On the Rock | Matthew 7:24-29

Week 17 | Sermon

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. (Matthew 7:24-27)

And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.  (Matthew 7:28-29)

OPENING THOUGHT

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) is a guidebook for being a citizen of God’s kingdom. In chapter five, Jesus covered the overall characteristics of a Christ follower, their purpose on earth, and how they relate to the Old Testament laws and commandments. In chapter six, He addressed godly actions that are not so godly when done out of pride. He also beckoned us to store our treasure in heaven where it will be eternally secure so that we might be able to live without anxiety here.

Christ opened chapter seven with a warning against hypocritical judgments against others, encouraging us to love others how God has loved us. He then issued a series of warnings to finish the sermon. First, He warned against following the easy path to the broad gate of destruction, calling us to enter by the narrow gate into life. Second, He warned against being deceived by false prophets who appear to be Christ’s followers but are not. Third, He warned against self-deception, saying that many who call Christ Lord will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

To conclude the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives us a fourth and final warning. Jesus tells us that if we hear and obey His words we will be like a wise man who built his house on a solid rock foundation, but if we hear and do not obey His words, we will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. It is important to note that Jesus is speaking of those who have heard His words, but some will obey and other will not. The question that we must therefore ask at the end of this sermon is whether we will choose to obey Christ’s words or not.

Read verses 24-27 and discuss the following.

  1. In Jesus’ analogy, what do the two builders have in common and where do they differ from one another? Under what conditions will their differences be revealed?
  2. How do Luke 6:46-49 and James 1:21-27 help to further understand the importance of obedience when following Christ?

Read verses 28-29 and discuss the following.

  1. How did Jesus’ authority compare to the scribes?
  2. Why is astonishment and amazement not a sufficient response?

ACTIONS TO CONSIDER

  • Obey. Apply Jesus’ warning to how you hear His words in the Scriptures. In what ways do you obey the Bible, not just read it?
  • Pray. Ask God for the strength to obey His commands.
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a thought on repentance, obedience, & the Law

I’ve wrestled with this question a lot.

Though I was saved at an early age, I didn’t fully understand the gospel (especially the eternal security of believers) until I was in college.

As a kid, I truly wanted to live a Christ-like life, I knew I was a sinner, and I believed that Christ died for my sin. I struggled, though, with the notion of what Jesus’ forgiveness looked like.

It seemed both logical and desirable to repent regularly, both of known and unknown sins. Yet for several years, the need to ask for forgiveness consumed me.

Each night I would fall asleep praying for forgiveness over and over again. I was terrified that if I died in my sleep, God would send me to hell because my last thought might be a sinful one.

My young mind essentially created its own penitential system for dealing with sin. Instead of trusting God to forgive all of my sins by grace through faith, I established a means of working off my sins through the constant and repetitive asking of forgiveness. I was heaping up empty phrases, hoping to be heard for my many words (Matt. 6:7). It was an attempt to barter for grace instead of receiving grace through faith.

Once For All

A trip to New Mexico one summer changed everything.

I don’t remember who preached or what text they preached, but after worship service, I sat on a pew and understood (for the first time) the significance of Christ dying once. As common sense as it might seem, I never truly considered that Christ’s death paid for ALL of my sins– past, present, and future.

And it was the future sins that really got me.

On that cross, all of my sins were future sins, but He died for them. This meant that He knew them, even the ones that will come decades from now. None of my sins came as a surprise to Him, and because of that once-for-all sacrifice, I could be truly certain of my forgiveness and salvation.

But that isn’t to say that we should stop repenting of sin.

In many ways, repentance is the great mark of a true Christian.

We are called to repent of sin continually, not just initially (Matt. 3:8).

However, laying my cards on the table, the question “Must I repent after each sin?” is a loaded one. The word must implies an obligation, a requirement, or even a coercion to do something, but as followers of Christ, we get to repent of our sins, knowing that God is faithful and just to forgive us. It is a joy to ask our Father for forgiveness and strength to turn from sin because we already know what His answer will be.

Outward Obedience

While studying to preach on Christ’s relationship to the Old Testament Law, I finally came to understand why Paul calls us captives under the Law before Christ came (Gal. 3:23).¹

Laws are necessary, but by nature, they merely rein in our sin. A law’s power is equal to the consequence for breaking it, and those punishments leverage our sinful nature for the benefit of society. For instance, if the consequence is severe enough, most people will not risk stealing. Or we could ask, how many killings are prevented simply because the fear of punishment hinders an act of blind rage?

