Matt is a California native who has come to love Pennsylvania. He's a graduate of Penn State and Southern Seminary and somehow still loves to read. A former collegiate gymnast, he now prefers outdoor sports, trail running and spending time with his wife Andrea and son Soren. The Cohens live in the East Falls neighborhood of Philadelphia and lead a citygroup in that neighborhood as well. As the lead pastor at Citylight Church Matt guides the overall vision and teaching.
Who is the King of Glory? The service that is the culmination of our Advent series looks at the answer to this question from the beginning of the Bible to the end. Throughout, we learn and re-learn the true message of Christmas. The hope of the world has arrived and we need not fear any longer.
You’re not alone. I’m weary too. Sometimes just knowing that helps. What’s making you weary? Not sure? That’s when you really know you’re weary. You’re exhausted and overwhelmed and don’t even know why. Slow down for a moment; it will probably come to you. Me? I think that I am weary from all the unknown and the seemingly endless stream of decisions that attend this season. I think that the decisions are the most challenging part for me. It’s wearying to make so many decisions, and I tend to trouble my troubles by wondering if I’ve made the right ones. But enough about me. Has it come to you yet? Do you have an idea why you’re weary? Whatever it is, I want to share with you my favorite weariness passage: Isaiah 40:27-31.
Why do you say, O Jacob,
and speak, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the LORD,
and my right is disregarded by my God”?
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.
In Isaiah 40:27-31, the Lord has three things to say to both of us in our weariness.
Your way is not hidden from the Lord. Verse 27 is a response to the voice that you hear in your head when you’re weary: “The Lord doesn’t see me. I’m alone.” My weary friend, let’s not trouble our troubles by believing the lie that God is distant or disinterested. He sees us in our weariness, he loves us in our weariness, and he’s near to us in our weariness. Your way isn’t hidden from him.
He’s not weary. He’s everlasting; he has no beginning and isn’t going anywhere. He’s the creator; he’s never had to depend on anyone for anything, ever. He’s never faint or weary; he never has to catch his breath or get a good night’s sleep. His understanding is unsearchable; He’s never confused, nothing is unknown for him, and he works out everything perfectly. He’s not weary.
He loves to give power to the weary. As Ray Ortlund Jr. says, “God never suffers setbacks, and he helps those who do.” The Lord loves to give strength to weary people who wait upon him. Waiting on the Lord is savoring God’s promise by faith until the time of fulfillment (Ortlund). My weary friend, let’s take our weariness to the Lord and wait upon him. He is strong and he loves to provide endless supplies of strength to weary people.
Your weary and strengthened friend,
Discontentment is a problem that is as old as the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve were discontent; they ached over the forbidden fruit that she didn’t have and were willing to be done with God in order to have it.
What is contentment? In The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, 17th century Puritan Jeremiah Burroughs defines content as “that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition” (19).
How can we, by the grace of God, pursue the rare jewel of Christian contentment?
In Philippians 4:12-13, Paul writes, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him [Christ] who strengthens me.” Jesus himself is the secret of contentment because in Jesus you’ve received mercy that is far weightier than anything you lack. With Jesus as your shepherd, you have all and have no lack (Psalm 23:1). Treasure Jesus.
In Psalm 131, David writes, “O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. 2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.” Contentment comes when we keep our eyes low, where Jesus is (Matthew 11:29), rather than lifting them up to compare ourselves with others or to look at what we do not have. Treasure lowliness.
In Colossians 3:5, Paul writes, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you…” There is no sweetness of frame in our souls while we treasure sin. When we attack sin with grace, we attack discontentment at its core. Treasure holiness.
Treasure God’s Sovereignty
There is nothing in your life that comes apart from your good Father. Jeremiah Burroughs writes, “The Lord knows how to order things better than I. The Lord sees further than I do; I only see things at present but the Lord sees a great while from now. And how do I know but that had it not been for this affliction, I should have been undone” (36). Treasure God’s sovereignty.
Treasure The Future
The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the eternal weight of glory that awaits all who belong to Jesus (2 Cor. 4:17). Treasure your future, and the afflictions of this life will begin to seem light and momentary compared to the eternal weight of glory that will be yours with Jesus. Treasure the future.
Yours in Christ,
Grief is the emotional pain that accompanies loss. 2020 has been a year of grief for many of us. We’ve lost jobs, relationships, money, dreams, traditions, experiences, a sense of normalcy, and some of us have even lost loved ones. When the waves of grief are crashing on your life or the dark sadness will not lift, there are three unshakeable truths that can sustain our intimacy with, and even joy in, the Lord.
THE LORD IS NEAR
Psalm 34:8 says, “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” When grief rises, we remember that the Lord is near to the brokenhearted and he loves to lift up the crushed in spirit. The Lord is spatially everywhere, but he is especially with the grieving, to bless and protect them. In fact, the gospel message itself is the good news that, far from standing at a distance from our pain, the Lord entered into our fallen world to rescue us. The Bible says that Jesus himself was a man who was acquainted with much grief (Isaiah 53:4), so he can sympathize with our grief. My grieving friend, the Lord is no absentee divinity. He is near to you!
THE LORD HEARS
The Lord is near to hear you. In Hosea 7:14a, speaking about his grieving people, the Lord says, “They do not cry to me from the heart, but they wail upon their beds…” The Lord is not rebuking his suffering people for crying. Rather, the Lord says that they are crying in the wrong direction. Everyone cries; the question is in what direction. Remember, Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “Our Father in heaven.” “Our Father” communicates warmth and “in heaven” communicates power. The Father that we cry to is as compassionate as he is capable. He stoops to hear the cries of his grieving people. My grieving friend, the Lord hears your laments. He hears your prayers in pain. Cry to Him!
