Sermon March 18, 2018 – Who Is This Man?

Mark 4:35-41

 Every Easter we focus on the cross where Jesus died, we need to be reminded and perhaps for the first time realize who it was that died on the cross 2000 years ago.

C.S. Lewis has made famous the trilemma that Jesus must either be a lunatic, a liar, or the Lord of all in his book “Mere Christianity”.  Ever since the time of Jesus, men have argued about who this man from Galilee really was.  During Jesus’ time on earth the religious leaders did not grasp the fact that the long-awaited Messiah had arrived.

The disciples had to answer that question themselves, even after seeing many miracles and the authority with which he taught, they took some time to realize that Jesus was no ordinary man. In Mark 4:35-42 we read the incredible account of Jesus calming the storm.

Jesus had just completed the preaching of the sermon on the mount. He was tired he tired physically and spiritually, he had been teaching and healing the sick. Jesus needed some time to recharge and get away, verse 36, tells us that Jesus left just as he was, he didn’t go back to the town to pack a bag, he just needed to get away, but we read that other boats followed them. This was a fishing community, so people followed in their boats, little did they know what they were about to witness. Soon after leaving Capernaum Jesus went to sleep on a cushion.  A storm turned the sea into a deadly nightmare for the sailors and the disciples thought they would surely all drown. The disciples woke Jesus and rebuked him for not caring. The original Greek says something like, “we know you care about us, but right now it seems as if you don’t.” Isn’t that so much like us, when we encounter the storms of life, we know in our hearts and believe by faith that Jesus does care, but in that moment, it seems like he is distant. But God is always near, and even in the fiercest storm, he is right there, and you are one miracle away from peace and calm.

Jesus stands ignoring the disciples and rebukes the wind and the waves. Jesus didn’t just perform a miracle, this was the creator speaking to his creation. Jesus speaks directly to the wind and the waves and there is instant calm. The Bible says in verse 39, there was a great calm.

Jesus rebukes the disciples and says, “Have you still no faith?” What he really was asking them was, “do you still not know who I am?” Obviously, they didn’t because verse 41 tells us that they were filled with great fear and asked each other, “who then is this that even the wind and the sea obey him?” The truth was beginning to become real to them, as the apostle Paul would later write in Colossians 1:15-17.

As the disciples looked back on this moment they might have realized that what took place on the sea of Galilee that night was written by king David prophetically over a thousand years before in Psalm 107:23-31.

Jesus was God: This short record for us that we have in the three synoptic Gospels, is incredibly powerful in revealing that Jesus was what he claimed to be. He was fully God and fully man. Jesus’ incarnation was not a loss of his divine attributes, but rather it was an addition of human attributes (Philippians 2:6-7). This does not indicate that Jesus emptied himself of his divine nature, but rather as Colossians 2:9 clarifies, Jesus was the fullness of the deity in bodily form. Rather Jesus subordinated himself to the Father and became a servant in his incarnation. By giving up his equality with God, he willingly poured his divine essence into human form and submitted himself as a servant for a season to reveal God to mankind and provide the means to salvation at the same time.

Jesus always was God and will always be God. He is uncreated, eternal God (John 1:1-2).

Jesus was Human: Mathew and Luke both record the genealogy of Jesus, even though we know he was conceived by the Holy Spirit, he still had a long and somewhat controversial family tree. Also, Jesus grew in wisdom and stature (Luke 2:52). This sounds obvious, but sometimes we forget that Jesus was a toddler, a young boy, a teenager and a young man before he began his ministry. Jesus also experienced the same physical discomforts that we experience, he was hungry (Matthew 4:2), Jesus was thirsty (John 19:28) and he grew tired (John 4:6). Jesus felt emotions, he wept at the death of Lazarus he had compassion on the crowds, and he expressed anger and disappointment. He experienced life as a human being just like you and me.

This same Jesus allowed himself to be killed on a cross and then on the third day he rose again triumphant over death. He ascended into heaven and forever lives at the right hand of the Father interceding for us. This same Jesus is coming back as a conquering warrior, what a terrifying day that will be (Revelation 19:11-16).

Jesus is Lord, but is he your Lord?

This is what it means to be a Christian. Not simply believing that Jesus was the son of God or believing that he died for your sins. You must allow Jesus Lordship of your life. When you submit to the Lordship of Jesus, only then will you experience freedom, Joy and true purpose in life. Is Jesus Lord of your life? Or is Jesus someone you confess, but, he is just one aspect of your busy schedule. Sometimes Jesus gets in the way of your plans, if he is not lord of your life, you probably are not saved.

Sermon March 11, 2018 The Sending God

Luke 20:1-18

Throughout scripture we see that God is the one who sends, He sent Abraham, Moses, David and he sent the prophets of the Old Testament amongst many others. Jesus was sent with the authority of Heaven to complete a mission to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8).

In Luke 20, the chief priests, the scribes and the elders approached Jesus as he was teaching in the temple. This was a clash of kingdoms’; the kingdom of God and the kingdom of man were coming face to face. Jesus had just made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem and he had cleansed the temple and had begun proclaiming that the Kingdom of God, the rulership and authority of God, had arrived.

The question that the chief priests asked Jesus was legitimate, who was Jesus and by what authority did he teach? Here was a man who had no formal training, he was not a scribe or a priest, but he assumed the role to cleanse the temple, and to teach strange new teachings. Jesus was a threat to established traditions and dead religion. Jesus is still a threat to established tradition and dead religion today.

