Sermon Sunday September 5, 2021 – Hearing God’s Voice

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The sad truth about Christian discipleship today is that we teach people about God, but we don’t teach people to experience God.

As followers of Jesus, we are invited into a relationship, having our daily steps ordered by the Lord (Proverbs 3:5-6 and Psalm 37:23).

I often hear from people who wish they could hear from God regarding His will for their lives.

The incredible news is that God does still speak to His children, and Jesus made this clear in John 10.

The sheepfold of the first century was usually an enclosure made of rocks, and the shepherd would guard the flock at night by lying across the opening. It was not unusual for several flocks to be sheltered together in the same fold. In the morning, the shepherds would come, call their sheep, and assemble their own flocks. This is what Jesus was referring to in John 10:3-4.

Jesus calls himself two different things in this passage, firstly he is the door (John 10:9). He is the Door of salvation for all who put their faith in him.
Then Jesus declares himself to be the Good Shepherd and in verse 11 he says, “the Good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep”. Those hearing these words must have struggled to understand what he was saying. Jesus willingly went to the cross to die for our sins so that we could have a relationship with God the Father.

We miss the point when we get so focused on the plan of salvation as a means to get out of hell and into heaven. There is so much more. We are invited into a relationship with Jesus, in verse 10 he says, I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

In verse 16 Jesus speaks to the Gentiles who were outside of the Jewish “fold”. He uses the key phrase, “they will listen to my voice.” Are you listening to the voice of The Good Shepherd?

Prayer is not a monologue where you recite all your needs to God, and He responds like a vending machine. It is a two-way fellowship, where we speak to God, and He speaks to us.

Henry Blackaby wrote, “what God says to you in prayer, is far more important than what you say to Him. After all, God already knows what you are going to tell Him.”

How does God speak to us?

1. Primarily God speaks to us through His word, the Bible.
The bible is the starting point in our pursuit of a personal relationship with God because it is His special revelation of Jesus to mankind (2 Timothy 3:16). However, for us to hear and respond to the God breathed Word, we need to open it and meditate on it.
Having said that, God is not limited to speaking to us through the Bible. God can speak in any way that He knows will get our attention.

2. God speaks through other Christians. God will use other godly people in our lives to speak to us, and we all need mentors and encouragers who will pray for us and then speak the truth in love. God will speak to us through the Holy Spirit, as fellow believers use their spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:7-9).   

3. God will speak through Circumstances. In Genesis 50 Joseph saw how God used the seemingly impossible circumstances and redeem them to his glory. Be aware of God leading through circumstances.

4. God speaks audibly. In 1 Kings 19:11-12 God spoke to Elijah. The voice of God was a gentle whisper, and he knew that God was speaking to him.  God also speaks to us in that still small voice, the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
It is so important to be quiet before the Lord and to listen for His voice.

This is where the value of a journal comes in. When you sit down with your Bible each day, come with an expectation that He is going to speak to you. Sometimes through the words on the page, sometimes through the inner voice of the Holy Spirit, and as that happens, write down your dialogue with God. Write out your prayers and write down what you hear from the Lord. I am always encouraged as I look back at my journals from years gone by and see how the Lord was speaking and directing me.

5. God still speaks in dreams.  The life of Daniel was one filled with dreams and interpretation. Today we are hearing stories of thousands of Muslims who are encountering Jesus in dreams and are being converted.

There is no doubt that God speaks today, but we must be careful to test every word. To test to discern if God is speaking, use these five simple tests.

1. Does it Exalt Christ?(John 16:13-14) If what you think you heard does not exalt Christ but exalts something or someone else instead, you can be certain that the leading is not from God.

2. Is it Scriptural? (Proverbs 30:5-6) God will never contradict His Word. If the person presenting the word to you takes the Bible out of context, you can reject it. Always go back to God’s primary revelation, His Word the Bible.

3. Do Other Christians Confirm it?(1 Corinthians 14:29) If you feel that God is speaking to you on a certain issue, but you are not sure. Take it to wise people in the church who can guide you and join in prayer with you.

4. Does it Produce Good Fruit?(John 15:5) Compare what you hear with the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23. God’s word will always produce the fruit of the Spirit.  

