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gospel

The Joy-Metric

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The Joy-Metric

Philippians is a book of joy for an anxious church. Theme similar to Ecclesiastes - we also spoke about joy. Joy comes from God, not from our stuff or our circumstance.

But we should be careful here, because it is surely true in our experience that we do find joy in people, things and circumstance. “How sweet to hold a newborn baby and feel the pride and joy he gives.” Holding your loved ones, relaxing after a hard days work. Hamburgers. :)

However, the message of Ecclesiastes does not deny that there are some circumstances from which we might find joy or reason to rejoice, but again, joy is not to be found in the temporal, fleeting, trivial matters, but in things that last, and if we try to extract joy from the breath, we will be left unsatisfied.

The apostle Paul would agree. In the book of Phillippians, in writing to that anxious church, Paul writes about the things that bring him joy. Last week Paul shared his gratitude and the joy that he has found in the Philiipians partnership in the gospel. And today, he will speak of another matter that brings him joy. And again, that which brings him joy is not in temporal, fleeting, trivial matters, but connected to the eternal matter of the gospel of Christ. 

What is the gospel? The gospel is the proclamation of good news. The good news of what God has done for us in Christ. That thought our sins have separated us from God and have placed us under God’s just wrath, that God in his love for us sent his son Jesus Christ into the world that we might be reconciled to God, redeemed from our sins, and renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is surely not a temporal, fleeting, or trivial matter, but is the most important, substantial and eternal of matters. As I stated last week, Paul has given his life to the gospel, lives for the gospel, and as we’ll see today, Paul’s Joy-Producing Metric: The Gospel is Advancing. What I mean by metric is that this is the standard of measurement against which he measures the circumstances in his life and that even through the difficulties of life, if the gospel is advancing, Paul finds joy. 

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Risen Thinking (Easter 2019)

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Risen Thinking (Easter 2019)

When I was growing up there was a saying, I don’t hear much anymore. You are what you eat. What a ridiculous saying. That’s why we don’t here it much anymore - it’s like our entire generation woke up and said, Nah, that’s not true. “If i eat this chocolate bunny …” yeah, no. It doesn’t make sense - I think it said to try to make us eat more healthy food, but who wants to how up and me a head of lettuce?

Maybe we’ve lost something when we threw out that idiom however. Maybe there was wisdom in the saying, it's just that I heard it wrong all those years. Maybe the idiom was never supposed to be taken literally at all (yeah, of course, you don’t really turn into a chocolate bunny.” What I mean is, maybe the idiom wasn’t about food at all. It wasn’t about what we consume with our mouths, but with our minds. If it’s not about food, but about our thoughts, then the saying has a bit more staying power. You are what you think about. You are what you let into your thoughts. You are the media and philosophies you consume.

This seems to be the Apostle Paul’s concern in this verse that I want to centre our thoughts on this morning, that our thoughts shape us, we are what we eat: 

Phil. 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Last week, we finished a series in the book of Ecclesiastes, and at the end of that book, we saw a description of God’s communication to us through the Biblical writers as thoughtful, careful, delightful and true. That’s a great framework for all of our communication. And it is my prayer this morning as we reflect on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. For there is nothing more excellent or worthy of praise than the resurrection, and for that reason, it is good and proper for us to “think about these things”. But my prayer here this morning is not only to communicate information, but that the Holy Spirit might grant us illumination, that will turn our hearts to celebration.

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Marred Beauty

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Marred Beauty

Solomon is now looking carefully at life in the breath. He has considered that only God can bring beauty into the life because he has appointed every season and time for his purposes. Yet when Solomon looks carefully into the breath, he sees much that is not beautiful, in fact, much that is ugly. Solomon is a realist, it doesn’t do to ignore the harsh realities of life, but he knows the must be explored, discerned. He’s not running from the hard questions, but realizes that if he really wants to make full sense of life, he’s got to evaluate both the good and the bad.

This brings us to the problem of evil - for Solomon observes much that would be fittingly described as evil. If God is sovereign over all things - does this mean that he is also sovereign over evil? Solomon in this chapter pears into the problem of what we might call institutional or structural evil - evil that corrupts our social systems, specifically he considers our systems of  justice and economics. What’s the problem with these two systems - we are. We made them and we use them and we are used by them. 

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The Gospel in Greece: Athens

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The Gospel in Greece: Athens

Idols are not limited to primitive societies; there are many sophisticated idols too. An idol is a god-substitute. Any person or thing that occupies the place which God should occupy is an idol. Covetousness is idolatry. Ideologies can be idolatries. So can fame, wealth and power, sex, food, alcohol and other drugs, parents, spouse, children and friends, work, recreation, television and possessions, even church, religion and Christian service. Idols always seem particularly dominant in cities. Jesus wept over the impenitent city of Jerusalem. Paul was deeply pained by the idolatrous city of Athens. Have we ever been provoked by the idolatrous cities of the contemporary world?

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Point People to the Way

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Point People to the Way

Our culture seems to think that choosing a religion is like shopping. I look for the shirt that suits me, you look good in that one. And we go around flattering each others wardrobe, and it would be absurd to say “Plaid is the Only Way”. But choosing a religion is not like shopping. Choosing a religion is more like drowning. For a person drowning, when they are thrown a life preserver, they do not ask whether or not this suits them, they hold on because its all that they’ve got. They hold on and live, or let go and die.  We’re not shopping for gods, were drowning in gods, drowning in a sea of religions, drowning in a sea of world views, nothing solid under our feet, nothing holding the universe together, and Jesus jumps in to save us. And so we point to Him not as a fashionable sweater, but as the life preserver thrown into this world to save us. For the bad news is that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and therefore stand condemned under his wrath, but God offers forgiveness of sins to everyone who calls upon Him.

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Good News For Man's Troubles

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Good News For Man's Troubles

The Bible describes each of these troubles in great detail: ignorance, guilt, and weakness. Isaiah 53 declares that when Messiah comes he will bring good news countering these troubles that plague us. The three major Christian holidays (Christmas, Good Friday and Easter) demonstrate that Jesus is the servant of whom Isaiah spoke.

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New Mission, Old Message

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New Mission, Old Message

We are being sent to a new mission field - does that mean that we need to change our message? You hear this a lot in ministry, "If we want to reach people, we need to adjust the message to match our modern sensibilities." They were saying this 100 years ago. "Modern man doesn’t believe in these myths." The german school of theology sought to de-mythologize the texts. Theological liberalism battled the fundamentalists in the early 1900’s but while they won some of the seminaries like Harvard and Princeton, they lost the pews. 20 years ago it was John Shelby Spong, “Why Christianity Must change or Die” meaning why we must rid ourselves of the surface meaning of the texts of Scripture and our tradition and find the deeper truer truths - which of course were the same ones of the theological liberals 100 years before. In the past decade you have Brian McClaren’s “A New Kind of Christianity”. Today, you have calls for the church to change its sexual ethics, and emphasize the red-letter social justice-y parts of the Bible and not focus so much on the individual sin, and heaven and hell stuff. All of these movements sought to rebrand Christianity and repaint it in the image of the modern ethic. Amazingly, even though the stated motivation of each of these movements was to save the church for the next generation, each of these movements shared one thing in common, and that is … I’ll tell you at the end of the sermon. 

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