It sure is an interesting time to talk about Authority.
We had an Inauguration Day this past week.
Joseph Biden Jr. was inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States.
Like it or not…
He now has authority.
Authority to issue executive orders.
Authority to veto legislation.
Authority to enter nuclear launch codes.
For some people this is exciting.
For others it isn’t.
There has been a change in Authority for the United States of America.
But this sermon series is not talking about that authority.
It isn’t talking about an authority that changes.
It’s not an authority that lasts for four, maybe eight years; but one that lasts forever.
Not an authority that governs only the within state lines; but one that governs the outer rims of our galaxy.
Not an authority that resides in an oval office; but one that resides in heaven.
Over the next weeks we will dig into God’s authority – specifically – in Jesus. But before we dig in, a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth. Your Word is the truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; open our ears to hear what you want us to hear; and open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Story
Today’s lesson is from Mark 1:14-15.
After John was put in prison, Jesus went to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God. “The time is fulfilled,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near! Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mk. 1:14-15)
This is the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. He wasn’t yet very well known.
Prior to this, John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, had a successful ministry. He had been preaching in the wilderness about God’s kingdom, calling people to repentance, and gathering crowds of people around him.
Which is what got him put in prison.
King Herod, the official authority for the Jewish people, had met John.
He had liked John.
But when Herod had his brother put to death because he wanted to sleep with his sister-in-law,
and John the Baptist called that an abuse of authority,
and also mentioned that he would have to mention to God’s authority for it...
Herod put him in prison.
To shut him up.
Suddenly, there were crowds of people who had been following John the Baptist without a leader, wondering when this kingdom of God that John had been talking about might come…
The kingdom of God came.
Down the road.
As Jesus was going along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea, since they were fishermen. (v.16)
Jesus arrived on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. This 64-square-mile lake was a bustling commercial center for anglers. Delicious fish like the Tillapia Galillea, the Barbel carp and Kinneseret sardines (which taste delicious picked and on a sandwich) drew towns to crop up around the shores. There, fishermen built docks and made their way into the lake on a daily basis hoping to catch enough fish for their family to survive.
On this particular day, a longtime fisherman named Peter was on his dock. He sat on an overturned bucket as he worked to repair the portions of their linen fishing net that had been snagged on the rocks yesterday.
He slugged his coffee.
And spit it out.
Hey bro! I thought I told you to keep your coffee close to you!
His brother, Andrew, answered with a large rope of his shoulder: How do you know it’s mine?
It’s got cream in it. I’m Peter. I drink mine bold.
Andrew sighed as he set the rope into the boat.
Yours is in the boat. See it? You better get in and get it anyways so we can get out to sea. It’s been a rough couple of days, and we haven’t had much to sell to the merchants.
I know. It’s those bloody Romans. Their taxes take such a cut of our profits. It’s why I was up late at the local pub. I was trying to double my money in Blackjack.
Peter leaned in real close: And I think I will. I figured out a trick. Can you spot me a few dollars for tonight?
Andrew’s crunched his nose: You did stay out late. Your breath smells like an old Hebrew Light! Tell you what. I’ll spot you a couple hundred fish and I’ll spot you a couple dollars.
At that moment, their ears perked up.
They could hear someone approaching from the distance.
At first, Peter thought it might be one of the other fishermen come to make fun of him or maybe Hezekiah, their fishing companion from up the road come to borrow the pliers.
But this man was neither a fisherman.
Nor was he in need of pliers.
And he certainly didn’t dance around the point.
Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. (v.17)
Peter and Andrew looked up.
They knew this man.
A couple of months back Andrew had ventured out to listen to John the Baptist. Not that he normally did such things, but that he thought John might have the answers to get his life back on course. (Plus, he could check out the fishing in the Jordan River).
But on this particular day, he remembered seeing John and this stranger.
John had pointed at him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the World.” (John 1:29)
Andrew was familiar with lambs.
They all were.
Lambs were the sacrifice that their religion demanded to take away their sins.
And Andrew had plenty of sins.
Andrew ran to get his brother…
Could he be…
Might he be…
The one that his mom told him about when they were younger.
The one that would save them from their sins?
The one that would save them from this miserable life?
His brother humored him and met Jesus.
When Jesus saw him eye to eye, Jesus looked at him and said,
I will call you Peter.
You are a rock!
Peter had loved that.
A change in identity.
Maybe this Jesus could change his life.
And now was the chance to find out.
Peter looked at Andrew.
Andrew looked at him.
Immediately they left their nets and followed him. (v.18)
To be fair, they didn’t follow him very far before Jesus stopped near a rival fishing company.
If you could call it a rivalry.
This was Zebedee and Son’s fishery. Zebedee had been in the business his whole life. He had quite the operation. Not only did his sons work for him, but he had employees out with him casting nets and raking in fish.
