Sermon November 18, 2018 The Gift of Reconciliation

Text: Acts 17:22-31

In Acts 17 we read about Paul speaking to the people of Athens in the Areopagus, while he was on his second missionary journey. Seeing their many idols, Paul addresses them regarding their idol named for the “Unknown God”, and he proceeds to tell them about the God who created all things and sustains all things, the one true God.

In verse 26 he says, “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place”.

Paul made it clear to the Greeks that we are all descendants of one man. It is the lack of understanding of this fact that still creates untold pain and suffering in the world. God is the God of all people groups. The Greek word for nation that Paul uses is ethnos, that is people group and not national boundaries. In Genesis 1:27 we read that God created man and woman in His own image. That means that every human being is eternal and valuable because we are all created in the image of God. Every human being has an immortal soul in the image of God, everyone has a mind with unique reasoning abilities and everyone has the potential for a relationship with their creator God.

With that in mind, we must be so careful to avoid the sin of prejudice, we have no right to hate someone that Jesus died for, who was created uniquely in the image of God. Jesus came to the earth, he suffered and died to redeem people from every people group, and one day we will all sing together in his presence (see Revelation 5:9).

Then why is there so much hatred and strife in the world? The FBI recently announced that reported hate crimes in the United States increased by 17 percent in 2017. That marks the third consecutive year the number has gone up, and as you are well aware, it seems that our nation is becoming angrier and more divided every year. Hatred and racism is nothing new in the world, it has been around since the beginning of time. In 1 John 3:15 we read, Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” Which begs the question, who is my brother? In Luke 10, the expert of the law asked Jesus this question, and Jesus tells a parable about a good Samaritan, that was so provocative at the time it must have made the Jews cringe. We are supposed to love all people groups, even those who despise and hate us. Because of what Jesus has done on the cross for us, we have no right to hate anyone else.

In this regard, sadly we know all too well that the church has been guilty of some of the worst racism. Christians today should be more aware than ever before that if we allow hate to remain in our hearts, it will eventually find its way out. Where all of this becomes most critical for Christians today is when we come to hate a culture that increasingly appears to hate us. We are told daily in our news media and culture, exactly who we are supposed to hate, but this is not a Biblical worldview.

As our culture turns further and further away from a Biblical worldview, we will find it harder and harder to love the lost the way Our Heavenly Father does. Do you have a love for the lost? Do you love those who hate you? That is tough. In a recent article, Anne Lamott wrote, “You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”

Hate is a real part of being human beings, but that does not make it less sinful, we hate because of sin in the world and because Satan has devised a way to divide humanity.

Here is a simple question to ask ourselves, “Does God hate the people you hate–or will you love the people he loves?” How you answer that question will go a long way toward determining your impact for the Kingdom of God and the culture today.

How do we see reconciliation in the nations? How is it possible for hatred to be overcome? It starts by realizing that as a human race, God has put a piece of His nature into all the various people groups, as we come together we see and experience more of the character of God.

At a recent conference I attended in Kosovo, Pastor Venco Nakov from Macedonia encouraged the attendees to pray for the nations on their borders. I was struck by this and wondered how often we as the American church pray for God to bless our neighbors? Pastor Venco said, “Blessing your neighbors doesn’t mean you don’t love your country, it means that you are more of a patriot than anyone else.” He went on to say that no one asks you where you would like to be born, rather God has chosen you and I to be born when and where He divinely appoints.

As Americans, God has chosen you and I to live in this land at this time, to be His representatives, to pray for peace, to bring reconciliation to point the way to Jesus by proclaiming the Gospel. May we be a people who are known for loving our neighbors irrespective of their race and national identity to the glory of God.

Philippians – Paul’s letter of Joy Part 5 Sermon October 28, 2018

Philippians 1:19-30

The Gift of Suffering

The greatest threat facing the Western church is not persecution or opposition, rather the greatest threat to the church is comfort. Our culture resists anything that is inconvenient and produces discomfort and as a result, when our Christian walk becomes uncomfortable, we shy away and look for an easy road. But that is not what the Christian life that we are called to.

If comfort is our goal and our pursuit, we will never attain to the full measure of the calling of God on our lives.

In Philippians 3:27-30, we see three characteristics of the New Testament church that applies to us today.

1. The Unity of the church (Verse 27).

Paul was writing to another Roman city, the Philippians were part of the Roman Empire, and as such, they had to live and abide by the rules of the Roman authorities, but more primarily they were citizens of Heaven, and ought to be living according to the laws of that Kingdom (Philippians 3:20).

When we become followers of Jesus Christ, we take on a new citizenship and we commit to living a life that abides by the principles and laws of that citizenship. Whether we like it or not, the world is watching our walk to see if we behave as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.  It has been said that the most powerful influence on an unbeliever is not a book or a video presentation, but rather it is the consistent life of a believer.

Verse 27, continues, “…so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel,”

Paul is writing about church unity; the alternative is disunity which results in a church that is unable to accomplish that which God has called them to. Church unity is everyone’s responsibility, unity comes about as we serve, pray and worship together, uniting around the mission of the church.

In this verse, Paul writes something that seems to go against our 21st century church culture, “with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel”. Striving together is a term that speaks of an athletic contest or a sports team standing shoulder to shoulder defending their goal line. This is the picture of the church that is standing firm and close, protecting each other and working together. In the church, there can be no passengers, we are together in a spiritual war, without unity there is a weakness that the enemy will use to his full advantage. Gossip, slander and apathy are weaknesses that will prevent unity and prevent us from taking the ground that the Lord has called us to take. Are you all in? Are you prepared to sacrifice your personal preferences for the purposes of Jesus in His church?

