You Can’t Fire Me

  • Galatians 6:14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

I racked my brain all last week trying to preach the fact that we have been crucified to the world and the world to us. This is the best I could come up with.

We are so invested in this world, so convinced that this world is ours, that we cannot take criticism or calmly accept the fact that non-Christians don’t bear spiritual fruit. We cling to our symbols and laws as if they really help us to keep our stronghold in this world. We boast, and find our identities, in so many things other than Christ. It wouldn’t hurt so bad when the world takes away if we weren’t so invested in what it gives.

When the world is against you, when you feel the need to fly off the handle and lash back, when you feel the need to spew anger and venom, remember this – they can’t fire you, you’re already fired. They can’t kill you, you’re already dead. You’ve been crucified with Christ. The world holds no sway and it has no final say.

In the movie Walk the Line, someone tells Johnny Cash that his black clothes make it look like he’s going to funeral. He responds, “Maybe I am.” We should walk around with a mentality somewhat akin to this; but instead of walking around as if we’re going to a funeral, we should walk around as if we’ve already been to our own funeral and come out on the other end alive.


What it Sounds Like When a Camel Goes through the Eye of a Needle

Luke 18 and 19 present the contrasting stories of the so-called ‘rich young ruler’ and the wealthy tax collector Zacchaeus.

After his encounter with the young ruler, Jesus makes the famous statement, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:25).

Then comes another rich man, Zacchaeus, who heeds the call of Christ:

“And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold” (Luke 19: 8).

Interestingly, the rich young ruler made the claim that he had kept the moral law from his youth; but when called upon by Christ to give up his riches, he “went away sorrowful.” Zacchaeus, on the other hand, was a notorious sinner – not a law-keeper. But he honors Old Testament restitution law in his response to Jesus:

“If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and kills it or sells it, he shall repay five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep” (Exodus 22:1).

On top of this obedience to the law (giving fourfold restitution), he was willing to give half of all he had to the poor.

I can’t pin down the source of the quote, but years ago I heard someone comment on this verse saying, “This is what it sounds like when a camel goes through the eye of a needle.”

“What is impossible with men is possible with God” (Luke 18:27).

What Gray Hair?

-“Strangers devour his strength, and he knows it not; gray hairs are sprinkled upon him, and he knows it not.” – Hosea 7:9

James Montgomery Boice comments:

G. Campbell Morgan wrote of this blindness, ‘Signs of decadence, which are patent to others, are undiscovered by ourselves; and we go on, and on, and on, the victims of ebbing strength, spiritually and morally becoming degenerate, without knowing it! We are blind to the signs which are self-evident to onlookers…’ It was of Israel as it had been of Samson so many years before: ‘He did not know that the LORD had left him’ (Judg. 16:20) (The Minor Prophets, vol I, p. 61).

David Foster Wallace makes a similar point in Infinite Jest; something you learn when you go to a halfway house: “That other people can often see things about you that you yourself cannot see, even if those people are stupid.”

Denis, from Crome Yellow, learns it when he sees sketches drawn of him by a woman he considered obtuse.

One of the great realizations we can come to is that others will often see our faults before we see them ourselves. Don’t be afraid to ask them: What do you see as my weaknesses? What do you see as my greatest faults? What do I need to be working on? Is there anything in my character that you think I need to be aware of?

Others will see your gray hair before you do.

The same goes for a culture. I’ve made this point before. You often have to get outside of a culture to see what’s inside of it. That means that we need an outside reference point, or we’ll start going gray and fail to realize it until our hair is white. The mirror can’t be ourselves; it has to be something outside ourselves.

Flipping the Pancake

Ephraim mixes himself with the peoples; Ephraim is a cake not turned – Hosea 7:8

Gordon Ramsay screams, ‘It’s raw! Can’t you cook a pancake? You didn’t even flip it!’

This is reminiscent of the ‘lukewarm’ church Revelation 3. Be hot or cold, not lukewarm. Be cooked or not cooked. Flip the pancake.

Perhaps the preacher is a spatula in the hand of God? Our job is to make sure all parts are heated equally.

Ministering Before Idols

  • Ezekiel 44:12 Because they ministered to them before their idols and became a stumbling block of iniquity to the house of Israel, therefore I have sworn concerning them, declares the Lord GOD, and they shall bear their punishment.

Do we minister to the people before their idols? This means that we share their idols. It means that we are either in willful rebellion or that we are oblivious to our shared idolatry.

Matthew Henry comments,

Those who have been treacherous are degraded and put lower those Levites—or priests who were carried down the stream of the apostasy of Israel formerly, who went astray from God after their idols (v. 10), who had complied with the idolatrous kings of Israel or Judah, who ministered to them before their idols (v. 12), bowed with them in the house of Rimmon, or set up altars for them, as Urijah did for Ahaz, and so caused the house of Israel to fall into iniquity, led them to sin and hardened them in sin; for, if the priests go astray, many will follow their pernicious ways.

In my mind, I saw three things as I read this verse today: 1) A mega-church preacher standing in front of a plasma screen, 2) a health and wealth preacher standing in front of a million dollar stage setup, an 3) I’ll leave you to guess at the other one…

The good news is that Christ too ministers before our idols; but, rather than endorsing them, he tears them down and replaces them. He is our true Icon (Col. 1:15).

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Snippets: Why did Daniel keep Praying? The Need to Pray

  • When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done (Daniel 6:10)

Not because he was a rebel: He went to his own house apart.