His business was more well-known than Peter and Andrew’s.
It may be one of the reasons that Mark, the guy who wrote this, mentioned Zebedee in Scripture.
I imagine his fish were sold all over Galilee.
The little pickled sardines in a jar with his face plastered over it.
Currently, Zebedee was out in the boats with his sons and the servants.
They were more efficient than Peter and John having been at it all morning.
After all, when you’re a bigger business, you have bigger expectations from clients.
With bigger expectations, you need a bigger crew.
Zebedee knew that.
His sons knew that.
Jesus knew that.
He just had a different business in mind.
Immediately Jesus called them. They left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him. (v.20)
II. Authority Worth Following
Why does Peter leave his source of income?
Why does Andrew leave their gear?
Why do John and James leave their dad?
What made Jesus so an authority that was worth dropping everything they were doing to follow him?
(1) Jesus has Authority to Change YOUR IDENTITY
Because the sea’s the limit on the various ways that Peter had been identified prior to this:
Forever outside God’s kingdom.
That last one.
Because when people treat you that way long enough.
You start to believe it.
Jesus has authority to change all that.
Because he’s God!
There’s no one more believable!
He actually knows your true identity.
He actually knows all your sin.
He actually knows all your guilt.
All your shame.
All your struggles.
And he took that identity on as His!
He died for you.
He rose for you.
He calls you forgiven.
And a part of his kingdom!
Your identity in Jesus is citizen of God’s kingdom!
Which was the whole change for Peter!
Rather than keep him out of his kingdom, Jesus invited him to be an active part of it.
Implying that he wanted him in his kingdom.
God wanted Peter.
Peter, the fishermen!
Peter, the non-scholar.
Peter, without a high school degree!
Yes, that Peter.
Wants you too.
But it’s more than that…
(2) Jesus’ Authority Changes Your Purpose
Jesus told these fishermen – “I want you to be fishers of people.”
It always makes me think of some fishing pole with a hook on it.
But instead of having a worm or a minnow or a little rubber frog on it.
It’d have some money.
Or an iPhone.
Or a baby Yoda plushie.
Or spoilers for the next episode of WandaVision.
But that’s not what Jesus means.
He wants these disciples to help him share the Gospel.
To help him tell others about God’s love
To help him tell others about Jesus’ saving work.
To help him “catch” others for his kingdom.
That’s your purpose too.
Your purpose is to fish.
And children, for that matter.
Because right now, people need Jesus
They are sad.
Jesus cures all of these.
I’ll tell you this – If I didn’t have Jesus in this pandemic, it’s quite likely I’d be lying face-down in a gutter somehow this morning.
But because of Jesus, I have hope.
And because of Jesus, you have hope.
And that’s hope that other need.
And he has given you a new PURPOSE.
III. WHAT NOW?
(1) Follow Jesus!
If you haven’t followed him before, Jesus is calling for you to do so right now.
If you have followed him, but you lapsed over 2020…He’s calling you to do it again.
It’s as if he’s on the banks of the Sea of “Insert your street name here” and calling:
I will give you a new identity.
I will give you purpose.
You will work with me and serve in my kingdom.
And when you hear that follow him!
Fulfill your purpose.
Share the Gospel!
And this changes how you live your life.
Your main purpose isn’t…
… to become a millionaire.
… to have an HGTV-like home.
…to get a million followers on Instagram.
…to get everybody else to be in the same political party as you.
Your purpose it to fish for people.
By sharing Jesus’ hope.
(2) Drop the nets!
Did you notice what Peter did once he heard Jesus’ call?
He dropped his nets and left them behind.
John and James, did you see what they did?
They left their dad and left them behind.
There was nothing more important than following Jesus.
The same is true for you too.
Sometimes nets get in the way.
It may be actual fishing.
But it could be work.
It could be money.
It could be social media.
It could….just about anything.
Now’s your chance.
I’ve been seeing a lot of people go online and give their political thoughts lately.
I’m angry about this.
I’m angry about that.
I’m angry about this and that and if you aren’t; you can stop being my friend.
Political groups can be a kind of net.
We busy ourselves with trying to get everyone to think the same political thoughts we do.
Drop the political net.
Pick up the net of the Gospel.
What would it look like if we shared the Gospel as much as we shared our political thoughts?
Or if we shared the truth of our resurrected Savior as much as shared our conspiracy theories?
When you drop more Gospel nets, you catch more fish for God’s kingdom.
Which is what you want to do.
Because you are a fisher of people.
There’s one more word I want to take a look at.
It’s the adverb that appears right before the disciples’ reactions to Jesus.
It doesn’t say, “Later…they followed Jesus.”
or, “Later that week…they followed Jesus.”