2. Opposition to the church (verse 28).

This is another one of those comforts that we wrestle with in the western church. We have grown accustomed to the church being a respected part of society. However, you may have noticed that this is not the case in the twenty-first century. The Bible is full of warnings to us that we will be hated by the world, Jesus himself spoke about this in Matthew 24:9.

Does this mean that we must live in fear, cowering in the corner? Absolutely not, as we stand firm, courageous and united, those who oppose us and what we stand for, will be convicted by the Holy Spirit of their own spiritual condition.

In Acts 16, we read about Paul and Silas being in prison in the Philippian jail. After the earthquake struck and their chains had fallen off the jailer was about to kill himself because he thought his prisoners had all fled. However, Paul called out to him and saved his life, resulting in the jailer and his whole family becoming followers of Jesus. Why did Paul and Silas not escape? Because they were not afraid, they had no fear of their opposition and they were proclaiming the Good News of Jesus during their suffering.

As Christians we don’t need to be afraid of those who oppose us because we are Christians. As we live our lives as Christs ambassadors, expect to encounter opposition.

3. The suffering of the church (Verses 29 and 30).

We know that salvation is a free gift from God, we cannot earn it, we simply receive it. But along with the gift of salvation, Paul says that we get the gift of suffering. Have you ever received a gift you didn’t want?

Suffering is when things we desire, love and enjoy, are taken away from us. We suffer when we lose a loved one, our health, our career or we lose our home in a tragedy such as a storm or natural disaster. Suffering comes because of situations that are out of our control. We don’t ask for suffering, but suffering is a very real part of life, even the life of a Christian. But how can suffering be a gift?

Suffering becomes a gift when seeing and treasuring Christ above all else is your goal.

David Platt said, “when we pursue Christ in a world of sin and suffering, then we will experience sin and suffering. And the more that suffering takes things away from our lives, the more we’ll be drawn to Christ.”

Paul wrote this letter from prison, he was suffering and yet during his suffering he saw the purpose of God to spread the Gospel. There is a connection between suffering and the spread of the Good news of Jesus. If you profess to be a Christian and everything goes well in your life, the world does not notice that. However, if God allows you to experience suffering and you go through that loss with joy and peace and hope in Christ, the World will take notice of that because it speaks of a supernatural power in your life, the power of God.

Job knew this, he experienced unimaginable pain and yet could say what he did in Job 19:25-26.

(See also 1 Peter 4:12-13)

God doesn’t waste suffering; will you allow Him to use your pain to bring glory to the name of Jesus?

Philippians – Paul’s letter of Joy Part 4 Sermon October 21, 2018

Philippians 1:19-26

The Antidote for a Meaningless Life

Do you know your purpose in life, the reason why you are alive? Atheist philosophers and social commentators and might tell you that life is a pursuit of experiences or the accumulation of wealth, and then you die. What a meaningless and hopeless existence. But there is an antidote for a meaningless life.

Writing from his position of incarceration, the apostle Paul encouraged the Philippian believers to continue to pray for him in Philippians 1:19. He knew that their prayers for him were effective and that God was moving on his behalf, for his deliverance, because of their prayers. Paul wasn’t stating that he knew he would be released from prison, rather he was certain that God was moving on behalf of their prayers towards His good and perfect plan for Paul’s life. Whether that meant, release from his chains or his execution and release from his suffering, Paul was content in the will of God for his life.

Paul continues in verse 20 that he has an eager expectation, he is looking forward with hope, not for his own freedom, rather he was looking forward to the goal of being full of courage, so that Christ will be honored in his body, whether by life or by death. Paul had the eager expectation that his very life would be spent so that Jesus would be magnified through his life. But does Christ need to be magnified? After all, how can a mere human being ever magnify the Son of God, the creator of the universe? The stars are much bigger than a telescope, and yet the telescope magnifies them and brings them closer. The believer’s body is to be a telescope that brings Jesus Christ close to people. To the average person, Christ is a misty figure in history who lived centuries ago. But as the unsaved watch the believer go through a crisis, they can see Jesus magnified and brought so much closer.

The believer’s body is a “lens” that makes a “little Christ” look very big, and a “distant Christ” come very close.

Paul then writes that well known and powerful verse, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” Philippians 1:21

This verse is Paul’s personal mission statement, his lens by which he interprets all of life.

Eugene Peterson writes it this way in the Message, “Alive, I’m Christ’s messenger; dead, I’m his bounty. Life versus even more life! I can’t lose.”

Paul writing to the Galatian church elaborates on his mission statement (see Galatians 2:20).

Whether we admit it or not, we all have a mission statement like this. Some examples of mission statements that we could have if we used Paul’s statement as a template.

“For to me to live is money and to die is to leave it all behind.”

“For to me to live is fame and to die is to be forgotten.”

“For to me to live is power and to die is to lose it all.”

For us to be able to agree with Paul and say, “to die is gain”, we need to have a rich and deep understanding of eternity. Sadly, the lack of focus on eternity is what hinders most of our devotion for the Lord and lack of faith. I sometimes wonder by the way we live, we don’t really believe in eternity, we give lip service to it, but we don’t really live for it. We spend so much of our lives focusing on the next forty or fifty years, focusing on a career, savings, retirement or building a business, when everything around us and everything we spend so much time accumulating will be gone in just a few years. But we who believe in a loving Heavenly Father who created and sustains all things, if we give our lives to the Lordship of Jesus and the spreading of the Gospel, church planting, and discipleship as Paul did, we will be building an eternal legacy.

