How can Christians truly sing Psalm 1:2, “But his delight is in the law of the Lord,” when it still feels like the law condemns, shames, and accuses us? The answer is by understanding the Christian’s new relationship God’s law (or the law’s third use, as Reformed speak would put it.) Listen to Steve Brown explain the Christian’s new relationship to God’s Law in “rubber meets the road” terms on his recent broadcast: The Law and Success.
Peter, the one whose cross-shaped calling was unfolded to him through the ebbs and flows of sinning, repenting, believing, and walking with the Master, exhorts us that to follow the footsteps of Jesus is to walk the way of the cross: For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps (1 Peter 2:21 ESV).
Herein we find the paradox of the Christian life. For Christians, a wasted life is a life not wasted in service of Christ and his Gospel. The way of the cross is the way to death, but the way to death brings life. In Clowney’s words:
Until we are ready to follow in the steps of that Saviour, discussions of Christian vocation are futile. Had vocational counselors interviewed Simon Peter, they would likely have directed him away from the fishing business. His gifts for leadership were wasted in a two-man fishing boat. But they would hardly have recommended a career in sectarian religious extremism, as a follower of the Nazarene. Devotion to such a cause could, and did, end in crucifixion.
From the twelve apostles to the Auca missionaries of our generation, the history of the Christian church is the history of “wasted” lives. The Christian may tabulate all the assets of his personality and take inventory of his preferences, but he casts all these at the feet of Christ. He is not seeking fulfillment but expendability. He counts not his life dear to himself, for he holds it in trust for Christ. His goal is beyond the grave; the crown of his high calling is in the hand of his risen Lord. (Edmund Clowney, Called to the Ministry, pp. 14-15)
It took Peter a while, but eventually he heeded the rebuke of Jesus, a rebuke still needed today, especially for those of us in seminary:
But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” And he called to him the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? For what can a man give in return for his life? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:33-38 ESV)
Let us be found wasting our lives for the Gospel’s sake, lest we with our last breath bemoan a life wasted in selfish self-fulfillment.
I can now speak from personal experience that among the milestones in a young man’s journey on the arduous road from pew to pulpit, his first sermon surely stands out as an oasis in the desert. Finally, it seems, after trekking through hot hours of Hebrew, hermeneutics, homiletics, systematics, biblical studies, and all the rest, a cool and refreshing glass of lemonade is put into your hands in the form of a 30 minute chance to herald the Gospel of God to the people of God. There’s nothing quite like it.
Listen to “The Soul’s Satisfaction in the Spirit’s New Life”
Listen in (if you dare! :-) to my first sermon through which I attempted to unfold Jesus’ precious words in John 7:37-38: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’” (ESV).
The scripture readings are:
Exodus 17:1-7 and
A Preliminary Self Reflection
The ideas I tried to communicate could perhaps be better distributed in two messages rather than in one. The two main ideas I tried to communicate were (1) the exploding climax of Jesus words in their context and (2) the deep implications of Holy Spirit’s work in believers’ lives as the Spirit of Christ who gives flowing, abundant life in Christ.
In studying for the sermon, on the one hand I felt as though I had a fairly straightforward text with obvious and direct applications from Jesus’ own words. Though, on the other hand as I began to dig I found that (as is true of Scripture time and again) this text is interwoven with so many rich, correlating biblical truths, prophecies, and redemptive-historical events that I felt overwhelmed and ill equipped to attempt to exposit the text for fear of not giving a worthy showing of its richness.
Please feel free to send your own reflections on Jesus’ words here in John 7, tips for improvement, critiques of the sermon, etc.