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On Charging Money for Sermons

I recently had a conversation with a friend who thought it wrong that Redeemer Presbyterian Church of New York City (Tim Keller’s church) charges for sermons. I have several thoughts on this:

  • First of all, I agree with “Robbie” who left a comment to a blog post once, saying, “The reason that Redeemer charges money for the sermons is that every year 1/3 of the congregation leaves due to starting a family or job. Many people are new Christians who do not believe in tithing, if they do it is very little. So the “profits” from sermon recordings go to the gospel ministry.” If someone were to visit Redeemer this weekend, they would find a church that meets in rented spaces and uses a music stand for a pastor’s podium and whose preachers use a corded microphone on a microphone stand (gasp) to amplify their voices. When the sermon mp3s begin by saying, “The net proceeds of the sales of Redeemer recordings are used to support the ministries of Redeemer Presbyterian Church,” they’re not kidding.
  • Second, why do we gladly spend $5 on a healthy meal but begrudge $2.50 for a sermon that will be food for us emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, and relationally?
  • Third, as part of their 20-year birthday, Redeemer released 150 free sermons that thoroughly communicate the “DNA” of Redeemer’s message. It’s a categorized, tagged resource that allows people to get manifold looks at the gospel.
I know many will quote Matthew 10:8 here, saying, “Freely we have received the gospel, so we should freely spread it via free sermon audio.” Be careful of context in such Scripture use!
What do you think? Leave a comment.
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Tim Keller Sermon Notes — Series: The Gospel, Hope, and the World — Sermon #6: Hope for the Church

Sermon preached on November 1, 2009.

The teaching is based on Hebrews 10:19-25.

Tim Keller preached this message. Dr. Keller is the Senior Pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. He is also an author of the books Ministries of MercyThe Reason for GodProdigal GodCounterfeit GodsGospel in LifeGenerous Justice, and King’s Cross.

Please note that these sermon notes are provided only to encourage, and that any or all parts of the notes may contain errors or omissions, due entirely to the note-taker. Full audio of the sermon may be found at the Redeemer Sermon Store.

Introduction: The purpose of the 10-year plan that we are embarking on is to train, equip, and send–this hasn’t been Redeemer so much.

 

Outline:

I. The Irreplacability of Christian Community

II. The Character of Christian Community

III. The Secret of Christian Community

 

I. Irreplacability

  • an aggregation is like a bag of marbles; a congregation is like a cluster of grapes, organically connected
    • church is not a place to come and get taught and counseled
    • v. 25 Pastors have used this to say, “Come to church!”–but the spurring on of one another doesn’t happen during worship services
    • v. 21-22–the presence of God is what changes us–so then how do we draw near?
      • We spur one another on! We access the presence of God through each other
  • C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity: “Christ works on us… above all else through each other. We are carriers of Him…”
  • Wesley: the Bible knows nothing of solitary religion

II. The Character of Christian Community–what does it mean to be in community?

1. Considering 2. Spurring 3. Encouraging 4. Working

1) Considering: As a counselor, you take notes because you’re being careful, deliberate; your purpose is to see them grow.

2) Spurring: This is the Greek word “irritate.” It means to sharply contend for someone to make them better.

  • Illustration from Homer: As Odysseus approaches the Sirens, he tells his men to ignore him and row. “Give me what I need, not what I want.” So the question is, have you given this kind of permission to some people in your life? People who you’ve told your sins and who you’ve told to check on you? A covenant is a promise to live in community and make yourself accountable to others.

3) Encouraging: This is the opposite of spurring. You’ve got to have both together. In Greek, encourage means to give assurance, to get in their shoes.

4) Good deeds: In Greek, “beautiful works.” These are practical; as a Christian, you’re not above little things, like making a casserole. Also do these toward the marginal; love those who the world has taught you not to like. No matter where you’re from, the world has taught you to despise some group.

III. What’s the secret of this community?

  • Our mouth waters to think of a church like the one I’ve been describing.
  • The secret, by this text (Hebrews 10:19-25), is the assurance of your salvation
    • v. 19: Confidence is not how you feel at a job interview; look at a little 8 year old coming to tell you something. He doesn’t think of how to do it.
    • In v. 19, we have confidence: we can speak freely to God, like 8 year olds; we can open up.
    • Objectively, you know you’re accepted, you know you’re in
    • Subjectively, draw near, actually experience it
  • J. C. Ryle: “Now assurance goes far to set a child of God free from this painful kind of bondage, and thus ministers mightily to his comfort. It enables him to feel that the great business of life is a settled business, the great debt a paid debt, the great disease a healed disease, and the great work a finished work; and all other business, diseases, debts, and works, are then by comparison small…” (this quote at greater length)
  • C. S. Lewis, “The Inner Ring,” from The Weight of Glory: People don’t realize to what degree they are motivated to be on the inside.
    • You want to hang out with people that make you feel good about yourself. It’s why you disdain some people.
      • It means, finally, that you’ll be serving people for their sake! You won’t be creating cliques any more.
  • Tony Campolo once threw a birthday party for a Honolulu prostitute at 3:30 in the morning–in response, the owner of the dive that hosted the party said, “If there was a church that did this kind of thing, I’d join that church.” (fully story here).

