April 13, 2014 [9th Commandment]

April 13, 2014
Exodus 20: 2,16
“True Witness”

Today, we’re almost at the homestretch – the 9th commandment, which is, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor”. But as always, the way I start it off is reiterating Exodus 20:2 which is, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” God is saying, “I brought you out of slavery and because of that, don’t be a false witness against your neighbors.” Parents punish their children when they disobey. Children get praised if they do something good. But God is very different. A lot of people come to God to be saved from Hell. So they try to keep the 10 commandments – don’t lie, don’t swear, don’t steal. But when we look at Exodus 20, it starts with how God saved us from sin and the commandments follow after. Because we are His children, because our identity is with Him, He calls us to be like Him. Don’t lie.

What it means to bear false witness
The commandment not to bear false witness is meant in the court of law. In Exodus 23, it says: “You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice, nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit.”

So when we look at that, what does that mean? When you are in the court of law or when you go in for jury duty, be truthful. In our judicial system, we state, “I promise to tell the whole truth, nothing but the truth, so help me God.” In our culture, it works! We are all about legality. But as we start looking at the Bible a little more, we see that God had more in mind. God had more in mind than just, not telling lies. Just like with all the other commandments that we’ve seen, this law has more than meets the eye. How do I know this? Well, in Matthew 5 Jesus talks about something like this:

vs. 33-37: “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.”

In another words, God is saying, not only should you not bear false witness but your whole life should be truthful. All your actions. Why do you need to say, “I swear to God..” Your word should be enough. Don’t even swear because your whole life is under oath. This really hit me while I was preparing this sermon. To what extent should we look out for this? You should not even joke about falsifying information. God says something about joking. Let’s look at Proverbs 26: 18-19:

“Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, “I am only joking!”

A few years ago when we started this church, I told people on April Fool’s day that my parents were ill, so I will have to move back with them and stop church. A lot of people were completely shocked and I told them, “I’m just joking!” They were not that amused and form that day on I decided not to do something like that. That could be a sin too!

As I look at bearing false witness, I was thinking how serious rumors could be. Rumors can devastate lives. Most of us here have been a victim of a bad rumor or maybe the source of a bad rumor. That’s false witness. Much of high school culture is based off of this sin. The jocks make fun of the nerds. The cheerleaders make fun of the goth girls. There are movies about these things. The serious consequences of this culture are seen in cases where students get bullied online and lead to suicide. Leads to violence.

Bearing true witness in this world
This sin gets even more serious when we look at the church’s involvement with WWII. Right before WWII, there was a lot of anti-Semitism in Europe. According to the Journal of Holocaust Studies, churches throughout Europe were mostly silent while Jews were persecuted, deported, and finally murdered in concentration camps. How many? Millions of Jews. Churches! They turned a blind eye to these things. Why? Because we want to be part of the world. We want to be like the world. We want to be accepted. We are afraid to take a stand.

When I look at Jesus’s life, there are three kinds of responses from people that meet Him. The first is fear. People want to run away from Him. The second is anger. They want to kill Him. The third is utter affection. They love Him and want to surrender to Him. The one response that I did not see was, “Wow, Jesus is a nice guy. What a fine chap.” In most churches we see similar attitudes. Nice people. And I am not condoning mean-spirited people in the church. But be offensive, be loving! The church is not to follow the patterns of this world. We’re not only called to be honest but we are also called to protect others when there is injustice! You know there’s that one unpopular guy at work or at school. The person that eats alone during lunch. Everyone criticizes them but you are not called to join in on that. Your calling as a Christian is not to make fun of that person too. In fact your job is the opposite. Your job is to go against the flow. To protect the unjust. To bear a true witness.

Jesus, our True Witness
Does Jesus know what it is like to be falsely accused? Yes! On the night before Jesus died, religious leaders came and dragged him into a mock trial. They tried to get three people to falsely testify against Jesus and get Him convicted. They falsely accused them and found Him guilty based on falsified information. He was beaten, scourged, and eventually crucified. What led up to that crucifixion was this – it was a popular vote. The popular vote said, “Jesus is guilty. Jesus is guilty.” All the religious leaders. All the cool kids were saying, “Jesus is guilty. Jesus is guilty.” So guess what happened? A mob said, “Jesus is guilty. Jesus is guilty.”

