Part 10 of Ecclesiastes: Unless the gospel changes our loves and appetites, our endless pursuit of power and wealth will damn us – in this life and the next.

Photo by Jodi, Chicago 2012

Part 10 IX. The Sermon: Power, Wealth and Misery– Rev. Kyle McClellan, Senior Minister, Grace Church The Sermon Passage: Ecclesiastes 5:8-20

The Big Idea: Unless the gospel changes our loves and appetites, our endless pursuit of power and wealth will damn us – in this life and the next.

I. Don’t be surprised when it rolls downhill (vv. 8-9).

• Avoid a common error: power and corruption come hand in hand. There is only one who perfectly used his power to serve and was not corrupt.

Solomon gives a good mission statement for a king: be out listening to the people. “But this is gain for a land in every way: a king committed to cultivated fields.” In other words, use your power to unlock opportunity for the hard working and make them succeed more. In context here, protect the poor from bribes as they are the ones that disproportionately pay this unfair tax.

The person who demands the bribe pays some of it to the next layer of leadership up, and so on to the king. The best thing the land can have is a king that does not accept a percent of the bribe network but instead listens to the hard working farmer and helps frees them from that and shutdown the bribe network. But there is only one truly Good king who did and does this.

II.Flee the wealth trifecta (vv.10-12):

1. Constant craving (v. 10). If you love money, getting more of it will never satisfy.

2. Entourage (v. 11).Ie. Paying for a possy. Paying for leaches because they want a piece of your money.

3. CPAP (v. 12).You eat a ton because of your wealth and will not be able to sleep.

I Timothy 6 says there is great gain from godliness with contentment. We don’t see this contentment much even in the church. That is why Burroughs wrote a book on these verses called the RARE Jewel of Christian Contentment.

Both Solomon and the apostle Paul warn us that if we pursue wealth, it will leave us ruined. So why do we keep doing it? Dispute the fact that we know these lies that wealth offers and never fulfills, why do we act as if we do not?

Though warnings are good, it is not enough to just tell people to do something or not do something. The hope of the gospel is that I am given new affections that long for the realities of Christ and are satisfied with him more than I believe the lies about wealth.

Affections cannot be stopped – they must be changed.

III. Learn from the echo of Job (vv. 13-17).

We bring nothing into the world nor take anything out of it. Where is your sense of security this morning? Hard work is great. But at the end of the day, who is really the one feeding your family? It is God. All this can be lost in amoment like Job experienced so rest in God.

IV. Live a good and fitting life of Providential joy (vv. 18-20).

These three verses are in huge contrast to the greviusness and evil of the past verses. God is in these verses. He gifts these things.

What occupies your heart? What occupies your affections? Is it worry? Is it doubt? Is it greed? Is is pride and arrogance? What about lust? Do we understand what is being held out to us? You can have a heart occupied not with the prison of sin which doesn’t satisfy, but we are offered deep joy instead!

That is the gospel, right? Our own sinful natures have left us with a debt for death that we cannot pay. Jesus puts an end to this debt for us by paying it himself. If we have experienced the grace of the king, we don’t just say, “yeah we are not going to hell.” We can eat, drink, and be satisfied starting here in the already / not yet kingdom not because we did it but Christ did!

The passage:
8 If you see in a province the oppression of the poor and the violation of justice and righteousness, do not be amazed at the matter, for the high official is watched by a higher, and there are yet higher ones over them. 9 But this is gain for a land in every way: a king committed to cultivated fields.

10 He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. 11 When goods increase, they increase who eat them, and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes? 12 Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep.

13 There is a grievous evil that I have seen under the sun: riches were kept by their owner to his hurt, 14 and those riches were lost in a bad venture. And he is father of a son, but he has nothing in his hand. 15 As he came from his mother’s womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand. 16 This also is a grievous evil: just as he came, so shall he go, and what gain is there to him who toils for the wind? 17 Moreover, all his days he eats in darkness in much vexation and sickness and anger.

18 Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. 19 Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil-this is the gift of God. 20 For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.

You can’t give yourself over to love for somebody without giving yourself over to suffering.

Photo by Jodi, Fremont’s Johnson lake running path at sunrise, summer 2012

“You can’t give yourself over to love for somebody without giving yourself
over to suffering. You can’t give yourself to love for a soldier without giving yourself to his suffering in war. It is this body of our suffering that Christ was born into, to suffer it Himself and to fill it with light, so that beyond the suffering we can imagine Easter morning and the peace of God on little earthly homelands such as Port William and the farming villages of Okinawa.”

