Who Can Be Trusted: An Excerpt From Matt Chandler’s 16th Sermon in Luke’s Gospel

What follows is tedious and long-winded. . . but it reads well.  Chandler’s unique gift of communication is on full display in this edifying and timely word.  If you have ten or fifteen minutes, I suggest you give attention to it.

So here’s what we’ve got to decide.  What we’ve got to figure out is who can be trusted.  Here are our options.  The sixty-six books of our Scriptures, written over a period of a thousand years, in three languages, on three continents.  The authors included kings and peasants and fishermen.  There’s books of history.  There are architectural structures.  There are stories that talk about geography.  These sixty- six separate books deal with hundreds of different controversies, all with uncanny unity.  Or a forty- year-old dude who, out of nowhere, penned his thoughts on God.  You see, what’s happened here is conjecture, and conjecture is a lot of fun.  I like conjecture.  I mean, conjecture is just imagination, isn’t it?   I love “This could be going on.  This could be happening.”  I enjoy that, but conjecture is a plaything, and what we’re doing here isn’t playing.  So you’ve got these weird choices that seem really simple.  Like, do we trust the Scriptures that are a thousand years old and have produced depth of life and passion for Christ all over the world, in almost every tribe, tongue and language, that has proven itself to be historically true and accurate?  And what I mean by that is the same conversion things that you’re hearing today, you could go read about that occurred 500 years ago.  Someone could say, “I can’t explain this.  Christ captured my heart.  The Holy Spirit flooded me.  This has been my response.”  Fast forward it to 2008, and you’ll hear the same exact story.  You can trust that, all that history, or you can go, “No, a random dude who’s just really creative—I like that guy’s story.” This is what all of us are going to have to decide.  Because there’s another really popular book right now in the top 25 on Amazon that, although I think has really beautiful imagery, I think is horrible in regards to what it makes out God to be.  So what do we do here?  Because what I’m guessing is that most of us aren’t going to become resident theologians.  Can we agree upon that?  Everybody going, “I’m not learning Greek.”  Let’s all agree.  Let’s go.   Anybody going to learn Greek in here?  “No, I’m not going to learn it.”  Koine Greek—not even modern Greek—dead Greek.  The kind of Greek that if you tried to speak to a Greek, he wouldn’t even know what you’re talking about.  Can I get, “I’m going to get some Hebrew on” in here?  No, I can’t.  My guess is that most of us are not going to run out and buy volumes of systematic theology.  I could be wrong.  We’ll run out and buy them, but we’re not going to read them.  So then what are the things that we have to watch for that will tip us off that what we’re reading’s dangerous, that what we’re watching is dangerous, what we’re thinking is dangerous?  

 Now, let me clarify here.  I am not trying to tell you what to read or watch.  I’m not into book burning.  I’m not into removing books from public libraries.  I’m not into that.  The reason I can quote most of these books to you is because I’ve read them.  So then, what are the markers, what are the things that we can look for that we can go, “Okay, this is dangerous.”  Let’s look at it. I think there are four questions you can ask.  

 Here’s the first one.  What do they do with the Scriptures?  Are they cold and dead?  Here’s one of the things that I find to be very, very ironic, because honestly it’s just a reverse picture of itself.  Right now if you’ll get into a discussion about what God’s like, and you try to use the Bible, you’re immediately labeled as some kind of cold, dead seminarian.  If somebody’s like, “Oh, I just think this about God, and God’s this”—normally the God that most people buy into is extremely effeminate.  We’ll step outside of Christian literature right now.  Go read Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, and look at the list of how they describe men.  Look at the list of how they describe women and think to yourself, “What have I been taught about Jesus?  Does He land on this side or does He land on this side?”  He will land on the woman’s side.  He is usually completely effeminate and never frustrated over sin, never.  He’s just fluttering about, “Love, love, love” on everyone.  Sin has not bothered Him.  Debauchery has not bothered Him.  The offense against His great name has not bothered Him  He’s just fluttering about, pixie-dusting people.  When you try to challenge that view, what you’ll get is, “Ugh!”  Especially if you’re trying to do that with the Scriptures.  So somehow the Scriptures are now being tied to dead orthodoxy, which is insane.  It is throwing out a thousand years of transformation and power and replacing it with some dude’s conjecture or what you think.  Now, I don’t mean to be offensive, but there was a time you believed a fat white man came down your chimney.  If you’ve got kids, earmuff them.  There was a time where you believed that to celebrate the risen Christ, God created a magical rabbit that laid eggs and just hid them in your yard.  And I could go on and on and on all the way up to whatever age you are now.  There is a way that seems right to us.  There is a thing that makes sense to us that in the end will kill everyone, which is why Paul pleads with Timothy in the book of 1 Timothy, “Guard your doctrine closely, because it will save you and those around you.”  So at some point, what you think has to become submissive to what God has already unpacked as how He does things.  Now you can walk away from that, but I don’t know what you’re walking to.  And please don’t tie the Scriptures to dead orthodoxy.  Now, there are men who have killed it.  Christ help us, there are men who have taken what is living and active and moving and once again made it some set list of paradigms that we all have to follow, which is the other side of this problem.  But to say then, “No, what I think,” or, “Oh, I like the way that sounds,” without having to check that with how God’s already revealed that He is and He behaves is very, very, very dangerous.  What do they say about the Scriptures?  Are the Scriptures cold and dead?  I would hope they’re not, since I talk about them every week.  I’m hoping you’re not picking up that vibe here.  I’m hoping you’re not leaving here going, “Oh, I don’t know.This guy just doesn’t look like he believes it.”  No, it’s living, and it’s active.  And if you don’t believe me, I’d love to just take several weekends in a row and introduce you to person after person after person after person here who has come to powerfully know Jesus Christ by nothing but the reading of His Word.  No sketches, no lasers, no props.  The only prop I use is this water bottle.  Sometimes I’ll use it for dramatic effect.   