Or even “after they cleaned everything up…they followed Jesus.”
Immediately, Peter and Andrew follow Jesus.
Immediately, John and James follow Jesus.
Immediately, God is calling you.
Immediately…will you follow?
I pray that you do. Amen.
In first grade, my class learned about gardening. Our teacher helped us cut off the tops of single-serve milk cartons, fill them with dirt, and push a tiny tomato seed into the soil. We watered the seeds, opened the shades near the window, and placed our cartons on the windowsill.
Then, we waited for them to grow.
About a month went by and the tomato plants had sprouted.
They even had nice green leaves on them.
Our teacher said we should take them home.
But I wanted my hands free for throwing the football after school, so I just took my plant and stuffed it into my desk. I’d take it home the next day.
About three months later…
It was the end of the year and we were cleaning out our desks.
It was then that I discovered my plant.
It was no longer green.
It was no longer even a tomato plant.
I had forgotten that an essential part of plant growth is sunlight.
And attention of any variety.
Without these essentials, the plant died.
Today is our last sermon in our REDO sermon series. Friends, if you want to increase your faith in God’s promises, grow your trust in his plans, and vibrantly trust in God’s love this year…
There is one thing that is essential for spiritual growth.
Before we discover it, a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth. Your Word is the truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; open our ears to hear what you want us to hear; and open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Growth Essential
The lesson for today comes from the book of 2 Timothy. It is a letter written by a senior pastor to a much younger pastor named Timothy.
Timothy needed advice because pastoring hadn’t been as easy as he had thought. Recently he had dealt with:
The busy stress of day-to-day pastoring (2:3)
Financial hardship (2:5)
Pointless arguments among his church (2:14-20)
Temptations to lust (2:22)
The fear of jailtime for preaching Jesus (3:10-13)
Timothy was quickly learning that pastoring wasn’t just preaching, pats on the back, and potlucks.
It was hard.
Cause life is hard.
His mentor, Paul, wrote him a letter to encourage him. In chapter 3, he gets to his main piece of advice.
Continue in the things you have learned and about which you have become convinced. You know from whom you learned them and that from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures… (2 Tim 3:14)
Maybe Timothy expected something different.
Maybe he expected Paul to tell him about a really good podcast to listen to…
…or send him a copy of Seven Steps to Excellent Pastoring.
…or a link to the latest Apple product to download and make 1st century pastoring so much simpler.
Instead, Paul tells him to remain in what he has been convinced of from childhood.
And what was Pastor Timothy convinced of from childhood?
That Jesus died on a cross for our sins.
That Jesus came back to life.
That Jesus would bring him home to heaven.
That Jesus loved him. And….
That the Bible told him so.
Continuing in GOD’S WORD is essential to spiritual growth.
This is still true today.
If you’re nervous about 2021…
If you’re feeling unsure about the pandemic…
If you’re rattled by recent events…
You don’t NEED some kind of exercise class.
You don’t NEED some kind of counselor.
You don’t NEED some kind of relaxation app.
Although all these things may be helpful.
You NEED God’s Word.
God’s Word is essential.
In fact, look at the verb in this sentence.
It says, “Continue in…” This gives you a hint of just how essential God’s Word is.
It doesn’t say, “Get into it for a minute.”
It does not mean, “Get into it on major holidays.”
It does not mean, “Get into it every third Sunday each for about an hour on your phone, while you’re totally distracted by all the notifications from Snapchat that keep popping up.”
Continue means repeated…
It means repetitive….
It means often…
It means being repeatedly, repetitively, and often in God’s Word.
If you don’t stay in God’s Word…
I was talking to a guy not that long ago that had been feeling pretty anxious.
I listened before pastorally reminding him that God was still in control.
That God still loved him.
That God would work all things for good.
He calmed down.
We made a plan to get into God’s Word to battle these anxieties.
About a month later, we met again. Same problem. I talked him down with God’s Word again.
Then, I asked, “Have you been able to spend time in God’s Word?”
He said, “Pastor, I can’t. I don’t have time.”
I wanted to say, “Shall we just schedule your next nervous breakdown appointment then?”
If you aren’t continuing in God’s Word, you cannot expect spiritual growth.
If you aren’t continuing in God’s Word, you can only expect spiritual regression.
If you aren’t continuing in God’s Word, the only thing that will grow is fear, anxiety, and insecurity.
God’s Word is essential for spiritual growth.
II. The Essential part of the Essential
Why is Paul asserting that God’s Word is so essential?
He goes on to describe a variety of essentials that God’s Word provides.
But first, he starts with the Essential essential:
The Holy Scriptures…are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. (v.15)
This is what Jesus was talking about in our Gospel reading.
The Pharisees stood around him and were clamoring:
The Scriptures are essential! You can’t do work on a Saturday!
