Sermon: God and Hard Hearts

PharaohAUDIO: 21min

Exodus 7:14-25
The First Plague: Water Turned to Blood
14 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s heart is hardened; he refuses to let the people go. 15 Go to Pharaoh in the morning, as he is going out to the water. Stand on the bank of the Nile to meet him, and take in your hand the staff that turned into a serpent. 16 And you shall say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, sent me to you, saying, “Let my people go, that they may serve me in the wilderness.” But so far, you have not obeyed. 17 Thus says the Lord, “By this you shall know that I am the Lord: behold, with the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water that is in the Nile, and it shall turn into blood. 18 The fish in the Nile shall die, and the Nile will stink, and the Egyptians will grow weary of drinking water from the Nile.”’”19 And the Lord said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their rivers, their canals, and their ponds, and all their pools of water, so that they may become blood, and there shall be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, even in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.’” 20 Moses and Aaron did as the Lord commanded. In the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants he lifted up the staff and struck the water in the Nile, and all the water in the Nile turned into blood. 21 And the fish in the Nile died, and the Nile stank, so that the Egyptians could not drink water from the Nile. There was blood throughout all the land of Egypt. 22 But the magicians of Egypt did the same by their secret arts. So Pharaoh’s heart remained hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said. 23 Pharaoh turned and went into his house, and he did not take even this to heart. 24 And all the Egyptians dug along the Nile for water to drink, for they could not drink the water of the Nile. 25 Seven full days passed after the Lord had struck the Nile.

Exodus 10:21-29 The Ninth Plague: Darkness
21 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness to be felt.” 22 So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was pitch darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. 23 They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days, but all the people of Israel had light where they lived. 24 Then Pharaoh called Moses and said, “Go, serve the Lord; your little ones also may go with you; only let your flocks and your herds remain behind.” 25 But Moses said, “You must also let us have sacrifices and burnt offerings, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God. 26 Our livestock also must go with us; not a hoof shall be left behind, for we must take of them to serve the Lord our God, and we do not know with what we must serve the Lord until we arrive there.” 27 But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let them go. 28 Then Pharaoh said to him, “Get away from me; take care never to see my face again, for on the day you see my face you shall die.” 29 Moses said, “As you say! I will not see your face again.”

Sermon: Our Spiritual Blind Spot

Audio: 23min

Ephesians 2:1-10

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.  But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,  even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Teaching: Adoption Into God’s Family

6a00d8341fd10e53ef0167636db06c970bAudio  |  PDF Outline

Colossians 1

11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.

Galatians 4

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

Teaching: The Wrath of God (and Other Light Topics!)

Audio |  PDF Outline

Key Insight“The wisdom of God devised a way for the love of God to deliver sinners from the wrath of God while not compromising the righteousness of God.”   –John Piper

John 8:2-11

Early the next morning he went back to the Temple. All the people gathered around him, and he sat down and began to teach them. The teachers of the Law and the Pharisees brought in a woman who had been caught committing adultery, and they made her stand before them all. “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. In our Law Moses commanded that such a woman must be stoned to death.

Leviticus 20:10
10 “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.
Deuteronomy 22:22
22 “If a man is found lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel.

Now, what do you say?” They said this to trap Jesus, so that they could accuse him. But he bent over and wrote on the ground with his finger.   As they stood there God's Wrathasking him questions, he straightened up and said to them, “Whichever one of you has committed no sin may throw the first stone at her.” Then he bent over again and wrote on the ground. When they heard this, they all left, one by one, the older ones first. Jesus was left alone, with the woman still standing there. 10 He straightened up and said to her, “Where are they? Is there no one left to condemn you?”  11 “No one, sir,” she answered.  “Well, then,” Jesus said, “I do not condemn you either. Go, but do not sin again.”

Key Questions:

    1. According to God’s law, did the woman deserve to die?
    2. Why did no one throw the first stone?
    3. Why was Jesus the last man standing?
    4. Why did Jesus write on the ground?  What do you think he wrote?
    5. How was Jesus uniquely qualified to pardon the woman?
    6. How was Jesus uniquely qualified to tell her to stop sinning?

Key Verses:

Romans 6:23
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 Galatians 3:13
13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.”

Romans 12:19
19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

Luke 23:32-43

32 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34  … 39 One of the crimiThief on the Crossnals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Spiritual Poverty: The Gospel For Privileged People (Behold: Zacchaeus)

Behold: Zacchaeus
Taught January 29, 2014, at Stanwich Church.

Audio  |  PDF Outline

Luke 19:1-10:

He entered Jericho and was passing through.

Bernard-Madoff
A modern day Zacchaeus

And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 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.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Spiritual Poverty: The Gospel for Privileged People (“Where Your Treasure Is…”)

“Where Your Treasure Is…”
Taught January 15, 2014, at Stanwich Church.

AudioPDF Outline

Asaph the Musician
Asaph the Musician

Psalm 73:
A PSALM OF ASAPH

1 Truly God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
2 But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled,
my steps had nearly slipped.
3 For I was envious of the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

4 For they have no pangs until death;
their bodies are fat and sleek.
5 They are not in trouble as others are;
they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.
6 Therefore pride is their necklace;
violence covers them as a garment.
7 Their eyes swell out through fatness;
their hearts overflow with follies.
8 They scoff and speak with malice;
loftily they threaten oppression.
9 They set their mouths against the heavens,
and their tongue struts through the earth.
10 Therefore his people turn back to them,
and find no fault in them.
11 And they say, “How can God know?
Is there knowledge in the Most High?”
12 Behold, these are the wicked;
always at ease, they increase in riches.
13 All in vain have I kept my heart clean
and washed my hands in innocence.
14 For all the day long I have been stricken
and rebuked every morning.
15 If I had said, “I will speak thus,”
I would have betrayed the generation of your children.

