Sermon – April 21, 2019 Resurrection Sunday

He is Risen!

We were all struck by the spectacle of the fire that destroyed the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.

As I was watching the coverage, somthing struck me, I began thinking about why this burning building caused so much grief and angst. One of the reasons was that we as God’s created beings, desire transcendence, we have a desire for something that endures beyond our lives. We desperately want to know that eternity is real and achievable. The thought that everything around us that we see will one day fall to decay is simply too hard for us to face (see Ecclesiastes 3:11).

We were made for so much more than the accumulation of wealth, knowledge and the pursuit of comfort and happiness, we were made for eternal glory with Jesus.

On Easter Sunday, we celebrate the fact that Jesus rose from the dead and that he paid the price for our eternal salvation. Isaiah 53 is one of the clearest Old Testament prophetic Scriptures that points to the death and resurrection of Jesus. These words also remind us that Jesus was not a victim of a terribly botched trial, or mistaken identity. Jesus was the creator God, who took on flesh, was born and lived at a specific time in history to die on a Roman cross and then to be raised to life. Only Jesus could do what He did, only Jesus who was fully God and fully man, was the one who could pay the price for the sins of man.

In Isaiah 53:10-12 we see five key attributes of Jesus, starting at verse 10a, “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt,”
Jesus is – the Perfect Sacrifice.

Under the Law of Moses, there were multiple different offerings, the prophet Isaiah wrote that Jesus was a guilt offering. The guilt offering was to provide a way to be cleansed from unintentional sin, or a way to provide restitution when someone has been personally wronged because of a sinner’s actions. Jesus knows what sins we have committed in the past, but the guilt offering was for unintentional or yet unknown sin. On the cross, Jesus paid the price for our sins and for the sins we are yet to commit even our unintentional sins. Does this mean I sin without consequence? Absolutely not, it was our sin that drove Jesus to the cross, past present and future. Jesus is the perfect sacrifice, the only pure spotless lamb of God (see Hebrews 10:11-14).

Jesus is – the Risen Lord.

Jesus is alive! Isaiah 53:10b-11a says, “he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. 11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;”

Only living people see their offspring, only living people have extended days and prosper.

This is the line in the sand that differentiates Christianity from any other world religion. Our God is alive, the tomb where he was buried was only occupied for a few days. Paul clearly stated this in 1 Corinthians 15:3-6, this is the Good News, he is risen!

Not only that, Jesus was raised with a body that will never decay, the same kind that we will also get one day if we believe in Jesus as Lord. The resurrection of Jesus is our glorious hope of a certain eternal future.

Jesus is – our Righteousness.

Isaiah 53:11b, “by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.”

The word righteous means that there is no longer a need for justice or punishment. For the Christian, to be righteous means to be in right standing before God. This is the privilege that we have as those covered by the perfect sacrifice of Jesus. We cannot stand before the all-holy God without the righteousness of Christ.

Without the righteousness of Christ, we have no hope of any sin being forgiven, but because of what he had done, no sin is too great for his forgiveness.

In Isaiah 64, we read that those who trust in their own righteousness or good works, are described as filthy rags in God’s sight. There is no good work that we could do that would make us righteous.  Nothing we can do will make us righteous before God, only through Jesus can we stand righteous before the all-holy God

In Jeremiah 23:6 we read that Jesus is Jehovah Tsidkenu, meaning Jehovah is our righteousness.

Our being in right standing with God is only because of us placing our faith in the completed work of Jesus on the cross. Righteousness comes through faith.

Jesus is our Inheritance

Isaiah 53:12a, “Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,

The Bible is full of references to the inheritance believers have in Christ (see Ephesians 1:11).

Our inheritance is the sum of all God has promised us in salvation. Our inheritance is not dependent on our works, our inheritance is based on our family, being part of the family of God, being a Christian makes us heirs along with Christ (See Romans 8:16-17).

When we understand and value the glory that awaits us, we are better able to endure whatever comes our way in this life. With an eternal perspective, we realize that this life is gone in a flash and eternity awaits us all. We can praise God during trials because we have His guarantee that we will receive all He has promised (see 2 Corinthians 4:17).

Jesus is our Advocate.

Isaiah 53:12 closes, “because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many and makes intercession for the transgressors.”

An advocate is someone who pleads the cause of another before a court or tribunal, Jesus is our advocate (see 1 John 2:1).

Jesus, the creator of the universe, gave his life for you, and now he is seated next to God the father and he is pleading and advocating for us (see Hebrews 7:23-25).

In addition to this, Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

Do you know Jesus?

Sermon on Palm Sunday April 14, 2019 Matthew 21:1-17

Matthew 21:1-17

Have you ever been to an event or meeting and something happened that you didn’t expect or fully understand?

The Sunday prior to Easter is Palm Sunday, the day when we traditionally remember Jesus coming into Jerusalem one week prior to his crucifixion and resurrection.

Everything that Jesus did on that day made a statement, he was intentionally dropping hints along the way about his identity and intentions. Those witnessing the events, did not see the significance of what Jesus was doing. Jesus was following a script that had been written before the creation of the world (see John 5:19).

Jesus avoided the limelight, throughout his public ministry. Most of Jesus’ ministry happened outside of towns or in small towns, away from the center of Jerusalem. But on Palm Sunday, all of that changed. In Matthews Gospel account we see six signs that Jesus left indicating his identity and purpose.The first sign we see is that Jesus instructs his disciples to go and get a donkey and her young foal and bring them to him.

