When you think about suffering, what comes to mind? Do you envision bedraggled children with distended stomachs, a hospital patient hooked up to life-sustaining medical equipment, or a courageous veteran dealing with the aftermath of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Adversity seems to be a common denominator to human existence, but what does the Bible have to say about suffering?

Jesus spoke to His disciples about suffering. One of the most well-known verses reads, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24 ESV). The Greek word for cross in this verse is staurós. It refers to the crossbeam which the lowest criminals carried as they trudged toward their execution. The cross symbolized degradation and indescribable pain as well as sacrifice.

While the invitation to eternal life is free, it comes at a price–certain suffering.

1 John 3

Letters of John

 

When we become disoriented, we often ask two questions:

What did I do to get here?

What do I need to do to move on from here?

So If you have ever been disoriented, or are running from pant leg to pant let, trying to find something familiar, then looking at this passage can help us to settle into God’s claims on us as His children.

God’s claim on us as children shows us what love is and how we experience it

1 John 3:1–3 ESV

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

We know who(se) we are

John says, and so we are.

Maybe we need to remind ourselves of this truth. How incredible it is that God would love us enough, not to be called His minions or employees, but His children.

And when we orient ourselves to Him, we end up being able to understand much more about how to operate and live in the world. We understand what it means to be formed to be like Him.

1 John 3:3 ESV

And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

God is already complete. He is actual. He is pure. And to know Him is to become like Him. If He is pure and we belong to Him and orient our lives to Him, we know what He is like and become like Him. We choose to be like the GOd who calls us children.

We know where we are

We are free to love others and free to serve others when we are no longer disoriented and are oriented by the heart of God for His kids.

1 John 3:20 ESV

for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.

If we feel condemned, if we feel like it is too much, too far, too hard. If loving people feels like an impossibility, then God wants you to know that He is greater than that burden. He is inviting you into sonship and daughtership.

 

1 John 2

Letters of John

 

We are formed by everything that God has given and are called to walk fully in that grace

But sometimes we forget what grace looks like and how to walk.

I’m sure you have heard the phrase, “practice makes perfect.” While that is not entirely true. It’s not that practice makes perfect, it’s that but practice makes permanent

But we don’t always ask the question, are you being formed in the way you want to be?

Are you being formed in the way that God is calling you to be?

What we do most we become the best at

Our understanding of the good, that means, isn’t always good.

Maybe what you find is good has hurt a lot of people.

Maybe your definition of what is good can’t hold up much more.

The stuff we do over and over (our orientiation to the world) that forms us Augustine says that the law of sin is the violence of habit.

1 John 2:15–17 ESV

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

He is not saying don’t love other things. He is saying your love either forms or malforms things. What we desire can make something better or it can make things much much worse.

he is not saying don’t love other things. He is saying don’t love other things because of what you can get out of them. It’s not love for them it’s love for desire of the flesh, you. Or desire of the eyes, you. Or the pride of life, you.

Your practice with your desires is making permanent. And you are being formed to points that may not be healthy. The orientation you move toward may start well, but desire easily malforms and you end up further down the road than you wanted.

1 John 2:3–6 ESV

And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

And if we have trusted Christ to save us we have everything that He has given

1 John 2:1–2 ESV

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

Christ is the one who is the “propitiation” for our sins. Meaning that all that was wrong, all that was made wrathful, all that was broken, is appeased.

1 John 2:5 ESV

but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him:

We have to orient Christ in such a way that we are formed by Him. And Christ is how we know God. We are formed to God because of Christ and live our our lives by doing the stuff that He did.

we are being formed by all sorts of things in the world. Minute by minute. Are you being formed in a way that is what you are hoping for? Are you being formed in a way that God is calling you to?

 

1 John 1

Letters of John / 1 John 1

 

The writer of this letter, John is connecting everything that he is going to tell us with one single idea: God has entered the world and we have been able to comprehend him.

Whenever people practice a theology of just in case they are looking to that thing and asking, “are you enough this time?” Will you be big enough for me to stop searching?

God has made Himself known and that fact alone makes all the difference in our lives.

If you want to know what happens when God shows up, these verses this morning help us to understand.

Christ showed up: God has become known

1 John 1:1–2 ESV

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—

This is John’s claim. It is his only sense of authority. It is his complete source.

He is telling the hearer’s of this letter, or sermon, that because Christ has shown up, it is worthwhile listening.