16 But when I thought how to understand this,
    it seemed to me a wearisome task,
17 until I went into the sanctuary of God;
    then I discerned their end.

18 Truly you set them in slippery places;
you make them fall to ruin.
19 How they are destroyed in a moment,
swept away utterly by terrors!
20 Like a dream when one awakes,
O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms.
21 When my soul was embittered,
when I was pricked in heart,
22 I was brutish and ignorant;
I was like a beast toward you.

23 Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

27 For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
28 But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
that I may tell of all your works.

Relevant Video: PBS: The Psychology of Wealth

Podcast Audio:

Book Review: Generous Justice by Timothy Keller

Generous Justice: How God's Makes Us JustTimothy Keller is an author and pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.  In recent years, he has been quite prolific in his written work, publishing roughly one book per year for several years.  In 2010, he published Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just.  He hopes the book is read by four types of people: young Christians who instinctively understand the need for social justice, older evangelicals who approach the subject of doing justice with suspicion, young evangelicals who have expanded their mission to include social justice, and lastly those who are persuaded by the new atheism who view religion as poisonous to society.

Keller’s thesis in Generous Justice is that a person who fully comprehends and appropriates God’s unconditional grace through Jesus Christ will necessarily do justice as an outflow of his or her received mercy.  He writes, “The logic is clear.  If a person has grasped the meaning of God’s grace in his heart, he will do justice… God’s grace should make you just.”[1]  I found his argument to be theologically sound, logically coherent, and compelling on a number of levels.

Throughout the book, hardly a page is turned without a Biblical reference.  In fact, Keller is clever to begin the first chapter with Micah 6:8.  It is a clever strategy because, in my experience, Micah 6:8 has been carried as a banner mostly by churches in the liberal stream of the faith; while Keller is considered by many to be a champion of conservative Christianity.  To begin with a liberalized verse, he earns early credibility with his intended audience of those suspicious of his position.

In Micah 6:8, the reader is reminded of what God requires of his people, namely that they “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with [their] God.”  Keller then parses the verse, thoroughly describing the Hebrew derivations of both justice (mishpat) and mercy (chesed), and how they reflect the character of God.  He exposes the Biblical “quartet of the vulnerable”, that is, the widow, orphan, fatherless, and the poor, and makes the case that God has for many generations commanded his people to show them mercy and justice.[2]  The remainder of the book flows from this Biblical foundation, each application for contemporary social justice fully couched in the Old and New Testament commands to join God’s work in showing justice and mercy to the vulnerable.

As is typical of Keller, he spends a lot of time focusing not on the importance of simply following God’s commandments, but more importantly on our motivation for doing so.  Keller’s impassioned focus here is on the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ, that on the cross Jesus has shown the ultimate justice and mercy to those impoverished by sin.  Regarding Isaiah 58, he paraphrases, “What is this permanent fasting?  It is to work against injustice, to share food, clothing, and home with the hungry and the homeless.  That is the real proof that you believe your sins have been atoned for.”[3]

Having spent many pages laying the foundation for social justice—that it is an outflow of the mercy Jesus has shown to us all—Keller then shifts toward the explanation of how God’s people are called into such work in the real world.  Citing John Perkins’ famous philosophy of ministry (relocation, reneighboring, redistribution, and reweaving)[4], Keller challenges the reader to consider shifting his or her entire life towards intentional justice- and mercy-showing.

Finally, Keller employs the vivid motif of “reweaving the fabric of shalom”[5] in human societies that have been “torn” by sin.  His challenge is as clear as it is profound, “The only way to reweave and strengthen the fabric is by weaving yourself into it.”[6]

I find Generous Justice to be profound, personally challenging, and truth-giving.  Because the entirety of his argument is grounded in Scripture, I find it difficult to disagree with any of his assessments and conclusions.  Experientially, I have discovered that the more deeply I understand God’s mercy for a sinner like me, the more I am compelled to show mercy to the people around me.  Jesus came a great distance to lay down his life for me, and I am thus inspired to go to great lengths to live sacrificially for others.

My only critique is that Keller might have been more strategic when he cited modern figures.  For example, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Barack Obama are exhibited as very positive figures, which I think is fine, but if one of his intended audiences was older and younger evangelicals, he might have appeased their potential complaints by also citing at least one conservative public figure.  Perhaps there are none that apply to his overall argument.

Other than this possible improvement to the book, I find Generous Justice to be an exceedingly helpful and even winsomely challenging approach to the topic of social justice in the church.  I frequently recommend it to my parishioners.

More Resources: Listen to the audio of the class I taught on this book.


[1] Keller, Timothy.  Generous Justice.  New York, NY: Dutton, 2010.  Print.
[2] Ibid, pg 4.
[3] Ibid, pg 96.
[4] Ibid, pg 117
[5] Ibid, pg 173
[6] Ibid, pg 177