His disciples dutifully obeyed and went and got him this wild animal that had never been ridden before. Riding into the city was a public declaration that Jesus was a king (See Zechariah 9:9). In times of war a conquering king would ride on a chariot or a stallion, but Jesus rode on a colt to declare that he is a king proclaiming peace.

But aside from the obvious declaration, this animal had never been ridden before. Anyone who has worked with horses before would know that you cannot simply ride a wild foal, it needs to be broken in, unless the creator of the foal was the one riding. The people didn’t recognize the creator God, but the foal did, the animal knew who was riding on its back, and it submitted to the authority of Jesus.

The people reacted by spreading their cloaks in front of Jesus, this was a sign of honor for a king as we see in 2 Kings chapter 9. The fact that the people were waving palm branches showed that they didn’t grasp who Jesus was, and why he was coming to Jerusalem. Two generations before this time, the Maccabean revolt took place that liberated the Israelites from the Syrian oppressors, at that time the worship in the temple was re-established. By waving palm branches, the people were expecting a military ruler to free them from the oppression of Rome, they expected Jesus to be another warlord or general of the armies, one who would lead them to liberation from their oppressors. They were ready to pick up their swords and go to war if Jesus would lead them!

In verse 9 we see that the people were crying out, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”.

We sing the word, Hosanna, and assume it is simply a declaration of worship, but it is a cry for help, it is a cry for salvation. The Aramaic word, Hosanna, comes from the Hebrew and the same word we find in Psalm 118:25, Save us, we pray, O Lord! O Lord, we pray, give us success!”

The crowds were full of expectation that Jesus was coming to save them, but it was originally a cry for help. The people were misguided in their expectations of Jesus as the military messiah, but their declaration of Hosanna, was a prophetic declaration of the salvation that Jesus was about to bring through his death and resurrection.

Jesus enters Jerusalem and the whole city was stirred up, little did they know what was about to take place. The greatest and the darkest day in all of history. Jesus goes to the temple and begins to turn over the tables of the money changers and the traders. Jesus then quotes the Prophet Isaiah and says, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”

We easily miss the significance of what Jesus was doing, he was making a public statement that the sacrificial system was not needed anymore, he was about to become the perfect and final sacrifice for all who would put their faith in him. Jesus was passing judgment on the sacrificial system. Even today we still need to be reminded that there is only one sacrifice that gains us favor with God, and it has already been completed when Jesus died and rose again.

In verse 14 we read, “And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them.” During the chaos and confusion, Jesus takes time to heal the blind and the lame.

Jesus was intentionally making a declaration of his true identity. The irony is that the seeing people were the blind ones. The blind came to him, because they recognized him for who he was.

Remember at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he went to the synagogue in Nazareth and read from Isaiah chapter 61 (see Luke 4:18-19). Jesus was declaring who he was, but the seeing were blind.

And then finally in verse 15, we read that the chief priests and scribes were indignant, they were offended because of the miracles, they were offended because the children were upsetting their neat little world of religion and crying out, “Hosanna to the Son of David!”

The priests were very religious, but religion – a set of rules and regulations to earn salvation – that is not for children. Christianity is a true relationship with our heavenly father through Jesus Christ and children get that much easier than adults do. Jesus quotes King David from Psalm 8:2. There is power in the praise of children, but more than that, the children hear from God much clearer than we adults do. The children are the faith and prophetic voices for the church as we get so busy “doing church”. We get so busy doing religion, that we miss the power of the praises and prayers of the children.

Jesus made statement after statement, declaring his true identity, but all the people in Jerusalem that day missed what he was saying.

Do you know who Jesus is?

Perhaps you follow Jesus because of his miracles and what you can get from him?

Do you follow Jesus because it is your tradition?

The only way of salvation is through recognizing who Jesus is and then submitting to him as Lord of your life.

Philippians – Paul’s letter of Joy – Philippians 4:10-13 – Sermon April 07, 2019

Philippians 4:10-13

 How are you doing?

This is a question each of us ask or are asked many times everyday and the response in our culture is a simple, “I am good”.

As you look back on your life, have you found being financially blessed or being in want to be more challenging? Most would say being without is more challenging, but the Bible warns us against the comfort and real challenges of prosperity (see Proverbs 70:7-9).

Looking at your spiritual life, did you grow more in your faith when you experienced hardships or when everything was going well?

Paul was in prison, and he was reflecting on his life and journey as a Christian. He had been through some tough times, beaten, left for dead, shipwrecked, abandoned and imprisoned, but in spite of it all, he was rejoicing.

In Philippians 4:10, Paul was thanking the Philippian church for a financial gift, he was deeply appreciative of the people in the church that he had planted ten years before.

The word “providence” comes from two Latin words: pro, meaning “before,” and video, meaning “to see.” God’s providence simply means that God sees to it beforehand. It does not simply mean that God knows beforehand. It is the working of God in advance to arrange circumstances and situations for the fulfilling of His purposes in providing for our needs.

Trusting God for financial blessing makes no sense in the natural realm. In our modern day thinking, we don’t hear much about the providence of God, rather we hear a lot about man’s ingenuity and ability to create wealth.

We have God in a box, that we turn to on Sunday’s or when we have a need, but the rest of the week we work with all our effort to figure out ways to provide for our needs and wants. This is practical atheism, we claim to worship God, but when we have a practical need, we ignore the providence of God.

This does not mean we sit back and do nothing, rather our starting point is different.

