Examine our faith. Have we cast off duties, particularly difficult ones (Job 27:10), been swallowed up by worldly interest, developed inordinate affection for money or sensual enjoyment (Luke 14:26, 1 John 3:9), or shifted off the responsibility of doing what is right?
Earnestly watch, pray, and strive to be in His grace and not to fall into temptation. In view of our weakness and our powerful enemies, ask God to help us stand firm, particularly in time of trial (Acts 14:22, 11:23, 13:43; Luke 21:34, 36; Ephesians 6:13-14). Seek deeper roots (Ephesians 3:16-17) and bear fruit (2 King 19:30, Joshua 13:5-7).
But many of us are like uncultivated ground, full of seeds and roots of thorns (Matthew 13:7, 22) that have never been plowed.
The thorns grow spontaneously. Our worldly hearts—inordinate affections towards worldly pleasure (lust of the flesh), profits (lust of the eyes), and honor (pride of life)—choke off the words of God. So, fruits cannot grow (Jeremiah 4:3, 1 John 2:15, 1 John 2:16, Mark 4:18-19, Luke 8:14).
After the fall, hearts bring forth such thorns (Genesis 3:17-18). Intense worldly affection and pursuits naturally grow. We focus on being superior to others, greed over gain, and carnal pleasures. Not knowing any better happiness, we pursue them above all else. They become the idol we worship.
Unfortunately, such naturally and spontaneously growing thorns are useless (Psalm 4:6), giving us no benefits or fruits (Isaiah 55:2, Jeremiah 17:11, Job 20:15), and ending in death (Romans 6:21). Further, such pernicious growth wounds our soul, giving us no peace or rest (Ecclesiastes 5:12), and causing intense conflicts and pain among people (James 4:1, Micah 7:4, 2 Samuel 23:6-7).
Our uncultivated ground needs to be plowed to create good soil (Matthew 13:7, Jeremiah 4:3). Break up our hardened hearts by the conviction of our sins and repentance. Have great guilt of our God-hated sins and see their vile nature against God’s glory. Be convinced of the vanity of the world to break us from them. Deny ourselves and renounce our self-righteousness to kill the thorns. Then the seed of the gospel can flourish and bear abundant fruits.
But be alert. Beware of worldly concern, desire and vanity returning to repossess us and choke the word of God in our hearts.
Summary of sermons by Jonathan Edwards
Many of us are careful in selecting what we put into our body but are remarkably careless in what we put into our mind. Yet what we put into our mind determines the person we become.
We have access to more contents than anyone in history. And we devour them, such as binge-watching memes. Our mobile phones have become our companion. We feel uncomfortable waiting in line without reading from them. Unfortunately, many things we consume, particularly from the social media, are misleading, with some downright dangerous. They can weigh us down with inappropriate worry, anger, and fear.
Control what goes into our mind.
The Bible is where God reveals Himself to us, educating us about Christ, His activities, teachings, death, and resurrection. It is where God teaches us our identity, how we should live, and where we will go. It is a book full of wisdom.
So, read the Bible regularly. Start from the four Gospels. Read it repeatedly to hold on to what we have learned. 2Tim3:14.
Meditate on the Bible we have read. To a certain extend, meditation is like worrying. In worrying, thoughts repeat in our mind dragging us down. But in meditating the Bible, the repeating thoughts elevate us.
Read the Bible to seek help and guidance from God for our everyday life. Make a note on questions to find answers later.
Apply what we have learnt from the Bible. James1:22. The goal of reading the Bible is not just to increase our knowledge, but also to change our lives and to equip us for different types of good work. 2Timothy3:14-17.
As to good work, there is no need to have a huge plan. Just do the next right thing. Be kind. Drive slower. Mention to someone you believe in God. Volunteer for the right activities. Give somebody an unexpected honest compliment. Relax. Forgive. Laugh. Go outside, look at the world, and say, “Thank you, God.”
If we do the wrong thing, remember God says, “My grace is sufficient for you.” 2Corin12:9. Repent, receive mercy, and do the next right thing.
In conclusion, control what goes into our mind. Read the Bible regularly. Commit to do what it says. Do the next right thing. God can and will help us. Let Him transform us by renewing our minds through the Bible.
