Christ said his disciples are the "salt" of the world.Two documents from Chris Brauns’s personal notes for his series on the Sermon on the Mount. One is an uneven summary of the sermons. The other is the glossary of terms I thought I should understand in order to preach the series.

Sunday I preached my 25th and final sermon in my series on the Sermon on the Mount. The exhortation was to “make fresh decisions to be astonished by hearing Jesus’s words and obeying them.” Listen here.

As a part of the sermon, I pointed out some highlights from the series. You can review those highlights in the below document.

SERMON SUMMARIES FOR THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT

It may also be of interest to you see the glossary I made for my own study. This is technical because I wrote it for my own use. It’s unedited and of uneven quality.

Glossary for the Sermon on the Mount

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Here is a Tim Keller sermon that will feed the soul of people in our day. This sermon will help you understand some of the reasons you think like you do. And it will show how Christ can set you free. In terms of interacting with the cultural waters in which we swim, it is one of the most profound sermons I have ever heard.

Watch, listen, and be nourished.

Justin Taylor summarizes:

Tim Keller speaking at chapel for Wheaton College (November 11, 2015), explaining that our culture repudiates as oppressive the idea that someone else names us and gives us an identity, but that when you trust Christ you have the only identity on earth that is received instead of achieved.

Keller goes on defend a form of individualism as inescapable but to critique expression individualism (the idea that you must look inside and then express them outwardly no matter what anyone says). He offers five critiques: it is  (1) incoherent; (2) unstable; (3) illusory; (4) crushing; (5) excluding.

We are social beings who need recognition and naming from outside—someone whom you love, approve, and esteem—to speak to you.

See also:

Communicating Truth in Our Late Modern Moment

HT: JT

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D.A. CarsonCollin Hansen hosts one of my favorite podcasts. In this episode he interviews D.A. Carson and probes the accuracy of the aphorism, “God loves the sinner but hates the sin.” Carson shows why the saying “is close but finally wrong.” His answer is careful and nuanced.

Carson makes important summary comments at both the beginning and the end.

Listen here.

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Easily, my most important educational choice was deciding 25 years ago to systematically memorize Scripture.

The first principle of Scripture memory is to "repeat to remember." Wear a rut in your mind with the words of Scripture. Here is a brief summary of the system I use for memorizing Scripture. I originally learned this approach from Jim Jeffery in the Fall of 1990, though I have adapted it over the years. My system shares similarities with An Approach to Extended Memorization of Scripture.

Repeat to Remember

My system for Scripture memorization is divided into two parts. First, I repeat to remember.

After identifying a verse to memorize, I say it aloud. Ideally, I interpret the verse with the inflection of my voice and attitude of my heart as I say it. But there is some “chanting” involved. The idea is to wear a rut in my mind with God’s Word. My goal is to to say the words of a verse so many times that they are as second nature as a phone number or address.

I “repeat to remember” using the following regiment for each verse I memorize:

  • Day 1- 25 times
  • Day 2 – 20 times
  • Day 3 – 15 times
  • Day 4 – 10 times
  • Day 5 – 5 times

So by the end of the 5th day I have repeated a given verse 75 times. As can be seen from the image to the right, there is nothing fancy about my system. I write the verse out and tally each repetition. The image shows that in July of 1991 I was memorizing Matthew 20:37-40 followed by the 10 Commandments.

On the first day, I often look at the verse while quoting it. If it is a longer verse, I memorize it one phrase at a time. I also look closely at it on the page and form a mental snapshot of the verse. I don’t mean to imply I have a “photographic memory.” I don’t. But the combination of repeatedly vocalizing the words of the verse, hearing it as I say it, and picturing it in my mind, all serve to engrave the words on my memory.

On days 2-5, I still need to look at the verse again. But it grows easier to remember each day. If I struggle to remember a verse when reviewing it, I may quote it additional times.

Saying it aloud is important. The discipline of vocalizing each word aloud means that I also hear it.

