Sermon: Gladly Submit to Jesus’ Authority, (Matthew 8.1-17)

[sermon audio for streaming/download to come LW]

September 14, 2014  |  P. J. Tibayan  |  Scripture: Matthew 8:1-17

First Southern Baptist Church, Bellflower

Introduction

A big decision is in front of you this morning. I am NOT talking about the decision to vote on whether you think the Lord Jesus is calling me to be your pastor or not. That is a big decision. But it’s a smaller decision than the one this text presents. This text exalts the authority of Jesus. Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth (Matt 28.18). The big decision you must make today is, will you gladly submit to the authority of Jesus? As a church? As individuals? This text is not about a church vote today. It’s about denying yourself, taking up your cross, dying to yourself and your lordship, and following Jesus by submitting to his Lordship everyday because you know him and trust him and love him. We don’t like authority in our culture these days. That’s because we sinners have never liked authority any our culture in any day. Ever since Adam and Eve ate the fruit, we’ve struggled with being oppressed by bad and abusive authority: the devil, a government, a family member, a church leader, a political leader, a county worker or officer, etc. And we’ve struggled to trust good authority because it threatened our self-centeredness and personal desire for lordship: a parent, a government, a church leader, a political leader, or a county worker or officer. Adam and Eve didn’t trust God’s good and gracious authority. So we have two problems, there is bad and oppressive authority that we should reject. That problem is on the outside. Then we reject good and rightful authority because it threatens our autonomy and self-rule. That’s a problem on the inside. 
 
What is authority? Authority is “the right to demand submission and obedience from others.” God’s authority is “God’s right to demand unqualified obedience from his creatures.” The only right response to good authority is submission. To submit is to “comply with the direction or commands of an authority figure.” When I say that God wants our “glad” submission, to submit gladly is to submit “enthusiastically and not grudgingly or primarily out of compulsion.”

The Problem 
We naturally do not like to submit to authority. Even as Christians. Sometimes we think we are more submissive than we are to authorities, but if we honestly look at it we might find that we submit because we do what we already want to do (which isn’t necessarily bad). The test of how submissive we are is to see how we submit when we’re told by an authority figure to do something we don’t want to do or something we disagree with. 

All of us who have driven have experienced the sudden fear that overtakes us when we realize there is a police officer behind our car and we’re driving faster than we should be. Why do we slow down? Because we’re gladly submissive to the law? More likely it is the fear of a speeding ticket.

The key to the Christian life is to gladly submit to Christ because we trust his authority as good, not as something to ultimately be scared of. When we fail to submit to God it is tied to our lack of recognition of the authority and the goodness of God in giving us a command or direction.
 
So what we need is to gladly submit to Christ in his authority so that you can live the way God calls you to live. To do this gladly is not motivated by forcing ourselves to be glad. Glad submission comes from understanding the glorious reasons why we should submit. Matthew gives us 5 reasons to submit to the authority of Jesus Christ.
 

Reason #1: Gladly submit to Jesus’ authority because he is the Messiah (vv. 1-3)

“The miracles that Jesus performs attest who he is and the mission he was sent to accomplish” (D. A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount,158). In this passage we see 3 miracles that show us Jesus in his authority.
 
When He came down from the mountain, large crowds followed Him. Right away a man with a serious skin disease came up and knelt before Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Reaching out His hand He touched him, saying, “I am willing; be made clean.” Immediately his disease was healed. (Matthew 8:1-3 HCSB)

Story: Jesus comes down from the mountain after teaching the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7). Right away a man comes with a skin disease and kneels before Jesus asking him to merely will his cleansing. Jesus touched him, told him he was willing, then cleansed him. Immediately his skin disease was healed.

The skin disease is commonly called leprosy in the Bible. We can’t be precise in our understanding of the actual skin diseases they considered leprosy. The Jews abhorred it because the illness itself was reprehensible and because it rendered the leper and those who touched the leper ceremonially unclean. Lepers had to live in separate communities because they would make others ceremonially unclean. Some skin diseases are contagious and the leprosy of this day may very well have been. Lepers were obligated to shout, “Unclean! Unclean!” to warn everyone in the non-leprous community that they were a leper when near their presence.