The secret of the secret: Jesus Christ was the high priest who opened the way. The immediate wages of sin is utter aloneness. Jesus on the Cross was getting cosmic aloneness, so that we never have to be alone. We can belong to the church.

Tim Keller Sermon Notes — Series: The Gospel, Hope, and the World — Sermon #5: Hope for your Work

Sermon preached on October 25, 2009.

The teaching is based on Titus 2:11-3:9.

Tim Keller preached this message. Dr. Keller is the Senior Pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. He is also an author of the books Ministries of MercyThe Reason for God, Prodigal God, Counterfeit Gods, Gospel in LifeGenerous Justice, and King’s Cross.

Please note that these sermon notes are provided only to encourage, and that any or all parts of the notes may contain errors or omissions, due entirely to the note-taker. Full audio of the sermon may be found at the Redeemer Sermon Store.

Outline:

I. The passion of hope

II. The case study of hope

III. The reason we can have this hope

I. The passion (or force) of this hope (v. 13)

  • We are people who are eager to do good.
  • In the Scriptures, the Second Coming is never brought up to get us to speculate on the end–it’s to get you passionate about living now.
  • The Second Coming is to fill bad lives with good news
    • Passionate and compassionate Christians want the second coming
    • the second coming accomplishes two things: everyone knows him, and everyone is treated justly
  • “righteous” means to live justly in the world
    • the righteous are those willing to disadvantage themselves to advantage the community
  • the just person sees their resources as belonging to those around them; the unjust see them as MINE (vv. 3:1-2)
  • righteousness/uprightness is not just about ethical goodness; it’s about the common good as well.

II. The Case Study of Hope

  • At Redeemer, we believe it’s important to teach how to incorporate faith and work
  • If you’re a moralist, you’ll want to know exactly what it looks like to be a Christian artist or teacher
    • But not all things have exacts; some things have trajectories; in this case, being a Christian in your job will have a trajectory along the lines of A) Motivation, B) Proportion, and C) Consolation
  • A) Motivation: Why do you work and take the job that you have?
    • some people take jobs to make money, some to get emotional fulfillment
    • Yet, this passage (Titus 2:11-3:9) asks, “Is my work helping human beings to flourish in some way?”
    • Adam and Eve: a gardener isn’t someone who does or doesn’t touch; it’s someone who gets in the soil and takes raw material to give us something we need, physically or emotionally
    • Writers and actors take the raw material of human experience and create stories that teach or help people in some way
  • B) Proportion: “inordinate desires” v. 3:3
    • Most people don’t come to NYC to have a life; they come wanting to get a self (out of their work, most often)
    • It’s overwork when we don’t feel good about ourselves unless we’re accomplishing something
    • If it’s true that he saves us not because of what we’ve done, then we aren’t justified by work (what we do), but by grace (what he’s done)
      • this means that we don’t need to come to our jobs in search of a self
  • C) Consolation: Not idealism, not cynicism
    • Jesus Christ has given us a blessed hope
      • First, we know it’s not going to get perfect now
      • Yet, we work towards it, because we know it exists
    • E.g., “A Leaf by Niggle,” by J. R. R. Tolkein

III. Why do we have a right to see the Second Coming as a hope?

  • It sounds great to think of the end of death, genocide, rape, graft, etc.
    • If there’s no judgment day, what hope does the world have?
    • If there is a judgment day, what hope do we have?
  • What if all of your thoughts were broadcast around the world for a day–just a day?
      • You would die of shame
  • This is exactly how we are before God

2,000 years ago, a man who would have had no shame from such a broadcast–the God-man–took upon himself the judgment day that we deserve. Jesus entered the city not looking for a self, but to lose himself; in so doing, he purchased us an identity that cannot be shaken, so we no longer have to look to our jobs to give us who we are.

Romans 9: Why John Piper Became a Pastor and What Thinkers Can Glean from It

“Romans 9,” John Piper once wrote on a blue book exam in seminary, “is like a tiger going about devouring free-willers like me” (“The Absolute Sovereignty…”).

A friend pointed me towards this John Piper sermon recently when I shared with him how my wife and I had recently read and discussed Romans 9 together in our ongoing study of Romans. The chapter had left us both with the sole application that our Father’s ways are beyond us, and that there is an infinite intelligence gap between us, his creatures, and Him, our creator.

