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Purpose To discover and experience Jesus Christ in our midst To cultivate mutually encouraging relationships To participate in God’s mission to the world  Opening Prayer Lord God of all creation we come to you from our storm-tossed lives to seek your peace; we come to you with our questions and uncertainties, our worries and anxieties, we come to you from our joy and our happiness. Eternal God as we ask that you accept our prayers through Jesus Christ our Lord, we pray that from the grace we have received, what we say and what we do will enable those around us to glimpse the life of the your Son—who calmed the storm with words which still echo down the centuries, ‘Peace be still.’ Amen. Responsive Prayer—Psalm 67 1May God be gracious to us and bless us  and make his face to shine upon us. 2That your way may be known on earth,  your saving power among all nations. 3Let the peoples praise you, O God;  Let all the peoples praise you! 4Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,  for you judge the peoples with equity  and guide the nations upon earth. 5Let the peoples praise you, O God;  Let all the peoples praise you! 6The earth has yielded its increase;  God, our God, shall bless us. 7God shall bless us;  let all the ends of the earth fear him! Summary and Connection This week we will take a close look at Matthew 8:23-27 to discover Jesus’ awesome display of power and authority to rescue his disciples from cataclysms of both nature and human nature. The pericope begins with the disciples following Jesus onto a boat to travel across the Lake of Galilee. In the parallel account of this passage in Mark 4, we learn that there were other boats present as Jesus and his disciples embarked on their journey (Mark 4:36). In verse 24 we read about a great storm rising. The storm was so intense that the fishing boat was vigorously shaken, and the water level began to rise in the boat. Matthew uses the Greek word “seismos” to describe the nature of the cataclysmic event. Seismos can refer to an earthquake or a raging storm. It is interesting to note that the Lake of Galilee is located around 700 feet below sea level surrounded by steep hills on the west and forbidding mountains on the east. Several commentators believe that the rapidly rising hot air drew cold winds from the southeastern tablelands that could churn up the water resulting in a violent storm. In any case, both Matthew and Mark’s accounts describe this storm as catastrophic in nature. In verse 24, Matthew contrasts the violent storm and the upheaval it caused among the disciples with Jesus sleeping soundly. According to one commentator, Jesus was “dead asleep” as the storm was threatening to destroy the lives of everyone aboard. The disciples cry out to Jesus saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” Jesus wakes up and rebukes his disciples for their little faith, and extreme fear. Jesus also rebukes the raging storm. His authoritative command immediately subdues the storm, resulting in a great calm. Matthew records the response of the disciples. The disciples extreme fear is replaced by inexplicable awe and reverential fear. Their experience ranged from distress in response to extreme upheaval, to great fear and awe in response to great calm produced by a single rebuke from their Lord. They couldn’t help but marvel, “what sort of man is this, that even the winds and sea obey him?”  In this passage we see a brilliant juxtaposition of human nature of Jesus with his divine nature. We see Jesus’ true humanity in his sleeping, and true divinity in his nature commanding authority. In the previous section (8:18-22), we learn about the cost of following Jesus. In this section, we see the disciples experiencing the true cost of following Jesus. The disciples who had only seen Jesus saving others now personally experience the saving power of their Lord.  We learn about the vital characteristics of Christian life, discipleship, and faith from this passage. Firstly, those who follow Jesus onto the boat over the ocean of life must expect storms by the way. The reality of storms in our lives is not evidence against the power and presence of God, rather the storms act as means to prove the power and presence of God. One commentator makes an insightful observation: “If the disciples respond to an absolute call to discipleship and hence leave all and risk their lives, they must also understand that the one who calls them will also preserve them in whatever circumstances they find themselves in.” We also learn a vital lesson about faith from this passage. Jesus rebukes the disciples for their lack of faith. The literal Greek translation is “little faiths.” A little faith is a passive acceptance of truths and a mere intellectual affirmation of dogmas. It is a faith that is built on the sand and not on the rock. Thus, when the storms of life hit, it comes crashing down. True faith, as depicted in the gospels, is a form of courage, and its absence is a form of cowardice. Thus, when Jesus rebukes the disciples for their little faith, he does not rebuke them for their quantity of faith, but the quality of their faith. Matthew Henry captures this truth well: “He does not chide them for disturbing him with their prayers but for disturbing themselves with their fears.”  Most importantly, this passage gives us an insight into Jesus’ heart. Jesus responds to our cries of feeble faith. Jesus listens to our cries, even when our faith is weak and cowardly. He responds by rebuking the storms that threaten to destroy us. He replaces our great storms with great calm—shalom: the wholesome peace of God’s presence. Finally, this passage provides a picture of a church. The boat represents the global church, and the storm is a picture of persecution the church is subjected to. Church history is filled with accounts of persecution, heresies, and moral failures of ministers and leaders. Although it may appear that Jesus is asleep while the church is struggling to survive, we must not forget that he is still in complete control. Through his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus has united himself with his bride—the church. Jesus has calmed the greatest storm—sin, by giving his life to establish and sustain his church. Discussion Questions 1. Looking at the Bible What does the text say? What according to you is the theme of this passage? In verse 24, we see the disciples in great distress. They cry out, “Save us Lord; we are perishing.” What can we learn about their faith in Jesus and their understanding of the divine nature of Jesus? Jesus rebukes his disciples by saying, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Was Jesus’ rebuke fair considering the predicament the disciples were in? What can we learn about the nature of faith from Jesus’ words? 2. Looking at Jesus At Central we believe that all of Scripture points to Jesus. In other words, Jesus is the theological center of the Bible. Every passage not only points to Jesus, but the grand narrative of the Bible also finds its fulfillment in the person and work of Jesus. What do you make of the fact that Jesus was sleeping during the storm? Why is it important that Jesus would calm the storm? What does that say to us? What can we learn about the heart of Jesus from this passage? 3. Looking at Our Hearts Do you trust that Jesus is fully God and in control of the storms? Do you trust that Jesus loves you and cares for you even as he allows you to endure the storms of life? If not, why not? If so, how has that helped you in difficult times? 4. Looking at Our World How does this passage give us hope and confidence as a church to respond to the storms of persecution, moral failures, and scandals with faith and not fear?   Sending God’s word is a lamp to our feet. Christ’s teachings are a light to our path. May God’s word take root in our lives. May Christ’s love nourish and sustain us. Amen.