This leper, not named by Matthew, believed Jesus could heal him if he simply willed it (v.2).

Instead of merely willing it, shockingly, Jesus touches him. It’s probably because the leper respectfully wouldn’t touch him. The leper had to be surprised, probably not being able to remember the last time he has felt the touch of another clean human being. It could’ve been years! Instead of Jesus’ becoming ceremonially unclean by touching the leper, the leper becomes clean.

So what’s the big deal? Jesus healed a man with a skin disease. Doctors do that with medicine often for many diseases. How does this point to his glorious authority? Good question. John the Baptist, when in jail, wondered if Jesus was in fact the Messiah. Jesus pointed out to us that his healing of these skin diseases are proof that he is the Messiah. 

Matthew 11:3–5 (CSB) –3 and asked Him, “Are You the One who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” 4 Jesus replied to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: 5 the blind see, the lame walk, those with skin diseases are healed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are told the good news.

Jesus is the Messiah. The Messiah was the anticipated Son of David who would be the King of Israel and sit on the throne forever. He would restore Israel, God’s people, and their kingdom, as the supreme human kingdom in the whole world under Yahweh God. The Messiah was the coming King God would send to rule over all humanity with grace and goodness restoring to the world the peace and harmony that was in the garden of Eden before Adam ate the fruit and was expelled. If Jesus’ healing this leper proves he’s the Messiah, then it proves that he is your king and the King of all kings and ethnicities and people groups.

So we see in this story that Jesus heals those with skin diseases. Even more deeply he ceremonially cleanses those unclean before God. He cleans the unclean. Furthermore, his will happens. He wills for the man to be healed, and he is healed. This means that Jesus is the Messiah.

Application to FSBC Bellflower

Make sure this church as a church keeps Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, central to life, practice, direction, and plans of the church and ministries. He is the King. He has authority. He’s the Messiah, God’s king. The Holy Spirit lives in you as a church and guides you through the word to glorify Jesus (John 16.14). Jesus is the Chief Pastor of this church and the universal church (1 Peter 5.4). Everything has to be about Jesus, for Jesus, and according to the Word and Spirit of Jesus.
 

Reason #2: Gladly submit to Jesus’ authority because he fulfills the OT Law (v. 4)

Then Jesus told him, “See that you don’t tell anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses prescribed, as a testimony to them.” (Matthew 8:4 HCSB)

Story: After Jesus heals the man he gives the man 3 commands: (1) Don’t tell anyone; (2) show yourself to the priest in the temple; and (3) offer the gift Moses prescribed.

These commands are according to the instruction of Moses given in Leviticus 13. The priests declare the person with a skin disease ceremonially unclean or clean (vv. 3, 6, 8). Why did Jesus tell this man to show himself to the priest? One reason would be to obey Leviticus 13. Jesus not only fulfilled but obeyed the Old Covenant (instruction of Moses). 

But there’s a deeper reason given at the end of verse 4. Why show yourself to the priest? “As a testimony to them.” A testimony (or “proof”) of what? A testimony that he was actually healed. Which testifies that Jesus actually healed him. Which testifies that Jesus is powerful enough to heal leprosy. This testifies that Jesus is the Messiah. Here, in this command, Jesus uses the instruction of Moses and the testimony of the priest to testify to the world and to us in Bellflower this morning, that Jesus has the power to heal those with skin diseases, clean the unclean, and at the very least you should seriously consider his claims about who he is. This law, this instruction, then, points to Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures. The Old Testament points to Jesus in different ways, sometimes direcect statements, sometimes in types or models, and other times as part of a larger system that pointed ahead. Here, the leprosy declaration commands are used to point to Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s promises.