In verse 23 Paul wrote that he desired to depart this earth. Paul was not afraid of dying, for him it simply meant “departing.” This Greek word was used by soldiers and it simply meant to take down your tent and move on. What a great picture of Christian death, the “tent” we live in is taken down and the spirit goes home to be with Christ (see 2 Corinthians 5:1-7).

Not only does Paul write that to be with the Lord is his desire, he says that it is far, far better. Paul was absolutely convinced that the life to come, was much better than what we experience here. In verses 21-23 Paul has been wrestling with his desire to leave this earth, but in verse 24 there is a turning point in the passage and Paul knew that he would stay to encourage and disciple the young believers in the churches that he had planted. Paul knew that his staying on this side of eternity was to point people to Jesus and seeing them progress and grow in their Christian walk.

Paul didn’t always perfectly know God’s plan for his life (see Acts 16). If Paul struggled to hear God, how do we walk this out in our lives? Most of the time it is because we are too busy and have too many distractions in our lives (psalm 46:10). Sometimes it is because God does not reveal his purposes to us and He is calling us to simply trust Him, building our faith.

Paul didn’t know the exact plan of God, but one thing he did know was that he would remain, and as long as he remained, his purpose was to help them to grow in the faith. Verse 26, begins with “so that”, Paul would remain to help them grow, to encourage them, so that they would glory in Christ Jesus through Paul’s life and example.

This is the chief end of our existence, this is the primary calling of God for His children; to bring glory and honor to the name of Jesus.

Can you really say that? What are you living for? Are you living for the things that the world says are important or are you living for God’s will for your life?

Philippians – Paul’s letter of Joy Part 3 Sermon October 14, 2018

Philippians 1:12-18

 Have you ever been placed in a position or a job situation where you felt trapped and thought that this will not serve any purpose at all? The apostle Paul knew what that felt like. In the latter chapters of the book of Acts, we read that Paul desired to go to Rome to proclaim the good news of Jesus. Paul eventually did get to Rome, but we know it was not in the same way he intended. He was taken to Rome as a prisoner, chained to guards twenty-four hours a day.

The church in Philippi was obviously concerned for him, but Paul has a completely different perspective. He saw things from an eternal perspective. Paul writes in verse 12, “…what has happened to me has really served to advance the Gospel”.

Paul’s imprisonment was well known throughout Rome and the region. The imperial guard was tasked with his imprisonment and they were exposed to the Gospel message as he daily spoke to visitors and the guards themselves. Possibly five thousand guards heard the message that they would never have had the opportunity to hear.

Paul continues in verse 13 to say that his imprisonment was really the talk of the town, from the imperial guard to all the people of Rome and the surrounding regions, people knew about Paul and that his preaching caused him to be put in chains. The enemy used them to imprison God’s mouthpiece, but God had a special plan for their lives and used their role as prison guard to set them free. Paul was convinced that his imprisonment was the sovereign plan of God (see 2 Timothy 2:8-9).

Not once do we see Paul complaining about his chains, because he saw his chains as being supernaturally connected to the plan of God to advance the Gospel. How quickly we complain about the “chains” of our life; our job, family situation, debt, poor health and loneliness all these and other problems, all these are chains that can confine us if we do not see them as part of God’s sovereign plan. Our chains can be used by God, if we would turn our chains over to God and see what He can do with them. The Word of God is never bound.

In verse 15, we read that some people who knew Paul were preaching with envy and rivalry. Evidently there were people who saw what Paul was doing and they saw an opportunity to gain notoriety and fame, possibly they saw a way to make money from preaching the same message that Paul was preaching. It is evident that Paul did not have any problem with their message, it was the motives that he did not agree with.

What they didn’t see, was the suffering that Paul had gone through. Paul had the right to be on stage, because Paul had the right perspective to be used by God. (see Galatians 2:20). It is all about motivation, the moment our motivation to proclaim Christ turns away from the glory of God and turns to our own desire to be known, we are missing out on the eternal reward for serving Christ.

Paul says in verse 16, that he was actually put in chains for the defense of the gospel, he was appointed by God to be imprisoned for the Gospel. The word that he uses is actually the same as the word that would describe a soldier being placed at his post on guard duty. Paul knew without a shadow of a doubt that he was appointed to be chained to these guards at this particular time in his life, and he didn’t want to be anywhere else.

What is the appointment that God has for you in your life at this very moment? What situation are you in right now that you are struggling with? God has a purpose for you being where you are. If that is where you are today, do not leave your post, do not try to find a way to get out of the situation that God has called you to be in. God has placed you strategically where you are in order for you to proclaim the Gospel message to those around you.

Then jumping down to verse 18, we see Paul’s conviction. Paul was not going to let his emotions be swayed by his critics. This is such a difficult lesson for us to learn in life. If we are doing what God has called us to do, why do we get so disturbed when people criticize us? Are we living to please the people around us or are we living to please the king of kings? Paul was rejoicing that his critics were preaching the Gospel. He kept his eyes on the mission, the proclamation of the gospel.

We need to know what God has called us to. We need to have such a clear and unflinching knowledge of our calling that we are never tempted to leave our post. You may think that this only applies to pastors and missionaries, but if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, someone who has given his or her life over to the lordship of Jesus, then you have a post, you have a role to play in the kingdom of God and you must never be tempted to leave that post.