Jesus responds as he often does, by asking them a question that stumps them, “was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?” Luke 20:4.

Immediately thy chief priests had a problem, if John had the authority of God over his prophetic ministry of declaring that the messiah was coming, then why did they reject him?

If they said that John was not sent from God, the people who followed and believed John would rise up in anger against the chief priests and the elders.

They were afraid of the people because they were not ministers of the truth, they were politicians who were only concerned about protecting their own position and authority.

So, they respond in by saying,” we don’t know…” But Jesus doesn’t let them off the hook and says, “neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things” (verse 8).

Jesus only increased their hatred of him, he knew what was coming, and he didn’t attempt to change their minds. He knew that they wanted to kill him, and he added to their anger by further telling a parable to the crowd.

The land owner, a metaphor for God the Father, develops the land, he goes to great expense to prepare it for a successful crop to be harvested. The landowner then leaves and leased it to tenants to maintain the land and take care of the crop.

At the time of harvest the landowner sends three different delegations to receive the landowners share of the crop. But the wicked tenants beat them and treated them shamefully. The abuse and violence escalated for each representative that was sent. In Mark’s Gospel he writes that the tenants killed some of the servants who were sent.

The vineyard was a well-known metaphor for Israel. As the scribes heard the words of Jesus they would have known that he was talking about the Prophet Isaiah chapter 5 where God calls Israel his vineyard that he has prepared. The servants or the ambassadors that the landowner sends are clearly the prophets of the Old Testament, which the people of Israel rejected and even killed.

The landowner decides to step up the pressure and send his son as his royal ambassador. But the tenants in the parable decide that if they kill the son, they will inherit the land. By doing away with the son, the owner will leave them alone. That was the plan of Satan all along, he thought that by killing the son of God he would have absolute dominion over the earth and prevent God the father receiving any of the harvest of souls.

The people Jesus was speaking to could not imagine the possibility of God taking the land away from Israel as Jesus ended the parable in verse 16. But this happened in a real sense in AD 70, when the Roman empire destroyed Jerusalem, but it will happen in a complete destruction when Jesus comes again and there is the final judgment. The people seemed offended by what Jesus was saying, but Jesus pauses and looks them straight in the eyes and quotes Isaiah 8 in Luke 20:17-18. Again, a passage the scribes would have recognized that Jesus was not only calling himself the messiah, but he was also calling himself God, because that passage in Isaiah is preceded by the verse stating this is the Lord of Hosts. Jesus not only has the authority of the one who sent him, but he will also come back again one day to judge the world.

Jesus the Beloved Son, the chief cornerstone, the head of the Church who was sent by God the Father. God the Father sent his only son on a mission that looked like a certain defeat. Satan thought the cross was his greatest victory, but it is his ultimate defeat.

God sent his son, to bring the Kingdom to reintroduce his people to himself. But sadly, just as the parable states, his people killed his son (John 1:11-12). You now have been given the right to be called a child of God. You have the right to be a representative and ambassador of the kingdom of God.

Jesus was sent by God the Father and in turn he sends us. The story of the cross is a completed victory, but also the beginning of our commissioning, the sending out of the church with the message of the Good news.

God is a sending God, he has always been sending his people into the vineyard and now, he is sending you into the vineyard. God prepared the vineyard, he is expecting a harvest.

How are you going to respond to the God who sends?

Sermon Sunday March 4, 2018 Jesus came to Destroy the works of the Devil

We are in March! Spring is coming and naturally we begin to think about Easter. The danger is that we become so accustomed to the season, that we can easily gloss over the fact that this single event is the pivotal event of all human history. No other event carries more weight and no other event has more impact on humanity than the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As we focus on the cross, we must ask ourselves the question, why did Jesus have to die? The very simple answer is found in 1 John 3:8b, “…The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”

 Satan deceived Adam and Eve into thinking that God’s ways were not perfect. Sin is ultimately a failure to trust God, to trust that His ways are perfect, to know and be satisfied with the goodness of God and His perfect will for our lives. Sin is ultimately idolatry, when we sin we are saying to God, in this area of my life currently, you are not on the throne, rather I choose to worship a god of my own choosing.

As we read this letter from John, we see that John constantly compares the glory and the light of Jesus against the evil and darkness of sin. He very directly states that when we sin, we choose to follow the devil. To show us how vile our sin is, John holds up the pure spotless lamb of God (see 1 John 2:29, 1 John 3:3 and 5).

In contrast to the purity of Jesus we have the statements of verses 6 and 9. Those are some harsh words, and not well accepted in our post-modern culture. But does John mean that a Christian never sins? Of course not, what it does mean is that if you have made Jesus Christ Lord of your life then persistent sin is inconceivable in the light of his presence and glory. No one who is a follower of Jesus can actively persistently walk in sin.

If your life is united with Christ, you hate sin as much as he does. But we are so casual and minimize sin, in the church today, we talk about “stumbling” or “areas of weakness”, rather than seeing the death and destruction that it causes in our lives and those around us. Because of our new birth in Jesus, persistent sin impossible. Being born of God, being filled with the Holy Spirit, you and I cannot keep on sinning without any remorse.