The Scriptures are essential! Your disciples can’t eat with unwashed hands.
The Scriptures are essential! You must give 10% of your dill spices to God.
The Scriptures are essential! What gives you the right to tell everyone that YOU are so important, Jesus?
And Jesus listened.
And Jesus agreed.
And Jesus said:
You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you have eternal life. These are the Scripture that testify about me. (John 5:39)
In other words
The Scriptures are essential.
Because I am essential.
And I am the CONTENT of Scripture.
God’s Word connects us to the ESSENTIAL SAVIOR.
It’s like how water is essential to water polo.
If there’s no water, there’s no water polo.
Or like how castle is essential to sand castle.
If there’s no castle, there’s just sand.
Jesus is essential to salvation.
Without Jesus, there is no salvation.
And God’s Word is essential to Jesus.
Because without God’s Word, we wouldn’t know Jesus.
And we don’t have salvation.
So yes, Jesus saves you.
But in that God’s Word tells you about Jesus?
God’s Word saves you too.
Making it essential.
III. Essential for Growth
But there’s more essential benefits to time in God’s Word. Check out these rapid-fire blessings of God’s Word in verses 16 and 17: All Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, and for training in righteousness…
Because there’s no greater teacher than God.
He’s been around longer than anyone else.
He knows more than anyone else.
He knows more about you than anyone else.
God can’t wait to teach you.
Picture it like you are signed into your Google classroom room. It’s after school hours. God’s video screen pops up with a little caption under his picture that says, “Mr. God.” He unmutes himself. He says, “Any questions? I’d love to help.”
That’s what it’s like with God’s Word.
God is ready to give you his undivided attention and answers.
God, I owe a lot of money on my taxes. Should I lie about them?
God says, “An honest witness does not deceive.” (Proverbs 3:5)
I like this person. Should I sleep with them?
God says, “The Marriage bed must remain pure.” (Hebrews 13:4)
I have a neighbor who has these little statues that he gives money to. Should I worship other gods too?
God says: “You shall have no other gods.” (Exodus 20:3)
And, “An idol is nothing.” (1 Corinthians 12:3)
And finally, “There is no God beside me.” (Deuteronomy 4:25)
This Bible is the place God gives you knowledge and instruction.
Therefore, it is essential.
This is the one on the list that doesn’t sound very nice.
Who wants to be rebuked?
Hopefully, the answer is everyone.
Because rebukes are so important.
If your physical trainer tells you that you need to not stick your knees out in front of you when you squat, you might not like to hear that. It could even feel embarrassing.
But if you don’t get rebuked….
…Your muscles won’t get worked like they should, and you’ll lose maximum growth.
…You joints will get stressed improperly leading to all kinds of soreness later.
…your muscles fibers twitch too fast causing your tendons to snap and serious injury to occur.
It’s the same thing with God’s Word.
It contains rebukes.
They may be hard to hear.
But they are vitally important for growth.
In fact, could you do me this favor?
When you read a part of God’s Word and what it says makes you upset.
Can you stop assuming that God must be wrong?
Or that God’s Word must be wrong?
Maybe first, as sinful, imperfect humans, we should consider that we might be wrong?
Take a breath.
Bask in God’s love.
Listen to a God who loves us so much that he rebukes us.
The Bible was originally written in Greek. The word translated in this verse as “correction” in our English bibles is epanerthosin. It a word that’s was used in Greek writings about construction. It literally means “correction of the building” or “restoration.”
Epanerthosin occurs when you caulk the cracks in the foundation.
Epanerthosin occurs when you nail the siding back in place.
Epanerthosin occurs when you scrape, prime, and repaint the master bedroom.
Sometimes our thoughts need restoration.
God. I feel so unvaluable.
2 Peter 2:9 says, “You are chosen, royal, a person belonging to me.”
God, I feel so alone.
Matthew 28:21 says, “Surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.”
God, I don’t see how anything I’m going through will ever work for my good.
Romans 8:28 says, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.”
And with each of those loving words.
God taps his hammer.
God applies some caulk.
God restores your foundation of faith.
(4) Spiritual Proficiency
The fourth and final use of God’s Word is “training in righteousness.” It’s different from the other uses because this is the only one that is preemptive.
Rather than looking to restore what’s already broken.
Or rebuking what already happened.
Or gaining knowledge about the eternal truths of the past.
We are training in righteousness for battles that are coming up.
Did you know that’s what you’re doing when you read God’s Word?
You are training for battle!
You are training for battle against the devil.
You are training for battle against this sinful world.
You are training for battle against your own sinful flesh.
That might sound intimidating.
But perhaps it’s helpful to know, the one teaching you in the Bible?
He’s a black belt in righteousness.
