Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Fear of the Lord (Malachi 2:1-3:5, 3:16-4:6)

I. Introduction

A. Why do we do reckless things? Why do we make stupid decisions? Why don’t we show more compassion toward others? Why are our daily routines and life pursuits so often all about us?

It has been said that what you think about God is the most important thing about you. Maybe the key to answering the questions above is to examine ourselves and what we think about God.

B. Notice the many references to “honor,” “reverence,” “awe,” and “fear” in the text: 2:2, 2:5, 3:5, 3:16, and 4:2.

C. Movie clips from The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe:

1. The camp bowing down before Aslan (beginning @ 7:00 mins)

2. Susan & Lucy stroking Aslan’s mane (beginning @ 3:05 mins)

3. “Not safe, but good” (beginning @ 6:00 mins)

In the story of Narnia, the great lion Aslan is a kind of Christ-figure.

In C. S. Lewis’ book, The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe, the character Lucy asks: “Then he [Aslan] isn’t safe?” Mr. Beaver replies: “Safe? [D]on’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you” (81).

What we think about God ought to cause our hearts to bow down before him as King. The Lord is not safe, but he is good.

D. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline” (Proverbs 1:7).

Wisdom means basing the decisions we make and the actions we take solidly on our past experiences, our present circumstances/responsibilities, and our future hopes and dreams (HT: Andy Stanley). This is what the book of Proverbs is all about. And the key to wisdom is what we think about God.

II. Israel does not fear YHWH because they do not know who he is (2:1-17)

Israel no longer takes YHWH seriously. They do not fear the Lord. The priests bring blind, crippled, diseased, and blemished animals to offer as sacrifices. The men of Judah are divorcing their first wives and intermarrying with foreign women who worship foreign gods. Israel is withholding tithes and offerings, giving only a part of what the Lord has required. They even dare to question God’s justice, saying that evildoers prosper.

Do they know who God is? Think about it. If they truly knew who God is, they would take him more seriously. If they truly knew the Lord, they would fear the Lord. In vv. 1-3, God admonishes the priests for the posture of their heart. They do not honor God. He says that they have failed to follow the example of Levi (vv. 7-9). He says to them: “‘And you will know that I have sent you this admonition so that my covenant with Levi may continue,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence and he revered me and stood in awe of my name. True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin” (vv. 4-6).

What does it mean to stand in awe of God? I think the image from The Chronicles of Narnia of the entire camp bowing down before Aslan the King says it all.

Levi stood in awe of YHWH, but the Levites of Malachi’s day did not. This is because they clearly do not know YHWH (see v. 17, where they question his justice). We must know who God is. This is absolutely imperative.

III. Because Israel does not fear YHWH, they will be judged (3:1-5; 3:16-4:6)

A. How we relate to God is a serious business. Malachi pleads with his people to guard themselves in their spirit and repent of breaking the covenant God made with their forefathers. God warns them that if they do not repent, they will be judged. The messenger of the covenant (that is, Jesus) will refine the Levites (3:2-4). In the Day of the Lord, arrogant and evildoing men will burn like stubble (4:1).

Justice is “what is right.” What is right is determined by what God says (Torah). What God says is determined by who God is (just, holy, loving, triune, etc.). So the nature of God determines what justice is. God is “what is right” (source, accessed August 13, 2009).

If you remember, those who had prospered in Babylon were now using their good fortunes to take advantage of fellow Jews who were less fortunate by lending money at an exorbitant rate of interest (usury). This was a great injustice and, as such, it violated the very nature and character of God. God promises that the messenger of the covenant will judge the people of Israel for all of their injustices (3:5).

B. I think one reason we struggle with what we think about God is because he is not physical. Susan and Lucy had a real, live, physical lion ... a potent reminder of who Aslan is. But we do not. It is like there is nothing for our senses to grasp onto.

Israel’s response in 3:16 is striking: it is all about the posture of their heart, yet they preserve their response in a physical scroll, something they can hold onto.