When I am memorizing verses, I also incorporate quoting the texts into the fabric of ministry. For example, I have recently been memorizing Paul’s wonderful prayer in Colossians 1:9-14. So even as I followed the formal regiment for memorizing those verses, I have repeated or paraphrased it many additional times during my own times of prayer and counseling sessions.

ScripturememoryfrontAt other times, I incorporate verses I am memorizing into conversations or counseling sessions. I simply say something like, “Recently, I have been memorizing Colossians 1:9-14. In those verses, Paul prays . . .” Sharing verses in conversation models a commitment to God’s Word and shares the content of particular passages.

Review to Retain

Second, having repeated to remember, I review to retain.

After I have completed the sequence of saying the verse 25-20-15-10-5 times across consecutive days, I write the verse on a 3×5 card and review it daily. Ideally, I review a particular verse:

  • Daily for 45-60 days
  • Weekly for a year
  • Monthly for 2-3 years
  • 2-3 times per year for life

This is the back of a Scripture memory card.When I make a mistake in reviewing a verse, which I often do, I correct the mistake and say it the right way more than once. If I really struggle quoting a particular verse, then I put it through the “repeat to remember” sequence again.

Of course, there are many other memory techniques that can be employed including using music or association techniques. But in my experience, long term Scripture memorization comes down to repetition. Intentionally repeat a verse 4-500 times across several years and you will remember it.

Systematic long term memorization of Scripture requires only minutes on any given day. I took a break while writing this to review 10 verses. It took me one minute and twenty-two seconds to recite them. It was a minute and twenty-two seconds well spent.

See also:

Memorize a Psalm in Order to Be Moved

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The final pages of The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name:

One day, John knew, Heaven would come down and mend God’s broken world and make it our true, perfect home once again.

And he knew, in some mysterious way that would be hard to explain, that everything was going to be more wonderful for once having been so sad.

And he knew then that the ending of The Story was going to be so great, it would make all the sadness and tears and everything seem like just a shadow that is chased away by the morning sun.

“I’m on my way,” said Jesus. “I’ll be there soon!

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It is self-referentially absurd to claim there are no absolutes.In Sunday’s sermon, I defined the term “self-referential absurdity.” This is an important concept when dealing with the mind of the late modern age. Have you ever encountered self-referential absurdity?

Self-Referential Absurdity – When the application of a claim to itself refutes what is being claimed, it demonstrates “self-referential absurdity.”

The most obvious example of “self-referential absurdity” is the claim that there are no absolutes. Such a claim contradicts itself by saying absolutely that there are no absolutes.

Likewise, people who insist that it is wrong to make moral judgments of any sort, are themselves making moral judgments, and hence demonstrate “self-referential absurdity.”

When Jesus gave the Golden Rule in Matthew 7:12, he made sure to anchor His ethic in the “law and the prophets.” So what Jesus taught is in sharp contrast with the view many hold today that ethics are strictly a matter of the views of people.

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Our culture is infatuated with Jesus’s admonition, “Judge not, that you be not judged (Matthew 7:1-2).” But, as I explained in Sunday’s sermon, the reason this is a favorite saying may not be good news.

There are, arguably, two reasons, our culture so often quotes Jesus’s prohibition of making judgments. First, hypocritical judging, which is what Jesus warned against, is ugly. The person who presumes to know why another person suffers, or the motives of another’s heart, or another’s status with Christ, puts him or herself in the place of God. Jesus warned against such hypocrisy in the strongest possible terms (Matthew 7:2).

Of course, when Jesus warned, “Judge not, that you be not judged,” he did not mean that we are not to make reasoned moral judgments. After all, in this same context, Christ cautions that we should identify some as “dogs” and “pigs” so as to not see truth trampled in the filth (Matthew 7:6).

The second reason that our culture is so enamored with the concept of not judging is that many do not like the idea of judgment at all. “Judge not” means to some that not even God judges. Yet, the idea that God will not judge is patently false. The Bible consistently stresses that God is a God who will judge sin. Consider a small sampling of biblical examples of judgment.

