Myanmar 2018 SEVEN Part series
Overcoming Obstacle to Revival
21 OCT 2018
The Word and Spirit of Love
29 OCT 2018
05 NOV 2018
Stephen and the Final Judgement
19 NOV 2018
Isa 52:13 – 53:12 ESV; Phil 2:5-11 ESV
IntroductionThe Western Church has become accustomed to scandals at every level. The scale of the disgrace exposed by the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse is well known. As recently as last Monday there was a report on television reporting concerning the alleged failure of Hillsong founder Brian Houston to take appropriate legal action in relation to the acknowledged paedophilia of his father.
Famous megachurch pastor Bill Hybels has recently been indicted for molesting women, then just a couple of days ago NRL star Jarrod Hayne, whose dramatic conversion to Christianity was in the national media only a few years ago, was charged with sexual assault.
Earlier this year there were highly public media reports about high rates of domestic violence in Australian Evangelical churches. The reputation of institutional Christianity has been damaged in a way that looks irreparable.
Reputation, or more profoundly honour, is a powerful part of human life.
The whole nation was shocked when early this year when 14-year-old “Akubra Dolly” killed herself unable to overcome the shaming power of social media bullying.
There seems to be a universal need to be honoured. When speakers tell you about the size of “their” church or how many countries in the world they’re ministered in they are promoting their own reputation, not the Lord’s (cf. Jer 45:5 ESV).
I tried to tell my audience in Myanmar that all this Pastor John / Dr John stuff was unhealthy, but it had zero impact.
What grieves me about so much of public Church life is its failure to be concerned for God’s reputation.
Back in 2016 (Monday 25 April) the ABC current affairs programme Q & A run a special titled Church and State where the interviewer and panel1)see URL https://www.abc.net.au/qanda/church-and-state/10653048 Panellist John Haldane Panellist Julie McCrossin Panellist Ray Minniecon Panellist Rev. Tiffany Sparks Panellist Lyle Shelton were all Christians. (Transcript here )
What appalled me was that with lots of talk about politics and ethics no-one spoke about Jesus as a person alive today.
The honour of the living God is a majestic theme throughout the scriptures. The consequences of dishonouring him are incalculable, “the LORD declares: ‘Far be it from me, for those who honour me I will honour, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed.” (1 Sam 2:30 ESV).
It is not that God is somehow insecure and needs a good name in the eyes of his creatures; but that the honouring of God’s reputation is our salvation.
The Lord has never needed to prove anything to his creatures because in eternity the loving appreciation of Father, Son and Holy Spirit for each other was their mutual glory.
The coming of Christ as the predestined Lamb of God2)See Biblical References 1 Pet 1:19-20 ESV; Rev 13:8 ESV reveals in time the infinite esteem Father and Son always had for one another.
Jesus’ prayer in John 17:5 ESV, “ “Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” ” reflects a desire to return to that boundless glory.
He returns to that glory taking redeemed humanity with him into the honour of the community of God because of the way he honours the Father through death and exaltation. But there are rival honour systems in the universe which claim to offer more benefit than the Lord.
Somehow prior to the human creation, Satan and his host contended for a place of honour above God and fell from the divine favour. 3)See Biblical References Details of this are obscure, but certain outlines can be traced from scripture e.g. Isa 14:12-14 ESV; Ezek 28:2-17 ESV; Matt 25:41 ESV; Rev 12:7 ESV. In Eden, God gave space for his reputation to be contested by the devil.
By creating humans in his image and for his glory and calling them by his “name” (Isa 43:6-7 ESV) the Lord attached his honour to humanity and so we became objects of Satanic hatred.
In attacking the fidelity of God’s Word, “ “vs.4You will not surely die.vs.5For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” ” (Gen 3:4-5 ESV) the devil besmirches God’s honour in his relationship with Adam and Eve.