IV. Conclusion

Donald Miller says: “If you ask me, the way to tell if a person knows God for real, I mean knows the real God, is that they will fear Him ... It seems like, if you really knew the God who understands the physics of our existence, you would operate a little more cautiously, a little more compassionately, a little less like you are the center of the universe” (Searching for God Knows What, 38).

V. Regen Reflection Q’s

A. “Our God is not safe, but he is good.” What do you think about this statement?

B. In what ways may you have taken yourself too seriously? In what ways may you have taken God too lightly?

C. What do you think of Israel’s response to God in 3:16? How can we model this kind of response in our own lives and community?

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Monday, August 24, 2009

The Gospel in Action

It still surprises me when I see the Gospel in action! As disciples and followers of Christ it is our job to set the very words of Jesus in motion. It’s God’s desire that we act out the words he took the time to inspire. Yesterday I went to hang out with and get to know a guy who I feel God is setting apart to be a world changer. Aside from that something else caught my eye. The life of a twenty something is usually one busy day after the next, with work, church and social commitments begging all of their waking attention. So when I see them spending their time doing what God called us to do, it reminds me why I do what I do. It is a renewal for me; it inspires me to be more Christ-like myself. I love when the people I influence, influence me.

I left this post intentionally vague for a reason. The point is Jesus works in small doses, when we act on the behalf of another out of love we act on Jesus. The kingdom of Heaven is expanded in inches and when we share our time with those around us, our light can’t help but shine. We may not be able to heal physical sickness with a touch, but we can mend brokenness with our time. Make a difference in someone’s life today with your time.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Giving God Our Best (Malachi 1:6-14, 3:6-12)

I. Introduction

A. Illustration: Texting while driving

“Fourteen states already ban texting while driving, though three states, including New York, have passed measures that have yet to take effect. A spate of reports has highlighted the dangers of distracted driving. A study released in late July by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that truck drivers face a risk of a crash or near crash 23 times as much when texting than when not doing so. A study from the University of Utah using a driving simulator found that college students faced a crash risk eight times as much when texting” (New York Times, accessed August 16, 2009).

“David Strayer, a psychology professor at the University of Utah, estimates that only 2% of people are able to safely multitask while driving” (TIME Magazine, accessed August 16, 2009).

In order to type a coherent sentence, texting gets the best of your attention, while driving gets whatever attention is leftover. You simply don’t have the capacity to give your best to both.

B. In life, we all have responsibilities (work, school, etc.) and relationships (family, friends, etc.). Like texting while driving, the fact is that we will give our very best to some of these things, and everything else will get whatever time, energy, talent, emotion, etc. we have leftover. Something or someone is getting your best. Something or someone is getting your leftovers.

II. Giving God Our Best (1:6-14)

In v. 6, YHWH issues a scathing rebuke to the people of Israel, and the priests in particular. He is their father, yet they have not shown him honor. He is their master, yet they have not shown him respect. YHWH brings this charge against them: “It is you, O priests, who show contempt for my name.” How do they respond? They play innocent. “How have we shown contempt for your name?” Even the religious leaders of Israel do not fear YHWH.

In vv. 8, 13-14, we see that they are bringing blind, crippled, diseased, and blemished animals to offer as sacrifices. This says something about the posture of their heart towards God. What audacity! They would never think of giving such a gift to their fellow man or to the governor over them. There is no fear of the Lord to be seen here. They are not giving God their best. They are giving him their leftovers.

Do you give God your best, or do you give him your leftovers? Do you live for God halfheartedly, secretly hoping he will not notice? What is the posture of your heart?

III. Giving to God Generously (3:6-12)

Last week, we saw that YHWH says to Israel: “I have loved you.” He then goes on to trace this love all the way back to Jacob. Here in chapter three, YHWH says: “I the Lord do not change. So you, O descendents of Jacob, are not destroyed” (v. 6). It is because of his unchanging love that YHWH spares Israel despite their sin and folly and rebellion. “‘Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,’ says the Lord Almighty” (v. 7). This is the key verse for the book of Malachi. This is God’s heart for his people.

