Archive for February, 2019

Sermon highlight (02-03-19)

February 10, 2019

I’ve recently begun using Instagram, which permits the uploading of one-minute-long video clips. So I hope to expand my reach by creating “highlight” clips from my sermons. This is one of them! Enjoy! The full sermon is available in the previous post.

Feel free to follow me on Instagram at @brentlwhite.

Sermon 02-03-19: “Submit to One Another”

February 10, 2019

The Christ-like love that Paul asks of Christian husbands and wives is the same kind of love that Jesus asks of all of us. What does this love look like? Why is it so difficult to live out? Is there any hope for us? Yes! But only because our faith is in the One whose love never fails.

I preached this sermon at Cannon United Methodist Church on February 3, 2019. 

Sermon Text: Ephesians 5:21-33

Although, technically, today’s scripture begins at verse 21, you’ll notice that verse 21 is the tail-end of a sentence that starts at verse 18. So let me begin at the beginning of the sentence. [Read scripture.]

Most of you don’t know me very well yet. For example, most of you don’t know that back in 2001, my son Townshend was born on the living room floor of our house in Tucker, delivered by a couple of paramedics, while six or seven of Tucker’s Bravest looked on—from as far away as they could possibly be! They were hugging the opposite wall! They wanted nothing to do with delivering a baby! When the paramedics arrived, Lisa asked if she could have an epidural. “No,” they said, “it’s way too late for that!”

So this is what happened. Or so I am told…

You see, I wasn’t actually there when Townshend was born! I was down in Bradenton, Florida, near Tampa… What was I doing? Collecting my trophy for “husband of the year,” obviously! 

Hardly! I was there working on an engineering project at a Tropicana plant. I was there because I couldn’t say “no” when the project manager begged me to go—“just for one night,” he said, “You’ll be right back home in time for your baby to be born.” So, like an idiot, I went, even though it was close to Lisa’s due date and, well… naturally that’s when my first son was born.

My point in sharing this story is to suggest that I am not going to win any “Husband of the Year” awards; I am not well-qualified to lecture or preach to any of y’all about how to be a perfect spouse or how to have a perfect marriage—to say the least! I have often been a miserable failure at marriage—and maybe you have, too. If so, I hope, like me, you’ll find encouragement as the apostle Paul brings the gospel of Jesus Christ to bear on the institution of marriage. And I hope you’ll also see that the Paul’s words are about much more than just marriage. Today’s scripture is for everyone.

For example, verse 21 isn’t even directed to wives and husbands; it’s directed to literally everyone who is a Christian: “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” What does Christian submission look like? How about this: 

[Jesus said,] And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.[1]

Or how about this, also from Jesus:

If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.[2]

Or this:

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.[3]

Or this, from Paul:

[Love] is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.[4]

Or this:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves[5]

When Paul talks about submission, he’s referring to the same kind of self-sacrificial love that Jesus and the rest of the Bible demand of us elsewhere.

I hope that’s clear enough… 

Next, in verse 22, he asks wives to love their husbands in this exact same way. In fact, in Greek, the word “submit” doesn’t even appear in this verse: Verses 21 and 22 literally read as part of the same sentence, as follows: “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ, wives, to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” Do you see? The submission that Paul asks of wives in verse 22 is literally the same submission he asks of all Christians in verse 21. Read the rest of this entry »

In Christ, things are exactly as good (or bad) as they need to be in order for God to bless you

February 9, 2019

More writing from my ESV Journaling Bible, Interleaved Edition

Last Sunday, I had the privilege of preaching on Ephesians 5:21-33. Whenever I preach, there is always material that I have to cut—no matter how much I love it! Below is one lengthy “rabbit trail” I went down. It didn’t ultimately fit in this sermon, but it’s worth sharing here.

In Ephesians 5:21, Paul tells us to do something very difficult: “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ” (NRSV). In Greek this verse is part of a subordinate clause in a sentence that begins in verse 18. The ESV, always more literal than the NRSV, puts it as follows:

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

When we see it in the context of the full sentence, the command of v. 21, “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ,” is made possible in part by the doctrine of God’s sovereignty that is implicit within v. 20: “giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Give thanks always… and for everything? 

