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Feb 21, 2016

Surprising Foundations

Surprising Foundations

Passage: Matthew 3:11-4:22

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: The Story

Category: New Testament

Keywords: discipleship, evangelism, foundations, gospel, spiritual disciplines, spiritual practices

Summary:

This message in our The Story series focuses upon the foundations Jesus laid for his ministry and the coming Kingdom. It looks at three important parts of any individual's or church's foundation of God's work in lives and this world: the Gospel, Spiritual Practices and Discipleship.

Detail:

Critical Foundations for Life-Changing Ministry

The Story—The Beginning of Jesus’ Ministry

Gospels:  Matthew-John

INTRO:  Foundations—they really are important.  Dan reminded me this week that I misspoke last week when I said that the current building we made an offer on about a week ago was the “1st building” we actually put an offer in on.  Actually, we had put an offer in on the Monroe and 2nd building some time ago.  But as we got farther into investigating what it would take to actually renovate that building, we ran into some “foundation” issues that, the more we looked at, the more they concerned us.  We eventually had to let go of that space in search of something more solid and with fewer unknowns.

            Foundations matter. And the more you plan to build on a foundation, the deeper and broader that foundation must go.

  • In our own Pacific Northwest, we have what is officially named “The Rainier Tower”. It’s also been nicknamed “The Beaver Building” as its physical appearance looks like a tree being felled by a beaver…or “the Wine Glass” and the "golf tee" building.  It’s goblet-like construction gives it an unusual appearance.  It’s built atop an 11-story concrete pedestal base that tapers towards ground level, like an inverted pyramid and then fans out underneath again with a larger base.
  • But The Rainier Tower is only 40 stories above ground or just over 500 feet (514). Imagine a building 4 times that tall…160 stories high or 2720’!  That’s the height of the Burj Khalifa building in Dubai.  At over ½ a mile high, it’s currently the world’s highest building.
  • But it will soon be surpassed by one being constructed in Saudi Arabia called the Jeddah Tower. It’s exact height is a secret but plans call for it being about .6 of a mile high (1 kilometer).
  • And, of course, there are plans for a mile-high building as we speak.

I can just picture God bending over with a celestial magnifying glass saying, “Yah, I can almost see it now.  Let me know when you get around to your first solar system and we’ll compare notes.”  J

Foundations matter.  Whether you are building a skyscraper or a space program, a local company or a world-wide kingdom, foundations matter. 

            Today in our chronological journey through the Bible, we’re jumping into the New Testament.  From the Garden of Eden to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, we’ve seen God’s divine plan, His Story, unfolding throughout human history.  From providing a way for our first parents, Adam and Eve, to be reconciled to Him and forgiven of sins, we’ve now come to the unfolding of God’s plan for all people through the reconciling life and work of Jesus Christ.

            In today’s texts, Jesus is laying the foundation for what will be centuries of divine Kingdom building.  He’s digging down into the bedrock of human history and setting a foundation that will be able to support the superstructure of His universal church, a church that will reach into every culture of the world and include hundreds of millions of people in history.

            Now, I’m no structural engineer.  Nor am I an architect.  So when I look at the foundation work being done on a large building, all my untrained eye sees is a big hole in the ground!  Foundation work can be confusing to the untrained eye.  It can look like nothing but messy mud, tangled rebar and a seemingly endless cascade of concrete.  It’s certainly not very glamorous.  But it definitely is critical.

            The same was true for the foundation Jesus laid for his world-wide church.  To anyone but the trained and wise heart of God, it may have looked like a tangle of events and a muddy mess of confusing steps of God.  But it was all vital, all essential, all necessary for what would be built on top of it for centuries to come.

APP:  The same is true for us on both an individual level as well as a church.  The foundations we build for the work God is wanting to do will determine the height to which we will be able to rise in our experience with God in this world.  Whether we’re talking about our own personal lives and the monuments of grace God wants to erect on them or whether we’re talking about the kind of impact Mosaic will have 30 or 50 years from now, the foundations we lay right now are critical.  

We pick up God’s story today in Matthew 3, at the inauguration of Jesus’ ministry.  Remember, we’re going to be looking for the KEY COMPONENTS of a SPIRITUAL FOUNDATION.  The first one for Jesus is truly the first component for every individual and every church.  Let’s read about it in Mt. 3:11ff.