5. Does God Bring it to Pass?  (Isaiah 55:10-11) If it never comes to pass, you can be sure God was not in it.

It is essential that you learn to test the word, whether it is something you read or something someone tells you. God is not intimidated by our questions, but He does expect our obedience when His word is confirmed.

The most important part of your day is the time spent waiting on the Lord.

Sermon, Sunday August 22, 2021 – The Church as a Community

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Why do people join a church?

Today there is much confusion regarding the church. What is the church, is it a building, is it a community, how many people constitute a church?

The church is the gathering of followers of Jesus, locally and globally. We join for the purpose of worship, encouragement, spiritual growth and serving together towards the Great Commission.  

The church is not a club or a social construct of the Western culture.

In Ephesians 4, the Apostle Paul implores the church in Ephesus to be all that they are called to be.

The root Greek word for the church is “Ekkaléō”, which means to call out. Paul writes in verse 1, “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called”. The church is a group of people who have been called out of darkness into light. A group of people, set apart for the Lord to serve him, being on mission for Jesus.

The church is the Body of Christ. This image emphasizes that the church is the center and focal point of Christ’s activity now, just as was his physical body during his time on earth (1 Corinthians 12:27).Christ is the head of the Body (Colossians 1:18). As the body of Christ, we are interconnected and we need each other.

Verse 3-6 focus on the unity of the church, Paul writes in verse 3, “being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” And then he continues to list 7 aspects of our unity; one Body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all (Ephesians 4:4-5).

Notice that we don’t create unity, we have unity because of the Holy Spirit. Our role is to preserve the unity. Unity assumes that we are actually committed followers of Jesus, carrying the same vision and the same mission. It is possible for people to be members of a church that are not actually part of the Body of Christ. Many churches have people on their membership roles who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ (Matthew 25:31-46).

True church growth is the result of the members of the church being obedient to Christ. Programs don’t grow the church, every member being obedient to the will of God grows the church. The greatest need we have in our communities and world is the church to be the church, in the true sense of the word. We need to return to the principles of the early church in the New Testament.

In our reading today in v11, we see the gifts of ministry that Jesus has given to the church, “

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers”. Why did Jesus give these gifts to the church? We see the answer in verse 12, “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ”.   

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. You are the plan God has in mind to change the world!

In addition to these five gifts, God has given spiritual gifts to every Christian as we see in 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12. The church will be rich when every member is using their spiritual gifts. 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.”

As the body, the church is edified, or built up by the exercising of the gifts, the church grows spiritually. Individuals grow in their walk with the Lord and the church displays evidence of spiritual health. In Ephesians 4 we see 4 evidences of spiritual health in the church.

  1. Christlikeness: Pastors and teachers equip the church members by teaching and explaining the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). As we grow together in the Word of God, we become more like our Lord and Savior
  2. Stability: The maturing Christian is not tossed about by every religious novelty that comes along. There are many false teachers and if we are not careful, we get caught up in a false way of thinking that does not line up with the Word of God. The maturing believer recognizes false doctrine and stays clear of it. Are your feet secure on the firm foundation of the Word of God?
  3. Truth joined with love: (Ephesians 4:15). It has been said that “truth without love is brutality, but love without truth is hypocrisy.” It is a mark of maturity when we can share the truth with our fellow Christians and do it in love (Proverbs 27:6).
  4. Co-operation: (Ephesians 4:16). We realize that, as members of the one body, we belong to each other, we affect each other, and we need each other. Each believer, no matter how, extroverted, or introverted, rich, or poor, educated, or uneducated, has a ministry to other believers. In the Body of Christ when one person is in pain, we are all affected, that person is not functioning as God intended. Every person has an important role to play within the church. This is why the isolation many suffered during the lockdown has revealed how much we need to be in fellowship as the church. An isolated Christian cannot minister to others, nor can others minister to him or her, and it is impossible for the gifts to be ministered either way. A virtual church is not the church at all.

Are you ready to step into healthy church community? Exercising your God given gifts for the building up of the church. We need you!

Sermon, Sunday August 1, 2021, The Holiness of God

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Have you discovered the purpose for your existence?

That’s a deep question, but the answer is very simple and yet infinitely complex.

