Posted by: jasonlowe | May 31, 2009

New Website

Morningside Baptist Church has just launched a new website!  Check us out at www.mbclouisville.org.

On April 19, we resumed our study of the gospel of Matthew, examining Matthew 2:13-23.  We addressed a common question: How are we to understand the fact that God is in control, yet there is still evil in the world?  In this passage of Scripture, we learn about a very evil act as Herod kills all of the male children two years old and younger in Bethlehem in an attempt to kill Jesus before He grows up into His role as the true King of the Jews.  Yet, we see that God was in control of the entire situation.  Here are four important truths that we learn about the relationship between evil and the sovereignty of God from this text:

1.  Trust the perfect knowledge of God (vv. 13-15).  This passage shows us that God was not surprised by Herod’s plan (v. 13).  In fact, this event fulfills two separate Old Testament prophecies (v. 15: Hosea 11:1 & v. 18: Jeremiah 31:15).  Joseph trusted God’s perfect knowledge and therefore obeyed His command to flee to Egypt, without questioning God.  Likewise, we must trust that God has perfect knowledge of past, present, and future events.  Therefore, we are to obey Him without questioning Him.

2. Recognize the utter sinfulness of man (vv. 16-18).  This point should be a no-brainer.  All one has to do is watch the evening news or read the headlines in the local newspaper to hear about murders, acts of terrorism, burglaries, sexual assaults, and other sins.   Similarly, Herod displays a number of sins in verse 16: judging the motives of the wise men, bursts of wrathful anger, and murder of innocent children.  While we can easily identify some of these sins, we often think that we are not capable of committing some of these heinous sins.  However, the fact is that we are all still sinners and are capable of committing any sin, given the proper set of circumstances (Gen 8:21, Rom 3).  Therefore, we must always keep the proper perspective about ourselves.

3.  Acknowledge the active involvement of God (vv. 19-21).  While it is true that God has perfect knowledge and that man is utterly sinful, we have yet to answer the question of the hour: If evil and sin still exist, how is God truly in control?  The answer lies in verses 19-21 in which God is actively involved in leading Jesus, Mary, and Joseph to Egypt and back to Israel.  Similarly, God is actively involved in the world today (Eph 1:11).  Because God is good and not in any way evil (Psalm 106:1, 5:4), He is not the author of evil, but He only allows evil to take place that will accomplish His greater purposes (Rom 8:28).  We see this played out in the Old Testament in the life of Joseph (Genesis 50:18-20) and with the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in the New Testament (Acts 2:23).  Therefore, the question, “Where was God when evil took place?” or “Why did God allow this happen?” is the wrong question to be asking.  The right question is “How much evil has God actually prevented from happening?”  The fact is that while the daily headlines are bad, they could be much worse, if not for God’s protection.  And we know that evil won’t last forever (Rev 22).  Therefore, may we praise God for His protection! 

4. Expect the spiteful ridicule of man (vv. 22-23).  Verse 23 states that Jesus would be “called a Nazarene”.  While this prophecy is not explicitly found in the Old Testament, the context suggests that this term is a term of derision, similar to terms such as “hillbilly” or “redneck” today.  That’s why Nathaniel asks, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” (John 1:46)  The prophecy that Jesus was despised is definitely evident in the Old Testament (Isaiah 53:3, Psalm 22:6-8).   Similarly, we should expect that God and Christians will be ridiculed when God allows evil events to take place.  It’s not uncommon for people to ask, “Where was God?  A good God would not allow this evil to happen” or “You are foolish for believing in a powerless God.”  In fact, Jesus promised persecution for believers (John 15:20).  However, we know that these persecutions are only temporary!  (2 Cor 4:16-17).

Therefore, we can have confidence in the sovereign God who only temporarily allows evil events to take place in order to accomplish His good purposes, and we can rest in the promise that evil will not last forever!

Posted by: jasonlowe | April 20, 2009

O Come, Let Us Adore Him – Matthew 2:9-12

On March 29, we continued our walk through the gospel of Matthew by learning four aspects of true worship from the example of the wise men in Matthew 2:9-12.

1. Worship the king by rejoicing (v. 10)  Matthew states that the star led the wise men to Jesus, and when they found him, they “rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.”  This is the same type of rejoicing that Jesus uses in the parables of the lost sheep, lost coin, and the prodigal son in Luke 15.  It’s also the same type of rejoicing that UK and UofL fans would have if their respective teams went to the Final Four.  Just as the wise men rejoiced in worship, we also should rejoice as we worship the King.  However, we often worship with little joy or rejoicing.  In times like that, we should remind ourselves of the way we rejoiced when we were first saved and remember all that God has done for us by saving us and forgiving our sins (if you are a Christian), even though we don’t deserve it.  That’s a reason for rejoicing!