“I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Here is John the Baptist, clearly a man who is in right relationship with God at this point in his life.  He’s calling a whole nation back to God through a very difficult message:  REPENT!  He’s the Billy Graham evangelist of the day, only he knows that before people will be ready for a RIGHT relationship with God, they must come to grips with their WRONG heart towards God…the sin in their own lives that is making for a wrong relationship with God presently. 

But even being the leader of this grassroots repentance movement, he clearly tells people that their repentance is all about the Redeemer who is coming. He’s not even worthy to carry his sandals much less be compared in any way with him.  In fact, the contrasts are great:

  • John acknowledges that he immerses people in water as a symbol of their heart change and cleansing from sin. The coming Messiah will immerse people in the Holy Spirit and fire.
  • John comes calling people to leave sin. The Messiah will come to separate God-following people (wheat) from sin-following people (chaf)…eternally. 

Mt. 3:13ff

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.

            John, the greatest prophet to date, knows that he is the sinner needing baptism, not Jesus.  John is the “Baptism King” of the nation.  Yet he knows there needs to be a reversal of roles when Jesus appears.  He knows Jesus should be the baptizer and he should be the repentant sinner. 

            It all must have felt very confusing to him.  Everything in him must have wanted to object. Yet knowing that the servant doesn’t tell the master what to do, John trumps his knowledgeable doubts with submissive obedience.  He baptizes Jesus, out in public, and in the process catches a glimpse of the superior ministry Christ himself is bringing—a ministry that involves the Triune God, and particularly the Holy Spirit.

            What is more, baptizing was not a biblical theological issue at the time.  It was an act built on tradition that John had infused it with in his own call to repentance. Sinful John baptizing sinless Jesus wasn’t violating a single command of God.  But it certainly didn’t fit John’s ministry/repentance categories.

APP:  Does God’s foundation work in your life sometimes seem confusing? Do you find God stretching and sometimes breaking your comfortable traditions and traditional categories?  You’re in good company!  You may be in the best relationship with God you’ve ever been.  And then God comes along and asks you to do something that doesn’t fit your normal categories.  The only way we will grow at times like that is if we recognize that saying “Yes” to Jesus is more important than making Jesus fit into our comfortable categories.      Let’s keep reading:

 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him;17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

            Interestingly, this Gospel and this chapter is one of the strongest arguments for the historical, orthodox Christian belief in what we call the Trinity—One God existing in 3 distinct persons, each fully God yet never separated in essence or nature. [You’ll have to come next week to study this further as we dive into the practical difference worshiping the Triune God makes in our lives. It’s a truth about God that is alluded to in the O.T. but clearly revealed in the N.T.]

From the very first day of Jesus’ ministry, God bursts upon the scene, blowing every neatly constructed category of the religious leaders of the day regarding monotheism.  God wasn’t contradicting his revelation of his monotheistic nature.  But He was certainly calling for a fuller, more complete (though admittedly more difficult) understanding of Himself.

But the real truth I want us to see out of this starting block of Jesus ministry is this foundational truth: 

1.) Laying the right foundation demands that we embrace the right relationship with the triune God. 

The Apostle John in his Gospel, chapter 1, verses 29 & 36, tells us that John the Baptist clearly informed everyone who would listen that Jesus was, in fact, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”  John knew that, while sinful priests and innocent animal sacrifices could atone for and temporarily cover human sin, neither those sacrifices nor those religious people (priests) could ever “take away” sin.  Yet under the direction of the Holy Spirit, John the Baptist spoke unprecedented truth to all who would listen when he pointed to Jesus and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” 

APP:  Here is THE foundational truth for every Christ-follower’s life and to the whole church of God throughout human history: the Gospel.   We must embrace Jesus, God in human flesh, as our own Lamb of God.  What does that mean? 

