Sermon, Sunday October 18, 2020 Abiding in the Vine part 2

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John 15:1-17

Fruit that Lasts

We know that as followers of Jesus, we are called to produce fruit for the glory of God, but what does that mean practically?

Here is a quick look at six different types of fruit.

  • Soul winning

A follower of Jesus will have a passion to tell others about Jesus. When Jesus called Simon Peter and Andrew in Mark 1:17, he said, “follow me and I will make you fishers of men”. The Apostle Paul was passionate about winning souls for Jesus fruit (Romans 1:13).

This can be as easy as inviting your neighbor to church or beginning a Gospel conversation with your co-worker. It begins with praying for the people that God has placed in our sphere of influence.

  • Holiness

As we grow in our relationship with Jesus, we become more like him. We grow in behavior that brings glory to God (Romans 6:22). As we grow in holiness, we change the way we think, speak and react in situations. Holiness cannot be manufactured; it comes from abiding in the vine. Holiness focuses the attention on Jesus, the source of holiness.

  • Generosity

Followers of Jesus should be known for their generosity, remembering that everything we have comes from our Heavenly Father and that He never runs out (1 John 3:17).

This principle of giving is that it is impossible to outgive God.

Worshiping God in giving begins with giving 10% to your local church, but that is just the beginning. Once we take the 10% off the table, the Lord asks us how are we stewarding the other 90%. That is where the fruit of generosity is truly displayed.

  • Fruit of the Spirit

In Galatians 5:22-23 we have a list called the fruit of the Spirit. These are all produced in our lives as we die to ourselves and submit our lives to the control of the Holy Spirit.

Being able to display these fruit of the Spirit when the world around us seems to be falling apart, is the work of the Holy Spirit. This will draw the attention to the source of your peace and bring glory to God.  

  • Service

We are saved to serve by giving our time and energy (Colossians 1:10 and Matthew 5:16).

This is not doing things out of duty, guilt or to trying to earn points with God, rather as abiding branches in the vine we will produce as we were designed to do (Ephesians 2:10).

When you are serving the Lord, doing what you were created to do, it will bring life and bring glory to God.

  • Praise

Living a lifestyle of praise is a by-product of abiding in the vine. If you are getting your strength from Jesus, living in a close walk with him, you will be filled with praise (Hebrews 13:15). This is the praise that comes from the heart, singing out of the abundance of the blessings of God on our lives.   Praising God even in the painful situations of life, brings glory to God.

These are just six examples of fruit, but for the vine to be fruitful, there needs to be a vinedresser who tends to the vine.

Jesus said in John 15:1 that His Father is the vinedresser. God the Father is the one who is in charge of caring for the vine and ensuring that it produces fruit.

Part of the job of any vinedresser is pruning. Often Christians pray that God will make them more fruitful, but they do not enjoy the pruning process that follows.

A vinedresser prunes by cutting away dead wood and also by cutting away living branches that are taking away nutrients from the branches that are bearing more fruit. God wants an abundant harvest and sometimes that requires a painful process.

However, the greatest judgement God could bring to a believer is to leave him or her alone. In a garden the vinedresser is never closer to the vine than when he is pruning. If you think that you are going through a tough time and God is pruning you, remember that He is close and He is preparing you for more fruit.

This happens in our churches as well. Sometimes God prunes ministries and programs that we have become comfortable with, God prunes them not because they aren’t producing fruit, but God prunes them and directs our attention to another opportunity that produces much more fruit.

God prunes in different ways, often it is through the reading and application of the Word of God. Sometimes, as we read and hear the Word of God, we are convicted, and God cuts to our heart bringing us to repentance (John 15:3)

Many times, the pruning process comes from difficult situations around us, hardship, sickness, and loss. It is a fact of life that we seldom grow without pain James 1:2-4).

I believe this applies to the church as well as individuals. We have been praying for revival in the church, and we can see God pruning His church in answer to our prayers.

But the reality is that the church in America was not producing fruit. The church as a whole has compromised with culture rather than influencing culture.

God is refining and pruning the church and only the church that is being refined by the whole Word of God will produce fruit.

In verses 7 and 16, we have two promises from Jesus to answer prayers. Both these verses are in the context of producing fruit for the kingdom of God. When we are abiding in the vine, our desire will be to produce fruit.

What are you praying for?

Sermon, Sunday October 11 2020 – Abiding in the Vine part 1

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John 15

Abiding in Jesus

Immediately after Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples, he led them out of the room and on a walk up towards the mount of Olives. Little did they know that this was the most significant night in all of human history.

Jesus was walking to his arrest and was preparing himself to be crucified. But even in this incredibly stressful time, Jesus was teaching his disciples. He used the backdrop of the grapevines to teach them about the importance of bearing fruit by abiding in the vine.

