God’s Family Learns
Series: God's Family
In this incredibly rare instance, Pastor Matt preaches a topical sermon on very biblical principle that:
God’s family learns!
ESV Study Bible
The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden by Kevin DeYoung
“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” A.W. Tozer penned those words in 1961 and they are just as true for every one of us today as they were back then. “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” Imagine how differently your life plays out if what comes into your mind when you think about God is “probably doesn’t exist” vs. “harsh and distant judge” vs. “irrelevant & powerless grandfather” vs. “Our Father in Heaven.” But what comes into our minds when we think about God is not static, it can grow and change. Our knowledge of God is a little like the ocean. A few weeks ago, our family spent the day “down the shore” with Pastor Tim’s family and a few of other Citygroup leaders. I spent most of the day swimming in the ocean with our son, Soren, and his good buddy Zion. Apparently, Soren has shed all fear of the water because all day all he wanted to do was swim farther and farther out. His favorite place to swim now is where he can’t touch the bottom. He was so far out that we joked that he was halfway between NJ and England, which got me thinking about the actual vastness of the Atlantic. There are 323 million cubic kilometers of water in the Atlantic. To put this into perspective, if humans could live underwater, every person in the US could occupy their own cubic kilometer of the Atlantic. It’s massive. Knowledge of God is like the ocean. We know Him, yes. But we are just playing in the shallow breakers of NJ with Soren. There is a vast ocean of knowledge of Him that awaits us and is delightful. What comes into our minds when we think of him can joyfully grow! And that brings me to the fifth big idea of our God’s family series: God’s family learns. Now, some of you may be asking, “why do I need to learn about God, I just want to love God. I’m not into theology, I’m into God.” We’ll explore five reasons this morning: 1. Blessing 2. Protection 3. Love 4. Witness 5. Christ. Warning: I’m not going to tell you how to learn until after number 4. Stick with me. If we get “why,” then you’ll have all the motivation and discipline to engage the “how.”
When it comes to God’s family learning, our primary source and only ultimately authoritative source for growing in our knowledge of God, our world, and ourselves is the Bible. Consider what the Bible is. 2 Timothy 3:16 – All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness… Considering this and other verses, Citylight Church believes that what the Bible says is what God says and we believe that the Bible is where we swim in the vast ocean of the knowledge of God. God’s family learns about God from His Word.
Having said that, one reason why God’s family learns is because a life planted in God’s word is full of blessing. Psalm 1:1-3 – Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The Hebrew word esher (blessed) could be translated “supremely happy or content.” God’s family learns because the life planted in God’s word is full of blessing. Verse 3 shows us exactly what a life full of blessing is like. The person whose life is planted in God’s word is blessed in the sense that they are like a tree that is well watered. Andrea and I love to hike and one of our favorite places to hike is among the Redwood Trees in California, where I am from. These tree are among the largest and sturdiest in the world. They’re nearly impervious to extreme conditions, so long as they have ample water. However, if you try to plant a Redwood tree in a dry climate, they wilt. That’s a picture of blessing. When you plant your life deeply in God’s word. When you set your roots down deep into the knowledge of God and learn, your life will be full of blessing, not in the sense that winds and storms and fires won’t come. They will. But you’ll be so well-watered by God’s word that you’ll be one of those blessed people that are not blown over by the storms of life because through God’s word, you know your God who doesn’t change with our shifting circumstances. I want that! That’s why we learn.
As you no doubt have guessed from how often I quote him, Ray Ortlund is a spiritual hero of mine. I think I’ve met him twice. He prayed for me once. I’ll never forget it. In an article entitled “10 Unforgettable Lessons on Fatherhood” Ray Ortlund recounts ten lessons he learned from his dad, Ray Ortlund Sr. Listen to lesson 2: My dad was a Bible man. “My dad was wholeheartedly devoted to Jesus. On my seventeenth birthday, he and my mom gave me a new Bible. In the front he wrote the following: Bud, Nothing could be greater than to have a son — a son who loves the Lord and walks with Him. Your mother and I have found this Book our dearest treasure. We give it to you and doing so can give nothing greater. Be a student of the Bible and your life will be full of blessing. We love you. Dad.” Psalm 1 is a note from your heavenly Father. “Learn God’s word and your life will be full of blessing.” God’s family learns not with cold detachment, but warm expectation.
I love the way The Biggest Story, which I often read to our kids during devotions, paraphrases the beginning of the Bible. “Once upon a time there lived a man and a woman. They were the happiest people on the plant. True, they were the only people on the planet, but they were still terrifically happy.” What happened to all that terrific happiness? Satan tricked Adam and Eve into believing the terrible lie that God didn’t really love them and that what he says can’t really be trusted. It’s the same lie we’ve all believed. Listen to how it happened. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate (Genesis 3:1-6). Adam and Eve distrusted God’s heart and grabbed for God’s glory, but it all started with doubting his word. There is a parallel to that scene in the Garden in the life of the Lord Jesus, who is sometimes called the Second Adam. After 40 days of fasting, the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the desert and Satan once again showed up to tempt. But Jesus proves to be the new, the true, and the greater Adam by resisting all of Satan’s temptations that we have succumbed to. But do you know how he did it? He resisted with God’s word, which he had learned by heart! Matthew 4:3-4 – And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Three times Satan tempted the New Adam and three times He stood on God’s word and resisted Satan’s lies. Learning God’s word protects us from the terrible lie and equips us to resist his temptations and false-doctrines as we walk in every good work the Father has prepared for us. God’s family learns with the urgency of soldiers who must know how to use their defensive and offensive weaponry in battle.