Laws confine sinful behavior by establishing a punishment as a reason to refrain from sin.

Because of this, obeying a law does not make me a inwardly moral person; it only means that I am outwardly behaving according to the law.

Outward obedience does not necessarily correlate with an internal godly morality.

This is why Jesus’ teachings so angered the Pharisees. They nearly perfected outward obedience, but Jesus called their bluff. He knew their hearts didn’t line up with their actions, so He called them what they were: hypocrites (Matt. 23:25).

Inward Obedience

Fortunately, Jesus had a better answer to the problem of sin than the Law could provide.

Jeremiah describes Jesus’ followers as having the law written on their hearts (Jer. 31:33). This means that they would no longer be compelled to obey God’s law out of fear of punishment; instead, they would actually want to obey.

Our captivity to the law is broken on two fronts.

First, Jesus’ death decisively eliminates the eternal punishment of sin, allowing us to live in the joy of knowing that we will never suffer the wrath of God, only His loving discipline.

Second, we have a joy from obeying the law because Christ has now written it within our hearts. We, therefore, no longer feel obligated to obey God; instead, we joyfully obey Him with thanksgiving!

Jesus has erased the must, the obligation, from obedience and from repentance.

Conclusion

So, in answer to the original question, if a Christian dies immediately after sinning, they are still in Christ because God already justified them once for all. The lack of time to repent of a particular sin will NOT override God’s grace.

But of course, given time, Christians will naturally desire to repent.

Repentance is what we do.

And that desire will come from gratitude to God, not requirement or mere necessity.

My younger self’s brokenness over sin and desire for obedience was certainly a good sign of truly following Christ, but I’m immeasurably thankful for the grace of knowing the gospel’s truth and assurance more fully.

Does repenting of sin ever become a requirement in your heart instead of being a desire, delight, and grace?


 

1) Charles Leiter’s The Law of Christ has helped me tremendously to understand our New Covenant relationship to the Old Testament laws. Hopefully, the brief discussion of the topics in this post will encourage you to study them more deeply in Leiter’s book.

Isaac & Abimelech | Genesis 26

Week 2 | Study Guide & Sermon

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

And the LORD appeared to him and said, Do not go down to Egypt; dwell in the land of which I shall tell you. Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father. I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws. (Genesis 26:2-5)

And the LORD appeared to him the same night and said, I am the God of Abraham your father. Fear not, for I am with you and will bless you and multiply your offspring for my servant Abraham’s sake. So he built an altar there and called upon the name of the LORD and pitched his tent there. And there Isaac’s servants dug a well. (Genesis 26:24-25)

OPENING THOUGHT

Our study of the book of Genesis has led us from the creation and fall of the world to the life and faith of Abraham and now to the life of his offspring. Over the course of these chapters, we will read about Isaac, Abraham’s son, but the story will primarily focus upon Jacob, the son of Isaac. In the previous chapter, we read about Abraham’s death, his provision for Isaac beyond his death, and the birth of Isaac’s two sons. The chapter then ended with Jacob tricking his older brother into selling away his birthright.

Though Jacob is the primary figure of the chapters of our study, this is the only chapter of the Bible that gives its main focus to Isaac. In many ways, Isaac’s life is a less eventful mirror of his father’s life. Like Abraham, Isaac is faced with a famine, during which he must decide how to best provide for his family. Like Abraham, Isaac sojourns in a foreign land, and also like his father, Isaac forsakes his wife in order to protect himself. But most importantly, like Abraham, Isaac received the same covenantal blessings promised: a multitude of offspring, a land for them to dwell within, and a blessing for all nations through his offspring.

Within this chapter, we have a snapshot of Isaac’s life. Overall, he was obedient in much the same ways as his father, but he also sinned after the pattern of Abraham. Isaac’s life foreshadows Jacob’s as well because Isaac engages in deception to save himself. But like Jacob, simply being himself exposed Isaac’s masquerade. Though it is a short section, we are able to view God’s grace, faithfulness, and blessing through Isaac’s sin and his obedience.

