Thanksgiving part 1 – November 12, 2017

Psalm 107

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday what are you thankful for? As Christians we have been given something that is so immeasurably good and wonderful, that it should be the very first thing we share around the dinner table. Psalm 107 is a Psalm of thanksgiving and praise to God for deliverance and freedom, it starts with an exhortation to give God thanks (Psalm 107:2). To be redeemed means to have one’s debts paid for and to be set free. As Christians this is you and me, Jesus bought and paid for our freedom on the cross.

But, to be thankful, we need to be aware of what have you been saved from. Do you remember the day you gave your life to the Lordship of Jesus, the redeemer? Do you remember the hopelessness you felt before you encountered Jesus? For many of us, we need to be reminded of our lives before we met Jesus to awaken a heart of thanksgiving in us.

Continuing in verse 3 as the Psalmist paints a picture for us of the exiles returning to Jerusalem from the four corners of the earth and beginning in verse 4 we have four different examples of people being set free. Each of these four represent distinct characteristics of lostness.

The Wanderer (v 4).

The picture we have is of a group of people who have been banished from the promised land, they are lost and wandering in the desert, possibly the Sinai desert. These people were hungry and thirsty, but worse than their physical condition we read that their spirits failed them, they had given into the hopelessness of their situation.

People who do not know Jesus as their lord and savior, wander aimlessly, without the hope of eternity for them life is a hopeless gathering of possessions and wealth to lose it all when you die, what a miserable existence! However, in verse 6 they cried out to God and he rescued them, and led them to a city where they could live. It is a beautiful picture of a people being restored to their God and His Promised Land.

The Rebel Prisoner (v10).

Here the Psalmist paints a picture of someone in chains, in prison because they intentionally went against God’s perfect plan and will. Many of us have experienced the prison of intentionally going against the will and plan of God for our lives. There are many forms of imprisonment; addiction to drugs, pornography, alcohol, and pleasure. And then there is the prison of fear of man, the of fear of failure or guilt and shame from our past. Are you in prison today because of your rebellion to God? He can set you free as he did these prisoners in verses 14 and 15.

The Sick (v17).

This group of people are suffering affliction as a result of their sins, in the form of sickness as we see in verse 18.  This is a group similar to the previous one, whereas the previous group are in prison because of their rebellion, this group suffers sickness because of rebellion.

I want to make clear that not every sickness is because of sin, however, there are times when sickness is the result of our rebellion against God. The fact is that sin separates us from God, it separates us from the peace and joy of the Lord, as a result we suffer from stress, which is a known contributor to many kinds of ailments. Anxiety and hypertension are just two of the symptoms of stress that may be as a result of not walking in the way and the peace of the Lord. In many people’s lives, God has used the desperation of sickness to draw them back to himself, and through his healing power they are redeemed. In verse 19 and 20, the sick people cry out to God and he healed them. Is that your story? Do you remember being healed and set free by the healing power of the cross?

The Sea Traveler (v23).

This is such an interesting picture, because during this time in the history of the nation of Judah, they were not seafarers like the Philistines. But the picture here rather is of someone on a ship consumed by the wind and the waves, it is a picture of someone consumed by a busy life. In verse 27 we read that they were at their wits end, desperate and overwhelmed.  The ocean traveler on a small vessel during a storm is constantly looking at the storm and the waves, just trying to survive. If your life is so busy that all you are doing is simply trying to stay alive, that is not God’s plan for you. Business is not a sin, but business that consumes you and takes your eyes off the plan and purposes of God for your life, can leave you desperately in need of redemption.

So, we have four pictures of desperation, four groups of people who are lost and in need of a touch from God.

Each of these 4 pictures ends with the person, or group of people crying out to God during their troubles. And the psalmist says that God rescued them, he brought them out of their distress. Verses 8 is a verse that is repeated at the end of each of these pictures like a chorus, “Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind”. These verses echo verse 2, “Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story—  those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,”

We can all relate to being in one or more of these categories at one time or another in our lives, maybe you are there now, and you are crying out for freedom. God will hear your cry and he is waiting to set you free.

During this season of thanksgiving, I want to challenge you to think back and remember what Jesus saved you from. If you know what you have been saved from, you will never hold back praising God and declaring His wonderful works.

Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story…” (Psalm 107:2a).

Sermon November 05, 2017 – International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church

November 05, 2017

In his book, “The Global War on Christians”, John Allen calls the worldwide persecution of Christians, “the most dramatic religion story of the early twenty-first century, yet one that most people in the West have little idea is even happening.”

Christian persecution is any hostility, experienced from the world, because of one’s identification with Jesus Christ. In Matthew 5:10-12, Jesus said that persecution is a blessing! For those who have not undergone persecution, it is difficult to understand why persecution is a blessing. But it is a known fact that the church grows quicker in nations where it is persecuted.

John 15:18-25 is a passage that does not preach well in our western “Prosperity Gospel” mindset, where our culture, upbringing and education all teach us that we have rights.  It is expected that Christians are respected members of society and by living out our Christian values and principles people will give us honor. But this is so far from the reality of what Jesus taught.

We have the mindset that persecution is something that happens somewhere else, in third world countries, where people are less educated perhaps. We also tend to think that persecution of Christians was something that only happened in history.