In his sermon “The Absolute Sovereignty of God: What is Romans Nine About?”, Piper explains his own path to understanding just how in control God is. Piper actually took a sabbatical from teaching at Bethel College to address questions his students often had about Romans 9; he intended to give eight months to the study of the chapter for the purpose of writing a book that would “stand the test of time.” However, by the end of this sabbatical, Piper had resigned from his college and entered pastoral ministry. His description of this sabbatical is below:

Then, about ten years later, came the fall of 1979. I was on sabbatical from teaching at Bethel College. My one aim on this leave was to study Romans 9 and write a book on it that would settle, in my own mind, the meaning of these verses. After six years of teaching and finding many students in every class ready to discount my interpretation of this chapter for one reason or another, I decided I had to give eight months to it. The upshot of that sabbatical was the book, The Justification of God. I tried to answer every important exegetical objection to God’s absolute sovereignty in Romans 9.

But the result of that sabbatical was utterly unexpected—at least by me. My aim was to analyze God’s words so closely and construe them so carefully that I could write a book that would be compelling and stand the test of time. What I did not expect was that six months into this analysis of Romans 9 God himself would speak to me so powerfully that I resigned my job at Bethel and made myself available to the Minnesota Baptist Conference if there were a church who would have me as a pastor.

In essence it happened like this: I was 34 years old. I had two children and a third on the way. As I studied Romans 9 day after day, I began to see a God so majestic and so free and so absolutely sovereign that my analysis merged into worship and the Lord said, in effect, “I will not simply be analyzed, I will be adored. I will not simply be pondered, I will be proclaimed. My sovereignty is not simply to be scrutinized, it is to be heralded. It is not grist for the mill of controversy, it is gospel for sinners who know that their only hope is the sovereign triumph of God’s grace over their rebellious will.” This is when Bethlehem contacted me near the end of 1979. And I do not hesitate to say that because of Romans 9 I left teaching and became a pastor. The God of Romans 9 has been the Rock-solid foundation of all I have said and all I have done in the last 22 years…

I love those lines, and, as a thinker, I need to remind myself of them often when I am losing sight of the purpose of all thinking that is done about God:

I will not simply be analyzed, I will be adored.

I will not simply be pondered, I will be proclaimed.

My sovereignty is not simply to be scrutinized, it is to be heralded.

It is not grist for the mill of controversy, it is gospel for sinners who know that their only hope is the sovereign triumph of God’s grace over their rebellious will.

May these words convict us and keep our minds pointed at the joy that is our adoption into the family of God.

Tim Keller Lecture Notes — Series: Sex, Singleness, and Marriage — Lecture #1: Sex–The Biblical Guidelines

Lecture was given on September 1, 1993.

The teaching is based on 1 Corinthians 6:12-20.

Please note that these notes are provided only to encourage, and that any or all parts of the notes may contain errors or omissions, due entirely to the note-taker. Full audio may be found at the Redeemer Sermon Store.

Introduction:

There is no biblical view of dating. They didn’t date. You were three years old and you were walking along with your parents and they saw someone and said, “Oh, there’s a nice family, there’s a good arrangement, let’s have them get married.” My grandmother was betrothed; she was twelve and she was betrothed to my grandfather by her parents. And I used to say, “How was it?” And she’d say, “I had a great marriage, what are you talking about? It was fine!” (More on dating next week, when we talk about singleness.)

The biggest problem tonight is that you’re all in different places, but I’m going to have to aim at a particular type of person. I may not be coming right up the center of your alley, but I hope I can at least knock down a lot of pins in your alley….

Many of you have heard me preach on sex before, though I haven’t done it many times. But you’ve come tonight because you need more details than the overview I’ve given in sermons. So first, I’ll lecture, and second, I’ll let you ask me questions so that you can get the details you need.

Here’s how I’ll start, at the locus classicus on the subject: 1 Corinthians 6:12 to the end….

What is the biblical sex ethic?