March 19, 2023 | Read

A God-Shaped Imagination

The face-off between David and Goliath in the Valley of Elah is one of the most well-known and beloved stories from the Bible. Even people who have never read the Bible have heard this one. And yet, despite its familiarity, it is often misunderstood. We love stories like David and Goliath because we read it as an inspiring story about an underdog. David is a small, young, and inexperienced boy who does not stand a chance against the battle-tested Goliath. But David doesn’t play by the traditional rules of combat. He relies on his brains rather than his brawn, and he takes Goliath out with the unconventional weapon of a sling. Goliath literally never sees it coming. The moral of the story seems to be: The bigger they come, the harder they fall. We find stories about underdogs so compelling because we see ourselves in the same light. We like to imagine that it is “us” against “the world,” and if we can meet life’s challenges with enough courage, grit, and strength, we, too, can be the hero of our own story.  But this is precisely how the story of David and Goliath—and the Bible as a whole—is often misread. The Bible is not all about you and what you must do for God, but rather the Bible is all about God and what he does for you by his grace.  David is not simply a brave little boy who is unafraid of the big, bad giant. He is not merely an underdog who is unusually courageous. He is the Lord's Anointed who has been chosen to fight the Lord's battles. He does not demonstrate mere courage, but rather the courage of faith. Most people think that faith is believing without, or even against, the evidence. It is a blind, irrational leap in the dark. But that is not a biblical conception of faith. Faith is simply learning to see things the way they really are. Faith means perceiving reality. By reality, I do not mean a world that has been stripped of God, but rather a world that is saturated with God. We will never become fully human, discover our truest selves, or be able to navigate the myriad stresses and strains of life until we learn to live by faith. An Imagination Dominated by Goliath or God? The difference between David and everyone else in the Valley of Elah was that David was filled with a God-dominated imagination rather than a Goliath-dominated imagination. The fundamental problem for many of us is that we have a Goliath-dominated imagination. Goliath is all we can see. Goliath becomes all-important, and everything else is insignificant. Goliath becomes the defining reality of our lives and paralyzes us with anxiety and fear. For some of us, our Goliath is relational. There is a person—a boss, teacher, family member, or colleague—who is standing between us and something we want. The person opposing us consumes all our thoughts, directs all our emotions, and controls all our actions. For others of us, our Goliath is situational. We are dealing with a challenging circumstance we never saw coming, like the betrayal of someone we love, the loss of work, or the diagnosis of a chronic illness. Suddenly, we are forced to contend with circumstances well beyond our control, and we wonder how we will ever get through it. Or maybe our Goliath is societal. The latest political news or the volatility of the markets casts a looming shadow over the entire landscape. It is all we can ever think or talk about. David, by contrast, had a God-dominated imagination. Eugene Peterson writes: “The moment we permit evil to control our imaginations, dictate the way we think, and shape our responses, we at the same time become incapable of seeing the good and the true and the beautiful. But David entered the Valley of Elah with a God-dominated, not a Goliath-dominated, imagination. In the Bethlehem hills and meadows, tending his father’s sheep, David was immersed in the largeness and immediacy of God. He had experienced God’s strength in protecting the sheep in his fights with lions and bears. He had practiced the presence of God so thoroughly that God’s word, which he couldn’t literally hear, was far more real to him than the lion’s roar, which he could hear. He had worshiped the majesty of God so continuously that God’s love, which he couldn’t see, was far more real to him than the bear’s ferocity, which he could see. His praying and singing, his meditation and adoration had shaped an imagination in him that set each sheep and lamb, bear and lion into something large and vast and robust: God. His imagination was so thoroughly God-dominated that he couldn’t believe what he was seeing and hearing [in the Valley of Elah]—Goliath terror, Goliath phobia. It was an epidemic worse than cholera, everyone down with Goliath-sickness, a terrible disease of spirit that had Saul and his entire army incapacitated.” All the people could see was Goliath, and they were filled with fear. All David could see was God, and it filled him with hope.  