 Here’s the other thing.  Watch what they say in regards to the purity of Scripture.  Watch anyone and be very careful of people who would say, “Uh yeah, I think we should just follow what’s red letter.  That Paul said that, Jesus didn’t.  Jesus didn’t say that.”  Well, we can preach on just what Jesus preached on.  He mentions hell eleven times.  He talks about money more than He talks about anything else.  Do you want me to do a 42-week series on money and hell?  We don’t have to go Pauline.  I can do eleven messages on hell followed up with 56 messages on how you’re so selfish and greedy with your money that you’re probably reaping judgment on yourself.  Come on, next week, you wanna go?  We’ll just have a bunch of guests here; we’ll just fire up Easter with it.  Why not?  Welcome to the Village.  We can just do Jesus, but that’s not what they’re talking about.  No, they just want certain ones of Jesus’ teachings.  Be careful.  The Dead Sea Scrolls did not destroy Christianity.  The Dead Sea Scrolls did not dissolve the Bible.  There were scrolls of Isaiah found in those Dead Sea Scrolls that were almost to the letter the same Isaiah that’s in that Bible in front of you.  And the reason some of the rest of those scrolls weren’t fitted into this book back then wasn’t because there was some kind of political scandal back then meant to stomp them out.  It’s because they don’t fit in this book; they go contrary to it.  Why would you include a book that says, “Ah, Jesus wasn’t really God?”  More conjecture.  Once again one thousand years, uniformity vs. conjecture.  Which one do you want to play in?  What do you do with the Scriptures?  

 Here’s a big one for me.  Do they add anything to the cross?  And I don’t mean, do they add a piece to the story?  Do they add anything to the cross?  What I mean by this is the Scriptures are unbelievably clear that Christ died once and for all for those who are being saved.  Which means nothing gets added to it.  It’s not, “Believe in the cross of Christ and…”  There are no additions.  I want to make clear here, I’m not even talking cognitively believing the cross of Christ but that thing that happens when regeneration takes place.  All the little moral codes and all the other things that we need to be doing or not doing, those all start taking place in us after the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit begins to work in our heart, not before.  Which is why if you’re not saved and you’re trying to do everything right, it’s so exhausting.  What do they do to the cross?  Do they add to it?  Because there are main-line denominations that add to it.  It’s not just the cross, it’s the cross and ______.  Wrong. This next one is going to be where you stop liking me.  Maybe you already don’t like me.  What do they believe about the essence of man?  Is man intrinsically good?  Is man at the center of all that God is doing?  Because that’s this very, very popular idea in a lot of this literature.  “God made all of this for us.”  Well, the only problem with that is once again, the Bible.  Because the Bible says that God made all of that as a display of His might, power and glory.  That’s a little bit different.  “God created us for fellowship.”  Where?  Because I just don’t see that anywhere.  Because God’s never been lonely.  And if He was, already we’ve attacked His godness if He’s lonely.  And then if that’s not it, then He’s dumb.  Because He went, “Here’s how I’ll fix My loneliness.  I will create billions and billions of people who have no intention of obeying Me, worshiping Me, loving Me, only instead destroying all that I’ve cried out as sacred.”  Great plan.  The Trinity gives each other fives—bam—end of working.  Man is not intrinsically good.  The depravity of man is the only doctrine we have with thousands of years of evidence.  “Surely I was brought forth in iniquity,” David said.  I was born.  The doctor smacked me.  Iniquity already.  The law reveals that we can’t.  We’ve talked about this over and over and over again.  The law reveals that we can’t.  You cannot pass the Ten Commandments, and that’s Morality 101.  That’s not upper level ethics.  That’s posted on the wall in kindergarten—used to be.  You can’t do it.  “Don’t lie.”  Anybody get out clean?  No.  “Don’t covet.”  Anyone?  No, everyone’s guilty still.  “Don’t have any other gods before Him.”  And don’t think religiously there; think trinkets, toys, safety, things like that.  Do I need to keep going, or will you just take my word for it?  I mean, you’re not even going to pass that, so why does God give us all these laws in the Old Testament that He knows we can’t do?  Do you think maybe it was to reveal in the real deep parts of our hearts that we can’t, so we’d be ready for a Savior?  I know there’s a lot of preachers right now that want to talk about your goodness.  They want to talk about how great you are.  In fact, a lot of them are wearing diamond cuff links and driving way expensive cars.  Because that’s a message that we all want to hear despite the fact that when we go to bed at night, we know it’s not true.  Maybe not the rest of the day, but when you go to bed at night and your spouse is already asleep and it’s just you laying there staring at the ceiling, you know it, because it’s the core of who we are.  We need a Savior because we have nothing intrinsically great within us.  What does it say about the essence, the nature of man? 