However, persecution is right on our doorstep, Jesus taught that this world is not our home (see John 15:19), and Jesus continues in verse 20 to say that a servant is no greater than his master, this is the normal Christian life. We have recently completed the series on the normal Christian life, noting that the foundation for the normal Christian life is applying the cross of Jesus Christ to our lives, daily dying to ourselves, being willing to lay aside our preferences, our rights and our desires for the sake of the Gospel.

It is almost predictable that when I teach in any setting on dying to our rights, people get angry. It just proves how conditioned we are to expect that this Christian life is a life of leisure and prosperity and peace. Jesus taught the opposite and he was persecuted more than any other man in history. In 1 John 3:13 we read, “Do not be surprised, brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.”  This is the normal Christian life.

For millions of Christians around the world, persecution is their daily reality. From intimidation to isolation, beatings, imprisonment and even death, they live with the ongoing threat of persecution, and yet they choose to faithfully follow Jesus.

Faithfully being a follower of Jesus is the cause of persecution. Remember we saw that the life of the Christian is not found in simply becoming a better person, but rather we are “in Christ”. Being in Christ is the reason for and the target of persecution in our world.

In Romans 8:17, the apostle Paul tells us, “Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.” So, when we share in Jesus’ sufferings we become heirs who will also share in his glory. Suffering is part of it the process that leads to us sharing in the glory of our resurrected Lord.

Persecution isn’t something we think about often, but it is incredibly real for believers all over the globe. The Pew Research Center estimates that 75% of the world’s population lives in regions with severe religious restrictions—with many of those being Christians. And according to the United States Department of State, Christians face persecution from their neighbors or government in as many as 60 different countries, simply because they claim Jesus as Lord.

Todd Johnson of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary documents that one hundred thousand Christians, eleven per hour, have been killed on average every year of the past decade. And it is estimated that more Christians died for their faith in the last century than in the previous nineteen centuries combined. Unfortunately, many Christians today, operate under the assumption that persecution is a part of the Church’s past.

Jesus told His followers to expect persecution, John 15:20 reads,“…If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” So this is expected but what is our response to be? How are we to respond as we sit here in comfort and ease without the threat of violence for our belief in Jesus.

It’s easy to hear about Christian persecution and feel afraid, but God did not give us a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7).

It’s also natural to want to put an end to the suffering of persecuted Christians. But the persecuted Church isn’t asking for an end to their hardships, for them, persecution is normal. In fact, many of our Christian brothers and sisters who are being persecuted are praying for you and I, that we would remain strong in the face of an increasingly godless society. Instead, they pray for the strength to withstand persecution. These hardships produce believers with genuine faith, who truly understand the cost involved in being “In Christ”, and they ask for our prayers for strength to withstand.

Christian persecution is overwhelming, and we can all too easily become desensitized by the statistics.

But I want to challenge you to spend some time today praying on your own or as a family for the persecuted church. Let us pray with them rather than for them, that the word of God will move swiftly across the whole earth.

 “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

Tertullian

The Normal Christian Life – Part 4 – 10/22/17

Romans 9:30-10:17

What is the difference between desire and desperation?

Many of us have a desire to see the lost in our city reached, but few of us have a desperation to see the lost reached and saved by the Gospel message. Are we desperate for our community and our nation impacted by the Gospel?

 Paul writing to the Christians in Rome, is encouraging these early Christians that they have obtained righteousness not by works, but by faith (Romans 9:30). In the next verse Paul says that the People of Israel, did not have faith, rather they tried to follow the law in order to obtain salvation.

I am sure you have heard someone say, “I am sure I am a Christian, I go to church every Sunday, I give money to the church, I try to follow the ten commandments”. Unfortunately, the Bible is clear that without faith in Jesus Christ as the risen Lord, you are not saved.

In Romans 10, Paul realizes that the problem with the Israelites being saved, is not their zeal for God, the problem is Jesus. Jesus is the stumbling block, the hurdle that they cannot overcome. Many people will say that they believe in God, however when asked if they believe in the son of God, Jesus Christ, and that God raised him from the dead, many would struggle at that point of clarification. To say that you believe and have a personal relationship with Jesus, who today is seated at the right hand of the father, is a line in the sand that causes offense. The name of Jesus, was a stone that caused the people of Israel to stumble, and still does the same today.

If you think about it, we all know people who are willing to say that they believe in God. But if you mention Jesus, they think you are too radical, you are being judgmental, divisive (read Luke 12:49-53 see what Jesus said about how his presence influences the world).

Getting back to Romans 10, as Paul is writing, he begins to lay out what is salvation through faith in Christ.

  1. In verse 4 he says that Christ is the culmination of the law, literally translated, Jesus put an end to the law of working for salvation by being good enough.
  2. In verses 5-7 Paul writes that salvation is found by faith alone in the risen Lord Jesus.
  3. In verse 8, Paul starts getting to his main point, “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim.” Paul is saying, that we have this message in our mouth and it is in our hearts.
  4. One  gets the picture of a burning message that is so much a part of you, that you cannot hold back, it is in your heart and in your mouth. The message is the Gospel, the Good News about Jesus Christ (v9). Paul goes on to make very clear that this is a global message for all who call on the name of Jesus (v 12).

There is a common thread in verses 8,9 and 10, we must speak this Gospel message out. As Christ’s ambassadors we need to be vocal about telling others about the Good news of Jesus Christ.

Never fall into the trap of thinking that simply be being a kind person people will somehow know the Gospel through seeing you. You must be kind, that is a given, but you must tell those around you about the Gospel that has changed your life.

Paul has defined the message and then he begins to call out the messenger.