We begin by presenting our needs before our heavenly father and ask Him for the provision.

Then wait on the Lord and asking Him for what we must do, following His direction.

Initially the Philippian church did not have the opportunity to send Paul support, but now they could, and it was the perfect timing as Paul was in prison and had a desperate need. Paul thanked them and showed that even though he was in need, he was still content (Philippians 4:11-12)

What Paul described his secret of contentment.

Paul had learnt from what the Lord has taken him through.

V11: for I have learned – to be content

V12: I know how to be brought low – how to live in poverty

V12: I know how to abound – live with riches.

V12: I have learned the secret…

This is knowledge he has gained because of walking with God in obedience to the call of God on his life. James 1:4 calls this, “lacking in nothing”. Lacking in nothing is the outcome of the faith produced by the trials of life. The original Greek says, “wanting for nothing”.

When you grow in your faith, you may go through seasons of need, and seasons of abundance, but you will never want for anything (Philippians 4:19).

But we focus so much on the discomfort of being in need we sometimes miss the challenge of abounding, which means to have more than enough. Read the warning in Revelation 3:17 as Jesus writes the letter to the church in Laodicea. In the light of eternity, prosperity is far more dangerous than poverty. We must guard against the false sense of security that comes with financial gain, that takes our eyes off the source of all our provision.

This passage is so well known for verse 13, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me”.

This verse has been used by sportsmen and women all over the world. But you cannot take this verse out of the context of scripture and use it like a magic bullet, expecting God to bless everything we decide to do. The key to this verse is “through Christ”, and the verse must be seen in light of the previous text.

Everything in nature relies on hidden resources to grow and flourish. The most important part of a tree is the part you cannot see, the root system. The most important part of the Christian’s life is the presence of the Holy Spirit, where we get our life sustaining power to live the Christian life.

Paul depended on the power of Christ at work in his life.

Paul was declaring that through the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit, he could do anything that God called him to do. The Greek wording for this verse says, “all things I can do in the one empowering me.”

Paul states that to be a Christian, is to be “IN CHRIST”, this is the very essence of what it means to be a Christian (Acts 17:28, Job 12:10).

Some quote this verse as, “I can do whatever I dream up, because Christ is with me.” This is not claiming the promise of God’s Word, this is the very definition of witchcraft. Rather the follower of Jesus who has submitted to his lordship says, “I can do all that he asks me to do because I am in him.” Jesus teaches this same lesson in John 15. He is the Vine; we are the branches, the branch does not bear fruit through its own self-effort, but by drawing on the life of the Vine (John 15:5).

A common mistake Christians make is trying to do things for Jesus, out of gratitude or guilt we somehow try to pay for our salvation. But that is not what the Bible says at all. We are called to abide in Jesus and allow the presence of the Holy spirit to transform us and then being IN CHRIST, he works through us, leading us to do what he calls us to do.

What is God calling you to do, that only God can do, that is the essential message of Philippians 4:13. What have you been trying to do in your own strength, that Christ never intended for you to do?

Philippians – Paul’s letter of Joy – Philippians 4:8-9 – Sermon March 31, 2019

Philippians 4:8-9

How is your thinking?

Anxiety, depression, worry and fear all stem from our thinking.

“You are not what you think you are, but what you think – that you are”

You choose what to think about, and what you think about, affects your whole life.

In Philippians 4, Paul is coming to the end of the letter and he wants to encourage the Philippian church to healthy disciplines. Our thought life is a discipline, meditating on God’s word, allowing the Holy Spirit to renew our minds daily.

All sin begins with a thought, we see something, and it triggers a thought that leads to temptation.

We hear something in passing and a thought builds that leads to offence and we begin to hold a grudge. Our minds are the epicenter of the spiritual warfare that we are engaged in.

Whenever we begin to believe a lie, Satan has control over us in that area.

There is a battle for the control of our minds, therefore it is imperative for us to daily spend time in God’s word. We live in a world with a constant stream of information.  We are saturated with up to 16 hours a day of information and not much of it good. When we neglect feeding on God’s word, saturating ourselves with the truth, we will find it impossible to discern the between lies and the truth. it is impossible to have a growing relationship with Jesus Christ without spending time daily meditating on God’s word.

In 2 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul made it clear that we are in a battle for our minds (see 2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

In Philippians 4:8 Paul lists eight adjectives:

1. True: For something to be true, it is genuine, and not counterfeit. In Ephesians 6, we read about the armor of God, of which the belt of truth is the first part of the armor, so that we will be able to stand firm against the lies of the enemy.

2. Honorable: Honorable or noble. Someone who is worthy of respect, who acts honorably is thinking honorably. This is the inward thought life of the follower of Christ.

3. Just: This suggests dealing in justice towards every-person, not given to favoritism or partiality. How we think about people will determine our justice towards them. Do we think about people differently because of the color of their skin, their age, their financial status or their education?

4. Pure: Authentic, stainless or without blemish. A pure glass of water can allow the light to go through unfiltered and clear. We as believers, as we keep ourselves pure, we allow the light of Jesus to shine through us. Sin is impurity that hinders the light of Christ to shine through our lives.

5. Lovely: Something that is lovely is pleasing and orderly. This speaks of harmony of thought not chaotic and hap-hazard thinking. When we allow sin to dwell in our hearts, when we think about impure things, our minds get flustered and easily frustrated.

