The Hope of the Church (1 Peter 1:13-25)

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This is an excerpt from the second sermon in my 1 Peter series at Fairview Baptist Church. To listen or watch the whole thing, visit our website.

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” – 1 Peter 1:13-16

In this passage, Peter calls believers to live a holy life based on what God had already done for them in Christ. In other words, the indicatives (what God has done for us in Christ) are the basis for the imperatives (how we should live our lives in response). So, what God has done for us precedes what we are called to do with Him.

Because we have been given a great hope, we are called to proclaim and reflect that hope as we live our lives. Our new identity inevitably shapes how we interact and engage with those around us.

The call “To prepare your minds for action” (gird up the loins) was a common expression of that time and related to a man gathering up his long garments in order to work or run unhindered. In our day, it means to roll your sleeves up and be on mission.

But we must do so with a sober-mind. In other words, Christians must learn to reflectively think about what it means to be on mission with God in everyday life. This does not happen automatically.

As exiles in a foreign land, you would want to reflect the characteristics, expectations, and qualities of your Father God. Therefore, you would not want to conform to the passions of the broken culture around you like those who live in ignorance of the truth.

But note, being holy does not mean that you isolate yourself from culture or those around you. Being holy means to reflect the Father in the culture, and to those around you. All throughout the Bible, while God is set apart from the world, He is also involved in the world – pursuing the lost and rebellious. We are called out of the darkness to the light, but we are then called to go back into the darkness to reflect that light.

Imagine you woke up one day to discover that you were a missionary in a foreign land? In that context, the first thing you are going to do is try and understand and connect with people around you. Preparing your minds for action means that we need to rethink how we engage those around us on a day-to-day basis with the good news of Christ.

When it comes to sharing the good news, think of it in the context of a relationship, a long-term investment. How can you do ordinary, everyday things, with gospel intentionality? Informal sharing of the gospel most powerfully happens as the church is scattered in the world among other people.

Simply put, we need to think like missionaries. Our hope in Christ motivates our mission to the world. The hope of the church shapes the life of the church.

September 1, 2015 at 9:22 pm Leave a comment

The Salvation of the Church (1 Peter 1:1-2)

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I recently began a sermon series on 1st Peter at Fairview Baptist Church. This is an excerpt from the first sermon in the series. To listen or watch the whole thing, visit our website.

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.” (1 Peter 1:1-2)

At first glance, this seems to be a customary greeting for a New Testament letter. However, there is beautiful theological depth in every sentence of these first two verses.

Peter categorizes the recipients of this letter as God’s chosen people, spiritual exiles who are scattered throughout the world. Notice that Peter starts this letter by immediately celebrating the work of God in their salvation. They are elect exiles according to God’s foreknowledge.

Peter is not using these words to stir up a theological controversy. These words have the affectionate action of God wrapped in them. God’s has decidedly shown his favor and affection towards them in salvation.

To a church facing struggles and persecution, this greeting is a powerful reminder of reassurance. You are God’s people according to His foreknowledge!

Moreover, He has sanctified them according to His Spirit. Set apart by the Spirit, namely, for obedience to Jesus Christ no matter what circumstance life may bring. Therefore, God has not only called them out, but has also separated them out for His purposes.

Christians who are troubled by their circumstances might be tempted to doubt God’s love and care. In the midst of an uncertain and hostile world – we can rest in the certainty of the love of a sovereign God.

Don’t ever lose the wonder of your salvation. Salvation is a miraculous work of our Trinitarian God. The Father foreknows. The Spirit sanctifies. The Son cleanses. This is the ultimate foundation for our hope and encouragement.

It is no wonder that Peter then says (v.2), “Grace and peace be multiplied” to you.

What a greeting! Do not worry about the uncertainty of your circumstances, but rest in the certainty that God has called you. Moreover, God has sanctified you for a purpose.

August 25, 2015 at 9:36 am Leave a comment

What is the one thing a church needs from it’s pastor?

I recently had the opportunity to contribute to a video series at For The Church titled One Thing. The question I answered was “what is the one thing a church needs from it’s pastor?” I responded that a local church needs a shepherd.

My response to this question is influenced by Timothy Laniak at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, whose two books Shepherds After My Own Heart (academic) and While Shepherds Watch Their Flocks (devotional) are an excellent resource for understanding shepherding as a metaphor for pastoral leadership. You can also read my post The Pastor as Shepherd at For The Church.

August 15, 2015 at 7:05 am Leave a comment

I Am The True Vine

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This is an excerpt from the sermon I preached this past Sunday at Fairview Baptist Church. You can watch the whole thing here.

If anyone ever told you that the Christian life was easy, they were mistaken. The Christian life is not easy, in fact – it is impossible to live in our own power.

However, do not hang your head in despair. Though your fruitfulness in the Christian life will waver, Jesus’ faithfulness has not – and will not ever waver. When we struggle with fruitfulness, we can rest assured that He remains faithful. Remember the words of Jesus in John 15:5.

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 

The Old Testament frequently uses the metaphor of the vine as a symbol for Israel, God’s covenant people (Psalm 80; Isaiah 5 and 27; Hosea 10). And it is usually not good imagery. It’s used of Israel’s rebellion and sinfulness rather than her fruitfulness. In other words, corporate Israel could not produce fruit consistent with their calling.

The fruitlessness of Israel should be held up in comparison to the fruitfulness of Christ. Jesus is the only Israelite that lived a perfect life – producing the fruit that God desired of the His people. Where corporate Israel failed, Jesus “the true vine” succeeded. And as Jesus’ followers abide in him they will produce fruit.

This is a simple agricultural analogy: one of the obvious realities about pruning is that a branch cannot bear fruit unless it is connected to the vine. No branch has life in itself, it is utterly dependent on the vine.