YHWH levels another charge against Israel: “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me” (v. 8). Once again, Israel plays innocent. “How do we rob you?” He tells them that they are robbing him by not bringing in the whole tithe. They are holding something back. How we relate to God is a serious business. In the book of Malachi, the people of Israel take themselves too seriously, and they take God too lightly.

If only Israel will give generously and bring in the whole tithe, God promises that he will bless them abundantly (vv. 10-12).

God is generous. He gives us life and breath and everything else (Acts 17:25). We are made in the image and likeness of God, so we should be generous too. We should give God our best and give generously of our time, our talent, and our treasure.

IV. Application

A. Time

1. LOVE: We need to give generously of our time to invest in loving relationships. Paul Hiebert, late professor of mission and anthropology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, says: “Alicja Iwanska, a Polish anthropologist, pointed out how difficult [it can be to understand all people as fully human]. In a study of Americans of the Northwest coast, she concluded that they divide their world into three broad categories: ‘scenery,’ such as the mountains, weather, and strange places, which provide the staple for most conversations; ‘machinery,’ such as tractors, cars, books, pencils, and other items used to do a job; and ‘people.’ She found, however, that they tended to see American Indians as ‘scenery’ and transient laborers as ‘machinery.’ Only friends and relatives were really ‘people’” (Hiebert, Cultural Anthropology, 41). Maybe one reason we have such a hard time loving people is that we do not see them as God sees them. We need to repent and give God our best in loving the people he has created.

2. SERVICE: We need to give God our best by cultivating and practicing a servant’s heart. There are opportunities to serve all around, but we must discipline ourselves to take those opportunities. Jesus was a servant (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45), so anyone who claims to be his disciple likewise ought to be a servant.

B. Talent

1. INSIDE THE LOCAL CHURCH: If you are part of a local church family, you should seek out ways to put your gifts, skills, talents, and abilities to good use there. How can you support the life and mission of your church?

2. OUTSIDE THE LOCAL CHURCH: Whatever gifts, skills, talents, and abilities you possess are not yours to keep for building your own kingdom. They are yours to give away in building God’s kingdom. What is your vocation? What might be the intersection of your vocation and the kingdom of God? Are there ways you can be more kingdom-oriented in your day-to-day living?

C. Treasure

1. THE LOCAL CHURCH: If you are part of a local church family, you should give generously of your finances to support the life and mission of the church. You can write a check or set up a monthly electronic funds transfer (EFT). Whatever the case, you should create margin in your budget for both planned giving and spontaneous giving.

2. THE COMMON GOOD: Disciples of Jesus should be the best kind of citizens and contributors to society. Loving our neighbor dictates that we work for the common good. We have incredible resources for giving generously to help the poor and needy, both at home and abroad. Write a check. Sponsor a child. Get involved in micro-finance loans. There are all kinds of ways that you can make your money work for the common good of society.

A report in the journal Science said “a team of economists and psychologists at the University of Oregon said they found that donating money to charity activates regions of the brain associated with pleasure” (Mitchum, “Warm Glow of Giving Isn’t Your Imagination,” source, accessed June 20, 2007). God created you to be generous! Once again, this includes both planned giving and spontaneous giving.

V. Conclusion

Think about it: the times in life when you have felt most fully alive are times when you were giving, not times when you were taking. God created you to be generous! So when you give, you feel his pleasure. Giving is, in many ways, the pathway to human flourishing.

God is generous. He gives us life and breath and everything else (Acts 17:25). We are made in the image and likeness of God, and being generous is part of bearing his image. The story of YHWH and Israel in the book of Malachi reminds us that we should give generously toward God and give God our best.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Dark Night of the Soul (Malachi 1:1-5, 3:13-15)

I. Introduction

A. Review: Malachi comes at the end of the OT chronologically. It is a time when Israel no longer takes God seriously --> so they grow weary of covenant-keeping --> so they turn rebellious.

