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An Unusual God

David Asscherick
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David Asscherick

Speaker of Light Bearers and Co-founder of ARISE.




  • August 3, 2019
    11:00 AM


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Father in heaven we have every reason to believe that you are going to meet with us here today you've already minister to us powerfully in the music the prayers and the incredible testimonies of the various projects that are taking place all around the world Father we have now that as we meet here that you would come not only into the walls of this large facility but that you would come into the hearts of the individual people that are here Father speak to us by your spirit May the Spirit that inspired the text now become the spirit that instructs in the text bother I'm praying that you will give me both clarity and charity that I might communicate in a way that is similar to the way that Jesus might communicate where he here today in person. Father we know that you and your son Jesus are here by the Spirit and so we're claiming the promise that you will send the Spirit of truth to guide us into all truth be with us now challenge us inspire us rebuke us and encourage us is our prayer in Jesus' name let everyone say amen and amen. All right as I want to begin by asking you what might sound like a really silly question and it is purposefully provocative The question is is it good news that there is a god. I'd like to give you like you to give me a hearty amen if if your answer to that question is a yes I'll ask it again A.S.I. is it good news that there is a god. OK Well like all Adventists that I have given this trap to around the world you have fallen unwittingly and headlong into a trap that has been laid for you. Let me ask a question that will tease out the trap I think it might make it a little apparent how you have fallen. Into my my linguistic trap. Ladies Is it good news that there is a husband. Now I hear giggles I hear laughs. What is the answer to that question is it good news that there is a husband. Yeah I heard I actually heard somebody say it and it is the appropriate answer the answer is It depends what 2 words that I say everyone it depends it would depend on what what word you think I might say right here it would depend on what kind of a husband you will notice that I was purposely ambiguous when I ask you the question is it good news that there is a God You all assumed I think reasonably but also mistakenly that I was referring to the same God that's in your mind in answer to the question is it good news that there was a husband would boil down to the question about the kind of husband we're describing the character of that husband the person that he was we could ask Similarly is it good news that there is a neighbor. Not all neighbors are good news but some neighbors are really really really good news but I want to tell you this this morning my sermon is titled The End unusual God and 99.999 percent of all of the gods of human history or of human invention are not good news and so do I don't magically assume when I ask the question is it good news that there is a God to give me a rousing Amen I want to try and go to the text of Scripture to understand why it is that we are so persuaded that the God of scripture is good news. Analytic profile analytic philosopher and Professor Alvin Plantinga in an incredible book that was published by Oxford University Press titled where the conflict lies says these words this display of overwhelming love speaking of the Gospel the gospel of scripture this display of overwhelming love is not only the greatest story ever told it's the greatest story that ever could be told I want to talk to you today about a God who is unusual if you were to survey the various and sundry gods of human history and of human invention that have populated history you would find that all of them except one are universally not good news we enter into this thought experiment with me if you would momentarily it's a thought experiment that I would imagine that most of you are actually conducting every day of your life and it goes like this can you imagine better good news then if these 2 things were true just try and conceive of better good news then that these 2 things are true number one there is a god. And number 2 he looks like Jesus would just allow your imagination to run as wild as you need it to be just try and conceive of better good news than that there is a God Yes we live in a theistic world the theistic universe but not just that there is a God in some general sense but that that God looks like the Jesus of the Gospels. This is what leads. And others like him to say this story the story of the gospel is not only the greatest story ever told it's the greatest story that ever could be told Come with me in your Bibles and we will be deep in scripture this morning to the Book of Romans we're going to start in Romans chapter one join me there if you would. Romans chapter one. We're just going to make a couple quick notes in Romans chapter one on verses 16 and 17 and then we will spend the lion's share of our time in Romans Chapter 3 succumb of me to Romans chapter one just by way of setting up a context most scholars agree that Paul in Romans Chapter one Verse 16 and 17 gives us an advance summary of everything he's going to talk about in the next 15 chapters the book of Romans is 16 chapters but here in chapter one in 2 verses 2 verses that are so theologically