Jesus opens the dialogue with the powerful statement, “I am the true vine…” (John 15:1)

Jesus is the vine the Father is the vinedresser, and the true followers of Jesus are the branches. But branches are not simply for show, they have a role to play and that role is to produce fruit. The true followers of Jesus will produce fruit.

In John 15 we have some incredible promises and terrifying warnings in the words of Jesus.

We love the promise of answered prayer in verse 7 and verse 16, but these promises must be read in the context of the teaching of Jesus. In verse 8 we read that the purpose of producing fruit is to bring glory to God the Father. If we pray that the Lord would allow us to bear fruit, he will surely answer that prayer.

Are we praying that God would bless us with lasting fruit, for His glory?

The challenge facing the church today is, what are we praying for? Are we praying for peace, prosperity, and comfort? Are we praying for a return to “normal”? All the while, God invites us to pray for fruit, fruit that will last.

DR. G.  Campbell Morgan writes, “any prayer which does not react upon my life and make it a more fruit-bearing life, is not a prayer at all”

The terrible warning of this passage is found in verse 6. These branches that are thrown into the fire were at one time attached to the vine. They were possibly attached to the vine because there was promise of peace, comfort, personal blessing, and cultural acceptance.  

However, these branches never had a desire to produce fruit, because they were never abiding in the vine.

In January 2020, I would suggest that the majority of church attendees had no desire to bear any fruit. As we read the words of Jesus in John 15, we see that the key to producing fruit is abiding in Jesus. When we learn how to abide in Jesus, we will know unshakable peace.

One of the fruit that comes from abiding is peace, we know this from Galatians 5:22-23.

If you listen to Christians today there is a lot of fear being expressed. Fear of the pandemic, the financial state of the world, the political state of our nation. Sadly, this is fear being expressed by people who claim to be abiding in the vine. Oh, they will say they are just being realistic, but they are walking in fear.

Fear is not a fruit of the Spirit. Fear is not a result of abiding in the vine. Walking in fear is evidence that you are not abiding in the vine.

One of the evidences of abiding in the vine is getting our sustenance from the word of God (see Psalm 91:1-2, Habakkuk 3:17-19, Psalm 23:4, 1 John 4:18)

The reward for not looking to the world for sustenance and trusting Jesus is life and peace.

Jesus is the true vine and we who know Jesus as Lord of our lives are the branches. In John 15:16 Jesus makes a dramatic statement, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”

We must never make the mistake of thinking that we had any part in our own salvation – we are saved by grace alone (Ephesians 2:8).

The branch is weak and useless if it is not connected to the vine. It is only good for being thrown into the fire. The branch is only as good as it is abiding in the vine.  

As Christians we are only going to be producing fruit if we are abiding in Jesus. Getting our daily sustenance and feeding on the vine, getting our life from Jesus.

Abiding in Christ is a cultivated discipline that takes time and effort.  Abiding comes from spending time feeding on God’s word, reading the Bible, praying and staying connected with other Christians.

There is a significant difference between simply being a part of the church by coming to the church when it is convenient and abiding in the vine, getting your life from Jesus through the word and the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Where are you today?

Are you abiding or, are you walking in fear?

Are you simply attached to the vine, but you know that you are not really abiding in Christ?

Now more than ever we need to know the lifestyle of abiding in Christ.

Abiding in the Vine – Some thoughts on John 15 and 2020

In the last six months, how many times have you heard someone wishing that things would just get back to normal? Even believers who attend church regularly are wishing that things would return to the way they were in January of 2020.

But what was normal?

For many normal was couched in passivity and many of us didn’t have to face the real problems in society because we were pacified by sport and entertainment.

Even in the church, many were attending a worship service once or twice a month out of tradition, or simply for a sense of wellbeing. The church was a segment of culture that was simply another part of “normal”.

But since March, many things have changed. Many of society’s challenges have been exposed and everyone has had to make some difficult choices.

In John 15, we read some of the most powerful teachings of Jesus. Jesus uses the analogy of the vine and the branches. Jesus is the vine the Father is the vinedresser, and the true followers of Jesus are the branches. But branches are not simply for show, they have a role to play and that role is to produce fruit. The true followers of Jesus will produce fruit. In fact, verse 8 says, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”

In January 2020, I would suggest that the majority of church attendees had no desire to bear any fruit. As we read the words of Jesus in John 15, we see that the key to producing fruit is abiding in Jesus.

But what does it mean to abide? The dictionary says that to abide is to remain firm, fixed, or unwavering. Another dictionary explanation says, “to endure without wavering”. When we learn how to abide in Jesus, we will know unshakable peace.

Psalm 91 has come to mean so much in this season, where again we read about the security of abiding in Him.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

 I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust
.”

Psalm 91:1-2

In John 15 we have some incredible promises and terrifying warnings in the words of Jesus.