He represents the Father-Creator of humanity (Luke 3:38 ESV) as a dishonourable liar and deceiver who deserves to be disobeyed.
By joining in this judgement on the divine character Adam and Ever stripped off their share both in the honour and glory of God (Rom 3:23 ESV). This meant they also lost the honour due to each other. When they looked at one another Adam and Eve knew in their hearts they had failed and disgraced one another.
Naked and ashamed cut off from relational intimacy and distanced from God and one another they tried to cover up their dishonour (Gen 3:7 ESV).
Their exclusion from the presence of the Lord in Eden (Gen 3:22-14 ESV) merely reflected their spiritual fall. After Eden humanity lives constantly under the shame-inducing accusations of the devil4)See Biblical References cf. Zech 3:1 ESV; Rev 12:9-10 ESV with all the blame that has brought against oneself, God and others.
Though totally dishonoured in Eden God had a plan to esteem and lift humanity up into his glory through covenant partnership. To Israel “belonged” a glory (Rom 9:9 ESV) which would be realised through the worship of the one true Lord; “ “vs.3You shall have no other gods before me. vs.4You shall not make for yourself a carved image… vs.5You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God…” (Ex 20:3-5 ESV).
God’s very name is “Jealous”5)See Biblical References Ex 34:14 ESV cf. Deut 6:15 ESV; Josh 24:19 ESV for he the whole weight of his being is given to displaying his essential glory through Israel to the world.
This theme of honouring God alone is essentially potent in the book of Ezekiel.
When Israel worships other gods the Lord’s holy name is profaned in the sight of the nations6)See Biblical References Ezek 16:20-23 ESV cf. Isa 52:5 ESV. For it is the betrayed partner who feels shame.
Whilst the text does not say the Lord experiences shame, it does speak of his brokenheartedness (Ezek 6:9 ESV). The former prophets (Ezek 38:17 ESV) warned Israel that God would destroy her if she played the harlot but she had become an adulterous wife who felt no shame (Ezek 16:15 ESV ff.).
Finally, out of “concern for my holy name”((See Biblical References Ezek 36:21 ESV; cf. Ezek 20:9, 22, 40 ESV)), concern for his honour and reputation, the Lord destroyed the temple and sent the nation into exile. Only by publicly shaming Israel could God’s own shaming before the nations be put right; the restoration of his honour before the world was everything for without it no-one could be saved.
Fifty-five times in Ezekiel God expresses his purpose in judging and restoring Israel as, “that they may know that I am the Lord”; this recognition of the divine character is to encompass the whole world (Ezek 36:21-24 ESV).
The restoration of a holy covenant relationship with Israel required nothing less total than the shame of conquest and the loss of the divine gift of temple and land which she held so precious. Stripped of their delusions about their sacred security repentance will come to Israel as she takes back on herself the shame she has brought on God. Relationship will be perfectly restored through a holy and everlasting covenant7)See Biblical References Ezek 16:60-62 ESV; Ezek 34:25 ESV; Ezek 37:26 ESV.
Perhaps the most remarkable feature of Ezekiel is its six passages where Israel will be ashamed after the Lord restores them and has removed all the normal causes of shame8)See Biblical References Ezek 16:59-63 ESV; Ezek 20:43-44 ESV; Ezek 36:31-32 ESV; Ezek 39:20 ESV; Ezek 43:10-11 ESV; Ezek 44:9-14 ESV.
In chapter 16, for instance, the forgiveness of the notoriously wicked Sodom and Samaria, and their gift to Israel as her “daughters” will shame her so deeply that no room is left for future pride. vs.61 “Then you will remember your ways and be ashamed when you take your sisters, both your elder and your younger, and I give them to you as daughters…vs.62 I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the Lord, vs.63 that you may remember and be confounded, and never open your mouth again because of your shame, when I atone for you for all that you have done, declares the Lord God.” ” (Ezek 16:61-63 ESV)
The people will sustain a sense of disappointment for past actions and sin even when land, temple and covenant have been renewed for they will be graciously given a new heart and spirit sensitive to the heart of God9)See Biblical References Ezek 11:19 ESV; Ezek 36:25-27 ESV.