David engages Goliath in single combat as a “champion,” a Hebrew word that literally means “the man in between.” In order to avoid unnecessary bloodshed, two warring parties would choose a warrior to represent each side in the conflict. In keeping with this common practice in the ancient world, David risks his life to fight for his people as their representative. If David wins, his people win. If David loses, they lose. The stakes could not possibly be higher. But the reason why David enters the fray when he hears Goliath’s taunts is not to defend his honor, nor his people's honor, but God's honor. He says in 1 Samuel 17:26, “‘Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?’” It is God's name that is on the line. And he places his trust, not in himself, but in God to deliver him. In verse 37, he says, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” He comes to Goliath in apparent weakness, and it is precisely his apparent weakness that is his strength. Verse 50 emphasizes: “There was no sword in the hand of David.” The only reason why David saves his people is because God gives the blessing. David wins, and now the people win in and through him, even though they did not do a single thing to contribute to the victory.  David’s Greater Son The story of David and Goliath is meant to encourage us to be courageous, but in order to understand how we can be courageous, we must recognize the real hero of the story is not David, it is David’s greater son, Jesus. Like David, Jesus voluntarily chooses to fight the ultimate enemy on behalf of his people. Rather than running away from the danger, Jesus runs towards the danger, not to defend his own name, but God’s name. Jesus does not win the victory against sin, evil, and death by relying on a sword or a display of brute force, but rather he utilizes the unconventional weapon of a cross. Like David, Jesus is our champion and representative who fights, not merely for his people, but as his people, and he does so not only at the risk of his life, but at the very cost of his life. When you put your faith in Jesus for your relationship with God rather than yourself, your faith so unites you to Jesus that everything that is true of him becomes true of you. If Jesus dies on the cross in your place, then you have died in him. If Jesus has conquered over sin, evil, and death through his resurrection, then you have been raised to new life in him. It is as good as done. His victory is yours because of what he accomplished on the cross. When you understand that Jesus is the true champion and the mediator who does for you what you could never do for yourself, then you can handle anything life throws at you. And you will gratefully realize that you are not the hero of your own story—Jesus is. With a God-shaped imagination, you can deal with whatever lesser giants you may face, recognizing that although you did not do a single thing to contribute to the victory, the real battle has already been won. ___ Adapted from David and The Good Life: Imagination, a sermon delivered by Jason Harris on September 25, 2022. Listen to the sermon or read the full transcript. "Christ and Contemporary Culture" is a journal written by Jason Harris which reflects on the intersection between Jesus Christ and our contemporary culture. If you are skeptical or resistant to Christianity, the hope is that you might pause to reflect on your pre-existing ideas about the way things are and perhaps think again. For those who have embraced Christianity, these posts will serve to encourage you in your ability to communicate the gospel in a way that takes our current cultural context seriously. Produced by Mary-Catherine McKee