He is the spiritual equivalent of a sensei in Karate, Jujitsu, aikido, judo, apkido, kung fu, capoeira, and crav magra all rolled into one.
Don’t be afraid.
God is the one training you in his Word.
And look very carefully at the end result of all this time in God’s Word. Verse 17 concludes the sentence this way: so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
For every good work.
Is there anything else that is that big of a catch all?
God’s Word equips you for when you’re feeling down.
God’s Word equips you for your family members gets COVID.
God’s Word equips you for when work is stressful.
God’s Word prepares you for when your finances are slim.
God’s Word prepares you for when temptations come.
Whatever may come in 2021…
God’s Word is what you need.
And God really wants you to know that.
Do you know why?
Because according to our Essential Savior.
You are essential.
Every year people like to make New Year’s resolutions.
But I noticed on social media that the New Year’s resolutions going into 2021 were a bit downgraded.
One person on Twitter listed their resolution as:
“Walk to the other side of the room.”
Another said they wanted to:
“Cut screen time from 12 hours a day to 11 hours a day.”
Another’s goal was to:
“Eat a vegetable.”
And my personal favorite resolution for 2021:
People made more serious resolutions, too. Most were based on wanting to improve their physical, mental, or emotional health.
But you know what I didn’t find on Twitter?
I never found a resolution that said, “Stop sinning.”
Or some kind of variant:
Stop looking at porn.
Stop being racist.
Stop yelling at my kids.
“Extinguishing sin” doesn’t usually make it onto New Year’s lists.
Yet the reality is that there is nothing that can more easily derails God’s plan for you in 2021 than sin.
Our goal today is find motivation from God’s Word to make battling sin a top priority in 2021.
Before we begin, a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth. Your Word is the truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; open our ears to hear what you want us to hear; and open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. What Sin says to Jesus
The lesson for today comes from Romans 6. The book of Romans is an excellent source of teaching. It’s similar to our Starting Point series. It’s a great summary of Biblical truth.
Chapters 1 & 2 teach about the plague of sin on all humanity.
The first half of chapter 3 teaches our deep need for a Savior
The second half of chapter 3 teaches that the world has a Savior in Jesus.
Chapter 4 & 5 teach the free forgiveness that is ours by faith in Jesus
Chapter 6 contains a shift in thought. It poses a rhetorical question that just about any sinful person has asked when hearing about the free forgiveness of Jesus.
What shall we say then? Shall we keep on sinning so that grace may increase? (Romans 6:1)
Imagine you did some Christmas shopping on Etsy. You bought $100 in crocheted Baby Yoda coffee koozies from your friend Sally. Now you get the bill.
But you don’t have the money.
So, you write an email explaining that you lost work during the pandemic, you don’t have the money, and could you have an extension to pay off the bill without interest.
And the unthinkable happens.
Your friend Sally says, ‘It’s ok. I’ll cancel. Keep the Koozies. You don’t owe me anything.”
How many of you would respond to that incredible gracious email with another email that says,
“Awesome! Then, can I order another 20 more koozies? If you want give me those for free too, I’ll write a really good review on your website.”
That’s not the appropriate response.
We can’t do the same thing with sin. Reread the rhetorical question and listen to Paul’s non-rhetorical answer: Shall we keep on sinning so that grace may increase? Absolutely not! (v.2a)
Another way of answering this might be:
Or definitely not!
Or positively not!
Or even…NO, NO, NO, NO, NO!!!!
Sin is an UNGODLY response to God’s grace.
It’s not thankfulness.
It’s not godly.
It’s selfishness and ungodliness.
It’s telling the one who unselfishly gave up his life on the cross, “Hmm…Thanks Jesus. But uh…can I add on a few more sins? I know it’ll probably hurt you, but I really like the way this sin feels on me.”
But the problem is deeper than that…
II. Sin’s Dangerous Path
Check out the next reason Paul gives for fighting against sin:
We died to sin. How can we go on living in it any longer? (v.2)
Have you ever been talking on your phone and it beeps? It’s telling you that it’s about to die. You need to plug the phone in or else you won’t be able to finish the conversation about the new Bachelor.
Or have you ever been on your laptop and suddenly the screen grows dim? It’s your computers way of conserving energy because it’s about to die and when it does, you’ll be unable to finish writing your blogpost about how awesome Doordash is.
Or you’re watching a squirrel play out on your lawn. It’s entertaining to watch it run back and forth – find a nut – open a nut – chew on a nut. Until the squirrel runs out into oncoming traffic and…you aren’t able to watch Mr. Squirrel anymore.
Death always means the end of something.
Sin always leads to death.
Sin always leads to THE END of something
Sin is the reason that physical death is a part of this world.
Sin is the reason your lungs end their breathing.