 In verses 14 and 15, Paul asks 4 rhetorical questions, 4 statements of building desperation.

  1. How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in (v14)? People will only call on Jesus to be the Lord of their lives, if they believe that he is actually able to save them?
  2. And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard (v14)? Belief in Jesus Christ cannot exist without knowledge about him (see Romans 10:17).
  3. And how can they hear without someone preaching to them (v14)?  One hears about Christ only when someone proclaims the Gospel message. A better translation for preaching is to herald, like a town crier announcing an important message. Paul is referring to someone walking down the street and shouting out the Good News of the Gospel.
  4. And how can anyone preach unless they are sent (v15)? This message will never be proclaimed unless someone is sent to give the message. The Greek word for being sent here is Apostolos, meaning, being sent by God.

Paul believed that the only way to be saved was to hear and believe in the Gospel message. Believing that God sent his only son into the world to die for our sins so that by believing in Jesus, our relationship with God can be restored.

And then we have the final “how”, it is a declaration of joy and hope – “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news! (v15).

The feet that carry the message of the Gospel are made beautiful by the message. Do you have beautiful feet? Are your feet carrying the beautiful message?

Have you heard the word? Have you heard the Good news about Jesus? And if you have, can you tell the story?

If you have a personal relationship with Jesus, you have a story of the Gospel being applied to your life.

As a follower of Jesus, you are called to go and tell. Everyone fits into two categories. Either you still need to make Jesus Lord of your life or you need to tell others about what Jesus has done for you.

There is no such thing as passive Christianity.

The Normal Christian life is a life of action, being about the Masters business, doing the work that the Lord of your life prepared in advance for you to do (Ephesians 2:10).

The Normal Christian Life – Part 3 – 10/15/17

In the next few lines I aim to convince you that prayer is the single most powerful activity that you could possibly do in your life. And this power prayer is to be the expectation of the Normal Christian!

Many people are limping along in our Christian lives, trying to make themselves better people, trying to overcome temptation and sin in their lives and all the while the greatest power in the universe is available to us wherever we are, all we must do is to turn our situation over to God in prayer.

From Exodus 33 I want to point out four reasons why we should pray.

1. To express your need of God

Moses had a special relationship with God, he would pitch a tent outside the camp where he would go and pray. As Moses prayed, the pillar of the glory of the Lord would come and rest on the entrance of the tent.
In Exodus 33:1, God told Moses that they must go to the Promised Land, but in verse 3 God said that he will not go with them. Moses was faced with a decision would he accept God’s offer of the Promised Land without the presence of God? God promised to prepare the way, but God was going into the land with them. Would Moses take the offer? We can quite easily say that Moses would never be tempted to accept God’s offer, but we in the church, are tempted in much the same way.

Books and websites abound on how to grow the church through social media and catchy methods. We can deceive ourselves to the point that we start mistaking the presence of people in the seats for the existence of spiritual life in a church. Motions and programs in the church that look like success and the blessing of God, might not have anything to do with the Holy Spirit in the church. David Platt the IMB president recently said; “The greatest hindrance to the advancement of the Gospel in our day, might actually be the attempt of the people of God, to do the work of God without the power of the presence of God.

One of the greatest hindrances to the church being a missional force for the spread of the Gospel, is the mentality that we have got this program under control. We have all the resources and the skill to manage the programs of the church and even see the church grow, and we forget our total dependency on the Holy Spirit of God. Our church may be a small church but it can become a mighty force for the advancement of the kingdom of God, if we truly understand our desperate need for the Holy Spirit to lead and guide our every step. We need to pray in desperation for God to do only what he can do in His church.

2. Pray to experience intimacy with God.

Moses would go into the tent and the cloud of the presence of God would descend on the entrance of the tent. All the people would stand in awe and worship as Moses met with God

But here is the amazing miracle of being a normal Christian, we don’t have to stand and watch some amazing leader go into the tent, we all get to go into the presence of God at any time because we are the temple of the Holy Spirit! The Old Testament saints longed for what you and I get to experience all the time.

We know that God knows everything and nothing we bring to Him is a surprise to him, so why do we pray?
As we follow that thinking we begin to realize that the primary purpose of prayer is to meet with God and to grow in our intimacy with God. To know God the omnipotent creator of the universe. Prayer is the deepest and highest work of the human spirit.

3. Pray to participate in the plan of God

In verse 17 we read that God responded and promised to go with Moses. We so easily miss the gravity of that statement because in our post-modern culture we have such a low view of the power and majesty of God. The sovereign creator of the universe, was pleased with Moses and he responded in favor to his request.

This brings up a theologically challenging question, so if God responds to the prayers of His people, does God change his mind? We know from the revelation of God in the scriptures that God does not change his mind, but rather God ordains his people to pray and God responds to those prayers. God knows all things from beginning to end, and yet, in his love for us, he involves us by our prayers in directing the course of History.

The same applies to us here at Grace Point, God has ordained that our prayers will lead to his response to spread the Gospel in our mission field, this part of the city that God has placed us in. If we only knew the awesome privilege and responsibility that we have in the process of the move of God, our prayer meetings would be so well attended that we would not be able to hold them in the chapel.

4 Pray to raise up the next generation of leaders.

The danger that we can fall into with praying for the revival of today’s church, is that we become so focused on the church today, that we miss the fact that the church is going to exist long after we have passed away. If Jesus doesn’t come in our lifetime, the church, the representation of Jesus Christ on the earth will continue to exist and move forward in proclaiming the Gospel. If we really believe that, then are we training up the next generation to be a people of prayer?