2. Worship the King in humility (v. 11).  When the wise men saw the infant Jesus, they fell down on their faces and worshipped him.  Keep in mind that these wise men were most likely fairly wealthy since they brought expensive gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  However, Joseph and Mary most likely were living in a small, quaint house with very few possessions.  The wise men could have seen this poor dwelling and concluded that this King was not worthy of their expensive gifts.  They could have been worried about what others thought of them by associating with someone from such a lower social class.  That would have been prideful.  However, they did not respond in prideful arrogance, but in humble worship.  As Christians, we must do the same.  We cannot approach the King and ask, “what’s in it for me?”  We must approach the King with humble adoration and a willing spirit to serve wherever He may send us.  Even if that means into dangerous surroundings or places where we are uncomfortable.

 3. Worship the king by giving (v. 11).  The wise men also worshipped the King by giving Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  Gold was the metal of kings and symbolized His royalty.  Frankincense was a very expensive perfume used in grain offerings to the Lord and was often referred to as the “incense of deity”, and it symbolized Jesus’ deity.  Myrrh was also an expensive perfume often used in preparation of bodies for burial, and it symbolized Jesus’ humanity.  These gifts were used by Joseph and Mary to fund the coming journey to Egypt (see v. 13).  Similarly, our gifts are an act of worship, and they have the potential for lasting impact in ways that we can’t even imagine (just as the wise men did not know how their gifts would be used).

4.  Worship the King by obeying (v. 12)  Finally, the wise men were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, and they obeyed.  This is an final aspect of true worship.  We are to worship God by obeying His Word.  Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”  Do you love Him?  Do you adore Him?  Are you obeying Him today?

Posted by: jasonlowe | March 28, 2009

The Curious Case of Herod the Great – Matthew 2:1-8

As we examine the first eight verses of Matthew 2, we encounter the king in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus’ birth, Herod the Great.  Herod is a very interesting man, appointed king of the Jews by Rome in 40 B.C.  Although he was not Jewish (he was an Edomite), he did win some favor with the Jews by reconstructing the Jewish Temple.  However, he was also cruel and ruthless, always paranoid that he was going to lose his power.  His fear and paranoia resulted in the death of his brother-in-law, mother-in-law, wife, and three of his sons, all because he feared that they were a threat to him.  Ultimately, he was a control freak who feared losing control.

Although we may not go to the extremes of Herod the Great, we also attempt to control our circumstances in life on a regular basis.  Indeed, there’s a little bit of a control freak in all of us.  However, we learn from the curious case of Herod the Great that fear of losing control has some very bad consequences.

1.  Fear of losing control results in a life of worry (vv. 1-3).  When Herod hears that wise men from the east have come searching for the true king of the Jews, verse 3 says that he becomes troubled, and all Jerusalem with him (Jerusalem most likely becomes troubled not because of the news of the birth of the true king of the Jews, but rather they are troubled because of Herod’s reaction to this news).  Herod begins to worry that he will lose his throne, his power, his stability, his worldy treasures, his control.  Similarly, we often worry about things outside of our control such as the economy, finding the right job, finding a spouse on our timetable, our health, etc.  However, worry is a symptom of a deeper problem: lack of faith in God.  On three separate occasions in the gospel of Matthew (Mt 6:28-31, Mt 8:24-26, Mt 14:29-31), Jesus shows that fear and worry about things outside of our control reveal little faith in God.  Instead of worrying, we should instead “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.”

2.  Fear of losing control results in a life of delusion (vv. 4-6).  After hearing the news about the birth of Jesus, Herod gathers information from the chief priests and the scribes about the Old Testament prophecies about where the Christ was to be born.  As we see as we read further in Matthew 2, Herod gathers this information in order to kill the Christ and thus end the reign of the Messiah before it begins.  This man is delusional!  Somehow, he thinks that when God prophesied about the coming Messiah some 400-500 years earlier, he failed to take into account the cunning Herod the Great, who could stop the plans of God from taking place.  He thinks that somehow he can outsmart God and control things that are outside of his control.  This is the pinnacle of both pride and delusion.  Herod has an elevated view of himself and a very low view of God.  Similarly, we often think that we can outsmart God or that we know better than God does about how to respond to various circumstances in our lives.  Therefore, we will take matters into our own hands and fail to trust in God’s Word and His promises.  Instead, we should keep the proper perspective and recognize God as the authority in our lives and our Sovereign King.  May we pray that God will help us to break through the delusion of self-worth and self-exaltation!