  • First I’ll say it negatively: the Bible is clear that sex is for a man and a woman within a marriage. It’s always been like that.
  • Sometimes when I’ve taught on this, people have looked at me and said, “Period? That’s where it ends?” They’ve said you must be one of the conservative pastors.
    • Every branch of Judaism and Christianity has always taught this same thing. It’s very hard to find something that all of the religions have consensus on. Someone who says that this kind of stance on sexuality is part of a backwater cult, they simply don’t understand the history of the world.
    • They say, “Times have changed! This was an idea developed in Europe to keep population down.” I’m glad you’re laughing at that, because that’s really silly. Christianity originally broke on the scene in the middle of the Roman empire! Everybody looked at them and thought they were crazy. But when people came into belief and experienced the power of this ethic, it won. Believing this is something that’s outdated is simply showing a lack of understanding of the transformative power that this idea of a biblical sex ethic had in the sexually permissive society it came on the scene in.
  • The problem with this negatively posed description of sex is that it doesn’t tell you what sex is for, it only tells you what it’s not for.
    • A lot of you were raised in churches where you were taught this, but you weren’t converted, and then later in life you were transformed and came back to the church as genuine believers, and you’re faced again with this teaching which for years you’ve abandoned.
    • So I want to explain what sex is for.
  • But before that, let’s address two views that Paul was dealing with.
    • The Platonic View: First, get out of your head of the way that word is used today. We’re talking about the philosophy of Plato–that the body is bad, matter is bad, the soul is imprisoned in the body, and therefore sexuality is a dirty bad thing.
    • On the other hand, there was the view of the mystery religions: That sex was an appetite that you fulfilled when you felt like it.
    • Paul is careful to distinguish the Christian view from both.
  • We are neither to despise nor deify sex.
    • To despise it is to think of it as a dirty, defiling thing.
    • To deify it is to simply let our instincts do what they want; we can’t treat our instincts as if they’re God.
    • Paul teaches that sex isn’t dirty, but that our sexual instinct is disordered.
    • To deal with the Platonic side, Paul says, “Sex is so critical that both spouses ‘owe’ sex to each other.” It’s commanded–go to it! (“That’s a paraphrase.”)
      • Is it possible that God would command something that was defiling? Heck no. It’s good. He gave it a benediction after creation (Genesis 1-2).
      • The Bible is very embarrassing for Platonic views of sex — the Song of Solomon. The translators constantly wimp out on translating the Hebrew as it really is.
      • Proverbs 5:18 — A man must be ravished with his wife’s breasts.
      • There’s no tittering about sex in the Bible; when it’s wrong, it addresses it, when it’s right, it praises it.
      • Romans 7 — the image is that just as a woman puts herself literally in the arms of her husband and fruit is born into the world, in the same way the Bible says if you put yourself into the arms of Jesus Christ, in the same way fruit will be born into the world through you. It’s an amazingly intimate and daring thing.
      • The Bible teaches us that the ecstasy and joy of sex was created by God to give a foretaste of the amazing intimacy and closure that we will enjoy with God. Sex is a signpost, it’s an analogy. The intimacy that you hunger for in sex can only be given to you by intimacy with God.
      • When we meet with Christ face to face, when we enter into that closure, then we’ll know what sex has all been about; therefore, sex is glorious! How can it possibly be dirty or defiling?
      • The Bible’s view of sex is higher than any other book or philosopher I’ve ever read.
    • To deal with the appetite view of sex, Paul says:
      • v. 13-15, 18 — the body is not for immorality!
      • Sexual oneness with somebody apart from having every other kind of oneness (through marriage) is a monstrosity
      • Now: Why? If sex is so great and glorious, why is Paul talking about how serious it is?
        • Sexual sin can really disorder you in a major way.
        • Sex isn’t any more unforgivable than other sins, but biblically, because sex is a whole lot closer to the center of reality than a mere appetite, therefore sin has hurt sex in the way it hasn’t hurt your physical appetite for food
        • Sin: the bent of the whole person to want to live for your own self and to do things your own way. It’s sin that makes us use people, that makes us always want to put ourselves in the center.
        • Sin can affect our appetite with food, but when you’re dealing with food your dealing with an inanimate object; sex is dealing with another person.
          • If anyone says they deny sin, why do they lock their car? Their front door?
        • Lewis’ radio talk over the BBC on sexuality: Imagine going to a country where young men in college put on the walls of their dorm rooms great big, life-size, full color pictures of hot dogs and hamburgers, and the guys went around to each other’s room saying, “Oh, wow, look at this one!”
          • If you saw this, you’d say, “What’s wrong with these people? They must be starving!” But if you came you’d find out that’s not true; they’ve been eating like crazy. The only conclusion you’d be able to come to would be to say that there’s something deeply disordered and distorted about their appetite for sex.
          • So can you really believe that the appetite for food and the appetite for sex are similar?
          • No — something has gone much more deeply awry with sex than with appetites.
        • You can’t follow your instincts with sex; something has gone wrong with them.
        • If you give sex it’s way, if you hand over the reigns, you won’t get much out of it at all.
        • J. I. Packer — Sex is a signpost to God, now if you camp under a signpost you’re not going to get much of anywhere. If you camp under a sign that says, “New York – 50 Miles,” and say, “We’re here, honey!” you won’t get there. That’s what we’re doing.

What are the three biblical purposes for sex?

  • Procreation
    • One of the reasons the Roman Catholic church doesn’t do birth control is that it believes this is the purpose for sex. They believe that because of St. Augustine, who was a Platonist.
    • However, if there’s more than just this purpose for sex, than some forms of birth control are permissable.
  • Fun
    • Proverbs 5:18 — It brings joy. It’s recreational.
    • But if we stop there, we get into trouble, too. We get stuck with the mystery religions.
  • A Unitive Act
    • It is for fully, permanently, completely committed relationships b/c sex is a way of cementing relationships with complete oneness. It is God’s appointed way for saying to another person, “I belong completely and permanently to you.”