dense so as to contain all of the various tentacles and narratives that part will unpack in incredible detail in Chapters 216 Romans chapter one we're going to just read verses 16 and 17 I would hazard a guess that this will be a familiar passage of Scripture for many of you Paul writes for I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes for the Jew 1st and also for the Greek and then verse 17 for in it in the Gospel the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith as it is written The just shall live by faith direct your attention to verse 17 Again verses 16 and 17 cover around 3 basic ideas all of them are contained textually in verse 17 he says 1st of all the right justice of God then secondly is revealed in some faith transaction those are the 3 ideas the righteousness of God somehow revealed or demonstrated or displayed That's the very point that pointing to make this is not only the greatest story ever told this overwhelming display display of love is the greatest story that ever could be told. Paul is giving us an advanced summary here of everything he's going to talk about he wants us to know right upfront that somehow in the Gospel the righteousness the goodness the character of God is in capsulated and revealed somehow through a faith transaction will talk about the nature of that faith transaction Paul then goes forward from Romans chapter one in his summary to describe the. Unqualified and universal broken mists of the Gentile world in Romans chapter 2 Paul describes the unqualified and universal brokenness of the Jewish world so that when he arrives finally in Romans Chapter 3 where we will spend our time this morning he wants you to be absolutely clear that the human plight is universal and ubiquitous that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God we're going to pick it up in Romans Chapter 3 come with me to verse 9 as Paul is drawing the strings of his arguments in chapters one and 2 to a close he begins by asking a question what then how should we think about these things that I have said the case that I am marshaling What then are we better than they no not at all for we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin there's the universality the ubiquity of the human plight and the human condition and he uses this phrase it's a particularly pregnant and strong phrase under sin I know of only other I know of only other one place in the writings of Paul where this exact construction is used it's English and chapter 3 verse 22 where he says that Scripture has concluded or confounded all under sin. Paul will then take us. On a sort of rabbinical tour de force through many passages of the Old Testament mostly from songs but also from Proverbs Ecclesiastes these and I say to marshal his case he has made a strong point about the universality of the human condition the brokenness of that condition and of a seemingly hopeless helpless plight and so he will hear Marshall his case from the law from the Old Testament we pick it up in verse 10 as it is written. Notice before we read here there will be 2 phrases I want you to hone in on the 1st phrase is there is none or there is no you will find that construction 5 or 6 times depending on your translation The 2nd phrase is no not even one. Just pay attention to the refrain here to this chorus I mean verse 10 as it is written there is none righteous no not one there is none who understands there is none who seeks after God They have all turned aside they have together become unprofitable there is none who does good no not even one their throat is an open to me with tongues they have practice to see the poison of asks is under their lips whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness their feet are swift to shed blood destruction and misery are in their ways and the way of peace they have not known there is no fear of God before their eyes. Paul paints an undeniable and unflattering picture of the human plight here that he roughly divides up into 3 basic ideas number one is humanity's alienation from God and in this particular category of sin he picks up those threads that are found in Genesis Chapters $1.00 to $11.00 the vertical alienation that mankind felt from God and they hid themselves from the trees amongst the the garden but also the horizontal elimination on display in Genesis 4 in Genesis 11 were human society and human families were fragmented and so Paul begins by saying. The plight of humanity is that they are fundamentally alienated from God He then goes to his 2nd sort of line of reasoning the reason is that they have believed and they have spoken untruthful speech fascinatingly in this passage there are there are hints and not even particularly subtle hints of Lucifer's own deception and misrepresentation of the character of God to references to snakes are made here and so humanity is alienated from God picking up the great theme of Genesis 3 not just because of the decisions that they have made or the actions that they have done but because they have mis apprehended what God is like. And then the 3rd category of sin Paul simply describes as rampant violence. So between alienation and untruthful deceitful speech and violence Paul paints an unqualified picture of the plight of humanity and says that everybody is in me nobody escapes No not even one and if you're listening carefully you can almost hear echoes of Revelation 4 and 5 here were John in that great throne room scene and as the scroll is there on the throne of the Ancient of Days people Guinn's to we because