March 15, 2023 | Read


The gospels do not provide us with a full character sketch of Jesus. Rather they show Jesus in action. We must decipher what Jesus was like based on what he says and does. But there is one other way we can gain insight into Jesus' heart, mind, and imagination, and that is through the stories he told. In this sermon, we learn about how Jesus used stories to show us who we are, what God is like, and how we should respond to his movements towards us.

March 12, 2023 | Watch


Purpose To discover and experience Jesus Christ in our midst To cultivate mutually encouraging relationships To participate in God’s mission to the world  Opening Prayer O Lord our God, grant us grace to desire you with our whole heart: that desiring you, we may seek you; and that seeking you, we may find you; and that finding you, we may love you; and that loving you, we may hate those sins from which you have delivered us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. Responsive Prayer—Psalm 23 1The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. 3He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness  for his name’s sake. 4Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Summary and Connection The parable of the prodigal son is regarded as the finest of all the parables of Jesus. The universal appeal of the story lies in its core message—God’s forgiving grace, generous love, and all-embracing acceptance for undeserving sinners. Before we delve into the parable itself, we have to understand the significance of parables in Jesus’ ministry. Why did Jesus speak in parables? What purpose did Jesus’ stories and parables serve in the grand scheme of God’s redemption of sinners? Australian Jesuit priest and academic Gerald O’Collins makes an insightful observation. He writes, “The parables that Jesus told and the images he used let us into his mind and heart. They let us see what he prayed and thought about, and what he wanted to share with us. They convey the vision of the world and of all that God offers us. They show us how he saw reality and what he truly treasured. Above all, they disclose his deepest and richest answers to the questions: What is God like? What is God doing for us?” In Luke 15, we read about a large crowd drawing near to listen to Jesus’ teaching. Luke specifically mentions the presence of tax collectors, sinners, and the Pharisees among the crowd. The Pharisees, who were the elite religious leaders, were indignant about Jesus. These religious leaders were scandalized by Jesus’ teaching and his character—the way he conducted himself and the people he called friends. The Pharisees accuse Jesus by saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:2). Jesus, completely aware of the Pharisees’ indignation, uses the opportunity to teach the crowd in parables. The parable of the lost son is the last of the three parables based on the “lost and found” motif. Jesus begins with the parable of the lost sheep. In verse 17 we see Jesus fleshing out the theme of his parables—the unparalleled joy in heaven over one sinner who truly repents of his sinful condition. Jesus contrasts the joy with the despair for the 99 self-proclaimed righteous persons who see no need for repentance and forgiveness. In his second parable about the lost coin, Jesus reinforces the theme of joy in heaven—the dwelling place of God—when one sinner repents. The parable of the lost son stands out from the other two parables in its degree of relevance. The characters in the story of the lost son represented the family structure of Jesus’ day. The crowd surrounding Jesus would have readily identified the societal value of a patriarch in the ancient near eastern Jewish culture. The crowd, even the sinners and tax collectors, firmly believed in the roles and responsibilities of the sons towards their fathers and the household. After the introduction of the characters, Jesus’ story takes an unexpected turn. We see the youngest son asking for his share of his father’s property. This demand from the son is radical for two main reasons. Firstly, in the Jewish culture, the distribution of inheritance was a matter of final will and testament. In other words, demand for share in the property while the father was alive was tantamount to shaming the father by declaring him as good as dead. Secondly, the father’s response to his son’s scandalous demand was utterly radical and unheard of. The father, instead of disowning the son for his blasphemous request, obliges and divides his property. The father accepts the shame by granting his son’s request. The rest of the parable provides a character study of the father and the two brothers. The second son, abandoning his father and his responsibility towards the father, departs to a foreign land. His life is characterized by uninhibited debauchery and reckless indulgence. Tragedy strikes the younger brother in two ways—he squanders all his money and the famine hits the land. We see the desperation and the moral degradation of the younger brother as he sells himself to a pig breeder. The Jews regarded pigs as the most unclean of all animals and pig breeding as the most despicable of all vocations. Such was the desperation of the younger brother that he was denied the access to the pods that pigs ate. He resorts to stealing the pods to quench his hunger. In his state of utter helplessness and desperation, the younger brother