“Semi-Live” Blogging the Ocean City Bible Conference; Session Six
Tuesday evening, September 14, 2010
(Disclaimer: These notes are an attempt to capture the main points of the speaker; mistakes are inevitable and I’m certain not every word and phrase was captured exactly.)
Paul Tripp: President of Paul Tripp Ministries, he is on the pastoral staff at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Professor of Pastoral Life and Care at Redeemer Seminary in Dallas, Texas, as well as the Executive Director of the Center for Pastoral Life and Care in Fort Worth, Texas.
“I was a very angry man”; problem was, I didn’t know. Wife, children knew. I was a pastor. Known for skill in counseling angry men. Wife would try to help me see, but was unwilling to hear. Told wife her problem was discontent. Would defend my righteousness.
Was a man headed for destruction. In the midst of destroying my ministry and my marriage.
Was at a conference with brother, Ted, who said “we ought to make this practical for our own lives.” Began to consider questions, and saw things in the depths of my soul. I talked with my wife and said I wanted to listen. She talked for two hours, which was the undoing and rebuilding of my life. Began to see themes of anger in the word. Months later, I remember seeing my wife and thinking I couldn’t remember the last time I was angry with her.
Why tell this story? No one in this room needs to be tweaked by grace. You and I need to be fundamentally rebuilt by grace. Know why Jesus tells us not to parade our righteousness before men? You don’t have any.
Told this story around the world and have had men say, “I’m that angry man.”
Why do we deal with anger the way we do? You don’t have anger free days. Traffic makes us pound on the dash.
It takes very little. Why? Why is it no one in this room would be comfortable having their two months words played for the entire group?
Why do we struggle so?
Turn to 2 Corinthians 5. There is a stunning insight here. The Bible is the worlds best diagnostic. And because the Bible is the world’s best diagnostic, it affords the world’s best cure.
Two exegetical problems with this passage: 1) so brief and 2) so misunderstood.
Begin with verse 14: “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (ESV)
Have you look with me at vs. 15, you get a purpose clause, “that those who live may no longer live for themselves.” You will never understand sin unless you understand these brief words.
I was created to live for something much larger than self; sin shrinks my life down to the smallest focus. The DNA of sin is selfishness. Sin turns me in on myself. Sin makes me a vat of personal wants, a vat of personal needs.
You see it very young. I was a kindergarten teacher for four years. The very first day of kindergarten, the exciting thing was lunch. Portable cuisine in their special lunchboxes. I was dreaming of kindergarten lunch bliss. Billy opens his box, says to Susie, “my lunch is better than yours”. He holds up piece of fried chicken, points at her lunch, says, “peanut butter”, makes Susie cry.
He has to be the center of attention, the one place you must never be.
Husbands, wives, friends, you do this all the time.
Why is it harder to spend $1000 on vacation that $1000 on missions? Selfishness.
A child came to me said she lost her watch. I asked the class who had lost a watch. Six children had lost watches. Suspected one boy, asked him. He led me to bathroom, found six watches hidden there. Why did he do this? Envy, covetousness.
One time a parent wanted to have a birthday party for her child. At the end of a decorated table with birthday girl at the end, was an enormous pile of gifts. Johnny, at end of table, holds up his party favors, starts to harrumph. The mother has enough, waxes theological: “it’s not your party”.
You and I have been born into an eternal celebration of another. It’s not our party.
When is the last time our anger had anything to do with the Kingdom of God? We’re angry because we’re not getting what we want. No wonder we’re better at conflict than peace.
We would rather win an argument with our wife than glorify him by showing unity with her.
I want, I want, I want, I want, I want, I want. Welcome to your world.
If the DNA of sin is selfishness, then sin in its fundamental form is antisocial. It puts me in toward my self. I was meant to live an others-oriented life. Meant to love God, neighbor as self. Sin turns me in on my self. I’m often angry, living a jealous craving life, inserting self in the center of the universe.
Your problem is not horizontal, it’s vertical. My problem has never been that I didn’t love Luella enough; it’s that I have never loved God enough.
If people don’t serve you they will be cursed by you. Ever gotten the silent treatment? The silent treatment is deeply theological. You have violated not the laws of God’s kingdom, but the laws of your kingdom.