Sin is the reason your heart ends its beating.
Sin is the reason your brain neurons end their firing.
But sin can cause end of something long before your physical body ends…
Drinking too much means THE END of your chances of being a good parent.
Cheating on your spouse means THE END to your marriage.
Gossiping about your friends means DEATH to your friendships.
Being grouchy around everyone else at work means THE END of others wanting to be around you.
Being lazy at your job means THE END of your employment.
Posting racist comments means THE END of people’s good perception of you.
Staying away from God’s Word means THE END of your faith.
Bragging to everyone about how awesome you are at following Jesus means THE END of your chance of encouraging them to follow Jesus.
Sin is responsible for so much death.
Based on the law of culpability…
If we keep sinning, that makes us responsible too.
III. The Baptism Effect
But here’s the thing about Jesus.
He hates death.
He hates that sin causes death.
He hates that our sins means our death.
He underwent death to put to death our death-causing sin.
He underwent death to put to death our death causer, sin.
He underwent death to put to death…Death.
Or do you not know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? (v.3)
This changes at least one Trivia questions.
Do you guys know how many people died on Mount Calvary with Jesus?
You might be thinking two?
A criminal to his right.
A criminal to his left.
But that’s incorrect.
There’s one guy to his left.
And one guy to his right.
But you forgot about the one who died on the same cross as Jesus.
This is deep theology. Scripture isn’t talking about your physical body. Obviously, you are alive and well.
Scripture is talking about your sinful identity.
Your sinful identity died in Christ.
Your identity as “jerk”? It’s dead. No more.
Your identity as “easy?” Dead. Long gone.
Your identity as “addict?” It’s dead. Bled out there on the cross.
You are convict no more.
You are racist no more.
You are vengeful no more.
You are bitter no more.
You are lazy no more.
You are sinner no more.
Your SINFUL IDENTITY died in Christ.
I suppose this is strange to think of, but Paul is really saying that baptism is a funeral.
Maybe we need to start treating baptisms differently.
Maybe we should cover the font with a black shroud.
Maybe we should add black flowers to the altar.
Maybe we should provide packages of tissues for all the crying that will happen as a result of the impending death.
But then again…
The one who’s dying, no one is going to miss!
No one will miss their sinful identity.
No one misses the one responsible for our own impending death.
Maybe we should treat baptism more like a celebration.
More party music.
Maybe even a pinata!
This is more of a Wicked Witch of the East situation.
Ding dong the Witch is dead?
Ding dong our sinful identity is dead!
And in its place?
We were therefore buried with him by this baptism into his death, so that just as he was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too would also walk in a new life. For if we have been united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be united with him in the likeness of his resurrection. (v.4-5)
If you’re united with Jesus in his death.
You are also united with him in his resurrection.
And when Jesus rose, he had a new identity:
He was no longer the dead Lord, but the resurrected one.
He was no longer the one who will save us, but the one who did save us.
He was no longer the one can conquer death, but the one who did.
Jesus had a new identity.
Because you are connected to him,
You have a new identity you too.
You have a NEW Identity in Jesus.
You are no longer felon, but forgiven.
You are no longer angry, but at peace.
You are no longer impure, but pure.
You are no longer faithless, but faithful.
You are no longer sinner, but sin fighter.
And this new identity comes with some new power.
We know that our old self was crucified with him, to make our sinful body powerless, so that we would not continue to serve sin. For the person who has died has been declared free from sin. (v.6-7)
It’s just like the game of Mario Bros. Have you played it? You start out as regular old Mario with the ability to jump, wear plumber overalls, and stomp tiny walking mushrooms.
But if you touch a fire flower, your power source changes.
You don’t have to just jump on the Goombas.
Now you can throw a fireball at that.
Because of Jesus, you have been changed.
You are no longer SINFUL you, but SAVED.
You have a NEW POWER in Jesus.
This power is to fight sin.
This power is to do what’s right.
This power is to follow your Lord and Savior in 2021 and beyond.
And it’s a very powerful power.
Because it comes directly from a very powerful God.
Have you ever heard about Jesus’ baptism?
It was unlike any other baptism.
Number one, Jesus didn’t need to be baptized to connect with himself and wash away his sins.
He was sinless.
But he needed for an entirely different reason.
As John the Baptist completed pouring water on Jesus’ head, the skies opened up.
A brilliant light shine.
A dove came out of that light and hovered over Jesus’ head.
A voice spoke and said, “This is my son, whom I love.”
Power to rip open the sky.
Power to speak with a booming voice.
Power to be Triune – three person – one being.
That’s the power you have on your side.
That’s the power that works with you to defeat your sin.
That’s the power that works with you in 2021.
Back in 4th grade, one of my favorite recess games was Kickball. It’s similar to baseball only instead of hitting a small white ball with a bat, you kick a big red ball with your foot.
