Sermon Sunday September 13, 2020 – Walking in Wisdom

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Ephesians 5:15-17

Walking in Wisdom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you walking in wisdom?

Sermon Sunday September 6, 2020 – Walking as Light

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Ephesians 5:7-14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus won the victory.

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

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

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Ephesians 5:3-6

Walk in Purity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The consequence for standing for truth today is temporal.

The consequence for appeasing the culture today is eternal.

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

How is your walk?

Sermon, Sunday August 9, 2020. Walk in Love

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Walk in Love

Ephesians 5:1-2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Missions in a Covid Era

The city of Cincinnati

July 27, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ephesians 4:25-32

What are you wearing part 2

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

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

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

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

The behavior choices that Paul addresses are as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sermon, Sunday July 5, 2020. What Are You Wearing?

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Ephesians 4:17-24

Who are you Wearing?

One of Hollywood’s silliest oddities occurs during awards ceremonies, when actresses walking the red carpet are asked, “Who are you wearing?”, and they attribute their dress or lack of dress, to the name of some overpaid designer.

However, it really is a relevant question for us today in light of what God’s Word says in Ephesians 4.

In the Old Testament, we frequently see the metaphor of God being clothed in Majesty. The Apostle Paul used the illustration of putting off the old and putting on the new, to describe the Christian experience.

Paul is exhorting his readers to be transformed and no longer live the way they did before making Jesus Lord of their lives (see Ephesians 4:17).

In verses 18-19, Paul reminds the Ephesian Christians of what life was like before they knew Jesus as Lord. the overarching theme of these verses is “futility” (see Ephesians 2:1). These two verses in chapter 4 are hard to absorb and describe an ever-deepening pit of despair and hopelessness for those who deny Christ.

The first century world was a depraved time and people had little or no moral compass. In the twenty-first century, we know that Paul could be describing people in our own cities and neighborhoods, people darkened in their understanding and alienated from God. People are ignorant because they have made the choice to harden their hearts towards God.

Left to our human nature, we are sinful and do not even have a desire for God. The normal human condition, apart from a relationship with Jesus Christ is vile, even though it may seem that some people are less vile than others. We worship ourselves and only think about what will make our lives more pleasurable. Calvinists call this total depravity. We only have a desire to know our creator because He places that desire in us by His Spirit.

But the good news is that the next five verses, beginning with verse 20, describe the wonderful truth that God can transform anyone. In Christ we are new creations, behaving differently to those around us.   

In these few verses the Apostle Paul uses three images to describe the transformation that takes place as we become followers of Jesus.

  1. A Place of Education.

This is not formal education – this is transformational education. Life change more than knowledge transfer.

In verse 20, Paul uses the phrase, “you have learned Christ”. Christ Jesus is the subject matter of the education.

But notice the verse does not say, “you have learned about Christ”. Christianity is not knowing about a person; it is knowing and being taught by the person of Jesus. It is about a personal relationship with the risen Lord Jesus.

When I became a Christian, I did not gain some new knowledge, the creator God spoke truth into my heart, and I began a relationship with him. Have you come to know Jesus? Rather than knowing about Jesus.  Christianity is about knowing the truth and the truth is a person (see John 14:6).

JB Philips in his paraphrase translates the verses 20-21, “But that isn’t the way Christ taught you, if you have really heard his voice and learned from him the truths concerning himself.”

2. There is a clothing change.  

In verses 22, 23 and 24 Paul writes, “take off the old self”, “be renewed in the spirit of your minds”, and “put on the new self”(see also Colossians 3:8-10).

The verb tense in Colossians 3:8-10 indicates a completed work with ongoing action. When you and I submitted to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, we put off the old when we turned from our sins and followed Jesus. But there is the daily ongoing practice of saying no to sin and being renewed in the image of our creator.

Ephesians 4:24 describes putting on the new self like a coat of righteousness.  God’s original design for mankind was to walk in perfect relationship with Him, when sin entered the world through the deception of Satan, that design was broken. But now, in Christ, we put on a new garment, we are literally re-created into His image, we put on the righteousness of Christ and have the access to God the Father as originally intended. We who are alive in Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit, have become a new person.

3. Our Renewed Mind.

The Apostle Paul writes in verse 23, “and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds.”

Again, the verb tense is in the present tense and we are, “being renewed in the spirit of our minds.”