remembers his father, and his father’s house. He realizes the intensity of his sin against God and his father. He decides to return to his father’s house—not as a son, but as a slave. The father sees the younger brother from a distance, and his response is shockingly radical. In a culture where the patriarchs never ran as lifting the garment and exposing legs are considered shameful, we see the father running towards the son. In a culture where the son who shames his father would be punished, we see the father embracing, and profusely kissing the shame filled, and morally and physically unclean son. We see the heart of the father at full display as he covers the spiritual and physical shame of the son by his loving embrace and providing an expensive robe. The father not only forgives the younger brother, but he also restores the dignity of his son by putting a ring on his finger as a sign of acceptance. The theme of unparalleled joy over a sinner’s repentance in heaven is seen here in the extravagant party the father throws to publicly welcome his son who was once lost and dead and now found alive.  Finally, we see the character of the older brother who is utterly humiliated by his father’s forgiveness and acceptance of his sinful younger brother. The older brother is so hyper focused on the purity of his righteousness and on the wickedness of his younger brother that he fails to experience the power of the father’s love and forgiveness. The older brother was so consumed with self-righteousness that he was totally oblivious to the joy of what it means to be a son. In other words, since he did not understand what it means to be a son, he failed to understand what it means to be a father. The older brother’s character shows us how the proud and the self-righteous always feel they are not treated as well as they deserve. The self-righteous older brothers are incapable of participating in the unparalleled joy of heaven as the joy is not earned by merit but received by grace alone. We see the love of the father towards his older son. He does not discriminate between the sons. Father pleads with the older brother by reminding of his status in the family and appeals to him to join in the celebration. The love and mercy of the father is equally accessible for both the self-righteous older son, and the self-seeking younger son. It is freely available to all who acknowledge their sinful condition, and their need to be saved. Jesus ends the parable without a resolution. Jesus does not tell us whether the older brother responded or not, nor does he tell how the younger brother lived. The open ended nature of the parable is a challenge to the readers. Who do we identify with in this story? How do we respond to the father’s forgiving grace, and embracing love? Do we receive with gladness, or do we complain that we are not appreciated as we rightly deserve? Do we rejoice with the younger brothers, or do we refuse to join in the celebration? Jesus’ parable reveals God’s steadfast love that challenges us to examine our hearts to see who we truly are in the parable, and to humbly admit our need for God’s forgiving grace, and all-encompassing love. Discussion Questions 1. Looking at the Bible What does the text say? What according to you is the theme of this passage? In Luke 15:1 we read about the crowd drawing near Jesus to hear him speak. Luke specifically mentions two kinds of people. Who were they? How does their presence influence Jesus to share the parable of the lost son? In Luke 15:12 we read about the younger son’s request. What makes the son’s request scandalous? What makes the father’s response to his son’s request radical? What can we learn about the father’s love for both the older and younger sons in this parable? How does that point us to God’s love towards us? What is the significance of Jesus ending the parable without any resolution? 2. Looking at Jesus At Central we believe that all of Scripture points to Jesus. In other words, Jesus is the theological center of the Bible. Every passage not only points to Jesus, but the grand narrative of the Bible also finds its fulfillment in the person and work of Jesus. Jesus shares the parable of the lost son to show us the heart of God the father in forgiving and welcoming lost sinners into the kingdom of God. What can we learn about the significance of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection from this parable? 3. Looking at Our Hearts In this parable we learn about two brothers and their lostness. In his book Prodigal God, Tim Keller describes lostness as two basic ways people try to find happiness and fulfillment: The way of moral conformity (older son) and the way of self-discovery (younger son). Can you personally identify any merit based (moral conformity) tendencies, or self-discovery mindset in your own relationship with God? How does the gospel help you to reorient your mindset? 4. Looking at Our World The parable of the lost son not only challenges us to examine our hearts individually, but also to examine ourselves as the church community in the city. How does this passage help us to grow as a community of God that welcomes not only the lost younger brothers, but also the self-righteous older brothers?   Sending God’s word is a lamp to our feet. Christ’s teachings are a light to our path. May God’s word take root in our lives. May Christ’s love nourish and sustain us.  Amen.