6. Commendable: This is the opposite of Gossip. In our fallen and sinful state, we tend to gossip about someone rather than commend them. If you want to change the mood and atmosphere in a room, start speaking highly of each other, honoring and commending each other, and those not present.

7&8: Excellence and worthy of praise

Moral excellence is virtue and develops our fellowship with God.

Worthy of praise; to praise someone, rather than to tear them down.

As we look at these eight adjectives, these are the adjectives of the way we should be thinking. As we think about these things, we see that they are adjectives describing God.

God is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, praiseworthy.

God’s word is encouraging us to think about God, spending our time thinking deeply about the Creator God. Meditating on His awesome attributes and worshipping Him.

Then verse 9 Paul writes, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you

Proper actions come from proper thinking. What we think about will ultimately determine our practices. We often are surprised when someone we know is caught in a grievous sin or criminal activity, but it all begins with improper thinking.

J.D. Pentecost said, “Maturity in the Christian is not measured by what a man knows, but by what a man does.”

Thinking translates to doing and Paul was a living example of the conduct he expected the Philippian believers to walk in. Live by these thought patterns, taking them to heart allowing the Holy Spirit to dwell in you and transform your life, then you will know and experience the peace of God.

If you struggle to know the will of God for your life, you need to have a renewal of the mind (see Romans 12:2). Every-day we are exposed to images, words, experiences that soil our minds, we begin to become desensitized to sin and as a result our minds are full of impure thoughts and images. But here is the good news, God is able to transform our minds. As we ask God with repentance and thanksgiving, He renews our minds. Make a daily habit to pray for your mind to be renewed.

King David, after he sinned with Bathsheba he repented in Psalm 51. We read in Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” David cried to God to supernaturally renew his spirit to change his thinking.

Our thought patterns can be so destructive.

Thoughts of unforgiveness

Thoughts of shame

Thoughts of rejection

Thoughts of inadequacy.

When Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave, he didn’t only make a way for us to be made right with God so that we would not have to spend eternity separated from God in Hell.

Jesus also made a way for us to know peace, for us to have renewed minds, healed and restored minds.

How is your thinking?

Philippians – Paul’s letter of Joy – Philippians 4:4-7 – Sermon March 24, 2019

Philippians 4:4-9

Peace Beyond Understanding

 Anxiety is the most pervasive psychological problem in our society, however, studies have shown that 90% of what we worry about never happens.

Anxiety is largely about perspective. Marketers and politicians know this all too well, using it to their advantage.  Today, get anxious about things they haven’t seen but have heard about on the internet.

JB Phillips in his book “your God is too small” wrote: “the trouble with many people today is that they have not found a God big enough for their everyday needs”

Fear prevents many Christians from experiencing all that God intends for our lives. Satan uses anxiety to create a cowardly, joyless soul. Fear wants you to take your eyes off the mountain peak and settle for the dull existence of the flat lands. But Satan has been overcome and Jesus won the victory on the cross (Hebrews 13:6).

In Philippians 4:4-7 Paul addresses anxiety and it is very practical and transformational as we apply the principles of God’s word. Jesus, while preaching the sermon on the mount, took a significant portion of his discourse to address the futility of anxiety (Matthew 6:34).

The Apostle Paul knew what it was like to experience hardship, he was in chains as he wrote this letter. He had every reason to be anxious, but rather he is full of joy and encouragement.

What was Paul’s secret?

Paul starts verse 4 by making an imperative statement, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” There is a huge difference between joy and happiness; joy flows out of security in a relationship. There is a direct connection between joy and love. Gaining a greater understanding of the love that God, your Heavenly Father, has for you, will give you peace and joy (Habakkuk 3:17-18).

Paul had the same confidence as the prophet Habakkuk, Paul was convinced that God was in control and that God would fulfill the promises of His word (Romans 8:28).

Do we have that same confidence? Or am I anxious because deep down, I am not fully convinced that God is able, that God is truly good. When we really search our hearts, the root of anxiety can be traced to unbelief in the all-powerful creator of the universe.

Verse 5 continues, “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand”

We as followers of Jesus are to be known as people who are reasonable. But not just reasonable, the Greek word incorporates all the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). As we live the Spirit-filled life we will exhibit these qualities to those around us.

Verse 6, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

The key to overcoming anxiety is prayer. Paul makes an imperative statement, “do not be anxious about anything”. Anxiety leads to multiple physical maladies, prayer is the Biblical prescription for the illness of anxiety.

1: Prayer – Is the attitude of the person coming before the all-holy, all-powerful creator. Prayer is by nature humility, a recognition of who we are communicating with.

Prayer never begins with words – it begins in the heart, a humble attitude towards God.

Prayer is stepping away from the rushing world, trying to do it myself, a place where I am the problem solver, and throwing myself with dependence and recognition on the Creator of the universe. But so much more than this, we as believers in Jesus Christ can call the Creator, Father! This is prayer.

2: Supplication –Sharing our needs and problems with God. Not because He doesn’t know what we need, but rather because as we verbalize our needs, God works in our own hearts and prepares us for the answer to our prayers. God uses the prayers of the saints, His children, to change things. God doesn’t need our prayers, but He responds when we pray, because that is the way He has ordered the universe. We have a vital and powerful part to play through prayer. Prayer is a declaration of faith, because by presenting our requests to God, we are stating that He is able (Hebrews 11:6).

3: Thanksgiving – This is crucial, thank God before you have received the answer to your prayers.

