Watch Weekend Sermon - Entries written by Craig Turnbull
THINK GREATLY OF THE GREATNESS OF GOD
John Owen lived over 300 years ago at the absolute peak of the
Renaissance period in Europe. It was a time of monumental thought and
achievement. Everywhere people were digging into classical literature
with a hunger unseen before this time, and almost overnight the old
writings of Rome and Greece become all the vogue. In this stream, and
while the rest of the worldly folk are reading guys like Cicero and
Plato, followers of Jesus like Owen start grabbing copies of the Greek
and Hebrew manuscripts of the Bible. With discipline and study these
men and women become absolutely titanic thinkers, blessing you and me
with their writings even today.
Owen’s books is a tiny but wonderful little piece called The
Mortification of Sin, in which he outlines the methods and means
by which we can actually put sin to death in our lives. Dogged by
lust? Haunted by a thought life out of control? Chased by a tongue you
struggle with reigning in? Hounded by anger and jealousy? Owen gives
answers to killing this sin from God’s Word that are super helpful and
downright lethal to our flesh.
I want to summarize one
of his answers, or methods for killing sin in our lives today, and that
is, to “Think Greatly of the Greatness of God.” By this Owen
means that our hearts are to be daily focusing on the majesty of God in
contrast to ourselves; to think much of the awesomeness of our God and
of our humbleness in his light. When the gap between God’s glory and
ours is more clearly seen, the end result is that sin is hated, worship
rises, and we can say with Job...
“I had heard of you
by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise
myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5,6).
then, taking what God has revealed of himself and making ourselves
teeny is just one part. Owen encourages us to think also of how
little we actually know of God. It is entirely true that we know
him almost exclusively through what he has done. For example, we know
God is a loving God because he acts in love, he does stuff because he
loves us, and chiefly he sent his Son to die for us. In contrast we do
not, nor can we ever know the essential and infinite nature of God’s
love completely. The same is true for his goodness, his holiness, his
justice, his mercy, his wrath, his faithfulness, and so on. Our
thoughts are low, says Owen and unworthy of his glory with any attempt
to reach God’s perfections failing completely. To put our finite minds
around such limitless concepts is a bit like trying to stack the
mountains on the surface of a penny…it just can’t be done. In the light
of his vast glory we can’t even begin to comprehend the awesomeness of
Far from being a fruitless effort, when the
mind recognizes its inability to completely grasp God’s complete
character, sin is hated even more and worship rises here also.
When the blinders are taken off and we actually catch a glimpse of his
transcendence, our jaws should drop and our lives should change.
with that, here are three passages that speak directly to the
majesty of our God. All three take us to the eternal throne room of
God and leave us with a deep sense of his greatness. If you read
these, do me a favor and take note of the authors fumbling for words to
describe what they saw, and note also their drastic response to the
greatness they saw.
- Ezekiel 1:4-28
- Isaiah 6:1-13
- Revelation 1:9-20
So is it “X-mas” or “Christmas”?
Every year it seems this little letter “X” causes so much trouble, and people inside and out of the church often get polarized by the discussion. On one hand there are those who don’t see it as a big deal, and on the other there’s the crowd who rise up and shout out, “Don’t take Christ out of Christmas!” We blame the media, we blame each other, and we blame the advertisers who put it out there.
So what is the big deal? What is this little trouble-making consonant all about? Is it really trying to destroy the meaning of Christmas for us who celebrate the birth of Christ?
At the risk of getting vehement attacks from both sides, I offer up my thoughts.
First, let me explain what "X-mas" doesn’t mean: In it’s origin, “X-mas” is not a crossing out of the name of Christ. Interestingly enough, the “X” doesn’t equate to anything in English at all. In fact, the symbol it represents comes from the Greek alphabet and represents the letter “chi” (pronounced “k-ee” or “k-eye” depending on where you’re from). So what we have is not a stroke through the name of Christ, but a Greek letter. In truth this Greek letter “chi” actually corresponds to the first letter in the name of “Christ,” and sits as an abbreviation of this messianic title.
Considering that for most of human history, pens, paper, and all manner of writing implements were for the rich at best and always a premium, abbreviations have long ago become a way of life. The word "Christ" and its compounds, including "Christmas", have been abbreviated in English for at least the past 1,000 years, long before the modern "Xmas" was commonly used. Abbreviations go back even further in other languages like the ancient Greek our New Testaments were originally written in. Back in my seminary days before I had access to a laptop (translation: poor student), I often abbreviated heavily in order to keep up with my notes. Was I “taking Christ out” of my studies? No, I was just abbreviating. I knew what it meant.