In verse 11 we read that Joshua stayed in the tent after Moses left. I believe this was the preparation of Joshua as he was praying to know the ways of God. This was the crucial difference between Joshua and the other men in the nation. Only Joshua and Caleb had faith that God would be able to do what seemed impossible because Joshua knew his God.
This faith comes from a lifestyle of prayer, a lifestyle of spending time with God.

When you have a high view of God, the problems and challenges of this world fade into insignificance. A lifestyle of faith comes from a lifestyle of prayer.

“When God has something very great to accomplish for His church, it is His will that there should precede it the extraordinary prayers of His people.”

Jonathan Edwards

The Normal Christian Life – Part 2 – 10/8/17

John 20:19-31

Do you need a miracle?  Any area of your life that needs a touch from God.

In John’s Gospel chapter 20, John records for us how Jesus rose from the dead, and revealed himself first to Mary, then the Disciples, and finally to Thomas.

This revelation of the risen Messiah was foundational to the early church and it is the truth and the power of the resurrection of Jesus which is the essence of our faith.

When Jesus appeared to the disciples and to Thomas, the first words he says are,” peace be with you”. More than calming the disciples, whenever Jesus enters a situation he brings peace. We as followers of Christ and his ambassadors bring the presence of the risen Lord into everyday situations. Remember that as you go about your daily life.

Jesus goes on to commission them for the ministry and he breathes over them as a promise of the Holy Spirit which was to be given them at Pentecost.

Thomas was not with the disciples when Jesus first revealed himself, and because of his reaction to the other disciples, he is known as doubting Thomas. But a week later, Thomas is with them behind locked doors and Jesus appears to them and says, “peace be with you.”

Immediately Thomas believed and makes a powerful declaration of faith in Jesus; “My Lord and My God

That is all John records for us, and it is enough, Thomas saw the risen Lord Jesus and became a believer.

 The confession My Lord and my God in verse 28 is remarkable for its theological grasp.  Thomas saw the risen Lord and in five words stated that Jesus was the Messiah, fully God and fully man.

Thomas gets a bad reputation as the one who doubted, but the truth is that Thomas is you and me.

We are no different from Thomas, we depend upon secure evidence. We have the Bible, the inspired word of God, we have the witness of the church through the ages, we have the ministry of the Holy Spirit and we have our own personal testimony that all leads us to believe that Jesus is Lord. Jesus is not with us in person and in verse 29 Jesus makes that wonderful statement, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”

 So how do we who have never seen believe? The Bible is primarily how God has revealed himself to us, Jesus is the Word made flesh, and the Bible is the Word pointing us to Jesus from cover to cover. As we read it, the Holy Spirit reveals truth to us, brings conviction, encouragement, guidance and so much more.

If you struggle with foundational faith, believing that Jesus is the risen Lord, read the Word of God. It is not just a religious duty as a Christian, it is the life blood of your Christian walk. It is impossible to life a lifestyle of faith without daily being fed by reading the Word of God, you might get by, but you will never reach the full potential of all that God has in store for you.

Thomas had faith because he saw the risen Lord, it transformed his life and he probably travelled further than any of the other apostles, and he was eventually martyred in India. Thomas the doubter became a man of extraordinary faith, because he saw the risen Lord.

Anyone who truly encounters Jesus, the risen Lord, will have faith in Him. Many people will state, “I believe in God”, and this in itself is not wrong. One of my favorite verses Hebrews 11:6. Do you want to please God? Live a lifestyle of faith, but for faith to grow in us, we need to start with believing that He exists.

But sadly today, many people believe in God, but do not believe in the Gospel. There are teachers today who claim to believe in the God who created all things, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but they are teaching that Jesus didn’t need to come to earth and be our atoning sacrifice. Please beware of any teacher who does not believe in salvation through Jesus Christ alone (read John 14:6).

In light of this, what if we changed our language, when people asked us if we believe in God, we would say, “I believe in Jesus Christ the risen Lord”. That statement will clearly define what you stand for. If you respond in that way, people will either agree with you or reject you.

The revelation of the risen Lord, transformed Thomas’ life and the foundation of our faith is in the power that raised Jesus from the dead and the fact that he is interceding for us (read Romans 8:34).

An encounter with the resurrected Lord will change your life, it will enable you to abandon all and pursue a lifestyle of faith. As I think about our church, I am thrilled to see so many people who have abandoned all to follow Jesus and God’s plan for their lives. What a joy to be surrounded by people who truly believe in the resurrected Lord.

True faith is demonstrated in obedience. The title of Hebrews chapter 11 in the NIV translation is, “Faith in Action”. Hebrews 11, is a record of Biblical heroes who obeyed God and trusted him in faith for the outcome.

James 2:14 encourages us to do likewise and step out in faith in our lives, faith in the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ.

How is God asking you to step out in faith today?

Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us— 21 to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21

The Normal Christian Life – Part 1 – 10/1/17

The Webster dictionary defines a Christian as “one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ

What a terrible definition! How does the Bible define Christianity, after all, isn’t the Bible our authority as Christians?

You may have heard it said, that Christianity is not a religion, but it is a relationship. That is somewhat true, but also falls far short of what the Bible defines Christianity. A true relationship with my Creator only begins when I completely submit to Him and lay aside my own desires, wills, passions and preferences. Dying to my will and self is the beginning of what it means to be a Christian.

