TWO WAYS TO FLEE THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD

Why would one ever flee from the presence of the Lord?

Away from hope and into despair?

Away from light and into darkness?

Why did Jonah?

And why do we?

We do it when our deepest desire is for something other than God.

What did Jonah want more than God? You don’t really discover the answer until the end of the book, but there was something that was more important to him than serving God, than loving God, than experiencing the presence of God. Did Jonah love God? I can imagine him preparing a defense, saying, “For twenty-five years I’ve gone to Temple…for twenty-five years I’ve kept the rules — for twenty-five years I’ve prophesied your Word…”

But did he love Him? C. S. Lewis used to say of his dog — “He doesn’t really obey me, but sometimes he agrees with me.” That’s how we can be. Obeying God when we agree with Him…but fleeing when He asks us to do something that goes against what we really want. Our real god, our idol, whatever that is.

It is so easy to think we are loving God because we are doing “the Christian things.” Have you ever fixed a meal for your husband or children — but it wasn’t done with love? Anyone looking at you might not know — but you would know…

One of the most penetrating conversations in Scripture occurred between Jesus and Peter after Peter’s betrayal, after the resurrection, when three times Jesus asked him:

DO YOU LOVE ME?

This always reminds me of the three times that Tevya, in Fiddler on the Roof, asked Golde:

DO YOU LOVE ME?

Please watch the first two minutes of this song. After two minutes the parallel stops — for when they then sing ” “It doesn’t change a thing, but after twenty-five years, it’s nice to know…” it doesn’t work. The truth is,  if we really love Jesus and are not just serving Him to get something in return, then it changes EVERYTHING. Morality is serving to put God in your debt. Embracing the Gospel is to comprehend that He did it all, that there is nothing you can do to win His favor or put Him in your debt — in fact, you are completely in His debt. But the first two minutes work perfectly — so watch, for the picture will stay in your heart!

This week we are still laying the foundation for the book of Jonah — and I want you to go slowly, for the truths expressed are paradigm changers. Tim Keller explains that there are two ways to flee the presence of the Lord: one is by being very very bad (like the younger son in the story of the Prodigal sons) and the other is by being very very good (like the older son in that same story.) The “older brother” and Jonah felt God owed them something because they had served Him. Keller also explains, and I know this is true, that unless you explain that there are two ways to avoid God, that non-Christians will think you are inviting them into morality when you invite them into Christianity. Likewise, we ourselves can begin to think of the Christian life as obeying the rules instead of an intimate relationship in which we are experiencing the presence of God. When Jonah ran away from God it was not spatially (because you can’t — He’s everywhere) but relationally. He didn’t want to be intimate with God, to find His identity anymore as the servant of God — he wanted to be his own god. He didn’t like what God was asking and he was angry — like the older brother was angry. We all carry in our souls some of the older brother/Jonah syndrome.

After I spoke in Georgia last weekend, I took two extra days to be with my friend Sylvia who lives in NE Florida. Our mutual friend Ann joined us. I told them about my new insight into The Sermon on the Mount — and of how, Jesus is preaching about the older brother/Jonah syndrome, about how we find our identity in things other than God, about how we seem to love God, but really, love our own way. We may appear to be “good Christians,” but in reality, we are the house on the sand, the barren fruit tree…

At first they were skeptical, for they had never heard that — but then, as we sat down and looked at the four examples the sermon closes with, they saw it.  As Sylvia and I were changing my bed before I flew out, smoothing the sheets for the next guest, she said, “Dee — why have we walked with the Lord all these years and never seen this [meaning heart idols — and how we find our identity in things other than Christ] before? Why have we not heard this before?”

I said, “I don’t know. But once you see it, you see it all over the Bible”

“It is!” She said adamently. “EVERYWHERE! That’s why I cannot understand why I was so blind. But seeing it has changed my life.” Then she paused and said, “Do you think this awakening, which is definitely spreading in the body of Christ, is leading to revival?”

“I’ve wondered… it certainly has done that in my heart.”

“And mine.”

Seeing this changes so many things: our approach to evangelism, our own sense of being loved, our freedom, our desires — EVERYTHING. Our own Kim Taylor just wrote me the dearest note on how this has changed everything for her, and set her free. I’d like to quote one of her paragraphs:

How different I am than a year ago. My life is peaceful, no matter what storm comes my way. I feel full of Him and His love, no longer the elder brother looking down at others who are less righteous than me. I know my name is sealed on His great heart and so I no longer fear losing my salvation.

Go slowly. This is a life-changer. It may take some weeks for the penny to drop, but when it drops, you will never be the same.

For those who are new — I suggest doing certain things on certain days — but if you prefer to listen to the sermon first — do. His messages are so rich, you may want to listen more than once. I’ve listened to some of his messages ten times. My penny needs lots of jiggling to drop!

Sunday/Monday: Icebreaker

1. What comments do you have on the above and why?

 

2. Imagine you are married and asked your husband if he loved you, and he said, “I married you, didn’t I? I give you my paycheck, don’t I? I mow the lawn…”   How would you feel about that response and why?


3. What do you think God longs to see in your heart — and why?

 

Monday – Wednesday: Bible Study

There are two ways to avoid God: by rebelling and being immoral, or by being very good and trusting in your own righteousness — so you think you don’t need a Savior. Probably the easiest place to see it, and for many of you this will be review, is in the parable of the two sons — so let’s look at that first, if only for review. Neither son, initially, truly loved the father. As Keller says, “They only wanted the father’s stuff.”

4. Read Luke 15:11-18

A. How did the younger brother show that he didn’t love the father?

 

B. What do you think was his heart idol — the thing that he loved more than his

father?

C. How did he feel when he was away from the presence of the father? What does this illustrate?

 

5. Read Luke 15:25-30

A. How did the older brother show he didn’t love the father? Find evidences.

 

B. What do you think his heart idol was — what did he want more than the father?

 

C. Challenge question: What parallel do you see to Jonah?

 

D. How did the older brother feel “away from the presence of the Lord?”

 

Now — a less familiar and surprising place — The Sermon on the Mount. At the conclusion, Jesus keeps giving illustrations of “two ways.”

