Category: Church

Nothing on Earth: Finding Contentment in a World of Comparison (Week 1)

Sermon Audio: 26min

Psalm 73:

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

For they have no pangs until death;
    their bodies are fat and sleek.
They are not in trouble as others are;
    they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.
Therefore pride is their necklace;
    violence covers them as a garment.
Their eyes swell out through fatness;
    their hearts overflow with follies.
They scoff and speak with malice;
    loftily they threaten oppression.
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.

Christ, The Greater Covenant

Sermon Audio: 20min

Hebrews 8

For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.

For he finds fault with them when he says:

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,
    when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel
    and with the house of Judah,
not like the covenant that I made with their fathers
    on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.
For they did not continue in my covenant,
    and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
    after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
    and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
    and they shall be my people.
11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor
    and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
for they shall all know me,
    from the least of them to the greatest.
12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,
    and I will remember their sins no more.”

13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

Christ is Greater: Series Intro

Sermon Audio: 22min

Hebrews 1:1-14:

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 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, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

For to which of the angels did God ever say,

“You are my Son,
    today I have begotten you”?

Or again,

“I will be to him a father,
    and he shall be to me a son”?

And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,

“Let all God’s angels worship him.”

Of the angels he says,

“He makes his angels winds,
    and his ministers a flame of fire.”

But of the Son he says,

“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
    the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has anointed you
    with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”

10 And,

“You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning,
    and the heavens are the work of your hands;
11 they will perish, but you remain;
    they will all wear out like a garment,
12 like a robe you will roll them up,
    like a garment they will be changed.
But you are the same,
    and your years will have no end.”

13 And to which of the angels has he ever said,

“Sit at my right hand
    until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”?

14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?

The Parable of the Great Banquet

Sermon Audio: 23min

Luke 14:12-24:

12 He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

15 When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” 16 But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. 17 And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18 But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’  19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ 20 And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’  22 And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23 And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’”

An Alive Church

Sermon Audio, Stamford Campus: 23min
Sermon Video, Greenwich Campus:

Revelation 3:1-6:

“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.

“‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

Comparison is the Enemy of Contentment

It is (in my estimation) one of the most beautiful prayers in all of Scripture:

Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Psalm 73:25-26

It was written by a man named Asaph, who was a worship leader in David’s and Solomon’s Temples.  I am especially amazed by his statement, “There is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.”  Asaph was reflecting on the immeasurable worth of God and realized that the whole world is unable to offer anything more desirous than Him.  Asaph, a member of the priestly line and having a role inside the Temple, would have lived a luxurious life.  His job came with many expensive trappings—in fact, he lived like a king.  Even so, he was able to look at these lavish amenities and realize that their value paled in comparison with knowing God.

Earlier in the same psalm, Asaph confessed a serious sin.  Envy.  It seems that he had some friends or acquaintances who were wealthier than he was.  Not only that, but they seemed to be undeserving of their material blessings.  He wrote, “I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” (vs.3)  Asaph was confused about why some people could be blessed by God even though they were wicked.  In quite vivid detail, he described how disgusting they appear to him, concluding with this disdainful phrase, “Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches.” (vs.12)

Paradoxically, Asaph was both disgusted and envious of his friends.  He hated them and he wanted to be them.

Have you ever felt this way?  Have you had a friend or relative who experienced some unexpected blessing, like a huge bonus or inheritance, and had mixed feelings about it?  Perhaps you thought, “Ugh, why did he get that blessing? He doesn’t deserve it!” while at the same thinking, “I wish I had gotten it instead.”  This is precisely how Asaph felt in the first half of Psalm 73.  It’s hard to be content when we constantly compare ourselves to others.

So how did Asaph change his heart from envy to worship?  How did he escape the downward spiral of social comparison to declare, “There is nothing on earth that I desire besides [God]”?  He was so disgusted and envious in one verse, yet so awe-struck by God’s beauty in another.  He went from comparison to contentment.  What changed?

Asaph went to church.

“When I thought how to understand this,” Asaph wrote, “it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God.” (vs.16-17a)

A simple encounter with God during worship in the sanctuary changed Asaph’s perspective.  Like a person with a dirty car driving through the tunnel at Splash Car Wash, Asaph emerged from the sanctuary with a clearer windshield and a whole new view of the world around him.  Previously, his vision was clouded by disgust and envy of his friends; he could only see the fault in them and the (false) righteousness in himself (see vs.13 and 21).  But in the sanctuary, God cleared away the grime of sinfulness and allowed Asaph to see clearly.  With clear eyes and a full heart, Asaph gazed upon his Savior and saw him for the treasure that he truly is.

What is my point in sharing this prayer with you today?  If you haven’t already figured it out, I’m encouraging you to get yourself into the sanctuary.  Go to church.  Statistics show that even devout Christians are attending church less than they used to.  It’s easy to see when our cars need washing, especially this time of year when the pollen is heavy.  But it can be less obvious to realize when our souls need a cleansing reorientation in the sanctuary of God.  Do you want to escape the cycle of social comparison?  Do you desire to be truly content?  Come, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” (Psalm 122:1)

See you in the sanctuary.
Nathan

The Triumphal Entry

Sermon Audio: 23min
PDF: Old Testament Cross References to the Triumphal Entry

Luke 19:28-40:

28 And when he had said these things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, 30 saying, “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.’” 32 So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. 33 And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 And they said, “The Lord has need of it.”35 And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36 And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. 37 As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, 38 saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 39 And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

Footnote: In the sermon I mention my slaveholding ancestor.  I erroneously said “Thomas James Hart,” another ancestor in the same lineage, instead of Thomas E. Hart.  Here is information on the Thomas E Hart house in South Carolina.

God’s Design for Work

Sermon Audio: 22min
Sermon Video:

Genesis 1:26-2:3:

26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

27 So God created man in his own image,
    in the image of God he created him;
    male and female he created them.

28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.  

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.

Accompanying Images: