iGods From the Past

The iGod and the Real God
2 Kings 17:5-18
Matthew Raley (9-23-12)

In last week’s message we saw that when a human being encounters the real God it is an encounter with an absolute holiness that is life-threatening.  Yet, the real God crosses the boundaries of his holiness by sacrifice, and creates a relationship with the now-clean human.  This relationship is entirely at the real God’s initiative.

Worship, then, is not an emotional condition of escape  or freedom.  It is submission to the real God through a variety of actions. The emotions of joy and peace that we need are results of genuine worship. True fulfillment does not come from worshiping a fantasy, it comes from worshiping the real God on his terms.

Yielding submission to an iGod, on the other hand, is false worship, and it comes in many forms.

Published in: on September 24, 2012 at 11:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

How the Real God Looks

The iGod and the Real God
Isaiah 6:1-8
Matthew Raley (9-16-12)

In the consumer mindset, personal fulfillment is the ultimate goal.  In order to achieve their goal, consumers need a God they can relate to.  They want a God into whose embrace they can escape and find new vitality.

We’re calling this consumer invention the iGod.  We’re asking two questions.  First, what if this iGod is not real, but an idol of your own invention?  Second, how can you engage the real God?  We are searching for the alternative fulfillment that is taught in the Bible.

In today’s message we will look at the example of a man who encountered the real God.  We will see where Isaiah was coming from, what he saw, and how he reacted.  We will also see the real God’s response to Isaiah.

Published in: on September 24, 2012 at 5:22 am  Leave a Comment  

Alternative Fulfillment

The iGod and the Real God
Ephesians 5:15-18
Matthew Raley (9-9-12)

The best symbol of American spirituality today may be the iPod.  You load it up with whatever you need to reach ecstasy.  You make sure that your lists cover all your moods.  You put the ear buds in and dance like no one’s looking.

Spirituality for us usually means pushing the drab world of responsibilities away, plugging into passion, and living in a Selfscape, an inner world where you see only what you want to see.  In this spirituality, God is customizable.  His driving purpose is to encourage you.

The American religion is personal fulfillment.  And evangelicals wholeheartedly embrace it.  We worship the iGod too.

Today we will be studying words from Ephesians which are a universe away from iGod spirituality.  These words contain commands.  Paul used words like wise and unwise.  He says  that “the days are wicked” and must be “redeemed”.  He also says that God is “the Lord” and that he has a will to which we must submit.  Paul’s words prohibit drunkenness.  And Paul’s main command is, “Be filled with the Spirit.”  This spirituality is not customizable.

In this series we will study the life of worship as Paul and other biblical writers describe it.  We will come to a fresh understanding of personal fulfillment.  We will learn how to reject our Selfscapes in favor of the shared space of Jesus Christ, the love that connects us to others deeply.  Most importantly, we will challenge the mystical double-talk that surrounds the phrase “filled with the Spirit”, and we will see how Chris is most powerful in normal life.

Published in: on September 24, 2012 at 5:21 am  Leave a Comment  

Share in the Light

Dividing Sins. Uniting Virtues.
Ephesians 5:6-14
Matthew Raley (9-2-12)

Among the most wearisome things about Christianity in America is its endless chatter.  We prattle on in Bible studies, books, websites, radio, podcasts,  ”fellowship”, and song.  But amid all this chatter it’s hard to find words that have weight, that reach beyond our vain aspirations to address reality.

Paul’s warning in Ephesians 5:6 cuts through our chatter: “Let no one deceive you with empty words.”  He writes this warning because it s possible to be deceived, and because a stream of words without weight is a tool for deception.

The issue about which we may be deceived is unthinkable to us: “The wrath of God comes on the sons of disobedience.”  We can’t imagine God’s wrath being provoked by so slight a thing as disobedience, and this inability reveals that the deception has already succeeded.

Paul points to the reason for God’s wrath: “For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolator) has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.”   The sons of disobedience are the family of human beings.  They follow their prince, who transgresses God’s commands.

In today’s message, our task will be to grapple with the reality of God’s wrath, and to do so standing firmly on God’s grace.  We are either divided from darkness and united with light, or we are divided from light and united to darkness.

Published in: on September 9, 2012 at 8:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

Imitate the Love of Christ

Dividing Sins. Uniting Virtues.
Ephesians 5:1-5
Matthew Raley (8-26-12)

As we have noted before, the idea ofworthiness is forgotten today.  To call someone worthy is to say that he as met a standard set by others, that his character makes the grade.  To call him unworthy is to say that he has failed to meet the standard.  It is a stigma because his character is deficient.