he says an apocalyptic vision there was no one worthy to open the scroll that language is on display here there is none there is none there is none not even. The self so Paul then verses $19.20 comes to what. He regards in his Apostol authority and his human observation as necessary conclusions. And it's right here that we come to what you might call a fold or a corner or a crease in the book of Romans Paul has been arguing very strongly in a single direction the fallenness of the Gentile world the fallenness of Israel God's covenant people the fallenness and brokenness of all of humanity and we're just here at the crease or the turn we're policy about ready to transition and to get into the passage that we're going to be spending our time on largely this morning and so verses $1020.00 are that crease that fold or turn now we know that whatever Torah whatever the law says it says so those who are under the law that every mouth may be stopped and all the world may become what is your bible say the whole world the ubiquity and the universality of the human plight here Paul has spelled it out in Scripture he has spelled it out in chapters $1.00 and $2.00 and he says the whole world is guilty before God and then verse 20 we're right on the pointy end of that crease therefore our. This is a summary statement Paul has made his case in chapters one and 2 and a half of chapter 3 and he says they're full of this is the necessary inescapable required conclusion that I come to Therefore by the deeds of the Torah the law no flesh will be justified in the sight of God for by the law is the knowledge of sin. And if you spend a lot of time in the book of Romans you get a sense that it's right at this point on the corner on the crease where Paul takes a breath. He has made his case any he almost invites he almost provokes he almost challenges us to to refute that case to try and make some case for human goodness or human faithfulness or human righteousness no Paul is convinced on the basis of the text he's convinced on the basis of his own observation he's convinced on the basis of history that all the world is guilty before God and the necessary conclusion is that none can be innocent or justified in the sight of God by the works of Torah. And then a key crucial pivotal 2 word phrase Take a look at it in the text the 2 word phrases but now. Now the word but as you are probably aware is a conjunction in the English language but it's a conjunction unlike the word and which is joins to ideas I will have the pizza and the pasta right and there's no change of direction there's no reversal of direction but the word but functions not just as a joining conjunction but as a change or even as a reversal of direction. If you have applied for a job and you went in for the interview and you sent in your C.V. and filled out the application and a week or 2 after the interview you get a letter in the mail that says Dear Sir your madam thank you so much for coming and it was a pleasure to meet you to receive your resume and to sit down with you in the application process but. Do you need to read the rest of the letter did you get the job because that's the way the word but functions. Paul makes this incredible case about the universal and the ubiquitous nature of the human plight human fall of this there is not even a warning he says and then these 2 words but now. Are this is going to get really good the but now indicates a fantastic change of direction grammatically and theologically and Paul here is going to drive this point home in fact you would have to be you'd have to be blind you'd have to be worse and wind up you have to you have to be dead to not see the point that Paul is going to drive out here he's going to drive this point home. And the point is the very one that he made back in Romans Chapter one Verse 16 and 17 Let me just remind you of it. For in the Gospel the right just miss of God is revealed what is revealed everyone what is revealed the righteousness of God Impalas going to make this point in just 6 short verses not once not twice not 3 times 4 times let's race through it verse 21 but now. In response in answer. To the fallenness brokenness and otherwise hopelessness of the human plight but now. Paul has well and truly turned the theological corner but now the righteousness of God apart from Torah is revealed being witnessed by the law on the prophets that's an almost verbatim revisitation of chapter one verse 17 the righteousness of God revealed and he says along the prophets in verse 17 equal to beckon. No wonder scholars have told us that contained in those 2 verses Roma chapter one verse verses $16.17 is an advanced summary of everything that Paul is going to say and Paul here we're in the thick of it now he says but now. Yes there has been rampant violence and untrue speech and yes people have believed the lie about who God isn't isn't but now the right just an issue of God apart from Torah has been displayed. He's going from strength to strength he's picking up a kind of momentum here 1st 16 or should be verse 22 even here it is a 2nd time the righteousness of God You can't miss it through the faith in Jesus will come back to that in a moment to all and on all who believe that sounds just like Romans 116 and 174 there is no difference not to not gentile verse 23 a familiar verse for ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus we will return to that momentarily whom God set forth your translation my translation says propitiation the word is a mercy seat. Whom God set forth as the