Paul closes verse 18 with five simple words, “and in that I rejoice”, Paul rejoiced that Christ was being proclaimed, he rejoiced that the true Gospel was being preached. Paul had made the decision that he was not going to be put down by his circumstances, rather he chose to rejoice despite his circumstances, and that as long as Christ was being preached, he was going to keep on rejoicing (see James 1:2-4).

From time to time, we all experience the pain of chains of some sort. It may be physical pain, emotional pain, loss of a job, loss of a loved one. These are chains that can rob us of our joy, but if we see the painful things in our life as God developing faith and maturity in us, we can make the choice to live in Joy.

However, when the storm clouds are on the horizon, and it seems that there is no end to the pain, simply deciding to be happy won’t cut it. What you need is a supernatural touch from the Lord. You need a miracle in order to see your chains in light of the glory and majesty of God. The Apostle Paul spent a lot of time in chains and in suffering, but he could write Galatians 5:1, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

We all have some type of chain that causes us to be less than what God intends us to be. Turn your chains over to God so that you will know and experience true freedom.

Philippians – Paul’s letter of Joy Part 2 Sermon October 7, 2018

Philippians 1:7-11

Are you still growing?  Physically we may stop growing, but we must never stop growing in our walk with the Lord

The Apostle Paul shared a special connection with the Christians in Philippi, and in verse 9, Paul writes that he is continually praying for them, but notice that Paul doesn’t pray for their prosperity, health, or protection from the Roman authorities, rather he prays for their spiritual growth (Philippians 1:9). We are frequently taught in the Bible that we experience God’s blessing as we advance and mature in our Christian walk (2 Peter 3:18).

Paul prays that their love may abound more and more, using the Greek word agape, which means the kind of love that seeks the highest good of the other person, preferring others over yourself. As a church community, we sometimes find that the little things that others do sometimes annoy us. One can list any number of things that cause frustration for each other in the church. But what it all boils down to is that we don’t love each other. When we take the time to get to know someone and really begin to love them, we find that those little things that create tension, don’t seem to bother us as much (1 Peter 4:8-9). Love for each other is a gift from God.

Paul continues in verse 9 and asks the Lord that they would grow in knowledge and discernment. Knowledge and discernment are what keep our relationships in community healthy, they are like the banks in a river that keep the water of our emotions from rushing outside of its boundaries.

Knowledge comes out of caring for each other. When we are frustrated with someone’s behavior, we quickly rush to judgment before we know all the facts. If we care enough to know, we will be able to use discernment and respond appropriately (1 John 4:7-8). The same applies in our relationship with the Lord, we must know God to love Him, and in the same way we must know God in order to love His children.

One of the key errors that many Christians make is when they attempt to have a Lord that they do not know. Knowledge is not simply an intellectual understanding, it is developed from a personal relationship, which only comes from spending time alone with God in personal times reading His word and hearing from Him, allowing Him to direct your life.

Discernment, like wisdom is the practical application of the knowledge we have. We are to be motivated and informed by love, but when we have all the facts presented to us, our love for each other is what drives our actions and our responses. Our church has many different cultures and ages represented, but in Christs church, the only dominant culture should be the culture of the Kingdom of God. If we are ever tempted to criticize someone because their behavior does not conform to our expectation, then we need to step back quickly and ask the Lord for wisdom and discernment to know the love of the Kingdom of God.

Paul begins verse ten with two words, “So that…” in light of his prayer he lists what are the criteria for a person of character. Excellence, purity, being blameless and filled with the fruit of righteousness, all of these are Character traits of Holiness.

Excellence

The first characteristic of Holiness Paul lists is “approving what is excellent”, in other words, to test or to use discernment and focus on those things that really matter. Paul begins and ends this letter with the same exhortation (Philippians 4:8). As Christians we frequently settle for the good, when God offers us the excellent. We settle for coming to church on a Sunday twice a month, and barely spend 5 minutes each day in reading God’s word. But God offers us something excellent, not just in our relationship with Him, but also in our relationships with each other as we grow together in the church community.

Purity

The next character trait is purity. As followers of Jesus Christ, we need to be people who don’t hide our imperfections, but rather we are sincere and honest in our interactions with people. How do we discover the imperfections in our lives? By allowing God’s word to penetrate deep into our hearts and bring about the conviction of the Holy Spirit (Psalm 139).

Blameless

Paul prays that they would be blameless for the day of Christ. Now we know that as believers when it comes to the final judgment day, we are declared righteous because of the blood of Jesus, but that does not mean we can live as we please. We need to be people living with excellence, striving for purity and making daily decisions that would keep us blameless before our fellow man. To be blameless is to live as one who gives no offense to others, this is our outward witness, the character trait that people see in our lives (Titus 2:7-8).

Finally, in verse 11, we read that Paul prayed for the church to be “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

In Galatians 5:22-23, we read about the fruit of the Spirit, but what are the fruit of righteousness?

The fruit of the Spirit are primarily internal fruit, heart attitudes and thought patterns governed by the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. But the fruit of righteousness are outward displays of God’s presence in our lives. The fruit of righteousness come from our abiding in Christ (John 15).

The process of producing fruit is all about allowing Jesus to produce the fruit through us to the glory and praise of God alone.

Here are some examples of the fruit of righteousness.

  •  Evangelism – proverbs 11:30
  • Service – Colossians 1:10
  • Holiness – Romans 6:22

There are many more examples of the Fruit of Righteousness which all come from living in Christ, to the glory of God the Father (Matthew 5:16)

Are you growing in your walk with the Lord?