I want to anticipate a question: “Are you saying someone who has a heart idol is not saved?” I’m not. I’m saying he might not be saved, and think he is because he is “moral,” like the older brother or the Pharisee. But he might have a heart idol and be saved — for we all have them. The younger brother had one — but his struggle and his repentance showed he was like the good tree.

TWO HOUSES

TWO HOUSES: HOUSE ON THE SAND AND HOUSE ON THE ROCK

 

TWO TREES

TWO TREES: GOOD TREE BEARING FRUIT AND BAD TREE WITH NO FRUIT

TWO WAYS

THE NARROW GATE AND THE BROAD PATH TO DESTRUCTION

THE NARROW WAY TO LIFE AND THE BROAD PATH TO DESTRUCTION

 

Keller said he once preached on this as the way of the godly and the way of the ungodly — which is correct, but later he saw that the ungodly did not represent the person who is like the younger son (being very bad) as he had thought, but rather the older son (being very good — self-righteously moral.) This is sobering. This sermon is, in part, to awaken those who think they know Christ, who say “Lord, Lord,” but in fact, do not love Him, do not trust Him. They love themselves and are trusting in their own righteousness.

We’re going to study this from the conclusion up — looking first at the summary, and then seeing if we can see the truth throughout The Sermon on the Mount.

6. Read Matthew 7:24-27

A. According to verses 24 and 26, the wise man and the foolish man have something in common. Find what

they have in common. How would they appear the same in a church service or Bible study?

 

B. Now look at those two verses and find what differentiates them.

 

C. Thinking of the older brother and of Jonah — and of heart idols and answer this. Why is it that we can

know what God asks, and yet still refuse to do it?

7. Read Matthew 7:21-23

A. How are these two groups the same?

 

B. How are they different?

8. Read Matthew 7:15-20

A. In what season might these two trees appear to be the same?

 

B. In what season would the difference be apparent? What is the lesson, according to verse 20?

 

9.  Read Matthew 7:13-14

Two groups are on the path to destruction and one is not. Explain all three as succinctly and clearly as you

can.

 

10 Share your contemplations on this study.

 

 

Thursday-Friday: Listen to this free Keller sermon given in London to pastors and share your notes.

http://thegospelcoalition.org/resources/a/Gospel-Communication

 

Notes and Thoughts on Message

 

Saturday

11. What’s your take-a-way and why?

COMMENTS (400) Post a New Comment ↓
Reply

6. Read Matthew 7:24-27

A. According to verses 24 and 26, the wise man and the foolish man have something in common. Find what they have in common. How would they appear the same in a church service or Bible study?

I’ve had the song “The Wise Man Built His House Upon a Rock” and the pic above of the house going through my mind all week (this one frequently goes through my brain anyway, but I haven’t thought about it more in the context of houses than people!)

The wise man and the foolish man may look very similar in church or Bible study. The foolish man might even look better than the wise man looks. The house in the picture above looked like a good house.

B. Now look at those two verses and find what differentiates them.

What differentiates them is the stability of the material on which the houses rest. Rapidly moving water will move sand, but heavy rock remains (that’s why big rocks are used to retain sand on lakefront property!). The foolish man is like a toy house set on sand. Just like a sand castle, it will wash away. But a similar toy house that is firmly anchored to rock will remain after a flood. Someone who is foolish, whose confidence is either in the house (being good/legalism) or on the sand (self/nothing/anything other than Jesus), will experience loss of or destruction of “their property” after a storm. The house firmly attached to the rock will remain (but may look a little battered after a bad storm). After a storm, the wise man would be thankful his house is secured to the rock and would make sure that it remains secure to prepare for future storms.

Reply

C. Thinking of the older brother and of Jonah — and of heart idols and answer this. Why is it that we can know what God asks, and yet still refuse to do it?

In the context of the verses about the wise man and the foolish man, it seems that both Jonah and the older brother would have had to do some house moving and possibly some house deconstruction. We might refuse to do what God asks if we aren’t connected to the rock in the first place — i.e., don’t have a firm foundation for building. If the previous correct behaviors of the older brother and Jonah had been built on a foundation of sand, they may have had to acknowledge this in order to continue to be obedient. Pride in their previous work may have gotten in the way. I don’t suppose it would have been any better if the older brother and Jonah would have done the right things for the wrong reasons.

I’m noticing that I am becoming resistant to doing some service activities that I have been willing to do in the past (not sure that they have anything to do with obedience or disobedience). My current attitude is showing me that I may have done the activities in the past simply because it was easier to do them than to risk disapproval by others. As the tasks require more effort (because fewer people are willing to serve), I’m faced with the options of disapproval (if I don’t volunteer A LOT, the project may not happen = disapproval), building a house on the sand (I don’t sense that God is leading me to try carry be the primary work horse). I’ve known some of the times my approval idol was a problem. But until now, I wasn’t equating “approval” with the times when I actively “fly under the radar” or go along with something to AVOID DISAPPROVAL. That’s a more common problem for me than directly seeking approval. (not sure where this insight will lead. Kinda scary if it leads to behavior change)

    Reply

    lol..love your insight!

Reply

haha … speaking of flying under the radar: I don’t like it when my answers are at the top because of the switch to a new page.

    Reply

    :)

Reply

A. How are these two groups the same? They appear to know who God is and pray to Him.

B. How are they different? One has heart knowledge the other is lost, never knew Him except they served him for what they could get from Him.

8. Read Matthew 7:15-20

A. In what season might these two trees appear to be the same? In the season where they are beginning to grow fruit.

B. In what season would the difference be apparent? What is the lesson, according to verse 20? At the harvest season when they are ready to be eaten. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. Eventually they will not be able to keep hidden what they truly are.

Reply

9. Read Matthew 7:13-14 Two groups are on the path to destruction and one is not. Explain all three as succinctly and clearly as you can.

13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Many are on the broad road to death. Few find the narrow road leading to real life in Christ.
At first glance you don’t see three but in light of the subject matter I can see there would be three groups.

*1. Those out there living for the devil, loving the good life and living for kicks. Having no real interest in God or the things of God.
*2. Those deceived, thinking they are Christians, doing great things – even things that would seems to be what only a Christian could do – all in the name of Christianity. They will be told to depart into eternity without hope. They will be counting on their own righteousness instead of His.
*3. Those who are on the narrow path, truly belonging to Him. They will receive the crown of life.