 Here’s the fourth one.  What do they do with Jesus?  Is He God?  Is He God in the flesh, resurrected from the death?  Is He the wrath-absorbing Son of God?  Or this one is real popular right now.  Is He a great moral teacher, a great ethicist, a great teacher, someone we should follow and emulate?  Because if you leave off the God part, you’ve left Christianity.  You’ve left it.  You’re not even in the same building anymore.  Once again, I’m not trying to tell you what to read.  I’m not trying to tell you what to watch.  I’ve never done that.  Now, Paul does it in one of these texts.  He’s like, “I’d rather you just be innocent of evil.  I’d rather you just avoid that stuff altogether.”  I don’t think that’s going to happen, so here’s what I would tell you.  You should at least know these four questions.  Because that book that had such horrible things in it, it had a couple of things that were really beautiful.  I want those little beautiful nuggets.  You just had to, in this book in particular, get through a lot of junk to get there.  But I’m telling you you’ve got to be careful.  Why?  Because if you follow a blind guy, you end up in a ditch.  And if you let a guy do surgery on you who has a log in his eye…  I mean, there aren’t any blind surgeons.  Do you know any?  Would you go to one?  Did you ever see that special on “20/20”?  “Blind heart surgeon.”  Uh uh, it ain’t going to happen.  You’re not going to find that guy.  There’s never going to be that good news, heart-stirring story of the blind brain surgeon.  Because even if through some weird miracle he could do it, you aren’t going to find too many volunteers.  You’re definitely not going to find the first one. “Yeah, I’ll give it a shot.”  That ain’t going to happen.  So you’ve got to ask these things lest you let someone with a log in their eye try to pull out a little speck out of yours.  Do you know what kind of damage that could do?  And if you’ve got guys that are hypocrites—and I swear to you, I saw a guy pleading for money for Sudan—just a ridiculous man— with giant diamond cuff links.  I mean, am I off here?  Is that crazy?  Pleading with me, who in the tax bracket world isn’t into the diamond cuff link area yet, to forsake the trinkets in my life to help redeem and reach out to Sudan, wearing diamond cuff links?  Sell your cuff links.  Don’t own seven cars.  I mean, this stuff is comical.  It’s satire.  It’s a “Saturday Night Live” sketch.  Do you want to follow the hypocrites?  You’ll just end up like them.  What do they say about the Scriptures?  What do they say about Jesus?  What do they say about the essence of man?  Do they add anything to the cross?  These are things that have to be in your heart, have to be in your head lest you get led astray.  Listen, I don’t consider myself  a perfect man, nor do I think that.  But I’m going to preach this book to you fearlessly and unapologetically.  And I know you know I travel around and do things.  I don’t take any money for honorariums.  All that money goes to the church.  I submit myself to the elders of this church financially and don’t seek compensation outside of this place.  I don’t confess to be a perfect man, nor to have all the answers, but I’m not afraid to tell you what the Bible says.  Not afraid at all.  And is there some hypocrisy in me?  Some, I’m sure there’s some.  But I welcome it being pointed out, and I throw my life at the mercy and grace of Christ and the elders of this church.  Be careful, because the ditch is a horrible, horrible, horrible place to end up. 

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