Not because he wanted trouble: He did not start a petition or hold a sign.

Not because he had a death-wish: Jerusalem was the longing of his heart.

Not because of his powerful position: He got down on his knees time after time.

But because he had trained his body and soul by repetition –

By a life of spiritual discipline.

The lions might tear him apart,

But lack of prayer might break his heart.

Only those who by habits have been enslaved

Truly know what it is to need to pray.

Snippets: The Context of Private Prayer (Daniel 6)

  • When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done (Daniel 6:10).

In a Predicament: When Daniel knew the document had been signed…

Make it Personal: He went to his house

Find a Place: He went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber opened…

Grab a Promise: Where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem…

Pick a Posture: He got down on his knees…

Stick to a Program: three times a day…

Make your Petition: And prayed…

Give Him Praise: And gave thanks before his God…

Persevere: As he had done.

Snippets: I Will Not Believe In Something I Cannot See

Have you ever heard this one: ‘I won’t believe in something I cannot see’?

If the requirement for something being real is the fact that you can see it then:

1. You will never be consistent. You believe in air (and lots of other things you cannot see). Your eyesight is actually very selective.

2. You have made yourself into a god. You are all seeing and therefore all knowing. Reality is your eyesight and your eyesight is reality.

3. You have made the universe very small – much of it non-existent. You really believe that if a tree falls down in a forest, and no one is present to hear it, it doesn’t make a sound.

In short then, you are an inconsistent idolator who has made yourself very big and the universe very small.

  • Romans 8:24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Snippets: Creation Will Be Set Free From Its Bondage to Decay (Rom. 8:20-21)

*In these snippets posts I share some of the fruits of my study in a given week as I prepare to preach. These are brief outlines of main points. Think of it as a short commentary on a passage without the application that would be made in preaching.

  • Romans 8:20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

1. ‘Creation’ refers to irrational and inanimate creation. Not rational humans, angels, or fallen angels.

2. Irrational and inanimate creation, as we saw in the previous post, is personified as  ‘on tiptoe’ and ‘groaning’ for the return of Christ and the resurrection and glorification of mankind.

3. The creation has been subjected to futility and decay because of man’s sin, yet, personified again, it has hope of renewal

4. Objection: Isn’t everything going to burn?

  • 2 Peter 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. 11 ¶ Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!

We must finish the passage:

  • 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

This ‘burning,’ then, must be the fire of purification and refinement rather than complete destruction. The ‘dissolved’ heavens and earth will become, or be replaced by, a ‘new heavens and a new earth.’

5. Jesus Christ speaks of this as ‘the regeneration’:

  • Matthew 19:28 Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world (regeneration), when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

The old heavens and earth will be regenerated, born again, and become new.

6. Biblical sketch of the regeneration:
A. The Heavens

  • At least four times in Scripture we read of ‘new heavens’ (Isaiah 65:17,22; 2Pet. 3:13, Rev. 21:1).
  • Four times in Revelation Christ is said to hold the ‘seven stars’ in his hand (Rev. 1:16, 20; 2:1; 3:1). These stars are explicitly said to be ‘the angels of the seven churches’ (1:20). Yet the symbolism involved is possibly that of the seven planets of ancient cosmology (C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy is built loosely on this concept. The important idea is that the image displays Christ closeness to, and care and concern for, the galaxy. Many other passages of Scripture could be quoted to describe God’s intimate knowledge of, and care for, the heavens.

B. The Earth

  • As above, a ‘new earth’ is spoken of multiple times in Scripture.

The earth is often personified as playing apart in the coming of that Day, for example:

  • Psalm 98:8 Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together 9 before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.
  • Isaiah 55:12 “For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. 13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the LORD, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

C. Things of the earth: Animals (for extended treatment see HERE)

1. Animals are included in the Covenant of Grace via the Noahic Covenant and are protected from the waters of wrath in the ark. The ‘bow in the clouds’ is just as much a sign for them as for us:

  • Genesis 9:12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations

2. In the new covenant, Jesus explicitly declares all animals ceremonially clean:

  • Mark 7:19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” ( Thus he declared all foods clean.)
  • Acts 10:15 And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.”

3. Language of animals in the new created order is repeatedly used in Scripture:

  • Isaiah 11:6 The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. 7 The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. 9 They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
  • Isaiah 65:25 The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,” says the LORD.
  • Christ himself is depicted in the vision of Revelation as both a Lion and Lamb (Rev. 5:5-6), which would be nonsensical without the existence of the actual creatures. There continuing existence will point to his glory.

D. Things on the earth: Plants

  • We are invited to the future ‘marriage supper of the Lamb’ which will, of course, entail food (Rev. 19:9), and specifically plants. Grapes and grain will surely be involved:
  • Luke 22:15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”

Objection: What about death? Don’t plants have to die to become food? Answer: Biblically, death entails the shedding of blood:

  • Leviticus 17:11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood…

Plant death is in a different category than that spoken of so often in Scripture. It is considered natural rather than unnatural, since plants were eaten in pre-fall Paradise:

  • Genesis 2:16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden…”

But the great hope: God and the Lamb will be in the midst:

  • Revelation 21:3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.

That is the day that all of creation is on its tiptoe, and groaning, to see. On that day all creation will experience the liberty of the sons of God. The gospel is for us, but it is much bigger than us – it is for all of creation in some sense. In our renewal, the creation will be renewed on account of the work of Christ.