Category Archives: Sermons

Denouncing Judge Dredd (Sermon)

Those who follow my blog know that I’m a pastor and teacher. I don’t post many sermons on my personal blog, but I like to occasionally pass one on that I think is timely and relevant, and also remind you where you can find more of my sermons if you’re interested in subscribing.

You can subscribe at our church’s website or stream recent sermons from my Sound Cloud profile and listen regularly while you’re on the go.

Last year I delivered a message called Denouncing (Your Inner) Judge Dredd. I think about the content of this sermon often, as it is extremely relevant for us as the church today. I’m trying to live and work it out myself.

It’s common in our culture for folks to think that all judgment is bad, but the Scripture says there is a right and wrong way to judge.

In this message, I talk about that difference and how Christ wants to set us free from our tendencies to judge others. Judging others actually reveals our own emptiness. Jesus calls us to a higher way that is better for all of us.

Listen to how we are called to embrace an identity that engenders a deep love for our neighbor, and denounce our inner Judge Dredd for life in the Kingdom.

D.D. Flowers, 2015.

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Overcoming Cynicism (Sermon)

Overcoming CynicismI’ve written on cynicism a few times here at the blog. If you follow regularly, you know this is something I’ve admitted to struggling with myself. I consider myself a recovering cynic. I must repent of my cynicism daily to follow Jesus faithfully.

I’m becoming increasingly aware that I’m not alone in my cynicism. In fact, I’ve gotten more response through personal correspondence on this one issue than any others. It no doubt strikes a chord with folks today. And I’m not surprised.

I’ve found that cynicism is the elephant in the room that nobody really wants to talk about.

A few weeks ago I preached a sermon that is a compilation of stuff I’ve written, as well as new thoughts, on the subject of struggling with and overcoming cynicism. This one sermon was probably the most relevant message I gave all year. It connected with our congregation like no other.

In Overcoming Cynicism, I specifically take on the growing cynicism toward the church, the Body of Christ. It’s something we desperately need to address as we seek to emerge from the “evangelicalism” of the last 30 years.

Here are a few excerpts from the sermon:

“Cynicism manifests itself out of frustration with persons, institutions, organizations, and authorities that have left her victims disillusioned and angry. Cynics feel cheated, robbed, lied to, and taken advantage of. Maybe you know the feeling. Disillusionment has been described as the “dispersal of illusions,” and many Christians are finding themselves passing through disillusionment only to drown in a sea of cynicism.”

“Cynicism is a sickness… it leads to despair. We must repent of it… repent by believing that God is greater than the evil at work in the world, for he calls us to be people of hope. We repent of it because it’s not consistent with the people we’re called to be.”

“Let’s be clear. It’s not cynicism simply to acknowledge reality. It’s just that we can’t fully know what’s real without considering the God fully revealed in Jesus. Reality must conform to the good news of Christ. If we’re not doing that, then why bother with being a Christian. Hopeful realism is about resurrection and the promise of new creation. And this is what I believe we’re being called to embrace in the gospel message. It allows us to see the Spirit of God at work, and it empowers us to join him in shaping God’s good future.”

You can download the sermon and view slides (PDF) here at our archives. Listen to Overcoming Cynicism and learn about practical steps you can take on your way to becoming a hopeful realist this Advent season.

Grace & Peace,

D.D. Flowers, 2014.

 


Not Against Flesh & Blood (Sermon Series)

Last month I attended the Missio Alliance conference Church & Post-Christian Culture in Carlisle, PA. The focus of the conference was on the growing interest in Anabaptism as a tradition that has much to offer the church in our present cultural context. Needless to say, there were a lot of Anabaptists there.

In one of the afternoon breakout sessions, pastors Greg Boyd, Paul Eddy, and Dennis Edwards spoke on spiritual warfare in “Fighting the Right Fight: An Anabaptist Perspective on Spiritual Warfare.”

I went to the first session and showed up a little early. The large room soon filled up and folks were turned away because of fire safety regulations. It was obvious that pastors and other practitioners were interested in the topic.

I remember during the discussion hearing someone say that “we (Anabaptists) don’t talk about this very much” largely because Anabaptists haven’t been known for drawing attention to unseen, spiritual realities.

It’s true that Anabaptists have mostly shied away from the “charismatic” and been more cerebral toward matters of faith. Something I’m hearing pastors in my district within Virginia Conference regrettably lament.

I got the distinct impression that folks were feeling like they wouldn’t even know where to begin in talking about this with their congregations.

While I was listening, I held an outline to a seven-week sermon series on this very topic. For me, the entire session and discussion was affirmation that the series I had put together was indeed something led by the Holy Spirit.