Four ways of saying the same thing

  • What Paul is saying here is that to have sexual, physical union with a prostitute (a woman) without all the other kinds of union is a monstrosity, is frustrating the purpose of sex.
  • What happens physically has got to have as its context the same unification at every level–social, legal, moral, psychological, emotional, spiritual.
  • E.g., when you have sex, you become naked. You make yourself physically vulnerable. When you have sex outside of marriage, you say, “I’m going to make myself physically vulnerable, but I won’t do it in any other way. I don’t want to make myself that vulnerable to you!”
  • You know darn well that when you first had sex with that first person, it seemed like a monstrosity that that person didn’t have any obligation to be with you.

If you see these things, you begin to see that “Thou shalt not have sex outside of marriage” is not just because we like to have rules, we like to keep you from having fun–it’s because sex is BUILT to say I belong completely to you, and if you don’t use it that way, you’ll destroy it.

  • Star Trek, “The Trouble with Tribbles”: There’s some governor of a wimpy asteroid somewhere whose trying to protect his special grain and he calls a star destroyer to come help him, he puts out a Priority One distress call, which always means that a planet’s about to be utterly destroyed.
  • If you use a non-verbal communication signal that has been legislated for one particular purpose for a different purpose, the communication signal gets destroyed!
    • When you have sex with someone who you’re not married to, you ruin your ability to communicate that commitment with sex.
  • Covenant: A binding legal contract done in public. It’s something done with witnesses, so that it’s hard for you to break your word.
    • Sex is supposed to be a regular covenant renewal ceremony
    • If you use sex the way God invented it to be used, every time you use it properly it continually strengthens and renews that covenant.
    • If, on the other hand, you use it outside of marriage, it operates backwards and destroys your ability to be totally committed, and some of you see that in your own life. It doesn’t mean anything anymore, it makes it harder and harder for you to trust.
      • A wife was once incredibly jealous of her husband and could no trust him
        • It came out that she had undermined her ability to trust by being sexually unfaithful to her husband
  • “To know” — this is one of the Hebrew words for sex in the Old Testament

So how do I actually start to practice that?

  • The Bible is always talking about lust. Jimmy Carter was mocked for admitting that he lusted for women in his heart, and that’s because if you’re not a Christian your view of sex is not very nuanced.
  • Lust is for something–for a sexual thrill.
  • So how do you deal with lust?
    • Make a distinction b/w a thought and  fantasy.
      • You can’t stop thoughts from happening. There’s a bit of time to deal with a thought.
      • To admire sexual beauty is not wrong. But to then begin to sit and entertain and begin to think of yourself in relation to that person, at that point you’re getting into a fantasy.
      • You don’t have control over the thought. You can’t stop somebody from knocking at the door, but you can go to the door and say, “I’m not interested.”
      • You can control whether or not you come to the door and say, “Well, come on in and let’s decide what to do with you.”
      • You don’t hear a knock at the door and say, “There I go again!” with dismay.
    • Fast sexually instead of starving
      • This is the difference b/w a diet and being starved. A diet is proactive approach to eating that gets you results that you like.
      • So, when it comes from dieting sexually,
    • Use the Gospel to overcome guilt from the past.
      • A lot of us have problems with our adult life because we used to have trouble with our behavior life.
      • I remember the naked women posters in the rooms on my freshman hallway. That was a long time ago! There are so many useful things to fill my mind with; why is that stuck!
      • The only way to turn those things off is if you don’t feel guilty for them anymore. You need to look at the people in the Bible who were healed and accepted who had a much worse past. Tamar’s incest. Rahab’s prostitution. And Jesus brought them into his family.
  • I’m a Christian, and I’m wondering, “How far can you go, sexually?”
      • Christianity makes you see distinctions, it gives you a much more nuanced view of sexuality, and you begin to see a real different between godly sexual passion and lust.
      • Now that you’re a Christian you’re a connosieur of sex!
    • Don’t forget that if you define sexual intercourse as penetration, it’s something for marriage, but we all know that there are all sorts of things leading up to it.
      • You’ve got to figure out that there is a place where your body will only be satisfied with penetration. I’m not going to tell you where that is. (This seems like a rigorous enough model for self-examination if you’re honest.)
      • You’ve got to think of sex as an escalator, and that everything you do will move you up it. A few steps up, there’s no problem getting off an escalator, but on the other hand, if you’re going up to the top you realize that there is no way you’re getting off.
    • Commitment and contact/intimacy go together.
      • The first time I held my wife (Kathy’s) hand, I got aroused. Women say, “What?” I think it’s because our egos kick in. We think, “Wow, she’s squeezing my hand back.” Just knowing that she’s interested in you can be sexually stimulating and arousing.
      • That doesn’t happen anymore–and that doesn’t mean the honeymoon is over, etc.
        • The reason for that is, the more committed you get the less your sexual stimulation is engaged with your ego and the more it is aroused when the other person is opening themselves up to you.
        • As time goes on, your intimacy moves up; as the commitment grows, the intimacy can grow.
    • Treat the person the way you would want someone to treat your future spouse
      • This rule will keep you safe!
  • These have been some specifics, and if you press me I might give you some more details, but I’m probably going to stick to principles because people are so different.