This indicates an ongoing process of daily being renewed and transformed into the image of Christ.

When we become followers of Jesus, we receive all his righteousness. We are made new and washed by his shed blood. And then we grow more like him as we follow him. As we grow into Jesus, we reflect the glory of God by living holy righteous lives as His image bearers.

Practically, this happens as we spend time reading and soaking in God’s word, as we daily allow the Holy Spirit to have more control over our lives. God does the work in us, but we have the practical task of “Setting our minds on heaven” as we read in Colossians 3:1-3 and Romans 12:2.

The renewing of our minds is a miracle as we are daily surrounded by the garbage of the media world. A practical and necessary step we must take every-day is to pray for the Holy Spirit to renew our minds.

We need this more than ever before in history. There is a war for the mind, and we are too easily distracted by the never-ending digital world around us.  

Being renewed is an essential part of being a follower of Jesus because he is the one you are wearing, and along with the cloak of righteousness comes the renewal of the Holy Spirit.

What are you wearing?

Thoughts on the Unexpected June 28, 2020

Unexpected things happen all the time and how we respond sometimes has significant implications. This past Thursday, I received a call from Lynn and the first words out of her mouth were not the words a pastor or any leader likes to hear, “Athol, we have a huge problem…”

Usually when I hear those words, I downplay them and try to minimize my stress response. But something about her tone of voice, indicated that this really was a “huge problem”.

I was on my way down the hill from the church, and I rushed back as quickly as my 2008 Kia could get me up the hill. On my arrival I was greeted by many anxious faces and saw water all down the hallway and flooding into the sanctuary. I headed to the back of the church and found that the backflow valve was expelling as much water as a four-inch line would allow.

I was able to shut it off and then the process of cleanup and calling companies to help began. As usual, Nicole was on top of it and had people there to begin the cleanup within the hour.

It is going to take a few days until we can get the water on, and unfortunately as a result we were unable to hold services today. But in spite of all the drama, God is still in control. We see a setback, but God is following His eternal and perfect plan.

We decided not to use Zoom, or stream a service this morning, but rather we encouraged everyone to spend time alone or in your families with the Word of God, allowing God to speak to you.

Last week, as I was preaching through Ephesians 4:13-16, I spoke on the four attributes of spiritual maturity. The second one was, “spiritual maturity involves doctrinal stability”.

That sounds very much like, “seminary speak”, but the bottom line is that we need to feed on God’s word for ourselves in order to mature. And as we mature we will be able to discern between false doctrine and the truth found in God’s word.

So, on this day, you and I have the wonderful opportunity to feed on the glorious riches of the Word. Allowing the author, the Holy Spirit to give us a feast.

This morning I was reading Deuteronomy 30. Moses is giving his final instructions of the Law of God to the children of Israel. Moses was encouraging them to choose life, to choose to worship God alone and not to be distracted by the false gods and idols of the nations around them.

In Deuteronomy 30:11-15 we read, “For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off.It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it. See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil.”

Notice the emphasis I underlined. If the truth of God’s word was close during the time of Moses, how much more for us under the New Covenant. We have the blessing of the 3rd person of the Trinity, living in us as true followers of Jesus.

Jesus prepared his disciples for the coming of the Holy Spirit and in John 14:26-27 we read, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”

In June of 2020, we certainly have a lot going on in the world around us. It would be easy for us to be so consumed by the events of the world that we become fearful and lacking peace.

Whether it be a sudden flood in a building, the Corona virus, political chaos or an earthquake in Mexico, our God is still the one who gives us peace. Our Heavenly Father does not react to the events of the world, rather, He is perfectly orchestrating all of the worlds events in preparation for His son, Jesus, to come again in glory.

In this season, if you are not spending time in God’s word, allowing the Holy Spirit to bring you peace and comfort, you will be easily swayed. Let us be a people who discern the season through the lens of God’s word.

Who are you listening to?

Sermon, Sunday June 21, 2020. Are You Grown Up?

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Ephesians 4:13-16

Maturity is not measured in years, rather maturity is a measure of emotional and spiritual health. Maturity is being self-aware and comfortable with who God has made you to be.

Immature people always try to be something they see in someone else.

Depending on our life experiences and trauma, we all have some aspects of our emotions that are not mature and that have not developed the way God intended them to develop and mature.

