Trusting our Success

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I have a pastor friend that posted this Tim Keller quote. (Thanks Michael!) I really respect Keller. I’ve been to his church many times when my sister-in-law attended there. I’ll never be as smart as he is so I just have to keep reading his work!

This particular quote is really important for our church here in the ‘burbs. I think Keller has hit the nail on the head for many people in our area. What is especially troubling is that when the job is gone and the afluence dries up these folks look at God like He failed them. But in reality, they were never looking to God to sustain them. They were looking to their job, their success — really they were looking to themselves!

One sign that you have made success an idol is the false sense of security it brings. The poor and the marginalized expect suffering, they know that life on this earth is nasty, brutish, and short. Successful people are much more shocked and overwhelmed by troubles. As a pastor, I’ve often heard people from the upper echelons say, ‘Life isn’t supposed to be this way,’ when they face tragedy. I have never heard such language in my years as a pastor among the working class and the poor. The false sense of security comes from deifying our achievement and expecting it to keep us safe from the troubles of life in a way that only God can.”

-Tim Keller, “Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power and the Only Hope That Matters”

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The Courage of a Sheep

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I love the Psalms. 119, 139, 73, 25 and Psalm 23 — are all favorites of mine. This morning Psalm 23 was the flavor of the day.

Yes, this is the funeral Psalm. The one they read at funerals and in the rosy red lights of the funeral parlor this Psalm is pretty somber.

But this morning, as it has been many other times, it was not somber but very encouraging! It was verse four that was so good to read today.

“Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.”

Haddon Robinson in a short book on Psalm 23 that he wrote said this about verse 4,

    Undoubtedly, as David wrote this psalm, he could remember how as a boy he had led this own flocks through the valley of deep darkness.

    Just as the sheep trusted David for protection, so he had learned to trust God to protect him.

    What kind of courage does a sheep need? A sheep does not need courage to fight its enemies. The most courageous sheep in the world would be an easy victim of the smallest wolf or mountain lion. What a sheep needs is courage to trust the shepherd. When it senses that a predator is near, it looks up to see the shepherd nearby, and then it goes back to grazing again. That takes courage!

    What kind of courage does a Christian need? We don’t need courage to fight our own spiritual battles.

    We need courage to trust the Shepherd. If we know that He is nearby, we simply trust ourselves to Him and go back to grazing again. And that takes courage!

Isn’t that good news! My Shepherd, our Shepherd, is nearby. And no matter what might seem to be licking its chops waiting to devour us, He stands guard over us.

There are days or even weeks when the uncertainty of life wants to overwhelm us. Today is one of those for me. But for today I have chosen to keep on grazing and trust myself to the Shepherd!

Contemporary False Teaching

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This past week we looked at 2 Peter 2 where Peter is writing about false teachers & prophets. In our time together I noted some examples of false teaching of our day. Ironically, an example of false teaching arrived in my inbox this morning.

One of the blogs I subscribe to is Justin Taylor’s, “Between Two Worlds” from the Gospel Coalition site. Justin collects some great material in his blog. I often find it beneficial for my teaching and our ministry as well as to my own walk with the Lord.

Today, he highlights the death of Clark Pinnock. I heard Pinnock speak at PBU many years ago. He was presenting his case for inclusivism, the theology that people can be saved by Christ although they have no knowledge of Him. I wasn’t convinced that night and I’m still unconvinced! Too many statements by the Lord Himself that I can’t get around to land in the same place as Pinnock.

But many people have decided that inclusivism is true. I think there are a lot of reasons why people choose to beleive this. Perhaps the most probable is that God can’t be so cruel as to condemn people who have had no chance to hear of Christ’s redeeming mission to Earth. At least that’s how they would summarize it. So they repackage the truth for their own comfort.

Justin Taylor does a really good job of summarizing the good and the bad of Pinnock’s ministry. He closes his comments with this statement, “The Bible encourages us to view those who have gone before us as examples, both positively and negatively—with virtues to imitate and vices to shun. Clark Pinnock gives us the opportunity to do both.”

You can read Taylor’s comments here if you’d like.

How the Sham Wow guys fits into 2 Peter 1:16-21

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I’ve had several people ask how I fit Vince the Sham Wow guy into a message from 2 Peter. So here is a

Vince the Sham Wow guy

synopsis of what I was thinking.

The passage starts off by saying that Peter did not use “cleverly devised tales” as he made known the power and coming of Jesus.

Well, we began the service by watching Vince in action. We played the 2 minute Sham Wow infomercial and talked about how we typically respond to those appeals. The fundamental problem with them is that they are so unbelievable! When Vince says you can use th Sham Wow in the kitchen, on the car, on the boat and on the RV. It works wet or dry. It holds 12 times its weight in liquid. All that is too much to swallow.

So Madison Avenue tries to find the most believable person to pitch their product. Either a real person to talk about why you should buy their product or a really believable fake person to convince you to put your money down!

Then you read 2 Peter 1:16-21 and here is Peter “selling” an equally unbelievable “product” — that the sinless son of God would come to Earth and pay the punishment for admittedly guilty people. Or that it is faith alone in Jesus alone that saves us from our sin — another unbelievable claim.

So here is an utterly incredible claim being made by Peter, God’s chosen pitch-man. What made Peter believable? His life matched the message of the Messiah.

Madison Avenue finds the most articulate, good looking famous person to pitch their products. Jesus chose a smelly uneducated fisherman that was stubborn, outspoken, opinionated, cowardly and ultimately betrayed his Master.

But look at the man Peter had become in Acts 2. Confident, bold, articulate, and powerful. 3,000 respond to his message. In the years to come Peter is imprisoned and whipped, mistreated for the sake of his Master. Jesus’ pitch-man finally has his life taken from him as he is crucified upside down.

Peter says he knows the “product” because he witnessed it at work (v.17). He knows this man Jesus and this is not advertising text he is reciting for profit. “We ourselves heard this” and “we were eyewitnesses” sets this pitch-man apart from anyone who ever appeared on a box of Wheaties.

So how does Vince the Sham Wow guy fit in? Who knows if Vince ever used a Sham Wow. Who knows if Sham Wows really hold 12 times their weight in liquid. (mine doesn’t!) His message seems unbelievable because it is too good to be true and because he seems unbelievable.

But Peter’s message, which is equally unbelievable, has power due to the life of the messenger.

Now the question you and I have to wrestle with is this: does my life enhance the message of Jesus or distract from it?

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