I was already set to begin the series that weekend.

Not Against Flesh & Blood

This coming Sunday I will be preaching the final message in the Not Against Flesh & Blood series at Christiansburg Mennonite Fellowship.

If you’re interested, you can download the sermons and the slides (PDF) at CMF’s sermon archives. The outline gives a brief description of each message.

1. Creation & Chaos
Scripture Reading: Genesis 1:1-2, 3:1-7; Romans 8:18-23; Ephesians 6:12

In the beginning the Triune God created an orderly universe out of love. Then somewhere in the primordial past a portion of his angelic agents began working against the Creator—war in the unseen realms! Chaos ensued and creation began her groaning. In time, the disorder and chaos that began in the heavenly realms were perpetuated with God’s highest creation in all of the physical world: mankind. The first human pair used their free will to spread sin and rebellion upon the earth. Does God hit the reset button on creation? No, God responds by enacting a mysterious, redemptive plan that would not only set the world to rights, but would eventually set the entire cosmos free from decay.

In the first message of the series, we look at how things came to be broken the way they are today, and how the spiritual forces of evil are still at work exploiting human weakness and opposing God’s will. It’s a struggle between good and evil, but ultimately the real battle is not one of flesh and blood.

2. Cruciformed Sovereignty
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 25:1, 7-9; Matthew 8:23-34; 1 John 3:8b

Isn’t God all-knowing? Didn’t God see this great cosmic rebellion coming? If so, why did he create in the first place? If evil comes to pass, God must have wanted it, right? Do we truly have free will, or is everything already determined? If it’s a real battle between good and evil in the heavenly realms, can God lose? What guarantees do we have that Satan will be outwitted and defeated? These are old questions, both philosophical and theological, but they need fresh biblical answers that are consistent with the God revealed in the crucified and resurrected Jesus—keeping in view the real struggle between good and evil (i.e. a battle of the wills), among what is seen and unseen.

In the second message of the series, we consider the problem of evil and God’s interaction with time (past, present, and future). How does God experience the present with us and see the future? If God’s sovereignty looks like Jesus’ power and domination over evil by the cross, and the real struggle isn’t with flesh and blood, what does this mean for how his followers should confront spiritual evil?

3. Prayer as Holy Resistance
Scripture Reading: Daniel 10:1-14; Mark 9:14-29; Matthew 6:5-13

In the Bible and in our experience, the future is partly open and partly settled. Therefore, prayer can be seen as joining with God in engaging the present in order to shape the future. He calls us in Christ to rebuke spiritual evil, even so-called “natural” evils, and bring about the Kingdom through our words and actions. Prayer is a cry for the Kingdom in an act of holy resistance against the evil that seeks to destroy us and our neighbors. Yes, we are changed when we pray, but so do those things around us when we pray in faith. According to the Scriptures, God acts through his Spirit and his heavenly court (i.e. angels) when we pray according to his will. In the way of Jesus, we resist in continual prayer.

In the third message of the series, we dispel of the notion that prayer only changes you and doesn’t have an effect on God or the outcome of the future. On the contrary, God has built it into the very fabric and framework of space and time that we would work with him in the redemptive story. In fact, without our free participation in the Kingdom’s work of resisting evil, we postpone God’s good promises to us.

4. Prayer in Imagination
Scripture Reading: Exodus 33:7-11; Matthew 6:5-13, 11:28-30 (MSG)

Having a warfare worldview and a robust theology of prayer is good, but it’s not enough. We need to be intentional in practicing a life of prayer. Jesus calls us to remain in constant communication with the Father as we go about our lives. He even expresses the holy desire to pray with his own disciples. But Christ also reveals that getting away to a private place is necessary for deepening our relationship with God and for getting in touch with the unseen realities of the world around us. In order to go deeper with God, we must learn to use a disciplined imagination to see Christ as we meet with him face to face.

In the fourth message of the series, we look at how this existential and mystical part of our faith requires that we use our minds for more than analyzing and doing mental gymnastics. We need a supernatural experience of the living Christ. Only then can we join the spiritual war on terror.

5. Sword of the Spirit
Scripture Reading: Psalm 119:1-16; Matthew 4:1-11; Ephesians 6:10-18

We constantly have messages and images running in our minds, even on repeat. Some are good and reflect God’s truth, others are bad and can hinder us, even destroy us. Filling our hearts and minds with Scripture is a powerful and effective way of combating the flesh and the devil. The psalmist knew that meditating and memorizing Scripture transformed the soul, and washed the dirt from his eyes. And Jesus, God in the flesh, immediately resorted to quoting Scripture when facing the tempter, Satan. How much more ought we make Scripture reading, study, and memorization part of our spiritual arsenal?