Do you know why Jesus allowed Himself to be beaten like that? He did that for you and I because that’s who we are. We are sinners. If we had a chance, if it wasn’t for Jesus, we would be no different from the mobs. How do I know that? All of us did that. In high school, we were part of certain cliques and would make fun of other groups. We are all guilty of this. You think you guys are clean? No! We are all guilty of this. That’s why we needed Jesus. And Jesus dies for us. He rises again from the dead. And this is what 1 John 2: 1-3 says:

“But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.”

Do you know what that means, that Jesus is our advocate? We have a problem with God. We’re sinners. We have a problem following God. But according to John, Jesus Christ died and rise again from the dead and He’s at the right hand of the Father. And what John says, is that Jesus Christ is now our advocate. Jesus Christ is our true witness! If I have a relationship with Christ, He is a true witness for me! On the hour of our death, we will be naked in front of God and we will have nothing to say to Him. All the sin we bear, even the ones that have buried so that no one knows - those will all come out before God. And we will have nothing to say to Him. All I will say is, “God, I am so guilty. I deserve to die”. That’s when Jesus will step in and Jesus will be our advocate. Our true witness saying, “Father, no. He is one of ours. I paid the price for him.” At this point, here’s what you should be feeling – relief. Some people right now are overwhelmed. Some people don’t know how to feel. On one side, we feel hopeless about our depravity. On the other side, this is out of our control and God died for me? You don’t know how to feel? This is how you should feel – relief. Thank you Jesus. It’s by grace that we have been saved. You think we deserved this? Let’s take a day out of your week and examine your thoughts. Think about your actions. I could probably get away with saying the same when I just wake up. And my mind starts rolling – I just sinned. Thank God we have an advocate. A true witness, that’s God’s son.

How we reflect that Jesus is our true advocate
Do you know what that looks like? Because there has to be some visual sign on the outside. In 1 John 2: 4:

 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him:whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

What does that mean? In our culture, when we say, “I know”. It’s all information storage. Do you know that Jesus loves you? “Yea, I know, I know.” Do you know that Jesus died for you? “Yea, I know, I know”. Boy, we are walking google. You know that you should put Jesus first? Then why don’t you do it?! Do you know why? Do you know why you are so insecure? Because you don’t know. Because you don’t know!! If you knew, that the God of the universe – that perfected trees! – died for you, why is there insecurity? Why is there fear? Why are you full of people pleasing? Always thinking about what this person thinks of me, what that person thinks of me. Who cares?! Jesus loves you. Do you fear man or fear God? The God of the whole universe died for you. What’s your response to that? “Oh, I know.”? It should be complete surrender. It should be complete surrender. I pray that as you come to church, as you start realizing who God is, that it will seep into your heart and into your actions. If you know that Jesus Christ is the Lord of your life, then it should come out in your actions. And there the struggle should be, “Lord, I’m afraid to get to know people. I’m afraid to get to know you. But God, you love me. You died for me. And I will love the people that you love.” That’s your calling. Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?”. By the third time, Peter got offended. And Jesus says, “Feed my sheep. Get to know my sheep. Love my sheep”. How do I know whether you love Jesus or not? By your words? In this day in age, not really. Everyone’s a theologian these days. How do I know? By your actions. Your actions! I pray that we become a church that acts upon our words.

April 6, 204 [Exodus 20:1-2, 15]

April 6, 204
"Prodigal Subtractions"
[Exodus 20:1-2, 15]
Pastor Brendon Wu

I want to explain my title, prodigal subtractions, real quick.  A lot of us are familiar with the parable of the prodigal son.  Today we’re going to look at theft through the lens of this parable.  The word prodigal means much, many, lavish.  So the story of the prodigal son is about a son who ditches his father but finally comes back home.  The father, in a very prodigal manner, lavished upon his son with lots of love and treasure.  When it comes to prodigal subtraction, it is referring to the fact that we steal a lot from God without realizing it.  But in response to that, God subtracts our debt to the point of zero which is why Jesus Christ died on the cross for you and me.  We have a debt that we don’t realize how much we’ve stolen and taken from God.  What Christ did is he pays for every single one of our debts out of his love.  We did something really unfair to God, he responds with something even more unfair by dying as a perfect man on the cross.  When we think of prodigal subtractions, there’s the element of us stealing from God and him recovering all the debt by paying for it himself.

