesus shaped living are a waste.

Union With Him

Union With Him

Do you not realize that Christ is in you? That’s a question the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians in his second letter to them. Do you not realize that Christ is in you? As we study our passage this morning, I think that’s a helpful question for us to consider. My fear is that many Christians live each day without an awareness of the indwelling Christ. And when we live without an awareness of this reality, we also miss out on fully experiencing all that belongs to those who are united to Christ.  

 When we talk about salvation, we often speak about it primarily in terms of what Christ has acquired for us. And certainly this isn’t wrong. Essential to the gospel is the fact that Christ has reconciled us to God through his sacrificial death. He has purchased redemption for us. He has saved us from our own sin, and from the condemnation and judgment reserved for unbelievers. But when we speak about our salvation, do we also talk about the reception of the living Christ? Do you we grasp the reality not only of the gift we receive in the gospel, but the giver who now lives in us.

 Rankin Wilbourne says it so well: “The greatest treasure of the gospel, greater than any other benefit the gospel brings, is the gift of God himself.” You see, Christ’s saving work is of no benefit to us unless we are one with Him. Central to our salvation is the fact that the incarnate, crucified, resurrected, and reigning Savior is living inside of us!

To give you an idea of how pervasive this is: Guess how many times the word “Christian” appears in the New Testament? Three. Guess how many times the phrase “in Christ” appears in the New Testament? One hundred and sixty five. In the eight verses read this morning, six times we find either “in him” or “with him” being used. So as we look at this passage, my hope is that we would walk away with a deeper understanding of the riches of our union with Christ. Because it is only when we begin to grasp the reality of Union with Christ that I believe we can say confidently, “He is sufficient.”

Walking in Him

Walking in Him

Walking is just one step away from falling. At least that’s why I learned when our son began to take his first steps. If you have children you know exactly what I’m talking about. When they begin to walk they are stepping out on unsteady legs. It takes some time, and a whole lot of falling, before walking becomes second nature to them. But they have to begin somewhere. Those months where our son learned to walk gave me the most to anxiety in my short time as a parent. And i’m sure that when he reaches adolescence I’ll have a lot more to worry about it!

 Similar to learning to walk as a child, is learning to walk as a Christian. We put our faith into practice one step at a time. Upon becoming a new Christian, there is a radically transformation that takes place. So much so, that Jesus described it as being born again. Not of flesh and blood, but by the Spirit. It makes sense then, that if we’re born again, we need to learn again how to walk. We need to learn what it means to live life differently.

 When a person becomes a Christian, regardless of age, we’re all infants. And the Lord does not save us so we can remain in that stage forever. Jesus did not sacrifice his life on the cross so that we could remain apathetic or be neutral. He died so that we could live not only in eternity, but to also live for Him now. The one who began a good work in us will continue to do so until the day of competition - the day He brings us into his eternal presence.

 Verses 6 and 7 of chapter two have much to teach us about walking with Christ. Now you have to keep in mind that Paul is writing out of a pastoral concern. In the same way that an overly anxious parent like myself fears their child will take a tumble, Paul is concerned that the believers in Colossae will succumb to false teaching. There’s a group causing trouble in the Colossian church. They’re trying to sell them on the idea that in order to really grow in the Christian faith they need to move beyond Christ. They need to supplement their faith in Christ with some mystical teachings - new teachings that promise to give them greater fulfillment and understanding.

 And this isn’t just an issue only common to the first century. The Church has always dealt with this. As C. S. Lewis once said, “Old error in new dress, is error nonetheless.” In fact, just this week someone forwarded me a link to some website being circulated, promoting the very same heresy. The person behind the blog claims to have had a dream where he claims that the Lord was inviting him and others to “to a new level of intimacy and revealing hidden revelations this year.” And if we would only add certain things to our faith in Christ then we could experience these things. Well, that may come across as appealing to some. But first off, the Lord has already revealed what needs to be revealed to you and it is in the person of Jesus and the pages of the Bible.

 The Apostle Paul combats that kind of error right here. And he does it by showcasing the supremacy and sufficiency of Jesus Christ. If Christ is truly preeminent and the reconciler of all things then we need not look anywhere else but to Him.

 Here’s what you need to know more than anything else as we study these two verses: Your daily walk should never take a single step away from the gospel. In other words, the pathway to a deeper, and more fulfilling, walk in the Christian life is not to begin with Christ and move on to something else. No, it begins with Christ and remains dependent upon him every step of the way so that every time we put one foot in front of the other we are becoming more conformed to His image.