In the fifth message of the series, we look at the importance of reading and teaching Scripture to bring about the change God wants in our lives, and for transforming the church. Is our thinking being shaped more by the Scriptures, or by culture and our own limited experiences? How can we use the “sword of the Spirit” that’s at work in the written word to confront evil?

6. Worship as Warfare
Scripture Reading: Exodus 10:1-9; 2 Chronicles 20:1-30; Revelation 4:1-11

Worship is far more than our preferences for music and singing. In fact, true worship should have less to do with our personal preferences and more to do with how best to corporately express God’s infinite worth out of sincere thankfulness and celebration for who God is, what he has done, is doing, and will do for us. Furthermore, worship is an activity of heaven and earth. We join with heaven in our worship. Like it is with prayer, worship is calling down the Kingdom. It mysteriously expands the Kingdom in us and around us—pushing back the darkness that seeks to consume us with fear and hopelessness.

In the sixth message of the series, we look at how worship is used in spiritual warfare. It’s not about the performance. It’s not about our preferences. It’s about calling heaven down so that God’s glory would fill the earth. Worship is a part of spiritual warfare, because it’s not against flesh and blood. We join with the angels singing, and demons flee.

7. Hell Will Not Prevail
Scripture Reading: Matthew 16:13-18; 24:4-14; Revelation 12:10-12

Jesus said he saw Satan fall from heaven like lightening. In other words, our archenemy doesn’t have a chance against God almighty! Jesus crushed the head of the serpent, and now we merely see the erratic floundering of a rogue angel losing his power. Jesus said he would build his church and not even the gates of hell would prevail against her. Our promise comes from the crucified and resurrected one. He has defeated death and inaugurated the Kingdom, which is expanding through the church until his glorious return. What does this look like today while we still contend with a fighting enemy?

In the seventh and final message of the series, we look at how evangelism, in conjunction with our prayers and worship, should be seen as a powerful weapon to advance the Kingdom of God. The growing church will proclaim an end to evil and the rebellion that began long ago.

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“The God of peace will soon crush Satan…” Rom 16:20

D.D. Flowers, 2014.


The Kingdom Effect On Human Sexuality

A couple weeks ago I began preaching through a 9-week sermon series entitled, The Kingdom Effect: How Christ & the Kingdom Changes Everything.

The series is building off the idea of the butterfly effect, and the mustard seed as Jesus taught about in Matthew 13:31-32. The point being that something small and seemingly insignificant can make a huge impact and have lasting effects. The intent of the series is to survey the sweeping impact Christ and the Kingdom makes on us and the world.

Here is an outline of the series:

The Kingdom Effect…

  1. On the Individual
  2. On Human Sexuality
  3. On Marriage (One Flesh Unions)
  4. On Family
  5. On the Church, pt1
  6. On the Church, pt2
  7. On Society & Culture
  8. On Worldly Powers
  9. On the Future (of Heaven & Earth)

The first sermon addressed the new identity that believers receive upon repentance. The flesh or “sinful nature” is a lie that has been hurled upon us as a result of the Fall. I discussed this in my last post, Farewell to the Flesh.

As Paul wrote, the “pattern of the world” seeks to conform us to an identity of flesh and a distorted way of living in the world. But Christ has the power to transform us by changing the way we see and think about ourselves as “new creation” living in the present evil age. The Kingdom Effect begins with you!

Last Sunday I extended the first message to include human sexuality.

In the following post, I will touch on a few points from the sermon “On Human Sexuality” and elaborate on others.

Sexual Confusion Meets New Identity

Contrary to some of the cultural messages we receive today, we are not neutered souls residing in bodies that are inconsequential to personhood. We are a union of spirit/soul and body (Gen 2:7), and God made us male and female (Gen 1:27). The “real you” can only be discovered by first recognizing this union in God’s created order, even in our brokenness.

We seriously need to recognize this today. While we have been made in God’s image, we are broken and not as we should be. Christ and the Kingdom’s effect is to dispel the lies and deceptive voices that would have us root our identity in anything other than the person of Christ—the perfect image of God.

In coming to know Christ we discover that he is Lord of spirit, soul, and body. We are not our own, we were bought at a price. Our bodies belong to him for they are “temples of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 6:18-20).

It’s clear in the Old and New Testaments that sex is good within a monogamous marriage between male and female. While biblical characters often deviated from this pattern, the design is there, and it’s affirmed by Jesus.