The idea that we are saved from our sin, but still live as the rest of the world making light and trivializing sin, the idea that this is even possible is inconceivable, and yet this is today’s church. We rationalize sin, we make light of the grace of God, the gift that God gave us that cost him everything.

Today’s church has made the goal of large churches and church membership so important that we don’t call people to the standard of what it means to be a Christian.

But verse 6 and 9 say that if you continue to sin, and it does not consume you with guilt and shame, you have never encountered Jesus, you are not saved, I don’t care if your name is on the membership role of the church, your name is not in the Lamb’s Book of Life and that is the only list that matters.

As a Christian you have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside you and when you walk into a room, you bring into that room the fragrance of Christ. Your life must be characterized by, all the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

The fruit if the spirit is not some vague ideal that only a few sanctified believers hope to attain to, these are to be the mark and the evidence of a believer in Jesus Christ.

Are you a Christian? Do you have a growing relationship with Jesus Christ? Or do you harbor sin, and even enjoy sin?

Are you holding a grudge against someone? That is persistent sin.

Do you like to gossip? That is persistent sin. We are so quick to identify the sins of various addictions, drugs, pornography, lust, but we tolerate the sins of unforgiveness, lack of faith, fear and gossip.

2000 years ago, Jesus came to destroy the work of the Devil, so why would those who have been born again continue to wallow in doing the works of the devil?

As a true Christian we are not perfect, there is a daily transformation taking place in us, Christians are people who are daily becoming more like Christ. This is called sanctification. As we gaze on the glory of our savior, it leads us to become like him. We will never be sinless, but we will be quick to repent (1 John 1:9).

But John begins chapter 3 with the wonderful truth of the Gospel message (1 john 3:1). God calls us to be His Adopted Children, not because of anything we have done, but only because of His great love for us? (Ephesians 5:1).

In a few weeks we will focus our gaze on the beauty and the horror of the cross, may we never forget that Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. We have been set free from slavery, and yet we hold on to our chains (Hebrews 2:14-15).

Jesus, in the Gospel of John sums up this whole argument in one verse, John 10:10. Satan hates Jesus, Satan hates us. Why do we give the devil any control in our lives? My friends, don’t ever be deceived into thinking that sin is not a big deal, because of our sin, the pure holy Son of God suffered and died, Sin should make our knees tremble, we must learn once again to hate sin.

What do you need to repent of today?  Prayerfully read Psalm 139: 23-24.

A Voice for the Voiceless

Yesterday, if you attended Grace Point, you would have heard from Denny and Mindy Thibault. The Thibault family have been called by God to be the voice for the voiceless in the cry to end abortion in our land. They are collecting signatures for a petition to present a million signatures to the Supreme Court. You can sign the petition here,

I encourage you to sign and do what you can to stand up for the weak and the most vulnerable in our society. Debbie and I are passionate about ending the injustice of abortion and we know that this is more than simply a political decision, this is a spiritual decision and Satan is determined to destroy as many lives as possible in the womb. I believe the reason is that Satan knows the power that children carry in the Kingdom of God, Psalm 8 vs 2 says,

“Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.”

As we closed the service we sang a song called, “Everything and Nothing less” written by Chris McClarney. As I was singing, I really began to think about the lyrics which go as follows,

“Humbly I stand, an offering
With open hands, Lord I bring
Everything and nothing less
My best, my all
You deserve my every breath
My life, my song
I surrender, I surrender all
Oh, I surrender, I surrender all
Lord take control, I trust You
I’m letting go, to give You
Everything and nothing less
My best, my all”

And I began to think of my life, I quickly dismissed the challenge and thought that I have submitted my all to God, I have a list of credentials to say that I have offered my all to God. But very quickly God reminded me that I was a long way off from perfect submission to Him. I had to repent and realize that their were areas in my life that I still held on to, that I still wanted control over.

Oswald Chambers always reminds us in his writing to live a life of abandonment, releasing all our talents to the Lord for His use. I read this little snippet from him this morning.

“Abandon to God is of more value than personal holiness.” Here’s why: “We have to get rid of this notion-‘Am I of any use?’ and make up our minds that we are not, and we may be near the truth. It is never a question of being of use, but of being of value to God Himself. When we are abandoned to God, He works through us all the time.”   Oswald Chambers

As I was repenting of my selfish idols, God was gracious to remind me that our life value does not consist of what we “do” for Christ, but that we are redeemed, loved and adopted into the Kingdom and family of our Heavenly Father.

Sermon February 18, 2018 Treasures of the Kingdom of Heaven

As we look at Matthew 13 we see that Jesus taught eight parables, and each time he said something to the effect of “the Kingdom of Heaven is like….”, and then told the parable. Some longer, like the parable of the sower, and some shorter like the leaven in the flour, which is only one sentence.

But we need to define the Kingdom. Matthew wrote to a predominantly Jewish audience, as a result, he used the term Kingdom of Heaven, whereas Luke and the other gospel writers used the Kingdom of God for the same principle meaning.

The Kingdom of God is the rulership of God over all things. He owns and sustains all things, but because of man’s sin, the world has been under the rulership of Satan. This is not to say that he rules the world completely; God is still sovereign. But it does mean that God, in His infinite wisdom, has allowed Satan to operate in this world within the boundaries God has set for him.