Application to the Christian, FSBC, and the non-Christian Visitor

Dear Christian brother or sister, look for how the Old Testament points to Jesus Christ and see his glory through that. Read all of your bible to see the glory of Jesus, not just the New Testament. Put the testaments together. To be mature and fruitful Christians we must be biblical, listening to the whole Bible.

As the FSBC family, study both testaments and make sure you are continually learning to read how the Old Testament points to Jesus the Messiah. There was one church looking for a pastor where they put in the post: “We are looking for a senior pastor who preaches not only expositionally through both the OT and NT, but who also preaches in a Christ-centered manner.” That’s a good requirement you should be looking for and expecting here in this church as well.

If you are here visiting this morning, or maybe you’ve been coming regulalry for a while, and you are not a Christian, let me say, thank you for coming this morning. God has brought you here this morning for a reason. So think about this: Do you recognize that Jesus is the one promised in the writings about him, written about him from 1400 years before his birth? He is the promised one, promised by God in God’s writings, the Bible, long before he came. This means at the very least you should understand what the Bible says about him and what he and his followers claimed about him. I’ll give you the gist of it this morning as we continue.

Reason #3: Gladly submit to Jesus’ authority because when Jesus speaks, God speaks (vv. 5-9)

When He entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible agony! ” “I will come and heal him,” He told him. “Lord,” the centurion replied, “I am not worthy to have You come under my roof. But only say the word, and my servant will be cured. For I too am a man under authority, having soldiers under my command. I say to this one, ‘Go! ’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come! ’ and he comes; and to my slave, ‘Do this! ’ and he does it.” (Matthew 8:5-9 HCSB)

Story: Matthew takes us to another scene. Jesus is approached by a centurion (more literally through messengers according Luke 7). A centurion is “a Roman soldier who commanded about 100 soldiers” (HCSB bullet note). The Roman soldier sought Jesus in desperation. He probably developed a great relationship with his servant the way any natural long-term relationship has the potential to build serious concern and affection for each other. The centurion pleads with him to come heal his servant who’s at home paralyzed and in terrible agony. The centurion (again through messengers according to Luke) addresses Jesus as Lord. The soldier’s respect for a Jew is noteworthy. The conquered peoples were usually not as well respected as the conquering people (the Romans). Jesus tells him (in the form of telling his messengers) that he will come and heal him. For Jesus to agree to go shows his compassion. Can you imagine the demand for attention that the Lord Jesus received? The centurion then stops Jesus and says he is not worthy for the great Jesus to come under his roof. Jesus has authority over paralysis and pain to simply command the healing the way the centurion commands the 100 soldiers under him expecting immdiate obedience. 
 
The Centurion understood authority. He speaks with the authority of the ones above to those below. To disobey the centurion is to disobey the soldiers over the centurion. And the one over the highest ranking Roman soldiers is the emperor himself. So to oppose the centurion’s authority is to oppose the emperor’s authority and really the authority of Rome itself. When the centurion speaks, the emperor speaks. And when the emperor speaks, Rome speaks.

In a similar way, he understood the words of Jesus to carry authority. When Jesus speaks, God speaks. And when God speaks, heaven speaks. And there is no way in heaven or earth that this paralysis would defy the God of heaven speaking through this Jewish carpenter who is also God’s Messiah. Jesus speaks with the authority of God himself and all of heaven.

Application to the Christian, FSBC, and the Non-Christian

Christian brother and sister, let the words of Jesus abide in you. Memorize Scripture regularly. Weekly. Schedule it into your life. If you fail to plan you’ve already planned to fail. And memorize God’s Words with your family and friends.

FSBC, if Jesus has spoken and still speaks through the New Testament and all of Scripture, you should hear him and follow his lead because the church is his church and he promised to build it. This means the priority for the church is to hear Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, speak. You should hear him speak all together so the church grows together under the word of Christ, because that is the word of God. The church should also listen carefully to what is taught and preached and check it by the Scriptures to make sure it is the word of Christ lest you end up rejecting the gospel! If Jesus is the Chief Pastor of this church, which he is, then you must hear his voice and recognize it as the voice of God. He said, “My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me” (John 10.27). And the only response to that as a church is to trust and obey.