Philippians 2:6–8 ESV

who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Hebrews 1:3 ESV

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

everyone on the face of this planet wants an experience of the good. The good life the meaningful life, the fulfilling life. And people define their lives by their proximity to that good (Taylor). John is saying that the good has come and come near and we are invited to interact with it, with Him

We Remain connected to Him

God chose connection with humanity, refusing to keep us alienated from Him. We know this because John states that they encountered Him because they could recognize Him. He didn’t look unlike them or speak unlike them . His way of being with humans was to become human.

1 John 1:5–10 ESV

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Because Christ has been made manifest in a way we can encounter him, we are invited into fellowship with Him.

1 John 1:4 ESV

And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

Joy is complete in encountering Him together

Joy has a source outside itself. You experience joy within yourself but the source of that joy comes from somewhere else.

Luke 2:10–11 ESV

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

Christ has come into the world so that, together, we can experience joy. It is not waiting for something more, it is celebrating in what is now.

But there isn’t joy in the planning.

Joy comes in the experiencing. Christ has already revealed Himself, you role is less planning and more inviting in.

 

Easter Sunday 24

Luke 24:13–35

 

The first Easter morning started much more bewildering and confusing than we let on.

It was much slower, quieter, confusing kind of experience

Luke 24:15 ESV

While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them.

One, they begin to discuss the resurrection.

two, they begin to share their own hope.

There is a fuller hope

Luke 24:21 ESV

But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened.

Their rumors are half hearted. Their hope is half inflated.

There is one point in their story that they have missing.

That Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead.

The only thing between half and full is Christ being raised from the dead.

1 Corinthians 15:14 ESV

And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.

Luke 24:25–27 ESV

And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

There is a better story

Jesus is not just rehashing the stories of the OT, He is showing how the story of God interacting in the world through the nation of Israel all led up to Him. All of History tied itself around the resurrection.

Jesus assumes that those stories, that history would have been enough to carry their faith.

The disciples couldn’t imagine Christ without a reference to death.

Jesus tells the entire story outside of death, without reference to it.

We have to learn to let Jesus tell the story.

Yours is a better story this side of the resurrection

Luke 24:28–31 ESV

So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight.

This is the life that Christ offers. That our primary wound, our initial place of brokenness, is healed over.

Easter is a big deal because it is the celebration that nothing has to stay the way it is. That our primary and eternal wound has been healed and restored.

 

Palm Sunday 

Mark 11:1–11

 

Intro

Colossians 1:17 ESV

And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Christ is Victorious through Every Broken thing Because He holds all things together

Mark 11:9–10 ESV

And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”

They are enacting a roman triumphal procession.

This parade would have been normal when the Roman emperor or a high ranking official would have entered into a city. They would enter through the main gates, sitting on the most regal horse, with their army and their plunder behind them.

A funny and odd victory

Jesus tells the disciples to go and find a colt (a donkey that has never been ridden) and bring it to him. He gives instructions that they are going to go into town, find a colt tied up and then if anyone asks them what they are doing, they are just supposed to say, “the Lord needs it. He will give it back.”

Mark 11:2–6 ESV

and said to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’ ” And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it. And some of those standing there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go.

A donkey represented the humility of the king who would bring salvation. An emperor or a Caesar would find the best horse, one that towered above everyone else.

Christ sustains all things, all power is His, and yet He rode a donkey to declare that He would win.

All of creation is in agreement with this moment. Even donkeys are listening. Even stones are crying out.

We look at our lives and the absurdity or folly of it, our circumstances or otherwise and think, God couldn’t possibly.

But when we do that, when we ask that and when that crosses our minds or even our lips, we have to go back to this moment, when we recognize that Christ doesn’t bring victory through our means, in fact He uses the simplistic things, He uses folly to accomplish His victory.

But it is right in those moments, when we are gifted with the opportunity to not lean on our own understanding and to, in the middle of the folly, or confusion, or donkeys or palms or stones crying out, to cry victory in Christ. To proclaim that against every odd, He beat sin and death and is doing that very work in our lives this morning.

2 Corinthians 4:16–18 ESV

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Remember Leonard Cohen’s lyrics in the song, Anthem

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

Christ brings victory through every broken thing. We will see that this morning in communion and on our way to the Cross.

 

Learning objectives for Mere Christianity 

What:

To help understand basic tenets of Christianity, to help communicate basic understanding of Christianity, and to expose others to great and historic Christian authors. 