God is glorified in forgiving their wickedness so their sense of shame is itself a sign of being forgiven and cleansed from idolatries. Only by going through an experience of judgement and restoration which is absolute, total, and final in nature can Israel intimately “know that I am the Lord”.
This is the meaning of the valley of dry bones passage with its typology of death-and-resurrection (Ezek 37:1-14 ESV). Only under such extreme conditions can shame and the saving knowledge of God as Judge-Saviour co-exist. Through divinely granted shame the remembrance of an utterly gracious deliverance is permanent. All of these images speak to us of Christ.
Jesus came into the world to restore the honour of his Father10)See Biblical References John 5: 23, 41 ESV; John 7:18 ESV. As in Ezekiel a concentration point for this is the defilement of the Jerusalem temple, Christ’s cleansing of “ “my Father’s house” ” would lead to his death11)See Biblical References John 2:16-17 ESV; Ps 69:9 ESV.
For whilst the restoring power of the words and works of Jesus meant highly esteemed by the people12)See Biblical References Matt 26:5 ESV; John 12:19 ESV the power brokers of Israel gave him no esteem (Matt 21:37-38 ESV).
This had to be so because God’s plan for the salvation of the world through the restoration of his own reputation made it necessary for his Son, the very radiance of his glory (Heb 1:3 ESV), to be dishonoured in death.
I was once involved in a marital crisis involving separation, adultery and consequent deep depression.
The word I had at that time that brought healing came from Philippians 2:7 ESV in the KJV, Christ “made Himself of no reputation” in going to the cross. The disgraceful death of a crucifixion was precisely chosen by God (John 12:27-29, 33 ESV) because for the Jews a hung man was outside of the covenant of glory (Deut 21:22-23 ESV) and for the Romans crucifixion was reserved for the lowest sort of criminal.
The cross was so publicly dishonouring that it was inconceivable to the Jews that the Messiah could endure such a shameful death and to the Romans that a Saviour-god could be so shamed (For Islam, a true prophet could not suffer like this.)
Isaiah prophesied about this ultimate scandal (cf. 1 Cor 1:23 ESV), “vs.3He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.vs.4Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.” (Isa 53:3-4 ESV).
Whilst the scripture makes Jesus’ disgrace in the eyes of men of very small account, Hebrews 12:2 ESV tells us that Christ “despised the shame” (Heb 12:2 ESV), this doesn’t describe the Son’s experience before God.
Whereas Jesus’ constant use of the holy name “Father” honoured God as he was due (John 17:3, 11 ESV), the cry of dereliction, “ “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” ” (Mark 15:34 ESV) points to a time when he senses no honouring by the Father.
This is a time of exile when he was unable to behold the glory of God a time when he is stripped of the manifest glory of God.
Whereas the prodigal son who shamefacedly confessed, “ “I am no longer worthy to be called your son” ” was met on the road by a running father (Luke 15:20-21 ESV), for the sinless Jesus on the cross there is no honouring.
For he is taking humanity’s shame and lost glory before God upon himself. Bearing our sin he carries our unworthiness, dishonour and evil reputation13)See Biblical References 2 Cor 5:21 ESV; 1 Pet 2:24 ESV. To ordinary human sight the reputation of the God who Jesus preached, a God of unconditional love showing mercy to the worst of sinners, is completely destroyed by the cross. But the cross is not the end.
Because he has honoured the Father by his total sacrifice Jesus has been completely taken up into the glory of God, “declared to be Son of God with power” (Rom 1:4 ESV), his vindication and exaltation re-establishes the reputation of God.