For the Christian, maturity is Christ likeness. To grow more like Jesus and to die to our flesh daily. Maturity is finding satisfaction in the approval of our heavenly Father alone.

In Ephesians 4, the Apostle Paul encourages the church to be unified, to use their gifts and to mature as a body. We see in verse 12 that maturity comes from doing the work of the ministry.

We make a mistake when we think that we cannot do the work until we are spiritually mature. The truth is that we grow and mature as we exercise our gifts in the body.

In verses 13-16, we see four traits of a spiritually mature person.

1: Mature people are Christlike.

In verse 13, we read that Jesus is our example of spiritual maturity. The fullness of Christ is the expression of completion of our Christian walk, exhibiting the character traits we find in Ephesians 4:2-3.

Sanctification is the process of becoming more like Jesus, as our old way of thinking and acting is replaced by Christ’s through the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We will only attain Christlikeness when Jesus comes again, but we need to be moving forward. If you are not more like Jesus today than you were a year ago, something is wrong with your walk with the Lord. We grow more like Jesus as we walk with Jesus.

2: Maturity involves doctrinal stability.

Spiritual maturity involves the intellect. We must not think that Christian growth is purely an emotional and spiritual exercise and that we need to check our reasoning skills at the door. Verse 13 encourages us towards knowledge of the Son of God. And in verse 14 he uses the example of children as the opposite end of the spectrum. Children can be gullible and easily swayed by false teaching.

We all begin our relationship with Jesus as children, with childlike faith. But we must not stay as children, we need to grow and be able to feed ourselves as we read and meditate on the Word of God.

The world is full of false teachers and false doctrines, we need to think, pray, and ask God for discernment. We have a very real enemy who will use every tool available to sidetrack us on our spiritual journey of becoming more like Jesus.

Knowing the Word is the best way to avoid being distracted by false doctrines and unbiblical teaching. We can only know God’s word by spending time reading and meditating on it.

Sadly, the statistics show that most churchgoers do not read their Bibles, and this is why the church is prey for false teachers (see Hebrews 5:11-14).

3: Maturity involves Truth Joined with Love

Verse 15 has the often-misquoted text, “speaking the truth in love…” This verse has often been taken out of context and used as a “baseball bat of brotherly love”. One of those Christianese phrases that we like to use before or after we have said something harsh.

This is more than simply speaking; the Greek word is complex here and John Stott describes it as “truthing”. Speaking the truth in love is truthing in love. This includes maintaining, living, and doing the truth. We live out the truth as an example to those around us. It is the equivalent of the phrase; “actions speak louder than words.”

Mature people do not avoid tough conversations, but they speak from of a firm foundation of love and not for selfish gain.

 “Truth becomes hard if it is not softened by love, love becomes soft if it is not strengthened by truth” John Stott

4: Maturity involves Contribution

In verse 16, Paul goes back to the analogy of the body when speaking about the church.

The church is like a body with many different parts and connections, it is not a social club or a convenience. The church is the body of Christ, where each part has an important part to play.

As the church, we are dependent on Christ as the head of the church and we are dependent on each other as working members of the same body. As we grow in Christ individually, we exercise our gifts and the body becomes healthy.

Sadly, many churches in the world have a static view of the church. The members of the body are satisfied if the congregation stays about the same size, with the same familiar faces. They are happy if the programs can all be maintained, and the budget is enough to keep all the familiar programs running. In these churches there is no vision for growth through evangelism or missional engagement. This church has already died.

This is a tragedy and not God’s design for the church. God’s design for the church is to be the salt and the light in our communities, and to be the cultural influence for the glory of God.

As we focus on being a healthy church, the natural by-product is growth. But what is church growth? Is it numeric growth?

I believe church growth is first and foremost spiritual maturity, sacrificial living, healthy evangelistic relationships, and people feeding on the Word of God for themselves. Thereafter the numeric growth will follow.

If you have been a Christian for any length of time, who are you feeding?

If you have been in the church for five, ten, or fifty years and you are not feeding others the Word of God, something is wrong, you have not matured.

 “Are you growing?”

Sermon, Sunday June 14, 2020. Are You Using Your Gifts?

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Ephesians 4:7-12

In the previous message from Ephesians 4:1-6, we saw that the first aspect of a healthy church is unity. But we must remember that unity is not sameness. Every member of the church has different roles to play and gifts to bless the church.