Are you living a life of excellence, purity, so that you can be blameless and produce much fruit through Jesus Christ to the glory of God?

Philippians – Paul’s letter of Joy Part 1 Sermon September 30, 2018

Philippians 1:1-6

Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi was written around A.D. 61, while Paul was in house arrest in Rome. Paul was writing to the church that he planted while in Macedonia about ten years earlier.

This letter is mostly a letter of thankfulness and joy, in these four short chapters, Paul mentions Joy or rejoicing nineteen times. Paul begins the Letter by introducing himself and Timothy as servants of Christ, the Greek word he used is Doulos, which means bond-slave. Picture this, Paul, the accomplished church planter, missionary, Roman citizen, premier theologian in all of history and he introduces himself as a bond-slave.  Paul understood that by becoming a follower of Jesus, he surrendered all his rights, as he wrote in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.

Hudson Taylor the missionary to China, once said, “Let us give up our work, our thoughts, our plans, ourselves, our lives, our loved ones, our influence, our all, right into God’s hand; and then, when we have given all over to Him, there will be nothing left for us to be troubled about or to make trouble about.”

This is what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

Paul goes on to address the recipients of the letter and says, “to all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi…”

The term Holy People is usually translated as “saints”, the Greek meaning is to be set apart, separate from the rest of the people. The church is made up of people who are different and separate by being in Christ.

To be in Christ, is a positional statement of being set apart unto God and exclusively belonging to Christ.

In verse two Paul proclaims a blessing on them. “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”. Grace and peace are promises from God for believers in Jesus Christ. Grace is unmerited favor, getting something that we don’t deserve.

Justice is getting what you deserve, mercy is not getting what you deserve and grace is getting what you don’t deserve.

Additionaly, term used for peace here is more than just peace with God, it can best be described by the Hebrew word Shalom. Shalom is a Hebrew word meaning peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare and tranquility and can be used like the term Aloha in Hawaiian to mean both hello and goodbye. Paul is reminding his beloved readers that in Christ they have received grace, and experience peace.

Are you experiencing peace? True peace is not a life without trouble, rather it is knowing God’s peace in the midst of troubles (see Philippians 4:7). Maybe today you need to repent of your sins and allow the grace of God to refresh you by the blood of Jesus so that you can know the peace of God in your life.

Paul continues, “I thank my God every time I remember you.” Paul must have been looking back to what took place in Acts 16 some eleven years earlier. He must have remembered Lydia, the cloth trader, the demon possessed slave girl and the jailer, all who became miraculous followers of Jesus.  Paul loves these people, he has great memories of spending time with them and he is thankful to God for them (verse 4).

Notice Paul’s prayers are not simply generic prayers, he remembers them and prays diligently for them because they were true partners with him in the ministry (verse 5). Paul was financially supported by churches that he planted. This letter was to his financial supporters and he thanked them for their partnership. But this partnership was not simply a one-way transaction, Paul gave of himself for the church and prayed diligently for the church that sent him finances and encouraged him.

As we look at the ancient church in Philippi, we will see that we are very similar to the Philippian church, and what Paul wrote to them applies to us today in the 21st century. They were a missionary sending and supporting church.

This is what healthy churches do, we must never see sending missionaries as a financial transaction, rather sending and receiving is all part of the Grace and Peace of God in the church.

Looking at verse 6, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Paul is confident, he has faith that what was begun ten years earlier will continue to grow and be fruitful until Jesus comes again. Paul was confident that Jesus will build His church, just as he promised in Matthew 16:18. Sometimes we need to be reminded, that this is not our church, this church belongs to Jesus and he is continuing to work out his plans and build his church until he comes again to receive his bride.

I hope you see that the church is something so much greater and more glorious than a social gathering on a Sunday morning. Even this small church, is a part of the bigger church, the universal Body of Christ, and we feel those connections through the missionaries we pray for and other Christians we meet from other churches, and as we remember and pray for the persecuted church.

Growing individually and corporately as the church, is not a matter of making ourselves better people, rather it is the power of God working in us, as we lay down our preferences and allowing the Holy Spirit to work in us and through us for God’s glory.

Are you daily being changed by the Gospel?

If someone was to write a letter to your church, would they see the three characteristics that Paul saw in the church in Philippi.

  1. Would they see a true partnership? Are you all in? Or are you just attending church.
  2. Would they see that you are motivated by the Gospel? The Good News must be the driving force of the church.
  3. Would they see that we are looking towards Jesus coming again? This world does not offer hope, our only hope is found in Jesus Christ.

Sermon September 16, 2018 – Re-Up part 5 – Fellowship

1 John 1

Over the last four weeks, we have been looking at various spiritual disciplines, and making personal commitments to Re-Up in the areas of Bible reading, prayer and evangelism. However, to make these commitments without support and encouragement will lead to discouragement. What we need is to re-up to fellowship to encourage one another in our personal lives. Fellowship is so much more than a handshake, a hug, or a pat on the back, fellowship in the church is doing life together, challenging one another and picking one another up when we stumble.

John starts this letter and it sounds very much like the Luke 24, where Jesus revealed himself to the disciples, he spoke to them, ate with them and allowed them to touch him in order to reveal his full and complete resurrection.

John begins this letter by making an overwhelming statement of the fact that he was a witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He makes the strongest possible case for the fact that he is a credible witness and what he is about to write, needs to be taken seriously.

He takes the first two verses to lay his foundation and then in verse three he explains why, “so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ”.