Summarized from a sermon by John Ortberg
我们拥有的信息比历史上任何人都多。并且我们贪婪地吸收它们，如像沉浸于看模因的世界中，浪费多少时间。我们的移动电话成为我们的伴侣。在排队等候时, 如果我们不从电话中看东西便会感到不舒服。不幸的是，我们今天看到的很多东西，尤其是从社交媒体上看到的，许多是错误, 荒谬, 和危险的。它们可能引起不适当的担忧，愤怒和恐惧。
圣经是天父向我们彰显自己的地方，告诉我们有关基督，祂的活动，教导，死亡和复活。天父在那里教导我们应该如何生活, 将去何方, 以及我们的身份。这是一本充满智慧的书。
运用我们所学到的（雅各书1:22）。 我们阅读圣经的目标不仅是增加知识，而也是为了改变生活, 改变人生，并装备我们做良好的事工（提摩太后书3：14-17）。
总而言之，控制进入我们脑海的事物。经常阅读圣经。致力于做它所说的。 做对的事情。上帝可以并且会帮助我们的。让祂通过圣经更新我们的思想, 改变我们。
Christ told the story of building a house to symbolize building our life, character, or soul. Matthew 7:24-27 and Luke 14:25-33. Irrespective of wealth, intelligence, or faith in God, the house built would face unavoidable storms. The outcome, stand or fall, depends on the choice we make for its foundation.
Christ described two types of foundations. A strong and solid one depends on listening to and following Him. A weak foundation is one listening to His teachings but not following Him. Note that the person is not good or bad, but wise or foolish.
Make our decision wisely, soberly, and not emotionally. Luke 14:25-33. Having said that, similar to getting married or having kids, be comfortable that we couldn’t be absolutely certain with our choices.
Count the cost of following Him. It could imply laying down our ego, control, reputation, or certain habits, preferences, relationships, attitudes, or behaviors.
Count the cost of not following Him. It could imply a life enslaved by ego, money, image, reputation, or power; living a life of fear and greed; or dying in despair, after living a meaningless life.
Count the benefits of following Him: Forgiven of our mistakes through grace from the cross; having God’s guidance and help; living a life with hope and meaning, beyond worry and fear, and not enslaved by money, reputation, sex, safety, or image; or having confidence of life after death.
Typically, we don’t choose to be evil or intentionally plan the wrong path. We don’t get married planning to divorce. We don’t go to the office intending to meet someone to have an affair. We don’t have children planning to wreck them. We don’t live our life planning to be greedy, selfish, or a racist. But these things could happen, such as if we make choices entirely based on how we feel.
Do we follow ourselves or God?
Learn from Christ and follow Him. We may not be good disciples, like the original ones, at least initially. Just try to understand and follow Him.
Anyway, choose wisely. Our life depends on the choices we make for our foundation.
Summary of a sermon by John Ortberg
基督讲述建造房屋的故事，象征着建造我们的生活，品格或灵魂 （马太福音7：24-27和路加福音14：25-33）。无论财富，智慧或对上帝的信仰如何，那房屋都会面临不能避免的风暴。其结果是持久站立或倒塌, 都取决于我们对基础作出的选择。
我们应该冷静地作出聪明的决定，不能感情用事 （路加福音14：25-33）。 话虽如此，就像结婚或生孩子一样，我们要知道对自己的选择不能有完全的把握。
要数算跟随祂的代价。这可能意味着放下我们的自我，控制权, 声誉或某些习惯，偏爱, 关系，态度或行为。
向基督学习并跟随祂。 我们可能不是好的门徒，就像原初的那些，至少他们初时不是那么好。 只要尝试领会和跟随祂。
The Golden Gate Bridge stands when the world shakes because of its foundation. Its two towers, deeply embedded into the rock underneath the sea, firmly hold the rails that link every part of the bridge.
Many build their foundation on how others see them, focusing on creating a strong personal image to promote themselves. They want to appear smart, rich, strong, honorable, and even spiritual.
Paul does the opposite. He described himself as fools for Christ, weak, poor, being brutally treated, laborers, scum of the earth, and garbage of the world. 1cor4:10-13. Others’ opinion could not sway him because only God was his judge. 1Cor4:4. Ignoring image-building liberated him.
Solid foundation could not be based on transient things such as money, fame, power, health, and look. These external things could vanish in a split-second.
Solid foundation depends on our thoughts, desires, intentions, habits, and character. These internal things form our inner world, governing our life, our minutes, days, and years. Have we lived our life with integrity or despair?
What we take to eternity is not our resume or our houses, but the person we have become.
Let Christ be our foundation. Then we will become God’s building, under God’s construction. 1Cor3:9. We will be transformed into Christ’s image and will become glorious. 2Cor3:18. Our eternal glory far outweighs our current momentary and light troubles. 2Cor4:17.