Okay, so “X-mas” is benign, right? We can use it all over the place, right? Not necessarily.
Here we come to the other side of the pendulum. Often I find believers who advocate the “X-mas” side of the coin know the truths I’ve just shared. They know it stands for a Greek letter, they know that the letter stands for the title of “Christ,” and they fire back that they haven’t taken Christ out of Christmas, he’s right there in the “X”! But here’s my question: Is this kind of discussion the best exercise of our Christian freedom? Is this really the best "hill to die on"?
Can we really say that we’re striving for unity and peace with one another when we, sometimes unnecessarily, hold too tightly to our liberty? Isn’t this really what Paul was talking about in 1 Corinthians 8:9 when he stressed our constant need to care for the brothers and sisters around us? If it irritates my brothers or sisters so much is it really too much to write “Christ,” when you think of the holiday? Should we really squabble about a thing like this?
Not only is this massively important issue of unity at stake, but also the world is watching. Does the world outside our door know that the “X” stands for “Christ”? Probably not. Is the world constantly striving against God in seeking to eradicate the knowledge of Jesus from everything, not just Christmas. Absolutely! Why then would we look to get rid of it?
Here’s my suggestion: For the sake of striving for peace and unity in the body, and for the sake of public acknowledgment of Jesus, go ahead and take the small effort to write five extra letters every time you think of CHRISTmas!
and hey, Merry Christmas everyone!
WHY CHRISTIAN BIOGRAPHIES ARE COOL
can be solid sources of encouragement for us, but probably not in the
way that most of us think. When we look at the lives of believers who
have gone before us, and see the pattern of their faith, their model of
diligence and discipline, and quite possibly the massive achievements
that they've made, our thinking can run along one of t
- "Wow, that person is
awesome...I'm going to get out there and do the same," or
- "Wow, Jesus Christ is amazing...My
hope is that I would be used in the similar ways that he has used this
you see the difference? Option one has us praising the character of
the individual, option two we praise Christ.
11-13 is a great place to go for the biblical perspective of
hero-worship. It begins with the great hall of faith in chapter 11
(Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, etc.), running us into a solid motivation
to persist in the faith ("...let us run with endurance..." 12:1) before
bringing us home to the central concept in 13:8 - "Jesus Christ is the
same yesterday and today and forever."
the author of Hebrews has done is profound. He points us to the
so-called heroes before he rips the goggles off our eyes and points us
to the very reason that these men and women were so great - Jesus
Christ. The message is sweet: The same Jesus who saved Noah, who
blessed Abraham, protected Israel, the same Jesus who gives even faith
itself, is the Jesus we worship today!
So why are Christian biographies
so cool? They're cool because when I read them, if I read them with the
right eyes, I catch a glimpse of what God can do through ordinary men
and women who trust him to move.
With that said, here's a sampling of some of my favorite biographies:
- George Whitefield, by
Arnold Dallimore. A MASSIVE biography stretching across 2 volumes and
some 1000 pages, that is so worth it. Examines Whitefield as a major
instrument of revival during the First Great Awakening. A serious
commitment of time, but a seriously rewarding work.
- No Compromise: The Life Story
of Keith Green, by Melody Green. For the music lovers. A
great well-written bio of a Christian performing artist who loved Jesus
like crazy. Follow Keith through poverty and abuse to fame and a deep
- Through Gates of Splendor,
by Elisabeth Elliot. A missionary biography of five missionaries to
Ecuador's Auca people. What would it look like to try and reach a
stone-age people notorious for their savage warfare? Quick and exciting
read that's pays off richly especially in the second appendix where the
mature perspective of the author some 20 years removed from the story
sheds a bright light.
- Here I Stand: A Life of
Martin Luther, by Roland Bainton. The staple bio for the
reformer written in the 50s. Tougher read, but rich in fact and story.
- John Newton: From Disgrace to
Amazing Grace, by Jonathan Aitken. The story of the writer of
the greatest hymn ever written. Follow the former captain of a slaving
ship to his redemption and new life as a preacher during the Great
WHAT'S MY SPIRITUAL GIFT?