Galatians 2:20 reads; “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Beginning with the first phrase; “I have been crucified with Christ”.

Even though our sins that we have committed in the past have been forgiven (1 John 1:7), what about our sinful nature? That old nature that desires to do what is contrary to the will of God. We have peace with God, but we don’t have peace in ourselves because we wrestle with sin and temptation. This is where the cross of Jesus Christ provides an answer for us. Obviously, Paul was not on the cross with Jesus, and neither were you and I, but here is the profound miracle. When Jesus died on the cross, it was once for all. The death of Jesus on the cross included all who put their faith and trust in him. This is where those two beautiful words apply, “IN CHRIST” (see Romans 6:6-7, 11).

Do you want to be free from sin? You must realize your old self crucified with Christ, this is powerful, and it is absolutely crucial to being a Christian. The blood deals with what we have done, but the cross deals with what we are, the cross strikes at the root of our capacity to sin.

But do we apply the cross to our lives?

Satan will point to our struggle with sin and bring to mind our weakness in areas in our lives, but that is when we can point to the cross, and quote Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ…”. You see it is a declaration of faith, the essence of Christianity is faith.

So, if we are in Christ, does that make us perfect? Absolutely not, but we will be deeply troubled by sin in our lives. We will not have peace in our lives, because we know that we have fallen short of the Glory of God.

If you are not troubled by sin in your life or have no desire for holiness, I would seriously examine your heart to see if you truly are in Christ – if you have truly given your life wholly to Him and are saved

Galatians 2:20; “ I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

So how do we live this life, this crucified life? We live by faith in the Son of God. Daily asking the Holy Spirit to lead us and direct us. Our life goals are radically different, our aspirations change, instead of trying to build our own kingdom, we live to make the name of Jesus known.

The trouble with many people is that they think that when they become a Christian, God wants to take them and make them a better version of themselves. But we have it all wrong, there is nothing good, nothing worthwhile, nothing redemptive in my old self. God is not out to reform our life, he sent his son so that we can be born again.

This is where Christianity is completely different to any other religion. I cannot save myself, I cannot gradually get better until I am saved, I have to die, and then be reborn of the Spirit of God (John 3:3).

Coming to the final phrase of Galatians 2:20; “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Jesus loves you more than you will ever know, the cross is deeply personal for you and for me. When Jesus went to the cross, it was because he loved you so much, his love compelled him to give his life for you (see Ephesians 1:4).

1 Peter 2:9 tells us that we have been chosen by God, you are royalty, you are God’s special possession!

Have you ever heard of a royal prince cowering in the corner and begging for scraps from the King’s table?

But that is what we do, we don’t realize the value that God has placed on us, we are his special possession. He loves you far more than you will ever know.

When Jesus ascended into heaven he sent his indwelling Spirit. The Holy Spirit, the third person of the trinity, lives inside every true believer in Jesus Christ. The very same God who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you.

I know that we don’t come close to understanding the reality of the presence of God in our lives.

But what is the purpose of the Gospel? Why did God send his son? Why did God choose you and me and then fill us with his presence?  We have a natural tendency to see things from our perspective and say that God saved us so that we wouldn’t go to hell. Yes, that is true, but there is more, there is a greater and more glorious purpose for our salvation. God saved us so that we might bring Glory and praise to His name for eternity. This is what we were created to do. As we live by the Spirit and our lives become a living testimony of His presence we bring glory to His name.

Are you a Christian? If you don’t want to love and follow Christ, you are not a Christian. You may believe in Jesus, but is Jesus Lord of your life? Stop what you are doing right now, get on your knees, and make sure that you know Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior.

Sermon September 17, 2017 – Jeremiah part 3

Jeremiah 17:1-10

The nation of Judah had drifted far from God, worshipping idols and ignoring the covenant and the law that God gave Moses on mount Sinai. Their sin was deep rooted, it wasn’t simply a fleeting failure. Jeremiah uses the picture of an engraving tool in verse 1, the sins were indelibly marked in their culture. This has been the condition of man since Adam’s sin in Genesis 3. Sin is not a matter of mere actions, sin is a matter of the heart, and all of us are desperately sinful in our nature.

The Greek definition for sin is to miss the mark, to miss the standard for which we were created. We as human beings, like no other creature, were created in the image of God, and as such we were created to glorify Him by our worship, and our enjoyment of Him forever.

This is the mark we have missed, we worship, money, sex, fame, various forms of entertainment and objects of our own creation just to name a few idols.  We are no different to the nation of Judah, we have missed the mark, we are sinners. In verse 3 and 4, God says that because of their sins, he will punish them and give away all their treasures and wealth as plunder to their enemies. Even though God spoke so directly through the prophet Jeremiah, the people ignored the message and treated Jeremiah like the enemy.

The irony is that God tells them that he will enslave them in a land they do not know, but the reality is that they were already slaves. When we are living in willful sin, we are enslaved by that sin. Sin itself is slavery, because we are separated from the joy of knowing the pleasure and the grace of God in our lives.

The Lord continues in verse 5, “This is what the Lord says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord.”

Where do you place your trust? Do you trust in your retirement fund? Your paycheck? Your savings? Your inheritance? Perhaps you trust in a person to take care of you? The truth is that no matter what we trust in, if it is not God, the Bible says we are under a curse.