place of mercy to demonstrate his righteousness there is a 3rd time because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins that were previously committed nevers 26 our final verse in this passage to demonstrate at the present time a 4th time his righteousness that he might be just and the justifier of those who have faith in Jesus when told turns the corner. On the universal plight and the universal condition he does so by making it so clear you can not miss it 1234 times he says but the righteousness of God but the righteousness of God but the righteousness of God but the righteousness of God has been displayed. Which is of course the very point he makes in Romans 117 for in the Gospel the righteousness of God is revealed choose your word revealed displayed demonstrated and we could ask Paul pause while there when was the righteousness of God that Sauternes the human condition in the human plight where and when was it demonstrated and he gives us the answer in the text when God sent Jesus forth as the place of mercy this is an an ambiguous and unmistakable reference to the incarnation of Jesus in human flesh and especially to the cross even is. Want to read the same passage in another translation that actually get several nuances of the text in a better way in my perspective but now apart from the lawn picking it up in verse 21 walked back through the text with me but this time perhaps just listening rather than reading. But now apart from the law. The right making of God has been disclosed let's just pause with there for a moment the right justice of God is being rendered by this translator the right making of God When God makes things right when he sets them in their proper order and orientation but now apart from the law the right making of God has been disclosed witnessed by the law on the prophets the Old Testament the right making of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ in time does not allow me this morning to go in to the robust grammatical and theological case that can be built for translating this phrase in what's called the subjective genitive not my faith in Christ but the faithfulness of Christ Trust me the evidence is there for there is no difference all have missed the mark and lack the glory of God but they have been set right freely by His grace through the liberation that is in Christ Jesus pause right there my translation says the redemption that is in Christ Jesus Beloved I want you to hear one thing if you get nothing else I want you to get this point you listen to me very carefully according to Paul according to the text of Scripture the location of your redemption is in Christ Jesus want you to turn to the person right next to you and say my redemption is located in Jesus Christ you are right now. My redemption is located in Jesus Christ now I want you to say to that person your redemption is located in Jesus Christ go ahead and say it. There is no other place where our redemption for our liberation to reside heaven forbid it cannot reside in US poll is already built is undeniable case that there's not even one righteous there's not one that could stand before God innocent on the basis of Torah so if we're going to have a rescue if we're going to have a liberation if we're going to have a salvation if we're going to have redemption it must reside in some place extra Arnel to us. And I'm happy to tell you here today that the place where your redemption resides is in the person of Jesus Christ. That gets better. God set him forth publicly as a means of reconciliation here again through the faithfulness of his bloody death ah his bloody death again and an ambiguous reference to the cross events and it is right at this point that we just press pause on Romans 2 which we will likely return in a moment and I want you to come with me in your mind to a scene that you have probably familiarize yourself with in the past Jesus has been scourged Jesus has been mocked Jesus has been arrested and now he finds himself in John Chapter 19 standing before a pilot no doubt blood dripping down his body and he is silent he is reflective he is pensive he is in full possession of the situation and he knows what is happening and he chooses in this moment of great. Critical a crucible moment of great significance he elects to remain silent. Pilot is confused by his silence and he peppers Jesus with a couple questions. Do you not know who I am. Try to imagine in your mind's eye what pilot sees before him pilot is a governor he is a a man of significance in the Roman system he has seen his fair share of rough eons and and criminals in miscreants come before him he knows with to me is dealing or so he thinks and and so rather than the sort of brazen an argumentative. People that he sometimes gets in front of them this guy is trying the kind of silent treatment and and pilot wants to orient him to the dire situation in which he finds himself and he says scuse me young men this whole silent treatment thing is not going to work for me and it's not going to work for you don't know who I am and then this line that I have the power to crucify you not just at this point I want to just say that the ease. And the casual mis with which we in the 21st century speak about the cross would be completely lost on a 1st century slave or a 1st century Jew or one of the have nots of the Roman Empire not on the psychological oppression the psychological shadow of the Cross can not be appreciated here in 2019 by the A.S.I. audience or by any audience. Now you've never seen a person