[Note the first part of this sermon was The Gospel According to the Rocks.]
What does the Bible say about the world?
1. When we consider all these themes (trees, lights, rocks, etc.), the Bible is telling us that there is a deep goodness embedded in the world (Gen. 1:31). All of creation has experienced the curse of sin and death and now groans, waiting for the redemption of the sons of men (Gen. 3:17-19, Rom. 8:19-22), but the world is also constantly talking about the glory of God (Ps. 19:1-4, 97:6). The world makes it manifestly clear that it was created, that we were created by an all-powerful, glorious, orderly, good God (Acts 17:24-29, Rom. 1:19-21). But even more explicitly, after we have read and studied the Bible, the World is constantly talking about Jesus, about God’s love for His people, His mission to share that glory with the world. The world proclaims the majesty of the Triune God and all men are without excuse, but the astounding claim of the New Testament is that it was created by and has the fingerprints of Jesus all over it (Jn. 1:3, Col. 1:16, Heb. 1:2-3). Creation, flood, Exodus, miracles, resurrection, trees, rocks, stars – all proclaim the obedience of creation to its Good Lord. In other words, the world proclaims that Jesus is Lord.
2. The Bible tells us that because of sin, the world has a certain kind of gravity to folly, a logic to evil, and therefore there are clearly established patterns to sin and evil. Sin tends to grow up in a particular direction (Rom. 6:19). Paul says that ingratitude gives way to hollowness that descends to folly that finally becomes darkness (Rom. 1:21). In layman’s terms, a little bitterness gives birth to a biting sarcasm that grows into full blown lies that grows up into men trying to have sex with other men. In Ps. 19, David confesses that sin is mysterious and therefore prays that God would cleanse him from secret faults (Ps. 19:12), followed by a prayer against presumptuous sins – that they would not have dominion over him (Ps. 19:13). Then David says he will be “upright” and “innocent from the great transgressions.” Psalm 1 describes a similar logical progression: walking, standing, sitting with ungodly, sinners, and scornful (Ps. 1:1). He who walks with the wise will become wise, but he who is a companion of fools will be destroyed – whether actual flesh and blood people, books, music, movies, heroes we look up to (Pr. 13:20). Apart from the miraculous and gracious intervention of God’s grace (e.g. Lk. 15:17), this progression always happens (Ps. 6:16, Pr. 26:27, Gal. 6:7) and fools never learn (Pr. 26:11, 2 Pet. 2:22). Molehills of sin always tend to grow up into mountains of evil.
3. And finally, the Bible tells us that because of the goodness of God and the curse of sin, the world is full of both wonderful glories (e.g. Gen. 2:11-12) and deadly traps (Pr. 7:6-23). The opposite tendencies of our flesh are to either ignore the dangers or to hide from the glories, but obedience means that we learn wisdom. “But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Heb. 5:14). This is why Solomon pleads with his son to get wisdom: this is the most important thing – it’s better than gold, more precious than rubies (Pr. 4:5, 7). And Jesus teaches us that the way of wisdom is courageously cruciform (Mt. 10:39, 16:25). Wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord (Pr. 1:7): this includes recognizing your own deep, personal complicity in the evil of this world and your story and simultaneously seeing Jesus as your ransom, the Lamb of God who has taken away your sins and made you completely clean. The gospel is the wisdom of God, that by the death of Jesus, all things are being made new (e.g. 1 Cor. 1). The wisdom of God rests not on our ability or power, but on the power of God, our Rock, our Fortress, who is able to remake all things. And therefore, we take up the cross of Jesus joyfully and courageously and despise all shame for the sake of the glory and wisdom of Jesus (Heb. 12:1-2). The wisdom of God is glad service, joyful sacrifice, expectant suffering (2 Cor. 6:1-10). Jesus has gone down into the cave of death, buried under a rock, and He has emerged with the treasure of life, crowned with glory rocks forever.
How is this related to Epiphany?
Today is Epiphany. Epiphany is all about the light of God shining in the face of Jesus for us and through us to the world. This is why we are Looking for Jesus.