TABLE 1. SELECT BIBLICAL EXAMPLES OF GOD’S JUDGMENT

Example Text Comment / Summary
The Fall / Adam & Eve’s Disobedience Gen 3 Adam and Eve rebelled against God and God pronounces a sentence of spiritual death and all the pain and heart ache of a fallen world.
The Noahic Flood Gen 6-9 God destroyed everyone on earth except Noah and his family: the one family who had faith.
Sodom and Gomorrah Gen 19:23-29 God destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah for their wickedness, though Lot is spared
The Passover Exodus 12 God struck dead the firstborn in Egypt except those covered by the lamb’s blood (Exodus 12:21-28).
The Golden Calf Exodus 32 God sent the tribe of Levi to execute about 3,000 and more died from a plague because of their idolatry at the foot of Mt. Sinai.
So severe that even Cannabilism Lev 26:14-35 God warned that if Israel broke covenant that the judgment would so severe that there would even be cannibalism (Lev 26:29).
Adult Israel dies in wilderness Num 14:20-38 God vowed that all of the adults of Israel (save Joshua and Caleb), who would not follow Moses into the Promised Land, would die.
Jericho Josh 6 The city of Jericho was completely devoted to destruction.
Jesus promises judgment Matt 16:26-28 Jesus warned that he will return and reward people according to what they have done.
THE CROSS 2 Cor 5:21, 1 Pt 2:21, 1 Jn 4:10 God’s simultaneous demonstration of love & judgment. Love: Jesus died for sin. Judgment: Jesus received the punishment we deserve.
Ananias and Saphira Acts 5:1-11 Ananias and Sapphira lied about their commitment to the Church and God struck them dead.
Herod Acts 12:23 God struck Herod dead while people were praising him for having the voice of a god.
Those who destroy the church 1 Cor 3:17 God warns that people who harm God’s temple (the church) will be destroyed.
Warning to N.T. Believers 1 Cor 10:1-22 Paul warned the church at Corinth that examples of O.T. judgment are warnings for our day as well as then.
Partakers of communion in unworthy manner 1 Cor 11:27-34 Paul explained that the reason some are sick and have died was because they participated in communion in an unworthy manner.
Leaders / Teachers Warned Luke 12:47; Jam 3:1; Heb 13:17 Warnings that those in positions of responsibility have an increased accountability to Jesus when He returns.
The Judgment Seat of Christ 2 Cor 5:9-10; Rom 14:10-12 When Christ judges Christians resulting in rewards for some and a sense of loss for others.
The Great White Throne Judgment Revelation 20:11-15 Follows the Millennial Kingdom and is the occasion when the unsaved of all the world will receive their punishment of eternal hell.
Jesus’s final words in Revelation Revelation 22:12-13, 16, 20 Jesus promised that He will soon return and that when he does he will dispense punishment to those whose who do not know Him.

If these examples of biblical judgment people do not make you uncomfortable, then maybe you are not engaging with this idea of God’s judgment. The judgment of a holy God is a sobering topic. It is so uncomfortable the reality is that many churches in North America speak little of God’s judgment. And, perhaps the reason many pastors won’t speak of judgment is the same reason Jesus admonition, “Judge not that you be not judged,” is the most popular saying in the Bible.

For biblical Christianity, there is no denying the reality of judgment. Some insist that the Old Testament presents God as a harsher judge. But this is inconsistent with the Bible. Look at the table above. Read Revelation 20-22.

Some counter, “Well, then I’m not sure if I want the Bible. I’m not sure that I want judgment at all.”

But the person who objects to God’s judgment does want judgment. All people do. Every sane person believes in judgment. You need only to go to a high school football game and see a bad call and see people express their indignation at injustice to know people believe in justice. Or, watch a political leader make a decision that affects the standard of living. People cry out for justice. We all want judgment if a loved one is harmed. We should!

The fact is that people who object against God’s judgment are okay with justice and judgment. They just want to dictate judgment on their own terms and that, says Jesus in Matthew 7:1-2, is what we must not do. To insist on being the judge is a matter of pride. Only God is worthy of rendering judgment.

But then someone else will counter, “These examples of God’s judgment are harsh. Think of Sodom! Think of eternal hell. How can a God of such harsh judgment be loving?”