Last week’s big idea: “ ‘Return to me, and I will return to you,’ says the LORD Almighty” (3:7).

B. So we are unpacking this idea of returning to God. In my exposition of this idea last week and in the review just now, you probably thought to yourself, “Well, that makes sense.” And it does: it seems reasonable. In fact, if it were up to reason alone, we would probably all return to God. But it is not up to reason alone. Human beings are more complicated than that. Returning to God must involve our whole person. And this means that emotions are involved. What if we know that we ought to return to God, but we don’t feel like returning to him? We are complex beings, and oftentimes our soul might be conflicted within us.

II. The Dark Night of the Soul

(1) “How long will Our Lord stay away?” (2) “For within me everything is icy cold” (3) “The more I want Him the less I am wanted” (4) “He is destroying everything in me” (5) “No faith—no love—no zeal” (6) “I understand a little the tortures of hell—without God” (7) “I did not know that love could make one suffer so much—this is of longing—of pain human but caused by the divine” (8) “The child of your love — and now become as the most hated one” (9) “If there be no God—there can be no soul—If there is no soul then Jesus—You also are not true” (10) “I no longer pray” (11) “I am perfectly happy to be like this to the end of life” (12) “I have come to love the darkness” (source, accessed August 11, 2009).

These are the words of Mother Teresa. They are excerpts from her personal letters (released in the 2007 book Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light). In 1948 she began ministering to the poor and suffering in the slums of Calcutta. It was not long before the dark night of the soul described above set in, and it stayed with her for the rest of her life. How could a woman so famous for spreading the love of God to others experience such a deep struggle with the love and presence of God in her own life?

III. YHWH loves Jacob, but hates Esau (1:1-5)

A. “ ‘I have loved you,’ says the LORD. ‘But you ask, “How have you loved us?” ’ ” (1:2) What a way to start the book! What insolence on the part of Israel to ask this question of the loving Creator Redeemer God. What audacity.

I am learning that whenever something in the Old Testament does not make sense or causes me to do a double take, it often helps to step back and get some perspective. Perhaps a quick history lesson will shed some light on Israel’s question. How does this local narrative fit into the larger metanarrative of the Old Testament? Of the Bible?

“Even a cursory reading of the Bible reveals that when God wants to get something done He starts by selecting a dude to lead that change and works through that dude. Examples include sparing humanity (Noah), founding a nation (Abraham), liberating a nation (Moses), establishing a throne (David), building a temple (Solomon), preparing hearts (John the Baptizer), reaching Gentiles (Paul), and redeeming creation (Jesus)” (source, accessed April 13, 2008).

God uses Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to found the nation of Israel, and he makes some pretty big promises to them. God promises Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that they will always have descendents. He promises that these descendents will always have a title deed to the Promised Land (boundary markers: the Nile River and the Euphrates River), which was actually inhabited by other peoples when the covenant was cut. God even promised to bless all of the peoples of the world through the fulfillment of his promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. These are big promises. However, somewhere around 1876 B.C. the nation of Israel becomes enslaved in Egypt. They remain slaves for over four hundred years. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. Then, finally, God raises up a man named Moses to liberate the nation. In 1446 B.C., Moses leads the children of Israel on a climactic exodus out of Egypt. The Exodus story is the most prominent story of deliverance in the Old Testament; in fact, it is sometimes called the Cross of the Old Testament. In 1406 B.C., Israel enters into the Promised Land. Things are looking up. However, the people quickly degenerate into self-destructive patterns of sin and folly and rebellion. This sad chapter in Israel’s history is recorded for us in the book of Judges.