In Matthew 19:4-6, Jesus says a man is to “cleave” or to be united with his wife as one flesh, referring back to Genesis 2:18-24. Paul also references this passage in Ephesians 5:25-31. This is the divine design: Sex is good and to be enjoyed between a husband and wife for life.

Neuroscience has been confirming this for several years now. Chemicals in the brain (neurotransmitters & hormones) are produced in us to “bond” us to one sexual partner, even producing a sense of fidelity. When a person defiles the body through pornography (detached from bodily union) and promiscuous sex (bonding & de-bonding), or other sexually deviant behavior, the brain and body are utterly shocked by the experience. I explain further in my sermon.

So this isn’t antiquated Hebrew religion talking. No, the idea of sex being between a man and woman in marriage is built into God’s design for human sexuality. Therefore, everything else is in time destructive to individuals and society at large for it goes against the natural order of things (Rom 1:18-32).

[Watch this TED talk on the terrible consequences of viewing pornography.]

This dysfunction ultimately leads to addictions, mental and emotional instability, and even more unhealthy thinking and behavior. And the physical side of this sexual confusion and chaos is putting oneself at risk for STDs.

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.”  Paul, 1 Corinthians 6:12-14 NIV

Paul says the body isn’t meant for sexual immorality (Gk: “porneia”). Paul uses porneia in his letters as an umbrella term to speak of all sexually deviant behavior outside of the one flesh union of husband and wife (1 Cor 7:1-16,39). The culture may think “casual sex” or having “the right” to do whatever sexually is liberating, but the Scripture teaches that it’s quite the opposite.

We may not claim as a “right” what God has not given to us.

I submit to you that I think a good bit of the culture’s sex-drive is only symptomatic of a deep longing and desire for real intimacy. Seen from this perspective, the church’s response should be different than years past.

God’s design isn’t meant to harm us or to keep us from human wholeness. But this has become difficult for folks, even in the church, to hear and to heed. Sexual fulfillment has become an idol in the culture and the church.

“The idol of sexual fulfillment has two faces: One face says that each person has the right to be sexually satisfied and that having sex is a necessary part of happy, mature adulthood (or even adolescence). The second face is a Christian one that says the reward for premarital sexual virtue is great marital sex.” Jenell William Paris, The End of Sexual Identity: Why Sex is Too Important to Define Who We Are

As strange as it may sound in our hyper-sexualized culture, sexual experience isn’t necessary for human wholeness, but being in covenant relationship with others in the church is vital to our health as image-bearers who have embraced a new identity in Christ. We don’t need marriage or sex to be happy.

Will we idolize sexual fulfillment, finding our identity in our sexual impulses and attractions, or will we let Christ and the Kingdom have their effect on us?

Marriage, Sex & Singleness

Jesus radically “redefined” marriage by placing it within the mission and purpose of the church and the Kingdom, but not by undermining Genesis 2:18-24. Instead, where the OT command was to marry and make babies, the NT command is to pledge to the Kingdom and make disciples (spiritual babies).

For those called to this biblical marriage, you and your family are to now serve the Kingdom, not your own interests. And for those persons who, for whatever reason, don’t enter marriage, Jesus has exalted singleness.

Jesus said that some should choose to “live like eunuchs for the kingdom” and be single (Matt 19:11-12). He’s not only making an argument for the legitimacy of his own celibate life, he is encouraging others in the same way.

The Kingdom inaugurated by Jesus has brought about a new relational and familial dynamic to the world through the Body of Christ. It declares that no one is destined to live a life of “singleness” apart from fulfilling relationships.

“The church is composed of the single and the married. Both are called to a life of faithfulness. All are called to be friends, defying the loneliness that threatens anyone not married.” Stanley Hauerwas

Singleness isn’t a disease that needs a cure. Some, like Jesus, may choose to live as eunuchs for the Kingdom, for one reason or another. The church needs to quit idolizing sex and marriage, along with the biblically confused in the church who press for political changes. It’s not the Kingdom way.

Sex is good within the context of a marriage that Christ affirms, but it will not bring fulfillment when there is desire for intimacy that runs deeper than sexual release. Sex only works as relational glue in a Christ-centered marriage.

Church, let us rise up and create communities where our deepest desire for intimacy with the divine and others (male and female) is being met within the family of God. It’s all a part of the Kingdom effect.

Both the married life and the single life are hard. Remember this: neither married life or sexual licentiousness guarantees intimacy. We are broken and only Christ offers living water that quenches the thirst (Jn 4:13-14).

Let this Water be found in our local churches, overflowing our lives in grace, among the married and those who are eunuchs for the Kingdom. This is our counter-cultural response to a sex-crazed and intimacy-deficient world.

D.D. Flowers, 2014.

 


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