If the DNA of sin is selfishness, then sin in its fundamental form is antisocial. Sin will cause me to dehumanize the people in my life. They are reduced to being either vehicles or obstacles. If you stand in the way of what I want, I will say and do things to get you back in line.
Here’s what Paul is saying. The greatest danger in the universe is you. We don’t believe the worst evil is outside of us, the worst evil is inside of me. “To the pure all things are pure.”
What’s the problem of monasticism? They let people in them. People bring their dramatic me-ism with them.
If you have people living for their own kingdom you will have unending conflict.
Play this out a little bit. Let’s say you’re parent of young children. Put them in bed, they are not sleeping. You’re probably not praying to be an instrument of redemption in the life of your children. You burst in and say “do you know what my day has been like!” You assault them verbally. Do you think your children are saying, “What a joy to live with this person?” Why are you angry? It has nothing to do with the kingdom of God. You are angry your children have broken the law of your kingdom. It needs to be said, what you do in that room is neither Christian nor parenting. You are not representing Christ. You are upset because they are not indulging the life of your kingdom. Such behavior does not lead them to Christ.
How dare we point to the arrogance of culture when it exists centered in the self.
Jesus came so that we would live no longer for ourselves, but for others. So that you could be rescued from you. There is no more pervasive idolatry than your idolatry of you.
Once I was in India doing research, in a holy city of Hinduism. In a temple, supposed to be an image of Shiva. Was a twenty foot male organ. Watched poor people grab the base of that thing, watched it being kissed. An impoverished family had walked 400 miles to go to that temple. Walking away I was praying, “Thank you God that I am not like those people,” when it hit me. I am. My idols are not overt, but covert, despised by God. That moment I prayed the best prayer I’ve ever prayed: Lord help me.
There is no in between. You are bound to the throne of the most high or bound to the throne of self. We don’t live in big moments. We live in the utterly mundane. If God doesn’t rule the mundane he doesn’t rule you because that’s where you live.
If my problem is not external and horizontal, then it is internal and vertical.
Look at the second part of the passage, vs. 16: “From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (ESV)
Paul says our position is to serve as ambassadors for God. All we do is represent another. You can not step in and out of ministry. That means your life is ministry. Life, marriage, work, entertainment is ministry. If you are an ambassador you are not at the center. Your glory isn’t the ultimate glory, God’s is. It also means you must represent the methods, the message, the character of the king. People don’t need your opinion.
Your job is not to turn you children into clones. They are not your servants. You must represent your Lord. He was a servant, you must be one to your family. You are to incarnate the methods, message and character of the King.
How do we work to get our children to get them to do what we want? First, we threaten. You just want your way. For a while threat works. But there comes a day when your children aren’t threatened. So we manipulate. Manipulation teaches them to love themselves. Children will do a cost-benefit analysis, asking is it worth it. How does that represent the king? Or guilt. We use guilt to motive behavior. This is not ambassadorial.
Now, this passage is most often viewed as evangelistic. But this is not an evangelistic passage. Verse 20: “therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
Who is the “you”? Corinthian Christians. What does it mean for a believer to be reconciled to God? In every horizontal conflict there is a vertical element. We insert ourselves in the position of God.
His real intent is to talk about reconciliation through sanctification. You have been reconciled, but you are in need of reconciliation. What does it mean for a believer to be reconciled to God? Verse 15 is the clue. To the degree you are still in concrete specific places in your life, living for self, you need to be reconciled. Anywhere you are living for your kingdom you need to be reconciled to God.
This needs to be every ministry of the church. If it’s not, shut it down. Children’s ministry, women’s ministry, men’s ministry, your worship service. If reconciliation to God is not the goal, shut it down.
If the DNA of sin is selfishness then the only hope of civilization is grace.
Be reconciled to God.
I’m going to hurt your feelings now. There is not a person in this room that doesn’t need to be further reconciled to God. You know that by admitting what a poor ambassador you are. You want the throne instead of wishing to bow down before it.
Wish I could say it’s not my struggle, but it is. I see the pull toward the kingdom of self.
First, Confession: I’m a man in deep need of help. The kingdom of self masquerades as the kingdom of God. A costume kingdom.
Second: I pray that in your grace you will send helpers my way.
Third: O Lord, please give me the humility to receive the help you send.
The main work of Jesus is targeting the kingdom of self.
Be reconciled to God.
This needs to be the work until the day that every tongue confesses that Jesus is Lord.