Up to this point, God has been Israel’s king. They are a theocratic nation in the truest sense of the word. In 1050 B.C., God begins mediating his reign over Israel through a king. The first king of Israel is King Saul. The second king of Israel is King David (reigned 1011-971 B.C.). God makes some pretty big promises to King David. He promises David that the Davidic throne and Davidic kingdom will be everlasting. However, in 586 B.C. Babylon conquers Jerusalem and lays waste to the temple. By the looks of things, the Davidic throne and Davidic kingdom have come to an end. “Why, it must often have been asked, should we serve a god who has just lost the last war? Why should we not run after Marduk, the god of Babylonia? After all, has he not conquered Yahweh, even as Yahweh himself earlier defeated the gods of Egypt and of Canaan?” (Isbell, Malachi, 13). On this note, the Jews are exiled to captivity in Babylon.

But God is faithful, even when we are not. He delivers Israel from captivity in Babylon just as he delivered them from slavery in Egypt all those years ago. How great is our God! But wait, the captivity in Babylon was quite dissimilar from the slavery in Egypt. (1) The Jews actually experienced some limited freedom in Babylon, and many of them actually enjoyed material success within the confines of their limited freedom. (2) Upon returning to Jerusalem after the Exile, the Jews found both the temple and the city walls in ruins. This was a far cry from the grandeur of Babylon. (3) The Jews were an agricultural people and they found the land very difficult to work upon their return. (4) Those who had prospered in Babylon were now using their good fortunes to take advantage of fellow Jews who were less fortunate by lending money at an exorbitant rate of interest, a practice called “usury” (Isbell, Malachi, 15-16). Under these conditions, the Jews cry out to the LORD: “How have you loved us?” This was their dark night of the soul.

B. God used Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to found a nation. Isaac, the son of Abraham, had two sons: Jacob and Esau. In vv. 2-4, God reminds Israel of how he has set himself against Esau and his descendents, the Edomites. Mustering all of the impetus and insolence of Babel, Edom says: “Though we have been crushed, we will rebuild the ruins.” But God assures Israel that he will utterly destroy Edom. By painting this stark contrast between his dealings with Jacob and his dealings with Edom, God demonstrates the incredible favor and faithfulness that he has shown to Israel (the descendents of Jacob). God says to his people: “I have loved you.”

In v. 5, God reminds Israel that it is not about them anyways. It is all about God, and making his name great among the nations.

IV. Israel speaks against YHWH’s justice (3:13-15)

A. Israel says: “It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourner before the LORD Almighty?” (v. 14)

Commentator Joyce G. Baldwin says: “Whereas most of the prophets lived and prophesied in days of change and political upheaval, Malachi and his contemporaries were living in an uneventful waiting period, when God seemed to have forgotten His people enduring poverty and foreign domination in the little province of Judah. Zerubbabel and Joshua, whom Haggai and Zechariah had indicated as God’s chosen men for the new age, had died. True the Temple had been completed, but nothing momentous had occurred to indicate that God’s presence had returned to fill it with glory, as Ezekiel had indicated would happen (Ezk. 43:4). The day of miracles had passed with Elijah and Elisha. The round of religious duties continued to be carried on, but without enthusiasm. Where was the God of their fathers? Did it really matter whether one served Him or not? Generations were dying without receiving the promises (cf. Heb. 11:13) and many were losing their faith” (Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, 211).

Again and again in the Gospels, Jesus calls his followers to self-sacrifice. Maybe you have tried to follow Jesus. Maybe you have tried to live a good, moral life and do the whole Christian thing. Have you ever found yourself saying, what’s the point? What’s in it for me? When is this ever going to end? Where is the rest for my soul that Jesus promised? What’s the deal?

B. Israel goes so far as to speak against God’s justice: “But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper and even those who challenge God escape.” (v. 15)

Justice is “what is right.” What is right is determined by what God says (Torah). What God says is determined by who God is (just, holy, loving, triune, etc.). So the nature of God determines what justice is. God is “what is right” (source, accessed August 13, 2009).

Israel goes so far as to question God’s justice. They question whether he is right. They say, maybe he is wrong. In fact, they are sure he is wrong.

Israel has used their dark night of the soul as an occasion to turn their back on God, rather than turning to him.