    Reply

    This helps my understanding, thanks Kim!
    I’ve belonged to both types of churches ( legalistic) thinking that looking godly was the way to know Him, and then very ( liberal) depending on my own goodness as my salvation. Even went a church were prosperity was God’s Will for my life. Until I took a step back realized He doesn’t exist to indulge me, but I exist for His purpose.
    I am finally understanding that with God there is a balance and order to things. Much like the universe He created.

Reply

10 Share your contemplations on this study.
I am so thankful for the process of having my eyes opened. I agree that we see idols everywhere. It is all over the Word and all over people and I even found myself listening to a gal speak and thought, “Yep, that’s the idol of control/power.” I want to be careful here for I am in process of getting set free as well and don’t want to be harsh but it has become hard to ignore. Now if I can just use what I know in the spiritual battle and fight each time I see idolatry in myself then I will keep getting free.

    Reply

    Good advice, Kim I can sure use it!

Reply

Thinking of you Diane, praying that the discouragment has ceased for you.

    Reply

    Yes, Lord, praying for Diane.

    Reply

    Thanks, Chris S. and Joyce, for your concern. I feel a bit like I am walking through fog right now, just trusting that God walks with me and will guide my steps. I knew Krista’s depression would be a long term issue, but I am struggling with how much it is affecting my life, how much I should be there to help, how to adjust my other aspects of daily life to “be there” for her. It’s not getting easier and I see that some other responsibilities may have to go for a time. I desperately want to keep up with this Bible study. It has been so much help to me – both in learning new things of the Lord and in learning from you all as you encourage each other and me. Also, I have home and church responsibilities that are getting behind. Not sure how to manage it all. I appreciate your prayers.

      Reply

      will keep praying for you, Diane. Miss you when you’re not on here.

Reply

crazy busy week, trying to write on my blog every day…i am not able to keep up here! but if you could please pray for Sophia, she has been my sons girlfriend over the past year and a half, he broke up with her today and her heart is breaking in two:-( I think he did the right thing, she is very sweet but lives a very privalaged life and he wants to be a teacher in the inner city, she plays the piano and violin and he hates classical music….its just so very very hard and my heart breaks for her! she is so hurt right now!!!!!!

    Reply

    Oh :( praying

    Reply

    So sorry…praying, Cyndi

Reply

I’ve come on to reach the rich discussion between Elizabeth and Chris — who better to minister than Chris?
Then to See Diane coming on with Elvis Presley and Joyce, of course with prayer. I like Peggy Noonan —

Rich and empathetic sharing. I hate it that Elizabeth is hurting so and so agree about being real with God and us.
He weeps with you, Elizabeth — even though He has the power to take it away.

Reply

We are at Karate, so I have time to catch up on comments!

    Reply

    “like” :-)

    Reply

    How is karate working out for you & your boys?

      Reply

      Chris S. Oh the boys love it, especially Elijah and Isaac! I just can’t get myself to do it! Not my thing. :0)

        I am glad you found a place for the boys that you are comfortable with. How did the walk home with the two boys go for Issac?

Reply

7. Read Matthew 7:21-23
A. How are these two groups the same?

They both want to get to heaven

B. How are they different?

One group thinks they are doing the will of Father and one group IS actually doing the will of the Father.

8. Read Matthew 7:15-20
A. In what season might these two trees appear to be the same?

They might appear to be the same in the winter when there are no leaves and even in the spring and summer from a distance they might both appear to be healthy.

B. In what season would the difference be apparent? What is the lesson, according to verse 20?
In the season when they are supposed to bear fruit (summer or fall). Some bear healthy fruit; others bear diseased fruit or no fruit at all. The lesson is that you will know them by their fruit.

9. Read Matthew 7:13-14
Two groups are on the path to destruction and one is not. Explain all three as succinctly and clearly as you can.

There are many who follow the gate to destruction because it is wide and easy. We can follow that crowd in two ways – by being a rule keeper or by being a rule breaker. A rule keeper spends a lot of energy following the rules and expecting to earn justice, heaven, approval and applause for keeping the rules. Many people find it easy to self-discipline themselves to work hard. And the rewards are many – admiration, achievements, physical fitness, money, etc. One of the common examples of this way of thinking is in the common everyday conversation starter, “How are you doing?” To which the most common response is “Oh, I’m so busy …” to which the response is sympathy and mutual commiseration to the difficulties of life. When someone asks me that question I deliberately do NOT say, “I’m so busy.” It is almost humorous that the other person frequently asks a further question, “I suppose you are busy, eh?” Busyness seems to be a new god (Idol).

The second group are the rule breakers who throw off the rules in search of freedom and pleasure. Being happy becomes the highest good. “If it feels good do it.” I really liked the Peggy Noonan quote: “[We actually] expect to find happiness here on earth … If you do not believe in another, higher world, if you believe only in the flat material world around you, if you believe that this is YOUR ONLY CHANCE AT HAPPINESS—if that is what you believe, then you are not disappointed when the world does not give you a good measure of its riches, you are despairing.”

These groups seem like opposites but are both self-centered. Both these groups are headed for destruction.

The third group enters the narrow gate which is a hard way, yet it leads to life. Few people actually follow this way.

10. Share your contemplations on this study.

I shared this idea with my Bible study group that there are two ways to avoid God as rule keepers in our own self-righteousness or as rebellious rule breakers. They seemed to get it and agree. They all know people who know their Bibles and can quote it but don’t think they need God. But I don’t think they really GET it yet that THEY may be the rule keepers who are avoiding obeying God yet.

    Reply

    Diane, Such a VERY clear description of rule keepers vs rule breakers. Thanks for the clarity :)

    Reply

    Diane, I think you have people pegged very well from being a preacher’s wife for so long :) I found everything you said to be true! Thanks for sharing!

    I like this….”busyness seems to be the new God (Idol)”!

    Reply

    It takes time for the penny to drop.

    I remember when my dear friend Sylvia, with whom I just had time, felt the penny drop. It was a decade ago during Keller’s Galatians study and she kept telling me, and I kept thinking, “Yeah — I know.” But I didn’t — not really.