What is Stealing?
Stealing is a heinous crime because we believe in private property, things that belong to us.  Whoever you are, whether you believe in Christ or not, we can all agree that we believe in private property.  If not you’re living in the wrong nation, America is huge on that.  Growing up I always heard people say that property is 9/10 of the law.  Most of litigation deals with property and property rights.  That’s stealing in the view of private property.

The view of God has such a more expansive view of stealing.  Psalm 24:1-2 says, The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell in it, because he made the seas and established the world on the rivers. What Scripture is saying is we have this concept of private property belonging to us, but everything belongs to God.  If you steal from someone else, you’d actually be stealing from God.  Rather than talking about stealing in the realm of material or intellectual, I want to focus our time on the greatest thefts that can be known to us which are the things that are most valuable to us in this world.

Whether we realize it or not, the most valuable thing that God has ever given to us is a relation between Him and us.  The greatest thing that can be stolen from you is the relationship between God and you.  We’re going to look at the parable of the prodigal son, which is located in Luke 15:11.  There are three thefts that are happening, and we’re going to use that to look at how God sees stealing.

The Parable 
The abridged version of this parable is that there was a man with two sons.  The way it worked during this time, in 1stcentury AD was a man would divide his property so the older son would get 2/3 of the property while the younger son was to receive 1/3.  This inheritance would be given after the father died, but in this parable the younger son can’t wait for his property.  He goes to the father and asks for his inheritance even before he’s dead.  This is a huge slap in the face of the father, but the father allows his son to take the 1/3.  So the son goes off to a distant land and spends all the money lavishly until a famine comes. 

When the son is so broke, he’s reduced to eating out of the trough that pigs eat out of.  For some reason he hasn’t decided to eat the pigs themselves, only the food that they also eat just to say how poor he was.  When the son came to his senses, he formulated a plan to come back to his father.  But in the son’s mind there was no way he could be accepted as anything but a servant and working off the debt.  As the son is returning home, the father sees him from a distance and the Bible says he felt compassion and loved the son. 

So the father picks up his robe, which is an undignified thing to do because you’re at risk of exposure, and he runs to embrace and kiss his son.  The father tells the servants to bring the best robe, a ring, and the fattened calf to celebrate the return of the once-dead son who is now alive.  He was lost but now he is found, so there’s a reason to celebrate.  The son thought he would never be accepted by his father even as a servant.  Instead the father accepts him as his own son.

Meanwhile the older son is looking at the events.  He hears the music and sees the fattened calf being prepared for this great feast.  When the oldest son discovers the reason for all the festivities, he becomes extremely upset with his father.  He says, how many years have I stayed with you and obeyed you?  In all those years you have never given me something like this.  Now you’re doing this for someone like him?  The father replies, son you’ve always been with me and everything I have is yours won’t you come into the feast?  We don’t know what happens after that, sometimes leaves us with a cliffhanger.

God as a Means to an End
As I mentioned before, there are three thefts that we’re going to look at, which are also the three main points.  The first point is we cannot make God a means to an end, but we have to make him an ultimate and final end.  I say this because when we look at the younger brother in the story, he basically stole from his father.  It wasn’t necessarily a theft of property but with our working definition of stealing, he took away his father’s dignity.  The younger so asked for his inheritance before the father had passed away, the father gave permission.  The younger son reduced his father to nothing and reduced him to a means to an end.

We are very similar to the younger son, where we might only go to church or meet up with one another simply to feel good and be spiritually “okay.”  That’s very abusive behavior towards others and also ourselves.  We’re using other people only to love ourselves.  In the parable the younger son used his father in order to love money, but we might use people or things in this world to love ourselves.  The reason we can’t do that with God is because if we use God as a means to an end, it will never work it.  God is not here to resolve our issues, but so that he can be the main issue. 

One example is we know that God loves and cares for us, but when we go to him we only ask him to resolve issues at work and relationships.  This is not a bad thing, we ought to ask God for help but he’s not here simply to make sure our relationships with one another or at work are okay.  In my marriage, God is not here to just bail me out and show me grace when I mess up with my wife.  God does care about my marriage, but the marriage is there to glorify God not the other way around.  The whole point of God being in our lives is so that we can have a direct relationship with him.  Because we have a direct relationship with him everything else starts to have purpose.