I am reminded of a frequently used phrase, “God loves you and has a plan for your life”.

While that sounds good and it is true, it is not the overarching truth. If we really think about it, the subject of the sentence is, “you” and ultimately that comes from our humanistic focus on self.

God is about God. It really is all about His glory being displayed in all the universe. That sounds harsh to our western ears, because we are so consumed with our own glory and achievements. But the reality is that God is the only uncreated One, from whom all other beings owe their existence, and He is infinitely holy.

Instead of, “God loves you and has a plan for your life”, I propose that, “God’s plan for your life is the display of His glory.”

I want to try to answer two questions:

  1. What is the glory of God?
  2. How do we display the glory of God?

In Romans 11 we see a chapter that some scholars say sums up the entire narrative of the Bible. It is all about God’s plan and purpose for the people of Israel. As Paul writes verses 33 to 36 of chapter 11, it is as if he is reaching the crescendo of a symphony and flows into praise of God.

Verse 36 is the cymbal crash of the chapter, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen”.

God is the source, the means, and the goal of all things. That is so contrary to what we see portrayed in the world around us and sadly in many churches, where we ultimately see that the god that many people worship is created in their own image.   

  1. But what is the glory of God?

John Piper said, “The glory of God is the manifest beauty of his holiness. It is the going-public of his holiness.”

The word Holy means to be separate, a distinctly different being, in a class all by Himself. The holiness of God is the foundational quality of His character.

In Isaiah 6:3, the prophet has a vision of heaven where he sees the Seraphim calling to one another above the throne of God, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

The heavenly creatures, declare the holiness of God and then say that His glory is over the whole earth, not His holiness. The Glory of God is the public display of His holiness (see Psalm 19:1 and Psalm 8:1).

2. So how do we display the glory of God?

Verse 36 tells us that every believer has their source in God. So, as we live on this earth in this church age, we are part of the glory of God being displayed. We get to reflect His glory. We are designed to make the glory of God shine, making it visible to others (see Matthew 5:16 and 2 Corinthians 4:6-7). People seeing your life on display, should declare, “God is glorious!”.

Once again, we run into the idol of self and our culture of humanism. We must realize that God does not need us, but He chose to create us in His image for His glory (see Isaiah 43:7).

The Westminster Catechism begins with the question, “What is the chief end of man?”. To which they answered, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” If we really grasped this, we would realize that we have been created for so much more than we can ever imagine.

But our flesh rises up and says, “hey, what’s in it for me?” If we are honest, we might believe that God is not concerned about us, He is using us for His glory. However, when we live as God intends us to live, we are most satisfied. The answer to the first question of the Westminster Catechism is two-fold, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.”

As we glorify God, we experience joy, the joy of living out our original design (see Psalm 73:25-26)

So, the question is, am I satisfied in God? Is He enough? Do I have full satisfaction in God, or do I chase after the things of this world? We chase after good things; friends, health, careers, family and also not good things; wealth, sex, fame, to name a few.

We chase after things, because we don’t find full satisfaction in God.

John Piper writes, “He is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

We struggle to grasp this, because we are so easily satisfied with the things of this world.

C.S. Lewis described it perfectly, “It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

  • We display the Glory of God, when we serve gladly and give sacrificially of our time and our resources.
  • We display the glory of God, when we put our agenda on hold to help someone or stop to pray for them.
  • We display the glory of God when we share the Gospel with someone.
  • We display the glory of God when we care for the widows and the orphans and stand up for the unborn.
  • We display the glory of God when we boldly take a stand against the immoral mainstream of our culture.

These are just some of the many examples of what it means to be living for the glory of God.

What if we woke up every morning with the prayer, “Lord display Your glory through my life today?”

Sermon Sunday July 4, 2021 The New Jerusalem

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Mountain top experience’s part 11

If I were to give you a ticket to fly first class to an amazing destination, your first question would be, “where is it?”. Followed shortly by, “what can I do there?”. We would never sign up to go somewhere without doing some research on the destination, yet this is how we approach our eternal destination.

I am talking about the new Jerusalem. The enormous city that we read about in Revelation 21 will be the eternal home of all who know and love Jesus as Lord of their lives. This is the final mountain, that all others lead to and only one person has ever seen, the Apostle John in the book of the Revelation.