    Reply

    Like button here :-)

      Reply

      Ditto on the ‘like’ button.. :)

    Reply

    oh Diane, you nailed it–“Busyness seems to be a new god (Idol)”. I’ve gone against the grain (in some areas) as far as kid activities–my son plays baseball and that’s ALL we do–no other after school anything…and it’s amazing how many moms (it seems) try to make me feel guilty–like it’s bad that we’re home a lot…but my kids are happy, and I just remember living out of our station wagon growing up–ALWAYS on the go–ugh, the memories make my stomach tight!

      Reply

      I’ve pondered what it really means when we are exhorted to live the quiet life — and I think you are doing well. I know they aren’t sitting around watching television but you have them engaged in creative things and in books — using their minds — so I think it’s great!

Reply

My life is too busy! May is crazy and it’s just begun. Hoping to listen to the sermon tonight. And catch up on reading comments so I can know how to pray.

    Reply

    Seems like many are feeling convicted about being too busy! I always liked (is it Beattles?) “Slow down, you move too fast, you’ve got to make the morning last…” song

      Reply

      i think its The Lovin’ Spoonful that sang ( Feelin’ Groovy)
      Dee, I know its not The Beatles.:)

Loved the sermon and it helps address what I see continually in the south. The people who think they are Christians because it is cultural and they are good moral people. I fear many are lost not understanding a relationship with Jesus Christ but they really think they do have one. It is the cow staring at the fence look. I will have to try the idol of the heart approach. Maybe this will work!

Hope all have a great weekend! Lots going on here. Cannot get on as often it seems! So far so good with antibiotics but tomorrow is the day ten. We will see. Hubs and I are ready. Little man has a fever. Girls have a program tonight for end of school year been working so hard. Hoping we all can be there as a family. D’s family are on the last stretch they will lose the kid in state custody in august if nothing more is done. We will follow adoption at that point along with other family. I ache for them. They were homeless again for a week. they have been given a few resources that all they have to do is call for help. We will see.

    Reply

    Praying Angela

    Reply

    Glad antibiotics are working so far… What does Hubs and I are ready mean?

    I would be glad for finality with adoption.

      OH just ready for the possible storm. Fridge stocked with food that is easier for him to fix for us if I am down. We are prepared this time. I woke up with a migraine and lots of stiffness, I was real tired yesterday but so far it is due able. Still in bed though. Thinking little guy has hand, foot, mouth. :(

Reply

Thursday-Friday: Listen to this free Keller sermon given in London to pastors and share your notes.

WHY IS THERE NOT A CHURCH WITH A KELLER IN OUR TOWN???? :)

I took notes and man is this another good one! I am going to have to come back-need to get the boys to school, and need to be at the Doctor by 9:30 to have some skin cancer removed-hoping for clear margins!

Quickly though..I LOVED the end how he suggests talking to non believers…Also loved his explanation of the prodigal son-can’t wait to come back and share-I wondered why I struggled with some things in my current circle where I worship-couldn’t put my finger on it, but I think I have now. Not sure if we should do anything about it or not-praying.

    Reply

    another like button :-)

    Reply

    Let us know on your skin report.

    How would you share differently now?

Reply

i commented on the sermon on my blog. its really long so i didnt want to take up space here. if you want to read it you can go to gracefullparenting.blogspot.com
hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

    Reply

    Tried to get to your blog but said I had to be invited.
    Without David I’d be lost doing this blog!

Reply

10 Share your contemplations on this study.

I really liked this weeks study I really didn’t get how it related to Jonah but that’s ok:) I liked in Matthew where it says be a doer of the word and just just a hearer . I need to practice thus I often listen to things sermons podcasts etc but never put ur into practice cause I am fearful to

    Reply

    Glad for your honesty. Meg. When you listen to Keller sermon, you’ll see how it relates to Jonah.

Reply

Elizabeth,

I had a little surprise when I had my skin cancer removed-they got it all-no big deal but it is in my groin and so I can’t walk up and down stairs or clean for TWO WEEKS!! I think it is because of the stitches ;-) :-0 I thought of you..So my sweet friend is going to have our Gospel Group bring meals for a few days or maybe a week..I went ahead and accepted, even though I KNOW my husband and the boys’ ‘clean’ isn’t going to be my kind of ‘clean’..My house will be a DISASTER when they bring the food over-but your example of accepting help, helped me. :~0

    Reply

    Oh, my. It will be difficult to not go up or down stairs (or clean) all that time, but I love that you are graciously, and with good humour, accepting help both from your boys and from your friends. This is one of God’s divine interruptions that may have something very special in store for you as you accept it with His grace.

      Reply

      Diane, you said it! I just don’t see myself lying down..Look at me I am on the computer finishing my study. I am not good at lying down unless i have the stomach flu. Yes, I agree with you..I told my mom -this will be soooo good for the boys-they need to get down and really deep clean-put all that energy to use! :-) :-)

        :-) All kid’s energy! I wish I had some of their energy too.

    Reply

    oh dear rebecca–so sorry, and sorry you had the cancer but thankful it is removed! You may be inspiring me here though–I hate to admit that in my pride, I haven’t accepted any meals–actually a friend last week dropped some one thing at my door and ran, knowing I’d say NO, again. So, there’s one! I hate that I struggle so with accepting–I come from a long line of “doers”–and I’m seeing more and more how hard it is to accept. But I tell people I can buy pre-cooked meals at Wal Mart–but I can’t buy prayers!

    praying for quick healing

      Reply

      Elizabeth, if we lived closer we would be dropping all kinds of things at your door and running-maybe even including helping you clean! Love you! ;-)

        Prayers sent your way, Sweet Rebecca:)

      Reply

      Elizabeth,
      I’m reading your posts and made me think of once I heard Joni Eareckson on the radio talk about meeting someone for lunch and this person had to feed her; she talked about letting others serve her and how she looks at it as giving them a blessing by giving them the opportunity to serve her. Maybe that would help you to think that you may be making someone’s heart happy as they are preparing a meal for your family and they feel they are also serving God, too.
      I’m sorry you are in so much pain, and I am continuing to pray for you.

        Thank you for this Susan, I also have a great deal of difficulty letting people support me. This was helpful, I have also experienced being the one offering help and feeling like the other person would not humble themselves and ‘let me in’.
        In my family we were sort of raised to be ashamed of needing or accepting any help.

