It has been a while since I’ve done one of these. Looking back, it’s actually been an entire 6mo. I’ve had this one half complete for that long, and I’m trying to figure out why. It may just be a case of laziness, but more so I think it’s a degree of pressure I’ve given myself by putting a specific format on these reflections that has cornered me into doing it a certain way.
It also meant that I spent 3-4hrs per session, carefully going through all my notes and adding new notes as I listened to the sermon again, then crafting out a response for my blog reflections. Unsurprisingly, it turned into a bit of a chore. So, I wonder if I change up the format, would it help?
It’s a new year, so let me see how it goes. Thanks for your patience in bearing with me as I figure this out, and may it be led by His Spirit, as I desire to spend more time in His Word and internalising what I have heard, according to the will of God.
These are now genuinely going to be some immediate reflections as I listen (back) on sermons from CBCWLA. It’s a brain-dump and won’t necessarily be cohesive or coherent, most certainly won’t be exhaustive of all important parts, but will be personal to me.
Here are the questions I’ll attempt to answer with each sermon I review:
- What sermon did I listen to today? Title/Link.
- Summarise the key points in 1-2 sentences.
- What stuck out to me, listening to it this time?
- How can I respond to this truth? What practical applications can I take from it?
1. What sermon did I listen to? Title/Link.
Preparing the Way – p. Nick Hsieh. Passage: Mark 1:1-13.
2. What were the key points of this sermon?
Per the sermon notes:
The way for Jesus is prepared through a high view of God and of his Christ. The humility of Jesus as the suffering servant is seen in his baptism and testing. Identify with Jesus Christ by drawing near to God’s throne of grace in humble confidence.
3. What stuck out to me, listening to it this time?
- The emphasis that Mark puts on Jesus’ exaltation as God and King, whilst contrasting this with Jesus’ identification with man through His baptism and temptation.
- Jesus’ exaltation can be seen during John the Baptist, the prophesied ‘new Elijah’, preparing the way. John claimed that he was not worthy to even untie the straps of Jesus’ sandals, which was understood to be a task “so menial you wouldn’t even bother asking a slave to do it”.
- Jesus’ identification with man could be seen through accepting baptism, and going through immediate testing in the wilderness, physically (by taking no food or drink, as well as the threat of wild animals) and spiritually. However, Jesus differed from us in that despite all of these temptations and tests, He never sinned. He succeeded where we continue to fail.
- Thus Hebrews 4:15 says – “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (ESV)
- Baptism was a way of identifying with a group or cause, and its symbolism here points to the coming of a new covenant.
- John called people to prepare for the coming Messiah via repentance from sin. Being baptised meant turning away from your old allegiance, which was to sin (repentance), and turning instead to God through Jesus Christ.
- John was also calling people to have a right view of Jesus; the one he calls us to turn to is God Himself, who is so exalted that John the Baptist – a prophesied prophet – felt himself unworthy to untie the sandals of.
- How high is your view of Jesus?
- Yet Jesus came in humility and gentleness, identifying with man for our sakes.
- We are called to be disciples in this context.
- “Ultimately this passage is not so much a call for us to prepare the way for Jesus – that has already been done. Rather, it is a declaration that Jesus has prepared the way for us – our role is to walk in it.”
- Mark emphasises two themes in this passage:
- Jesus humbly identifying with humanity at his baptism sets the tone of his role as Suffering Servant for the rest of the gospel.
- Jesus’ confrontation with Satan sets a tone of conflict with the spiritual realm that will continue throughout Jesus’ ministry.
4. How can I respond to this truth? What practical applications can I take from it?
Identify with Jesus Christ by drawing near to God’s throne of grace in humble confidence.
Drawing near to God like Jesus did in this way may also be called faith, as faith involves a humble confidence of submitting to God.
As someone who is not God, the first step for us to do this is through repentance. This is relevant for all people, whether or not we are believers, since it reveals a high view of God, which in turn enables us to submit to Christ’s lordship.
We may not be called to physically die for Jesus Christ or His gospel, but we are called to die to ourselves – our will and our pride – for the sake of Christ and his gospel.
This will look different for everyone… For a non-believer, it will probably look like turning away from your sins and putting your trust in Jesus for the first time. For the believer, sanctification is a life-long process, so it is time to search our hearts to see what areas of growth God is revealing to us, and respond humbly to grow accordingly.
Are there areas of my life that I have left un-surrendered to Jesus’ lordship?
Reflecting on areas that God may be calling me to grow in, p. Nick wrote this, “One of the things I struggle with is surrendering my pride when I get riled up by the error of others. […] So then my challenge becomes to respond graciously in the moment.” I think this is definitely something that I can work on – showing more grace to others than desiring to receive grace for myself.
In addition, I still need to work on making good use of my time. I like to waste time on entertainment or spend time messaging friends online instead of spending time with God. I like to make excuses for this behaviour, saying that it takes brain-power to spend time in the Word when I just want to enjoy mindless entertainment. It shouldn’t be so. May it stop being so. May I work on this, and I thank God for continuing to reveal areas I need to grow in.
Finally, this sermon was written in early 2019, long before the pandemic began, but these words still ring true today so I’d like to share them with you all, as well as being a reminder for myself:
Some of you are going through hard times right now. You are faced with trials of faith and fortitude. You are struggling with your feelings and thoughts. You are tempted to despair and to feel alone. Would you turn to Jesus Christ in this hour?
Jesus Christ identified with you in your weakness so that he might have compassion on you in this very hour. Turn to him in faith. Trust him with your thoughts in prayer. Turn to his Word, the vocabulary of his Spirit, and let the Spirit of Jesus be your comforter. And turn to the community of people whom Jesus redeemed, and let them refresh you in the Lord, bear your burdens with you, and be a source of wisdom and grace.