  • Romans 3:23—“For all have sinned…fallen short of the perfect standard of God.”
  • Romans 6:23—“The wage sin pays is always death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Jesus is the only substitute and sacrifice who can take away anyone’s sin in this world.  For anyone to experience God’s forgiveness demands that we acknowledge we are sinners.  Our sinfulness—violating God’s law and nature in word and deed, thought and action—has no other remedy but the sinless Lamb of God, Jesus Christ.  He bore my sin and yours on the cross.   He took God’s judgment over that sin on himself so we would never have to experience God’s wrath and judgment. And now He offers life forever, life right now, reconciliation with God to any who will let go of their sin and embrace Jesus by simple, personal faith. 

            This was the entire reason the O.T. law existed.  This was why the Temple in Jerusalem was so necessary.  Until God dealt with our sin permanently on the cross of Christ, people needed to make temporary substitute sacrificial offerings by faith in God. 

APP:   Have you come to that place in life where you know you are a sinner in need of the “Lamb of God”?  And have you put your faith in Jesus, surrendered your life to Him and opened your life to the Lordship of God?  [Lead in a prayer of faith.]

            When you surrender your life to God through faith in Jesus Christ, something even more amazing than what happened at Jesus’ baptism happens to you.  Jesus has always enjoyed the most wonderful relationship with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.  But we who never enjoyed a right relationship with any member of the Triune God enter into unimaginable relationship with each of them the moment we enter into the life of faith in Jesus Christ. 

            Just look for a moment at what happened to Jesus at His baptism.  It is virtually the same thing that happens to every single person who by faith in Christ, enters into God’s family. 

 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him…” 

Every person who becomes a child of God by faith in Jesus Christ receives that very same Holy Spirit of God that came to rest on Jesus.  Jesus told us in John 14:16 that the Holy Spirit will “help you and be with you forever.” He’ll NEVER leave us. He’s always working hard, every moment of every day you will walk this earth to “help” you!  Anyone want God’s help every day? 

 In the very next verse, John 14:17 Jesus promises us that this Holy Spirit, this Spirit of truth, “will live with us and be in us.”  We get a connection with God the Holy Spirit that doesn’t just “rest ON” us; He lives IN us! 

And just in case you and I mess up and wander away, God tells us that He, in the presence of the Holy Spirit, actually “seals us” in Christ (Eph. 1:13; 4:30). He puts his “Good Soul-Keeping Seal of Approval” on us that says to all the principalities and powers and forces of darkness, “This one is mine now…forever.  They bear the seal of my Spirit.”

Matthew 3:17 next tells us that God the Father expressed his approval and joy in God the Son, Jesus, when the voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” 

Here’s the amazing thing.  When we take our stand in Jesus Christ, when we are found “in Him” by faith in Jesus, the very words of approval and love God the Father spoke to God the Son become spoken over us.  God says to us, “You are my beloved son…my beloved daughter…with whom I am well pleased!”   Some of you NEVER heard your father say those words.  But ALL of us should have those words echoing in our souls every day we take our stand in Jesus Christ. 

            Do you see why laying the right foundation demands that we embrace the right relationship with the triune God?  Without this right relationship with Jesus, with the Holy Spirit and with God our Father, there can be no transformed life.  There can be no building of spiritual character.  There can be no leaving of a blessing and legacy to those around us.  If we are to build our lives for eternity and make a real difference in time, we must lay the ONLY lasting foundation of a right relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. 

APP:  This is why we must

  • All KNOW this Gospel of Christ personally by faith in Jesus.
  • SHARE this Good News of life in Jesus Christ until the day we die.

Fixing bikes…sharing meals…giving gifts…going to meetings…they are all just nice things that don’t really transform anyone IF we don’t call people to the eternal Gospel of Christ.  

            This is why many formerly vibrant churches are dying; they have abandoned the Gospel of Christ and just been busy trying to make life temporarily better for people. 

            This is why every one of us at Mosaic MUST know Christ and make Him known.  Do you know how to tell someone in 60 seconds of less what the Good News of Jesus is?  If you memorize John 3:16 or Romans 6:23 or John 1:12, you can share the Gospel in 60 seconds.   

APP:  One final note on this matter of Jesus’ baptism.  If you are a follower of Jesus, and you haven’t been baptized since you put your faith in Christ, you need to be.  There’s no magic in it.  But Jesus who took on human flesh and died in your place has commanded us to be baptized as a message to the whole world that we have been washed of our sins by faith in Jesus and are now raised to a new life in the Spirit.  Baptism is one of those foundational steps of faith that Jesus asks every one of us to take, just as he did to identify with our humanity. 