    Reply

    Bless you Rebecca. Sounds painful. :(

    Reply

    Good to accept help.

    So sorry. HOpe you can be good so you can heal.

Reply

Thoughts on Keller Sermon:

1st thing I loved-The Sermon on the Mount: “Two people are trying to obey the law-one is the Pharisees and one are Jesus’ disciples. Both are groups of people who are trying to obey God-one is doing it for their own salvation and one is not. One is judgmental and one is not. One is gracious and one is not. Jesus is trying to make a distinction between religion and the Gospel, not irreligion and the Gospel.”

This was so good.

I do see this with that gal I mentioned. I am concerned for my boys because of this-but thankfully we have many gracious believers in the Middle and High school ministries. The reason I wrote about her above is because this isn’t something I have seen once in her-but it is pretty consistent. She came up from behind me once during worship time. My oldest son was newly in 6th grade and they have the middle schoolers sit with us during church service, so for most it was their first year..This was his first few weeks so he was in training to sit still and behave-and when he was with his friend they would get squirly. Well we have been training them, but my husband wasn’t there this time. I was closing my eyes, singing and worshiping-focused on God.. I had no idea my son was playing with a piece of paper with his friend. ;) Instead of letting me know kindly, this gal came up behind us, I heard her angrily talking with my son-it was over the top anger-and so I turned and I mean she was angry. This was my first encounter with her. I found out she was one of the church secretaries. She then went to tell the middle school pastor. We dealt with our son and his friend and so did the middle school pastor, but I also told my son that while it was right she said something, the way she handled it was without grace.

    Reply

    Sorry to have him hurt — and it was good how you dealt with him.

    My manipulative idol always wants to give people without grace the book What’s So Amazing About Grace. But it has to come from Him. You can’t “put on” grace.

Reply

Second thing I liked about the Keller sermon:

The prodigal son:

“Younger brother was invited to the feast=salvation, he is saved. That is the point, but not the main point. There are as many verses about the older brother as the younger brother. The elder brother’s response is so long it is the point of the whole parable. If you think of the Father as God and the feast is salvation. You have a younger brother who is trying to get control of the money by going off and rejecting His values, the older brother has been trying to get control of his Fathers money by obedience. The younger brother, by disobedience. In the end the Father has to go to both and ask them into the feast, but in the end the bad kid is saved and the elder brother isn’t saved-he is still lost. The bad boy is saved and the good boy is lost isn’t in spite of his goodness , but because of his goodness. It is his pride that is keeping him from the feast. You have a religious person and an irreligious person. Who is the parable pointing to-The Pharisees.”

I love that he brought out that the parable is pointing to the Pharisees–really the bad boy is easy to spot, but it is obvious he is talking to the Pharisees and from what I have seen all over scripture, Jesus despises works righteousness in every encounter with the Pharisees-he keeps reiterating in John how even if he tells them for the 20th time who He is they won’t believe him.

Will chew on this some more…can’t wait to hear how God has quickened everyone else in this sermon.

Reply

Notes and Thoughts on Message

Rebecca’s notes on the sermon were really great and I am not going to repeat what she said on the sermon, but add a couple points that stood what to me. (I will not mention all the points that stood out. It was a great message – worth listening to again and recommending to my pastor husband.)

Martin Luther is right. The default mode is to go back to self-righteousness all the time. We get the gospel and then we forget it. When you preach to the average non-Christian saying, “Ask Jesus into your life.” You need to be careful because they will assume you are saying “Be very good.” They think Christianity is a moralistic paradigm, i.e. trying really hard. Be really clear.

His Outline for witnessing:

1. Everybody lives for something. Chariots of Fire, he has 10 seconds to justify his existence. That is what he is living for. Rocky 1 “I just want to go the distance, then I will know I am not a bum.”
What justifies your existence? Power, approval, comfort, control, family

2. Everyone is a slave. If you have to have it, and if you don’t get it, then you will have incredible guilt, or incredible anger if someone blocks you. What is your bottom line? What controls you? May be even detachment that is your idol.

3. Everyone is worshipping something. You are a slave.
a. Even irreligious people are worshipping something.
b. Even religious people are usually worshipping something besides God and they don’t know it.

4. Jesus is the only ultimate thing. If you center your life on Him (Your Master), if you fail him, he can forgive you. If you get him, he can fulfill you. Jesus died on the cross, because your idolatry is an offense to him. You would be cut off from God without his sacrifice.

5. This generation needs to be free. You think you are free but you aren’t. Only through JC will you have a slavery that frees and liberates.

My Comment: I really like the slavery imagery used in Keller’s sermon. It resonates with me, perhaps even more than the idolatry imagery. I need to think more on it.

    Reply

    Scripture has so many rich metaphors for idolatry; adultery, slavery, addiction — all to help us. So good!

Reply

Hi!
I am leaving for a road trip for a few days down in mississippi for a few days.
please remember me in your prayers!

    Reply

    Laura Marie,
    praying! Have fun :)

    Reply

    Have a wonderful blessed time!

    Reply

    Praying for your safety on the road and hope you have fun!

    Reply

    Praying Laura Marie! Look my cousin’s up in Pass Christian! I never get down there. Hope you have a wonderful trip!

    Reply

    Laura Marie, Will remember you and will pray! Have a great road trip!

Reply

We are getting our house ready for inspection and I am in over my head a bit, hiring and coordinating all of the sub contractors. We are moving in three weeks to our new home in the country. It has been a very hectic time. God has been in every detail and has blessed me far more than I will ever deserve. I did fit in the sermon and am sure it’s going to be one where I must listen again and again to get it all. I have had to miss many of the comments but next week should calm down. Praying and love to you all.

    Reply

    Kim, praying all goes well with the move and hope things calm down for you. Let me know when your having your house warming…I’d love to come and see your new home!

    Reply

    Love to you too Kim, congratulations on your new home!

Reply

4. Read Luke 15:11-18

A. How did the younger brother show that he didn’t love the father?

According to that culture, a son who asked for his inheritance like that was essentially telling his father, “I can’t wait for you to die.” He turned his back on his father, his family, his traditions, his community, and all that his parents had instilled in him. He wanted his father’s wealth.

B. What do you think was his heart idol – the thing that he loved more than his father?

Power or control? He wanted to live his own life, to be free from authority and rules.

