We just ended a series in the dark book of Judges where we were left longing for a true savior. As we began our Christmas series, Christmas Victory Songs, we saw how after 400 years of silence, out of the prophetic blue, this peasant virgin named Mary is told that she is going to have a son whom she is to name Jesus. Mary initially had doubts. But we see how she moved from a place of doubt to simple faith. Doubt is where true relationship with God starts. It is a doorway, not the enemy, to faith. Through this passage of Luke 1:46-55 which is also known as the The Magnificat (‘Song of Mary’), we saw how Mary’s response to Jesus inside of her reflects when someone comes to faith and salvation in Christ. The signs of an authentic encounter with Jesus are: (1) a clear focus on God as the one who saves; (2) a heart that worships God; (3) an assurance that the eternal God cares for me personally; (4) a boasting in undeserved grace; (5) a sense that something epic, life changing has happened; (6) a conviction that God is doing something far bigger than just saving me; and (7) a trust in God’s word. On the basis of the promises in John 3:16, your relationship with God who never lies and always keeps his word can begin. Do you need to trust Jesus? You can listen to the message on passage from Luke by Pastor Mike HERE!
You turn on the TV and the opening news is about a woman gang raped all night, dead body left on the front porch, husband, who also happens to be her pimp, cuts her body in 12 pieces, and then sends them throughout the city of Detroit. Wouldn’t your eyes be glued onto the TV, curious to see how everything unravels? To the disbelief of many, this is precisely what we read in the closing message of our sermon series on the book of Judges, Darkness vs. Light. Judges 19 to 21 are some of the most horrific chapters in all of the Bible, and what we really see is total depravity, everything about us, our thinking, our feeling and doing are infected and influenced by sin.
There’s a huge difference between the real and the fake. The genuine and the knock offs. Just like how there are real gold rings that keep their colors for years, and then the fake rings that leave green stains on your fingers, we either worship the God who created us or a god created by us. Judge 16 is a transition period where there are no more judges of Israel, and chapters 17 and 18 now focus on the spiritual decay. Micah, whose actions represent the state of the nation of Israel, stole and lied about stealing from his mother and there is no true remorse. We see a man with no integrity or principles, but more so, a man doing things his own way, living life according to his own rules and worshiping his own way. Things only get worse. He not only makes an idol but he also builds a shrine and makes his son a priest. In other words, he customized worship to his own liking. In the same way we want to customize Jesus. We think that we can shape God into our own image when He is the one who created us in His image. Jesus is not a sub sandwich you can make to your own liking. There is a clear difference between worshiping the living God who created you and a god you created. Who do you say that Jesus is? Who is he to you? Do you follow the Son of the Living God. Or the Jesus you created?
When a man lusts a woman? Sexual desires are holy and healthy when they are expressed in God’s plan and boundaries. As we continued with the narrative of Samson from the book of Judges, we saw how the judge Samson was really bounded by his desire for Delilah. We also saw how Judges 16 was not just about sexual lust but about craving after anything else besides God. There are four things that happen when we crave something more than God: (1) You misuse your giftings to pursue your cravings; (2) You think you control your cravings but they control you; (3) You become blind to your spiritual condition; and (4) You are destroyed. The once indestructible Samson was eventually weakened and he was ultimately destroyed. However, thankfully, sin does not have the last say. Not in Samson’s life nor in the life of Israel. The only true and living God is the one who gives the Philistines their victory, and as he gives over Samson to the Philistines to judge him, God is actually judging the Philistines, bringing sweet victory to the nation of Israel. Actually, it is a violent victory. But there was a much more violent victory. Out of the ruble of Judges 16 emerges the rock of Jesus Christ. Like Samson Jesus was betrayed by a loved one, Samson by Delilah, Jesus by Judas. He was mocked, ridiculed, and abandoned. However, unlike Samson who was abandoned for his sin, Jesus was abandoned for our sin, so we would not have to be everlastingly abandoned for our sin. For us, he put one hand on the pillar of God’s holiness, and the other on the pillar of our sinfulness, and he was crushed by an avalanche of the sins of his elect people. While Samson’s victory was partial and temporary, Jesus’ victory is eternal, and by faith, we put our hope in him. You can hear this message on Judges 16 by Pastor Mike HERE! Also, if you missed last week’s message by Charles Bovan on the importance of walking in community you can listen to that HERE!