3.  Fear of losing control results in a life of manipulation (vv. 7-8).  Herod tries to control his circumstances by manipulating the wise men.  He secretly tells them to go and find the child and then bring him word so that he can also come and worship the king.  However, he has no intention to worship him; he intends to kill him instead in order to maintain control of his kingdom.  Ultimately, he will manipulate others to get what he wants.  Similarly, we will also manipulate others to get what we want.  A child will pout or cry in order to get what they want from their parents.  Sometimes, we intimidate others to get what we want.  At other times, we will lay a “guilt trip” on somebody to get what we want.  Still at other times, we will exaggerate the truth in order to get what we want.  In all these ways, we find ourselves manipulating others in order to control the situation.  Instead, we should consider others more significant than ourselves and seek to serve them rather than manipulate them.

There is a such a contrast between the curious case of Herod the Great and the glorious case of Jesus Christ, who never worried, exalted himself, or manipulated others.  Instead, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  May our lives be modeled after the true king of the Jews rather than this false king! 

May God bless you, and see you Sunday, Lord willing!

As we approach Resurrection Sunday each year (better known in America as Easter), it is no surprise that some seemingly startling discovery comes out that seeks to discount the resurrection of Jesus or deny that it ever took place altogether.  Over the past five years, Christians have dealt with claims presented in The Da Vinci Code, “The Gospel of Judas”, and even claims that the bones of Jesus have been found.  Documentaries on various cable networks seek to tell “the true story of Jesus” each year, all in a not-so-subtle attempt to deny the resurrection.

However, due to all of the activities that surround Christmas (Christmas baking, Christmas parties, Christmas shopping, Christmas caroling, Christmas traveling, etc.), we often fail to recognize that similar documentaries show up around Christmas that attempt to deny that the virgin birth of Jesus actually took place.  But we don’t need to blame cable television for these claims.  The fact is, there are many “Christians” who are now beginning to deny that the virgin birth ever really happened.  So, as Christians, we need to understand why the virgin birth is absolutely critical to our faith.  In Matthew 1:18-25, there are at least four ways to recognize the importance of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ.

1.  Understand the principle of the virgin birth (v. 18).  The principle is simple, but profound.  Jesus had no earthly father, but only a divine Father.  He did have a human mother.  Therefore, only because he had a divine father and a human mother, Jesus is able to be fully God and fully man.

2.  Acknowledge the perplexity of the virgin birth (vv. 19-20).  While the principle of the virgin birth is simple, we must admit that it is hard to understand.  Joseph had assumed that Mary had been unfaithful and planned to divorce her quietly.  This seemed like the most logical thing to do since he did not understand what had truly taken place.  Similarly, it is difficult for us to truly understand how Jesus can be fully God and fully man.  Just like I find it hard to understand how they got all of the flavor of Coca-Cola and none of the calories in Coke Zero, I still believe that they did it!  Therefore, we must faithfully accept the fact that Jesus is fully God and fully man, even though we can’t understand all of the details.

3.  Praise the purpose of the virgin birth (v. 21).  The angel tells Joseph to give the child the name “Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”  The name “Jesus” can be translated as “God will save”, which makes sense, given the fact that Jesus will save his people from their sins.  And that’s the primary purpose of the virgin birth: ultimately, Jesus is born to die, in order to pay the debt for our sins.  Since Jesus did not inherit the sinful nature of a human father, it was possible for him “who knew no sin to become sin for us.”  (2 Cor 5:21)  The virgin birth is essential in order for Jesus to be qualified to save us from our sins.  Therefore, we should praise the virgin birth, not only at Christmas, but year round!

4.  Remember the prophecy of the virgin birth (vv. 22-23).  Again, Matthew shows how Jesus fulfills the Old Testament, down to every detail of every prophecy about the Messiah, including this virgin birth prophecy from Isaiah 7:14.  This should encourage us always that God is in control, and we can trust that he will fulfill his promises!