All prayer is to be accompanied by thanksgiving. Thankful that God has heard our prayers, that God is moving on our behalf, that God has answered our prayers. We are to be thankful because God is going to give us exactly what we need in response to our prayers. Satan’s lies, cannot exist in a life full of thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is Worship, putting God in the place of preeminence.

And then finally verse 7: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Through prayer, we can experience the peace of God, a miraculous work of God bringing peace to the heart and mind of the believer. It does not mean the absence of trials, Jesus said we would still have that (John 16:33). The peace of God is the ability to handle the trials without them stealing our joy.

This is supernatural, this is too much for us to grasp, “it surpasses all understanding”. This is the peace that makes the people around ask how we can remain calm during the storms of life. This peace is the result of the person who has taken everything to God in prayer, with thanksgiving.

This peace of God will also provide a guard for our hearts and minds. the peace of God is a protection against anxiety, stress and against bitterness towards those who have wronged us.

The peace of God is a guard and a protection against the lies of the enemy.

Verse 7 ends with the key, the key to this peace and joy is found in Christ Jesus. Only in the completed work of what Jesus did on the Cross and by his resurrection power are we able to experience the peace of God.

Philippians – Paul’s letter of Joy – Philippians 4:1-3 – Sermon March 10, 2019

Living in Unity

Philippians 4:1-3

 Have you ever had an argument with a fellow believer?

What was the fruit of that argument?

In Philippians 4 we read about two women who had a disagreement in the church in Philippi. These women were gifted leaders, who’s argument had the potential to create division in the church.

The Apostle Paul addressed the issue directly because he saw the bigger picture, the eternal implications. We need to have an eternal perspective on disagreements, if someone is turned away from the church because of a personal disagreement and that person rejects Christ as a result, they will spend eternity in Hell.

Paul had been building the letter to get to this point, teaching and leading the church to pursue maturity and victorious Christian living. He begins the chapter by using a number of phrases to show his affection for the people of the church in Philippi;

my brothers, whom I love”, the Greek word he uses is agape, which refers to the love of God that has been given to us through the Holy Spirit (see Romans 5:5). This is the love that God gives us for each other in the Body of Christ. Without the agape, “love glue”, the church would simply not be able to stay together while on mission.

And long for”, Paul is approximately 800 miles away, he misses his family, longing to be with them.

my joy and my crown”, not only does he love them and miss them, he celebrates them. The members of the church in Philippi were his favorites, and his crown. Paul writes that the Philippian church was a reward for faithful service.

How often do we celebrate our brothers and sisters in Christ? Sadly, as a culture we only celebrate someone at their funeral.  Let us be Christians that celebrates on another, speaking life and encouragement over each other, this will bring joy and unity to the church.

Paul writes in verse 1 encouraging the Philippian believers to stand firm, standing on the truth’s that they have been taught. We need this encouragement today, we need to stand firm, unwavering on the truth’s that we have in God’s unchanging word.

Standing firm is a Roman military term of standing guard against any attack from the enemy. The implication is that the victory has already been won, Jesus won the victory on the cross and we are to hold the ground that he conquered as we declare the truth of the Gospel.

Watchman Nee writes “Remembering that we fight from victory not for victory. “

We stand firm by holding to the Word of God, not twisting it to be acceptable to culture.

We stand firm by loving God’s people.

We stand firm by loving the lost.

We stand by obeying what God tells us to do, even if it seems crazy to those around us.

In verse 2, Paul calls out two women, Euodia and Syntyche who were engaged in a fruitless argument. We don’t know anything about their dispute, but since Paul mentions them by name, it must have been a severe threat to the unity and the ministry of the church. Not taking sides, Paul pleads with them to end their disagreement. Paul knows that this argument is a threat to unity.

As believers, we can be right in an argument, but we have no right to create disunity in the church.

This does not mean that we forgo standing firm on foundational Biblical truths, but when an argument is a difference of opinion regarding secondary church issues, church unity and fellowship is more important.

Paul pleads with them to agree in the Lord. Essentially what he is saying is that their vision is too small. So often we disagree over secondary things, because we have forgotten the glorious purpose of the church, to proclaim the Gospel to every tribe and people group to the ends of the earth.

Satan loves to have the church fight over styles and colors and vehicles, all the while we are distracted from the primary purpose of our existence. What opinions do you need to let go of today that are hindering the ministry of the church?

Then in verse 3, he appeals to an unnamed person, someone he could trust to help these two women come to forgiveness and restore their relationship. This person, most likely a woman, may have been Lydia, who was the first Philippian convert. Early scholars suggested that this may have been Paul’s wife. Whoever this was, Paul was appealing to her to help bring restoration of the relationship between Euodia and Syntyche.

These two women were dedicated committed believers, who had served to advance the Gospel, but now they were wasting their energy on a fruitless argument. Not only that, they were also robbing themselves of joy. When you have a disagreement with someone and you refuse to forgive them, you are the one who suffers the most. You are robbing yourself of joy and even possibly your health.

Paul gently rebukes them, while at the same time he lovingly affirms them. Paul knows they are saved, but that they were not living out their calling and their fullest potential because they were living with unforgiveness. It’s not that they didn’t know Christ, but for a time, they had stepped away from the Lordship of Christ in their lives. This can happen to us at any-time as we fall into sin by giving in to temptation and step out of the Lordship of Christ over our lives. As soon as the Holy Spirit convicts us, we need to quickly repent and ask Jesus to forgive us of our sins (See 1 John 1:9).