If you’re not a Christian this morning, it is very important to understand what we mean when we Christians say Jesus is the only way. We believe, as the Bible teaches, that if you don’t know God through Jesus Christ as he has revealed himself in the Bible and in history, then you cannot know God. It is popular today to have “faith” and be “spiritual,” but you cannot make your faith or spirituality valuable. It is worth whatever it is worth before God. God sets the value, not us. So if you are spiritual or a person of deep faith, I want you to know that Jesus and the Bible say clearly that apart from honoring Christ, you cannot know and honor God as he truly is. I understand this may create questions and I invite you to ask me or any of the church members and leaders here why we believe that.

Reason #4: Gladly submit to Jesus’ authority because it comforts the believer and terrifies the rebellious (vv. 10-13)

Hearing this, Jesus was amazed and said to those following Him, “I assure you: I have not found anyone in Israel with so great a faith! I tell you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Then Jesus told the centurion, “Go. As you have believed, let it be done for you.” And his servant was cured that very moment. (Matthew 8:10-13 HCSB)

Story: Jesus heard the centurion’s statement and was taken aback. He was shocked. Amazed. Why? He hadn’t found faith as great as this in all of Israel, among God’s people who have God’s Word! So he tells him, “I assure you: I have not found anyone in Israel with so great a faith! I tell you that many will come from east and west and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (vv. 10b-12). Then Jesus healed the servant with a word that very moment (v. 13).

Some will recline at the table with Abraham in the kingdom. What will that be like? Like a great feast. A celebration. Jesus reigning supremely and perfectly. No more cyring, pain, tears, or death. Eternally increasing joy and closeness to God. We will see God’s face (Rev. 22.4). We will enjoy God and his people in the 1000 years of Revelation 20 and on the New Earth into eternity! Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus! The kingdom of heaven will be sweet.

But not all will be invited to this eternal celebration. Verse 12 says, “The sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Hell. Weeping and pain and death in the sense of separation from God and all his good gifts forever. Darkness. The wrath and judgment of God being continually and incessantly poured out. There will be hopeless desperation and desire for even one moment of relief. But they desire and wait in vain. The eternality of it all is that when you’ve been there 7 billion years, it’s as if you’ve just got there with the exact same amount of time to go, forever. 

So what’s the difference between those who go to the feast in the kingdom of heaven and those who suffer God’s judgment in hell? The difference between those who go and those who do not is not how “good” they are, how much of the Bible or Christianity they know, where they are from, who they are related to, or how religious they are. What amazed Jesus? The centurion’s great faith. The difference is faith. And not just faith but who or what they place their faith in. Saving faith is the faith of the leper and the centurion, a faith that recognizes that they are in desperate need and that Jesus is the only sufficient answer to our need. You must recognize the authority of Jesus and hunger above all that Jesus might use such authority to help you in ways that you cannot help yourself.

Application to the non-Christian and FSBC

Dear non-Christian friend, will you trust in Jesus Christ this morning? He’s the only way into the kingdom of heaven. I invite you to trust in Jesus. I invite you to continue hearing from and learning from Jesus as you read and receive his words to you, the Bible.

FSBC, remember your mission in this world is to evangelize the lost. All of your meeting and giving and growing and choosing a pastor must be in light of this mission that feels the weight of heaven and hell for all those who live around us in Los Angeles county. We have news that Jesus is trustworthy to meet your needs, and your greatest need!

But how exactly does Jesus meet us in our need? He meets us with himself, his words, and his work, which we’ll think about in our last reason to gladly submit to Jesus’ authority. 

Reason #5: Gladly submit to Jesus’ authority because it flows from his work on the cross (vv. 14-17)

When Jesus went into Peter’s house, He saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. So He touched her hand, and the fever left her. Then she got up and began to serve Him. When evening came, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. He drove out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick, so that what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: He Himself took our weaknesses and carried our diseases. (Matthew 8:14-17 HCSB)

Story: Jesus heals Peter’s mom in her house. Then she gets up to serve everyone until evening. When evening came he drove out the demon-possessed and healed the sick who were brought to him.