Gradually, we will be filled with goodness that last, with love, joy, and peace; instead of always in a hurry for our ego and envy, filled with chronic anxiety.
We will be truthful and authentic; instead of hiding, faking, and making us look better than we really are.
We will not be arrogant because we know we are nothing without Christ.
We will not be judgmental toward others because we know we are not even qualified to judge ourselves. Even a clear conscience does not mean innocence because we do not know many of our hidden faults. 1Cor4:4. Psalm19:12. Let God be the judge. One day He would bring everything to light, making them clear. 1Cor4:5.
To conclude, listen to and follow Christ. Let Christ be our foundation, and let God build us up. Then even in severe storms with rising streams, we, built on the rock by God, would firmly stand. 1Cor3:9; Matthew7:25.
Summarized from the following sermons from John Ortberg.
保罗则刚刚相反。他形容自己為基督的緣故算是愚拙，軟弱, 贫穷，被残酷对待, 勞苦，被人毀謗，又被别人看为败类，萬物中的渣滓 (哥林多前书4：10-13)。别人的意见不能动摇他，因为他相信只有上帝是他的审判者(哥林多前书4：4)。不塑造形象解放了他。
让基督当我们的基础。那么我们将成为上帝的建筑物，由上帝建造 (哥林多前书3：9)。我们将转变成基督的形像，并变得光荣 (哥林多后书3：18)。我们永恒的荣耀远远超过了我们目前短暂和轻度的麻烦 (哥林多后书4：17)。
我们不会批判别人，因为我们知道我们甚至没有资格判断自己。即使问心无愧也不等于我们无罪, 由于我们不知道很多自己隐藏的错误 (哥林多前书4：4；诗篇19:12)。 让上帝做法官。有一天，祂会把一切都显露出来，使之清晰 （哥林多前书4：5）。
总括来说，听从基督。以基督为基础。让上帝建立我们。然后，即使在暴风雨中，尽管溪流不断上升，因我们是父神在岩石上的建造, 我们将坚定地站稳 （哥林多前书3：9; 马太福音7:25）。
Regularly we hear people say: Want a fulfilled life, take full control of it, be fully in charge. But gradually we will find out that many problems in life are beyond us and are not manageable. Then some of us humble ourselves. Matt 5:3.
Instead of blaming our genes, our upbringings, or the society, we accept that in many situations, we are the problems.
We should not be the master, ignoring God’s sovereignty. We feel sad, acknowledging our mistakes and accepting the consequences. Matt 5:4-5.
Both moralists and Christians are sorry for their mistakes. But moralists think their good behaviors would compensate, while Christians see our actions could not take us out of God’s wrath.
Yet, many of us still yearn to be approved and accepted by the Almighty. Matt 5:6. May be because we want to boost our ego or feel good about ourselves. In any event, God hates sin and could not just accept us. Romans 3:10-12.
God is angry because of His love. If someone we love is consumed by narcotics, destroying his future, we would be angry with him too. We want to free him of this terrible bondage, even if he has to go through severe pain, though we desire for mercy in the suffering.
Our path to be right with God is through Christ’s suffering, taking our punishment. Christ sacrificed Himself for us, so we could become God’s children, good in His eyes, even when God sees the worst in us.
We willingly follow Him and listen to Him, at least because of God’s love for us and His wisdom.
God accepts us because we rely on Christ. If we do well, we would not feel puffed up or brag. If we fail, we would not be cast down. What others think of us is not important because God’s acceptance is not based on our work.
In conclusion, humbly and sadly, we accept our weakness and mistakes. Then hungrily we rely on Christ’s sacrifice to become God children, listening to and following God. This gives us a fulfilled life.
Summarized from a Tim Keller’s sermon.
经常听到有人说：想要充实的生命，我们要完全控制及主管自己的生命。但是，逐渐地，我们将发现生活中有许多问题我们无法解决, 它们超越了我们能力的范围。 然后, 有些人会变得谦卑 （马太福音5：3）, 没有指责社会，自己的基因或成长，而是接受在很多情况下自己便是问题的所在。
我们不应该成为主人，不理会上帝的主权。我们感到难过, 承认自己的错误并接受后果 （马太福音5：4-5）。
然而，我们许多人仍然渴望得到全能上帝的认可和接受 （马太福音5：6）。这可能是因为我们想提升自我或想感到好些。 但上帝恨罪恶。祂无法接受原来的我们（罗马书3:10-12）。
上帝接受我们是因为我们依靠基督。 如果我们做得好，我们不会感到骄矜。 如果我们失败了，我们也不会灰心。 其他人对我们的看法并不重要，因为上帝的接受不是基于我们所做的事。
总括来说，谦卑和悲哀地，我们接受自己的弱点和错误。 但是我们衷心依靠基督的牺牲而成为上帝的孩子。 我们并且倾听和跟随祂。这给我们充实的生命。
In the Old Testament, a father’s blessing to his child was very important.