The earth is in subjection to the rule and influence of Satan until Jesus comes again and destroys his evil kingdom. Paul writing in Romans 8 describes how all creation has been groaning and eagerly waiting for the new kingdom to be revealed. When Jesus began his public ministry, he began the introduction of the Kingdom of God to a lost and dying world. The Kingdom of God is not strictly a future hope tied in with Christ’s second coming. it is the realm of God’s rule both present, and future. Jesus ushered in the Kingdom of God, of which He was the embodiment, when He commenced His earthly ministry (see Matthew 4:17).

When Jesus died on the cross and defeated Satan, he began the process of dismantling Satan’s kingdom and installing the Kingdom of heaven. So, the kingdom of heaven is present in the world, but not yet in it’s fullness.

The kingdom of Heaven is so foreign to the world’s kingdom, especially in our era, where the focus of our worship is ourselves. Jesus uses eight parables to introduce some of these foreign concepts of the Kingdom, four of which he tells the crowd, and then another four he tells privately to his disciples, he turns his attention to his inner circle, continuing to explain to them that this is what the Kingdom of heaven is like.

Focusing our attention on two of these parables; the man who finds a treasure hidden in a field and the merchant who finds a pearl great value, what can we learn from them?

When a person makes Jesus Christ Lord of their life, it must cause a dramatic change in one’s value system. The things we valued the most, we set aside;  the things that the world views as treasures become worthless in the knowledge of eternal life.

These two short parables speak volumes about what it means to be a follower of Jesus. What is valuable to you? Not just possessions, but people, titles, position and places. For some people their treasure is their sport, or their hobbies or their career (see  Matthew 6:21).

In both these parables, the man and the merchant sold everything they had to obtain a greater treasure. This is foolishness, this is extreme, this is radical. These are the same adjectives that people use when describing followers of Jesus.

RT Kendall wrote: “Once you have truly experienced the anointing of the Spirit, your money, reputation, love for the world, fear of what people will say and so on all pale into insignificance.”

The Bible does not say that having material possessions is wrong, rather it is when those things become more important to us than God, then we have a problem. This is because there is no comparison between the treasures of this world and the treasures of the kingdom of heaven.

The merchant who sold all that he had to buy one pearl, didn’t simply exchange one treasure for another. He found a treasure supremely more valuable than anything in his life.

This is what Jesus offers us and when we become part of the kingdom of God, we experience a treasure and a life that makes all other desires small in comparison.

So here is the big question, does this reflect your Christian experience?

Or have you simply tried to add a bit of religion to your life by raising your hand in a meeting in response to an altar call, but you really don’t know this treasure of the Kingdom?  Salvation is more than simply avoiding hell because our sins are forgiven. What you have available to you are treasures of inestimable value (see Romans 8:32).

When we ask Jesus to be the Lord of our lives, God gives us his Holy Spirit to fill us and to reign in us; we become a part of the Kingdom of Heaven. When we become a follower of Jesus, we become like the leaven that impacts the dough, we become a change agent in our community, preparing the way for the fulfillment of the Kingdom when Jesus comes again.

When we see it that way, and we see all that it means to be a Christian, we would be fools not to view all our earthly treasures as worthless in comparison. Do you really know what it means to be a part of the Kingdom of Heaven?

But there is a different way of looking at these parables that will hopefully transform your thinking. When Jesus was telling these parables, he was proclaiming the Gospel message. Jesus came to the earth, setting aside his heavenly throne and took on flesh, he became a man just like us as he set aside his golden crown to take a crown of thorns (see Philippians 2:7-11). When we see this, we see that Jesus is the person who found a treasure in a field, it is Jesus who found the pearl of great value and it is Jesus who gave up everything to obtain it. It is Jesus who bought the treasure of salvation by buying the whole field of creation. These parables reveal the Gospel, they reveal the glory of Jesus who denied himself even to the point of dying on the cross so that he would receive the name above every other name.

The kingdom of heaven operates on a completely different currency than our small world.  Have you discovered this kingdom? Give everything you have to the Lordship of Jesus and God will give you a life and a future of infinite value.

Sermon February 11, 2018 – The Trilogy of Parables

We all know of the original Star Wars trilogy released between 1977 and 1983. A trilogy is a set of stories, each with their own plot, but connected to a bigger plot when combined as a three-part story.

Jesus also told a trilogy of stories, in Luke 15 we read three well known parables that Jesus told. The three parables of Luke 15, the lost sheep, the lost coin and the prodigal son, were all told by Jesus in quick succession in response to the grumbling Pharisees (see Luke 15:2).

The Pharisees were grumbling because Jesus was receiving sinner, I am so glad that Jesus still receives sinners today! I pray that our church never shy’s away from fellowship with sinners, because we are all sinners saved by grace and have nothing that makes us better other than the grace of God and His gracious indwelling presence.

Jesus responds to them by telling three short parables, the first one is the parable of the lost sheep, where the shepherd leaves the 99 sheep to search for the one which was lost. Then Jesus tells the story of the woman who has lost a coin, she searches diligently until it is found. Jesus ends both these parables with the gentle rebuke to the Pharisees and the scribes in verses 7 and 10, “joy in heaven over one sinner who repents …”.

These sinners that the Pharisees viewed as worthless, were of immense value in the kingdom of heaven.

Then Jesus tells the story of the Prodigal son, or the lost son, seems more appropriate.