One of the primary reasons for John’s letter was to emphasize fellowship, the importance and the value of fellowship in the life of the church.

John writes that fellowship with each other is interconnected with our fellowship with God. As we walk in fellowship with each other, we have fellowship with God the Father and the Son. As we walk in fellowship with God, we grow in fellowship with each other. If either of those connections begins to fail, it affects the other.

In verses six to ten, John bounces back between and forth between walking in darkness and sin, and walking in repentance, light and freedom. 1 John 1:6, says that you are lying to yourself and to those around you if you claim to be in fellowship with God, yet you are allowing sin in your life. And in verse 8 and 10, the Apostle John is blunt and direct. If you say you are currently without sin, then you are deceiving yourself, because we all sin and we are all prone to sin. Daily we must repent of our sins and ask Jesus to forgive us of our sins. Our sin doesn’t only affect our fellowship with God, it affects our fellowship with each other. Our relational fellowship is hurt when we give in to sin in our lives. It may be imperceptible at the start, but eventually our relationships in the body of Christ will be destroyed by our sin.

Verses 7 and 9 give the beautiful contrast, as we walk in the light, allowing the light of the Holy Spirit to destroy the darkness of sin in our lives, our fellowship is restored with God and with each other and the blood of Jesus purifies us from our sins. Please note the order of this verse, walking in fellowship or walking in the light comes first and then the blood of Jesus purifies us. We have this crazy notion that we have to be sinless to be a part of the church. John responds to this in verse 8 by saying that we are deceived, and the truth is not in us.

We don’t have to be pure to walk in fellowship, but we do have to walk in the light, admitting our struggles and our weaknesses. The church is a place for sinners in need of grace, not perfect people. If you are waiting to be good enough to get connected to a group or a fellowship, you never will, and when you finally do, you will find that we are all sinners moving forward by the grace of God. Because we have a wonderful promise from God, found in verse 9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” This is one of the greatest verses in the Bible.

The blood of Jesus is what provides the way for fellowship with God and fellowship with each other. There are no higher levels of Christian, or lower-class Christians, we are all sinners desperate for a savior and saved by the blood (see 1 Corinthians 10:12).

God has put us in community, so that we can build one another up and walk together through the challenges of life. Fellowship is one of the keys to the effectiveness of the church. A church will never be able to grow beyond its fellowship. If the fellowship is healthy in the church, it will continue to minister and grow in maturity and in number.

The Greek word for fellowship is Koinonia, it is a beautiful word that means the sharing of common life. Not just the sitting next to each other on a Sunday morning, social gatherings or drinking coffee together, fellowship is standing with someone through the tough times in life. Fellowship is also staying in community even after a disagreement. True fellowship is fighting for restoration and unity even after a disagreement.

It all stems from our fellowship with God. As children of God we have two dimensions to our standing with God, we have a relationship which is based on the righteousness of Jesus. The blood of Jesus in faith brings us into a right standing with God. Romans 8 says we are adopted as His children (see Romans 8:15-16). Our relationship as adopted sons and daughters of God the Father never changes, that is fixed.

But, our fellowship can change. Our fellowship with God is damaged by our disobedience. As we allow sin into our lives, we pull away from God and our fellowship with God is disrupted, and at the same time our fellowship with other Christians is disrupted.

But confession restores fellowship. Confession is when we agree with God as to the nature of what we have done, and we apply the promise of 1 John 1:9 to our lives. Sin is not a simple, “slip up”, sin is terrifying. Our sin is what took Jesus to the cross, sin must never be taken lightly.

One of the first signs of drifting away from fellowship with God is a tendency to pull away from fellowship with each other. We need to be sensitive to each other, when you see another Christian struggling, gently reach out to them, pray for them and encourage them. This is what the Body of Christ is all about. (see Hebrews 10:24-25).

Sermon September 9, 2018 Re-Up part 4 – Evangelism

 Evangelism, the mission of the church.

Luke 24:36-53

At the end of Luke’s Gospel, we read how Jesus revealed himself to select groups of people. Firstly, to the women who went to the tomb and found it empty, then Jesus met the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. At the end of the chapter 24 Jesus appears in the room where the eleven disciples were meeting.  The disciples must have been terrified, they had seen Jesus die, and now he simply appears in the middle of the room.

Jesus begins to give them multiple proofs of his physical resurrection. He invites them to touch him and see that he is really in human form and not a spirit being. They were still struggling to comprehend what was happening when Jesus asks them for something to eat, and he eats the fish in front of them to prove his resurrection.

Jesus’ resurrection from death opens the way for all who trust in him to follow him in a resurrection like his when he returns. This is important because it shows that our ultimate hope is not just for our souls to go to heaven, but for our physical bodies to be raised to new life like Jesus’ was (see 1 John 3:1-2).

Jesus continues in verse 44 to show them that the Old Testament was not simply a record of history or a collection of stories and poetry, but rather the entire Old Testament points towards Jesus. In verse 45 we read, “he opened their minds to understand the scriptures”.  This simple statement has profound implications, up till now the disciples had heard the teachings of Jesus, but they really struggled to understand the implications of what they were witnessing. Jesus gave them supernatural understanding of the Word of God. Jesus gave them a gift.

True understanding of the Bible is a gift from God. As Christians we have the Holy Spirit in us, not only to guide and counsel but also to understand the Bible (John 16:13). The Bible is the supernatural word of God and before you open the pages pray for understanding through the Holy Spirit (pray Psalm 119:18).