On November 8th we gathered for our first session discussing Wayne Grudem’s “Bible Doctrine”. This wasn’t meant to be a re-hash of the introduction or chapter one, but a time intended to stir up questions and comments; to delve further into the overarching theme of “What is systematic theology?” As Mike mentioned, systematic theology was one of his favorite subjects in seminary, because it helped him actually understand the Word of God; so let’s hope it does the same for us! In addition to our discussion of the text, Mike delivered a small lecture consisting of seven points that shed light on the need for systematic theology. If you weren’t there for the session, here’s a re-cap of his points:
- Everyone has a theology, and everyone is a theologian. Unless we are focusing on the Jesus of the bible, we will make Jesus look like us. That is to say, if we don’t focus on what God said about Himself in His word, we will end up manufacturing a God that looks nothing like the God of the Bible. In the end, we all end up having a “theology”. What kind of theologian will we be?
- Studying theology is one of the greatest privileges you will ever have. Did you know that theology was referred to as the “Queen of the Sciences” within Ivy League academics? Knowing about God isn’t the same as knowing God. However, what do you do when you want to know someone better? You try to learn as much as you can about them! When you start to know them, you’ll want to know them more and more deeply.
- Bad theology exists because people don’t do systematic theology. As Mike has said in the past “A text without context is a pretext to make it whatever we want”. By ignoring context, or considering what else the Bible says on a given topic, we run the risk of coming to heretical conclusions. In fact, there are no “new” interpretations of the Bible, just ancient heresies re-packaged for modern times.
- Be careful: don’t be fat in the head and skinny in the heart. It’s said that the Lutheran theologian Rudolf Bultmann memorized the entire New Testament (in Greek, to boot) and believed none of it. It’s possible to know a lot about God and not worship Him. We don’t want to get to a point where our heads are swollen with knowledge and our hearts are barren due to a reliance on our intellect. While many can swing between two camps: being doctrinal, or being experiential. We want to be both. Those who fall into the “experiential only” camp want to talk only about “experience”. That is to say, they only want to discuss their “experience” of God, which tends to be subjective. This ends up leading to a “mystical” interpretation of God – ignoring the fact that He has clearly revealed much about Himself in scripture. This leads to the other extreme (doctrine only), those who say “Give me a bible and a highlighter”. Ultimately, we want elements of both. We want our heads and hearts to aid us in being hands-on/missional. The end result is something thoroughly scriptural, deeply experiential, while being passionately missional.
- The study of doctrine must lead to delight or else it’s dangerous. You want to be growing in godliness and mission, not just “growing in knowing”. When was the last time you cried over scripture, an attribute of God, forgiveness of sin, or the brokenness of the world around you? See the fourth point.
- Don’t let systematic theology trump the plain, everyday, beautiful reading of the Bible. Plainly put, this isn’t your Bible. While the study of systematic theology can help us in understanding our Bible, it won’t read and experience the Bible for us.
- You must put shoes on the truth. You’ve learned a lot. So, how are you going to apply and walk it out?
What is grace? Is it anything more than an overused Christian word that carries no weight? NO! Grace is undeserving favor to undeserving sinners that brings us into relationship with God, most fully revealed in the gospel of Jesus Christ. As we continue with our series Darkness vs. Light, we saw how, more than being about Samson’s birth, Judges 13 paints a picture of what happens when grace lands on someone, what grace does. So what does grace do? Grace comes unexpectedly. Again we see the ongoing pattern of rebellion against and the retribution, but what we don’t see is repentance. Yet God in his sovereign grace, sends a judge to deliver them. In other words, even though they have not cried out in repentance, God sends them a rescuer. The posture of God towards those who he plans to save is to run after them and to bring them home. The God of all grace does the impossible. In overflowing grace, not only does God bring blessings to the barrenness to your lives, but his saving grace turns spiritual cadavers into true worshipers. Also, in his grace, God changes our direction. As both of Samson’s parents embraced the new direction to which God had lead them, when grace breaks into our lives, it changes our direction in the form of holiness, service, and missions. Lastly, when grace lands, it creates a worshiper. T’was grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved. When we start to fear the Lord is when we start to get to know him, which leads us to worship.