The converse of verses 5 and 6 are verses 7 and 8 said. Verse 7 says, “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.” Do you want to experience God’s blessing? Trust Him!

In verse 8 we read that the person who trusts in the Lord will receive a promised blessing from the Lord, they will have no fear, no worries, and they never fail to bear fruit.

As we look at ourselves, how do we really know if we trust the Lord? We can easily fool our neighbor, our pastor, even our spouse, but God knows our heart (see Jeremiah 17:10).

Just like God knew the hearts of the people of Judah, he knows our hearts today. As a result of their sin, God punished the nation of Judah, the attack from the north came and most of them were taken into captivity. It was a terrible and dark time for the nation. The captivity in Babylon was relatively short, only 70 years, but the nation was destroyed and would never be the same again.

The punishment for sin was severe, and God still punishes sin today, we don’t like to talk about it, but He does, God loves us too much to leave our sins unpunished.

But there is good news, as we look at Jeremiah 31:31-34. This prophecy in Jeremiah 31 talks about a time far in the future for those living in the 6th Century BC, Jeremiah was prophesying about the new covenant, he was pointing to our time, this day and age.

Obviously, we still struggle with sin and the world is in a desperate state because of our rejection of God. Our problem with sin is far worse than we could ever imagine. Our sinful self is so wicked that we don’t even have the desire to know God, let alone want to come near to Him. Our hearts are inscribed with sin, we cannot erase it, it is impossible for us to change our hearts.

But here is the Incredibly Good News, God made a New Covenant with mankind. Jeremiah was prophesying about The Gospel, Jesus, the son of God, coming to earth as a child, living amongst men, and then giving his life as the ultimate and perfect sacrifice in order to save us from our desperately wicked state. We sometimes take the Gospel for granted, we gloss over it every time we celebrate communion together. But this is incredible news in Isaiah 9:2 we read, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;”

Of all the 1366 verses in the book of Jeremiah, chapter 31 and verse 33 is the pinnacle of his revelation from God.

Notice the contrast between chapter 17, where our hearts are engraved with sin, and the New Covenant in chapter 31, God promises to write a new law on our hearts. It takes a miracle to remove engraving, we cannot do it, but because of what Jesus did on the cross, by submitting our lives to his glorious gift of salvation, we get new hearts. We get the very presence of the living God living inside of us by the Holy Spirit. This is what Jesus spoke about in Luke 22:20

The Old Covenant was important to reveal to mankind that we are desperately sinful and cannot begin to fulfill the holy requirements of God. But God created us with the capacity and the need for a relationship with Him, not simply to follow a set of blind rules.

This is where the church has missed the point I believe. In our desire to make “good Christians”, we have created rules and structures, and our efforts have resulted in legalism. The truth is that:

Rules without a Relationship is Bondage.

I am not advocating for the erasing of all rules, that is anarchy, but if we are content to follow the rules without a relationship with our Heavenly Father, in a sense we are still living under the Old Covenant.

Are you still living under the Old covenant, trying to be good enough for God? That is impossible, that is why Jesus came to save us, that is why we have the Gospel!

Sermon Sunday September 10, 2017 – Jeremiah part 2

Jeremiah 1:9-19

As Christian we can speak with authority, the authority we have comes from the word of God. When we speak our own words of wisdom, people can reject us, however, when we speak the word of God, we are referring to a much higher authority, one that we don’t have to try and defend. Do you know how to use the authority of the word of God?

In Jeremiah 1:9, we read that God touched Jeremiah’s mouth and gave him the message, God summarizes the message in verse 10. Notice the first words, “today I appoint you”. God gave Jeremiah authority over nations and kingdoms by the power of the word of God.

Jeremiah’s message was to be one of both judgment and blessing. The uprooting and tearing down was the coming judgment, but the metaphor of planting and building was a sign of God’s blessing to come after the judgment.

Then God gives Jeremiah 2 visions.  The first is a vision of an almond branch.  The Hebrew word for Almond tree sounds very similar to the word for watching. The symbolism of the Almond tree is that it is watchful, God is not slow in responding in judgment, the time is coming sooner than expected, and in verse 12 God confirms this vision and explains that He is watching the nation of Judah. The theme of God watching his people flows through the book of Jeremiah. This message to humanity is still the same today: God is watching! He will watch over the fulfilment of His word. When sin and immorality engulf nations and even penetrate the Church, we should remember, God is watching!

The second vision is of a boiling pot, shows that the message would be one of judgment at the hands of a people from the north. Ultimately this was the armies of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon coming to lay siege to Jerusalem.

The sin for which the people would be judged was the fundamental one of breaking the covenant with the Lord, by the rejection of him in favor of other gods (as we see in v16), and it continued to be a constant theme in the book.

God put His words into the prophet’s mouth and those words were effective to accomplish His will. God not only gave Jeremiah His words, but He also promised to “watch over” those words until they were fulfilled (Jer. 1:12).

Prophecy is not necessarily foretelling the future, rather it is to declare the words of God, to declare the truth, in that sense, the act of preaching the word of God is an act of prophecy.

Just like it was in Jeremiah’s day, so it is now, that the declaration of the word of God was not well received.

There were prophets in Jerusalem during Jeremiah’s time, those who spoke only words of blessing and wellbeing to the people. These prophets were well liked and had an adoring following, and the Kings who rejected God’s law loved to hear from these prophets.

