Friday, June 29, 2012

Who's In Control? Pt. 2

Picking up from where we left off last time – summarizing Leeman’s sermon...

He went on to discuss six attributes of God’s authority:
  • 1.       Protects the lowly, gives to the needy – so often we think of authority as being involved in doing the opposite! Authority figures should use their power to lift other people up, thus creating an atmosphere of faith and trust.
  • 2.       God opposes those who oppose Him and shares the plunder with His people – Government must be used to pursue justice, or God will judge it! Any authority people have has been given by God, and we need to remember that!
  • 3.       God shares His authority with His people! – Christ is the center of God’s power on earth, and the church is God’s Kingdom. When people submit to God, He demonstrates His character through them.
  •       Under this point, Leeman talked about how Godly authority flows from Godly obedience. People must first be in submission to God before they can use authority in a God-honoring way (John 6:38-39). We need to learn to submit our autonomy* to God and the leaders He has placed in our spiritual lives. Once we are in submission, then God may trust us with more authority, as contradictory as that sounds on the surface.
  • 4.       God’s authority saves and justifies! – So often we think we can choose our own rule and determine our own path. We think that is what authority means. But for Christ, authority meant laying down His life, giving it up for others. We need to turn away from our false authority and follow God’s rule!
  • 5.       God draws diverse people into united praise – Here Leeman talked about the importance of worshiping together as a unified body of Christ, regardless of social class, ethnicity, married vs. singleness, etc. True freedom and true justice should be on display in God’s Kingdom.
  • 6.       Destroying those who hate God – God empowers those who recognize their own helplessness, but He resists the proud! Leeman encouraged us to ask ourselves whether we are acting as a foe towards God based on two questions: Do I believe God has the right to judge? Did I spend the last week rejecting/ignoring God’s rule, or did I rejoice in it?

Most importantly, Leeman concluded, God has used His authority to conquer sin and death for all people, and that saving power is available for all people (Eph. 4:7-8, 11, 15). In Ephesians 4, Paul quotes from Psalm 68 – but with a slight twist.

Psalm 68:18 says:
“You have ascended on high,You have led captivity captive;You have received gifts among men,Even from the rebellious,That the Lord God might dwell there.”

Ephesians 4:7-8:
“But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore He says:‘When He ascended on high,He led captivity captive,And gave gifts to men.’”

See it? Psalm 68 shows God receiving gifts from men (which is His due as God), while Paul changed the verse to show God giving gifts to men.

So that is a summary of the sermon. Next time I’ll talk about its application to me personally.

*Interestingly, in the ethics class I’m taking we’ve been discussing philosophical theories of ethics, and Kant’s big point in his ethical formalism theory is that people are autonomous and it is immoral to do anything that goes against their autonomy.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Who's in Control? Pt. 1

Well, it’s summer time so you would think I would have more time to invest in writing…but the reality is that I am having a busy summer – and also that there are times when I feel too lazy to take the time to write about all the things I would love to share that God has been teaching me.  I’ve been putting off writing something for here for at least two weeks, and I’m finally going to do it!

The last several months have been hectically busy in all areas of my life, and as a result I have a long list of topics I want to cover in this blog but haven’t gotten around to writing yet. So here’s to a beginning to cover the list! This first group is going to be a short series simply because it’s on a couple of different but connected topics.

I moved into an apartment in DC on June 10, and the next week I visited a church that my aunt had suggested and that a family friend’s son happened to also attend.  I can honestly say that the two Sundays I have been there have been my favorite church services ever. The church is Capitol Hill Baptist Church, and it is just a few blocks from the Capitol building.

The service is two hours long. The first half, the worship section, is set up slightly like a liturgy.  We alternate singing (mostly hymns – which I enjoy!), praying, and reading Scripture. The prayers are focused on a specific topic, so there’s one for praise, one for confession, one for petition, and one for thanksgiving.  The offertory and the sermon come next, followed by a closing hymn. Then we have a few moments of silent reflection before the service is over.

The first week, one of the pastors was teaching on Ps. 68, and I think it was one of the most convicting sermons I have ever heard.  Both weeks the pastors have worked their way exegetically through the text, but they are also very intentional at making the sermon applicable to both believers and also those who are unsaved.  It is such a blessing to have this service available for the time I am here!

Anyway, back to June 17.  The speaker, Jonathan Leeman, emphasized God’s authority during the sermon.  The Psalm divides into several sections
  • a prologue (1-6)
  • God leading His people out of captivity (7-10)
  • Routing the enemies of His people (11-14)
  • bigger mountains being jealous of Zion because that is where God dwells (15-18)
  • God’s people vs. God’s enemies (19-23)
  • God’s people entering in joy (24-27)
  • enemies either bringing tribute or being scattered (28-31)
  • and an afterward focused on praise (32-35)
Leeman pointed out that we as humans tend to question authority, and especially to want to take God’s place of authority. One of the points that he made is that Christians should be living transparently and authentically, both before God and before our fellow believers.

Tomorrow I’ll post the conclusion of a summary of Leeman’s sermon, looking at six characteristics of God’s power.