Complete in Christ

Complete in Christ

God is more interested in your maturity than he is your success.

What are you striving for? With rare exception, all of us are striving for something.  

In verses that were just read, Paul gets more personal - explains his ministry of struggle and suffering. For one reason - maturity in Christ.

Review: Colossians shows is all about the supremacy and sufficiency of Jesus Christ. And that should shape every part of our lives. But in the background are those who would tell the them otherwise, and are trying to get them to look outside of Christ. Completeness found elsewhere.

But he has not left us without everything we need to be complete in Him.

Stable and Steadfast

Stable and Steadfast

In 1914, not long after the sinking of the Titanic, Congress convened a hearing to discern what happened in another nautical tragedy. In January of that year, in thick fog off the Virginia coast, the steamship Monroe was rammed by the merchant vessel Nantucket and eventually sank.  Forty-one sailors lost their lives in the frigid waters of the Atlantic.  While it was Osmyn Berry, captain of the Nantucket who was arraigned on charges, in the course of the trial Captain Edward Johnson was grilled on the stand for over five hours.  During cross-examination it was learned, as the New York Times reported, that Captain Johnson, “navigated the Monroe with a steering compass that deviated as much as two degrees from the standard magnetic compass.  He said the instrument was sufficiently true to run the ship, and that it was the custom of masters in the coast-wise trade to use such compasses. His steering compass had never been adjusted in the one year he was Master of the Monroe.” The faulty compass that seemed adequate for navigation eventually proved otherwise.  The realization partly explains a heart rendering picture recorded by the Times: “Later the two Captains met, clasped hands, and sobbed on each other’s shoulders.” The sobs of these two burly seaman are a moving reminder of the tragic consequences of misorientation.[1]

 Why do I tell you that? I think illustrates how the human heart, like Captain Johnson’s steering compass, has the propensity to drift. The slightest two-percent drift can produce catastrophic consequences. Our hearts need constant re-calibration.  We need to be set on a rightful trajectory. We need a sufficient compass. And that compass is the supreme and sufficient savior Jesus Christ who has been revealed in the pages of Scripture.

 And that’s why Colossians is so important. Paul is writing to a good church, but a church struggling against those who would try to get them to deviate from the truths they received at salvation. And the essence of Paul’s letter is to say, “Jesus is the supreme center of the universe. He’s everything you need. Everything about your life should be shaped by Him. And the moment you begin to forget that - as soon as you begin to diminish his supremacy - you will find yourself drifting in the wrong direction.”

[1] James K.A. Smith, You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2016), 20.

Jesus is Everything

Jesus is Everything

I have a singular goal this morning. My aim is that you would walk away from this passage with a much greater sense of the supremacy and sufficiency of Christ than when you walked in this morning. Those two are inextricably linked together. We cannot come to the place where we realize Jesus is all that we need, unless we have a grasp on his supreme worth. And if we grasp his supreme worth, even in part, the natural response is to say, “Jesus is everything.”

 Now, we need to keep in mind that you and I cannot make Christ anything. He is what God has declared him to be. Christ is Lord. He is the center. We often make statements such as, “I made Christ the Lord of my life.” I know what is meant, and I’m not trying to play semantic games or say that is completely wrong. But the reality is that we cannot make Christ anything, much less what God has already declared him to be. And so the question is not what I make Christ, the question is will I rearrange my life around the reality of his supremacy? Will I give him first in everything.

 Our passage that was just read is undoubtedly one of the most important passages about the person of Christ in all of Scripture. Some argue that it was an ancient hymn. Some say it wasn’t. Either way, we should respond with greater worship.

 When Paul wrote to the church at Colossae they were faced with a question: Will they believe that Jesus is something or that he is everything? That was a question they had to answer because false teaching had made its way into their midst. Now we don’t know the exact nature of the false teaching. We can only gather so much from the text. But one thing seems to be clear: whatever this false teaching was, it put Christ on the periphery. They were taking the focus off of Christ and placing it on something else that promised to give them a deeper, more meaningful experience. And if we’re not careful to constantly giving our minds over to the glorious realities of Christ, we too will put Christ off to the periphery in our lives.

 What we need is glimpse of his supremacy. The only way to live a consistently Christ-shaped life is if we ponder his supremacy. Want to send our time, lingering on His supremacy with the goal that we would combat our fallen tendency to try and push Christ to the side.

How to Pray for Others

How to Pray for Others

It’s been said before that prayer is a window into the soul. What we pray about most, we care about most. We pray for the things that concern us. And likewise, the matters we don’t address in prayer are the things we care little about. That’s a sobering reality isn’t it? Because I can tell you how much something means to me - how important it is - but if I never bring it to the Lord in prayer, do I really care about it? We tend to pray most about that which we care about most.