Today as preachers, we have the same challenge.  Paul the apostle knew this and wrote the following in his second letter to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:3. Today, there are false teachers, those who twist the word of God for their own benefit. Stretching individual verses out of context with the primary goal of deceiving their hearers into parting with their money. If you don’t know the Word of God, you too will be deceived in these days as Jesus said in Matthew 24:11. We need to pray for wisdom and discernment as we read the word of God in order to stand firm in the calling that God has on our lives.

In verse 17, God speaks to Jeremiah and tells him to get ready, to brace himself for the challenge that lay ahead.

When Jesus sent out the disciples in Matthew 10, he issued a similar warning (read Matthew 10:16-20).

Both Jeremiah and the disciples were told that they were going to speak the very words of God, they didn’t have to figure out what would be the best thing to say, they could simply stand firm on the words of God. And this is the key, standing on the authority of the word of God. The church needs to be the prophetic voice in our culture. Not simply a voice known for what we oppose, but a voice that declares the truth in love and offers alternatives that bring life. What does the Bible have to say about the issues that we wrestle with in our culture, issues such as racism, broken homes, homosexuality, money, abortion and homelessness to name just a few.

Take the abortion debate as an example, the fact that there is any debate whatsoever is a sign of how far we have slipped as a culture, the Bible is clear that we are created in the image of God and it is wrong to take another human life, but as the church, the prophetic voice in our culture, what alternatives are we offering? Are we offering to take the children and raise them up?

We live in an age where Bible is regarded as offensive, but the word of God supersedes culture, the Bible transcends seasons, Isaiah 40:8 says, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”

God continues in verse 17 to say to Jeremiah, “do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them.”

God knew Jeremiah and God knows us too, He knows that our natural inclination is to be afraid of what others might be thinking. But the fear of God is the best antidote against the fear of man. Let us always be afraid of offending God first (see Proverbs 1:7). Remember you and God are a majority, even if everyone else opposes you, as they opposed Jeremiah, as you follow God’s leading in your life, you are in the majority.

But in order to be the prophetic voice in our culture, we need to know the word of God. There is no substitute for living the Christian life in our culture, other than to spend time daily reading the Word of God, allowing God to speak to you.

Sermon Sunday September 03, 2017 – Jeremiah part 1

Jeremiah chapter 1:1-9

Think back to a time when you were called on to do something and you felt unequipped to accomplish the task, when you could have listed any number of reasons why you were the wrong person for the job. How did you respond?

Every person who has committed their lives to the lordship of Jesus Christ, has a specific calling on their life, a calling that God has uniquely equipped you to accomplish.

Jeremiah was a prophet in the nation of Judah who began his ministry around 627BC during the reign of King Josiah. Josiah was a God-fearing King and the nation was blessed by God during his reign, unfortunately the succession of Kings after Josiah were evil and as a result God used the Babylonian nation to punish Judah and take most of the nation into exile (see 2 Chronicles 35 and 36). Jeremiah was left behind and was taken by the remnant of the nation of Judah down to Egypt.

Jeremiah, known as the weeping prophet was called to a very difficult task. He had to put up with a lot of abuse, death threats and imprisonment. He was even placed in a muddy cistern in the ground and left to die, yet he was faithful to the calling of God on his life. Jeremiah struggled with his ministry, he complained and wrestled with God, in fact chapters 11-20 of the book are often referred to as Jeremiah’s confessions, where he pours out his heart to God.

Before Jeremiah even began his ministry, God orients him and tells him something that kept him faithful to God for all his life (Jeremiah 1:5). God spoke to Jeremiah and as a part of his calling to ministry, God tells him that he was intentionally put together. The same applies to every person alive today. King David was also aware of this in Psalm 139: 13-17. God wove Jeremiah together perfectly for the task he was called to. God knit every cell in your body for a specific purpose and calling. If we would only grasp the fact that we are not a jumble of cells as the scientists tell us, but rather there is unlimited potential in the created human life. This should change the way we look at others, the way we look at children and the way, we need to look at the unborn.

How would your self-image change if you truly understood that God has formed you specifically for his purpose for your life?

If God has made you and I for a specific purpose, how do we know what it is?

Here is the good news, not only does God form us and knit us together, he also calls us.

The God who created the universe, who gives life and breath to every living thing, looked out over all of creation and chose you.

God created Jeremiah with the physical and the emotional capacity he would need for the life he would be called to.  God prepared Jeremiah and then when he was still a teenager, God calls him by saying, “I appointed you as a prophet to the nations”. God reminds Jeremiah of his specific design, and then he tells him his purpose. The calling of God on your life is real. Every one of us is called by God to fulfill the specific ministry that we were designed for.

But surely only those who are called to ministries such as pastors or missionaries are actively called by God? That is simply not true, we are all called by God to serve him and His purpose for our lives.

The Bible teaches that every Christian is called to “full time” Christian service, regardless of his or her vocation (see 1 Peter 2:9). You may be a caregiver, an executive, a builder or an administrative assistant, where you are is where God has placed you in order to be his priest and minister of the Gospel in that environment.

If we get this, it will make a radical change in our view of day to day lives.

It is tragic to see Christians who work purely for a paycheck, or work just to get to the weekend.

What a tragedy, this is not why God has called you, this is not why Jesus died for you ( see Colossians 3:23).

But what if you feel completely ill-equipped to accomplish the task that God calls you to. Jeremiah felt that way, Moses and many other characters in the Bible felt that way. See how Jeremiah responded in verse 6.