The point of the details of Jesus touching Peter’s mom is to show how effective and instantaneous is Jesus healing power. He only needs to exercise his authority and it is done. Jesus healed sickness. Sickness was believed to be connected with sin. Though not all physical sickness is connected with sin directly, all of it is a result of sin in this world and when Jesus comes it will all be taken away (Rev 21:4; 22:3). Some diseases God heals instantly, some he does not, but he is sovereign in choosing and is always good. The healing here and all healing are arrows pointing to the consummated kingdom when Jesus shall finally and pervasively reign. Even Jesus casting out demons from people points to his kingdom power. These miracles are not only performed out of power, but out of the fruit of his work on the cross that was yet to be completed. Matthew quotes the prophecy of Isaiah where Jesus takes our weaknesses and carries our diseases. But where and when did he take our weakness and carry our diseases? Isaiah 53, where Matthew gets this quote, is a chapter talking about the Messiah suffering and dying for the sins of others bearing the judgment of God. All healing from sickness, all freedom from demonic oppression, all forgiveness of sin which causes these ills, was accomplished on the cross of Jesus Christ.

A Word to the Non-Christian
Jesus Christ came to save his people from their sins it says in Matthew 1:21. God made us and created us for himself. We as humans have rebelled and sinned against God. We are sinners by nature and by choice. And the penalty of sin, the wages of sin, is death. Eternal death in hell. But God, in his great love and grace sent Jesus to take our weaknesses, carry our diseases, and be counted as a sinner so that we can be forgiven of our sins and reconciled to God! Jesus died for our sins! God is now calling all of you to be reconciled to him. Turn from your sins and from your own righteousness, repent, and trust in Jesus Christ, his righteousness, life, death, and resurrection for you! He died for your sins but has defeated death in his resurrection. Please turn to Jesus. Call on him to save you!

All the blessings of our lives are tied directly to the atoning death of Jesus. Not just forgiveness. Healing. Health. The healing problem is that some think we have a right to be healed ALL the time and if we are not it is because of our lack of faith. Others believe that there is no physical healing right now but only when the kingdom consummates. The biblical balance is that healing comes now at times as a privilege and application of the cross, but no one lacks a glorified body now on earth because of missing faith. It is not time yet. The guarantee is for all of us later with some benefits to be enjoyed now as God deems fit whether “miraculously” or through normal means.
 
Application to the Christian
Brother or sister in Christ, see all of Christ’s authority as function of the cross-work of Jesus Christ. All authority given to Christ by the Father in Matt. 28:19-20 is because of the cross-work of Jesus, the eternal Son of God. Why should we gladly, enthusiastically, and incessantly work to submit our lives to the authority of Jesus? Because his authority is the authority purchased and displayed by him sacrificing himself to bring us to God! It’s not the oppressive or selfish authority of a tyrant, but the loving and generous authority of the Servant-King.

So you must gladly submit to Jesus authority beccuase he is… 

  • Messiah
  • Fulfillment of the OT
  • Speaking for God
  • The way to eternal bliss
  • The one who made the atoning sacrifice

Do you gladly submit to this glorious person named Jesus? Do you bow before him with humility and seek his grace when you fall short? Do you trust in his grace enough to obey him? Do you give him the credit when you do obey and are moved to love God more?
 
Bow gladly to our King, and because of who he is and what he’s done, obey him gladly in everything.

