Sunday Worship Service 5 pm

Friday, May 30, 2014

When Wasting Your Life Is Worship

by Jon Bloom

We all are happiness hunters.

We are all treasure seekers.

And as Judas and Mary illustrate, there’s one sure way to measure what we treasure: what we’re willing to spend to obtain it.

The dinner table was buzzing with happy conversation.

As Lazarus fielded a stream of questions about what it was like to die and Martha cleared empty plates and filled empty wine bowls, 

Mary quietly slipped away into another room.

When she returned she was carrying a large wooden bowl with a small alabaster jar inside.

Mary knelt down near Jesus’s feet, placed the bowl on the floor, and began to remove her headdress.

The talking trailed away as Jesus turned toward her and sat up.

Soon everyone was straining or standing to get a better look at what she was doing.

Mary removed the small jar and then reverently placed Jesus’s feet inside the bowl.

She picked up the jar, removed the stopper, and poured its contents slowly on Jesus’s feet.

The room was wordless as she gathered her long hair in her right hand and used it to wipe Jesus’s feet.

An exotic, breathtaking fragrance wafted across the table.

The guests exchanged wide-eyed glances.

Everyone knew this was a rare perfume.

Jesus was moved.

His eyes were full of intense affection as he watched Mary work.

Judas was moved too, but not with affection.

He was irritated.

He simply could not fathom Mary’s wasteful extravagance.

That perfume had to have been worth nearly a year’s wages.

Never once in three years had Jesus’s disciples had that amount of money at one time.

And there it sat, a contaminated, worthless puddle in a bowl.

His indignant objection shot through the silence: “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?”

This question turned the atmosphere tense.

Mary stopped and looked sadly at the floor.

All other eyes turned to Jesus.

To a number of the disciples this seemed like a fair question.

Jesus typically instructed them to give any extra money in their collective moneybag to the needy.

Often “extra” meant beyond what they needed that day.

Mary’s act did seem a bit indulgent.

Jesus said nothing for a moment and continued to stare at Mary.

He knew what they were all thinking.

And he knew that Judas had questioned her “not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief and being in charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it” (John 12:6).

Judas’s noble sounding protest was no more than a disguise for his greed.

Jesus grieved and seethed over Judas’s duplicity and how he had contaminated Mary’s worship.

Then Jesus said,

“Leave her alone, so that she make keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you,” and turning his piercing eyes to Judas said with potent sorrow, “but you do not always have me” (John 12:7-8).

Judas and Mary are contrasts in treasuring.

They both had hedonistic motives.

Neither acted out of stoic duty.

Both pursued the treasure they believed would make them happy.

To Mary, Jesus was the priceless Pearl (Matthew 13:45), which she loved more than anything and she spent what was likely her greatest earthly possession to honor him.

To Judas, thirty pieces of silver was a fair price for the Pearl.

Judas’s sin wasn’t that he was hunting happiness.

His sin was believing that having money would make him happier than having Christ.

O Judas, the tragedy of your value miscalculation!

The Pearl worth more than the entire universe sat in front of you and all you could see were perfume puddles.

You grieved the squandering of a year’s wages while you squandered infinite, eternal treasure!

Jesus leads all his disciples to watershed moments like Mary’s and Judas’s when choices we make, not words we say, reveal the treasure we want.

These moments are designed to make us count this cost:

“Whoever loves his life loses it. And whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:25).

These moments force us choose what we really believe is gain, whether we value the Pearl or puddles.

If we choose the Pearl, we hear in Judas’s objection the world’s appraisal of us.

They watch as we pour our valuable time, intellects, money, youth, financial futures, and vocations out on Jesus’s feet.

They watch them puddle in the bowls of churches, mission fields, orphanages, and homes where children are raised and careers are lost.

And what they see is foolish waste.

Expect their rebuke, not their respect.

Jesus wants you to waste your life like Mary wasted her perfume.

For it is no true waste.

It is true worship.

A poured out life of love for Jesus that counts worldly gain as loss displays how precious he really is.

It preaches to a bewildered, disdainful world that Christ is gain and the real waste is gaining the world’s perfumes while losing one’s soul in the process (Matthew 16:26).

Are you wasting your life?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Escaping the Slavery of Selfish Ambition

by Jon Bloom

Selfish ambition is a sin that always seems to be “crouching at the door” (Genesis 4:7). 
It contaminates our motives for doing just about anything. 
It shows up even in the most holy moments, like it did for Jesus’s disciples in Luke’s account of the Last Supper (Luke 22:14–30). 
But in that account we also see how Jesus frees us from the suicidal slavery of selfish ambition.

Jesus’s final meal before the cross was perhaps the most ironic time for the Twelve to debate over which of them was the greatest.

The greatest human being who would ever walk the earth, the Founder and Perfecter of their faith (Hebrews 12:2), was reclining at the table with them. 
He was the only one in the room without sin (Hebrews 4:15). 
He was the only one there who always did what was pleasing to the Father (John 8:29).

This Person had just led the Twelve through the last Passover meal before his death — the death that would be the propitiating sacrifice for their sins (Romans 3:25). 
And he had just instituted the new Passover meal, which they and all future disciples were to observe regularly until he returned so that they would always remember that their sins were forgiven only through the substitutionary, atoning death of the true Passover Lamb (Acts 10:43).