Looking at People, Not Problems
The second point is don’t look for problems, love the person.  At the younger brother’s homecoming, the older brother is so bent on just looking at his brother’s sins.  He doesn’t really see him as a person but only as the problems he has and brings.  Even at the end of the parable when the father explains to the older son how amazing it is the younger son has returned, he is still outside of the celebration.  The older son is so focused on his brother’s sins, and not his own, so he demands punishment rather than desiring forgiveness.  For us, let me ask, do you feel that there’s nothing wrong with you?  If you only see the flaws and sins of other people, maybe you truly feel as though nothing is wrong with you.  This parable isn’t focused on the sins of the younger brother, but it’s actually you.  Jesus is calling to you and saying, you are the thief because you’re acting like Satan. 

In John 10, Jesus Christ says that Satan is a thief that steals and kills and destroys.  What does Satan want to steal so much?  Satan doesn’t want a relationship with God, he wants to be God.  God wanted a relationship with Satan in the beginning, along with other angels in heaven.  Satan rebelled with a pocket of angels, so that he could use God as a means to an end.  He excluded himself from the heavenly realm and the heavenly party.  Satan wanted to be recognized and seen as elevated above all the other angels.  Do you need and want fellowship?  The older brother doesn’t.  Do you see how the father has always loved and forgiven you, even though you weren’t able to see that in the past?  What we need to see is that Jesus Christ died on the cross so that we can see that we’re sinners at heart.

There has to be a reason why God felt it was necessary to die on the cross in order for us to have a relationship with him.  Jesus didn’t die as an entry fee for us to get into heaven like a movie or country club.  When Jesus Christ died on the cross, he paid with his life.  The life of God who became man, which is a very serious matter.  If Jesus Christ just died for our sins, then that thought is very impersonal.  But if what the bible is saying is true that Christ died for sinners, not just their problems, then it’s very personal.  Because of that we have to look at and love persons, not just their problems.

For the longest time in Christianity, I thought it was about knowing you’re a sinful person.  Then okay, I believe in Jesus, now I’ve said the Sinner’s prayer, let me read my bible and evangelize to some people.  One of the prevailing thoughts that stuck with me, when I met with people, I felt if the time we had together was too good, there was something wrong.  Because if we’re sinful people, we should be sharing about that, right?  We can’t get together at Red Robin and only talk about how good our life is.  Shouldn’t we be sharing about our sins together?  For the longest time, I thought if I was meeting up with someone and we weren’t confessing sins that something was wrong.  Really crazy thoughts, you know? 

Many times we still think that way, I still feel that way.  What I think we fail to realize is that the joy in our relationship isn’t from finding out about sins or problems, but the joy in our relationship is getting to know and love the person.  The problem with the older brother was he looked at the younger brother and saw him as just a pest.  Father, if you want me to get to know him then I’ll try to get to know him.  But if nothing changes, there’s no way I’m going to treat him like he’s my brother.  The father, on the other hand, knew how many sins the younger brother had.  It’s not that the father overlooked the sins, but in spite of the sins he loved his youngest son anyways.  It’s in the love from the father that there created a salvation and redemption of the relationship there. 

One of the hopes that Christ has for all of us in this world, is that we don’t identify people by their problems but we love them for who they are.  In the gospels, there are lepers, tax collectors, and other people who are unnamed for a specific reason because a lot of times that’s how we and society sees these people.  When Jesus Christ looks at someone, he calls them son or daughter, your sins are forgiven and your faith has made you well.  He looks at people by their name and person rather than their issues and problems, and Jesus Christ loves them in such a complete way creating a relationship.

The Father’s Theft
The third and final theft is the one the father commits, yes the father actually steals in this parable.  When we go back to our working definition, stealing is taking something from someone else that belongs to them without permission.  So how did the father steal?  The father stole by forgiving his younger son and inviting the older son into the feast.  How is this theft?  The father doesn’t ask for their permission, which is such an amazing thing.  When the younger son came back, all he wanted was to be condemned for the rest of his life.  He wanted to do time, and to be a servant rather than a son.  The father, without thinking twice, doesn’t ask for permission but just goes up to him an forgives the son.  The father subtracts the debt that the son actually owes him.  The younger son would never have initiated that forgiving process, it had to be the father.