Let’s go back to Matthew, only this time chapter 4.  What is the next foundation anchor God puts down deep through Jesus upon which He will build centuries of His family, the Church?  2.  The next key structural component of a strong spiritual foundation is…a life of spiritual practices that withstand the stress tests of temptation. 

Immediately after his baptism, we are told,

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
    and they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

            Here’s my question for today on this text:  What are the spiritual practices, the spiritual disciplines that Jesus had obviously developed beforehand that helped Him overcome temptation and thus build a perfect foundation for us, His church?  We see some of them manifested here in the midst of this tremendous temptation.  Jesus had been “working out” his spiritual muscles by training to walk with God through certain spiritual practices evidenced here.  What are they?

  • Fasting: saying “no” to the cravings of his flesh in order to say “yes” to the longings of His spirit. 
  • Memorizing, studying, using the Word of God He knew when Satan was using it improperly because he knew well ALL the Word of God.  He could discern a wrong use of a passage because he had trained himself deeply in the right use of the Scriptures.
  • Solitude

Here is a list of many of the spiritual practices that are available to us to strengthen our souls and lay good, strong foundations for God’s life-long work in our lives.  As you read this list of spiritual practices, ask yourself…

  • Which ones do I not practice at all or very little?
  • Which ones might help me develop spiritual strength and “muscle” to live the way God wants me to live?

Spiritual Practices:

ENGAGEMENT:

  • Prayer: praise/confession/intercession/thanksgiving
  • Bible reading/study/memory/meditation
  • Worship
  • Witnessing
  • Serving
  • Fellowship
  • Journaling

DISENGAGEMENT:

  • Fasting
  • Giving
  • Silence
  • Solitude
  • Abstinence
  • Submission
  • Frugality
  • Rest/Sabbath
  • Secrecy

We aren’t to engage in the spiritual practices just to do spiritual practices. 

EX:

  • You don’t pray just to get really good at praying. You pray to connect your life with the source of life, God himself.  You pray to change and conform your perspective about someone or something you’re praying about to God’s heart and perspective.  You pray to give space in your life for God to work…and speak…and teach you. 
  • Similarly, we memorize and learn God’s word, not so we can brag about how many verses we know, but so we can use God’s word to repel temptation, to replace wrong thinking with godly thinking, to have wisdom instead of living foolishly, etc.

ILL:  Parade Magazine published a story back in February of 1962 about the then Premier of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev.  As a child growing up in Kalonovka, Russia, he had learned that, if you memorized portions of the New Testament Gospels, the local Russian Orthodox Priest would give you candy.  Well, if you ever saw Khrushchev’s build, you would know that he apparently liked candy…and not just as a kid. So he memorized large portions of the Gospels.  But he went on to lead one of the world’s largest and strongest communistic and atheistic regimes in human history—the Soviet Union. 

  • Satan knows the Scriptures and abuses them. But the child of God must know the Scriptures and use them to anchor our souls in righteousness and obedience to God.  

I’m pretty sure when Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted, it wasn’t his first rodeo with fasting or prayer or solitude or the Word of God.  He had developed the spiritual practices in the years leading up to this so that when the heat was on, he could also use those practices and the spiritual “muscle” they had developed to live righteously and in holiness. 

NOTE:  Spiritual practices are designed to put us in touch with God and remove us from dependence on things our flesh may crave.  Some spiritual practices may be more helpful to you personally than others.  Look back on experiences that have consistently helped you draw near to God and hear from Him

EX: When I look back on experiences I’ve had that help me draw near to God and hear from him, several stand out consistently:

  • Prayer
  • Reading and meditating on the Word
  • Being in the outdoors…alone! (solitude)

So my regular physical and spiritual routine involves reading and thinking about Scripture, going running and praying about things as I run. 

APP: 

  • Take a few moments to look back on your walk with God and see if there are some common denominators.
  • Write down 2-3 practices you will incorporate into this Lenten season 2016.
  • Talk about that with at least 1 other Christ-follower today and ask them to help you actually do them…or join you in doing them (couples, friends, family, small group, etc.)