This is where we need to go to the middle of the above table and focus on the the Cross! On the Cross we see how God’s love and God’s judgment are both on display. John tells us (1 John 4:10) that the ultimate display of love is that Christ died for our sins. The reason he died, was to give Christ as the propitiation or atoning sacrifice for our sins.

For sure, one reason that our culture appreciates Jesus’s admonition to not be hypocritically judgmental is because such hypocrisy is so ugly and damaging. But, I fear, the greater reason so many quote Matthew 7:1-2 is because they have misread it to mean even God does not judge. About this, unbelieving culture could not be more mistaken. God is just and he will judge sin. Those who do not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, will suffer God’s judgment eternally (John 3:36, Revelation 21:8).

See also:

What do Christians mean when they reference the gospel or good news?

The Pastoral Privilege of Telling Christians When Jesus Will Return

Jonathan Edwards Was as High on Heaven as He Was Hot on Hell

A Soft View of Hell Makes Hard People

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Previously, I answered questions several question from Elaine about heaven. Yesterday, Elaine let me know that she is wondering how we know the Bible and God is real and not just realistic fiction.

Dear Elaine,

The question you discussed with your dad – –  regarding how we know the Bible is God’s Word – – is a beautiful question. It is such an excellent question that in the Westminster Confession of Faith (approved in 1647) your question is answered in the fifth statement.

By the way, don’t ever let anyone tell you that every question is a good question. There are many terrible questions. I have asked some of them myself! One of these days, you will ask me a bad question, and I will say, “What an awful question!”

But this time you have not just asked a good question. You have asked one of the great questions the Church of Jesus Christ has ever considered. I am so proud of you and thankful for you.

Now you need to think really hard about the answer. It’s a grownup question and it deserves a grownup answer. So get rid of your cat for a few moments and think.

The answer given in the Westminster standards as to how we know the Bible is God’s Word is a “wordy” answer – – MAYBE JUST SKIP THE NEXT PARAGRAPH AND LET ME BREAK IT DOWN INTO 6 REASONS — or, if your dad reads the paragraph aloud to you, plug your ears until he is done and wait for my explanation. It will make sense when you hear how I break it up into bite size pieces. Here is what they said in 1647:

  1. We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the church to an high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scripture. And the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is, to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man’s salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it doth abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God: yet notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.

As I said, this answer is much easier to understand if we just break it up into parts. The confession says that we know the Bible is God’s Word because:

(1) the testimony of the church  – Men and women for 2,000 years in the church have agreed that this is God’s special message to us. This is not the most important reason we believe the Bible is God’s Word. But it is a great help! Maybe watch this video about how excited people are to get Bibles.

(2) And the heavenliness of the matter – The Bible speaks directly to some of the most important questions we can ever consider. If you read other ancient books they do not deal with life’s big questions with anything close to the wisdom of the Bible. Scripture answers our questions: Where did we come from? Why are we here? What happens after we die? (And we have way more copies of the Bible than of any other ancient document!) By the way,  the Bible answers other questions that aren’t so tremendously important, but still they  mean a lot to you. For instance, “Where do cats come from?”

(3) the majesty of the style – The style of the Bible is so beautiful. Have your mom or dad read John 14:1-6 from the King James version. Or read Hebrews 1:1-4 from the King James. You will need helping understanding those passages, but just in hearing the beauty of the style one begins to understand this is no ordinary book. I know your grandfather well Elaine. And if you read John 14:1-6 to him right now, he would get tears in his eyes. And the reason he would be emotional is because the Bible speaks so majestically to the questions that are so important. Or try this. Read Isaiah 9:6-7. This passage was written 700 years before Jesus. And the passage is so completely beautiful that it inspired one of the greatest works of music ever! When Handel’s Messiah was performed in front of Queen Victoria she was supposed to remain seated while everyone else stood. Queens didn’t have to stand up. But when this great work of music was performed – – and the reason it was written is because the Bible is so majestic – – she stood up. Today people all over the world stand when Handel’s Messiah is performed. And they stand up because they agree with Queen Victoria that the music and message are unspeakably beautiful.