The promise that we quickly grab hold of is found in verse 7, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”

But I would encourage you to read this promise in the context of the entire chapter. The desire of every believer (branch) should be to bear fruit as we read in the very next verse, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”

If we pray that the Lord would allow us to bear fruit, he will surely answer that prayer, for the glory of God the Father. So, are we praying that God would bless us with lasting fruit, for His glory?

This promise is repeated by Jesus in verse 16, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”

The challenge facing the church today is, what are we praying for? Are we praying for peace and comfort? Are we praying for a return to “normal”? Are we praying for peace and prosperity? All the while, God invites us to pray for fruit, fruit that will last.

The terrible warning of this passage is found in verse 6, “If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.”

These branches that are thrown into the fire, were at one time attached to the vine. They were attached to the vine because there was promise of peace and comfort. They were attached to the vine because there was promise of personal blessing and cultural acceptance. However, these branches never had a desire to produce fruit, because they were never abiding in the vine. There was attachment without abiding.

I believe that we are beginning to see the pruning process in the Church. The Father, the Vinedresser, is removing the branches that are not abiding in the vine, the branches that are not producing fruit.

What does it mean to produce fruit? The Bible is clear that the followers of Jesus are called to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:18). We are called to love one another as Jesus has loved us (John 13:34), a sacrificial and selfless love.

Abiding in Jesus, being used by him to produce fruit is what we are created for. It is the essence of worship. The natural by-product of living a life committed to being used by God, is joy. John 15:11 says, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

How about praying a prayer that God will always answer affirmatively? Join me in praying for opportunities to bear fruit for the Kingdom of Heaven. Join me in praying for opportunities to share the Good News of Jesus in these uncertain times.

Are you abiding in the vine?

Sermon, Sunday September 20, 2020 – Walking in the Spirit

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Ephesians 5:18-21

2020 has been a year that has challenged us all in many areas of life, but the area of relationships has been under the most stress as we look at society. People have begun to appreciate the value of being connected and living in community.

When we become followers of Jesus, we take on a new identity as we have seen in Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus. One of the most important results of this new identity is that we have new relationships, we have become part of a new family that is an eternal family (Ephesians 1:5). Our relationships within the Body of Christ is eternal, any relationship outside of the fellowship of believers is temporary. 

But sin is the great separator; it separates us from God and separates us from other people. One of the first signs that someone is struggling with sin in their lives, is that they separate themselves from family fellowship.

In Ephesians 5:18-21, the Apostle Paul exhorts his readers to be filled with the Holy Spirit in order to live in healthy relationships. These verses are all about how we are to relate to one another within the Body of Christ. How we speak to one another in verse 19 and how we submit to one another in verse 21. A Spirit filled believer is someone who lives in a right relationship with God and fellow Christians.

Paul uses the example of a person under the influence of alcohol as the opposite of what it means to be filled with the Spirit of God. Drunkenness leads to a diminished ability to control one’s behavior, whereas one of the fruit of the spirit is self-control.

Being filled with the Holy Spirit is not an experience that is reserved for a select few followers of Jesus. This is the normal Christian life and it is a command from the Word of God. While every true follower of Jesus is sealed by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13), we all need a constant filling to be able to live a life of joy, thanksgiving, and love.

So how are we daily filled with the Holy Spirit? It is an ongoing discipline of prayer and spending time meditating on God’s Word. The Word and the Spirit are connected, as He is the author of the Word (Compare Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:18-19). Daily asking God for a fresh sense of His Spirit, knowing that the Father loves to give His children good gifts (Luke 11:13).

As we walk in the Spirit, being filled with the Spirit we experience results, effects of the overflow of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We see this in verses 19 to 21.

1: The first effect of being filled with the Spirit is joy. This overflows in a heart that is constantly singing. Notice in verse 19 that we sing to one another and to the Lord. There is a vertical and a horizontal dimension to our expression of joy. As we sing corporately, we also encourage one another through worship, that is why the active participation and gathering is so vital for the spiritual health of the believers in the church. We have all discovered that sitting and watching a sermon on the internet is not the same as experiencing the presence of the Lord in a gathering of believers.

The Spirit-filled believer has a song in their heart. In spite of the circumstances, the believer knows a deep sense of joy, this is singing from the heart.

2: The second result of being filled with the Spirit is thankfulness (Ephesians 5:20). The words gratitude and grace share the same root, and the Spirit-filled believer who has experienced the grace of God understands that every good and perfect gift comes from God (James 1:17). As a result, the thankful heart is a humble heart.

Paul commands his readers to be thankful at all times, this is impossible to do in our own strength, hence our daily need to be filled with the Spirit of God. When we face challenges in life, we should turn to the Lord with thanksgiving by the power of the Spirit to keep our heart from complaining and anxiety. The Devil creates chaos in our minds when we start complaining and feeding the fire of anxiety. Thanksgiving, by the power of the Spirit of God, defeats the enemy of our souls (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

3: The third effect of living the Spirit-filled life is submission (Ephesians 5:21).