V. Bringing It Home

A. Personal application: I don’t know what your dark night of the soul is. Maybe it is in your past. Maybe it is still in your future. Maybe you are in the midst of it right now.

Maybe you had to break up with your boyfriend or girlfriend. Maybe you lost a job. Maybe your fiancé broke off the engagement. Maybe you lost a child to miscarriage. Maybe you have had to bury a parent. Maybe you have had to bury both of your parents. Maybe your church split. Maybe the business you started has gone under. Maybe you have been trying the whole Christian thing, but you feel no connection to God. Maybe you have felt no connection to God for years. Maybe you are burnt out. Maybe you are asking, what’s the point? Maybe you are asking, “God, how have you loved me?”

I don’t know what your dark night of the soul is. But I do know you must answer this question: will you use your dark night of the soul as an occasion to turn your back on God, or will you use it as an occasion to turn to him?

B. Public illustration: Mother Teresa endured her agonizing dark night of the soul for over forty years, until the end of her life. Yet she did not use it as an occasion to turn her back on God. She used it as an occasion to turn to him and demonstrate his love to others.

VI. Conclusion

A. Excerpt from Chapter 8 of C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters: “Humans are amphibians—half spirit and half animal. (The Enemy’s determination to produce such a revolting hybrid was one of the things that determined Our Father to withdraw his support from Him.) As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time. This means that while their spirit can be directed to an eternal object, their bodies, passions, and imaginations are in continual change, for to be in time means to change. Their nearest approach to constancy, therefore, is undulation—the repeated return to a level from which they repeatedly fall back, a series of troughs and peaks. If you had watched your patient carefully you would have seen this undulation in every department of his life—his interest in his work, his affection for his friends, his physical appetites, all go up and down.

“. . . Now it may surprise you to learn that in His efforts to get permanent possession of a soul, He [the Enemy] relies on the troughs even more that on peaks; some of His special favourites have gone through longer and deeper troughs than anyone else. The reason is this. To use a human is primarily food; our aim is the absorption of its will into ours, the increase of our own area of selfhood at its expense. But the obedience which the Enemy demands of men is quite a different thing. One must face the fact that all the talk about His love for men, and His service being perfect freedom, is not (as one would gladly believe) mere propaganda, but an appalling truth. He really does want to fill the universe with a lot of loathsome little replicas of Himself—creatures whose life, on its miniature scale, will be qualitatively like His own, not because He has absorbed them but because their wills freely conform to His.

“. . . Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon the universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”

B. Regen Reflection Q’s

1. What do you think about C. S. Lewis’ commentary on troughs and peaks?

2. In your experience, what role have emotions played in wandering from God? In returning to him?

3. Do you think Jesus ever had a “dark night of the soul”? How did he respond? What does being “in Christ” mean for us in our troughs and struggles and times of emotional peril, when we find ourselves weary or rebellious?

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Introduction to Malachi

I. “A Personal Relationship with God”

A. What are the characteristics of a good, healthy long-term relationship?

B. What are the obstacles to achieving a good relationship?

C. These things are true of our relationship with God as well (i.e. same characteristics, same obstacles).

II. Observing the Text

A. [Read the whole text, pausing after each chapter to summarize.]

B. What problems do you see in the relationship between YHWH and Israel?

C. What is the solution to these problems (as presented in the text)?

III. The Root of the Problem

A. Israel no longer takes God seriously. They are incredulous. They have ceased to hear YHWH’s voice or see YHWH’s hand in their lives. Also, they have forgotten the past.

B. God’s grace to Israel:

1. He handpicked them from among the pagans to be his people (Abraham’s story).

2. He redeemed them from Egypt.

3. He brought them into the Promised Land against all odds.

4. He gave them Torah.

5. He kept his covenant with them (consider the Babylonian Captivity, 3:6, etc.).

IV. The Result of the Problem

A. Israel no longer takes God seriously --> so they grow weary of covenant-keeping --> so they turn rebellious. Isn’t this so often what happens with us?