On our playground, the most impressive kickball feat was for someone to kick a “roof ball.” In this instance, a ball would be kicked so high and so long that it went to the roof of our 2-story school building.
During one particular game of kickball, I was feeling a bit cocky.
I decided to point to the roof to signal my impending “roofball.”
I was calling my shot.
My teammates started chanting my name.
The pitcher pitched ball.
I ran forward and…
Dribbled a bunt to the first baseman for an easy out.
I remember almost immediately asking for a REDO.
A second chance.
A do over.
Because I wasn’t ready.
Do you wish you could REDO 2020?
Maybe you weren’t ready for what 2020 threw to us.
2021 is a great chance for a REDO.
And even more so, because in Jesus we get countless REDOs.
Our goal? To learn from Scripture, to grow in faith, to make the most of the REDO God has afforded us.
Before we begin, a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth. Your Word is the truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; open our ears to hear what you want us to hear; and open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Philippian Redo
The lesson we are looking at is found in Philippians. Philippians is a letter written by a pastor named Paul to a congregation that lived in Philippi. This congregation had been going through a rough year.
For starters, they had been dealing with persecutions to their church. (Philippians 1:27-28) The Roman government had begun cracking down on Christianity.
It meant soldiers would interrupt their church meetings to tell them to stop.
It meant they had to be sneaky about whom they told they were a believer.
It meant that they probably lost some of their membership to jail.
In addition, the group had been dealing with racism. The majority of the congregation was Greek. They had been told by a segment of Jewish believers that God would never fully love them unless they started practicing Jewish custom. Even then – it might not be the full kind of love that God has for Jewish people. (3:1-3)
Finally, the anxiety from the threat of arrest and the stress caused by these racist statements led the church group to be bitter with one another.
To attack one another.
To bad mouth one another.
And they didn’t even have Facebook.
Pastor Paul writes them a letter because he wants to give them a REDO. This redo won’t change the challenges they were facing, but it was an opportunity to change how they were responding to these challenges.
Same thing for us.
If you want your REDO not to result in the same, old traps you fell into last year, listen to Paul’s Holy Spirit inspired words.
“Whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.” (v.7)
With this statement, Paul is acknowledging they had lost quite a few things this past year:
They’d lost a sense of security.
They’d lost members to jailtime.
Probably they lost income and jobs and friendships.
Paul says, “I feel you. I’ve lost things too.”
Paul no longer has those things.
But he doesn’t want them.
In fact, he doesn’t consider them to be gains at all.
But a loss.
He explains why, “I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord for whose sake I have lost all things. (v.8b)
Paul used to be a bigwig in the Jewish faith.
He used to be a Pharisee. The Pharisees were big wig, impressive members of Jewish society.
When Paul was a Pharisees, he had gained a lot!
A higher income.
A more impressive position.
Friends in high place.
A good reputation.
A career path.
But now Paul has a different perspective about them.
Notice that last sentence.
Paul had been a Pharisee with all the Pharisaical perks!
But the Pharisees were against Jesus.
When Paul started following Jesus, he lost it all.
He lost income.
He lost his position.
He lost friends in high places.
He lost the good reputation.
He lost safety.
He lost political standing.
He lost a career path.
But notice Paul’s perspective.
Those things were no longer gains to him.
I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him (v.)
Christmas creates a lot of garbage, doesn’t it?
Torn up wrapping paper.
Crinkled gift bags.
Plastic packaging for new toys.
The little bit of eggnog that got left out overnight.
Whatever it is you consider garbage, you have no problem throwing it into the garbage can, having it hauled off to the dump and never seeing it again.
Paul says that is how he feels about what he’s lost.
Because what he’s lost never will compare to what he’s gained.
There is no greater GAIN than Jesus.
Think about what you’ve lost this year.
If you’ve got Jesus, you’ll still come out ahead.
Because nothing is more valuable than Jesus.
Jesus is greater than crowd noise at a football game.
Jesus is greater than skin that isn’t dried out due to hand sanitizer.
Jesus is greater than hugs, kisses and even – high fives!
Jesus is greater than a 40 hour a week job.
Jesus is greater than a booming economy.
Jesus is greater than a bulging bank account.
Jesus is greater than the freedom not to wear masks.
Jesus is greater than being able to gather in groups of 20.
Jesus is greater than free samples at Whole Foods!
Jesus is greater than your family.
Jesus is greater than your friends.
Jesus is greater than anything lost in 2020.
Why do I say that so confidently?
Why does Paul say that so confidently?
In Jesus you gain RIGHTEOUSNESS.
Because when sinful people get hit by challenges, they tend to respond sinfully.
2020 had lots of challenge and people responded in lots of sinful ways.