For Jesus, the call to abide in Him means to continue in a daily, personal relationship with Him, characterized by prayerful trust, dependence, and reliance. The good news is that He has not left us alone. While we are called to abide in Him, He also abides in us. Moreover, He is faithful to produce fruit in and through us.

As Christians we must recognize their dependence on Jesus Christ. We are not perfect – and we will fail. This is why Jesus says that God the Father is the vinedresser (John 15:1). Left to itself, a grape vine will produce large quantities of foliage. So the vine dresser will do a great deal of pruning to ensure maximum fruitfulness. The pruning may hurt, but it is for our good.

We must remember, that where Israel failed, where we have failed, Christ has prevailed. He is our only hope! The process of sanctification involves pruning, and recognizes that He who began a good work in you will complete it.

Our fruitfulness is tied to Jesus’ faithfulness. And God will be glorified when you bear fruit.

August 11, 2015 at 9:48 pm Leave a comment

I Am the Way, the Truth, and the Life

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This is an excerpt from the sermon I preached this past Sunday at Fairview Baptist Church. You can watch the whole thing here.

In John 14 Jesus tells the disciples to stop letting their hearts be troubled. As Jesus was headed closer and closer to the cross, the disciples were becoming more and more confused and uncertain. And rightly so.

In Ancient Israel, a disciple would begin following a Rabbi or Teacher between the ages of 12-20. At an early age the disciples had left family, friends, homes, occupations – everything – in order to follow Jesus. Their whole world had been wrapped up in Jesus. And now after a few years, Jesus is telling them that he is leaving them, and that they cannot follow him where He goes. Not just yet. Jesus is going to prepare a place for them in His fathers house. They are called to turn their trouble into trust.

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Textually, “the way” is placed over “truth” and “life”. In Greek, word order often indicates emphasis. So, we can trust Jesus is the way, because He is the truth. We can also trust that Jesus is the way, because He is the life. Jesus is the only way to God precisely because He is the truth of God and the life of God. No one comes to the Father except through Him.

When Jesus tells the disciples that He is going to prepare a place for them in the Father’s house, it gives us a good depiction of eternity. The word “place” is connected with the verb that means, to abide or dwell. Jesus goes to the cross in order to prepare a place to abide and dwell with God. This is good news. Whatever else heaven may hold, the most wonderful part of it will be the fact that we dwell with God forever. This truth was driven home for me several years ago as I read John Piper’s book God is the Gospel. Piper writes:

“The critical question for our generation—and for every generation— is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ were not there?”

Is dwelling with God central to your vision of eternity? I pray so. The way to God was opened through Jesus Christ, who sacrificed Himself in your place on the cross. Believe the truth that Jesus is the only way to an eternal life of dwelling with God.

August 6, 2015 at 3:50 pm Leave a comment

The SBC, Pastors, and Politics

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I was recently interviewed by Christine Wicker for an article titled “Younger Southern Baptists seek a less partisan approach to political engagement”. The piece was originally posted at RNS and The Washington Post picked it up soon after. Here is one quote:

Like a lot of Southern Baptists who are struggling to keep believers and attract new ones, Capps would like to see a “convictional kindness,” an approach that’s more winsome than confrontational.

“This generation is not going to be known for standing outside abortion clinics with picket signs,” he said. “I want us to be the generation that says, ‘We will adopt these children or we’ll stand beside you and help you raise those children.’”

You can read the whole thing here or here. I am thankful for the opportunity to contribute!

August 5, 2015 at 9:57 am Leave a comment

I Am The Resurrection And The Life

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This is an excerpt from the sermon I preached this past Sunday at Fairview Baptist Church. You can listen to the whole thing here.

When C.S. Lewis’s wife Joy Davidman died, he picked up his pen as a way to process the pain of death in the book A Grief Observed. One of the most profound comments that Lewis made in his observation was that “No one ever told me that grief feels so much like fear”.

It seems that we all face this fear of death. Death is the greatest problem facing the human race. Death is the one thing that no one has lived to tell about. For this reason, I think Jesus’ claim to be “the resurrection and the life” is one of the most profound and powerful statements concerning His identity.

As we pick up in this narrative, Jesus is well on his way to Jerusalem, knowing that when he arrives he will face the cross. The religious leaders have their search lights out for Jesus, and he is not far away, and the shadow of the cross is in His sights. In this progression toward His own death, Jesus proclaims:

I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live. Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die—ever.

Note that Jesus doesn’t just give life – He is life. Here is another way to think about it – everything would go on in a similar fashion of you or I were to die. It is not so with Jesus. His life is the necessary life and the source of all other life. Eternal life is so closely tied to Jesus that it is embodied in him and can be found only in relationship to him.

Therefore Jesus words, “believe in me” implies personal trust in Christ, Therefore, genuine faith in Christ is the only thing that brings people into true life. Jesus is literally saying, I am life. I am your only hope. Look to me, life, to find eternal life. Do you believe this? This is the most important question you will ever face.

Let’s return to C.S. Lewis. One of this most moving pieces he ever wrote was not published on paper or in books, but on the headstone of his beloved wife.

Like cast off clothes was left behind In ashes, yet with hope that she Re-born from holy poverty, In Lenten lands, hereafter may Resume them on her Easter day.

There is coming an Easter day for you and I. Jesus will call out for everyone that has believed in Him to come forth. Knowing that Jesus has power over death gives us the confidence that we will not face the full horror of death. This also gives us the confidence to face any enemy or fear. This puts our greatest problems of this life in perspective.

There is no sin too great. There is no circumstance too dark. There is no sorrow too deep, or no situation too bleak. If Jesus has power over death, can we not trust him with ten thousand other cares in this life? Jesus is the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Jesus will never face death, ever.

July 29, 2015 at 7:05 am Leave a comment

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