 

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What Desiring God and the Pastoral Staff of Bethlehem Baptist Church Emphasize in Their Teaching

The Nature of God

God is glorious (Exodus 15:11Psalm 145:5). His glory consists in the overwhelming and overflowing beauty which stems from the sum total of all His attributes working together in perfect harmony. God is perfect in His holiness (Exodus 15:11Isaiah 6:3I Peter 1:16), justice (Psalm 99:4Luke 19:7-8Hebrews 6:10), wisdom (Romans 11:33I Corinthians 2:7Ephesians 3:10), power (Isaiah 44:24Job 9:12Jeremiah 32:17), grace and mercy (Ephesians 1:6-7;2:47-9Romans 3:24), and love (I John 4:7-816Romans 5:18John 3:16).

The Motive of God

God not only is glorious, He loves His glory with infinite intensity (Isaiah 48:9-11) and therein lies His righteousness (Romans 9:14,15Exodus 33:18,19). For God to be righteous, He must love what is best; therefore His ultimate loyalty must be to the maintenance and manifestation of His own glory. In other words, all that God does, He does for His own name’s sake (Ezekiel 36:20-23). God created humanity for His glory (Isaiah 43:7,21); God redeems sinners for the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:5-61214Romans 3:2615:7); God empowers Christians to live for His glory, both individually (I Corinthians 10:31I Peter 4:11) and corporately (Ephesians 3:10); and God’s ultimate goal for His people is that they might see and enjoy His glory forever (John 17:24). His ultimate will or plan for history is that “the earth will be filled with the knowledge and the glory of God as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14, cf. Numbers 14:21). But God’s unswerving zeal for His own glory does not mean that God is unconcerned about man’s welfare. No, God’s mercy and grace toward undeserving sinners is the apex of His glory (Romans (9:22-23). And the greatest possible good for man is to see God face to face, just as He is (I Corinthians 13:12I John 3:2) and to behold the beauty of the Lord (Psalm 27:4). In fact, God’s absolute faithfulness to His own glory manifests itself in God’s absolute faithfulness to His covenant promises (His glory is at stake in whether He keeps His word or not) and thus it becomes the ultimate ground of our assurance (Psalm 143:111Daniel 9:14-19).

The Sovereignty of God

The God of the Bible is the creator of the whole visible and invisible universe and He is the sovereign ruler of it. From all eternity, He freely and unchangeably, in His most holy wisdom, ordained whatsoever comes to pass. To use the words of Paul, God does “all things according to the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11), having sovereign control of all events from the events of rulers and nations (Daniel 4:253234-35) to the flight of a sparrow (Matthew 10:29). In particular, God’s sovereignty is worked out in the area of salvation. To ensure that the salvation of sinners abounds to the praise of God’s glory, God saves His people by grace alone apart from works, lest anyone should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). The sovereignty of God’s grace is seen in God’s unconditional election of His people out of the mass of sinful humanity for salvation (Romans 8:299:6-23Ephesians 1:4), the glorious atonement of Christ which actually accomplishes the salvation of God’s people (I Peter 3:18), the irresistible grace of God’s effectual call (Romans 8:30I Peter 2:9) and the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit (Jeremiah 31:31-34Ezekiel 36:26ffJohn 3:4Titus 3:5) which enable and move a person to respond to the gospel of Christ in saving faith, and God’s persevering in grace with his saints (I Peter 1:5Jude 1John 10:28-30Philippians 1:6) so that His people will in fact persevere to the end and be saved.

The Priority of Worship

Although the three ministry priorities of Bethlehem Baptist Church (worship, nurture and outreach) are all crucial and are all intertwined, nevertheless, worship stands at the top of the pyramid. The ultimate end for which God created man is to see God’s glory and worship Him fully. Worship is the motive and the goal of all our deeds of love done to fellow believers (nurture) or to unbelievers (outreach). Seeing and being captivated by the glory of God makes us long to align ourselves with God’s purposes of love. And the goal of our loving others is to build believers and unbelievers alike into people with greater and greater capacities and desires to praise the glory of God’s grace.