The testimony that Jesus was vs.4 “raised from the dead by the glory of the Father” (Rom 6:4 ESV), vs.10 “given the name that is above every name… that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, vs.11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil 2:10-11 ESV) witnesses that the honour of God in relation to humans has not only been restored but recreated at a new and indestructible level.
The apostolic proclamation that Jesus has been exalted “by God”14)See Biblical References Acts 2:24, 32 ESV, Acts 3:13, 15 ESV; Acts 4:10 ESV; Acts 5:31 ESV; Acts 10:40 ESV; Acts 13:30 ESV; Acts 17:31 ESV etc. is a proclamation that God is faithful to all his promises. In him, there is no place for shame, at least by ordinary causes.
The Honour of the Church
The promise, “he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies” (Rom 8:11 ESV) had a powerful impact on the life of the early Church for it meant that the days of social dishonour were over.
The lowliest of believers enjoyed a status far above any of the citizens of this world (1 Cor 1:26-31 ESV). Paul could “suffer the loss of all things” that he once considered dear (Phil 3:8 ESV) with the calmness of spirit; “it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court,” he says (1 Cor 4:3 ESV). As Jesus is our righteousness (1 Cor 1:30 ESV) he is our honour and reputation.
Understanding esteem in this way releases us to seek honour from God in order that he might be honoured. God, says Paul, vs.6 “will render to each one according to his works:vs.7to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, he will give eternal life” (Rom 2:6-7 ESV). To seek honour from God for the sake of his reputation is Christlike.
Until Jesus returns we live in an age where the divine reputation is contested. “ “Where is the promise of his coming?” drone the scoffers in Second Peter (2 Pet 3:3-4 ESV). The answer to such objections is found in the quality of the lives of Christians under pressure.
The book of Revelation written to those who are partners “in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus” (Rev 1:9 ESV) and is an encouragement to reviled believers to live faithfully for the slaughtered Lamb of God (cf. 1 Peter 2:21-23 ESV).
Only when there are, so to speak, many small crosses and many tiny Lamb’s amongst the people of God can there be the fitting radiance of the divine glory, mercy and forgiveness restoring God’s reputation before a cynical world.
What I have discussed so far about the honour of God in the Church lacks its most crucial and painful element. That divinely established shame is a powerful spiritual benefit to the Church seems hardly understood today. Paul says casually to the Roman Church about the ongoing pain of past sins, “But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed?” (Rom 6:21 ESV).
Even after our restoration in Christ, there’s an ongoing place for shame in the discipline and life of the Church15)See Biblical References 1 Cor 6:5 ESV; 1 Cor 15:34 ESV; 2 Thess 3:14 ESV.
In the light of the public scandals with which I started this sermon, it seems we have forgotten how to read the signs of the times through the lens of the cross. We seem to be in a cloud of confusion about shame, fuelled by personal experience and culture as if shame’s power had not been mastered and totally transformed by Jesus.
The death-and-resurrection of Jesus demonstrates that a willingness to endure public shame for God’s honour is always followed by elevation to glory16)See Biblical References Mark 14:36 ESV; Luke 21:12 ESV ff; Heb 2:9 ESV; Heb 12:2 ESV; 1 Pet 5:6 ESV.
To be dishonoured for the sake of the gospel is an essential part of how we honour God.
This includes at a foundational level a carrying of shame because of the sins of others. The pious and seemingly blameless Daniel confesses and prays as one with his people in exile, “To us, O Lord belongs open shame” (Dan 9:7-8 ESV).
A Body that refuses to accept she is in a place of open shame under the disciplines of God is stuck in a spiritual immaturity which cannot see shame as a gift from her crucified Lord. This is a crisis about the power of the gospel.
The gospel reveals that God with his whole being; wants us to honour him, whatever the cost, so that we might be taken up into his own glory in Christ.