 So as we come to Paul’s prayer for the church at Colossae, we can assume that what he is praying on their behalf is what he cares about most. More than anything else, this is what he wants for this church. As the passage was read for us this morning, you probably noticed that Paul’s prayer did not include a request for financial well being, physical health, safety in traveling, or for the Colossian kids to get into a good college. Now, it’s not that those things aren’t important. I’m not trying to dissuade you from praying about those things. But I would argue that those things are less important than what Paul is praying for in this first chapter of Colossians. This is a prayer that is so rich, that it should form the fabric of our prayers for one another. It should inform the way we pray for fellow believers, spouses, children, and oneself.

 I hope we understand that one of the reasons why every person in this church has a ministry, is because every one of us can pray. You and I can play a role in the spiritual growth of other people, even without seeing or speaking to them. Even when we don’t know the specific circumstances a person is facing or how they’re doing, we can still pray for them in the same way that Paul is praying for this church. Often people will ask me how they can be praying for me. And normally there are a couple current things that I certainly wouldn’t mind intercession for. But more than anything else, I need you to pray for me what Paul prays for the believers at Colossae. And you need to know, that this is my constant prayer for you.

 What we’re going to see in this passage is that the most important prayer for the church is that believers would be filled with the knowledge of God’s will, and as a result live in a such a way that pleases Him. The most important prayer you can offer up for others, is that they would know and please God. And you have to keep in mind that Paul is working from the viewpoint that Christ is the supreme center of the universe. And when we recognize that - when we view all things through the lens of Christ death, burial, and resurrection- our prayers are going to reflect that.

Grounds for Gratitude

Grounds for Gratitude

What does it look like to live with Jesus at the center? If I could choose one over arching question that the book of Colossians answers, it would be just that. In your life, what does it look like for Jesus to be at the very center of all things? Let’s be honest for a moment. Many of us have heard, or used, the phrase Christ-centered. It’s become a bit of a cliche. Churches put it in their mission statement. Christian authors put it in the title of their book. But what does it actually mean? Colossians helps us answer that question. But Colossians also shows us what it looks like. That’s why I chose to call this series “Jesus Shaped Living.” The glorious truths of Jesus give shape to how we live - our attitudes, our actions, life inside the home and outside the home, ministry and everything else.

 Of course, it’s a lot easier to talk about Christ being at the center than to live that way, isn’t it? In the mundane moments of everyday life, a whole host of other things compete with Christ for center stage in our lives. And so my aim, and my prayer, for our study in Colossians is that we make the connection between what we know to be true about Jesus, and how we live. That we would recognize that Jesus is not someone we place at the center, but he is the center. And that the shape of our lives would reflect the incomparable nature of Christ Jesus

Back to Square One

Back to Square One

And they all lived happily ever after. It would be nice if that was how the last verse of Nehemiah 13 read. But instead we find an ending to this book that is all together different. It’s unlike most Hollywood movies. It doesn’t resemble most paperback novels. It’s anticlimactic. It has nothing of the predictable storyline that runs throughout most Lifetime movies. Having experienced a revival of great proportion, the people of Jerusalem take ten steps backwards and revert to their old ways. Whereas they has experienced a spiritual renewal, the book ends with the people of God once again in spiritual decay. What we’re going to see in this chapter is that all of the promises and all of the commitments that were made in chapter 10 have now been broken. They are, in a very real sense, back to square one.

 But how does something like this happen? How did the people of God move from renewal and revival to spiritual decay? And that’s an important question because the experience of the Israelites is not foreign to us. In fact, you don’t have to be a Christian very long before you become familiar with the ups and downs. The Lord may bring a season of renewal in your life. You’ve committed to live according to his Word. You’ve begun to see old habits put to death. But before you know it, the very things you said you would never do again…well, you’re doing them again. The reality is that even when we experience seasons of great revival, either personally or corporately, ew haven’t made it home yet. And there is an ever present need for us to persevere until the coming of our Lord Jesus. J.I. Packer rightly puts it this way, “Where God has sent reformation, Satan will work, behind the scenes if not overtly, for deformation of all that was made new.”

 So as we read chapter 13, I want us to not view it as a disappointing end to the story. Instead, let’s look at it as a sobering warning about the nature of sin. A reminder that we are a people in constant need of revival. A reminder that we are prone to drift. And yet, a people whom God has been very gracious too.