Realistically we will always have disagreements in the church over matters of opinion, but we need to quickly repent and seek restoration, always remembering the mission, the greater purpose of the church.

What do you need to let go of today?

Who do you need to forgive?

Who do you need to ask for forgiveness?

Psalm 133

Hearing God’s voice March 3, 2019

Psalm 29 and Romans 12

When I have my devotional time with the Lord in the morning, I have developed the routine of reading a Psalm and then a chapter from the New Testament. As I meditate on the Word, I am frequently amazed to find that the two passages are linked around a certain theme.

The Lord speaks through His word to us and as I take time to be still and know… I hear from the Lord and am encouraged.

This morning I read Psalm 29 and Romans 12, at first glance there seems little that connects these two passages. Then I was reminded of a conversation that we had yesterday.

A group of us were taking a break from painting and the conversation led to the unfathomable majesty of God as it is displayed in creation. Psalm 29 mentions the power of God and that He is due all glory and majesty as He sits in the splendor of His holiness (Psalm 29:2).

As the conversation developed we began to discuss how God leads us as we have to make daily decisions that affect the course of our lives. To be followers of Jesus, we must submit ourselves to His perfect will for our lives, the difficulty comes in discerning what that will for our lives.

Sometimes we wrestle with the big decisions such as, marriage, career, international mission trips or buying a house, to mention a few. How can we know the will of God for a specific situation? What we are talking about is hearing the voice of God.

Psalm 29, as I read it this morning mentions, “the voice of the Lord”, seven times between verses 3 and nine. The voice of the Lord in Psalm 29 describes God’s general revelation of Himself through creation. The Psalmist pictures the voice of the Lord as crashing thunder, earthquakes, floodwaters and mighty winds.

Years ago, I used to love walking along a deserted beach during the fiercest storms and howling winds. My shouting prayers would be swallowed up by the power of God’s wind and rain. I felt the presence of the Lord and He spoke to me in those times, bringing clarity and direction when I needed it most.

In order to hear God’s voice, we need to position ourselves where we are ready to hear. It may be a walk in a storm or a silent prayer room, but our position needs to be one of submission and expectation. Sit with the Bible open, read with expectation, praying with intensity. As we walk with the Lord, as we mature in our faith, we begin to recognize the voice of God. He may speak to us through nature, through the Bible, through the Holy Spirit or through wise counsel of a mature believer.

This is where the New Testament reading connected in my morning meditation. 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.”

The key to knowing the voice of God, is a renewed mind. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 2:16 that we have the mind of Christ. At first this sounds impossible to us; how can we have the mind of the creator God? But as we are transformed into the image of Christ, as we mature and submit our will daily to the perfect will of the Father, we will find that our decision making is led by the Holy Spirit. Spiritual maturity is being transformed by the renewal of our minds. This is not an immediately completed work when we become a Christian, nor is it ever completed on this side of Heaven. But, as we mature, as our minds are renewed, we are able to discern the will of God as Romans 12:2 says.

The tragedy is that too many Christians do not mature, and as a result they are tossed about like a rudderless boat in a storm. Everyday we make decisions that have eternal consequences, let us ensure that we submit ourselves daily to the will of God and then position ourselves where we can hear His voice.

Philippians – Paul’s letter of Joy – Philippians 3:15-21 – Sermon February 24, 2019

Click on the link above to see the video of the message.

Philippians 3:15-21

 The Apostle Paul often refers to the Christian life as a race and the Bible is full of stories of men and women of God, who began the race well, but failed in the end because they disregarded God’s rules for the race (see 2 Timothy 2:5). As a Christian if you don’t follow the rules, you don’t lose your salvation, but you miss out on the rewards (see 1 Corinthians 3:14-15).

In 2 Corinthians 5:10, we read that every believer must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, and we will be called to give an account for how we made use of our spiritual gifts and the calling of God on our lives.

Paul writes in verse 15, “Let those of us who are mature think this way…”

Spiritual maturity is not perfection, but it is daily making progress towards holiness and purity in our lives. The plan for our lives this side of heaven is progress not perfection.

Paul continues in verse 15, “Only let us hold true to what we have attained.”

The Christian life must be one of consistency, holding on to the ground that has already been taken as we grow in the Lord.

There are two primary reasons why people do not grow and mature in their walk with the Lord.

  1. They assume they are already mature A person who makes a decision for Christ is not mature, they are spiritual infants. In this life spiritual maturity is a journey and not a destination.
  2. They are not willing to pay the price for maturity. Maturity comes at a cost. We must give up things that hold us back. There is pain involved in growth and we naturally shy away from pain. James 1:1-4 explains the common process of spiritual growth.

To mature as a Christian, we need role models, mature Christians who have walked the road ahead of us, that we can look to for inspiration and encouragement.  Paul writes in verse 17 that the Philippian Christians should imitate him as an example. As Christians our life is what other people scrutinize. What kind of role-model are you for a younger Christian?

If that sounds intimidating, we need to be reminded that this is the design that God has for the church.

But then in verse 18 and 19 Paul describes a group of people that we should not follow as role-models. These people were in the church, members of the church in Philippi. This is why he says that he is writing with tears, it grieves him.