A lot of us are like the younger brother, where we want to do time and we can’t see how gracious God actually is.  Stop doing time, stop condemning yourself and join the feast.  Enjoy the father, the fattened calf and come into the feast.  Repentance is weird a lot of times, we can spend a whole week or month or year or even lifetime moping about ourselves.  The irony is that in us moping and thinking that we’re paying for all the wrong we’ve done, we’re actually stealing more than we already have.  We’re stealing because we’re subtracting from the time and relationship that we could be having with our Father.  The Father has already forgiven each and every person who is in Christ. 

When we do wrong we have to know that we can just go to the Father.  Even in our repentance, we have to know it might not be perfect.  We might come to God and feel like we need to pay some kind of penance, perhaps reading more or praying more.  I don’t think that’s it, but we have to realize that God forgives.  Even when we’ve stolen from God, his main endeavor isn’t to be repaid but to subtract the debt and bring it to zero so that we can have a relationship with him.  That’s how the father stole from the younger son.

The way that the father stole from the older son was through forgiveness.  He shouldn’t have forgiven him, but given him what the son deserved.  The older brother didn’t want to allow the younger brother back because he wanted to choose who entered the feast.  In the eyes of the older son, his brother was not worthy of such lavish things.  A lot of times we have the same issue with God, where God saves some people and does not save others.  It’s God’s choice of who he wants to invite to the feast.  In this story, we have to understand that God is not robbing humanity of anything.  God is not saying one son can come in and the other must stay out.  God actually wants both of his sons to come into the feast and have a relationship with him and with each other. 

What I love is that all of these things actually belong to the father.  Coming back to Psalm 24, the whole earth and everything in it belongs to God.  How do we know what God wants us to do with our lives?  We have to look at the Father’s wishes.  How do we know who and how to love?  We have to look at the Father’s wishes.  We can’t decide on our own, we can’t pick and choose who we want to love because everything belongs to God. In that third and final point, what God chose to do through this parable is show his celebration overcame condemnation.  So when we think about stealing, there are deep and profound ways to steal.  The greatest theft is stealing the relationship between us and God.  The whole purpose of the Ten Commandments is to reignite our hearts and say that God cares about his relationship with us and with each other.  Anything that detracts or subtracts from that is something we should banish, which is exactly what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross.

March 30, 2014 [Exodus 20:1-14]

March 30, 2014
"God's Response to Unfaithfulness"
[Exodus 20:1-14]
Pastor Kenny Lee

As we are learning the Ten Commandments, personally, it has been hard. I have been realizing all my shortcomings. It is tiring. We have a difficult time remembering that the law is not just a law. The Ten Commandments are laws that mean so much more than a series of do’s and don’ts. We often see religion in this way too. We think, “If you do this, then you’re a sinner. If you do this, then that is bad.” We don’t remember that we are sinners. That is what we are. It seems like when we go to church we are focusing on others’ sins. We see a bunch of people trying really hard to be good, great, and pure. We raise up people who turn around and judge others according to their sin, forgetting that they themselves are sinners.

Let’s take a break from the law and read the whole chapter in its entirety. We need to listen to the prologue again. Without the prologue these commandments would be just another set of rules. The law itself is boring. Yet, when I read the Ten Commandments it’s not so boring. I look at the prologue that says, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” God is saying because of that please do these things. God took a law book and turned it into a love letter. He is saying that He loves us so much that He saved us from slavery. When God says, “I brought you out of Egypt”, He is saying that He saved us from tyranny. He saved the Israelites in an eternal nature. God destroyed the armies of Egypt, and doesn’t leave the Israelites to be free. If God did that then the people would have no idea what to do. They would have to follow something. God frees the Israelites and tells them to follow Him. He takes them to Mount Sinai because that is where He physically dwells. God brings Israel to himself and calls them His people. He desires to have a relationship with them.

Why am I saying that? Oftentimes we think, “If I keep all these laws then I will go to heaven. If I do all these great things then I will get my reward. If I do this, then I will be loved.” Is that how parents’ love works? When my children were born they didn’t really obey. They weren’t potty trained. It wasn’t like I said; “Only if you obey me then I will love you.” It wasn’t like that. It was more like, “You are loved so please learn how to use the toilet.” God works similarly. He is saying that He loves us, saved us, and made us His people. In response to that He wants us to keep these commandments and have a relationship with Him. Salvation came first. The love of God came first, and because of that love He wants us to love Him and His people. That’s the basis of the Ten Commandments. It’s opposite in our society where if you murder someone, then you go to jail. If you earn a high GPA, then you go to a good grad school. God is saying He already loves us and that we are one of His. Knowing that is our identity, we are to act upon the Ten Commandments.