Isaac, son of Abraham, had two sons, Esau and Jacob. In his old age, Isaac decided to give his blessing to Esau because Esau was his favorite. At that time, Isaac was blind. Disguised as Esau, Jacob fooled Isaac and got his blessing. When Esau found out, he was furious.
It is unclear why Isaac could not just take back the blessing. But therapists tell us even off-hand comments, simple words and symbolic actions, could have an impact on us. How much more is a blessing from your father who is about to die?
As we know, words could have significant influence, especially to our children. Choose them carefully. Based on what we know of our children, use words to empower, encourage and affirm; and help them along their path.
We need blessings from those we value. The main figure we should value is God.
How could we, the sinful ones, get God’s blessing? We could get it through Christ, particularly through Him losing His status as the Son of God.
Whenever Christ prayed, He always addressed God as the Father, except once. When He was on the cross, Christ cried out in a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matt 27:46. At that point, Christ had lost His sonship. He got the curse we deserved so we could get God’s blessings. Gal 3:13-14.
We could get God’s blessing exactly as who we are, unlike Jacob, who had to hide his real self to get his father’s blessing.
Because of Christ, God loves us—not sort of loves us or somewhat loves us—but as much as He loves Christ! John 17:23. Further, we become just like Christ in the eyes of God. Hebrews 12:23.
Abraham received God’s blessing. Then he became the channel of blessings to all on earth because Christ was Abraham’s descendant. Gen. 12:2-3. Similarly, after receiving God’s blessing, we also could bring blessings to others.
In conclusion, through Christ, we get God’s blessings. God loves us as much as He loves Christ. From that, we become the source of blessings to others.
Summarized from a Tim Keller sermon.
亚伯拉罕的儿子以撒生了以扫和雅各。以撒年老时决定将他的祝福赐给以扫因为他最爱以扫。当时以撒成了瞎子。 雅各伪装成为以扫，欺骗了以撒，得到了他的祝福。当以扫发现后, 他就非常愤怒。
我们都知道, 话语可以产生重大的影响, 尤其是对于我们的孩子。仔细选择言词。根据我们对孩子的了解，使用话语来赋予力量，鼓励和肯定；并帮助他们走他们的路.
除了一次以外, 每当基督祈祷时，祂总是称呼上帝为父。当祂在十字架上，基督大声喊着说：“我的上帝，我的上帝，为什么离弃我？”马太福音27:46。那时，基督失去了儿子的身份。祂得到了我们应得的诅咒，使我们可以得到神的祝福 （加3：13-14）。
原本有罪的我们也能得到上帝的祝福。不像雅各, 他必须隐藏自己的本身, 来获得父亲以撒的祝福。
因为基督, 上帝爱我们—不是在某种程度上—而是就像上帝爱基督一样！约翰福音17:23。而且我们在上帝眼中都像基督 (希伯来书12:23)。
Many think God would accept them if they follow the Bible, such as the Ten Commandments.
But could we follow the commandments, such as love the Lord your God with all our heart, or love our neighbor as ourselves? Matthew 22:36-40.
When we could not, we try to hide our weaknesses. Just like going out on a date, we struggle to cover up our blemishes and accentuate our best qualities.
We have been doing that since Adam. Initially, the naked Adam and Eve felt no shame. But they listened to the serpent, and decided to be their own master. Suddenly, they knew they were naked. They were ashamed. They hid, feeling not acceptable by God.
As time goes by, instead of trying to please God, we try to please someone else, or we focus on something else. We are insecure and spend lots of effort to patch up.
Unfortunately, we have missed the point. The only pair of eyes that are important is God’s. Yet, before them, we are absolutely inadequate.
We cannot be right with God through our effort.
The way to God is through Christ. Through Christ’s crucifixion, we become good in God’s eyes.
Note that we are not abandoning our effort to do good. But we are casting away relying in our effort so that we could be good before God.
If we know we should let God be our lead, but we could not, there is no need for us to hide from Him. Instead, get close to Christ, who came for sinners.