Jesus explained that his death and resurrection was the necessary process by which people can be restored to a right relationship with God. Jesus gave them the Great Commission, and then told them to stay in Jerusalem to wait for a mysterious power to do the work he was telling them to do. Jesus ascended into heaven with the promise that he would send the helper, the comforter, the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit.

As we go out to share the Gospel, we must never try to go out in our own strength, we must never go without relying on the Holy Spirit for direction, for wisdom and for power. It is the Holy Spirit who takes our weak words and transforms them into life changing authority.

The disciples did not know what exactly Jesus was talking about, but as we know in the second chapter of the book of Acts, they were filled with the Holy Spirit and they were given the power to do what Jesus had instructed them to do.

As Jesus ascended into heaven he blessed the disciples. What a blessing that must have been, the disciples were a truly privileged group of men who had personally witnessed the greatest moments in all of history. But privilege always brings responsibility, they were to be witnesses of all that Jesus had said and done, Acts 1:8 reads, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

A witness is somebody who accurately reports what he or she has seen and heard. The disciples were witnesses, the word witness is used in one way or another twenty-nine times in the Book of Acts. As Christians, we are not judges or prosecuting attorneys sent to condemn the world, we are witnesses who point to Jesus Christ and tell lost sinners how to be saved. The Greek word for witness is “Martys”, which is where we get the word Martyr.

To be a witness for Christ will cost you something, it may cost you your reputation, or a promotion, in many parts of the world it will cost you your life. But the very act of sharing the Gospel is valuing the message and the person you are speaking to, more than your own comfort and preferences. This is what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. To value the Gospel more than our own lives, to value Jesus more than our own comfort. After all, didn’t Jesus value you more than his own comfort? Didn’t Jesus value you more than his own life?

As the church, we are a people who gather to worship, sing, pray and study God’s word. But with all those activities of the gathering of the body of Christ, what is the primary goal of the church? Worship, fellowship and praise are important and necessary, but all of these will continue on for eternity when we get to heaven. However, we will never be able to share the Gospel with the lost when life on this earth is over. It is and always has been the primary role of the church, to be the salt and light in the world, proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ.   John McArthur

Sermon September 2, 2018 – Re-Up part 3, The Gospel

Re-Up to the Gospel

We talk a lot about the Gospel, but are we really able to articulate the Gospel message?

The word, “Gospel” is translated from the Greek word “euangelion” from which we get our word, Evangelism. The Gospel means the Good News and it all starts and ends with God.

The most succinct text we have for the Gospel is 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. God created the heavens and the Earth, and it was good. But, sin entered into the world as Satan tempted eve, she and Adam sinned by eating the fruit that God told them not to eat. Satan tempted Eve by making asking the question, “did God really say?” And that is the same question he tempts us with every day, if we don’t know and stand firmly on the authority of God’s word.

As a result of their sin, we are all sinners (Romans 3:23).  Sin has resulted in a break in relationship, a separation between God and man. All of creation suffers as a result of this separation. In order to provide for the restoration of the broken relationship between God and man, God required a perfect sacrifice, Jesus was that sacrifice. He came to earth as a baby, born of a virgin and he lived a perfect sinless life. Jesus was persecuted and crucified on the cruel Roman Cross where he died. But Jesus was raised to life on the 3rd day, by the power of God, overcoming death. After forty days of teaching and appearing to many people, Jesus ascended to heaven and today he is at the right hand of God the father. But Jesus didn’t leave us alone, he sent the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit to live in us, to empower us to do what he calls us to do. The Holy Spirit is the power and the fuel of the church.

This sacrifice that Jesus made was for all who would put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and savior. Paul tells us that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. We did nothing to deserve his love and sacrifice. All we have to do is accept this free gift from God (Romans 6:23). The Bible says that there is no other way to be saved, this makes the Gospel a message of offence and one that causes division, just as Jesus said in Luke 12. The Gospel is offensive in our culture mostly because of its exclusivity. Our age of political correctness hates the exclusivity of the Gospel (John 14:6).

In 2 Timothy 4:1-5, Paul was commissioning Timothy to Gospel ministry. In the first verse, Paul reminded Timothy that this commissioning is before God and Jesus Christ who is also going to judge all people when he comes again. If Timothy wasn’t aware of the weight of his commission he certainly got it there in the first sentence. Paul charges Timothy to be an evangelist, a Gospel proclaimer (2 Timothy 4:2). In the end of the previous chapter, Paul told Timothy that all Scripture is God-breathed and the he needs to preach all of scripture and not simply his favorite texts, or the texts that he knows people will enjoy hearing (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Paul writes and tells Timothy to be ready, “in season and out of season”, to preach the word. Naturally, we understand that Timothy is to be ready to preach the word when he is in front of a crowd or simply when he is sharing a meal with a family, being ready to speak about the Gospel at all times. But I suggest that there is more to this statement. Let us never forget that if we call ourselves Christians, the world is watching, and we preach a “form” of Gospel with our actions. How we respond to immorality in our workplaces, how we respond to financial and family challenges, how we respond to these and other challenges preaches a form of Gospel to the watching world.

But what about the bigger issues of life, the cultural issues that demand a response from the church?

What Gospel are we as a church preaching to the world when it comes to our response to the plight of the unborn in our nation? What Gospel are we preaching in our response to caring for those caught in sex slavery and trafficking?

What Gospel are we preaching in our response to the re-definition of marriage in our society? What Gospel are we preaching to those around us in our care for the widows and the orphans in our communities?

We have the opportunity everyday to declare the truth of God’s Word to those around us as they see our response to the challenges of everyday life.