Great reminder from a wise dude (I am sure Solomon would appreciate the surfing tone….)

18 Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot.

19 Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil-this is the gift of God.

20 For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.

—- what occupies our heart?

Part 6-7 of Ecclesiastes with Pastor Kyle – what do you think about legacy?

Photo: by Jodi Blick of Grace – the skater, 2012

IX. The Sermon: A Beastly Way to Live – Rev. Kyle McClellan, Senior Minister, Grace Church – The Sermon Passage: Ecclesiastes 3:16-4:3. Part 7

The Big Idea: A world full of injustice and oppression reminds us of the rightness of God’s judgement on our first parents, and leaves us impatient for the judgment to come.

I. No time for injustice and oppression (3:16, 4:1).

The question bubbling under the surface in this passages is when is God going to do something? When will justice always prevail over unrighteousness?

II. A front-loaded life (3:18-21).

III. When in doubt, fulfill the cultural mandate (3:22).

Solomon’s logic in this passage is goofy: there is injustice, when will judgement come, in the meantime you will die in oppression like the animals, so therefore go to work Monday! What?

Here is what solomon is driving at: Work is not just putting a roof over our head but a calling which IS part of working for justice for the oppressed. This goes a long way in battling oppression.

The story of Ruth is a great example of this. Boaz’ calling was a farmer, not farming the corners of the field, so that the marginalized can come and glean the corners of the field. The land is not just the for Boaz to become rich but take care of the poor.

A cobler asked Martin Luther what he should do now that he is saved? He replied, make the best shoe you can and sell it at a fair price.

Fair trade coffee is another example of vocation brining justice to the backs of the plantation worker to receive a fair wage.

IV. A harsh judgment on the timeliness of God’s judgment (4:2-3, 3:17; cf.: Revelation 6:9-10).

Three errors we need to avoid:
A. avoid thinking we can tell God what time it is. Rev. 6. The martyrs are asking God how long until they get justice for their deaths. Vs12 does not say that they responded with asking God if that plan he has is good? With, more are to die as martyrs? The ones in heaven don’t argue with God for his timeframe the way that we do.

B. Avoid thinking that we are the instruments of God’s judgement. We all agree that 50mm unborn children have been killed since 1973 and that abortion is a great oppression. However, since we are not God’s instrument of judgement, killing the doctors is not our calling.

C. Avoid thinking that God’s judgment will never come. Acts 17:31 God has fixed a day where he will judge the world in righteousness. Solomon saw this coming and it came with Jesus. One day Christ will return again on a white horse to judge and finish this thing.

The kind of judgment that Solomon is talking about is larger and systemic. Vs 2 of this passage from Solomon is more than individual. It is not just judgment of individuals but something greater going on. The judgment on Adam and Eve was not just to them but to all of creation as well. Therefore, the judgment that is coming is ot going to just address individual wrongs, though it will, it will restore all of creation and community as well! All that has been affected by the fall will be addressed by God’s judgment in Christ.

The Passage

16 Moreover, I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, even there was wickedness, and in the place of righteousness, even there was wickedness. 17 I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work. 18 I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but beasts. 19 For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity. 20 All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return. 21 Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth? 22 So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot. Who can bring him to see what will be after him?

1 Again I saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them. 2 And I thought the dead who are already dead more fortunate than the living who are still alive. 3 But better than both is he who has not yet been and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun.

IX. The Sermon: What Legacy? – Rev. Kyle McClellan, Senior Minister, Grace Presbyterian Church – The Sermon Passage: Ecclesiastes 2:18-26. Part 6.

Working hard so that your children can have a better life than we have – that is often defined as the American dream. It also can be called “legacy.” Solomon takes aim at this philosophy for meaning in life even thousands of years ago.

The Big Idea: Toiling to create a legacy will end only in frustration and evil – a situation only the Gospel can remedy.

Exposition

I. What if you’ve raised another Rehoboam? (vv. 18-21; cf.: 1 Kings 12; 2 Chronicles 10 ).

Solomon is laboring on heavy work as shown in vs 18. Solomon took what David started and built it better, finished the temple from the supplies that David gathered, etc. The people built it on their backs under his leadership. When Solomon dies the people want a break from this heavy kingdom building labor. However, his son, wanting to make a name for himself separate from his father’s, says the people’s burden is only going to get worse and heavier than when his dad was around.