B. Weary:

1. On the verge of the Silent Period.

2. Zerrubbabel and Joshua had died, with no apparent successors.

3. The temple was rebuilt, but it had not been filled with YHWH’s glory, as pictured in Ezekiel 43:4.

4. The age of miracles had ended with Elijah and Elisha.

5. Torah seemed burdensome.

C. Rebellious:

1. Blemished sacrifices on the altar.

2. Divorce, foreign wives, and foreign gods.

3. Partiality in the law (e.g. taking advantage of the poor, etc.)

4. Withholding tithes and offerings.

5. Questioning God’s justice.

V. Conclusion

Big idea: “ ‘Return to me, and I will return to you,’ says the LORD Almighty” (3:7).

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Christian Living (2 Peter 3:14-18)

I. Review (vv. 14-15)

A. Context: Second Peter 3 ... will Jesus judge sin and sinners or not? The big idea Peter ends up with is “new creation.”

B. In v. 14, Peter moves to talking about our response to the coming new creation promised by Jesus.

II. The Culture of a Faith Community (v. 16)

A. The culture of a faith community is determined by how that community handles the Scriptures—both what is taught and what is modeled. (Compare v. 5 with v. 16).

B. “Theology is the result of Scripture, clarified by tradition, explained by reason, and tested by experience” (Tenny).

III. The Best Defense is a Good Offense (vv. 17-18)

A. Compare 3:17 with 1:10 ... Peter is compelled by care for his readers.

B. 3:18 is Peter’s deep-seated desire for his readers ... our knowledge of Christ gives us (1) grace and peace in abundance, 1:2; (2) everything we need for life and godliness, 1:3; (3) escape from the corruption of the world, 3:20. Therefore, it is in our interests to grow in this knowledge!

C. Bounded-set vs. centered set.

IV. Regen Reflection Q’s

A. What things have you found to lead you closer to Christ?

B. What things have you found to lead you away from Christ?

C. What will you take-away from this message?

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Christian Hope (2 Peter 3:1-13)

I. Introductory Discussion

Three discussion questions:

A. What problems in the world cause you the most grief and anguish?

B. What do you see as the solution to these problems?

C. What is the hope of the Christian (more generally)?

II. Three Broken Relationships

A. Humanity’s relationship with God is broken.

B. Human persons’ relationships with each other are broken. (Cf. community group study on 06-25-09.)

C. Humanity’s relationship with the earth, its realm of sovereignty, is broken. [Watch excerpt from Sylvia Earle’s TEDTalk, 10:36-12:06 min.]

D. Working conclusion: God created everything good: you, me, the earth, the entire cosmos. It was all created good. And it has all been broken by sin and death and decay.

III. Exposition of vv. 1-9

A. In Peter’s day, scoffers were scoffing at Christian hope (vv. 3-4). This still happens today.

B. Peter argues against them by pointing to three big acts of God in human history: creation itself, the flood of Noah’s day, and the end of history as we know it (vv. 5-7).

C. So why are there still problems in the world that cause us grief and anguish, two thousand years after the King of Kings and Lord of Lords walked upon this earth? Simply put, because the Lord’s patience means salvation (vv. 8-9).

IV. Reaction to vv. 10-13

A. What is your first reaction to these verses?

B. Read Isaiah 24:4-6; Rom 8:18-23; Acts 3:18-21; Matt 19:28-30; Col 1:19-20; Isaiah 65:17-25, 66:22-24; & Rev 21:1-5, 22-27, 22:1-6. What light do these shed on the hope of the Christian?

C. Read Matt 5:12; Luke 16:22; John 14:2-4; & 2 Cor 5:1. Compare and contrast these to the previous set of verses. Which seem more clear? Which seem more ambiguous? What light do these verses shed on the hope of the Christian?