The Combination of Head and Heart

In the Christian life, emotions are crucial and thinking is crucial. God is not honored by either an unfeeling, joyless, loveless intellectualism or by an unthinking, uncritical emotionalism. Both are needed-minds that are gripped by the truth of God acquired through the serious and rigorous study of Scripture, and hearts that are on fire with intense emotions of love for God and His glory, awe of His majestic holiness, gratitude for His mercy, and fear of His wrath. In the final analysis, what God wants most is our hearts. That was the problem with the Pharisees-they honored God with their lips but their hearts were far from Him (Matthew 15:8). One of Jesus’ most chilling threats was to professing believers who had no emotions toward God. They were neither hot nor cold-they were lukewarm. And Jesus promised to spit them out of His mouth (Revelation 3:15-16). But the way God longs to reach our hearts is through our minds. It is through the truth of Scripture that we become transformed people through the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). This truth comes through the discipline of careful reading of the text (Ephesians 3:4) seeking to find the author’s intended meaning. The role of the Holy Spirit is not to add anything to the text but to make the heart of the reader humble so that he or she will welcome and embrace the truth (I Corinthians 2:14). Thus our position could be summed up as follows: “The heart is crucial, through the head.”

The Obedience of Faith

Faith is essential in the human heart if we are to glorify God. God is shown to be glorious when we trust Him, especially in suffering. Faith is seeing and savoring the glory of God in Christ crucified, risen, and reigning for the good of His people (2 Corinthians 4:4-6). This “savoring” means receiving in Christ the superior satisfaction of His promises based on His finished work of atonement (Philippians 3:7-9). Faith is the soul’s embrace of all that God is and promises to be for us in Christ (Hebrews 11:1). It honors God by being confident that God will keep His promises to those who set their hope on Him (Romans 4:20-21). Thus faith is future-oriented while resting firmly on the past work of Christ on the Cross and in the resurrection. Faith glorifies God because it magnifies His power, wisdom, grace and faithfulness to work for us the good that we cannot do for ourselves.
Therefore, saving faith is of such a dynamic quality that it inevitably produces “the work of faith” (1 Thessalonians 1:3;2 Thessalonians 1:11), that is, works of love. Saving faith inevitably “works through love” (Galatians 5:6). Faith without works is not saving faith (James 2:14). But that obedience is never an act that merits or earns God’s favor. God’s favor is based on the imputed righteousness of Christ which is ours by virtue of faith alone, that is apart from any other basis or means (Romans 3:28Romans 4:4-5). Nevertheless, the faith that justifies is never alone in him that believes (Westminster Confession, 11.2). Justifying faith, which is a gift from God (2 Timothy 2:25Philippians 1:29Ephesians 2:8-10), is so satisfied in all that God promises to be for us in Christ on the basis of His finished work on the cross that it breaks the power of sins inferior promises. Thus, justifying faith inevitably sanctifies, that is, sets us on a life of gradual transformation into the likeness of Christ (Acts 26:182 Thessalonians 2:13).

This obedience to Christ is an “obedience of faith.” We trust him that His promises are true and superior to all that sin has to offer, and from this trust the power of sin is broken. This kind of obedience, while not perfect in this life, is necessary for final salvation. There is a holiness without which we will not see the Lord (Hebrews 2:14Galatians 5:21). But this necessity is not the necessity of a basis or a means of justification. The basis of justification is the finished work of Christ and His imputed righteousness. The means is faith alone. But the obedience that flows from faith is the evidence of the genuineness of the faith and therefore is “necessary” in the sense that if it is not produced in the end, the faith is shown to be “dead” or “vain,” as James says, and not saving faith. So we must be careful here to guard three things vigilantly: 1) the complete sufficiency of the work of Christ as the sole ground or basis of our right standing with God; 2) faith alone as the sole means or instrument of the righteousness of Christ being imputed to our account; and 3) the subsequent and consequent obedience that is the necessary evidence that this faith in this work of Christ and all that it purchased for us (Romans 8:32) is real.

We recommend that if you are interested in understanding this indispensable role of the “obedience of faith,” you read John Piper’s book, The Purifying Power of Living by Faith in FUTURE GRACE. The aim of this book is to show how the faith that justifies also necessarily sanctifies, which is what the Westminster Confession says that it does: “Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification; yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is not dead faith, but worketh by love.”

