A sermon by Joel Workman based on Matthew 24:1-14, preached on August 18, 2019 at Veritas Short North as part of a sermon series in Matthew.
In the book of Revelation, Jesus writes seven letters to seven real churches, the first to the church in Ephesus. They seemed to be doing everything right: they were against the people that Jesus was against and knew all the truths that they thought they should know. But they had not love. They seemed to be doing all of the right things, but had abandoned the love of Christ that they had had from the beginning! We are called to more than being right in our theology and more than doing the right things. We’re called to love Jesus as of first importance.
At the core of Christian theology is the doctrine of adoption. We are, by the work of Christ on the cross testified to by the Holy Spirit, made sons and daughters of God. We are made close and familiar with God. We are made heirs in the same way that Christ is heir. God is not distant and we are not strangers. We are brought into the eternal relationship enjoyed by the Trinity: a relationship of glory and suffering.
We’ve spent the past two weeks talking about how we have died to sin and been freed from our slavery to sin and now serve Christ and now we talk about our relationship with the Law. We’ve seen earlier in Romans that those with the Law have it as a witness against them before God, but is the Law a bad thing? In grace we are freed from the condemnation of the Law, but does that mean that the Law has no place in our sanctification?
What we do is heavily influenced by our identity—who we are. This is a tough pill for us to swallow because this passage tells us that we are slaves. We aren’t creatures that can simply float about “freely”; we always worship, love, and present ourselves to another. We can either choose to be enslaved to sin, whose fruit and wage is death and despair, or we can choose to be slaves to righteousness, in bondage to the slave-master who has sacrificed Himself for us, yielding the fruit of sanctification and life.
Why is our justification so important? Paul spends two chapters of Romans on the topic and we’re preaching on it for six weeks. What’s the big deal? Justification, when understood as Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writes to us, turns our whole mentality of life on its head and impacts literally every aspect of our lives. Everything about the Christian life flows from the truth of our justification by faith.
Closing chapter 2, Paul now addresses specifically the Jews (more generally, those who identify as God’s people). They [we] have God’s Word to guide us and the knowledge of God and of His Gospel, yet we fail to live the transformed lives that we are called to and called to direct others to. Our persistent hypocrisy (knowing God’s Word, but daily living for idols) is evidence that our outward expressions of faith can’t cut it. We need more than just maximizing the good deeds and minimizing the bad, we need a transformed heart from God Himself.
Two weeks ago we read about God’s wrath on “the unrighteous”, those who sin openly and commend it to others, but Romans 2 begins by addressing the snickering crowd lauding Paul for calling out “those sinners” from chapter 1. God’s wrath is stored up for those who judge as well because we are guilty of the same things ourselves.
Once again in 1 Peter we find ourselves at a passage talking about suffering. Here Peter reminds us again of the opportunity we have to see God and His glory revealed in our suffering. It is far too easy to sit in the self-worship of our shame and doubt, but we are called in the midst of our suffering to still think as Christ thinks, rejoice in Christ’s glory revealed, and trust that our faithful God, in His glorification, seeks after our good.
In a phrase, the message of this passage is simple: “Live like God.” We may know the truths of the Gospel, but why do we continue live as if the material possessions, idols, and passions of this world can satisfy our souls? We need to think like Christ who chose suffering and was maligned for the sake of righteousness. Rather than allowing our hearts to fall into the temptation to live for ourselves, we need to arm ourselves by thinking like Christ to do all that we do (loving, speaking, serving, etc.) to the glory of God through the strength that He gives us through His Holy Spirit and the grace of our Gospel identity.