In our sinful nature, we balk at the idea of submission, but submission simply means to prefer others, not always getting what we want. Submission is essential for healthy Christian community and it is only possible as one is filled with the Spirit of God.

The word submit has military roots and means “to arrange under”. Any soldier serving in the military knows that in order to defeat the enemy, he needs to submit his own desires to the orders of the commanding officer. So, it is with the Christian, we submit to the leadership of the Holy Spirit as we together serve one another and the mission of the church.

This does not come naturally, anyone who acts brash or arrogant is not walking in the Spirit. As we walk Spirit-filled we will display the meekness and the gentleness of Christ.

These three effects of being filled with the Spirit are not simply ideals for us to experience, rather they are essential for living in a Christian community. The fountain of healthy relationships within the Body of Christ is the Holy Spirit in our lives.

As we look at the church today, do we see evidence of Spirit-filled lives?

As the Holy Spirit convicts, repent and invite the Holy Spirit into your life to fill you and control you for the glory of God and for the health of the church.

Sermon Sunday September 13, 2020 – Walking in Wisdom

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Ephesians 5:15-17

Walking in Wisdom

If we are all honest, we want to make our lives count. We would like our time on earth to make a positive impact on those around us, and we want to leave a mark. This desire does not mean we have a problem with pride, rather it is the direct result of the fact that we were created in the image of God and designed for a purpose (See Psalm 139:16-17).

In Ephesians 5, the Apostle Paul wrote two sentences that give us three keys to living a life that will make a difference.

Paul encourages his readers to walk carefully. The Greek phrase means to walk with precision and accuracy. The cry of the previous verse is to wake up! Paul is encouraging his readers not to drift through life as sleepwalkers. Sadly, many professing Christians are drifting aimlessly through life as if sleepwalking.

There is a vast difference between knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge is available to anyone; it is knowing facts that are available to anyone who is willing to learn about a particular subject.

However, wisdom is the ability to make sound judgments based on the knowledge you have. Wisdom is a gift of God and something that God encourages us to ask for (James 1:5, Proverbs 2:6).

Walking in wisdom, is not simply knowing where to go or what to do in a particular situation. Walking in wisdom is taking the knowledge we have and then asking the Lord to direct our path, to lead us.

The ultimate mark of walking in wisdom is to walk with an eternal perspective, knowing that we are living for so much more than the temporal goals and rewards of this world.

Every moment we have is a gift from God, and the older we get, the more we realize that life is short. Another translation of this verse is, “redeeming the time”. The Greek word is the same word that is used to pay the price to free a slave. As the Apostle notes, these days are evil and under the control of Satan. We must make every effort to redeem every moment from the grip of the enemy of our souls. Satan loves for us to waste time playing games and watching TV, all the while we are missing out on the purpose and calling on our lives.

Do not miss this, we are in a war and Satan and his demons are constantly working to distract us with temporal things, even good things. As followers of Jesus, those who have been bought by the blood of Jesus, we should constantly war against those things that fritter away our limited time.

Our calling is to shine as light in the dark world, so that when the King of Kings comes, we will not regret the way we spent our time.

Verse 17 begins with the statement, “therefore do not be foolish…”. Foolishness is the opposite of wisdom. Foolishness is acting or speaking without thinking. Foolishness is not employing our understanding with wisdom. God has blessed us with the ability to think and to reason.

But that is not the complete verse, the rest of verse 17 states, “…but understand what the will of the Lord is.” I have heard it said many times in Christian circles, “God expects us to use our brains”, however, if we rely solely on our own intellect, many times we will miss the will of God for our lives.

Many times, we will miss God’s best for our lives, because to live by faith as a follower of Jesus will often require us to do things or go places that go against common sense. In the eyes of those around us, we are throwing out common sense and being reckless. But the safest and most rewarding way to live is to trust in the Lord and to pray daily for His leadership and guidance in our lives. Proverbs 3:5-6 could not be a more direct instruction in this regard:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.

How do we discern the will of God for our lives? The will of God is not a mystery to be discovered, it is a lifestyle to be walked. As we walk with God, we grow in our knowledge of Him and we are transformed in our minds.

Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

I have always prayed that God would direct my path along the lines of Galatians 2:20, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me…”.

There is active participation on our part. We must be walking. Discerning the will of God requires us to step forward in prayerful faith and allow God to direct us as we move.

Ephesians 2:10 shows us that God has a plan for our lives. We were saved for a purpose. God reveals His will to us as we read His word (Psalm 119:105), as we spend time in prayer and as we seek the counsel of wise brothers and sisters in Christ. Frequently God uses circumstances to direct our path (See Romans 8:28).

We can move forward without fear and anxiety knowing that our Father in Heaven is the source of wisdom and the one who saved us for His perfect purposes.

Are you walking in wisdom?