(4) the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole – Even though the Bible was written across 1,500 years, it all is woven together into one beautiful message: From Moses (whose sister hid him in a basket, just like you would hide your little brother James) to the Apostle John who was so very close to the Lord Jesus. You know the story of the book of Ruth. By itself, Ruth is one of the most beautiful stories that was ever written. But then we see that Ruth’s baby Obed was the grandfather of King David – – and from the grandchildren of David (who was 1,000 years before Jesus!) we have Jesus. No one could make that up! (Tell your mom to read this post. She will like it).  Some day you and I will meet Ruth – – we really will – – and we will be able to talk to her about her baby –which will seem a little silly because Obed is all grown up. I suspect you and I will agree that Ruth is even more beautiful than we expected. But we will all be worshiping Jesus. (Your mom will also like this post).

(5) the full discovery it makes of the only way of man’s salvationThe Bible tells us how we can be sure that we have eternal life and that we will be together with God’s people on the new earth for all of eternity. Don’t forget that the Red Brick’s are meeting at the 5th Tree on the Right side. If you read this post, you will be reminded about what we mean by the gospel and you will also see a picture of another little girl from church standing next to you dressed like a cat!

(6) our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts – BUT MOST OF ALL – – when we read the Bible the Holy Spirit assures our hearts that the Bible is God’s Word. Said another way, the Bible is self-authenticating – – Scripture shows us that it is God’s Word. This is important because if you believed in the Bible solely based on what your pastor or parents said, then they would be the authority.  The Bible is final authority. And we have assurance this is so because the Holy Spirit works in our hearts so that we are persuaded.

Some day, rather soon, I suspect, you will meet someone who will tell you that he does not believe the Bible is really God’s Word. Ask him, “Well, have your read the Bible?” Then say, “Why don’t you pray Psalm 119:18 and then read the Gospel of John? After reading it, tell me what you think.”  If the person who says he doesn’t believe the Bible is God’s Word refuses to prayerfully read the Bible, then you know they don’t want to believe it is God’s Word. (See also: Because the Bible is what it is, it can do what it does!)

You and I can be sure – – along with other Christians for 2,000 years – – that the Bible is God’s word to us. We have a message not from outer space, but from “beyond space!”

One of the greatest privileges of my life is to be your pastor!

 

 

 

 

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Sproul_1And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him? Mark 4:41

C.S. Lewis said that one of the reasons he believes Christianity is that it is not the sort of religion anyone would have made up. In his book, The Holiness of God, R.C. Sproul makes this same point in interacting with Jesus’s calming of the storm:

It was the father of modern psychiatry, Sigmund Freud, who once espoused the theory that people invent religion out of of a fear of nature. We feel helpless before an earthquake, a flood, or a ravaging disease. So, said Freud, we invent a God who has power over the earthquake, flood, and disease. God is personal. We can talk to Him. We can try to bargain with Him. We can plead with Him to save us from the destructive forces of nature. We are not able to plead with earthquakes, negotiate with floods, or bargain with cancer. So, the theory goes, we invent God to help us deal with these scary things.

What is significant about this scriptural story (Mark 4:35-41) is that the disciples’ fear increased after the threat of the storm was removed. The storm had made them afraid. Jesus’ action to still the tempest made them more afraid. In the power of Christ they met something more frightening than they had ever met in nature. They were in the presence of the holy. We wonder what Freud would have said about that. Why would the disciples invent a God whose holiness was more terrifying than the forces of nature that provoked them to invent a god in the first place? We can understand if people invented an unholy god, a god who brought only comfort. But why a god more scary than the earthquake, flood, or disease? It is one thing to fall victim to the flood or to fall prey to cancer; it is another thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

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Some time ago, I asked children to identify times when they are tempted to lie and why. The question surfaced several confessions and testimonies.

Screenshot 2015-10-14 10.12.38

 

Screenshot 2015-10-14 10.14.56

 

Screenshot 2015-10-14 10.17.58

 

 

 

Screenshot 2015-10-14 10.11.06

 

 

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