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another,
as good stewards of God's varied grace
1 Peter 4:10
Let’s be frank, spiritual gifts are notoriously
misunderstood and many of us struggle with putting a finger firmly on what we
believe our gifts to be. If we put
thought to it at all it tends to be in the negative: “I’m definitely not a teacher,” “I’m not gifted
Not knowing what those gifts are in your life can be both
frustrating and discouraging. We can get
in the dumps thinking that maybe we don’t have gifts, or that our gifts are
small and insignificant. In short, we
can let our flesh pull us out of effective and fruitful ministry when we fail
to understand what we have in Christ.
How then do we figure out what gifts the Spirit may have
given to us? How do we rule things out
and how do we confirm what we have? Here’s
a little four part list that may help:
One final thought.
Remember as you read the above that the Spirit of God has equipped the
church for ministry and doing any one of these steps without His help is a bad
idea. Soak each step in prayer and I’m
confident the Lord will lead you to an understanding of how He’s going to use
you to build up the body and massively bless you in the process.
That’s our first step. In order
for us to discern which gifts we may or may not have, it’s helpful to know what
the gifts actually are. The Bible has some significant locations where these gifts are highlighted, and you’ll need
to read all three to get the complete picture:
Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:7-11, 1 Corinthians 12:27-31, Ephesians 4:11. Take some time and read through the passages
highlighting the gifts, anchoring your mind in God’s Word and praying through
what you find.
- The second thing we can do to determine our giftedness is
to take a spiritual gifts inventory. These are often helpful tools that survey our
likes and dislikes tracking what could quite possibly be our spiritual
gift(s). Harvest has one of these tools
online and it can be downloaded and printed by clicking HERE. Taking about 20 minutes to go this is time
- Third, seek the input of mature believers around you as
they observe and assess your life watching in many ways. As they witness your life with family, in
service, your struggles, your victories and even the way you spend your free
time, they can have much to say about where God has gifted you. Maturity can speak volumes and be super
helpful in your discovery.
- When you’ve done all these all that’s left to do is JUMP
IN! Remember that the gifts you’ve been
given are not to make you look great or feel great, they’re given to you to
build up the body of Christ. Without
use, the gifts become hoarded goods and the church misses out big time. See where you can serve and dive in. When you serve in a ministry confirmation of your
gifts can come quickly as you pitch in, and likewise the Lord may use your
service to confirm to you what your gifts aren’t.
But grace was given to each one of us according to the
measure of Christ's gift. Ephesians 4:7
DID I JUST SHARE THE GOSPEL?
St. Francis of Assisi once said this: "Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words."
I remember that when I heard this for the first time I thought it was a
profound comment. "Deep, man," said I. However, the more I thought
about it, and the more I looked in God's Word the more I didn't like
it. I get what Francis meant - that we are to live our lives in a
manner worthy of our calling and that our actions speak loudly of our
faith - I understand what he's saying. But unfortunately even though I
understand him...I'm pretty certain that Francis was wrong.
To live our lives as though we believe the gospel is another matter entirely from actually sharing it. Romans 10:14
gives to us the foundation of this thinking: "And how are they to hear without someone preaching?" Translation: Words
are important. If we don't say something, people don't hear anything,
and when people don't hear anything, they can't believe the gospel.
Here's the deal, each and every
time we share Christ with others around us, we need to be asking
ourselves if there were some critical elements present when we spoke.
Without these, the good news of Jesus Christ has not been shared, we
haven't done what we've been asked to do, and Romans 10:14 sits before
our eyes unfulfilled. Here's a list of the critical elements:
1. Statement of the Facts – You and I are serious trouble
- Sin is a universal condition and it's terminal resulting in death and condemnation (Romans 3:23; 6:23)
- Grace through faith in Jesus is the only answer (Ephesians 2:8,9)
- We are NOT okay
- God is simply NOT just a God of love.
- It’s NOT that Jesus simply wants to be our friend
2. Response – You and I need to move
- The answer to the sin is faith in Jesus Christ and repentance from you sin. (Mark 1:15)
- It’s NOT enough to live good lives
3. Promise – You and I can find what we’re looking for in Jesus alone
- With Jesus, we enjoy an eternity with him apart from judgment and punishment (John 5:24)
So ask yourself these questions
next time you've shared Christ with someone: Were the facts given?
Was a response called for? Was the promise promised?
If so, the gospel was preached in a much truer way than with just actions. Sorry Francis.