C. How did he feel when he was away from the presence of the father? What does this illustrate?

I think at first it was very “heady” for him – during the “wild living” period. Perhaps he thought things like “now this is living!” Then, when he lost all his money and ended up slopping pigs and the pigs’ food was looking good, he began to realize how good he had it when he was at home with dad.
I think this illustrates that when we rebel and run away from God, we may be fooled into thinking we are gaining our freedom, but actually we become enslaved to sin and lose our freedom.

5. Read Luke 15:25-30

A. How did the older brother show he didn’t love the father? Find evidences.

He had to have seen the suffering his father endured after the younger son left home, how his heart was broken. You’d think older brother would want his father’s grief and sorrow to be over and that he would be happy for his father to be reunited with the younger son. But instead he’s angry. He only thinks about himself and his feelings of being slighted. He refuses to celebrate with his father and go in to the party. He describes his work as “slaving” for his father, so he didn’t do it out of love, he did it to put his father in his debt.

B. What do you think his heart idol was – what did he want more than the father?

Approval and affirmation. He wanted recognition and rewards for being the good son.

C. Challenge question: What parallel do you see to Jonah?

If Jonah had really loved God more than anything else, he would have loved and cared about the things that God loved and cared about, and that was the Ninevites. He would have been happy to see them repent and turn to God and for God to be merciful to them.
If the older son had really loved his father more than anything else, he would have loved and cared about his brother and been happy to see him repent and come home and for their father to show forgiveness.

D. How did the older brother feel “away from the presence of the Lord?”

He was left to stew in his anger, bitterness, pride, and resentment. He was unable to feel joy. He isolated himself.

    Reply

    Love this clear parallel:

    If Jonah had really loved God more than anything else, he would have loved and cared about the things that God loved and cared about, and that was the Ninevites. He would have been happy to see them repent and turn to God and for God to be merciful to them.
    If the older son had really loved his father more than anything else, he would have loved and cared about his brother and been happy to see him repent and come home and for their father to show forgiveness.

Reply

6. Read Matthew 7:24-27

A. According to verses 24 and 26, the wise man and the foolish man have something in common. Find what they have in common. How would they appear the same in a church service or Bible study?

They both built a house – that’s what they have in common. In a church or study setting, both would appear to be “building a house” – spiritually, by attending church, worshipping, praying, studying the Bible. Outwardly they look the same.

B. Now look at those two verses and find what differentiates them.

The wise man built his house on the rock. The foolish man built his house on sand. The wise man hears the word of God and obeys it, while the foolish man hears the word of God and does not obey it.

C. Thinking of the older brother and of Jonah – and of heart idols and answer this. Why is it that we can know what God asks, and yet still refuse to do it?

I think this is key – we “refuse” to do it. It’s not that we can’t, it’s that we won’t.
There’s something that has a hold on our hearts more than God does, and it can be an idol or it can be self-love. As Keller said, “God becomes negotiable”, but we wont negotiate on what we have our heart really set on. It’s a failure to really see the value of God – just God, Himself.

7. Read Matthew 7:21-23

A. How are these two groups the same?

They both address Jesus “Lord, Lord” as if they know Him.

B. How are they different?

Some will enter heaven, the other group will not. Some have done the will of the Father, the other group has not. One group really knows Jesus – He is their Savior and Lord and they have served Him. The other group thought they knew Jesus but they don’t and they are not saved and their acts of service Jesus tells them they are “evildoers” and they are sent away.

8. Read Matthew 7:15-20

A. In what season might these two trees appear to be the same?

Perhaps in winter when both trees are bare. You wouldn’t be able to tell which tree was good or bad at that time.

B. In what season would the difference be apparent? What is the lesson, according to verse 20?

Late summer or fall, when there should be ripe fruit to harvest; one tree would have good fruit and the other would have none or the fruit would be bad – wormy or diseased.
This is how we can tell who are false prophets. They look nice outwardly, but their fruit is bad; their deeds are bad.

Reply

9. Read Matthew 7:13-14

Two groups are on the path to destruction and one is not. Explain all three as succinctly and clearly as you can.

Group One – like the Prodigal younger son; rebelling against God, living life for themselves and for pleasure; immoral, hedonistic, ungodly; criminals, thieves, murderers, etc…fit into this group.

Group Two – like the elder brother or Pharisee; self-righteous, climbing a moral ladder to heaven, rule keepers, legalists, trying to save themselves by their good deeds, convinced their good deeds will outweigh the bad, a high view of themselves and a low view of God.

Group Three – the person given the gift of faith by God – the Father has drawn that person to Jesus Christ and they see they are a sinner in need of a Savior; they rely totally on the death of Jesus on the Cross as their Substitute.

    Reply

    Susan, Love your comments!

Reply

The part of the sermon I keep thinking about is the woman who, before she came to faith, grasped that being saved by grace alone meant that we as believers have no rights, there is nothing He cannot ask of us. If God accepted us on the basis our preformance there would be a limit to what He could ask of us.
At first blush this appears unfair, I think because it goes against our pride & desire to be in control. But as we relax into it, it is so wonderfully freeing and as we see the bent of our wandering hearts towards sin, we see what a marvelous gift grace is.

    Reply

    Isn’t this so true, Chris? It helps us so much in our suffering to really understand this.

      Reply

      It truly does Dee. It calms me so.

Reply

I’m traveling this weekend — and will end up at my cottage in Wisconsin and looking forward to it.

I want to share my take-a-way.

To walk in humility, realizing how dependent I am moment by moment on His grace — that I cannot avoid the broad path on my own.

Also so thankful for you. This is such a good group and there have been some interesting discussions. Loved Laura-Dancer’s honest questions about “Why, then, should we be good?” And your good answers.

Chris, because of her deep suffering in part, I believe, but also because she hungers so after God, often sees another level.

Liked the discussion on being too busy — the frenetic pace that keeps us from “the quiet life” and Him.

How the penny is dropping on the parallel between The Sermon on the Mount, Jonah, the older brother.

Feel like I’m really getting to know some of you better that are digging in — like Diane and Laura-Marie.
Some have been here a long time — some years — how blessed I am by you.
You are each a treasure.