God’s eyes are the only ones that count. Money, beauty, fame, power, or our effort, cannot make us acceptable to Him. Instead, rely on God’s mercy, trust the work of Christ. That is the way to be good with God.
Summarized from a Tim Keller’s sermon
Many consider low self-esteem leading to bad behaviors, but also disdain those with grand view of themselves. Low or high self-esteem, which is better?
Let’s look at the nature of self or ego.
Our ego focuses on ourselves. Triumph could send us into cloud 9, while insult and contempt could send us into despair.
Our ego makes us compare with our neighbors, injecting pain when our neighbor is better than us.
Our ego constantly drives us, pushing us to do better than before. It is like a permanent slave driver. But similar to a black hole in outer space, ego cannot be satisfied.
Paul had incredible ability. How was his ego?
He would not care how others thought of him, or how they judged him. These are attributes of a person with high self-esteem.
But Paul also did not care how he thought of himself. For example, he did not consider himself innocent even if he had a clear conscience. 1 Cor 4:3-4. This is distinct from many with high self-esteem, who care a lot about how they think of themselves.
Paul separated his performance from his identity. He did not think highly of himself, though he had significant accomplishments. Instead, he considered himself the worst sinner. 1 Tim 1:15. Yet, he would not beat himself up.
His identity was entirely through Christ. Because of what Christ had done, God found him good and valuable. Romans 8:1. To Paul, only Christ’s opinion of him counted. 1 Cor. 4:4. He also attributed his strength to Christ. Philippians 4:13.
Learn from Paul. How others see us, and how we see ourselves, are not that important. Do not define ourselves, our identity and our value, by our performance. We are blessed children of God due to Christ. Rejoice in Him. Rely on Christ to live.
Summarized from a Tim Keller sermon.
许多人认为自卑会导致有害的行为, 但人们也鄙视自大的人。自卑或强自尊心, 哪一个更好？
但保罗也不在乎他如何看自己。例如, 他不认为自己是无罪的即使他问心无愧 （哥林多前书4：3-4）。这与许多具有自尊心高的人不同，他们都很在乎对自己的看法。
保罗把自己的表现与身份分开。尽管他有重大的成就，他没有对自己有很高的评价。 相反地，他认为自己是最坏的罪人 （提11:15）。但他也不会自责不已。
Look at Haman, the person the Persian king most honored, in Esther 3:1-6, and 6:1-10.
The exiled Jews seemed to do well in Persia. Esther6:13. When the king of Persia required everyone to kneel and honor him, and when Mordecai, a Jew, didn’t comply, Haman planned to use this as an opportunity to kill all the Jews in Persia.
Previously, Mordecai had warned the king of an assassination attempt. Having been reminded of Mordecai’s loyalty, the king decided to reward him. When the king asked Hamas how to honor a person, the self-centered Hamas thought the king was referring to him. So, Hamas suggested something extravagant, and the king commanded Hamas to personally deliver the reward to Mordecai. That gave Hamas a lot of grief, and began his downfall, ultimately leading to his death.
An arrogant person has a number of characteristics.
The person totally focuses in himself. Everything is about him. He needs to be the center of everything, irrelevant of what it is.
The person always considers himself to be right. Since he thinks he makes no mistakes, he couldn’t learn from his own failure or other’s criticism. This leads to more serious blunders.
The person tends to hold onto grudges. He assumes he would never commit the wrongs other did. This makes it harder for him to forgive those who have committed such mistakes.
The humble would be exalted, while the arrogant who always tries to lift himself higher would be humiliated. Matthew23:12.
How to get rid of arrogance, particularly when it is difficult for a person to recognize such of his own defects?
First, admit that we tend to be self-centered and arrogant. Remember that the conceited tends to consider himself not conceited.
Second, know that we are sinful and corrupted. There is nothing in us that we should be proud of. On the other hand, we should not feel inferior and needy because due to Christ, we have God’s recognition and glory, the glory Christ received from God the Father! John 17:22.
To conclude, know that we are filled with defects, yet because of Christ, we have God’s glory and praises. Though we are confident and proud of our status, there is nothing we should be arrogant about. So, focus less on ourselves and more on others.
Adapted from a Tim Keller’s sermon.
此前，末底改曾告知国王有人要暗杀他。国王被提醒了末底改的忠心，决定奖励他。当国王问哈曼如何尊敬一个人, 自我中心的哈曼认为国王说的人便是他，他便提出了一些奢侈的建议。国王接受了哈曼的意见并且命令他亲自将奖赏给末底改。这使哈曼感到很难受, 也开始了他的垮台，最终导致他的死亡。