V. Exposition of vv. 10-13

A. Interpretation

1. “[W]e should note that the translation of v. 10 in some versions (e.g., KJV; ASV; NASB), which has ‘the earth and everything in it’ being ‘burned up,’ is almost certainly incorrect. The text is notoriously difficult, but almost all modern versions and commentators assume that the reading ‘will be found’ is original. What it means is more difficult to determine, but perhaps the idea of being ‘laid bare’ before God for judgment is the best option” (Moo, JETS, 7).

2. “[T]he language of burning and melting that is found in vv. 7, 10, and 12 must be read against the background of the OT, where the language is often a metaphorical way of speaking of judgment. And even if some reference to physical fire is present, the fire need not bring total destruction” (Ibid.).

3. “[T]he Greek word for ‘destroy’ in vv. 10, 11, and 12 is a verb that denotes, as Louw-Nida put it, ‘to destroy or reduce something to ruin by tearing down or breaking to pieces’ . . . ‘Destruction’ does not necessarily mean total physical annihilation, but a dissolution or radical change in nature. The widespread metaphorical sense of the venerable English verb ‘undo’ might accurately convey something of the sense. When a character in a C. S. Lewis novel exclaims that he is ‘undone,’ he does not mean that he has ceased to exist but that the very nature of his being has been destroyed . . . The parallel with what God did when he ‘destroyed’ the first world in the Flood of Noah suggests that God will ‘destroy’ this world not by annihilating it but by radically transforming it into a place fit for resurrected saints to live in forever” (Ibid.).

B. The big picture (i.e. 2 Peter in the context of the whole NT and all of Scripture)

1. The teaching of Romans 8 about the liberation of the cosmos

2. The doctrine of the resurrection of the body (which demands a significant continuity of some kind between this world and the next)

C. Eschatological living (v. 11)

VI. Conclusion

Big idea: God created everything good: you, me, the earth, the entire cosmos. It was all created good. And it has all been broken by sin and death and decay. And God wants to redeem all of it.

(Download mp3)

For further reading, see “Nature in the New Creation: New Testament Eschatology and the Environment” by Doug Moo in Journal of the Evangelistic Theological Society. I highly recommend this article. It is well worth your time.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Missional Living Series Week 5: The Personal Mission of Believers

Here's the link to the last week in our Missional Living Series: Part 5

The Response to Hope: Our Personal Mission

Passages for Study: Acts 17:26‐28; Ephesians 2:10; and
2 Corinthians 5:14‐21

Over the last four weeks we have discussed the Call to Mission we have in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Reason for the Mission we see in our utter depravity because of sin, the great Message of the Mission in the work of Jesus Christ upon the cross, and, last week, that the corporate body of the universal Church is to be the instrument by which Christ is revealed as the hope of the world. This week we move from the idea of mission to the application of mission in our individual lives. As we’ve discussed, in order to understand the mission of God we have to understand the story He is writing and the part we play. We have defined the mission of God as a redemptive mission in which we as His children have been given the ministry and message of reconciliation. Each member of the body of Christ plays his or her part in working out and proclaiming this great mission. We call this “Missional Living.”

Missional Living starts with understanding that God has placed us in this moment in history, His story, for His purpose (His mission). No matter where we are or what we do in life, this is the purpose of each believer whom Christ reconciled – to live out the ministry and share the message that God is redeeming man and creation to a right relationship to Himself through the gospel of His Son, Jesus Christ. Once we realize this, then we can move into fleshing out how our gifts, talents, resources and life can be used for this purpose. This is Missional Living.

Our personal mission is to use our gifts, talents, resources and life to glorify God by being ministers of reconciliation in every venue of our lives. For some this is engaging in the lives of their neighbors, for others it is moving to a “hard” part of town or the world to engage the poor, and yet for all of us it is the call by God to live missionally where we are.


This Thursday at 7pm we are going to be looking at one of the most famous (or infamous) missionaries in the old testament Jonah. We will be looking at the ramifications of obedience and disobedience as well as what it means to be a witness. Hope to see you there!