Read verses 1-5 and discuss the following.

  1. When God appeared to Abraham, He commanded him to journey into a foreign land, and now in appearing to Isaac, God commands him to remain in Gerar through a famine, even though traveling to Egypt would have been more logical. What is faith? How is obedience related to faith?
  2. God gives to Isaac the same promises that He gave to Abraham. How would Isaac’s offspring become a blessing to all nations?

Read verses 6-22 and discuss the following.

  1. In Gerar, Isaac lied to the people by saying that Rebekah was his sister, hoping to save himself from being killed by them. How does lying display a lack of faith?

Read verses 23-35 and discuss the following.

  1. Isaac’s blessings caught the attention of Abimelech once more, leading him to seek a treaty with Isaac to avoid any major conflict. In what ways in this chapter did Isaac’s life provide a good witness as God’s servant? In what ways was he a poor witness?

ACTIONS TO CONSIDER

  • Consider the relationship between faith and obedience. Evaluate your daily obedience to the Scriptures.
  • Thank God for His promise to provide for us, and pray for faith to trust God in every circumstance and for the obedience to act in faith.
COPYRIGHT© B.C. NEWTON 2016

Remembering Godliness | Titus 3:1-2

Week 9 | Study Guide & Sermon

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. (Titus 3:1-2)

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)

OPENING THOUGHT

As we enter the final third of Titus, we must recall briefly what was said thus far. Chapter one was primarily concerned with pastoral leadership within the church. Paul envisions churches being lead by multiple pastors, giving their qualifications and listing characteristics of false teachers. Chapter two focused upon church members as Paul encouraged everyone to be active in the works of discipleship and evangelism. The apostle then closed the chapter by reminding Titus and all Christians of our motivation for doing all forms of good works: the gospel.

As we enter chapter three, we will notice that it has a much more universal feel to it. This is because Paul’s attention is no longer upon church members or leaders specifically; instead, he uses the final chapter to address the overall nature of living as the church, the body of Christ. He will once again present commands for us to live by, the gospel as our motivation for obeying, and closes with how the church is to remain a faithful witness of Jesus.

Our present text is a list of seven exhortations for all Christians to heed. By beginning with the words “remind them,” we know that Paul considered each of these to be basic knowledge for Christ-like behavior, yet as with most things, our forgetful minds need continuous reminders and encouragements. Let us, therefore, approach these urgings toward godly living in light of the gospel, praying to display Christ in our lives each day.

Read verses 1-2 and discuss the following.

  1. Paul opens by urging us to be submissive to rulers and authorities (earthly leaders, particularly in governments) and to be obedient. In what ways does the Bible encourage us to be submissive to ruling authorities? Under what circumstances (if any) is disobedience permitted biblically for Christians?
  2. Verse two begins by commanding us to speak evil of no one. What are a few characteristics of biblical and godly speech? Do you meet these standards?
  3. Paul also exhorts us to refrain from being quarrelsome and to be gentle instead. How is a reasonable and gentle attitude a greater display of strength than being quarrelsome? How does this go against society’s ideals?
  4. Finally, the apostle encourages us to show perfect courtesy toward all people. How might we continue to show respect, kindness, and meekness even toward those who do appear to deserve it?

ACTIONS TO CONSIDER

  • Obey. Since this text is simply an encouragement toward seven Christ-like actions, resolve to obey the Scriptures. These verses tell us what to do, so do it, remembering that we act in gratitude of God’s grace, not from obligation or in attempt to earn God’s favor.
  • Pray. Ask God for grace to live more like Christ each day.

Jesus’ Revelation | Revelation 1

Seven Letters Week 1

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. (Revelation 1:1 ESV)

Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near. (Revelation 1:3 ESV)

Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. (Revelation 1:19 ESV)

OPENING THOUGHT

Revelation is a weird book. I mean, really weird. Like, demon-locusts and sulfur-breathing horses with snake tails weird. Yet for all of its weirdness, Revelation is a crucial book of the Bible for understanding how the story of humanity will end.

The premise of the book is that Jesus reveals Himself to the Apostle John several decades after He ascended into heaven, leaving behind His disciples to continue His ministry on earth.  Think about it: John was essentially Jesus’ best friend, the disciple whom He loved, and Jesus appears to John again. Surely this must have been a reunion of the highest order, right?