    Reply

    Just curious, Dee. Is your cottage on one of the Great Lakes or a smaller lake, or somewhere else. I just looked up to see where Wisconsin was on a map and was surprised to see it touches both on Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. Listening to you all talk about visiting all these different states makes me so curious to visit these places. :-)

      Reply

      Diane, all I know is she is on the “thumb” part of the state, I think..am I correct Dee?

        I found an introduction to Dee on this site called “Meet Dee” that talks about her background and testimony, if anyone is interested. (Look for Search at the very top of this page.) It talks about her being brought up near or in West Bend, WI and the cottage being on the thumb of WI. Must admit I didn’t even know where the “thumb” was, but I have a better idea now.

    Reply

    The thought that we can’t avoid the broad path on our own resonated with me. Thank you Dee for being such a compass to the narrow path for us all.
    I hope that this time at the cottage will be a time of restoration for your soul, with spring breaking forth all around and inside you too!

Reply

I am going to list my takeaway andthen go back and listen to the sermon and comment on that later…..

My takeaway is how we have been contrasting between two trees, two houes, and then the broad and narrow way

I liked looking at the pictures and then digging into scripture and talking about them.. I was just telling my accountability partner yesterday that the passage that we looked at in matthew where it says that we need to be a doer of the word and not just a hearer.. I shared earlier this week how I have such a hard time with that but that is my takeaway this week and the one thing that i am going to work on and pray to have the Lord help me be a doer of the word.

    Reply

    Meg,
    This is great. It is a big struggle to apply what we know, isn’t it?

    Reply

    Meg, :) you are a doer of the word

Reply

I’m listening to the sermon, have heard all but the last 20 minutes. One thing is it does make sense to present that there are three ways of living: one is the gospel way, and the other two are the two ways to run from God; by being very good or by being very bad.

Since we touched on the doctrine of election before, my thoughts are that a person will not find the gospel way unless the Spirit opens their eyes to find it! Keller talked about church revivals in his sermon, where people who have been in church for years are suddenly convicted that they’ve never really been saved. They were on the moralistic/Pharisee path of being their own savior and didn’t know it.

This theme is all through the Bible, that there are two kinds of “fugitives” on the run from God, like Jonah/the religious and the pagans on the boat/the irreligious.
There is God’s way, and man’s way, and man’s way divides cleanly into two sub-headings. On the surface they appear so different, but underneath they are the same.

The unsaved woman’s comments were profound as to why you don’t hear radical grace preached in church. I had always heard that preaching radical grace was “dangerous”, because some people take it to mean they can live anyway they want and be saved, yet this woman sees it like this, “If you’re saved by grace, there is absolutely no conditions that you could put on your obedience to Him, there’s nothing that He could not ask of you.”

    Reply

    “If you’re saved by grace, there is absolutely no conditions that you could put on your obedience to Him, there’s nothing that He could not ask of you.” Oh, so profound. What implications! There is nothing that He could ask of me that is TOO MUCH! May this go deep in my heart!

      Reply

      Me too, Diane, that was great Susan!

Reply

Notes on sermon 2 ways to live one is by beig very good and the other way is by beig very bad so you can either live the way you want to which is mans way or you can live gods way

I can see how this related to Jonah in how he was living his own way by running away from God.

Reply

Going back to question 6.C., thinking of Jonah and the older brother and our own heart idols, why do we still refuse to do what God asks of us? After listening to the sermon, I would answer that we don’t really believe at a heart level (maybe the penny hasn’t dropped all the way down) that we are a sinner saved by grace. Jonah thought he had a right to refuse to go to Ninevah. Elder brother thought he had a right to fume about his obedience going unrecognized and to refuse to go into the feast. Because they were working for their salvation, they could put limits on what God asked them to do, and feel justified in doing so – like the taxpayer example in the sermon – “I’ve paid my taxes, now I have rights”….to be blessed, to have a good life free of troubles, to feel superior to others – God owes me, I don’t owe Him.

If I look at my own sin and disobedience in this light, I see it is really, really ugly to treat God in this way. It is ungratefulness to the core. It is being indifferent to the Cross.

In light of idols, Jonah may have thought that his idol of power/control or even nationalistic pride in his own nation could satisfy the deepest cravings of his heart; these idols offered him,in his eyes, more than what God offered him. Elder brother craved approval/affirmation and perhaps also control over his father to the point he was so blinded to miss out on the greatest blessing of coming into the feast – salvation. They so loved their idols they were willing to be cut-off from God.

If I do this, for example, get into verbal battle with my husband, or lie or manipulate in order to get my way, to have power/control, then I’m saying if I get my way, if I get my power and control, it will satisfy me more than God, so I will sin/do whatever it takes to have my idol meet my needs.

    Reply

    SUSAN–WOW. I’m just catching up on comments and I had to stop on this first one I read and just say WOW. These 2 things jolted me:”If I look at my own sin and disobedience in this light, I see it is really, really ugly to treat God in this way. It is ungratefulness to the core. It is being indifferent to the Cross” and your end “then I’m saying if I get my way, if I get my power and control, it will satisfy me more than God, so I will sin/do whatever it takes to have my idol meet my needs.” He really uses you to minister to me–thank you

    Reply

    Excellent connecting the dots, Susan. “Because they were working for their salvation, they could put limits on what God asked them to do, and feel justified in doing so – like the taxpayer example in the sermon – “I’ve paid my taxes, now I have rights”….to be blessed, to have a good life free of troubles, to feel superior to others – God owes me, I don’t owe Him.” How often I act this way without realizing it.

      Reply

      I’m trying to connect the dots – I’m a slow learner and short-term memory isn’t as sharp either, I always have to look back at previous weeks to remember key concepts!

        I don’t see you as a slow learner at all Susan, your notes are very perseptive

    Reply

    Susan, I love this….” They so loved their idols they were willing to be cut-off from God.”

    And this…”If I do this, for example, get into verbal battle with my husband, or lie or manipulate in order to get my way, to have power/control, then I’m saying if I get my way, if I get my power and control, it will satisfy me more than God, so I will sin/do whatever it takes to have my idol meet my needs.”

    Wow, that really makes me think…am I willing to be cut off from God if I run to my Idol instead of him? Would I do whatever it takes, to have my Idol meet my needs instead of God?
    NO NO NO!!
    Before Dee started talking about Idols, I might have done this because I didn’t see the sin in it. Now it yells at me when I start to go to my Idol for comfort or control.