Sermon Sunday September 6, 2020 – Walking as Light

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Ephesians 5:7-14

A few days ago, I was boldly walking through my living room in the dark, certain that I knew the position of every item of furniture. However, I didn’t consider the possibility that Joshua might have left the vacuum cleaner in the middle of my path. I walked straight into the side of the machine and nearly broke my small toe, severely testing my sanctified vocabulary.

The lesson is obvious, don’t walk in the dark!

The Bible is full of references to darkness and light. But how do we walk in the light? What are some practical applications for the Biblical exhortation to walk in the light?

In Ephesians 5 verses 1 to 6, Paul points out three specific types of darkness, sexual immorality, greed, and foolish talk. These are examples of darkness that we are tempted to walk in and will result in experiencing the wrath of God (Ephesians 5:6).

In the next few verses of Ephesians 5, the Apostle gives four instructions to followers of Jesus to exhibit the fruit of light, by walking in the light.

The clear lesson is that as Christians we must avoid partnering with unbelievers in marriage or in business.

However, as followers of Jesus, those called to be the salt and the light in the world (Matthew 5:13-16), we are to live alongside, to love and to befriend those who are not believers. We are to live where God has placed us, while not participating in the sins of those around us.

  • you were once darkness, but now you are light!” Live out, who you are. We are called to reflect the light of Jesus by pursuing holiness and purity to the glory of God who made us new creations.

Paul continues to encourage the readers that by walking in the light, separate from the works of darkness, we will expose the works darkness (Ephesians 5:11). How does this happen? Verse 13 is the key, “But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible.” We as the church, the followers of Jesus are called to expose the works of darkness by shining the light of Jesus as we go about our lives.

The side effect of living as the light is that as we expose the works of darkness, they actually are transformed into light (Ephesians 5:14). This is the miracle of the Gospel being proclaimed and the mission of the church. As the church, we must be careful not to attack and belittle sinners, rather we are called to shine the light of Jesus on the sin and allow the Holy Spirit to bring about the conviction and transformation in the person (John 16:8).

Transformation takes place in the soul of the unbeliever as the Holy Spirit reveals Jesus as the light of life and truth. As we expose darkness, those who practice darkness will wake up to their sins and become followers of Jesus (Ephesians 5:14).

As followers of Jesus, as the reflectors of his light, we are called to expose sin. We are called to shine light on racism, modern slavery, sexual immorality, corruption, and greed.

We do this by living holy lives and standing up against injustice.

Sadly, too many believers have become passive, being too afraid to take a stand because of the anxiety of being “on the wrong side of history”. How tragic it is when the bearers of the light are afraid to shine and expose darkness.

So, what do we do? The wonderful news is that we have the Holy Spirit, the Counsellor and revealer of truth (John 16:13).  

We must develop the lifestyle that relies on the Holy Spirit. As we spend time listening to the Lord, he will direct our actions, he is the source of light and he will tell us where to shine the light to expose the works of darkness. Our job is not to pick a battle, our job is to shine the light.

Jesus won the victory.

Awake, O sleeper,
    and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you
.”

Sermon, Sunday August 16, 2020 – How Is Your Walk?

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Ephesians 5:3-6

Walk in Purity

As followers of Jesus, we are called to imitate God as we saw in Ephesians 5:1. Imitating God is walking in love as Jesus modeled for us. In addition to this we are to walk in light, as we have put on the new “clothing” of Christ.

In Ephesians 5:8, Paul makes the powerful assessment of our previous condition, “you were once darkness”. We were not simply in darkness before giving our lives to the Lord, we were darkness! Even our “good” deeds were tainted by our lack of identity. We lived for selfish motives.

But now, as followers of Jesus, we have taken on a new identity, we are light! (1 Peter 2:9).

So many church attenders and people who claim to be Christians have no idea that we are called to walk as Children of light (Ephesians 5:8). We walk as light as we exalt God, as we worship God our Father above all else.

The truth is that we so quickly give ourselves to idols. The Idols of the twenty-first century are not new, they are simply ancient idols repackaged.

In Ephesians 5:3-6, Paul lists the sins of sexual immorality, impurity, greed and crude speech. He implores the believers in Ephesus to live lives where these sins are not even named among them.

Sexual immorality and impurity contain a wide variety of sins, and we are prone to identify those that we see in other people, but gloss over the weaknesses in our own hearts. God calls us to holiness and purity (1 Peter 1:16), there are no exceptions.

Our culture is not very different to the first century in terms of our acceptance of sexual immorality. We see that the laws of the land are changing as various forms of immorality are becoming more and more acceptable. We must resist the temptation to rename sin, or to justify sin in order to appear socially acceptable or loving to those around us. God’s standard of purity and holiness has and will never change.

The gift of sex is only to be expressed within a marriage covenant between a man and a woman. Romans 1:18-32 shows the progression of how one’s life and actions are the overflow of one’s heart. Sexual sin is not simply a problem with lust or emotions, rather it is a problem of worship. We sin because we do not worship God. Once we get the worship problem aligned with God, we will find that the struggles of the flesh are less pervasive.