Well, John describes Jesus’ voice as being as loud as a trumpet and that His face was shining like the full strength of the sun. In fact, Jesus’ glory is so overwhelming that John immediately faints from the sheer enormity of it all. Needless to say, it likely wasn’t the reunion that John had imagined.

Nevertheless, as we study the first section of Revelation, Jesus’ seven letters to the seven churches in Asia, let us approach these words with their due awe and reverence. Just as John gave this book for the hearing and obedience of the first-century church, so must we be ready to listen and obey them today.

Read verses 1-3 and discuss the following.

  1. Revelation comes with a promise of blessing for those who read, hear, and obey the words within it. How is this promise similar to Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:24-27?

Read verses 4-8 and discuss the following.

  1. In verse six, John declares that after God loved us by freeing us from sin He made us a kingdom and priests of God. What is the significance of these two things? What do other books of the Bible say on the matter?

Read verses 9-20 and discuss the following.

  1. In his vision, John hears Jesus tell him to write down the words that Jesus will dictate to him. In what ways does this mirror Peter’s explanation of how Scripture is written in 2 Peter 1:21?
  2. John’s immediate response to Jesus’ glory is to fall down before Him. Even though John is likely afraid, Jesus tells him not to fear. Given how often the Bible speaks about the fear of God, how is it possible to rightly fear God but also obey such commands to not be afraid?

ACTIONS TO CONSIDER

  • Reread the entire chapter, paying careful attention to the glorious descriptions of Christ. Prayerfully consider whether your view of Christ and His glory matches His revealed majesty here.
  • Reflect upon your reading and obedience to the Scriptures and in what ways you may better submit yourself to the obeying the Word of God.

God Rescues Lot (Genesis 19)

Abraham Study Guide (Week 10)

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

But he lingered. So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the LORD being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city. (Genesis 19:16)

So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow when he overthrew the cities in which Lot had lived. (Genesis 19:29)

Then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment. (2 Peter 2:9)

OPENING THOUGHT

Though we have primarily focused upon Abraham’s walk with God throughout this series, last week took a slight detour as we saw Abraham interceding to God on behalf of the city of Sodom. We have heard Sodom mentioned in previous chapters. Lot, Abraham’s nephew, went to live in Sodom in chapter 13. Abraham rescued Lot and speaks to Sodom’s king in chapter 14. We were also told multiple times that Sodom was an evil city. Finally, at the end of chapter 18, God announced that He was going to judge Sodom and the surrounding cities. Abraham entreated before God for the righteous people of the cities, asking the LORD to spare Sodom if He is able to find ten righteous persons. God agrees then continues onward to judge the wicked.

Our present text begins with two angels coming into Sodom and meeting Lot. Like any good host, Lot invites them into his house; however, the men of the city are intent on being less kind of the angels. We see the depravity of humanity as the men desperately try to seize the angels and continue to do so even when they are stricken with blindness. The angels announce to Lot the destruction of the city and plead with him to flee. Lot lingers, and in a stunning display of mercy, the angels physically drag Lot out of Sodom. God annihilates Sodom, and the text ends with a strange narrative of Lot and his two daughters.

Even though this chapter is large and filled with a lot of details, we can boil its message down to two points: the mercy and the judgment of God. The LORD’s righteous judgment is shown in his dealing with the city. Sodom is a hostile city that preys upon, abuses, and exploits travelers (who were already quite vulnerable in the ancient world). God’s judgment is just. But we also see His great mercy for Lot. Though Lot does nothing to warrant such grace, God literally pulls Lot from the fire of judgment. Though it might sound hard to believe, the story of Lot’s rescue is also the story of every Christian. We too have only been saved because God was merciful enough to snatch us from the fire.

Read verses 1-11 and discuss the following.

  • The wickedness of the men of Sodom is quite evident from these verses and should come as no surprise to us since God is planning to destroy them. However, Lot’s attempted compromise by offering up his daughters is both shocking and unimaginable. Why do we, at times, try to negotiate or compromise with sin? What is the danger of doing so?

Read verses 12-23 and discuss the following.  