Jeremiah was hesitant to take on the mission, and when God calls us we also hesitate and doubt. The primary reason we doubt is the same reason that Jeremiah doubted, our focus is in the wrong direction. Jeremiah was looking at his own skills and his own abilities or lack thereof, we look at ourselves and immediately try to disqualify ourselves because of our perceived weaknesses. But God wants us to focus on him and on His power to fulfill the mission.

Read God’s response to Jeremiah in verse 7. Notice, God didn’t disagree with Jeremiah or try to give him a half time pep talk, God simply reaffirms his call and says, go! To God and to everyone around, including Jeremiah, he didn’t have the skillset to accomplish the task, but God did. Notice what God then did in verse 9. God knew full well that Jeremiah wasn’t up to the task, all he needed was for Jeremiah to be a willing vessel to be used by God, a willing mouthpiece to speak the words that God put in his mouth.

Has the Father given you an impossible task to do? Then you’re in the right place! Only when you realize that you are completely unable to do what God calls you to do, will you be ready to be used by God.

The mission that God calls you to, may not be easy, it certainly wasn’t for Jeremiah.

Was Jeremiah successful? By human standards it didn’t seem that way, but by his obedience to God, he will receive a reward on the day of judgment. Don’t be tempted to measure your ministry success by the worlds standards.

Success is found in obedience not results!

Our part is obedience, God is responsible for the results and He is most certainly capable for that.

What is God calling you to do today?

The Purpose of Unity – Sunday, August 27, 2017

THE PURPOSE OF UNITY

Ephesians 4:1-16

Have you ever been part of a team of people who share the same vision, share the same passion and are completely united together to accomplish a specific goal? Unity in the church is absolutely critical because we are in a spiritual war that has eternal consequences.

Grace Point is a very diverse church, we have people from many different nationalities, races and socio-economic backgrounds, all of which make unity almost impossible. There must be a common bond, a reason for unity. What is our purpose for gathering as the church? Is it to come on a Sunday and spend an hour, participating in a worship service, is that the purpose? If that was the case, then it is not surprising why so many churches around the world are closing. There must be a bigger purpose that draws us together.

The Apostle Paul writing to the first century church in Ephesus, made a plea for them to be united (see Ephesians 4:1-16).

Paul begins this chapter by pointing out that there is an individual responsibility for unity. Paul makes it personal, “I urge you!” therefore no-one is exempt. And then in verse 2, Paul lists what looks like the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22. Daily submitting ourselves to the Holy Spirit, we will produce the fruit of the Spirit, that will in turn create unity. It starts with the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. And in verse 3 he reminds us that this will take effort, requiring us to lay down our own desires and submitting ourselves to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Unity in the church is not something that we can manufacture by a well worked plan and strategy, no, our unity as the church is already established, unity has been established by the Gospel message. Just read to verse 4 to 6,

In these verses, he uses the word ONE 7 times as he draws attention to the Gospel. The unity of the church is already established, it was established in Jesus Christ. True unity is only found in the good news of Jesus Christ. (see what Jesus prayed in John 17:21-23).

 So, all this talk about unity and the will of God for us as a church, how does this work practically? Each of us has a part to play in this, no believer is exempt. Every believer has been given gifts by the Holy Spirit. These gifts have been given not for our own benefit and pleasure, but to be used to build up the body of Christ.

These spiritual gifts are the same gifts that we read about in 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12.

In verse 11 we read the beginning of a long sentence and we are frequently guilty of quoting only part of this sentence, as you will see.

We read the Christ gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers given to the church, but why? Verse 12 answers, “12 to equip his people for works of service…” While it is good, to be able to do good things, serve and bless out community, but what’s the goal of this service?

Verse 12 continues, “so that the body of Christ may be built up”. So, as the church serves, it is built up.

But Paul goes further, 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God…”

So, as we are equipped, we serve, as we serve we are built up, as we are built up, we achieve unity. Do you see the pattern? Unity is achieved by serving together.

Verse 13 continues, “…and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Paul is talking about spiritual maturity. There are many teenagers who are mature in their faith, while others who may have been in the church for decades, are still spiritual babies. As we work together in the church, we attain unity, as we are united in faith and action, we grow together and become mature.

Verse 16 of this passage wraps up the discussion on unity in the Body of Christ, “16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”

From Jesus, the whole body, the whole church is joined together by every supporting ligament. Every little part of the body is valuable, every part is important. As we see the value in each other in the church, we are built up in Love. Without the supernatural love that the Holy Spirit gives us for each other, we would never be drawn together. It is purely the grace of God and the love of God that holds the church together and builds the church. We can talk about unity and church growth all we like, but if it is not held together by the supernatural love that the Lord gives us for each other, we would never grow together as a church.

And then we come to the final six words of verse 16, “…as each part does its work”.

Every one of us is called by God to play a part in the ministry of the church. What is the ministry of the church? It is not to build a better building or to be a comfortable social club. The ministry of the church is the Great Commission, to share the Gospel message, to reach the lost, to disciple the new believers, baptizing them and training them to go and share the Gospel message.

The church as the living Body of Christ, where everyone functions with their own unique spiritual gifts, will be very different than societies idea of a church. Society has the picture of the church that is static, boring, uniform, liturgical. This church will be a place where love is unconditional, charity abounds freely, where differences in race and age are celebrated rather than causing division. A place where we all serve one another in humility and grace, understanding that as we do so, we are contributing to the growth and the maturity of the body.