We’re at the beginning of a new calendar year, and in the providence of God we can see ahead of us some exciting and challenging prospects in the coming year. We are planning to move into our own facilities this year. We are planning to send off our founding pastor to a new ministry on the other side of the country. We are planning to call and ordain a new pastor to serve alongside me. And with these shifts many of you can foresee other changes and new things coming in your own lives as well: graduations, children, marriages, moves, new jobs, etc.
What I have wanted to do during this series is call you back to the Word of God, to Jesus as He meets us in the Scriptures. But this isn’t just so you would try a new Bible Reading Plan (though that could be a great idea!). If our church is a ship, I see us on a voyage that’s about to get a lot more interesting, a lot more challenging, and a lot more exciting than ever before, and I want to call you to join me in getting ready for the adventure before us. I believe that God has already been preparing us and brought us to the edge of an incredibly exciting new chapter in the life of our church, and we need to remember the basics. We do not live by buildings, we do not live by programs, we do not live by liturgies, we do not live by particular doctrines or particular people. We live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.
We need to recognize that with every blessing, every opportunity we have another chance to blow it and throw it all away or stand in the grace of God. There is no blessing that we can’t squander and no horrible situation that we can’t make worse. This is the ingenuity of our flesh, our dark hearts, and our fearful minds. But God’s Word is our Rock, our Fortress, our Stronghold. Jesus is our Rock, our Shield, our Savior. His Word is our Peace, our Comfort, our Glory. He calms the storms. He commands the demons to flee. He bears our sorrows, our guilt, our failures. He breaks prisoners out of the dungeons of sin and death and darkness. He speaks the Light that gives Life. He is the Rock cut out without hands. He is the Rock that has struck the feet of every earthly empire. He is the Rock that is growing into the Greatest Mountain that will fill the earth with the Glory of God as the waters cover the sea.
We don’t need a lot of studious box checker Bible reading. We don’t need a lot of chapter counters and verse indexers. We need His Word to break us, to remake us, to mold us, to heal us, to empower us, to feed us, to satisfy us beyond anything else in this world. Jesus says that he who hears His word and obeys is like the man who built his house on the rock and is able to withstand the storms. But the man who doesn’t listen builds his house on the sand. If we do not go into this next phase of our Church’s story with Jesus as our Captain, leading the way, Jesus and His Word as our Rock and Fortress, then we are like Israel trying to invade Canaan without God’s blessing. If God does not go with us, it doesn’t matter what the building looks like, it doesn’t matter who our pastor is, it doesn’t matter what the liturgy is like, it doesn’t matter what kind of parish groups and Sunday School programs we have. None of it matters if Jesus doesn’t go with us.
We need Jesus leading us forward, and He will lead us if we seek Him with our whole heart. If Jesus is our Rock, our Pearl of great price, our Priceless Treasure, then He will make us bold and courageous, He will be our crown, and He will give us this city.
But we don’t hold God in our little box. We don’t summon Jesus up like some kind of genie in a bottle. We don’t even hold Him here in our hands, as though paper and ink could bind Him. We do not hold Him. He holds us. We hold His hand, and He carries us.
And this applies to your lives, your stories in all their complexity and challenges and joys as well. Celebrating Christmas means that you have testified to having seen His Star in the East. You have proclaimed the King of the Nations born, and now you have sworn to worship Him and bring Him gifts. You are here this morning like the first Wise Men laying your gifts before the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. As you consider the year ahead of you, how will you make that allegiance more real? How will you surrender your plans, your will, your hopes and dreams to King Jesus? How will you seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness? How will you make His Word more precious to you than gold, more valuable than diamonds? How will you listen more carefully and obey more fully by the power of His Spirit and grace?
Let me challenge you to imitate the Wise Men and worship Jesus in three ways in the coming year: Worship Jesus with your Money, Worship Jesus by prayerfully marinating in His Word and obeying, and Worship Jesus by hunting for valuable treasure for the Kingdom (e.g. people, gifts, service, etc.). Jesus is the Mountain of the House of the Lord, and He has been raised as the chief of the mountains. Bring the glory in. Go treasure hunting and bring the glory in.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!