Posts Tagged ‘Holly Hunter’

Sermon 04-02-17: “The Unpardonable Sin”

April 13, 2017

We need to hear Jesus’ warning in today’s scripture: We can commit a sin that will permanently, eternally exclude us from God’s kingdom and send us to hell. What is it? How can we be sure we haven’t committed it? How can we be sure we won’t commit it? This sermon will answer these questions.

Sermon Text: Matthew 12:22-32

I worked at Kroger when I was in high school. I worked alongside a young man named Elbert who was the first Pentecostal Christian I ever knew. More than any other Christian tradition, Pentecostals tend to place a greater emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit, on miracles, on spiritual gifts—especially the gift of speaking in tongues. Many Pentecostals will even say that other Christians haven’t received the gift of the Holy Spirit unless or until they give evidence of having received the Spirit—which, to them, means speaking in tongues.

As much as I respect Pentecostals—and trust me, if I’m ever in some life-threatening situation, I want a Pentecostal praying for me, because they pray as if they mean business; they pray expecting results. But as much as I respect Pentecostals, this widespread Pentecostal doctrine that says we’ve only received the Holy Spirit if we speak in tongues is deeply unbiblical. After all, the main issue that Paul speaks against in 1 Corinthians is the moral superiority that some of the Corinthian Christians feel toward other Christians in the church who, unlike them, don’t possess more extravagant spiritual gifts like speaking in tongues. Paul says that all true believers have spiritual gifts—and they’re all important in the body of Christ. This controversy inspired him to write the most beautiful love poem in the ancient world: 1 Corinthians 13: “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”

Anyway, it was through Elbert that I first became aware of the fact that there are Christians who worry about whether or not they’ve committed the so-called unpardonable sin that Jesus mentions in today’s scripture: what Jesus refers to as “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.” Elbert explained to me that he didn’t grow up Pentecostal, and he used to make fun of Pentecostals. He made fun of the idea that they spoke in tongues—that there was anything more to it than just incoherent babble. And he said to me, “I just hope that before my conversion I never blasphemed the Holy Spirit.” I said, “What are you talking about?” And he referred me to today’s scripture. He was afraid that by making fun of the gift of speaking in tongues he might have inadvertently “spoke a word against the Holy Spirit,” and thus committed the unpardonable sin. Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon 12-28-14: “They Rejoiced Exceedingly”

January 2, 2015
Giotto's "Adoration of the Magi, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Giotto’s “Adoration of the Magi, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Star of Bethlehem, which God graciously gave to the magi in order to bring them to Jesus, can teach us a great deal about the gospel of Jesus Christ and our church’s mission.

Sermon Text: Matthew 2:1-12

The following is my original sermon manuscript.

Years ago, the senior pastor at the church where I was serving as an associate pastor got a call from a man who was not a member of our church, but who said he was sick and in desperate need of a pastoral visit. So Don, the senior pastor, called me in his office and said, “Brent, I got this weird call from this man—and just so you know, he might be crazy. I’d send Larisa”—the other associate pastor—“but frankly, I’d be worried about her safety. So I want you to go…”

I promise he said that! So I made an appointment to see him. And over the course of the next couple of years, we struck up a bit of a friendship. Turns out he was a deeply eccentric man—not crazy. More like Doc Brown from Back to the Future. He had a Ph.D. from Harvard. He was an engineer who retired with NASA. And he was an amateur astronomer. Once when I visited him, he was excited to tell me about a discovery he had made. He said, “I know the date on which Jesus was born.”

Let me preface this by saying that the church has never known Jesus’ actual birthdate. They chose to celebrate Christmas on December 25 because of its proximity to the winter solstice—the solstice marks the point at which the darkness recedes and the days get longer and longer. Symbolically, the solstice represents the light of Christ—the “light that enlightens everyone,” as John says—coming into the world. Read the rest of this entry »