Paul says that these professing Christians are actually enemies of the cross, and he lists 4 rebukes against these people:

  1. Their end is destruction” – These people are playing at being Christians, but they are wasting their lives.
  2. their god is their belly” – They are driven by sensual appetites, this doesn’t mean that they are all gluttons, rather they run after every desire they have without self-control. Living for the moment and they have no concern for their eternal destination.
  3. They glory in their shame” – People give themselves over to their passions and their appetites and then try to find a way to justify their actions, even declaring that what they are doing is right and good. God’s standard never changes, but the world and sadly many churches today have so embraced sin, even celebrating sin, “They glory in their shame”.
  4. with minds set on earthly things “– Much like the modern Western church, we are programmed by materialism and the present world full of entertainment. One of my goals is to have an eternal perspective on everything and one of the goals of my ministry is to convey that passion to others.

Can you imagine the impact a church could have on the world if we saw everything we did and every dollar we spent through the lens of eternity?

Paul picks up that theme in verses 20 and 21: “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”

As Christians, we are under the rule and the authority of the kingdom of heaven. The people of Philippi grasped this easily, because even though they lived in Greece, they were under Roman rule. They submitted themselves to the higher authority of Rome. While we are here on the earth, living in the United States of America, we are subject to the laws of the land where we live. But these laws are temporary, this land is temporary, but our citizenship in the kingdom of God is eternal. So, while we adhere to the laws of the land, where those laws conflict with the laws of the eternal kingdom we must submit to the higher authority.

Paul has an eager expectation of Jesus coming again, this is what it means to have an eternal perspective. Our residence here is temporary, the things we spend most of our time stressing about are temporary (see 2 Corinthians 4:18).

Everything we have is temporary, but what will endure is the lasting effects of a life lived for Jesus, how you spend your time, how you spend your money will determine the eternal rewards that Jesus has in store for you. Are you living with an eternal perspective?

Are you living as a true follower of Jesus?

Are you a citizen of heaven or are you an enemy of the cross?

Philippians – Paul’s letter of Joy – Philippians 3:12-14 – Sermon February 17, 2019

Philippians 3:12-14

click the picture below to watch the video of the sermon

 There is no evidence that the Apostle Paul was a runner, but he likens the Christians life to running a race, and for good reason, the Christian life requires endurance.

In Philippians 3:12, Paul begins by making the statement, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect…”

Paul had accomplished so much for the Kingdom of God, but he was looking ahead, he was not satisfied with his personal spiritual walk. This is the attitude that every Christian should have, saved but not satisfied.

Paul continues, “but I press on to make it my own…” The Greek word paints picture of a runner straining with every fiber of his being, aggressively pursuing the goal of becoming more like Christ. (Hebrews 12:1).

It is one thing to have a life goal, but a totally different endeavor to pursue a goal with all of your being. Paul was committed to becoming like Christ and he was aggressive in his pursuit. It is rare to find a Christian who reads the Bible and then says, “I am going to do this, I am going to pursue Christ and His will for my life with every fiber of my being for the rest of my life.” The tragic truth is that there are so many people captivated by the entertainment of this world and do not pursue anything of eternal value.

Paul continues, “but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.”

The Greek word that Paul uses means to aggressively and rapidly capture. Paul remembers his own conversion on the road to Damascus, where Jesus captured him. This was the starting line of Paul’s Christian race. For every Christian, Jesus must be your starter, at some point in your life you must recognize the moment when Jesus apprehended you.

In Philippians 3:13 Paul takes an honest assessment of his life and says that he has a long way to go. His pursuit is simple – forgetting the past and straining towards the goal of holiness. This singular pursuit was the focus and priority of his daily life.

He makes two simple statements, “forgetting what is behind… and straining forward to what lies ahead.”

For some people their past is defined by guilt and shame because of the things they have done.  The shame is crippling, and they feel that they have disqualified themselves from the race. That is a lie from Satan, and we have the promise of Romans 8:1 that puts all shame to rest. If you are struggling with guilt and shame from your past, today you can move forward and experience the freedom that Jesus has for you.

Some people experience the is pain and crippling effects of things done or said to them by others. Words and actions that have torn down their identity. These past experiences hold us back and prevent us from running the race that God has for us. Do you really know who you are in Christ? You were saved for a purpose – “to proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you…” 1 Peter 2:9.

Joseph the son of Jacob was ridiculed mocked and sold into slavery by his brothers and left for dead. He was mistreated and falsely accused in Egypt, but God redeemed his life and made him one of the most influential leaders in Egypt, saving the nation of Israel from starvation.

Joseph had every reason to be defined by his past, but he didn’t.

Joseph had 2 children, Manasseh and Ephraim (see Genesis 41:51-52), Manasseh means “making forgetful”, Ephraim means, “fruitfulness.” As Joseph moved on from his past, God made him fruitful. Don’t let your past hold you back, leave it at the foot of the cross and let God give you a life of fruitfulness. To forget our past means that you are no longer influenced by it, its not that we don’t remember the pain, but rather that we are not held back by it.

Then there is the other danger in looking back on past achievements and accomplishments. These past accomplishments, these former victories can become idols that we look to that prevent us from pressing in to the more that God has in store for us. We call this resting on our laurels, being satisfied that we have done enough. If the past looks great to you, then you have lost your vision for the future that God has for you.

The second part of verse 13 states, “straining forward to what lies ahead.”

There is a tendency today towards spiritual laziness. I have often heard people saying, “I am just in a season of rest… I am not committing to do anything at this time.” I don’t see any Biblical precedent for this way of thinking. Paul here describes an athlete who is running straight ahead, not looking left or right, straining every muscle and nerve, pursuing the race towards the finish line. This does not discount a sabbath rest, but the sabbath is also not a time to stop your personal spiritual disciplines. The sabbath is there to refresh and recharge for the days of work ahead.