Rehoboam undoes what his father labored to accomplish, and the kingdom divides in civil war separating the kingdom north and south. All he had to do was not mess up what his father did for him, but he tanked it.

Do you have to have your kids (or at least one of your kids) follow in your footsteps, or are you preaching in your home to pursue whatever it is that God calls them to do vocationally speaking?

Or maybe you have no children to pass things on to. Then what happens to your “legacy”?

Great quote from Wendell Berry’s book A Place On Earth. The quote says, “it is hard to raise a boy under the hand of the father.” This is included in Solomon’s passage here and also the showing of his life. It is hard for sons to want to take advice from their father while being under their father’s hand.

II. Rest? (vv. 22-23).

This is why sabbath rest is so important. It reminds us that untimely it is God working and causing me to succeed and not me. Rest shows we believe it is not all up to us.

III. Can a materialist receive common grace? (vv. 24-26).

Solomon says one can’t really enjoy life unless God makes it possible. One writer puts it, “We hunger to get out of things more than they can give us!”

Richard Simmons used to say on his show “biggest looser” before there was that show, “the food is not love.” We make our food, our toil, our work do things for us that only God can do for us. Then we hate it. We make ultimate things out of ordinary good things. Keller commonly has said that idols and functional saviors promise to give many things to us that ultimately leave us weary and tired and dead in our souls.

IV. A different type of legacy (cf.: Luke 15:11-32).

Instead of us LEAVING a legacy, let’s think of it in terms of the legacy that we have been left to RECEIVE. Both sons in the story of the prodigal son make a hash of the legacy that their father is leaving them. Both of them despise it.

So how does the father then respond to both sons? He runs after them in pursuing love.

Is there a crushing load over you to either leave a legacy or fulfill the legacy expectations that your parents left you? You don’t have to worry about not meeting the father’s expectations because we have a perfect older brother that has fulfilled perfectly his high expectations.

The legacy is not the legacy that you leave but what the father recklessly and lavishly leaves us. This is a different legacy.

What I want for my kids and the expecatations I have for them in love pales in comparison to the love that the true Father has on my kids!

The passage.
18 I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, 19 and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. 20 So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labors under the sun, 21 because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. 22 What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun? 23 For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity.

24 There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, 25 for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? 26 For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.

Captivated?

Photo: El Bee’s restaurant – always a good fill 🙂

IX. The Sermon: The Crowd, the Critics and the Captivated – Rev. Christopher Robins, Senior Minister, St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church, Atlanta – The Sermon Passage: Mark 2:1-12

Jesus heals a man while he is in the middle of teaching because the man’s friends have lowered him through the roof of the house he is teaching.

The big idea: Markis asking us a key question that cuts us deeply: after seeing Jesus, are you part of the crowd, are you with the critics, or are you part of the captivated?

I. The crowd

The crowd sees and takes in three things about Christ:

A. His Insight. What sort of a person can read the thoughts of those in the room. How frightening would that be?

B. His Power. Christ, as creator of the world, knows the deep scientific realities behind this man’s disease. Matter can never be created or destroyed. Christ’s power is on display as the universe’s power could not contain this man’s sins are forgiven.

C. His granting tender access. He is not annoyed or distracted like we would be if we were in the middle of teaching and someone opened the roof and dropped in a lame person.

This lame man comes to Christ who eclipses all others in the room. That is how we come to Christ – not be specifying what we say no to but by the lover of our soul eclipsing all other affections.

The Midwest is full of people who have resigned to just being in the crowd. They have paid their dues and just go through the motions of church.

II. The critics

They are always contemplating from a distance the things of Christ. These church leaders were not captivated but skeptical.

III. The captivated

Learn from these men who wrote the gospel how to be captivated. Learn from these men bringing their lame friend how to be captivated.

A. These men ripped of the roof! They did not accept barriers.

B. AND it says that they ripped the roof off TOGETHER. The gospel does not say that Jesus saw his faith, the faith of this lame man, but it says THEIR faith. Good news and gospel power comes in the plurals.

C. They tear off the roof of the box. This is messy. We don’t like when people rip the roof off our worship service. People need to be feeling welcome here, no matter what they look like, don’t look like, or should be like.