Pornography is an idol in so many people’s lives. It is an addiction that is destroying lives and marriages. Overcoming this addiction is a process of repentance, and worship, as we align our hearts and minds with the glory and the majesty of God.

Greed or covetousness is listed right along with impurity in verse 3 and it is no less an addiction than sexual immorality. Covetousness is the insatiable desire for more and it is defined as idolatry in verse 5. Greed is desiring anything more than God. Covetousness is a societal blind spot in our culture. You will never hear anyone say, “I think I love money too much”, simply because our culture thrives on us being consumers who are daily given reasons why we cannot be satisfied with what we have (see 1 Timothy 6:6).

Gambling is sinful for multiple reasons and it is an addiction that destroys lives. But the primary reason that gambling is sinful is because it is rooted in greed, a continual lust for more that can never be satisfied. This is idolatry and a direct breaking of the first commandment in Exodus 20:3.

Along with sexual immorality and covetousness, Paul includes foolish talk and crude joking in verse 4. Apart from the obvious bad language, slander, and gossiping, this also includes inappropriate humor and making jokes at the expense of other’s (see Colossians 3:8). Because we are children of God and filled with the Holy Spirit, every word we say is in the presence of the all-holy God.

The most effective way to purify our speech is to adopt a vocabulary of thanksgiving (1 Thessalonians 5:18). As the commentator Klyne Snodgrass explains, “thanksgiving is the antidote for sin, for it is difficult (impossible) to give thanks and sin at the same time.”

Ultimately, sexual sin, greed and corrupt speech are all based in self-centeredness. And if we are honest, we have all failed and probably will fail again in these areas, but we are called to walk as light and not dwell in darkness. A true follower of Jesus will not persist in these sins, but rather by the love and grace of God, we will quickly repent and turn back to walking in light (1 John 1:9).

Paul makes the sure statement in verse 5 that there will be consequences for living in sexual immorality, greed and foolish talk. The consequences are eternal.

There were those in the first century church who were trying to convince the believers they could live in sin without any consequences and the same dangerous teaching is prevalent today. Sadly, this way of thinking is not only contrary to the Word of God, it also prevents believers from fulfilling their calling and potential as followers of Jesus.

The consequence for standing for truth today is temporal.

The consequence for appeasing the culture today is eternal.

As believers we have a relationship with a Father who is more satisfying than anything the world has to offer. Our God is worthy of endless thanksgiving. Let us worship God alone and not a cheap substitute.

How is your walk?

Sermon, Sunday August 9, 2020. Walk in Love

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Walk in Love

Ephesians 5:1-2

“Like father like son.” We have all heard this expression and seen it played out in the lives of those around us. Young boys take on the characteristics and mannerisms of their fathers, sometimes without even being aware of it. A few weeks ago, Christie mentioned that Joshua was standing next to the car with the same posture that I always use. No one told Joshua to stand that way, he simply was following what he saw in me, hopefully he learns my good habits and not my bad ones.

Sadly, today we are witnessing the effects of a fatherless generation.  A generation growing up with absent or abusive fathers. But praise be to God, we have the privilege and blessing to call the creator of the universe, Father. Ephesians 5:1 says, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.”

In The previous chapters of the letter to the church in Ephesus, Paul paints a glorious picture of God the Father, and now he adds that we must imitate Him. Obviously, we cannot be exact imitators of all the characteristics and nature of God, but we can and must reflect His character as we have put on the “new self” in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 4:24).

Ephesians 5 verses 3 to 21 are clear and direct instructions for walking in love and walking in the light as followers of Jesus. These verses are setup by verses 1 and 2, we can only walk in Christ as we walk in love.

When we become followers of Jesus, we receive the Holy Spirit who enables us to love the way we were first loved by God (Romans 5:5). Paul reminds his readers in verse 1 that we are “beloved children”. This takes us back to Ephesians 1:5, “In love He predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will.” We are adopted sons and daughters of God our Heavenly Father. We have probably heard that so many times, it has lost its impact on us. I encourage you to spend time praying and meditating on all that it means to be adopted and chosen by the Great I Am.

Along with being adopted, we are welcomed into a family, the church filled with brothers and sisters. We as family have responsibilities, chores to do. Our responsibilities include caring for the widows and the orphans, practicing hospitality, caring for the poor, sharing the Gospel, praying together and living sacrificially for one another (James 1:27, Romans 12:13, Ephesians 4:28, Luke 6:36). As part of this family, we gather together, not out of tradition, but because we need each other. We are created and adopted for community to live and grow together. This is why, even in the midst of this pandemic, we need to meet together regularly, building one another up as we read in Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

Paul continues in verse 2 to focus our attention on the ultimate example of love. Jesus is the perfect imitator of the Father, he was able to say, “…Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” In John 14:9. Jesus loved perfectly, and the greatest display of this love in history was when he willingly died on the cross for us. Jesus died the death we deserved, and he rose again from the dead, overcoming death so that we might have eternal life.