March 12, 2023 | Read

Magnetic Leader

Building upon last week’s sermon, we take a close look at the character that Jesus displayed, juxtaposing it with the extraordinary claims that Jesus made about himself. As we explore Mark 10:35-45, we see how Jesus is presented to us in the gospels as matchless, sinless, and selfless.

March 5, 2023 | Watch

The Caller and Our Calling

After being anointed by the prophet Samuel, David must wait more than a decade before he is publicly recognized as the second king of Israel. In the meantime, God gives David the rather loathsome task of serving Saul, his wildly maniacal predecessor, as the king’s armor-bearer, personal attendant, and musician. Despite the undesirable nature of the role, David’s work becomes not only bearable, but meaningful, precisely because it is God-assigned and God-defined. The Dignity of Work For many of us, work is nothing more than a “job” that helps pay the bills. In fact, the word “job,” originally referred to a mere “gob” or “piece” of work, which implied a petty, insignificant task. The Scriptures, however, invite us to approach our work—in all its forms—not as a job, but as a vocation. The word “vocation” stems from Latin and literally means “calling.” Many of us may resonate with the idea that we must find our unique “calling” in life in order to be satisfied and fulfilled. But here’s the catch. One cannot have a “calling” without a “caller.” Many people refuse to believe there is a “caller,” and therefore they hear no such “call.” But Christians recognize that God calls each of us first and foremost to relationship with himself, and secondarily to various tasks and responsibilities in the world. God’s call, therefore, fills our work, even routine and mundane tasks, with meaning and significance. It is instructive to note that God is presented to us at the very beginning of the Bible as a worker and a creator. As a result, when we receive a calling from God, we should regard our work as not only godly but godlike because all of our work reflects God's own activity as a worker. There is an unfortunate history that has made a distinction between so-called “sacred” work and “secular” work, but the pages of Scripture reveal that this distinction is a false dichotomy. It is not as if the pastors and the full-time Christian ministry workers have a true vocation from God, and everyone else is a second-class citizen within the kingdom of God. Whether it is voluntary or paid, skilled or unskilled, at home or in the workforce, every sphere of life provides us with an opportunity to contribute to God's purposes in the world if we do it all unto the Lord. Finding meaning in our work generally depends less on the external task itself than the manner in which it is done. Every Christian has a holy calling. John Stott once said, “It's good that you come to church, so long as you don't do it too often.” What he meant is that God strengthens and encourages us through our corporate worship together, but the primary place where God challenges us and uses us is in the day-to-day trenches of normal, everyday life—at home, at school, in the office, in the lab, in the studio, in the concert hall, and in the boardroom.  The earliest Christians understood this. By living out their faith in service to their community and by engaging in their work with passion, integrity, and excellence, the early Christians eventually won over the Western world to Christianity. This is important for us today. Once again we live in an age that is awash with other gods and many of our contemporaries are committed to a very different kind of moral code. But as it was in the first few centuries of the church, so it is today. The way in which people will come to believe in the saving power of Jesus, will not be primarily through the church gathered in worship, but through the church scattered in its vocations.  