Repent and Believe

The sermon I preached at King of Grace Church on April 14th, 2013.

“Repent and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ.” LISTEN

MARK 1:1-15

John the Baptist Prepares the Way

1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,

“Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way,
the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”

John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

The Baptism of Jesus

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

The Temptation of Jesus

12 The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.

Jesus Begins His Ministry

14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

The Significance of Passover for Christians

Exodus 12:1-14

“The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, ‘This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household … The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect … Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. Do not eat the meat raw or cooked in water, but roast it over the fire … Do not leave any of it till morning … This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the LORD’S Passover. On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn—both men and animals—and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt. This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD—a lasting ordinance.’”

Numbers 9:11-12
“‘They are to celebrate it on the fourteenth day of the second month at twilight. They are to eat the lamb, together with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. They must not leave any of it till morning or break any of its bones. When they celebrate the Passover, they must follow all the regulations.’”

Today is the first day of Passover, one of the most important Jewish festivals. But what is its significance for a Christian?

The Exodus
The book of Exodus, which is also part of the Jewish Torah, records that the Eygptians “put slave masters over [the Jews] to oppress them with forced labor … [and] made their lives bitter with hard labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields … [and] used them ruthlessly” (Ex.1:11-14). Moreover, it says that the Pharaoh gave the order to kill every new-born Jewish boy (Ex. 1:22). One baby, however, survives. He is named Moses, and he grows up and is called by God to liberate the Jews from the grips of Egypt.

The Jews had suffered for around 200-300 years under Egyptian oppression. Given this context, and given the deadly consequences awaiting failure, the night of the Passover must have been pregnant with palpable anxiety, as the people carried out the ritual with trembling—the rapid palpitations of their hearts resounding even louder amidst the thick, hushed air filled with fear and anticipation.

The Passover Lamb
One could picture the solemnity of the scene as they carefully examine the lamb to check that it is without blemish, stab it, pour the blood out into a basin, sprinkle it across the lintel and the side door posts, then roast the meat. One could imagine the intense emotions stirring as they distribute the lamb joint by joint, painstakingly ensuring that no bone is broken, and eat it hastily with their rough hands, calloused from hard labor.

There is tension as they look into each other’s determined eyes whispering, “Soon, the God to whom we have cried out day after day will answer our prayers. Soon, our Lord will avenge our enemies. Soon, Our God will deliver us from slavery.” The significance of the Passover, for any observant Jew, could hardly be overstated.

The Second Exodus
It is possible for Christians to empathize with the Jews and celebrate the Passover because we have experienced the same deliverance from our own spiritual Egypt. The slavery in Egypt can be likened to slavery to sin, just as Apostle Paul wrote of his past as a man living according to the law apart from the grace of God, “I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do … For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out … What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? … a slave to the law of sin” (Rom. 7:13-25).

Then, he answers his own question, “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! … Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do … God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering … [we] are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit of God” (Rom. 7:25-8:3; 8:9). Christians wearied from their slavery under the law of sin, like the Jews worn out from their slavery under the Egyptians, are freed at once, not by anything they have done, but by the sacrifice of Jesus, the Passover lamb (1 Cor. 5:7), and invited to live victoriously in the Spirit of life through grace.

The Second Passover Lamb
There are more than a few parallels between Jesus and the Passover lamb. As Charles Spurgeon points out in his sermon Christ Our Passover, delivered on December 2nd 1855, the gentle, innocent lamb without blemish aptly captures the image of Jesus Christ, the guileless and sinless man declared blameless by the Pilate (Lk. 23:4), who nevertheless accepted his death sentence without retaliating.

As the paschal lamb’s wool is shorn and the animal killed, Christ was ripped naked and crucified. Furthermore, just as the paschal lamb was to be a male of the first year, a lamb in its prime, so Christ died on the cross at the zenith of his manhood at the age of 34. Just as the lamb was not to be killed prematurely or too late, Christ was offered, not as a young boy who is not yet mature, nor as an old man whose body is growing frail, but as a full man at the height of his strength.