This son asks his father for his share of his inheritance, essentially telling his father that he wishes he was already dead. He takes the money and wastes it, he defiles himself and ends up reaching a point of desperation. It is at this point that he seems to come to his senses, the Bible says; “came to himself”. He turned and headed for home.

In our salvation experience, we all must come to the place of turning, realizing that we cannot do anything good on our own to earn our salvation. We must hit rock bottom and cry out to God to be saved by accepting the free gift of salvation and asking Jesus to be the Lord of our lives.

The prodigal son goes home and hopes just to be a slave, hoping to pay back what he wasted. He just wants to be around his father and the household, in his mind he has disqualified himself from sonship.

Then we see the overwhelming Gospel story in the prodigal son, as the brokenhearted father, who has missed his son so much, is waiting for him. The son begins his prepared speech, humbly asking for a position of servanthood, but the father doesn’t pay any attention to his plea and commands that he be given three things. These three items are vital in our understanding of the story.

The Best Robe: The robe symbolizes cleansing and forgiveness, a washing and putting on new clothes. When you become a Christian, you are washed with the blood of Jesus and then you are clothed in the righteousness of Christ.

 The Ring: The ring was probably like a signet ring, which carried the seal of the family. The implications of this are huge. The son was reinstated with authority into the family. He has been brought back into his original position. When you become a Christian, you are adopted into God’s family with full authority of a son or daughter of the King. You are an ambassador, you have the authority to represent the king of kings.

 The sandals: Sandals were given to represent the fact that the son was not a slave, he had freedom. Slaves were kept in subjection, without shoes, but true children were free to walk around.

The tragedy is that so many people come to Jesus and ask for the forgiveness of their sins and then assume that the Lord has recruited them to be his hired hands, rather than being a beloved child whose debt has been paid in full by the blood Jesus shed on the cross.

Is that you today? You are limping in with a dirty coat, when God shows you the ring, the robe and the sandals, you decline because you feel unworthy of such forgiveness and grace, and you would be right!

But God gives you and I that new robe of righteousness, the ring of adoption into the family, and the sandals of freedom. Stop living as a slave and begin living as a desired and treasured part of the Family of God (see 1 Peter 2:9).

As Jesus ends the parable of the lost son, he throws in the picture of the older son, the Pharisees must have really felt the slap in the face of that. It was obvious that Jesus was referring to them and to all self-righteous people in the church who don’t know who they are in Christ, living according to a set of rules, rather than living as a child of the king.

But why the three parables in answer to the grumbling of the Pharisees? Jesus never wasted words, he didn’t simply tell three stories to make the same point, combined the parables reveal a profound truth about our salvation.

When we look at the parable of the good shepherd, we can easily see that the shepherd is Jesus. Jesus himself said that “I am the good shepherd” in John 10.

In the parable of the lost coin, the woman lights a lamp, sweeps the house in search of it. The Holy Spirit is the light revealing the word to us and sweeping out the house of our souls to prepare the way for the transformation of God in our lives.

When we look at the parable of the lost son, we see the true focus of the story is on the Father who forgives and lavished love and blessings on the returning son. Tim Keller writes in his book “The Prodigal God”, where he shows God to be the prominent prodigal, because he loves us with reckless abandon, pouring out unmerited favor and blessing, holding nothing back.

We have three parables revealing distinct aspects of the working of the trinity in God’s plan of salvation.

The parable that consumes our attention is the Prodigal son, because we can so identify with either the young son or the older son. Neither son realized who they were in the family, and sometimes we are no different, we choose to live as orphans when our Heavenly Father has adopted us into His family.

We choose to live in spiritual poverty when we have been granted unmerited spiritual authority.

We have been clothed in righteousness and given the Holy Spirit to help us daily in our walk.

Do you really know what it means to be a Christian?

Sermon February 4, 2018 – The Pillar of Compassion of the Church

In Luke 10, we read the well-known parable of the Good Samaritan. This well-known parable has become a part of our culture, even past presidents have referred to it in speeches. The parable was told by Jesus in response to a challenge, a question posed by an expert in the Mosaic Law. His question was interesting, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He was obviously trying to trick Jesus, because he knew exactly the requirements of the law. Jesus answers the question with a question, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” (Luke 10:26). Jesus immediately directs the man to an authority that they both can accept, the Law of Moses.

The scribe answers Jesus’ question by quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18.

This is the correct answer, but the learned man is not satisfied, he knows that that he is not perfectly loving towards his fellow man, so he is looking for a lower standard. He tries to limit the law’s command by limiting its parameters and asked the question “who is my neighbor?” One of the meanings of the word “neighbor” in the Greek could be translated as someone of the same race or tribe. But this makes the goal attainable, so Jesus tells this parable of the Good Samaritan to correct the false understanding that the scribe had of who his neighbor was.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan tells the story of a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho, Jesus doesn’t mention anything about the man, we don’t know his nationality or race, and while on the way he is robbed of everything he had, including his clothing, and is beaten to within an inch of his life. Both a priest and a Levite pass by the man and refuse to offer assistance to him. The next person to come by is the Samaritan, the one least likely to have shown compassion for the man, due to the racial prejudice between the Jews and the Samaritans.

We do not know if the injured man was a Jew or Gentile, but it made no difference to the Samaritan; he did not consider the man’s race or religion, he only saw a person in need of assistance, and he assists him by going above and beyond what would have been expected.