And that’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

Posted by: jasonlowe | March 9, 2009

Pray For FBC Maryville, IL

Please be in prayer for First Baptist Church Maryville, IL.  Their pastor, Fred Winters, was shot and killed this morning while in the pulpit at his church.  Click here for more details.  Please be in prayer for his wife and two daughters, for the FBC Maryville church family, and also for the gunman.  “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”  (Romans 12:15)

Posted by: jasonlowe | March 9, 2009

The Family Tree of The King – Matthew 1:1-17

On Sunday March 1, we continued with our walk through the gospel of Matthew by returning to the beginning of this gospel.  In the first 17 verses, we examined the genealogy of Jesus Christ, a.k.a. “The Family Tree of The King.”

In order to understand why Matthew went to such great lengths to trace Christ’s genealogy to both David and Abraham, we first need to understand the audience and context to which each of the four gospels were written.  John MacArthur provides a helpful summary of the four gospel perspectives:

First, Matthew writes to a Jewish audience.  Since the Jews were looking for the coming of the promised Messiah, Matthew writes from the perspective of showing that Jesus was the Sovereign King.  Therefore, Matthew presents a Jewish geneaology that connects Jesus both to the model king, David, and also to the father of the Jewish nation, Abraham.  Second, Mark writes from the perspective of Jesus being a servant.  Therefore, he doesn’t provide a genealogy since a servant’s lineage is irrelevant.  Third, Luke writes from the perspective of Jesus being the Son of Man.  Thus, Luke traces the lineage of Jesus Christ all the way back to the first man, Adam.  Finally, John writes from the perspective of Jesus being the Son of God.  Therefore, he presents a divine genealogy in the first chapter of his gospel.

With that understanding, we briefly examined three parts of the family tree of The King:

1.  Examine the roots (verse 1).  Matthew wastes no time establishing the fact that Jesus is both the “Son of David” and the “Son of Abraham”.  He wants to prove that Jesus is in the line of these cornerstones of the Jewish nation.  By showing how God has fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies in the person of Jesus Christ, we can also take comfort in the fact that God will fulfill all of the promises to His children presented in the New Testament as well.  No matter how much life may not make sense at times, the sovereign King of Kings still reigns on His throne.

2.  Examine the trunk (verses 2-16).  Matthew presents a long line of names in the family tree of The King.  It doesn’t take long to realize that there was also a long line of sinful behavior in this family tree.  Abraham was a liar (Gen 12:11-19; 20:1-18), David was an adulterer and murderer (2 Samuel 11-12), Jacob’s very name means “He deceives” (Genesis 27), and Jeconiah (a.k.a. Jehoiakim in the OT) was a selfish and oppressive king, whom God cursed (Jeremiah 22:19, 30).  Although sin abounded, God still chose to use these sinful men in the family tree of the sinless savior!  If God can use these sinful people, then we have no excuse to think that God cannot also use us for His glory.

3.  Examine the branches (verses 3, 5-6).  Genealogies were common among first-century Jews.  They identified each person with one of the 12 tribes as well as were helpful in property transactions.  Although genealogies were common, including women in the genealogies was uncommon.  Even more uncommon was including Gentile women.  Yet Matthew does just that by including four women: Tamar (Genesis 38), Rahab (Joshua 2,6), Ruth, and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11-12).  Included in this list of women includes Gentiles, an adulteress, and prostitutes.  Yet Matthew deliberately chose to include each of them.  Although he spells out these implications much more at the end of his gospel, here Matthew provides a glimpse into the wonderful truth that the gospel is for both Jews and Gentiles, both men and women, both slave and free.  And God can use the most unlikely people for His glory!

Posted by: jasonlowe | March 8, 2009

Knowing the End Before the Beginning – Matthew 28:18-20

On Sunday, February 22, we began our walk through the gospel of Matthew.  However, we began our study of Matthew by beginning at the end of the gospel.  Here we find what the entire gospel leads up to: the Great Commission.  In these few verses, Jesus transfers the agents of His mission from Himself to His church.   As we examined this text, we recognized four important truths about the Great Commission that should help us to carry it out in both our individual lives and also the life of our church.

1.  Recognize the priority of the Great Commission (verse 18).  As we remember that Jesus gives his disciples the Great Commission after His resurrection but before  His ascension to Heaven, we know that what He has to say must be important.  We must keep in mind that sin, Satan, and death have all already been defeated by Christ.  Then, Jesus declares that “all authority has been given to him.”  This authority applies in the heavenly realm (including over Satan and his demonic forces – see Ephesians 6:12) and also on earth.  This means that He has authority over our lives, and if this God tells us to do something, then we must make it the highest priority in our lives.  Therefore, the Great Commission must take high priority in our daily lives.