The more we esteem the Lord the greater our uplifting into the glory of Christ’s death-and-resurrection17)See Biblical References cf. 2 Cor 4:7-12 ESV; Phil 3:10 etc. ESV. To enter into these things presents however a great struggle because such a path is in direct opposition to the message of self-esteem ruling our culture and much of the Church.
Our society is on the side with people broken by the circumstances of life, but we need to be broken by God, humbled so that in seeing the distance between our present unholiness and the glory into which we are called in Christ shame becomes a divine gift leading to repentance and restoration.
We are called to identify with the public shame of the cross, to, as Hebrews puts it, “go out to him, outside the camp, and bear the disgrace he bore” (Heb 13:13 ESV). If God’s heart was “broken” over the adultery of Israel (Ezek 6:9 ESV) how is he feeling about the state of the Church today?
Such things are too painful to ever embrace unless we are anchored in the security of the new covenant relationship with the Lord that makes us guiltless before him.
The teaching of scripture and the history of revivals would teach that only exposure before God in the context of a public confession of sin can restore fellowship with the Lord in such a way as to break the disabling shaming of our culture.
Such sovereign moves of God are his responsibility, but in the meantime, we can decide to stop being concerned for our own reputation and be solely concerned for the Lord’s. God’s reputation, established in the gospel, is the salvation of the world.
MESSAGE, DELIVERED: Date 25th Nov 2018 Location: Alive@5
Author: Dr. John Yates
YouTube or PODCAST:
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||see URL https://www.abc.net.au/qanda/church-and-state/10653048 Panellist John Haldane Panellist Julie McCrossin Panellist Ray Minniecon Panellist Rev. Tiffany Sparks Panellist Lyle Shelton|
|2.||↑||See Biblical References 1 Pet 1:19-20 ESV; Rev 13:8 ESV|
|3.||↑||See Biblical References Details of this are obscure, but certain outlines can be traced from scripture e.g. Isa 14:12-14 ESV; Ezek 28:2-17 ESV; Matt 25:41 ESV; Rev 12:7 ESV.|
|4.||↑||See Biblical References cf. Zech 3:1 ESV; Rev 12:9-10 ESV|
|5.||↑||See Biblical References Ex 34:14 ESV cf. Deut 6:15 ESV; Josh 24:19 ESV|
|6.||↑||See Biblical References Ezek 16:20-23 ESV cf. Isa 52:5 ESV|
|7.||↑||See Biblical References Ezek 16:60-62 ESV; Ezek 34:25 ESV; Ezek 37:26 ESV|
|8.||↑||See Biblical References Ezek 16:59-63 ESV; Ezek 20:43-44 ESV; Ezek 36:31-32 ESV; Ezek 39:20 ESV; Ezek 43:10-11 ESV; Ezek 44:9-14 ESV|
|9.||↑||See Biblical References Ezek 11:19 ESV; Ezek 36:25-27 ESV|
|10.||↑||See Biblical References John 5: 23, 41 ESV; John 7:18 ESV|
|11.||↑||See Biblical References John 2:16-17 ESV; Ps 69:9 ESV|
|12.||↑||See Biblical References Matt 26:5 ESV; John 12:19 ESV|
|13.||↑||See Biblical References 2 Cor 5:21 ESV; 1 Pet 2:24 ESV|
|14.||↑||See Biblical References Acts 2:24, 32 ESV, Acts 3:13, 15 ESV; Acts 4:10 ESV; Acts 5:31 ESV; Acts 10:40 ESV; Acts 13:30 ESV; Acts 17:31 ESV etc.|
|15.||↑||See Biblical References 1 Cor 6:5 ESV; 1 Cor 15:34 ESV; 2 Thess 3:14 ESV|
|16.||↑||See Biblical References Mark 14:36 ESV; Luke 21:12 ESV ff; Heb 2:9 ESV; Heb 12:2 ESV; 1 Pet 5:6 ESV|
|17.||↑||See Biblical References cf. 2 Cor 4:7-12 ESV; Phil 3:10 etc. ESV|