When we submit ourselves to the Lordship of Jesus, we are empowered with the Holy Spirit to be able to love others sacrificially.

The love that Jesus displayed for us is the love that we are called to. This love is not sentimental o a feeling, this love is displayed in sacrifice and action (1 John 3:18).

Last week, we returned from our mission trip to Cincinnati, where we displayed the love of God as we prayed for people and shared the Gospel with people we met in the streets. One of the greatest displays of Christlike love, is sharing the Gospel. Telling people we have never met about Jesus. We go because we are driven by the love of Christ for the lost (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)

One of the most transformative prayers you can pray is to ask the Father to give you His heart for the lost. You will be overwhelmed with compassion and love for those you meet.

Meditate on the love of your savior, and you will be filled with love like your savior.

Paul ends the sentence in verse 2 stating that the sacrifice that Jesus made for us was a fragrant offering to God. We read in the Old Testament occasions that God received the burnt offerings that were placed on the altar as a pleasing aroma. The sacrifice that Jesus made was the ultimate acceptable offering and was pleasing to the Father. Christ gave himself for us, but the offering was to God to atone for our sins. In response to this, we offer our lives as living sacrifices, living generously for the glory of God (Philippians 4:8).

May we be a people who love others like Christ loved us and may our love be a pleasing aroma to God.

Missions in a Covid Era

The city of Cincinnati

July 27, 2020

As I write this email, I am hurriedly preparing for our mission trip to Cincinnati. The day is filled with doing laundry, checking packing lists, finding air mattresses, picking up a rental van and making sure all the vehicles are gassed up. With all the scurrying around, it seems like a normal summer mission trip, but every now and then, I realize that this summer is anything but normal. We have the cloud of a pandemic over us all and we have had to take that into consideration in the midst of planning our trip.

For those who are new to Grace Point, this is the 4th year we are taking a team to Cincinnati with the express purpose of supporting Brandon and Brooke Long with their church plant in Cincinnati. Each year has looked a bit different, but the main thrust of the mission is to meet people, pray with them, share the Gospel and introduce them to the new church plant. The primary method of meeting people is door to door evangelism and walking along busy streets and starting up conversations.

With that in mind, we are still going to be following the same methodology, while at the same time, wearing masks and following safety guidelines.

Some would say that we are being foolish for going on a mission trip while we are advised to stay in place and not leave our homes. Why don’t we wait until this is all over, and then go out to the mission field?

Let me assure you, this has not been an easy decision, along with just about every decision I have had to make in the past four months as a pastor. There is no seminary course on guiding a church through a pandemic, and if there was, it would probably not be very helpful.

“But God!” I love those two words that we find scattered throughout the Bible. When we don’t know what to do, we turn to the reality and the authority of the Word of God. He has the plan to lead His church, using pastors and leaders who would simply walk in faith and listen to the Holy Spirit.

The Bible has hundreds of promises of God’s protection over His people:

Psalm 91:4-6, “He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.”

Psalm 121:7, “The Lord will keep you from all harm- he will watch over your life;”

Nahum 1:7, “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him,”

Isaiah 43:2, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”

Psalm 34:7, “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.”

2 Thessalonians 3:3, “But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.”

Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

There are many more, and it is so encouraging to meditate on the truths of God’s Word as we pray for wisdom and direction.

One of the key factors in hearing from the Lord and discerning His purposes, is to see where the Holy Spirit is leading. We should always be looking to see what the Spirit is doing and run in that direction.

For example, we have extraordinary things happening at Grace Point over the last few months. We have prayerfully opened the doors as often as we can and faithfully proclaimed the Word and worshipped together. We have seen numbers grow exponentially as more and more people from the community come for the first time to the church in search of a community that believes and acts on the Word of God.

Two weeks ago, we held our first Kids Camp in many years and impacted over 150 people from the community. It was overwhelming to see the joy and sense of relief as families gathered in the parking lot, to share a meal and be challenged by the team of performers from GX International. The fruit of the Kids Camp was immediate, and we celebrated the baptism of 12 people the following Sunday!

Getting back to the mission trip, we have a large group of twenty people all hungry to share the Gospel message on the streets of Cincinnati. I have been reading through the Gospel of Luke in my devotions this week and came to Luke 11:33, “No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light.”

Being the reflection of Jesus in our community is what sharing the Gospel is all about. Sadly, churches and ministries who have decided to close their doors and “hibernate”, until it all goes away (whatever that means), are missing one of the greatest opportunities for us to be the light for our communities.

This is a season of tremendous opportunity for the church to boldly declare our trust and hope in Jesus as the only way of salvation for the world. Are we being reckless? Not if we are following the direction of the Holy Spirit.