This was no time for any disciple to assert his own greatness, except the greatness of his sin.

Even more ironic is what ignited the debate.

Preoccupied with Prominence

Jesus had just revealed that one of them that very night would willingly participate in the most spectacular sin in history: the slaughter of the Son of God. 
And yet somehow the introspection and inquiry that followed ended up in a competition over who was greatest (Luke 22:24).

It was a moment that displayed the terrifying blinding power of pride in sinful people. 
How quickly the moon of selfish ambition eclipses the Sun of Righteousness (Malachi 4:2).

Jesus was about to die for their sins. 
One of them was about to betray him to that death. 
Their response to such horror and glory should have been mourning, repentance, and worship. 
But instead each disciple was suddenly and absurdly preoccupied with his own place of prominence in God’s plan of salvation.

Grace to Change Their Gaze

But what grace Jesus displayed in this moment. 
This sin too would be paid in full. 
Therefore, Jesus did not condemn his disciples for thinking far too highly of themselves at the worst possible time (Romans 12:3).

Instead, Jesus mercifully drew their gaze off of themselves and back to him:

The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 
But not so with you. 
Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 
For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? 
Is it not the one who reclines at table? 
But I am among you as the one who serves. 
(Luke 22:25–26)

Keep Looking to Jesus

God was so merciful to move Luke to include this account of the disciples’ sin, because we too are frequently tempted to sin in this way, even in the most sacred moments.

The secret to freedom from slavery to selfish ambition is to keep looking to Jesus. 
When our focus is on ourselves and each other we begin to compare and compete, which leads us into a black hole of demonic evil (James 3:14–15).
But looking to Jesus reminds us that we have nothing that we haven’t received through him (1 Corinthians 4:7). 
Past and future, world without end, all is God’s grace toward us in Christ. 
Looking to Jesus reminds us that loving and serving each other just as Jesus has loved and served us is the path to full joy (John 15:11–12).

We will have to fight against selfish ambition as long as we live in this fallen state because it’s right at the core of our fallen nature. 
Our sinful desire to be like God (Genesis 3:5) and pursue others’ worship. 
We don’t need to feign shock when we see it in ourselves (as if we’re surprised that we’re selfish!) and, like Jesus, we should be patient when we see it in others.

Looking away from ourselves to Jesus is the key to walking in joyful freedom from selfish ambition. 

Because God designed us to be satisfied with Jesus’s glory, not our own.

Monday, May 26, 2014

How To Fight the Sin of Pride, Especially When You Are Praised

Ten Things I Do

by John Piper

1. I call to mind that I am not self-existent; only the triune God is. 

Only God is absolute, but I am contingent. 

I remind myself that I am utterly dependent on God for my origin and for my present and future existence. 

I call this to mind and ponder its truth.

2. I remember that I am by nature a depraved sinner and that, in all my sinning, I have treated God with contempt, preferring other things to his glory. 

I take stock that I have never done a good deed for which I don’t need to repent. 

Each one is flawed because perfection is commanded. 

Therefore I realize that God owes me nothing but pain in this life and the next.

3. I ponder that this condition of mine is so desperate that it could only be remedied at the cost of the horrid death of the Son of God, to bear my punishment and provide my righteousness. 

And I revel in the forgiveness and righteousness that is mine in Christ. 

4. I meditate on those Scriptures that say, “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ 

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,” (1 Peter 5:5-6; see James 4:6-10). 

And, “He who is least among you all is the one who is great” (Luke 9:48; Mark 9:35; Matthew 20:26).

5. I pray that the eyes of my heart would see these biblical truths for what they really are.

6. I ask God to make me not just see them but also feel them with a sense of the meekness and lowliness and brokenness that corresponds to their true weight.

7. I renounce desires for praise and notoriety and esteem when I see them rising. 

I say, “No! In the name of Jesus get out of my head!” 
And I turn my mind afresh with prayer toward the beauty and truth and worth of Christ. 

8. I try to receive all criticism—from friend or foe—with the assumption that there is almost certainly some truth in it that I can benefit from. 

“Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19). 

9. I strive to cultivate a joy in Christ and his wisdom and power and justice and love that is more satisfying than the pleasures of human praise, with the goal that, by the Spirit, I would be granted the miracle of self-forgetfulness in the admiration of Christ, and in love toward people. 

10. Finally, I turn often to older writers who knew God at depths which most of us modern people seem incapable of. 

I turn, for example, to Jonathan Edwards whose descriptions of humility awaken the deepest longings in me, as, for example, when he wrote to Mrs. Peperell on November 28, 1751, concerning Christ: 

He is indeed possessed of infinite majesty, to inspire us with reverence an adoration; 
yet that majesty need not terrify us, for we behold it blended with humility, meekness, and sweet condescension. 
We may feel the most profound reverence and self-abasement, and yet our hearts be drawn forth sweetly and powerfully into an intimacy the most free, confidential, and delightful. 
The dread, so naturally inspired by his greatness, is dispelled by the contemplation of his gentleness and humility; 
while the familiarity, which might otherwise arise from this view of the loveliness of his character merely, is ever prevented by the consciousness of his infinite majesty and glory; 
and the sight of all his perfections united fills us with sweet surprise and humble confidence, with reverential love and delightful adoration. 

(Works, Vol. 1 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth), p. cxxxix) 

Longing to forget me, and treasure Christ, and love you,

Pastor John