Maybe that was you:
Shouting matches with your spouse because of the close quarters.
Losing it on your kids because they can’t figure out online school.
Four letter names to acquaintances on Facebook because they have a different opinion than you.
Developing a new addiction to porn, alcohol, or telling everybody how awesome you are!
Planning to stay connected to God and his Word and his church.
But ultimately, staying more connected to spoilers for the Mandalorian.
Reflecting on all of this at the end of the year can make you feel really guilty.
It can be overwhelming.
As if you’re wearing it.
But in Jesus, you aren’t wearing your guilt.
In Jesus, you wear something else.
…not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. (v.9b)
Do you see that?
God knew about all the unrighteous things we would do in 2020.
He knew about hem and he took care of them way back in 35.
He lived for you.
He died for you.
He rose for you.
Then, he gave you his righteousness as a covering.
And God’s good at sewing together righteous clothing.
It’s not like the pair of pants that was only like fifteen dollars. Seemed like a steal. But when you wore them a couple of times, washed, them and put them back on you noticed…
There’s some fading on the knee.
A hole is forming!
God’s righteous clothing is much better.
There’s no hole in the righteousness in which God covers you.
God sees you as pure because he only sees Jesus’ purity.
God sees you as forgiven because he sees none of your 2020 sin.
God sees you as his because you are.
This leads to a second reason there is no greater gain than Jesus:
In Jesus you gain ETERNAL LIFE.
According to CDC.gov, the COVID vaccine is going to be helpful. It helps your body create an antibody response to the virus and gives it immunity that is needed to come in contact with the virus, not get sick, and not spread it to others.
Granted --Scientists are still unclear how long the immunity may lasts. As more people have it and they are able to study its long-term effects, they will be able to learn more, produce a better vaccine and any booster shots.
But there is one thing that Scientists do know.
The vaccine only works on people who are alive.
It doesn’t raise the dead.
But Jesus does.
I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. (v.10-11)
There is nothing that you lost in 2020 that can raise the dead.
Only Jesus can raise the dead.
And he didn’t go anywhere.
If you’ve got Jesus, you’ve got everything.
II. What Now?
1) Reconsider your Losses
Remember all those losses that Paul underwent?
He now considered them gains.
He lost his position in the Pharsees; but he gained a position in God’s kingdom.
He lost money; but he gained eternal riches.
He lost fame, but he gained a God who knew his name.
Did you undergo a loss in 2020?
In Jesus, there isn’t loss.
For example, I was talking toto someone a while back. They told me that they had recently lost they job. They had lost their income. They had lost the plans they had for providing a nice vacation for their family in 2020.
I said, “I’m sorry.”
They said, “Why? This is one of the best things to ever happen to me!
“I’ve gained more time with my family .
“I’ve gained more time with my God.
“I’ve gained a stronger faith.
“I’ve gained more time to share that stronger faith with my kids and provide them something that lasts a lot longer than a week at Disney.”
That’s what Paul is talking about.
Reconsider your losses.
Praise God for the gains among the losses.
2) Forget What’s Behind
Because if you are in a race you don’t do very well by turning around and running backwards. In fact, you will probably make the “worst of” on ESPN’s Sportscenter.
It’s the same thing in life. Paul says this, “I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.” (v.13)
The start of a new year presents us with the unique opportunity to START OVER.
But you won’t do that very well if you dwell in the past.
Make this conscious, God-inspired decision right now.
Don’t dwell on the past.
Don’t dwell on the woulda, coulda, shoulda’s.
Instead, look ahead.
In fact, here’s your final what now.
3) Strive Ahead
Do you know where Paul was when he wrote these words?
But he didn’t sit around in prison lamenting about what he LOST.
He spent time in prison excited about what he GAINED.
A great chance to be in quiet prayer with God.
Awesome opportunities to share Jesus with his cellmates.
The time needed to write down a God inspired piece of God’s Word that will bless people two thousand years in the future.
Good choice Paul.
“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (v.14)
What opportunities to you have this year?
What chance do you have to share Jesus?
What unique things about your situation here in 2021 might God work through to bring people into his kingdom?
It’s the same thing here at church.
Because things have changed a lot here thanks to the pandemic.
Online presence has increased.
Group studies have moved online.
We do communion differently.
We spent our evangelism funding differently.
At some point, some of might turn back to the way we did it previously.
But some of it? Won’t.
Understand this --
Our goal as a church is not to get things back to the way things were.
Our goal as a church is to share Jesus in the way things are.
Our goal as a church is not to get things back to the way things were.
Our goal as a church is to share Jesus in the way things are.
And the way things are?
Is an incredible blessing.
I’m excited for 2021.
I hope you are too.
May God bless us in this REDO. Amen.