Sunday Sermon: Jesus Came to Bring Joy: A Quest for Holiness Should Not Quench our Joy (Mark 2:18-22)

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I sense that many of us grew up in church where holiness, reverence, and seriousness about the things of God, but along the way, those who led by example had their joy quenched (if it was ever there) and thus quenched the joy of others.

G.K. Chesterton: “It is really a natural trend to lapse into taking oneself gravely because it is the easiest thing to do . . . for solemnity flows out of men naturally, but laughter is a leap. It is easy to be heavy; hard to be light. Satan fell by force of gravity.” I wonder what those who have a gravity, seriousness, and joylessness about the faith do with Jesus in these passages found in Mark.

The previous paragraph showed another collision (to use Kent Hughes word) between Jesus and the religious leaders. Jesus had just called Matthew (a tax collector for Rome and a perceived traitor to the Jews) to follow him as a disciple. Matthew then threw a party and invited his friends over–friends that the religious called “sinners,” and they could not understand why Jesus would jeopardize his reputation and public holiness in order to hang around . . . them. I sense that over time, our faith can become more serious, sensible, manageable…and joyless.

We begin to go through the motions and check things off our spiritual list in order to salve our conscience. But think about this: when you think about those who are spiritual examples of you, are they ones who lack joy in their pursuit of holiness or ones who exude it? As the subtitle of this message notes, a quest for holiness must not quench our joy.

Yes, Leviticus is Relevant–If Approached Rightly: Devotional for February 17, 2022

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Today’s Bible reading from the Five Day Bible Reading Plan: Leviticus 1-3; Psalm 27; Hebrews 2

Leviticus is the book where many who try to read through the Bible in a year spin out. The perceived irrelevance of this book to our modern day makes many lose interest quickly. Yet, I would say there is much to be gained from an understanding of this book.

This shows God’s holiness. The amount of offerings and laws shows that God is holy and seeks the holiness of His people. We must not allow the concept of grace to deter us from an understanding of His holiness–or the pursuit of our own holiness before God. These offerings sought to cover outward sins–but they could never give anyone a new heart. Thus, the holy One of God, Jesus Christ, came to do what those sacrifices could not–give us a heart of flesh that is sensitive to the Spirit’s leading.

This book shows how God’s people are in the world but distinct from the world. Many of the practices God commands His people to do are because the surrounding nations engage in worship that is detestable to Him. So, distinguishing ourselves as God’s people from the world around us–even as we occupy the world God made as a witness to those around us–is an important understanding for followers of Jesus. As Christ lives in us, He makes us less like the world and more like Himself. Thankfully!

So, recognizing Leviticus’ role in Scripture and in our lives will, hopefully, allow you to approach this with less trepidation and more jubilation.

God’s Holiness Leads to Glorious Praise: Good Morning Devotional for 11.17.2021

November 17 (JPG)

“There is none holy like the Lord:
    for there is none besides you;
    there is no rock like our God” (1 Samuel 2:2).

Good morning! While we rejoice in the love, justice, and mercy of God (among other attributes), God’s holiness befits Him and Him alone. Here, this expression of praise comes from the lips of Hannah who, after a long season of infertility, was blessed with a child who would become the prophet, Samuel. She vowed to give him to God from the very beginning.

God’s holiness does lead to praise because we know of one Being in the universe who is perfect in all He does, says, and thinks. There is no shadow of sin or imperfection in Him. And, since we are His children, we are called to “be holy as he is holy” (1 Peter 1:17) and to “strive for holiness” (Hebrews 12:14), for we want no obstacle to inhibit our fellowship with Him.

Do we rejoice in His holiness? Are we harboring some sin in our hearts that inhibits our fellowship with Him? If so, why? Confess and repent of that sin immediately so that the joy of the Lord will once again be your strength (Nehemiah 8:10).