Paul continues in his encouragement to Timothy and writes about a future time where there will be false teachers (2 Timothy 4: 3-4). Over the course of the past 2000 years, cultures have come and gone that have rejected the truth of God’s word, but it really sounds like Paul was talking about the era in which we now live.

There are primarily two kinds of false teachers today; firstly, those who intentionally teach a false Gospel in order to attract crowds and make people feel good about themselves. Many large churches have built enormous buildings and have incurred huge debts, now the pastors feel compelled to preach what the people want to hear in order to keep them coming to pay for the buildings.

Secondly, there are those who are too afraid of the cultural resistance to the Gospel, this is the preacher who doesn’t want to offend.

The truth is that the days of unquestioned respect for the church are gone. In our 21st century culture, if you truly believe and hold fast to this Gospel message, you could be risking your reputation, your social status and possibly you will face legal threats as we have already seen in our country.

But here is the wonderful good news, God himself by the Holy Spirit is committed to the results of the proclamation of the Gospel. You are not alone in this task, Jesus ended the Great Commission in Matthew 28 by promising, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

What is the Gospel that you are declaring to the world?

Sermon August 26, 2018 Re-Up Part 2 – Prayer

Re-Up –  Prayer – James 5:13-20

What is the one thing you could do that would have the greatest impact on your life?

The answer is Prayer. There is nothing more important, more strategic or more rewarding than prayer.

James 5 verse 13 has a header that says, “the prayer of faith”. This is what prayer is all about. And when we lack the desire to pray it is because we lack faith. If we could even glimpse the majesty and omnipotence of Who we are praying to, we would never be lacking in our zeal and our time for prayer.

Verse 13 begins with two categories of people; anyone suffering and anyone cheerful. The person going through troubles in life is told to pray, and the cheerful person, who has peace and joy is encouraged to sing praises to God.  But then in the next verse James addresses another category of people, the sick person.

Over the next few verses it seems like James is giving a prescription, a way to pray for the sick that will work every time. James instructs to gather the elders, anoint with oil, pray in the name of Jesus and to pray in faith. The result would seem to be that healing is to be expected. So why do we not see instant healing with every prayer offered for healing?

As we look at each of these “conditions” we see firstly that the sick person is obviously unable to come to the meeting place and calls the elder, this person is possibly bedridden, and in a place of humility and dependence. The sick person takes the initiative and calls out for help. We must never let our culture of self-sufficiency, get in the way of our healing. Our independent culture is actually a form of pride and we need to humble ourselves and reach out to others when we are in need.

Secondly, the elder is another name for a pastor or a shepherd. This does not mean that only pastors are allowed to pray for the sick, according to 1 Peter 2, we believe in the priesthood of all believers. The key here is praying in obedience to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and praying in faith.

Thirdly, James says that one must anoint the person with oil, is this the key that we are missing? Scholars have different ideas on this and the word for anointing oil here could mean a medicinal balm, so that could indicate using some medicine along with the prayer. I have seen miracles happen with or without oil.

Next, James instructs that the prayer be offered in the name of the Lord, this is always a good reminder that human beings cannot do miracles, we can pray for them, but God is the sovereign worker of miracles. To pray in the name of the Lord is to indicate our willingness to permit our prayers to be acted on under the sovereign will and purposes of God.

And finally, in verse 15 we read, “And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up.” So, what is this prayer of faith? The answer is in 1 John 5:14–15, The “prayer of faith” is a prayer offered when you know the will of God. The prayer of faith is twofold; firstly, we pray with faith in the all-powerful God we serve because we believe that He is able and secondly, we pray trusting in the outcome. Trusting in the outcome is faith that God is working all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).

We are so focused on the temporary physical need that we miss the eternal and far more important need of every human being.

As you read different translations of verse 15, some read that “the prayer of faith will make the sick person well”. But the ESV translates it; “the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick”, the Greek word SOZO, means to heal or to save, so it could be either. However, in the 20th verse of our text, where James is talking about the backslider who returns to the faith, he uses the exact same Greek word.

In fact, if we carefully note the overarching theme of the text from verse 13 to 20, this passage is more about the need for righteousness and salvation than it is about physical healing. We get so wrapped up in the first four verses that we miss the big picture. The theme of this text is holiness and righteousness, or a right standing before God. We are so focused on our temporal physical needs that we can forget that we are eternal beings and we all have a fatal sin condition. We are all sinners who are desperately in need of saving. We all need saving power of the blood of Jesus to save us from an eternity separated from the presence of God.

Verse 16 says, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” Who is a righteous person? It is a person who is in right standing with God. Someone who has repented of their sins and has trusted in the promises of God’s Word (see 1 John 1:9). Personal holiness is not just being a good person, it flows from a powerful and intimate relationship with God through prayer. Let us be a people who pray with power, because our hearts are in tune with the Holy Spirit.

In verse 17, we read that Elijah prayed fervently. James notes that Elijah was a man just like us, although God used him incredibly (see 1 Kings 17 and 18), but the key was Elijah was a man of fervent prayer.

The Oxford Dictionary describers fervent as, “having or displaying a passionate intensity”.

I pray that we would be a people of fervent prayer.

We can never overemphasize the importance of prayer and the power of prayer. It is the life blood of every true believer. Prayer is so much more than we could possibly imagine as we get to communicate with the creator of the universe!

“Satan dreads nothing but prayer. His one concern is to keep the saints from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, he mocks our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray.”
Samuel Chadwick