This week was quite hard. We are talking about adultery. I am married. It fits. I was thinking, “What should I say?” I can see my wife thinking, “What is he going to say?” I can feel it. I started thinking about how to talk about it to a congregation that is mostly single. Last week’s sermon was, “You shall not murder.” I don’t think any of us have murdered anyone, but it still applied to us. This commandment must apply as well. When I look at Israel, they are unfaithful, whether they are married or not. When I look at my life, I am an unfaithful person. I don’t keep my word; my inside does not quite match my outside. I wanted to see what God does with a nation, like Israel, who is unfaithful through and through. Upon seeing that, I can understand how a perfect God deals with an unfaithful wretch like me. That’s why I entitled the sermon “God’s Response to Unfaithfulness.” Today’s sermon has three points: the call to be faithful, we are unfaithful, and God is faithful.

During the time of Israel other nations had similar laws. Israel was not the first one to come up with this law of not committing adultery. It is a good law. “You shall not commit adultery.” When people start committing adultery people’s feeling get hurt and people hurt each other. Bad things like unwanted pregnancies can happen. This can lead to an unwanted population, which would result in a bad subculture. It’s a good law to have. Other nations had laws that prohibited murder and required children to honor their father and mother. Israel wasn’t so different from other nations in keeping these laws. What makes Israel so different though? In other nations the repercussion of not honoring your father and mother was probably a slap on the wrist. In our society it is a normal thing. It is very rare to find someone who honors his mother and father. For the Israelites not honoring you father and mother meant being stoned to death. That’s in Deuteronomy 21:18-21,

“If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones..”

This is all for not listening to a mother and father. It seems pretty harsh. That is the difference; the penalty of that kind of sin is death. It seems like a meaningless infraction. Why was it such a heinous sin to not honor a mother and father? The reason why is because God associates himself as a father. God associates as a father to us and to Israel. For example in Malachi 1:6,

“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name..”

Why was adultery so heinous? God takes the most intimate relationship and He puts Himself right in the middle of it. In other words, God takes a position of the husband. God takes Israel as His wife, as His lover. God says you are my wife and I will love and protect you.

God created marriage. It is God’s gift to humanity. It is a reflection of His relationship with us. We see that we are unfaithful. To illustrate Israel’s unfaithfulness we look to the book of Hosea. The illustration between Israel and God is depicted by a prophet named Hosea and his wife Gomer. God tells Hosea, the prophet, to marry a harlot. One would ask a question, “Why would God do such a thing as tell one of His servants to marry a prostitute?” God tells Hosea to marry a prostitute so that Hosea knows what God is going through and how God feels about His people. Hosea marries this prostitute named Gomer and they have children. During their marriage Gomer probably thinks about all the exciting times she had before she was married. She runs away and follows one man after another. She sells herself as a prostitute once again. Hosea is totally heart broken. All of a sudden, he hears that Gomer, his wife, is up for auction as a slave. As she was prostituting her body, she came into debt. The debtors saw her as useless and sold her as a slave. God tells Hosea to buy her back. As the auction block is going Hosea bids a high price. “I will give 15 shekels.” Gomer probably recognized his voice, but didn’t have the courage to look up because of her shame. Hosea buys her back and restores her completely as a wife. This shows the faithfulness of God.

You know how I know God is faithful? God sends His one and only Son for us. Why? We are all sinners. We all know that. What will happen is that our sin will lead to eventual death. Last week we learned about how murdering is wrong. Jesus comes back and says even the process that leads you up to murder is wrong. Murder starts by looking down on a person or looking down on yourself. The ultimate nothingness is death. The nonexistence of a person is nothing. It starts with “You're nothing” or “I’m nothing.”

Jesus says the same thing about adultery. Matthew 5: 27-30, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.”

That sin will lead you to death. That one sin will lead you to hell. That’s the reason Jesus came. Jesus came because of our adulterous, murderous, and non-honoring hearts. Paul says in Ephesians 5:22-26,

“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word.”