YOUR FUTURE IS BRIGHT
Grieve and cry as those who have hope. Perhaps my favorite passage on grief comes from 1 Peter 1, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials” (1 Peter 1:3-6). My grieving friend, you have been born again through faith in the resurrected Christ. You’ve been born into a future family inheritance that is imperishable. Set your hope fully on the day when Jesus will return and grief will be no more, and rejoice. Your season of grief is not worth comparing with the eternal weight of glory that is coming to all who love Jesus. Grieve, but not as those who have no hope, because your future is incredibly bright.
Yours in Christ,
At Citylight Church, we strive to be a culture shaped by the gospel. As a gospel culture, we look to the gospel for solutions to our problems and one of the most significant and common problems we face today is loneliness.
What is loneliness?
Dr. Stephanie Cacioppo, director of the Brain Dynamics Laboratory at the University of Chicago, writes, “Loneliness is a state of mind characterized by a dissociation between what an individual wants or expects from a relationship and what that individual experiences in that relationship. Because loneliness is a state of mind, being physically alone is not a necessary…condition to experience loneliness.”
Where does loneliness come from?
We can trace the roots of loneliness all the way back to Genesis and the Garden of Eden. In Genesis 1-2, there was not a hint of loneliness in the Garden. The man and the woman were fully known and fully loved by God and one another. Genesis 2 concludes with these beautiful words, “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed” (Gen. 2:24). Sadly, things did not stay perfect in God’s world for long. Adam and Eve believed the terrible lie that God didn’t love them, ate the forbidden fruit, and alienation entered into our relationship with God and one another (Ephesians 2:1-3; Titus 3:3). Loneliness is a feature of this fallen world.
How does the gospel apply to loneliness?
The gospel is the good news that the creator God is adopting sinners as his sons and daughters by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Adoption is the greatest benefit of the gospel. “In love, he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will” (Ephesians 1:4-5). My lonely friend, the promise of the gospel is that all who receive and rest in Jesus Christ for salvation are not only forgiven, we are adopted. And since we are adopted on the basis of Christ’s merits, not our own, nothing can separate us from the love of our Father (Romans 8:31-39). No matter what is making you feel lonely, your Father is not far away. He will never leave or forsake you. Let his presence be your deep and abiding hope as you wait for the day when your faith shall be sight!
Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me by night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is a light with you (Psalm 139:7-12).
Yours in Christ,
2 Corinthians 12:9b: Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses… This brings us to the big idea of our passage: Boast gladly in your weaknesses.All of this raises one very important question. Why? Why in the world does the Bible call us to boast, and not just boast but boast gladly, in our human limitations? Our passage provides us with three reasons: 1. The purpose of weakness 2. The power of weakness. 3. The plan of weakness.
New American Commentary on 2 Corinthians by David Garland
New International Greek Commentary on 2 Corinthians by Murray Harris (edited)Read sermon transcript
Believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is risen! Lay down the burdensome life of good advice about what you need to do and take-up, with the empty hands of faith, the good news about what the Lord Jesus Christ has done for you; he is risen. Why should a scientific and suffering people like us believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is risen?
- It really happened
- Exactly as God promised.
Over the last two weeks in Romans 8, we’ve learned that God says to us sufferers, “your present suffering is nothing compared to the glory that I’m going to reveal to you and, while you wait for glory, I’m working in all of the waiting for your ultimate good.” But in today’s passage, the Apostle Paul flips the question from “what does God say?” to “what do you say?”
This morning’s passage shows us that we can say “God is for you.” We know this because the passage explains that God gave his son for you, God justifies you, and nothing will separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
As a nation, we are clearly in an unprecedented and very fluid situation regarding COVID-19, with new measures being introduced daily. The Citylight elders have been monitoring the ongoing developments with COVID-19, consulting with medical experts from our congregation, listening to the governor’s recommendations, and engaging in prayerful discussion. In light of this, we have unanimously decided, out of love for our members and neighbors, to suspend our normal worship gathering times and locations this Sunday. Instead of gathering in person, we will hold Citylight’s first ever online service.
Read sermon transcript
Know God as your confidence when enemies surround you by understanding your enemy, by depending on, crying out, thanking, and hoping in your God.
Haggai has called God’s people to build God’s house. The people obey God’s Word and get busy building. Twenty-one days into the project the people are incredibly discouraged by the progress. God empowers the discouraged builders through his current presence and his future promise.
The Minor Prophets by Alec Motyer
NIV Life Application Commentary by Bode
Christians are to adopt the humility of Jesus toward one another so that at the proper time God may exalt us.
NIGC, Philippians, by Peter O’brien
Christmas Eve Sermon
Love for God leads to love for people. In this sermon we look beyond the surface to see the heart of murder and the hope of Christ.
Exodus: Saved for God’s Glory by Phil Ryken
Ten Commandments: Ethics for the 21st Century by Mark Rooker
Our love for one another flows out of the love we’ve received in Christ.
Pillar New Testament Commentary – Acts – By David Peterson
In the first part of Ephesians 1, Paul reminds his readers of all the spiritual blessings God the Father has given us through His Son. In the Ephesians 1:15-23, Paul prays that we’ll truly know all the blessings we’ve been given in Christ.
Ephesians For You by Richard Coekin
Pillar NT Commentary, Ephesians by Peter O’brien
Matt Cohen’s sermon at Citylight Center City