  • Verse 16 tells us that Lot lingered even though the city’s destruction was imminent, but God was merciful to him by having the angels practically drag him out of the city. Have you experienced the tendency to linger in sin? How is God being forceful with us at times actually a display of His mercy toward us? How is God’s rescuing of Lot similar to our own story of salvation?

Read verses 24-29 and discuss the following. 

  • When Lot’s wife looked back, she revealed that she was torn between following after Lot or after Sodom; therefore, God transformed her into a monument of disobedience. What does this show us about God’s tolerance of a divided heart?

Read verses 30-38 and discuss the following.  

  • Lot’s decisions both to live in Sodom and Zoar greatly affected his daughters, causing them to become desperate for bearing children, which led them into sin. What does this reveal to us about the consequences of our actions? Do we ever sin in insolation?

ACTIONS TO CONSIDER

  • Recall the mercy of God in saving you from His judgment. Thank the LORD in prayer that in Christ you do not need to fear suffering the wrath of God.
  • Consider whether or not you still have a lingering desire for sin. If so, repent to the LORD and resolve to submit yourself completely to God and His will.

Abraham and Circumcision (Genesis 17)

Abraham Study Guide (Week 7)

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. (Genesis 17:5)

And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. (Genesis 17:7)

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christs, then you are Abrahams offspring, heirs to promise. (Galatians 3:28-29)

OPENING THOUGHT

Thus far, we have witnessed eleven years in the life of Abram since he first began his walk of faith with God. Abram has stood in the presence of kings, receiving and declining their gifts, and he has also defeated kings in war. He has shown astounding faith in God, and he has expressed utter faithlessness. Chapter 16 saw Abram’s biggest failure yet. Impatient from still not having a child, Sarai told Abram to impregnate her servant, Hagar, in Sarai’s stead. This defiling of their marriage wreaked havoc in the lives of Abram, Sarai, and Hagar, as each of them sinned against one another. All the while, God showed great grace to Hagar, promising to bless her and her child, Ishmael.

In this chapter, we learn that thirteen more years has passed, and Abram has apparently accepted Ishmael as his offspring. God, however, speaks to Abram once again. First, God further expounds upon His covenant with Abram and his offspring. In doing so, God clarifies that Ishmael is not the offspring that God promised to Abram; rather, Sarai would give Abram a son. Second, God symbolically changes the names of Abram and Sarai to reflect His renewed covenant. Third, God commands Abram to circumcise himself and the men of his household as a sign of God’s covenant with him, leaving Abram with a physical reminder of God’s promise to him.

Significant in this section of Scripture is God’s promise to bless and keep covenant with all of Abraham’s descendants. In the third chapter of Galatians, Paul explains that Jesus is the ultimate offspring of Abraham, the woman’s seed (from Genesis 3:15) who would crush the serpent’s head and reverse the curse of sin. Thus, because Jesus is God’s remedy to the problem of sin, in Christ we are called offspring of Abraham. When we have faith in Jesus (Abraham’s promised offspring), we become Abraham’s descendants and heirs to blessings that God gave to him.

Read verses 1-8 and discuss the following.

  1. God appears to Abram and commands him to walk blamelessly before Him. Why does our way of living concern God? Are we able to live a completely blameless life that God demands?
  2. In establishing His covenant with Abram, God gives him a new name. What is the significance of this act?

Read verses 9-14 and discuss the following.

  1. God orders Abraham to be circumcised as a sign (or a reminder) of their covenant. In the first century, the Apostle Paul debated against some people who claimed that circumcision was necessary for salvation. Why is circumcision unnecessary for salvation? What are some modern equivalents of the circumcision issue?

Read verses 15-21 and discuss the following.

  1. Though Abraham already had a son through Hagar, God specifically says that Sarai (now Sarah) will bear him a son. God promises to bless Ishmael but to establish His eternal covenant with Isaac. What does this say about God’s sovereignty and the plans of men?

Read verses 22-27 and discuss the following.

  1. “That very day Abraham” and all the men of his house were circumcised. In doing this, Abraham obeyed the LORD. What are some forms of obedience that Jesus asks of us today?

ACTIONS TO CONSIDER

  • Consider God’s command for Abraham to walk blamelessly before Him and your own obedience to the LORD’s commands. Repent of any sin, and ask for grace to walk faithfully and obediently with Christ.
  • Pray in thanks to God for His loving covenant with you through Christ.