Moreover, just as the Passover lamb was set aside for 4 days before Passover, Jesus commenced his ministry after his baptism and continued for 4 years until his death, and upon entering Jerusalem to be set apart for his death, celebrated the Passover with his disciples 4 days later, except this time offering himself instead of the Passover lamb, saying as he broke the bread, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me,” and as he poured the wine, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” (Lk. 22:7-20).

The picture I took of the Upper Room in Jerusalem (2007), where, reputedly, Jesus had his Last Supper with the disciples.
The picture I took of the Upper Room in Jerusalem (2007), where, reputedly, Jesus had his Last Supper with the disciples.

Likewise, his death resembled that of the Passover lamb, since his blood was poured out, and he was pierced onto a cross and endured a long painful death which is similar to the process of roasting, in which the lamb is pierced and hung over the fire. No bone of his body was broken (Jn. 19:33-36), and he was not to be left on the cross until morning (Jn. 19:31) just as the Passover lamb was not to be left until morning.

In this manner, Jesus fulfilled the Messianic role of Savior and Redeemer. Just as the Old Testament prophets predicted the Messiah would be, Jesus was from the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10-11), line of David (Jer. 23:5), and was born in Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2) of a virgin mother (Is. 7:14). He was a Galilean (Is. 9:1-7), the Son of Man (Dan. 7:13-14) and the Son of God (Is. 7:14).

He was sold for 30 pieces of silver (Zech. 11:12-13) and people divided and cast lots for his clothing (Ps. 22:18), and as he was dying He cried out “‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani’—which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” thus quoting Psalm 22:1 and pointing to the prophecies concerning him contained in the Psalm.

He was despised (Ps. 22:6-7; Is. 53:3), pierced in his side (Zech. 12:10) and in his hands and feet (Ps. 22:16), yet his bones were not broken (Ps. 22:17; 34:19-20). He died and resurrected after three days and thus fulfilled the Sign of Jonah (Ps.16:10; Hos. 6:2; Jon. 1:17), and was exalted to the right hand of God the Father (Ps. 110:1-4). All of these prophecies are plainly fulfilled and explained in the Gospels.

Prophet Isaiah summed it all up when he prophesied:

Isaiah 53
“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering (cf. Mt. 27:27-31) … Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities (cf. Mt. 27:32-44); the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth (cf. Mt. 27:13-14) … And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living … He was assigned a grave with the wicked (cf. Mt. 27:38), and with the rich in his death (cf. Mt. 27:57-60), though he had done no violence (cf. Mt. 26:52), nor was any deceit in his mouth (cf. Mt. 26:55). Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer (cf. Mt. 26:42), and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering … After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied (cf. Mt. 28:6); by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many (cf. Mt. 28:19-20), and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great (cf. Mk. 16:19), and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors.”

This great sacrifice, amazing grace, and unconditional love demand a response. Just as Charles Spurgeon, once again, said, “If he gave his all to me, which was much, should I not give my little all to him?”

Rescuing Christmas from Secularism

The sermon I preached at King of Grace Church on December 23rd, 2012.

“Celebrate and proclaim the good news that Jesus is Christ the Lord, our Savior.” LISTEN

Luke 2:1-21
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should beregistered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria.And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is calledBethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

21 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Christian Identity: How to Avoid an Identity Crisis

The sermon I preached at Crossway Church on October 14th, 2012.

“Christian identity is founded on pursuing and treasuring Christ as our appetite, affirmation, and ambition.” LISTEN

Matthew 4:1-11
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,

“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and

“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall 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 glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God
and him only shall you serve.’”

11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

This Is How We Know by Matt Redman

This Is How We Know by Matt Redman

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). Yet I was not even your friend… While I was still your enemy, you died for me (Romans 5:10)! Surely, this is how we know what love is!

“Let Your Blood Plead for Me” by Sojourn Music

“Let Your Blood Plead for Me” by Sojourn Music

“My guilt appeared so small before, till terribly I saw
How perfect, holy, just and pure was Your eternal Law

Let Your blood plead for me, let Your blood wash me clean
I believe, Lord I believe, Your blood has covered me!”