Jesus Christ is our ultimate husband. He loves us so much to where He would die for us so we can have a relationship with Him and be with Him in heaven. God has been faithful to us. With that said what I have to ask you is, do you know Jesus? Do you know the faithfulness of the Lord?

March 23, 2014 [Exodus 20:13]

March 23, 2014
"Regarding a Murderous Heart"
[Exodus 20:13]
Pastor Kenny Lee

When we decided to go through these sub-series on the Ten Commandments, we were concerned if we could find enough material on each individual command. However, if you are listening to the sermons correctly, you should feel like you are getting beaten up left and right. Do I have idols other than God? Do I love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength? No, not at all. Do I take the Lord’s name in vain? Superficially, probably not. But do I represent Christ’s name in all its glory? No. Do I honor my mother and father? I think most of us agreed this was not easy sermon either. I’m constantly feeling powerless.

With this week’s command – “Thou shall not murder”, some of us may be relieved. You may think, “Finally, a command that I can keep. I haven’t murdered anyone. And I don’t know even know anyone who has murdered anyone! Now, I can chill out for a bit.” However, as I was preparing this week’s sermon, I realized yet again, the need for Jesus. Today I’m going to begin with the reality of murder, then discuss God’s view of life, and then finish with God’s view of your life. 

Dan Barker was a Christian preacher that turned into a well-known American atheist. He critiqued the 6th commandment, stating that the Bible is filled with examples where God is commanding, committing, condoning murder. The God of the Bible says, “Don’t kill” while at the same time commanding, “Kill!”. So the God of the Bible cannot exist because He contradicts Himself. Does that argument make sense? Just because there is a contradictory statement, does not outright destroy the existence of God?

When God says, “You shall not murder”, is that a blanket statement? That you should not kill anyone at all? No, of course not. The Israelites knew this. In the next chapter in Exodus 21, the guidelines for capital punishment are given. You could be put to death for premeditated murder, for kidnapping with the intent to sell for slavery, even for cursing of mother and father. It’s not like Moses was writing the 6th commandment and then forgot when he wrote about capital punishment. The Israelite society lived by these commandments for 1,500 years. Therefore, it is an insult to say that God does not exist purely based on this contradiction. Barker did not consider that the Israelites had a different understanding of this commandment.

Barker goes on to argue this point, “Why is God so special? It’s unfair that one person gets to dictate who can die or not. Then, other people should be able to do the same.” He believes we should all have this right. He questions why God can have all these special privileges. Why am I talking about this? A variation of this exists around us and is perverting Christian churches. There are some Christians that believe that abortion is right. They base situations on their feelings and beliefs to consider when murder is right under certain circumstances. Therefore, I want to address this.

When Barker questions why only God has special privileges to kill or not kill, I don’t think Barker is being very logical. We must consider that even in our society, only certain people have the legal right to kill. A Supreme Court judge can put someone on death row. Policemen can kill in only very specific situations. You have to have certain credentials, experiences, or positions.  

So what qualifications does God have? God is the creator of life. He created all things. He is all-powerful. He is the center of the universe. So here is the reason why we have these issues. Often times, we believe that we are the center. We dictate what our life is all about. So some people even say that suicide is murder. That’s ridiculous. You think you created your own life? That somehow you got here all on your own? No. So with that said, what’s God’s view on life? What I’m going to do is point to scripture and talk about three different verses.

First, let’s look at Genesis 1:27: So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” What does that mean? That man is made in the image of God. We are image bearers.

Second verse, Genesis 2:7: “then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” God formed man. He worked and formed him with His hands and breathed life into him. One could argue, “Well, I’m not Adam nor am I Eve. I don’t think God created me from the dust of the earth. I know where I came from. I know my biology.” True but consider that Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” No matter how you were conceived by your parents – whether planned or unplanned, God never made a mistake. You are not an accident. No way. Even before you were formed, God knew you. You are not the center. It’s God. God gave you life. He carefully formed you. You don’t even own your own body. The one who loves you the most owns you.