Our culture tells us it’s wrong to think in these terms.  These kinds of judgments on moral issues are now forbidden.  The honor they bestow seems utterly false, and the shame they impose on a person is unimaginable.

But the concept of worthiness is explicit in Ephesians.  The words suitable and fittingwhich appear in today’s text are keys to understanding the book.  This means we must recover the concept in spite of our culture’s hatred of it. In this morning’s message as we consider Paul’s teachings about putting on the new self, we need to answer the question, “What is the standard of worthiness in the church?”

Published in: on September 9, 2012 at 8:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

Pursue the New Self

Dividing Sins. Uniting Virtues.
Ephesians 4:25-32
Matthew Raley (8-19-12)

Paul has taught the Ephesians that alienation from God – the feeling of hostility toward his righteousness – is what keeps us from becoming like Him.  This alienation is a mind-and-heart spiral of darkened thinking and calloused relationships.  The only way out is to learn Jesus Christ: to put off the old self and put on the new, which is created in His image.

Today’s text develops the same thought. Though it is rich with detail, we are going to focus on the big theme as we begin our new study on how to pursue the new self in daily actions.  Paul teaches us to go beyond avoiding sin to making active decisions for righteousness.  It’s not enough to just put off the old self.  We must put on the new.

Published in: on September 9, 2012 at 8:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

Challenge the New Worldview

GBC’s Task in the Coming Year
1 Peter 1:3-9
Matthew Raley (7-22-12)

In the process of growing up, people form a worldview that enables them to make sense of life. For most of history, young people have formed their worldview in the context of a father and a mother, and a network of other families. That is no longer the case in America.

41% of children in America now are born outside of marriage. Among women under 30, the nonmarital birth rate is 53%. “Almost all of the rise in nonmarital births has occurred among couples living together. While in some countries such relationships endure at rates that resemble marriages, in the United States they are more than twice as likely to dissolve than marriages. In a summary of research, Pamela Smock and Fiona Rose Greenland, both of the University of Michigan, reported that two-thirds of couples living together split up by the time their child turned 10.”1

In that kind of context, what sort of worldview will a 10-year-old form?  Here are some of its expressions: I am whoever I make myself to be. I don’t know where I come from. I am here to do what is right for me. I am headed for a life of self-fulfillment.  This is a Me-worldview, and in passing it on, we have devastated large portions of society. The Me-worldview produces poverty, dependency on social welfare, cycles of addiction and crime, and dehumanizing blights like hunger, homelessness, and sexual abuse. The only morality this worldview can recognize is that of health. It cannot recognize good and evil.

Our task is simple. We need to devote significant money, time, ingenuity, and prayer to changing the one factor that determines everything else: worldview.

1 Jason Deparle and Sabrina Tavernise, “For Women Under 30, Most Births Occur Outside Marriage,” The New York Times, February 17, 2012, sec. U.S., http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/18/us/for-women-under-30-most-births-occur-outside-marriage.html.

Published in: on September 9, 2012 at 8:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

Grow Through Discipleship

GBC’s Task in the Coming Year
Matthew 28:18-20
Matthew Raley (7-15-12)

The dominant method churches have used to grow over the last 30 years is well-known:  stop teaching and start entertaining;  get the right music style; de-emphasize doctrine and give “practical” sermons;  multiply programs.

This church-growth movement has several problems.  It is founded upon a low view of God, a low view of people, and it has failed.  In today’s message, we will be considering the thinking behind our plans here at Grace Brethren to open a second service in September.

Published in: on September 9, 2012 at 7:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

Sensuality and Greed

How Personal Change Works
Ephesians 4:17-24
Matthew Raley (7-8-12)

It’s easy  to spot the greed in others and to fault them for it.  It is just as easy to miss the greed in our own lives – the way we automatically grasp at the things around us and resent anything which restricts our indulgence.

In today’s message we will define and discuss the outworkings of spiritual futility: sensuality and greed.

Published in: on September 9, 2012 at 7:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

Spiritual Futility

How Personal Change Works
Ephesians 4:17-24
Matthew Raley (7-1-12)

Can you imagine being asked to design an engine without knowing what kind of fuel it would use?  Would it run on gas or diesel?  Or would it run on steam?

The problem with all our attempts to change ourselves is that we are pouring the wrong kind of fuel into our lives.  As a result, the power we try to use for change becomes futile.  Instead of changing our lives, we destroy the engine that keeps us going.

The engine of your life is the way you think.  In today’s message we will talk about how our thinking can become futile and how it becomes powerful.

Published in: on September 9, 2012 at 7:57 pm  Leave a Comment