2.  Recognize the purpose of the Great Commission (verse 19).  Jesus declares that the primary purpose of the Great Commission is to “make disciples”, which are fully committed followers of Jesus Christ.  Believers can bring glory to God by making disciples of all nations.  Notice that Jesus did not say to “gather decisions for Christ”, but rather to “make disciples of Christ.”   The third truth shows us how to make these disciples.

3.  Recognize the process of the Great Commission (verses 19-20).  The process of making disciples can be summarized by three words: (1) Go, (2) Baptize, (3) Teach.  First of all, we must be willing to go and proclaim the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ to our friends, relatives, co-workers, neighbors, and casual acquaintances.  In addition, we must be willing to go to the ends of the earth to proclaim the gospel.  Second, if we are faithful to go and proclaim the good news, some people will reject our message.  However, some people will accept our message, and will confess and repent of their sins and put their faith in Jesus Christ.  We are then commanded to baptize those who have been saved as a testimony to their life-change.  Third, we are to teach them to observe all that God has commanded us through His Word.  Notice that Jesus tells us to teach the disciples, not tell them only.  Again, we teach best by teaching by example.

4.  Recognize the promise of the Great Commission (verse 20).  This point is often missed as we think about the Great Commission: we are guaranteed success!  The God of the universe, who has defeated sin and death, who has all authority in heaven and earth has commanded us to fulfill His mission.  It makes absolutely no sense for Him to assign this mission to us if He knew the mission would be futile.  Therefore, He promises us that He will be with us always as we fulfill the Great Commission!  If we are faithful to make the Great Commission a priority in our lives, if we are faithful to understand the purpose of the Great Commission, and if we are faithful to follow the process of the Great Commission, He will be faithful to build His church by making disciples.  Therefore, we can and should expect Him to fulfill His Great Commission through His church.  And that includes Morningside Baptist Church!

Posted by: jasonlowe | March 8, 2009

The Life of a Shepherd – Psalm 23

On Sunday, February 15, 2009, I preached my first sermon as the Senior Pastor of Morningside Baptist Church.  I chose to preach from a very familiar text, Psalm 23.  This text ultimately recognizes the Lord as the shepherd of His people.  However, just as Christ is the Good Shepherd (John 10:11), the Great Shepherd (Hebrews 13:20), and the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4), He has also appointed undershepherds to lead His sheep (John 21:15-19).  Therefore, the roles of a shepherd discussed in Psalm 23 apply first and foremost to God, but also to those He has appointed to shepherd His flock: pastors/elders.  A brief summary of the 4 roles of the shepherd can be found below:

1.  The shepherd feeds the sheep (verse 1).  Just as the shepherd feeds his sheep by making them lie down in green pastures and leading them by still waters, God also provides for His flock both physically (Matthew 6:31-33) and spiritually (Deuteronomy 8:3) through His Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  Similarly, a pastor is also responsible to feed the flock by preaching God’s Word (2 Timothy 4:1-2).  Therefore, as the pastor of Morningside Baptist Church, I am committed to expository preaching in which I will faithfully preach God’s Word, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

2.  The shepherd leads the sheep (verses 2-3).  The shepherd leads the sheep because he knows how and where to lead them.  Therefore, he leads them to still waters and green pastures.  Notice that the sheep do not lead the shepherd, but the shepherd leads the sheep.  Similarly, God is a sovereign and all-knowing God who knows where each of us are going.  He works all things according to the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:11).  Similarly, the pastor must know where He is to lead God’s people.  Thankfully, this is not a mystery since Jesus has laid out the mission of the church as the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20.  The pastor must lead the church to fulfill this mission, but he must do so by leading by example (1 Peter 5:2-3).

3.  The shepherd protects the sheep (verse 4).  As the sheep walk through the valley of the shadow of death (a.k.a. “the valley of deep darkness”), the shepherd protects them from unknown predators, bandits, and the forces of nature.  Similarly, God has protected His flock by laying down His life for the sheep (John 10:11).  The pastor must also protect the flock of God from disunity (Ephesians 4:1-3), false teachings (1 John 4:1), and sin (Galatians 6:1).

4.  The shepherd comforts the sheep (verse 4).  As the sheep trust in the protection of the shepherd, they find comfort.  Similarly, God’s people can take rest in the God of all comfort (2 Cor 1:3-5).  The pastor is also called to provide comfort for the flock of God as they experience fear, suffering, and trials.

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