In verse 14 Paul writes, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” He lists three pursuits of his life.

  1.  The goal, this is becoming like Jesus here and now by living a life of holiness and purity. Making the most of every opportunity to bring glory to JESUS.
  2. Then we have the prize – to hear Jesus say, “well done good and faithful servant”. Jesus taught a parable in Matthew 25 of the master who gave bags of gold to three servants before he left on a journey. The first two put the gift to work they made use of the time, and when the master returned, they were told, “well done, good and faithful servant”. But the 3rd servant took the treasure and buried it, he rested on his laurels and missed out on the prize.
  3. This prize comes because of our response to the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. All who know Jesus Christ as Lord and savior, have a calling from heaven to make the very best use of the life that God has given us.

Discipline, endurance and sacrifice are all essential character traits of a follower of Jesus.

The process of sanctification is slow and takes endurance, don’t quit.

Philippians – Paul’s letter of Joy – Philippians 3:7-11 – Sermon February 10, 2019

Philippians 3:7-11

THE ULTIMATE GOAL OF A CHRISTIAN

What is the ultimate goal of Christianity? Getting to heaven? Getting saved?

The Apostle Paul writing to the church in Philippi taught that knowing Christ was the most excellent pursuit of his life. Having an intimate relationship with Jesus the creator God.

Paul wrote that for the sake of Christ, he had suffered the loss of all things. After becoming a Christian, he had lost his prestige, his paycheck as a Pharisee, his status in the community and power in the community. He viewed all these things as rubbish compared to knowing Christ.

To gain Christ was his life’s pursuit. When we become a Christian, we begin the journey of sanctification, the process of becoming more like Christ. We are not instantly holy and perfect, we are still in need of continual spiritual housecleaning. But as God deals with the sin in our lives, He reveals more areas of our lives that are not fully committed to Him. As we pursue Christ, the “little” sins, become more and more obnoxious as we see them for what they really are. Sin is sin, and my sin is what drove Jesus to the cross so that I can become pure and holy. Why would I hold on to anything when Jesus did so much for me?

In verse 9 Paul continues, “not having a righteousness that comes from the law…”

Righteousness is defined as the quality of being morally right or justifiable. However, being morally right will not save you, being morally justifiable does not mean that you are in right standing with God. Paul said in this verse that the righteousness he was pursuing was from the law, his own works and good deeds, but the righteousness that God looks for is faith in Jesus Christ. When you place your faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior of your life, you are in right standing with God and justified before him (see 2 Corinthians 5:21).

Paul continues in verses 10-11, “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”

Many Christians, think that when they have placed their faith in Jesus, there is nothing more to pursue. The thinking is that I just have to live my life trying not to sin and get by until I die, or Jesus comes back. This is infant Christianity, when you are born again, you are a baby, and it is essential to grow and develop into full maturity. We were saved by God to grow and mature as followers of Jesus. By God’s grace, as we pray and read God’s word, He graciously gives us the desire for more of him and we begin to get that appetite and we grow.

Paul’s primary desire that shaped his life, was to know Christ. Philippians chapter 3 describes Paul’s satisfaction in knowing Christ, but also his dissatisfaction in that he was a longing to know him better. I pray that we will become dissatisfied Christians, longing to know Christ more.

To know something is to acquire knowledge, but there is a huge difference between intellectual knowledge and experiential knowledge. When you go to college or attend a class, you gain intellectual knowledge, that hopefully you can retain and use at some point. But experiential knowledge comes from experiencing something personally.

We can know Christ by experiencing his presence through the Holy Spirit, by reading His word, by spending time with Him in prayer. We come to know Christ when we step out in faith and see how He provides. Knowing Christ takes discipline, it takes hard work, but it should be our deepest longing as believers.

Paul writes in verse 10, “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection…”

The power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in every believer, this is something that we aren’t capable of fully grasping (see Galatians 2:20). Paul prayed for the church in Ephesus to gain this understanding (see Ephesians 1:18-20). We need a revelation from God to begin to grasp the power of God that is for us, in us, and operates through us as believers.

The resurrection power of God is the only power that can defeat the power and hold of sin in your life. If you are struggling with persistent and ongoing sin in your life, you need to grasp and hold on to the power of the resurrection.

We like this part of Philippians 3:10, but Paul continues and writes, “…, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,”

This does not mean that we have to go back to the cross and physically suffer the way Jesus did,  but rather, as we display the power of the resurrected Lord in our lives, as we so identify with Christ, that when we face abuse and persecution for being a follower of Jesus we react the way Jesus did and in so doing we are drawn closer to him (see 1 peter 4:12-13).

As believers in Jesus, we like to hear about the resurrection power, but there can be no resurrection without crucifixion. Dying to ourselves, our desires and our will, is the requirement of becoming like Christ and knowing his power at work in our lives. Dying to self is not a one-time event, it is the daily process of choosing death to sin’s hold on our lives, as we are being conformed to the image of Christ.

Paul ends verse 11 by writing, “that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”

At first glance it seems that Paul is trying to attain eternal life, it seems Paul was uncertain of his salvation! But, the word resurrection used here means to stand up, to come alive spiritually while still here on the earth. I might paraphrase the Apostle, “I want to know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his suffering that I may give the spiritually dead a preview of eternal life in action as I am standing up among those who are spiritually dead”

Does your life display the resurrection power of Jesus to those around you? Do you know Jesus experientially?