Some notes from the Q & A:

Someone expressed essentially that the main problem with being a Christian is not that you have to sexually fast, it’s that it narrows down your options so much for who you can marry.

  • Even you go for a long period of time without finding someone that meets the criteria, the alternative is having a string of divorces or being in a marriage where you are seen and not loved.

Marriage doesn’t fulfill you; nothing fulfills you but God. People who are rich have tremendous difficulties; people who are treading water financially have others.

Tim Keller Sermon Notes — Series: The Necessity of Belief — Sermon # 5: The Meaning of the City

This sermon was preached on October 5, 2003.

The teaching is based on Jeremiah 29:4-14

Please note that these sermon notes are provided only to encourage, and that any or all parts of the notes may contain errors or omissions, due entirely to the note-taker. Full audio of the sermon may be found at the Redeemer Sermon Store.

You can also find this particular sermon at Redeemer’s Free Sermon Resource, located here.

Intro:

We’re looking at the book of Jeremiah because Jeremiah’s times were quite a bit like ours. The great Babylonian power had come to Israel, invaded, and taken Israel as exiles of Bablyon. In Babylon, they found a huge, hostile, brutal city filled with all of these different people groups with radically different visions of nature, morality, and the nature of the world. How do you respond to a fragmented society?

We live in a society so that it’s getting so that most people in our society feel like exiles. For example, liberals feel like this country is becoming so conservative that they’re pulling their hair out. Yet, at the same time, conservatives are pulling their hair out because they feel that this country is becoming so liberal. That’s a fact. But how can that be? How can both liberals and conservatives feel like exiles? The answer is that we live in a fragmented society where there is no consensus about what is right and what is wrong — this is very much like the city the Jewish exiles entered into. So here’s the question: how do you respond to that kind of society? The answer of God to the exiles is astounding.

If you think you’ve heard me preach on Jeremiah 29, you’re wrong! I’ve never preached on it, but I’m always referring to it. Jeremiah 29 is one of the most important texts to Redeemer’s history.

Outline: How do you respond to a fragmented society? How do you relate to the city?

I. The wrong way

II. God’s way

III. How to get the power to do it

I. The Wrong Ways

  • The Babylonian Agenda:
    • The Babylonians were experts at dealing with uncooperative nations:
      • Expel them / drive them out: The Babylonians found that if you did this, they came back madder than before
      • Subjugation: You don’t drive them out, you push them down; you enslave them. The problem with this is that they keep having these uprisings madder than ever.
      • Assimilation: Here the Babylonians found what they were looking for. They said, “You can live with us, you can have the best jobs, as long as you live like us.
        • Ex: Daniel
        • Within a couple generations, a people group is gone, their distinctiveness is worn away.
        • v. 6 “Increase there, do not decrease.” Assimilation sought to have them decrease.
    • Tribalism: v. 8 “God says, ‘Don’t listen to the other prophets — they’re telling you things I didn’t tell them to tell you!'”
      • Assimilation means that I go into the city and engage it for my own power and wealth.
      • Tribalism means that I smile at the city on the outside, but inside I disdain it. I exploit it.