Is Paul kidding? How do we do that?

I mean, I’m thankful when things are going my way; when things are working out for me; when I’m getting what I want. By contrast, I’m not usually thankful, for example, when I’m in pain, or when I’m sick, or when I’m suffering in any way. I’m not usually thankful when I’m experiencing a setback, or when I’m dealing with disappointment, or when I’m going through hard times.

In fact, when I’m going through hard times, I can usually only be thankful in spite of the hard times. So my prayers sound something like this: “I give you thanks, God, because as bad as these circumstances are right now, at least I still have these other good things going for me. Or at least it could be so much worse. Or at least I have it better than that other guy over there.” 

But is this the kind of thankfulness Paul is talking about?

By no means!

If we are God’s children through faith in his Son Jesus, we never merely have it “better than” someone else or “better than” some possible worst-case-scenario we might imagine. No… In Christ there is no “better than”! In Christ, we have it exactly as good or exactly as bad as it needs to be in order for God to give us something better… to give us more of our heart’s deepest desire; more of our life’s greatest treasure; more of the best thing we can ever receive… 

Which is what? More of his Son Jesus Christ!

Don’t you want more of Jesus in your life? Don’t you want more of his Holy Spirit in your life? Don’t you want more of his power in your life—more of his presence, more of his victory, more of his blessing, more of his favor? Aren’t you tired of feeling defeated all the time? Tired of feeling discouraged? Tired of feeling disappointed?

Jesus wants more for you than that! Jesus promises more for you than that!  And Jesus always keeps his promises!

You say, “Where are you getting this, Pastor Brent?” Many places throughout the Bible. But let me show you just one place, from the words of Jesus himself. See Luke 11:11-13. Jesus is assuring his disciples that his Father is faithful to give his children only good things when they pray—and if he doesn’t give us what we ask for, it’s only because it wouldn’t be good for us. Jesus says,

What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!

Look at that last sentence: We expect Jesus to say, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him!” But he doesn’t say “give good gifts”; he says “give the Holy Spirit.” Why? Because the Holy Spirit is the greatest gift of all—and the Holy Spirit is elsewhere in scripture called the Spirit of Christ; Jesus says that the Holy Spirit makes Christ present to us. 

So we can be confident—no matter what we’re experiencing—that when we earnestly pray, our heavenly Father will always give us whatever we need in that moment to have the best thing of all… which more of Jesus.

So when you’re hurting, tell yourself something like this: “This bad thing I’m going through—it’s really bad, and it hurts—but it’s exactly what I need right now to have more of the best thing of all—more of Jesus!”

If you want more of Jesus, this ought to be really good news, because this is precisely what you’ll get!

And this is the principle underlying Ephesians 5:18-21. This is the basis on which we can give thanks to God “always and for everything.” Indeed, this is the basis on which we can fulfill verse 21 and “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Because we know that, even if it hurts us in the short run, in the long run it will ultimately be good for us; it will lead to greater happiness and joy; it will lead to experiencing more of Jesus in our lives!

And when that happens, how can we not do what verse 19 says and “sing and make melody to the Lord with your heart”? That’s what it means to be happy!

My prayer for the promise of Psalm 23:1: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want”

February 4, 2019

My notes on Psalm 23:1, which I wrote in my ESV Journaling Bible, Interleaved Edition:

23:1: “The Lord is my shepherd”: You are my shepherd, Lord. I am helpless apart from you. I can’t protect myself. I can’t lead myself. I don’t have the ability to discern the right path for myself. There are many wild animals and thieves who want to do me harm. Defend me, protect me, lead me—save me from my own stupidity and self-confidence. I gladly surrender to you, Lord. My life is in your hands. “I shall not want”: Years ago, I made too little of this verse. Give me the faith, Lord, to risk making much of it! It’s the same promise you make when you tell me, “Whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). It’s the same promise you make when you tell me, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Luke 11:9). It’s the same promise you make when you tell me, through Paul, “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). This is not wishful thinking; this is not hyperbole. You will give me everything I truly need. Inasmuch as “what I need” fails to correspond to “what I want,” change my wants! I often only want things that wouldn’t be good for me, anyway!