Like nearly all parents of young children, especially young boys, I know way more about trains than I could have ever hoped. When our son was little, not only did he go through the train phase, but we also lived a block and a half from the regional rail in East Falls, so trains were big for us. Believe it or not, trains help us understand why God’s family learns. Philippians 1:9 – And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment. Philippians 1:9 portrays love like a train that runs on the tracks of knowledge and all discernment. Love toward others moves along the twin tracks of growing knowledge and discernment. It’s easy to say, “be loving,” but how do you love? How do you specifically love a disobedient young child, a wayward teenager, a sinning brother or sister in Christ, someone who is same sex attracted, a co-worker who is indifferent or even antagonistic to the gospel, or someone stuck in the mire of pornography, love of money, narcissism, or excessive negativity? It’s not so simple. Gospel-fluency is what we need to love one another well, this requires learning.
After his sinless life, atoning death, and victorious resurrection, but just before he ascended into Heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ spoke these now famous words: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). A witness is someone who speaks about what they have heard and experienced of Christ. Part of following Jesus is speaking about the good news of Jesus to others, praying that they will become followers of Christ. And it’s a promise, Jesus said you will be my witnesses. And God’s family learns God’s word so that we can be powerful witnesses to our neighbors that we love. 1 Peter 3:15 – but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect. God’s family learns God’s word so that we are always prepared to give a reason – a rational and understandable explanation or defense – for the hope that we have in the Lord Jesus Christ. God’s family learns God’s word for the sake of our witness.
Often the most overlooked witnessing opportunities are at home. Ephesians 6:4 – Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Moms and dads both bring up their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Full stop. But, God specifically addresses dads in Eph. 6:4. Dads, our Heavenly Father has given us the sacred privilege of taking the lead in teaching our children God’s word and sound doctrine, being witnesses with our words and lives to our kids. Wow! I’m so thankful for you dads. I’m for you. God is for you. Why else would he give you this privilege?! You’re noble men. You’re hard workers, good providers, and you’re under incredible pressure. You carry the weight of the world on your shoulders with dignity. I love you guys. I know you’re busy. Don’t let good things crowd out the most important thing, which is being witnesses at home, raising your children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Therefore, dads, we learn. When it comes to you learning, the stakes couldn’t be higher, but God is with you and our church is behind you and will teach you God’s word so that you can teach others also. Review: blessing, protection, love, witness.
Time to get practical. There are a myriad of ways that God family learns, but because we believe that God’s family learning is so significant, this fall, thanks to the tireless work of our very own Dr. Reverend Mark Giaccobe, also known as Pastor Mark, we are launching the first phase of the Citylight Institute. The Citylight Institute is a new ministry of Citylight Manayunk designed to teach covenant members to observe all that Jesus commanded for the purpose of reaching our city, nation, and world with the gospel. This fall we will be offering three classes. The classes are called Christianity 101, Bible for Life, and Gospel for Life. Christianity 101, which is open to anyone, whether you’re a member of Citylight Church or not will cover topics such as salvation by grace, growing in fellowship through the church, and spiritual disciplines such as Bible reading, prayer, and sharing your faith. This is ideal for new Christians but is highly relevant for more seasoned Christians who could use a refresher on topics central to our relationship w/ Jesus and our walk with him. Bible for Life, which is open to covenant members – Learn all about God’s written Word: What it is, how it came to be, why we can trust it, how to interpret it, and how to apply it to ourselves and to others. Gospel for life, which is open to covenant members – Learn all about the gospel – the central message of the Bible. What is the central storyline of the Bible? How can I apply the gospel to myself and others? How does the good news about Jesus affect our identity, our work, and our world? Now that we’ve learned why God’s family learns God’s word, my invitation is for all of you to take your next step in learning by registering for a course at citylightphilly.com/institute. Take a moment and take a picture of the URL or even open the website on your smart phone so that you’re ready to register after the service is over. Ok, last reason why we learn…
The final reason why God’s family learns God’s word is because in God’s word we find all the treasures of wisdom in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Colossians 2:2-3 – …to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Friends, God’s family learns God’s word because in it we find all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge in a person, in the word that became flesh, in the Lord Jesus Christ. We learn God’s word because in it we find that the one in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, the alpha and the omega, the image of the invisible God, the Lord Jesus Christ came near to us, lived righteously in our place, died as a substitute for our judgment, and rose victoriously to give us eternal life now and forever. God’s family learns God’s word so that we can bask in the treasure that is Jesus Christ.