He pays for the man’s care and essentially gave the innkeeper a blank check. He seemed to be very trusting, but I don’t think the lesson is trust, I think the lesson is abundance, he was not concerned because he knew that his supply was from God, and that God never will run out of money. So even if the innkeeper took advantage of him, it would be okay, because it wasn’t his money anyway, it was God’s money and He will pay the bill (see Proverbs 19:17). God’s kingdom is not a kingdom of lack or a miserly mindset, God’s kingdom is a kingdom of excessive abundance, of extravagant generosity, of joyful giving, because that is what our Heavenly father gives to us (see Luke 6:38). Let us be extravagant in our generosity because we serve an extravagant God.

The Samaritan saw his neighbor as anyone who was in need, and we are to follow the Samaritan’s example in our own conduct by showing compassion and love for those we encounter in our everyday activities regardless of their race or religion; the criterion is need.

However, there is no person on earth who can meet this standard, our desires are mostly selfish. When left to our own, we do the wrong thing, we see the person in need and justify why we don’t need to help them. What about the drug addict, the homeless person or what about the Muslim refugee? One could go on listing examples of modern-day needy people who make us look far worse than priest or the Levite.

Even if we do right by the Lord, and those in need,  we must realize that no amount of good works will ever meet the standard set by Jesus. We will never be able to do enough good things to inherit eternal life. The question of the legal expert, is the question of the ages, “what must I do….to inherit eternal life?”

We don’t need a list of tasks, we need a savior. To inherit eternal life, we must put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ, the risen Lord and allow the Holy Spirit’s transforming power to enable us to love our neighbor. We cannot love our neighbor without the Holy Spirit in us, leading us and giving us the love of God for those around us. If you find it difficult to love that person who annoys you at work, who offends you or who hurt you, you don’t need patience or more strength; you need Jesus Christ in you, transforming you by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Compassion is a pillar of the church but does not stand alone, there needs to be a strong connection between compassion and mission, between compassion and worship and between compassion and the Word. James chapter 2 explains to us that faith without works is dead; rather we show our faith in God through our works of good deeds.

The compassion of the church must always bring glory to the name above all names. Acts of social justice done for the Glory of God are in themselves acts of worship. However, compassion without the foundation of the Word of God lacks true empathy because it lacks true power to change lives. Only the word of God coupled with the revelation of the Holy Spirit has the power to change lives.

Compassion is essential in the church, not because it is what good people do to help one another, compassion is essential because it is the way the church points people to Jesus. As Jared Wilson wrote in his book, “the story telling God”, “Economic justice is temporal justice…the Gospel’s justice is eternal.”

Just like the work of the church is not done until the Great Commission is completed, so too the opportunities for the church to be a compassionate example of Christ will not go away until Jesus comes again. Let us be a church that proclaims the Gospel loud and clear, intentionally helping those in need with an eternal perspective.

January 7, 2018 Worship or Fear, we have a Choice

Matthew 6:25-34

At the beginning of the New Year we are looking at the four foundational pillars of our church, which are Worship, Word, Mission/ Evangelism and Compassion. This week we will be turning our attention to Worship by looking at Mathew 6 and verses 25-34. Not normally a scripture portion that is associated with worship.

What is Worship?  Is worship singing? Is it a church service? Do we only worship on a Sunday morning?  The word Worship comes from an old English word which is made up of two words, Worth and Ship. We worship what we give value to and what we dwell on. It is not just singing, or meditating, although that is a large part of worship. We worship what we give value to, the way we use our money, in the way we work, the way we share the Gospel with others and how we spend our free time. When we understand worship, we understand that we worship God with our very lives.

Frequently we hear the question, “how did you like worship today?” If you think about it, that is an absurd question as it reveals that the true nature of our desire to come to a church gathering is not to worship God, but rather to worship our own desires and our own preferences.

One of the ways that a lack of worship manifests itself is in fear and anxiety, this is especially true at the beginning of the New Year as the global future looks more and more unstable.

We don’t have a fear problem, we have a belief in God problem. And I contend that We don’t have a fear problem, we have a worship problem. If we really knew God, and that begins by daily reading His word and daily talking with him in prayer, we would find that our fears would melt away.

In Matthew chapter 6, Jesus has just been teaching his disciples about the importance of not storing up for themselves riches on the earth, but rather store up for themselves riches in heaven. Jesus taught things that were counter culture in the first century and even more so today. Jesus makes it very plain in verse 24, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

Jesus makes it very clear, that if we focus on the things around us, if we focus on building our own little kingdom here on this earth we cannot serve God. You may say that saving money for a rainy day is simply prudent, but how much of our saving is based on the fear of the unknown, which in turn is based on the fear that God really cannot take care of His children.

Jesus continued in verse 25, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?”

Notice that Jesus doesn’t try to encourage them to try not to worry, rather he forcefully tells them not to worry at all. It is a sin to worry, because when we worry, we show that we doubt the power of God over our circumstances. When we worry, we take God off the throne in our lives and we pay lip service to the all-powerful God, but do not believe it.

Putting God first is a constant struggle as we are so overwhelmed with information and entertainment in our day.