What for: 

  • To be able to communicate what Christianity is about
  • To be able to dialogue about why Christianity matters and why it matters personally 
  • to understand the foundational aspects of Christian writing. 
  • to be introduced to CS Lewis and be able to pick up more of his writing

Book 1: Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe. 

There is likely not a better modern writer on the concept of the Moral order or of what theology would call a “viruous world.”  Meaning that the world, as created by God, was created with order inherent within it.  And to understand that, and live it out, is what makes us the most human.  We find we cannot do that without Christ but Lewis takes time to point out the created order. 

He states this on page 6: 

“I hope you will not misunderstand what I am going to say. I am not preaching, and Heaven knows I do not pretend to be better than anyone else. I am only trying to call attention to a fact; the fact that this year, or this month, or, more likely, this very day, we have failed to practise ourselves the kind of behaviour we expect from other people.”

  • How does this idea point to a moral or created order? 
  • Why does Lewis start all the way back here when he is writing about Christianity? 

Book 2: What Christians believe

Page 42: 

“Reality, in fact, is usually something you could not have guessed. That is one of the reasons I believe Christianity. It is a religion you could not have guessed. If it offered us just the kind of universe we had always expected, I should feel we were making it up. But, in fact, it is not the sort of thing anyone would have made up. It has just that queer twist about it that real things have. So let us leave behind all these boys’ philosophies—these over-simple answers. The problem is not simple and the answer is not going to be simple either.”

  • Christianity is not something we could have guessed. Why would it be hard to guess? 

Book 3: Christian Behaviour

Goodness is goodness for its own sake.  Badness is spoiled goodness. People do bad things mostly because they see some use or pleasure in it for them. It is not wholly bad, it has some good in it. 

43“I do not mean, of course, that the people who do this are not desperately wicked. I do mean that wickedness, when you examine it, turns out to be the pursuit of some good in the wrong way. You can be good for the mere sake of goodness: you cannot be bad for the mere sake of badness. You can do a kind action when you are not feeling kind and when it gives you no pleasure, simply because kindness is right; but no one ever did a cruel action simply because cruelty is wrong—only because cruelty was pleasant or useful to him. In other words badness cannot succeed even in being bad in the same way in which goodness is good. Goodness is, so to speak, itself: badness is only spoiled goodness. And there must be something good first before it can be spoiled.”

We were made a specific way , like a car running in gas.  It is how we operate. God cannot just make us happy because we would not be happy, that is not how we work. 

48“The reason why it can never succeed is this. God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”

One of the most famous Lewis quotes

52“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

  • How can that rubric, liar, lunatic, Lord, help us to better understand Jesus personally? How can it help us to talk about him to others? 

Book 4: Beyond Personality: or First Steps in the Doctrine of the Trinity

our actions make Christianity unbelievable to the outside world. 

  • How does this help our understanding of how people are formed in Christ?
  • What does this say about your own formation in Christ?

207 “I think this is the right moment to consider a question which is often asked: If Christianity is true why are not all Christians obviously nicer than all non-Christians? What lies behind that question is partly something very reasonable and partly something that is not reasonable at all. The reasonable part is this. If conversion to Christianity makes no improvement in a man’s outward actions—if he continues to be just as snobbish or spiteful or envious or ambitious as he was before—then I think we must suspect that his ‘conversion’ was largely imaginary; and after one’s original conversion, every time one thinks one has made an advance, that is the test to apply. Fine feelings, new insights, greater interest in ‘religion’ mean nothing unless they make our actual behaviour better; just as in an illness ‘feeling better’ is not much good if the thermometer shows that your temperature is still going up. In that sense the outer world is quite right to judge Christianity by its results. Christ told us to judge by results. A tree is known by its fruit; or, as we say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. When we Christians behave badly, or fail to behave well, we are making Christianity unbelievable to the outside world.”

Lewis is saying that The only instrument for really studying God is the Christian community 

  • how does that help you to understand the church?
  • Is that encouraging or challenging?
  • What is one thing the church can do to respond to this call? 

165“Consequently, the one really adequate instrument for learning about God is the whole Christian community, waiting for Him together. Christian brotherhood is, so to speak, the technical equipment for this science—the laboratory outfit. That is why all these people who turn up every few years with some patent simplified religion of their own as a substitute for the Christian tradition are really wasting time. Like a man who has no instrument but an old pair of field glasses setting out to put all the real astronomers right. He may be a clever chap—he may be cleverer than some of the real astronomers, but he is not giving himself a chance. And two years later everyone has forgotten all about him, but the real science is still going on.”

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