You may argue that you love yourself the most. However, the reality is that you don’t love yourself. You put yourself down. You are so insecure. But that’s why Jesus came. How can I say such a blanket statement? Because that’s humanity. You think somehow you love yourself? No, you don’t! You wake up with a pimple of your nose, and the rest of the day that’s all you see yourself as. All you are is a pimple. This is a simple example but consider that if someone compliments you, tells you how wonderful you are, you agree hesitantly. But the moment you are told how stupid you are, it goes right through you. You know the reality of who you are. The fact of matter is, you beat yourself so much. We are all like that. But this is the reason why Jesus Christ had to come.

Why am I talking about low self-esteem with murder? We must consider what God think about life. In Matthew 5:21-26, Jesus talks about anger and considers this commandment on murder:

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother[c] will be liable to judgment; whoever insults[d] his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell[e] of fire.”

What Jesus is saying is this. If you murder, you will be judged. We can all relate to that. Our society has a good law that punishes murder. But Jesus presses this further and declares that if you go up to a person and say, “You fool! You’re nothing. Absolute zero. You don’t exist in my life” - this is murder. Anything that even leads up to the act of murder is wrong. That got me. Did you hear that? Anything that leads up to murder, is wrong. What is murder? Murder is denying the existence of something. Murder is extinguishing somebody. Anything that minimizes a person. If you look down on a person, God calls that murder. A lot of us have a problem with that, judging someone, looking down on another person. Jesus calls that murder. But another problem that we have a lot of times is we believe we have the power to judge ourselves. You compliment a person and they quickly respond, “Oh, no no. I’m bad at this. I’m awful at that.” So quick to pick out how you are lacking. Who told you that you are allowed to think that way. Not God. We know that we can’t judge other people. But consider equally, that you can’t do that to yourself either. We are not allowed to murder other people, but we are also not allowed to murder ourselves.

So what do we do? In whose light do we live? Live in the light of God. You know this answer but listen. Do you know why Jesus came? Do you realize we were created in the image of God? Jesus loved His father so much, that He came to die for people that bear His image. Do you we’ve been honored and privileged to bear the image of God? And how seriously does God take this? Very seriously. To the point that His son would come down and die for humanity that bears His image. Imagine living in the light of someone like that. The “Son of God” is a pretty good title. Better than being the captain of an NFL team. Better than Lebron James. If Lebron James came up to you and said, “Hey man, I really look up to you”, you would be a changed man. Lebron James thinks you are the man! Do you know what God thinks of you? How does Jesus think of you? Do you know that you bear the image of God? Jesus came and died for you. Why do we act like losers? Why do we act so insecure? Because we believe that we are in control of our own destiny. We think that we are the end all, be all. That’s not what the Bible says. God is at the center. Aren’t you tired of being in control? Give it up, it’s all right. It’s a lot easier. If you are in control, do you know how much you have to watch your back? Deer that roam the streets and highways have to constantly be cautious. They have no freedom. But deer that are enclosed in fences are free to prance around. They are the fattest deer you’ve ever seen and they are not afraid of people. Do you really want to be in control? Do you want to live constantly watching your back? What you need is to submit under a loving shepherd.

How do I know that God loves you? Because you are hearing my voice right now. God wants you to submit under Him so that He can love you and protect you. That you could finally know what your identity is, that you are in Him, so that you can truly be free. God loves you so much, to the point that He sends His one and only son to die for you. If you could just understand and believe that, how would your life change? You would be transformed. Sure, you may argue that God isn’t here. We worship God in spirit and truth. However, consider that God sends His people. God sends the Holy Spirit that guides His people. God provides you a church. That’s why it’s so important to be integrated into a church. That’s why it’s important to talk with one another and remind one another, “Do you know why I love you? Because I’m loved by another. Jesus Christ loves me so much, that He would die for me. So it’s a privilege of mine, to love you.” This is different from how our world works. I love you because you can give me something. I love you because you give me security. Christianity works by saying, “I love you, because I am loved by another. I’ve been loved by another. The person that loved me, loves you as well. Therefore, I love you.”

Why do I love you? Because God in heaven loves you. How do I know that God in heaven loves you? He died for people that bear His image. That’s every one of you. Not because you can help me socioeconomically. Not because you can get me a job. Not because I would look cool hanging out with you. Just because of the fact that God died for you and people that bear His image. And how do I know that you love God? You love God’s people. If all you do is stay in your home, read your Bible and pray but don’t care for people, there is something missing. One of the signs that you love God is that you love God’s people. And when we gather together, we talk about how wonderful God is. We talk about how God provides so much. Let’s pray.