Posts Tagged ‘Michael Phelps’

Sermon 01-15-17: “To Fulfill All Righteousness”

January 19, 2017


Jesus’ first words in Matthew’s Gospel are puzzling: What does Jesus mean when he says that it’s proper for John to baptize him in order to “fulfill all righteousness”? In this sermon, I explore that question and show how these words and actions of Jesus point to the Cross.

Sermon Text: Matthew 3:13-17

[To listen on the go, right-click here to download an MP3.]

On Saturdays in the fall, when I go to Georgia Tech football games in midtown Atlanta, there are sometimes people on the corner of North Avenue and Techwood Drive. They have P.A. systems and microphones. They have an urgent message that they want passersby to hear! And their message, in so many words, is “Repent… or else.” I confess these people make me feel uncomfortable. When I see them, I want to cross to the other side of the street. I want to get away from them as quickly as possible. I want them to go away. They’re spoiling my fun, after all. I don’t want to think about my sins, or God’s holiness, or God’s wrath, or my need to repent and turn to Jesus in order to avoid hell. After all, I’m just trying to enjoy a college football game! This is the deep South, after all. Let’s not mix one religion with another! Sunday is for one kind of church, but Saturday is for another kind!

Look, we may quibble with the in-your-face method of evangelism that these people use. But give them credit: At least they understand what’s at stake. They understand that unless or until people do repent and turn to Jesus, and believe in him, and entrust their lives to him, they will face an eternity separated from God in hell.

Do we understand what’s at stake?

Over the course of his life, John Wesley, the founder of our Methodist movement, rode 250,000 miles on horseback and preached 40,000 sermons because he understood what was at stake—because of his firm conviction that people risked being eternally lost unless they repented and believed in Jesus.[1]

The ministry of the apostle Paul was fueled by this same conviction: In Acts 20, Paul is preaching a farewell sermon to some people that he knows and loves—the elders at the church in Ephesus, a church he started and where he ministered for three years. And he says something very interesting: He says, “Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.”[2]

Innocent of the blood of all. What does he mean by that? He means that as a pastor, as a preacher, as a missionary, as a leader in the church, Paul can leave that place knowing that he’s done everything he could do, that he’s told as many people as he could tell, that he’s taken every opportunity to share with his community the full gospel of Jesus Christ. So that if they die—and face God’s judgment, God’s wrath, and hell because of their sins—their blood won’t be on Paul’s hands. Because he’s done all that he can do save them. Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon 07-10-16: “If God Is for Us”

August 6, 2016

Opening the Scriptures graphic

Few, if any, heroes in the Old Testament were more faithful to God than Joshua. Yet when he realizes that he’s in the presence of the Lord in today’s scripture, he encounters a potentially deadly problem: The Lord is holy, Joshua isn’t, and he’s afraid he will be destroyed. This is a problem that all of us share with Joshua. The good news is that today’s scripture points to a solution.

Sermon Text: Joshua 5:13-6:5

[To listen on the go, right-click here to download an MP3.]

When the summer Olympics begin in Rio next month, one member of our U.S. Olympic team will be the most decorated Olympian in history, the 22-time medalist Michael Phelps. Eighteen of those 22 are gold medals, the most by far of any Olympian in history. And he’s now the first American male swimmer to make five Olympic teams. He qualified for number five just last week.


He told USA Today that, of all the things he’s done, qualifying for his fifth Olympics “means the most. With everything that’s happened, being able to come back, that’s probably harder than any swim I’ve had in my life.” Everything that’s happened includes being arrested for driving drunk in 2014, being suspended from swimming for a period, and, finally, entering rehab. But for the past year, according to both him and his teammates, he’s a changed man. He’s been focused solely on Rio.

Well, he’s got to be if he’s going to be successful. There’s no such thing as a part-time Olympic champion. Being an Olympic athlete isn’t one thing you do in your life among many other things; it is your life. You don’t say, “I’m going to spend this many hours a week training, and this many hours doing this other thing, and this many hours doing something else.” No… If you’re a champion, you eat in order to win the gold; you drink in order to win the gold; you sleep in order to win the gold. You are single-minded.

I haven’t known an athlete with that level of commitment before. But I did meet a classical musician who was close. She was a 16-year-old student at my wife Lisa’s school. She performed in a musical that her school was putting on. And she played violin. After the show I was introduced to her as one of Lisa’s students. So I complimented her. I said, “You were great! You didn’t sound screechy at all.” I was just trying to make small talk. I didn’t mean to damn her with faint praise. But, in my experience, 16 year-old violinists sometimes sound screechy. Read the rest of this entry »