II. God’s Way

  • v. 5-7 — Build homes! Move in! Build gardens! Increase! And seek the peace and prosperity of Babylon. This was a city whose hands were dripping with the blood of Israel’s people!
  • This must have been utterly astounding for God’s children to hear. He wanted them not just to engage the city as a tribe, but he wanted them to seek the shalom of the city! The peace and prosperity of it! He wanted them to pray for it!
  • St. Augusten, The City of God: He says that the whole Bible is basically a tale of two cities — the city of man and the city of God.
    • People go into the human city to make a name for themselves, to get a self, to get power and achievement, “then I’ll know I’m somebody.”
      • This makes it a place of exhaustion: they go into the city needing to get — love, power, recognition, a resume
      • This makes it a place of oppression: we’re working so hard to get up the ladder that we’re willing to step on people
    • In contrast, the city of God works not on the basis of pride, but of peace; not on the basis of human effort, but on God’s grace
      • This makes it not a place of exhaustion, because the people enter it looking to give, not looking to get, because they already know who they are. It’s a place of joy.
      • This makes it not a place of oppression, but a place of justice.
    • City of Man: Your life to benefit me; City of God: My life to benefit you
    • Very often these cities are referred to as Jerusalem and Babylon
  • So, we live in the city of man, right? Someday God will come and destroy the city of man.
  • Up until Jeremiah, everyone thought that was how it was. Then, all of a sudden, God says, “Move into Babylon and seek its peace.” But that makes no sense! I thought God was going to destroy the city!?”
    • Matt 5: Jesus says to his disciples, “You are a city on a hill! Let your light shine before men.” The good deeds Jesus is talking about are living and service.
  • Every city is two cities. The city of God is a mini-city in every city, they are an alternate city in every city, in which they take sex, money, and power, and instead of using them for exploitation and pride, they use them in life giving ways.
  • The way you bear witness in the earthly city to God’s city, is that you don’t go in there to work for your sake (assimilation), don’t work their for your tribe’s sake (disdain), work in the city for the city’s sake.
  • St. Augustine says that the minute you’re born again you get dual citizenship in these two cities.
  • Citizens of the city of God are the very best citizens of their earthly cities. They don’t move in to make themselves or their group stronger, they move their for the city’s sake.
  • When Jeremiah talks about shalom, it’s worth thinking. “Peace” isn’t strong enough. Shalom means total flourishing in every dimension: socially, economically, spiritually, physically. God is saying that if you are a child of God this has got to be your attitude toward the earthly city in which you reside.
    • You’re working for the social peace of your city, helping the different racial groups get along.
    • You’re working for the economic shalom of the city, not having a career just to advance yourself or your cause, but to bring everyone in the city up, to seek the prosperity of everyone in it. If you don’t feel that way about New York City, you’re not thinking out the implications of this passage.
  • God is saying don’t lose your difference in the city, but at the same time don’t guard jealously your difference in the city. He’s saying, “Use your difference to serve the city!” Your difference is that you belong to the one true God — use that to serve them.
  • Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity, describes early centuries of Christianity and the plagues that occurred in many cities…
    • If you live in a city for yourself or your tribe, you get out when bad things happen — you don’t want to die!
    • But that’s not what the Christians did in early Christianity. They lost their lives happily for the sake of their neighbors.
    • Stark is trying to figure out how this one little religious group of Christians eventually shaped an entire empire.
      • When the dying pagans recovered from the plagues, they were faced with the question, “Wait, what are you here for?”
      • The Christians said, “We’re not here for money, we’re not here to make a name for ourselves, we don’t need money, we don’t need acceptance, we don’t even need to live!”
      • As a result, the Christian gospel captured the imaginations of the people. Christianity did not capture their imaginations by trying to take over or trying to get their people into office! They got power by not trying to get power.

III. The Power — How can it be that Christians did this?

  • Centuries after Jeremiah, Jesus entered Jerusalem, the city of God — and he gets executed and thrown out. You never executed anybody inside the holy city, because it was necessary to send them out to die, because it was symbolic of the consequence of sin; you lose the community, you lose the blessing, because you’re thrown out.
  • It wasn’t a symbol of Jesus; it was a reality. Hebrews 13:12-14.
  • On the cross, Jesus was cosmically thrown out so that you and I could be brought in. Sin deserves to be thrown out of the city, but Jesus Christ took it for us, so that when you believe in Jesus, you become automatically enrolled in the city of God–and that makes us salt and light in the city that is.
  • Why? Because if you know who you are, you move back into the earthly city not needing anymore and being ready to give.
  • Frank Sinatra was wrong; he said that if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere. But Jesus gives you something better. There is a mansion in the truly greatest city in the universe, there is applause, acclaim, a ticker-tape parade waiting for you. If you know that, you can move out into the city with poise!
  • Michael Foucalt, the post-modern theorist, says that we create and bolster a self through the exclusion of the Other. E.g., If I feel good about myself because I’m a hard worker, I have to despise people who are lazy.
  • But what if you’re identity is in Christ? What if it’s not in being a good Christian who goes to church and reads the Bible, but in Christ? Because Jesus Christ, when I was doing all the wrong things he died for me! If that’s the basis for my whole life, then how do I look out at the city filled with people who are doing the wrong things? I love them! Because Jesus dying on the cross was dying for them, and for me.
  • Here in NYC, there is a saying that you need to get rid of your idea that there’s one truth. If you believe that, I’ll accept you; if not, I won’t. You’ve got to assimilate to be accepted. But Jesus gives you a resource for that, because he died for people who didn’t believe in him. Christianity gives you the power to love people who don’t believe like you do, who are not like you.
  • Do you see this? Do you understand it?
  • Jesus lost the city that was, so that you and I can be citizens of the city that is to come.