crucified you've never seen dozens you've never walked outside of your village or hamlet or the city gates to see dozens or perhaps hundreds of people lined up on crosses you have never seen it and I have never seen it and so we now glory in something that if you could transport back into time would be regarded as so strange so in comprehensible No wonder Paul would say when we go into various cities and villages and we preach a crucified Messiah people think we're nuts. And so. Earlier this year I found my way to an essay by a fellow named L L Well born the essay is titled extraction from the mortal sites and here perhaps more than any other author I've become exposed to he gives us a window into the cultural significance of the Cross and the way the cross would have been perceived in those days well born writes in speaking about the ubiquity of the cross I do not have in mind the occasional use of crucifixion as the supreme penalty in notorious cases of high treason nor the more frequent use of crucifixion as a means of suppressing rebellious subjects in the provinces but rather I have in mind the regular employment of the cross as a punishment for slaves in cities throughout the Roman Empire just outside the gate at Rome on the road to Tiber was a horrific place where crossers were routinely set up for the punishment of slaves there a torture and execution service. It was operated by a group of funeral contractors who were open to business from private citizens and public authorities alike. Indeed the cross was not only the ominous specter around which the consciousness of the slave cringed but because the cross was the evil instrument by which the legal institution of slavery was maintained this extract of the surplus upon which the power of the ruling class depended the cross may be regarded as the dark gravitational center which whether recognized or repressed a lot of places to all of those who lived within the social symbolic edifice of the Roman Empire the cross was an instrument of cruelty it was designed not for the purposes of death killing a person is very easy you put a knife or a speared or a sword through them the cross is about control the cross is about humiliation the cross is about keeping people in line and if you were a slave or one of the many have nots in the Roman Empire you would have been familiar Experion Julie with what it is to see a person a human a body a brother a mother a son nailed to a piece of wood and it would have said to you stay in line or else. And so it is right at this point that Jesus is standing before a pilot and electing for a strategy of silence and pilot says Young man I don't think you understand the gravity of the situation in which you find yourself don't you know who I am don't you know I have the power to crucify you and even at the word crucified others in the audience chamber might have to drawn back pilot has pulled out the big guns the threat of crucifixion Jesus is not a Roman citizen he is eligible for crucifixion and it's right here. Were Jesus recalibrates no better really orients pilot to what's really happening in that audience chamber pilot has said don't you know who I am and it's as if Jesus says Sir it would be more important for you to know who I am. You would have no power at all he says in verse 11 if it not had not been granted to you by my father and I in heaven a total really orientation of the nature of power the nature of control Jesus had said in John Chapter 10 No one can take my life from me I lay it down myself when Peter thought that he was coming bravely and courageously to the rescue of Jesus in the garden there Jesus said put your sword away don't you think I could be delivered if I wanted my father could send allegiance of angels no pilot it's not me who doesn't know who you are it's you who don't know who I am. Something about the cross event and the horror and the terror of the cross event says Paul demonstrates that this is an unusual God 99.999 percent of all gods of human history are human inventions are not good news but what is this God doing going willingly voluntarily even almost enthusiastically to across a tell you what he's doing. He's being himself he is displaying who and what God is not in his nature and ontology but in his character. Well born continues on this very line. Christ shared the fate of this language it is purposefully provocative it is purposefully absurd Christ shared the fate of a piece of human garbage one of those whom life had demolished and who would touch the very bottom even now if they lived in the shadow of the cross and died a bit every day upon seeing the cross even if a crush would be there to me as it was of their fathers and grandfathers its power over them was now broken and undone so that they could live on with value and meaning and hope and love because the one who had died in this contemptible way was the United of God. When friends this is an unusual God and I've got I've got a I've got a breaking news piece of information for you here today aside we're not the heroes of this story our churches are not the heroes of the story our institutions are not the hero of the story our longevity is not the heroes of the story we are in no way shape or form the heroes of the Gospel story Jesus is the hero of the Gospel story. And he's not just any god he's not just some god he is the one true Creator God the covenant keeping God Yahweh A who went voluntarily willingly and again almost even enthusiastically to a Roman instrument of humiliation coercion and control to