The Dangers Of Work Along with the dignity of work, however, the Scriptures also reveal the danger of work, which is evidenced by the story of Saul. When Saul is initially called to be Israel's first king, he possesses a sincere humility, but over time, he becomes less interested in God and more interested in the work itself. That is what causes his downfall, and this is the danger for all of us. If, as we have said, our work is not only godly but godlike, it is easy to slip into thinking that we are gods in our own right. And if we view ourselves as gods within our respective spheres, then we might not think that we need God—or at least not very much. We can easily fall into the trap of being interested in God only for what he can do for us rather than for God himself. When we do this, we are treating God as a mere means to an end rather than an end in himself. Saul had a great job. He was the king! But Saul shows us that just because you have a great job does not mean you will do it well. Likewise, just because you receive a calling from God does not mean that you will be faithful. Our jobs present an enormous temptation to look to our vocation rather than to the caller to give us a sense of identity, purpose, or redemption. That is the essence of idolatry. The definition of an idol is anything you look to other than God to provide you with your ultimate sense of identity, purpose, or redemption. Your calling only describes a part of who you are; it does not define you or sum up your entire purpose. Your work might be important, but it cannot save, forgive, or redeem you. Only Jesus can do that.  Looking to the Caller What the David story shows us is that receiving a call from God is not about getting the so-called “right job” or the “right career,” but rather it is about doing God's work in whatever circumstances we find ourselves. But how do we discern our own calling in life? Frederick Buechner said, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” First, look at the world around you—your family, neighborhood, community, church, city, and the wider world. Where are the needs great and the workers few? Secondly, ask yourself: What are the gifts, skills, and experiences that bring you joy? Look for the places of intersection. That may very well be the exact spot where God is calling you to serve his purposes. This is, after all, what Jesus did.  Jesus not only scanned the horizon of the world, but he searched the deepest recesses of your own heart and discovered that your deepest hunger—whether you recognize it or not—is to be reconciled to God. But what was Jesus’ deep gladness? Jesus’ heart filled with joy at the thought of being reunited with you forever. This is what led him to the cross. Jesus endured the cross and despised its shame for the joy that was set before him—the joy of reconciling you in relationship to himself.  That’s not all. In the Old Testament, God gave the gift of his Spirit to some people, some of the time to carry out a specific task, but we receive something better—the fulfillment of God's promises. As the result of Jesus' finished work on the cross, he now pours out his Spirit on all of his people, all of the time, to empower us to do everything in service to him. Jesus embraces his calling for your sake, and now he invites you to embrace your calling for his. ___ Adapted from David and The Good Life: Calling, a sermon delivered by Jason Harris on September 18, 2022. Listen to the sermon or read the full transcript. "Christ and Contemporary Culture" is a journal written by Jason Harris which reflects on the intersection between Jesus Christ and our contemporary culture. If you are skeptical or resistant to Christianity, the hope is that you might pause to reflect on your pre-existing ideas about the way things are and perhaps think again. For those who have embraced Christianity, these posts will serve to encourage you in your ability to communicate the gospel in a way that takes our current cultural context seriously. Produced by Mary-Catherine McKee

February 16, 2023 | Read

How should we interpret the Bible?

There are three helpful principles that can guide us as we seek to correctly interpret the Bible. But we will never fully understand the Bible unless we understand its central theme.

February 8, 2023 | More...