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CrossView Sermon: God’s Story is Our Story

I preached in 2013 a sermon on the story of the Church and how that fit into the story of our local church, CrossView Church LA.

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Delighting in the Trinity

Here’s a topical sermon on the Doctrine of the Trinity entitled, “Delighting in the Trinity” preached at CrossView Church LA in January, 2013.

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Change My Heart Oh God

Change my heart oh God, 
Make it ever true.

Change my heart oh God, 
May I be like You.

You are the potter, I am the clay,

Mold me and make me,
 This is what I pray.

(1st verse by Eddie Espinosa)

 

Search my heart oh God, convict me of my sin.

break my heart oh God, change me from within

You are the Spirit who takes the Word

Grow me expose me impure faith must burn

 

Speak your Word oh God, and give me ears to hear

Help me obey your Word, help me to love and fear

You are the Judge Lord, you know our ways

One day you’ll make us answer for our days

 

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Convert. Commit. Grow. Go.

This is God’s calling you. He calls you to convert to Christ from sin. He calls you to commit to a local church. He calls you to grow as a Christian. He calls you to go as a disciple-maker.

This is the gospel growth process for those we serve: Convert. Commit. Grow. Go.

Hear the sermon: Convert. Commit. Grow. Go. Preached at CrossView Church in 2013.

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Which Gospel Presentation is more faithful to the Bible’s teaching?

Jonathan Leeman writes:

Which “gospel” do you believe in?

Your answer to that question will have a direct bearing on what you think about church discipline. Therefore, it’s worth making sure we are talking about the same gospel before we talk about anything else.

Here are two subtly different versions of the gospel. The first one will probably shut down any talk about church discipline. The second one will start the conversation.

Gospel 1: God is holy. We have all sinned, separating us from God. But God sent his Son to die on the cross and rise again so that we might be forgiven. Everyone who believes in Jesus can have eternal life. We’re not justified by works. We’re justified by faith alone. The gospel therefore calls all people to “just believe!” An unconditionally loving God will take you as you are.

Gospel 2: God is holy. We have all sinned, separating us from God. But God sent his Son to die on the cross and rise again so that we might be forgiven and begin to follow the Son as King and Lord. Anyone who repents and believes can have eternal life, a life which begins today and stretches into eternity. We’re not justified by works. We’re justified by faith alone, but the faith which works is never alone. The gospel therefore calls all people to “repent and believe.” A contraconditionally loving God will take you contrary to what you deserve, and then enable you by the power of the Spirit to become holy and obedient like his Son. By reconciling you to himself, God also reconciles you to his family, the church, and enables you as his people to represent together his own holy character and triune glory.

So what do you think? Which of these two gospels better characterizes what you believe the Bible teaches?

The first version emphasizes Christ as Savior. The second version emphasizes Christ as Savior and Lord.

The first version points to Christ’s new covenant work of forgiveness. The second version includes both this and the Spirit’s new covenant work of regeneration.

The first version points to the new status that Christians have as children of God. The second version includes both the new status and the new job description that Christians are given as citizens of Christ’s kingdom.

The first version points to a Christian’s reconciliation with Christ. The second version points to a Christian’s reconciliation with Christ and Christ’s people.

If your understanding of the gospel stops with the first version, you will not have much use for the topic of church discipline, or for this book. But if you embrace the second one, then there is a longer conversation to have. Aside from being an explicit biblical mandate, church discipline is an implication of the second version.

Everything affirmed in the first version is true, but there’s more to say. Left to itself it tends to yield a belief in cheap grace. The second version, I believe, is a more robust account of the biblical gospel, and is more likely to lead to an understanding of the kind of grace that calls Christians to take up their crosses and follow Jesus in holy mission.

—Jonathan Leeman, Church Discipline: How the Church Protects the Name of Jesus (Crossway, 2012), 11-13.

So what do you think? Please leave a comment.

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