Practical Applications:

  1. Live in the city: when Paul wanted to capture a region, he went to the city, because he knew that if you captured the city you captured the region. The way to capture the imagination of the United States is to capture the imagination of its cities. The Bible says history began in a garden, but it will end in a city. What does Revelation say: I see the suburb of God coming down? No, it’s a city coming down! A diverse, artistic, energetic city. If you hate the city, I don’t know what you’re going to do with the New Jerusalem. When we all get to the New Jerusalem, you’re going to have to show people how to use the subways.
  2. Don’t live in the city selfishly: If you are so driven by your ego or your family expectations, if you’re working so hard in your career that you’re not thinking of the poor, then you have to wonder if you’re really living for the city, or are you just using it. If you’re just using it, you having come to grips with your identity in Christ. God won you over not by taking power, but by losing it. He won you not with a sword in his hand, but with nails in them. That’s why the hymn goes like this:

Not with swords loud clashing nor roll of stirring drums,

but with deeds of loving mercy the heavenly kingdom comes.

Scott Sauls Sermon Notes — Series: The Gospel, Hope, and the World — Sermon #4: Hope for the Family

Sermon preached on October 18, 2009.

The teaching is based on Ephesians 5:21-33.

Scott Sauls preached this message. Rev. Sauls is a Lead Pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City; his preaching style is very similar to that of his Senior Pastor, Tim Keller.

Please note that these sermon notes are provided only to encourage, and that any or all parts of the notes may contain errors or omissions, due entirely to the note-taker. Full audio of the sermon may be found at the Redeemer Sermon Store.

Introduction:

  • Why are there so many singles in NYC? Lack of time, abundance of cynicism, and fear.
  • Ephesians 5 suggests a different purpose for marriage than the ones commonly thought of: two broken sinners enter into an other-centered covenant
  • Paul is suggesting that marriage is about personal transformation

Outline:

I. Exposure

II. Embrace

I. Exposure

  • Paul quotes Genesis, when man and woman were naked; it’s much more than physical to be naked; scripturally, it means to become vulnerable, to be seen beneath who you are, beneath your Facebook or resume.
    • The nature of the human heart is to hide our blemishes behind a persona; Adam and Eve do everything they can to control their persona after the fall–they dress up, they blame shift
  • We don’t want people to know that we probably wouldn’t want to be friends with ourselves
  • [Rev Sauls shares a funny story involving him and his wife studying the Bible together early in their marriage; she had married him partly because of how impressive he was as a speaker and small group leader, how deep his insight was; when the young couple studied the Bible together, however, Rev Sauls’ wife quickly discovered that “I married a pompous know-it-all.”]
  • Sartre: Hell is to be looked at, to be unable to stop or control what someone else sees when they look at us
  • two people deserve access to our private parts: our spouse and our doctor
  • With doctors, why do we allow probing, the invading of our bodies?
    • Because we want to live! to flourish, to survive
    • Why do we allow this probing into our bodies, but not into our character?
  • “Restore” in Galatians 6:1-2 is a Greek word that elsewhere is only used as a medical term for resetting a bone
  • We do whatever we can to turn a limp into a dance
  • At the end of New York Magazine, there are 3 pages of ads for rich men to find hot women; we walk into a gym and immediately eliminate 95% of the people there as potential spouses before we even meet them; we want perfection now–is this what Jesus did for us?
  • Jesus: “My vision is to heal, so I’m looking for a bride with spots, wrinkles, blemishes.”
  • In the film As Good as It Gets, Jack Nicholson’s  response to Helen Hunt: “You make me want to be a better man
    • That’s what you look for in a mate; that’s your selection criteria

II. Embrace

  • Both parties need to know that the marriage is sinner-safe
  • The goal is to be fully known (naked) and without shame (loved, respected, honored), just like in Genesis before the fall
  • The film Beautiful Mind is a great marriage movie
  • C. S. Lewis married a woman knowing she had terminal cancer
  • you know you love someone when you continue to serve them even though you’ve fallen out of love with them
  • “Workmanship” is the Greek word poema; you are the poem of God
  • If you throw random words in a hat and mix them up, you’ve got chaos, but those same words can become a Shakespearean sonnet
  • On one side of extremes is co-dependent enabling; on the other is bullying
    • Gospel love is in the middle of these two things, and far away from each
  • Trying to build a resume or a career or be cool as a reason for coming to New York City can’t be your main reason, because what happens when you walk outside and see your windshield bashed in? What happens when the City treats you like an enemy?
    • Will you love her?
    • When she’s acting pschizo, will you divorce her in your heart, or continue to serve her?
    • When she only takes, will you still give?

Conclusion:

Jesus never considers divorce. He sees us in bed with  our mistresses of money, love, power, and he determines to continue loving us.