We have a way to worship Christ now that does not embarass us anymore. How would we respond if someone balls during worship? If someone cries in repentance on their knees? Would we be annoyed? All we have done is lock people out of the kingdom because we feel it is OUR kingdom.

What would it be like for us to say WOW to what we see of Jesus and then drop everything? Some of us who are followers of Christ it has been a long time since we have been captivated.

Come… cry out to him to be captivated!

The passage:

1 And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. 3 And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. 4 And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. 5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”-he said to the paralytic- 11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

If we are honest, we ask – Why are relationships so hard and what can be done? Paul Tripp from Liberate Conference 2012

Photo: Stu Kerns took this, CO, 2012

Liberate Conference 2012 – Paul Tripp, Freedom in Relationships

Intro. Why are relationships so difficult? Why is there so much misunderstanding, disappointment, hurt, failed expectations, confusion, and chaos? What is the source of our disfunction? What can be done about it? Is there any hope?

Understanding the right diagnosis of a problem or illness is critical in applying the cure that will bring healing. The Bible is good at diagnosing our problem – good diagnosis then good cure – bad diagnosis then bad remedy to make it worse. What is our problem in relationships, and what is the cure?

The big idea: I am my biggest problem in relationships, and Christ who is redeeming all things to himself through his grace is my only cure.

I. The Problem

A. The DNA of sin is selfishness.

2 Corinthians 5:14-15 says, 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 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.

Sin is self-obsessed and claustrophobic. I want… I want… I want… I want…

Verse 15 says that I am a sinner and apart from grace, I live for myself. I live for myself even inside my good deeds to others which are to validate me and / or somehow obligate God to me, etc.

B. Sin is antisocial at its very core.

We were hardwired and created to live upward and outward lives.

C. My sin will dehumanize all around me – vehicles or obstacles.

The opposite would be objects of affections.

The summary logic of the problem:
IF the DNA of sin is selfishness,
IF sin is antisocial at its very core,
IF sin dehumanizes all those around me,
THEREFORE I am my greatest relational problem. The problem is insside not outside of me.

II. The cure

In grace, Christ came to save you from you. This is good news since we are our own relational problem.

Three ways the this grace of Christ liberates us for close relationship:

A. Grace frees me from the slavery of my own righteousness. I can’t afford to be wrong to be okay with me. Instead, by grace, I can have the humilty of approachability.

The sad state of our relationships today is that we relate by not really relating. The truth is I am a mess and can be honest about this because I have another’s righteousness as muy rest!
I can have the courage of loving honesty. I can tell you things that are helpful not tell you things in such a way to better serve me with the result. My well being is not based on your aceptance of me.

B. Grace frees me from having to be in control. I am not a king of a kingdom of one but rather I have been loving placed in the gracious kingdom of the most loving father-king ever and I am his adopted child! Jesus gives his kingdom to children. The kingdom has the intrinsic treasure of God’s riches not the jail of me in my sin being in a kingdom of one.

C. Grace frees me from the bondage to unrealstic expectations. Apart from grace, I am going to seek horizontally from the people in my life what I can only get vertically. I actually ask of other people or of other things to be my own personal savior – “give me meaning to my life…make me feel good about myself…make me happy…make my life matter…make me fulfilled… Ironically, this can never lead to romance in marriage or closeness in other relationships but only dissapointment and hurt.

II Peter 1:3 says that God through Christ has given us everything we need for life AND godliness. As Tullian says, everything that I need I have already received from my Father so I am free to give to you. This is the now-ism of the gospel. We have received now all we need in Christ for life with its meaning and godliness. Only in Christ not in you or things will I find hope, identity, acceptance, and filling the “pocks” that most can’s see on my soul.

Conclusion:

There are still places in my life with my indwelling sin that I tend to do these three bondages: slave to my own righteousness, slave to strive to be in control, and looking to you to save me. I am free and being freed! This is just like the African Americans in the Civil Rights movement when the proclimation was made they were freed from being slaves and full citizens, there were those in the establishment that kept them from feeling that for many years but it did not change the reality of what was proclaimed. This also is seen in the fear of the Israelites of Pharoah as they left Egypt – they were freed by God and no longer slaves but had fear he would take them back by force.

We are free and being freed!

Three helpful payers each morning as you wake up: Lord, I am in desperate need of help; in grace, please send your helpers; and grant me the grace when the help comes to accept it in all humility. Amen.