demonstrate not your righteousness but to demonstrate God's righteousness. The law exists not exonerate the sinner the law exposes the sin and exonerates the savior. No wonder Ellen White said. No wonder Ellen White said 6 public commentary 1113 this statement is my all time favorite statement from the voluminous pen of Ellen White and it has become like a piece of furniture in the intellectual landscape of my life I cannot get away from it hanging upon the cross of Christ was the gospel. When Christ was the good news then she says. Now we have a message oh now we have a message oh yes now we have a message what is our message hanging upon the cross Christ was the gospel the righteousness of God is our message the faithfulness of God is our message we sometimes kill ourselves as Jared alluded to last night into telling the story in such a way that we persuade ourselves that we are the heroes in some way shape or form of the story we are not Jesus is the only hero of this story he alone was found worthy to open the scroll and to purchase permanently humanity back from its plight of condemnation and sin and death she continues the hold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world will not our church members keep their eyes fixed on a crucified and risen savior in whom their hopes of eternal life are centered This is our message this is our argument this is our doctrine our hope for every believer if we can awaken an interest in men's minds that will cause them to fix their eyes on Christ we may step aside and ask them only to continue to fix their eyes upon the Lamb of God. Friends the God that we have to preach and the God that we have to save and the God that we have to make famous in the world is no ordinary guy. He is an unusual God History is filled with stories of men who fought in some moments of grandeur or absurdity that they could become God but history has only a single story of a God the One True God Yahweh A who became a man and he didn't just become a man in any ordinary sense he went voluntarily willingly to a Roman instrument of torture where pieces of human garbage were thrown out as an instrument of control and of manipulation and Jesus said You have not put me here pilot I am here voluntarily I am here displaying promoting saving even recovering what had been lost the great truth about the righteousness of God the righteousness of God the righteousness of God the righteousness of God friends the righteousness of God is seen in the faithfulness of Jesus. And your response to that faithfulness is great it's awesome. Your life is going to be better but there is never a point at which your response to God saving faithfulness becomes the ground upon which you stand before Him you stand before God justified as Paul says in Romans 3 innocent as if you had never sinned because Jesus has done the unthinkable the on invented will no wonder brew Shelley said in the opening sentence of his incredible book. Christianity is the only major world religion to have as its central event the humiliation of its god. I recommend to you today and I come and to you today Jesus. And Jennifer sings I want to just share with you a line from this song. And I would give my final breath. I am sure that Paul would do that and I am sure that Jesus did that. I want to not only sing this and say Amen to this I want to believe that I would give my final breath. To know him in his death and resurrection. Oh I want to know him more. And the others out there with the raising of the hand say Lord I want to know you more perhaps even if circumstances should require it to give my final breath. To know you in your death and in your resurrection you are not an ordinary guy. You are an unusual God you are an extraordinary God You are the one true God who gave up everything. For us today we respond to that we receive that we accept that and we say. Oh God. We want to know you more. And we want others around us. To know you more. A man let's stand to our feet. Thank you Jennifer. Father in heaven. Even the glorious beautiful. Incredible voice Jennifer. The sound of this piano even these that move our soul to the depths other even these only come. Within a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percentage. Of the fullness of your goodness and glory. Father today truly in music and in testimony and in the text we have Bast in your goodness father reorient us redirect us and recalibrate us not just annually at conventions like A.S.I. and not just weekly at church services around the world. And Father not even just every day when we have our morning time with you. But father at every moment. Every breath may we be oriented to you. And to your goodness. And to just how unbelievably good news it is. Not only that there is a god. But that he looks like Jesus Father today we have tried to gain even just a small glimpse. Of the Grand your room of that glory and we want to say thank you. We want to respond. And say Turn us by your power and by your grace into the best versions of ourselves. And to those who not only know. The righteousness of God Those who show. The righteousness of God. Help us to that end and to that effect. By the infilling of your spirit. Is our prayer in Jesus' name. Let everyone say. This media was produced by audio version or they analyzed avenues layman services and industry. If you would like to learn more about the inside leave the W W W A S I. Or if you like to live for free online sermons leave the W.W.W. audio verse or.


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