Ephesians 4:7 says, “But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” Every follower of Jesus has received a gift, or grace as Paul refers to it. This is not saving grace, rather it is grace to serve and build up the body of Christ. The apostle Paul was given the grace to preach to the Gentiles (Ephesians 3:8).

We know these to be the gifts of the Holy Spirit for the equipping of the church. These gifts are listed in verse 11, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers.” These are specific spiritual gifts given to people in the church whose primary mission is to minister the word of God.

Each of these have the same value to God, but they share different roles. This is where we run into trouble, we hold on to labels as if they were badges of honor, rather than areas of responsibility.

 Let us look at each of these gifts briefly.

Apostle: The word Apostle comes from the Greek word Apostolos and means “sent one”.  

John Stott writes that there are three different understandings of the term Apostle used in the Bible.

1: There were the original apostles such as John, Peter, Paul, and the other disciples, obviously those apostles were unique and have not been replicated. Jesus had many disciples, but He selected twelve Apostles. A disciple is a “follower” or a “learner,” but an apostle is a “divinely appointed representative.” We do not have these apostles in the church today. Ephesians 2:20 explains that these apostles are the foundation of the church.  

2: Since we have all been sent, because of the Great Commission (Matthew 2:19-20) applies to us all, we are all apostles of Jesus Christ. We have all be sent by Jesus.

3: And then there is the apostle that Paul refers to here. The Apostolic gift that Christ gives to his church, specifically to certain people in order to advance the Kingdom. They are the church planters, the missionaries, and the ministry pioneers.

Prophets: As we saw in Ephesians 2:20, the Biblical prophets, Jeremiah, Elijah, Ezekiel, and others are the foundation of the church. Those God used to forth-tell, to predict future events such as the coming of Jesus and his second coming.

A New Testament prophet is someone who proclaims the Word of God. In a real sense, preaching is prophesying. Taking God’s word and applying it to people’s lives (see 1 Corinthians 14:3).

The gift of prophecy today must always be confirmed and based on the declaration of the Word of God. Don’t base the direction of your life on what someone feels the Lord is saying to you, be careful to test a prophetic word through the filter of the Bible and then also allow God to bring it to pass.

Evangelists: These are the bearers of Good News, people going from place to place to proclaim the Gospel and win the lost. Everyone who is saved is called to be a witness, to share the message of the gospel, but some people are gifted as evangelists. The fact that a believer may not possess this gift does not excuse him from being burdened for lost souls or witnessing to them.

Shepherd: The titles of Shepherd, Pastor, Elder or Overseer are found in the New Testament and are often misunderstood. Jesus is the head of the church and the pastor serves under his leadership (Hebrews 13:20).

The pastor is not the church CEO, rather he is a gift God has given to the church to equip the church for the work of the ministry. The role of the pastor is to nurture, defend, protect, and sacrifice for the flock.

Teacher: In verse 11, the titles of shepherd and teacher are separated by a definite article in the Greek, and it is likely that this indicates an overlapping in function.

All Pastors teach, by nature of the function of the role, but not all teachers are pastors.

These are the 5 gifts that the Lord has given to the church, and as long as the body of Christ needs to be equipped for works of service, the gifts are still given by Christ to the church (Ephesians 4:12).

This is probably the biggest problem with the modern-day church. Our western church is primarily a consumer driven church and not a mission driven church.

Ephesians 4:12 makes it clear that the work of the ministry of the church is the responsibility of the members of the church.

A church will never mature if we look at the gifts that God has given us as the head, rather than Christ as the head of the church. The gift giver is the head of the church and not the gifts.

As Paul states, disciple making is not the exclusive domain of pastors, rather discipleship is everyone’s job. The members of the early church took their responsibility to make disciples very seriously. The pastor is the equipper, and every member of the church is a minister.

Jesus commands you to look at the people around you and start making disciples. Obviously only God can change a person’s heart, but our responsibility is to be Christ’s ambassadors, his message bearers, in our communities.


God’s plan to reach people with the gospel is not primarily evangelists or apologists. God’s plan to reach people with the gospel is the church. 

Tony Merida writes, “Every member should grow up and use a towel, not wear a bib. They should not be immature consumers but eager servants.”

You have been given a gift by God, what are you doing with that gift?