Think of how God feels when we carry around useless burdens which do nothing but weigh us down. Like a good parent God doesn’t want His children to struggle with things that He could help them with. God is our heavenly Father, the all-knowing Father who owns everything and lavishes his love on us. Jesus continues in verse 26 to say that Our Heavenly Father is committed to caring for His creation, why would we think that He is not able to care for us His children?

In verse 32, Jesus said, “your Heavenly Father knows you need all these things.” God is not unaware of your need to pay your mortgage, your health issues, your children’s education, or your ailing parent. God knows everything about your life.

“No man ever sank under the burden of the day. It is when tomorrow’s burden is added to the burden of today, that the weight is more than a man can bear.” — Gordon MacDonald

If worrying is a sin, how do we practically stop worrying? Jesus makes this clear in verse 33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Worship is focusing on the Kingdom of Heaven, worship is focusing on the God who created the universe (see Psalm 145:13-16). Worship is about taking our eyes off our small world and focusing on the Kingdom of God

(see Philippians 4:6-7). That is living by the Spirit, God designed us to live by the Spirit in Christ and when we do that our very lives are consumed by worship. Being led by the Holy Spirit we are directed into His presence where our fears melt away.

We can worry, or we can worship, it is a choice we make and a decision we will live by. Worshipping God is always the best option, one that produces life. Anything in our lives that is more important than God, that causes us to take our eyes off God is and idol. Fear and worry are idols. Which altar are you worshipping at?

When we truly worship God, and get a glimpse of His glory on the throne, all the problems and the concerns of life will melt away. As the song by Helen Lemmel goes,

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth
Will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace”

What Child is This? part 3 – December 17, 2017

So much of our Christmas season focuses on the birth of Jesus, but we cannot look at the birth of Jesus without looking at the reason why Jesus came to live amongst us.

Luke’s Gospel tells the narrative of how Jesus would be conceived and named. In Luke 1:26-35 we read how Mary had an encounter with the angel Gabriel, and he told her that the baby would be called Jesus. Jesus means God Saves, this must have been another indicator to Mary of who Jesus really was.

Every child carries some of the attributes and characteristics of their mother and their father. The angel told Mary that Jesus would be conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus would have some of the attributes of Mary and some of the attributes of God himself. And we know from Hebrews 1:3 that Jesus is fully God and fully man.

Jesus said to his disciples in John 14 verse 9, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”

So, this child, conceived miraculously by the power of the Holy Spirit, is the exact representation of God the Father and he is fully God, but by being born of Mary, he also has some of the nature of Mary. This is by God’s infinite design so that by being a man, Jesus would one day be able to offer himself as the perfect sacrifice for our sins.

The Apostle Paul wrote about this in Philippians 2:6-8.

We know that Jesus reflected the nature and character of God the Father, but how much of the character of Mary did Jesus possess as he walked the earth?

Looking at the way in which Jesus dealt with people we can see some of what Mary must have been like. Jesus was compassionate and kind, especially with children Jesus displayed patience and tenderness.

Jesus sought out the people on the fringes of society, calling them, showing them compassion and embracing them.

When the angel encountered Mary, he told her in verse 30, that she had found favor with God. God saw in Mary something special, she found favor with God possibly because she displayed the characteristics of gentleness, compassion, patience and tenderness. Perhaps it is possible that God saw in Mary the character traits, that He placed in her in the first place, but the character traits that would be necessary for Jesus to be who he was.

This child that lay asleep on her lap would one day grow up to have the character traits of care and compassion that his mother had.

There are several times in the Bible where the nature of God is described using motherly language and imagery (See Isaiah 66:13, Deuteronomy 32:11-12a, Psalm 22:9-10, Hosea 13:8a, Luke 13:34).

We see these images of God in the Bible as partial descriptions of the nature and character of God. Jesus is the exact representation of God; therefore, he must have these attributes himself. The same attributes that Mary displayed.

In addition to these characteristics, Mary and Jesus both displayed strong character in their lives. They both displayed great faith and trust in God. They were both willing and committed to the mission that God the Father had called them too. When Mary received the instructions from the Angel, her response was in Luke 1:38, “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”

When the time came for Jesus to face the completion of his mission, just before he was arrested and crucified, he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, humbly submitting to the perfect plan and will of the Father (Luke 22:41-42).

Both Jesus and Mary lived lives of extraordinary consequence, but both suffered deep pain. We only have a glimpse from the account of the crucifixion of how much pain and suffering Jesus went through as he paid the price for our salvation, but Mary also suffered. When Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple they met Simeon who praised God for allowing him to see the Messiah before his death, and went on to prophecy over Mary foretelling of the pain that she would one day endure (Luke 2:34-35).

Even in the Christmas carol, focusing on the birth of Jesus, we read of the purpose of why Jesus came to earth and gave up his glory in heaven. Mary was present at the crucifixion, standing by the cross, and enduring the agony of seeing her son die in the most excruciating way. Mary never left the side of Jesus, she was committed to being there for her son. This is also a promise of Jesus and one of the primary characteristics of the nature of God, he is a faithful God who promises to never leave us.

No matter how dark the season is that you are going through, no matter how lonely you feel at this Christmas season God is always near and his Word promises that He will be with you.

Jesus promised his disciples when he left them his Great Commission (Matthew 28:20b).