So, this 2nd foundation wall of stress-tested spiritual practices is a must for our life together and our spiritual strength as a people.

The 3rd and last key component of a ministry with lasting foundations is found at the end of Matthew 4:18-22.

18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.

21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

  1. Calling and discipling others in Christ is a key foundational component of transformational ministry.

The generation of Christ-followers that stops inviting others to follow Jesus will be the last generation of Christ-followers.  The church is always 1 generation away from extinction.  Many a church right in the heart of Spokane has died because they stopped inviting others to become disciples of Jesus. And when they stopped calling people to follow Christ, they stopped making disciples.  That is the future of any church that doesn’t make calling and discipling others the foundation of what they do. 

            Some of you might be thinking, “Discipleship?  I don’t know how to do that?  I’ve never really been discipled. I’ve never been to a Discipleship Training School. I’ve come to church but I’ve never been taught how to really grow in Christ on my own let alone teach someone else how to be a fervent follower of Jesus.” 

Maybe you’ve never lived close enough to a real Christ-follower to see discipleship in action.  Maybe you’ve never been in a group of people who were dedicated to learning how to help others grow up in Christ with them. 

How does that happen?

            It’s not a secret or a mystery.  From the beginning of his ministry, Jesus taught 12 other men how to invite and disciple others who in turn would teach others. 12 became 72 became 120 in the Upper Room became 3,000 at Pentecost became hundreds of millions today worldwide. Disciple making is not a great mystery.  Just find someone who is really living life in Jesus Christ…and stick to them like gum on the bottom of your shoe on a hot day in August!  It takes being around someone who IS a disciple to really embrace the simple practices that help us grow up as disciples of Jesus. 

            But don’t think it will happen in your life without some life-rearranging changes.  Here’s what you will have to commit.

  • Time: if you don’t want learning to be a fervent follower of Jesus to impact your schedule, it won’t.  But if you’re anxious to have it impact your daily routine, then you’re a candidate for discipleship.
  • Steadfastness/Faithfulness: It took 12 men 3 years of their life… most likely 24-7 in their week… living with Jesus himself (for Pete’s sake!)to learn to become disciples who would make disciples.  So how long do you suppose it will take you? How many years are you ready to invest?  How many mornings and evenings and lunchtimes and weekends are you ready to rearrange in order to let this Christ-following business really take hold?
  • Faith: Faith follows when you want to fade away.  It steps out when you don’t know what that step will cost.  It believes God when life is screaming at you to doubt Him.  Faith keeps looking to Jesus when life doesn’t make sense, when the road is steep, when the pain may be great and when you don’t even have energy to hold on.  Faith rests in the arms of the God who holds you tight when everything and everyone else seems to be giving up.  Faith let’s go of everything so it can hold onto one thing—God.

So I’ll end with a few very concrete challenges:

  • If you don’t have the desire to be that kind of Christ-follower, ask God to show you why. And then ask Him to change your heart and give you that desire that will truly turn you into a fervent follower of Jesus.
  • If you have that yearning to become this kind of Christ-follower, find someone you respect who is living that life already and ask them if they would be willing to work with you to become a disciple who makes disciples? Don’t let up until you find someone who will do that with you.
  • If you’re hungry to find someone you can challenge to become a follower of Jesus and then help show them what that looks like week after week, I’ve got a very present, very wonderful and very simple opportunity for you: Pathways Community Team.
    1. We’re looking for 10 people to bless 1 building once a week.
    2. We’re looking for 10 people who will share a community meal once a week with the wonderful residents of Pioneer Pathways on Thursday nights each week.
    3. We’re looking for 10 people who will pray that God will lead them into 1 friendship this year with 1 Pathways resident that God can use as He sees fit—whether that leads them to follow Christ or whether it shows them what Jesus looks like in a loving friend.

Sign Up Sheet:  Derik and Zoe are looking for 10 willing, faithful people to join them most Thursday evenings for the next few months to build community at Pathways through a couple of hours a week sharing a meal and some friendship-building activity. 

How deeply do we want to build a foundation in this city that God can build on for decades to come? 

PRAY