Please join me in prayer for our mission team, for our church family and for wisdom for our leadership team. I believe we have an unprecedented opportunity to reach people with the Gospel in this season of unprecedented fear and uncertainty.

In 2 Timothy 4:2 Paul exhorts young Timothy to, “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.

This is definitely an “out of season” moment in history, and we need to continue to do what God has called us to do as the Body of Christ.

Sermon, Sunday July 19, 2020. What Are You Wearing? part 2

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Ephesians 4:25-32

What are you wearing part 2

Ephesians 4 verses 17 to 32 can be divided into two sections. Verses 17 to 24, deal with our new spiritual condition as followers of Jesus. As Christians we put off the old self and put on Christ as a new creation, daily asking the Holy Spirit to help us in the renewing of our minds.

Verses 25 to 32 address the practical aspects of living as a new creation. How to live a life that conforms to the purposes of God and the direction of the Holy Spirit.

When we become followers of Jesus, we learn how to replace sinful habits with holy habits by the process of the renewing of our minds (Ephesians 4:23 and 24).

The list of sinful actions that we find in these verses are not an exhaustive list, and the Apostle Paul probably has some specific people he is addressing in the church. But he doesn’t simply have a list of things we should not do, he also gives the positive alternative and the theological reasons for these new behaviors or habits. As followers of Jesus, we must know the reason why certain behaviors are detrimental to our lives and the reason why we should make better behavioral choices. As we know, Christianity is not simply a lifestyle made up of rules and regulations, but rather it is based on a relationship with our loving Heavenly Father through His son, Jesus.

The behavior choices that Paul addresses are as follows:

1:Replace lying with Truth-telling (v25).

We speak the truth to each other because we are all part of the same body. God’s people are to be truth-tellers. But there is more to this; in verse 15, Paul encourages the church to, “speak the truth in love”, and in verse 21, we read that, “the truth is in Jesus”. As followers of Jesus, we are to be constantly talking about the person who is truth personified.

When we encourage one another by talking about Jesus, we are not simply pointing out sin, we are pointing to the perfect Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29).

2: Replace unrighteous anger with righteous anger (v26-27).

Anger itself is not sinful. Anger is part of the nature of God. God is angered by sin, and as His children we too should feel anger when we encounter sinful injustice (Mark 1).

Unrighteous anger is rooted in selfish motives and leads to violence, jealousy, envy and even murder. The Apostle Paul encourages us to quickly repent of our unrighteous anger and humbly ask for forgiveness to those we have wronged. This takes humility and dying to our own selfish pride. Someone has once said, “don’t go to bed with unresolved conflict or else you will sleep with the Devil”. Always seek reconciliation and forgiveness quickly.

3: Replace stealing with working and giving (v28).

We are created to work, and work is a gift from God to give us fulfilment and purpose in life. Even Jesus worked hard as a carpenter. The Apostle Paul said to the Thessalonian church that those who don’t work, shouldn’t eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12).

But we don’t simply work to eat or amass riches, we work to be able to give generously to anyone in need. John Wesley said, “Work as hard as you can, make as much as you can, then give as much as you can”. Those who have lived this way, know the secret of a truly fulfilled life.

4: Replacing corrupt talk with edifying talk (v29-30).

The translated word for corrupt or foul language in verse 29, is the same word used for rotting food. Sinful language does not nourish and leads to a stench. Sadly, Christians have accepted gossip and slander, even vulgar joking as acceptable. The fruit of such language leads to sickness in the Body of Christ. See what Jesus said about careless speech in Matthew 12:36.

The Apostle Paul adds in verse 30 that we must not grieve the Holy Spirit. Anything that we say that does not align with the Holy Spirit’s holiness, grieves Him. As we are careless with our speech, we will gradually experience the withdrawal of the influence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It is a good practice to ask the following question, “Will what I am about to say or do please the Spirit or grieve the Spirit”.

It is the renewed life of Christ in us that leads us to affirm, encourage and build one another up. We should make a habit of only saying about people what we would say to them.

5: Replacing bitterness and rage with kindness and forgiveness (v 31-32).

These verses speak directly to our emotional outbursts, the way we behave when we have reached our “limit”. There is never an excuse for such behavior.

In the place of these outbursts, we should “put on” kindness and forgiveness. The Body of Christ should be a people known for kindness and forgiveness, because of the immeasurable kindness and forgiveness that God has shown us (See Romans 2:4 and Psalm 145:8).

One of the most powerful verses on forgiveness in the Bible is verse 32, “…forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” We have absolutely no right to harbor unforgiveness towards anyone, because of the infinite debt that we have been forgiven in Christ.

As we go through this week, let us meditate on the love, forgiveness, and kindness of Jesus towards us. It will change the way we speak, behave, and respond. It will make us more like Jesus.

So, are you wearing Christ? Are you living out your identity as a follower of Jesus for the good of others and for the glory of God?