    Thank you Susan!

Reply

apologize if this is too lengthy–just took me a while to get my notes done–now I look forward to catching up on everyone’s comments–i always learn so much from you all.

Sermon notes:
Two ways to run from God:. Religious and irreligious (or orthodoxy and unorthodox.)
3 ways to live:
1) Man’s way: (a) being very bad. (irreligious/immorality)
2) Man’s way: (b) being very good–God, in this view, now owes you. (religious/morality)
3) God’s way: The Gospel, Jesus as Savior

If I was saved by my works, there’s a limit to what God can ask. I would bold this if I could–“But if it is by grace alone, there is nothing that he can’t ask of me. All Jesus and no conditions. ”

Biblical examples: Rom 1-3 (Gentile or Jews; disobeying or obeying law).
No one is seeking God but seeking something else. Using God to get something else. God was a means to an end. Trying to be your own God.

Mt 5-7: Two ways to live at conclusion of Jesus’ sermon so there must be two ways to live within the body of Jesus’ sermon. Two groups both praying and seeking to please God—not 2 groups of good v bad—it is Pharisees and Jesus’ way. Both groups in Sermon on Mount are trying to obey God–one for their own salvation, the other is saved by grace.

Prodigal sons-Both are prodigals–both in need of grace and salvation. Getting control of father’s wealth through obedience or disobedience. Both are alienated –but the older one, refuses to come in because of his goodness. The younger-brother knows he’s far from God, and is saved. Jesus is talking to the Pharisees—the older brothers.

Why the 3 ways matters–I really liked this part. It made me think about how I am teaching the Gospel to my kids. I have one who is a natural moralist it seems. This part is just so key.
Many think they’re Christian but they’re elder brothers with morality as their idol.Then there are lots of younger brothers who don’t want to be around the older brothers in the church. ** If you don’t distinguish between these two types of ways to run from God, then the younger brother will think he has already seen and tried real Christianity (morality, older brother version), rejected it, and will miss the gospel. You must show them legalism isn’t the gospel.

Martin Luther says the default mode of the human heart is self-righteousness–so when you tell the non Christian “accept Jesus,” they will hear “Be very good.” You must distinguish the two-brothers way so they can see the gospel. The default is to base our justification (salvation) on our sanctification (good works) not the other way around (basing our sanctification on our justification–the way it should be).

Idolatry is critical to explaining the three-ways paradigm. You must explain what sin is.
Past ways of evangelizing: starts with the concept of “you’re a sinner.” Sin=breaking God’s rules; we are supposed to be good but we can’t be good on our own, and, thus, needs Jesus. This approach used to work– culture was to be a good person and the rules were agreed upon. Many people thought that they were probably good enough to get to heaven. But now, people don’t agree on the rules.

Idolatry is a key to explaining the gospel and will help you get traction in the conversation.
Idolatry isn’t so much doing bad things as making an ultimate out of a good thing. Idolatry includes the bad includes the violation of rules and the desire to save one’s self from sin by good works,keeping the rules for wrong reasons.

Everybody has to live for something. Harold Abrahams in “Chariots of Fire” said, “I have ten seconds to justify my existence.” When he said that, he meant, that’s what he was living for. “Rocky I” Rocky said to Adrian, “I just want to go the distance and then I’ll know I’m not a bum.” All of us say that about something—if I have that, my life is worth it– Power, approval, comfort, control, achievement, family.

Therefore, everybody is a slave. Anything that you have to have, if you begin to fail to get it, you’ll feel incredible irremovable guilt, if it’s blocked from you–anger.

BEST PART: Jesus is the only Master that if you center your life on Him–if you fail Him, will forgive you, or if you get Him, He will fulfill you. Other things drain you or punish you if you fail. Your failures will punish you forever but Jesus died on the cross because your idolatry is an offense to God. When you make Jesus the center of your life, the beauty of that will change your heart. Those other things are no longer ultimate and will not drive you into the ground but can be a blessing to you. We want to be free—the Gospel tells us only Christ can set us FREE.

    Reply

    Your sermon notes are great, elizabeth. Loved the BEST PART: “Jesus is the only Master … will forgive you, or if you get Him, He will fulfill you. Other things drain you or punish you if you fail. Your failures will punish you forever but Jesus died on the cross because your idolatry is an offense to God. …Those other things are no longer ultimate and will not drive you into the ground but can be a blessing to you. We want to be free—the Gospel tells us only Christ can set us FREE.”

    Reply

    Elizabeth, I love your Best Part, “BEST PART: Jesus is the only Master that if you center your life on Him–if you fail Him, will forgive you, or if you get Him, He will fulfill you. Other things drain you or punish you if you fail. Your failures will punish you forever but Jesus died on the cross because your idolatry is an offense to God. When you make Jesus the center of your life, the beauty of that will change your heart. Those other things are no longer ultimate and will not drive you into the ground but can be a blessing to you. We want to be free—the Gospel tells us only Christ can set us FREE.” SO TRUE!

    Hope your having a Good Day :)

    Reply

    You took wonderful notes, Elizabeth. I love the “Rocky” example.

    Reply

    N ot to long at all Elizabeth, your notes were a great review, I am glad you posted them for us. Though I wonder if we should scold you for typing so much!

Reply

Chris S.

Thanks so much for asking! In answer to your question about Isaac walking home with the boys-It went well! I also found out that day that when he played kickball at school, normally the kids ignored him-now they were giving him high fives and cheering him on. :-)

Of course, one of the setbacks we have been having for a long time are his eating issues and it is catching up with him-he is hypo-sensitive, and has sensory issues so he over eats-he always has to have something in his mouth. We are in the process of addressing this. Not sure if some of it isn’t a comfort idol issue-but some of it is his disability-hard to discern and address. Looking at a Dietician’s book that addresses this issue with Autism. I have one who has Aspergers who won’t eat-is hypersensitive to food-so I have to be creative to get him to eat, and one with Autism who over eats-oh my. :-)

Leave a Comment

If this is your first time here, please comment then fill out your name and email as stated at the bottom. Dee will approve you within 24 hours.

Name (required)
Email (required)