One of the most powerful scenes of compassion took place as Jesus hung suffering on the cross. Mary was there, and she wanted to help alleviate the pain, but Jesus looked at her and cared for her as he instructed the Apostle John to care for his mother (see John 19:26-17). What an incredible picture of love and compassion, in his pain he made sure that Mary was going to be taken care of.

“What child is this?” He is the one who came to love and to be the selfless sacrifice for all those who would believe in his name. But praise God, it didn’t end there. Jesus rose from the dead in a new resurrected body, Jesus became the first born of the new creation, and by his re-birth we can be born again.

Mary came to understand that this miraculous baby became the greater miracle, the way of salvation for millions of people who would put their faith and trust in him.

This Jesus is still the same today, full of compassion and love, ready to meet your needs.

If you are facing a huge trial and difficulty, Jesus knows what you are going through and he can meet your need.

If you are lonely and struggling with depression, Jesus knows your pain and is full of compassion.

Jesus came to earth as a little baby, to be fully man, so that he could identify with you and me (see Hebrews 4:15-16).

What Child is This? part 2 – December 10, 2017

In Matthew chapter 2 we read the account of the wise men who came from the east to meet Jesus.

We must ask ourselves, who were these men, and why did they get invited to meet the Messiah?

 The first thing we notice is that these wise men came from the east, most likely they were Gentiles from Arabia, this would have included modern day Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, UAE and Iraq.

One of the clearest explanations for their place of origin would be the types of gifts they brought to Jesus as we read in verse 11 of Matthew 2. The Gold which these wise men brought was probably mined in the region of Ophir and Sheba, which is mentioned in 2 Kings 9 as the place where King Solomon obtained huge quantities of gold for his extravagant building projects. The gifts of Frankincense and Myrrh are also derived from trees that primarily grow in Southern Arabia. It is important to understand the origin of these wealthy travelers in order to understand that they were fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 60:1-6

So how does knowing this information about the wise men help us in answering the question, “what child is this?”

Firstly; both Jesus and the wise men came from a distant place to Bethlehem. The Wise men travelled from a distant country in the east, and Jesus as we know came from God the Father and took on human form as he became Emmanuel, God with us (see John 1:1-2, 9-12).

Secondly; one might be tempted to think that because of all the prophecies relating to the messiah being Jewish, it would mean that he only came for the Jews. However, with these wise men coming from the east, God clearly announced that Jesus came for all mankind.

Thirdly; these wise men were wealthy, but to say that Jesus came from a place of means, is probably the greatest understatement in history. If you read Revelation chapters 4 and 5, you will see a glimpse of the majesty and the incredible riches of heaven. Jesus was surrounded by wealth, power and majesty in heaven, and yet he humbled himself to come as a poor baby born to a poor couple in a humble stable.  This child born in the manger is the Lord who created everything and owns everything.

And finally, the wise men were generous as they brought extravagant gifts for Jesus. Jesus himself came to bring a gift of unimaginable worth to all who would receive it. Jesus came from a position of wealth and he came with a gift, the ultimate gift of eternal life (see Galatians 1:3-4a, 1 John 3:16, John 14:27a, Philippians 4:13, Mark 10:45).

Have you ever wondered why the wise men came to Bethlehem?

The greater question is, how did these wise men know that the King of the Jews was to be born. We know that ancient eastern scholars were students of the natural sciences and in fact they came from a culture that valued the study of the stars and the planets. Thus, when they saw this strange star in the sky, they began digging to find out why it was there. To find out how they came to know about Jesus, you must go back nearly six centuries to the Babylonian exile of the southern kingdom of Israel in 587 B.C. After the exile had ended, some of the people of Judah remained in the eastern lands where they maintained their oral traditions and scriptures. They would have taken the tradition of telling the stories of the ancient scriptures to whoever would listen. These transplanted exiles would have told of the prophecies of Jeremiah, Daniel, and Isaiah about the coming Messiah the King of the Jews.

These wise men would have known of the ancient prophecies of the Messiah coming in the west. And when they saw the star, they came to meet this king. However simply knowing of an important birth happening hundreds of miles away probably wasn’t the real motivation for their coming to Bethlehem. I believe is the real reason the wise men visited Bethlehem was that God the Holy Spirit invited them and compelled them to meet Jesus.

Just as God invited, and prompted the wise men to come and see Jesus, so to, today, the Holy Spirit invites and compels people to come and meet Jesus.

One of the incorrect statements we often hear is, “I found Jesus”. Well the truth is that you didn’t find Jesus, he invited you to meet him.

When the wise men finally come to the house of Mary and Joseph, imagine Mary’s surprise when these wealthy, well dressed, upper class men come into her home and when they see the baby, they bow down and worship. These gentiles probably didn’t speak Aramaic or Hebrew, but they bow down and worship the king. They had been invited to witness the most important birth in all of history and unlike the rest of the people around them, they knew who deserved to be worshipped. The rest of the people in Bethlehem at that time did not recognize Jesus for who he was, and they never did.

These wise men were the first non-Jewish people to worship the Son of God, and just like you and me today, they were invited in. Because Jesus didn’t come only for the Jews, but he came for all nations for all people groups.

So, what about you? You have been invited to meet the King of Kings, the one born in Bethlehem, who brought the gift of eternal life to all mankind

Have you met Jesus? Have you worshipped Jesus? There is only one gift that we have to offer Jesus, and that is the gift of our lives, fully committing our lives to worship him and live for him.