Since heaven or hell are the eternal destination of everyone who has ever lived, it is surprising that so little is said about heaven from our pulpits. The truth is that people fear the unknown and one of Satan’s primary objectives is to make little of Heaven. He would like to convince the world that Heaven doesn’t exist and failing that, he would try to convince the world that it will be boring and unattractive.

Randy Alcorn said, “Grasping what the Bible teaches about Heaven shifts our center of gravity and radically alters our perspective on life”.

Revelation 21 talks about the New Heaven and the New Earth that will be after the tribulation, the battle of Armageddon, the thousand-year reign of Jesus, and the great white throne judgment. This is the final eternal state that we long for, hope for, and all creation is crying out for.

In Revelation 21:10, The apostle John tries his best to describe something that is impossible to capture and describe with words. The description of this city almost defies imagination. The earth is renewed at this stage, it is completely remade, as Jesus says in verse 5 of Revelation 21, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

The structure of the earth and the atmosphere is not limited to our understanding, it will be made new. The New Jerusalem is huge, it is a cube of around 1400 miles in all directions.  It has been calculated that a structure this size can house billions of people. In fact, easily all the people that have ever lived on the planet.

This city unites the Old Covenant and the New Covenant that God made with mankind. The twelve gates are identified with the twelve tribes of Israel, and the twelve foundations with the twelve Apostles.

Heaven is defined as the place where God dwells, making this city Heaven itself. Verse 22 says, “And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. The New Jerusalem is incredibly beautiful and filled with all kinds of precious jewels and metals. The New Jerusalem is the ultimate fulfillment of all God’s promises.

Just like it is impossible for us to describe God using our vocabulary and things we can identify with, so to it is impossible to fully describe heaven. We also want to understand heaven through the lens of what brings us pleasure here on earth, and we simply cannot do that, because we live in a world tainted by the effects of sin. Heaven will be filled with pleasures that are infinitely more real and lasting than anything we know here in this lifetime.

But the primary joy of heaven will not be the state of our being, the weather, or the experiences we will taste. The primary pleasure of heaven will be the presence of God.

We are designed to have communion with God. God created man in his own image, to have fellowship with him. However, when sin entered the world, that relationship was broken and there was a separation that took place. Inside every human being is a longing and an unfulfilled desire that can only be met by the perfect presence of God Himself.

Being in the presence of God for eternity is heaven and being separated from God for eternity is hell. Our selfish and humanistic mindset cannot even begin to grasp what it will be like to be in the presence of God and to worship Him. In our, “what’s in it for me” culture, we have no idea what it will be like to be in the presence of the Creator of the universe. Heaven will be primarily a place filled with the glory of God (Revelation 21:23). Heaven will also be a place of service and work. God is creative and He designed us to be creative beings along with Him. We see in Genesis 1, that God created man to rule and care for the creatures of the earth.

The Old Testament references this holy mountain frequently in the Psalms and the prophets (see, Zechariah 8:3., Psalm 48:1-2, Isaiah 2:1-2 and Micah 4:1-5).

As we have gone through this series for the past ten weeks, we have seen that all the mountaintop encounters lead to this incredible mountain of God.

So, who gets into heaven? In Revelation 21:7-8, we have a clear list of people who will not enter into the presence of God. The list is quite comprehensive, so how can we know for sure that we are going to heaven?

Romans 10:9 says, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Submitting your life to the lordship of Jesus Christ, being clothed in his righteousness is the only way to be granted access into heaven. Have you submitted to the lordship of Jesus?

Sermon Sunday June 27, 2021 – The Power of the Holy Spirit

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Acts 1:1-12

Have you ever struggled to complete a project in your home or on your computer, all the time not knowing that you had a tool or program that would have made your task so much easier?

Sometimes, in the church we attempt to do great programs and missional activity, but we do not utilize the one person who has the power to accomplish more than we could ever imagine. We ignore the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is way more than a handy tool, He is the power and the source of all fruit that we can expect as a church. In fact, without the Holy Spirit, there is no church.

It was on the mount of Olives that Jesus promised his disciples that he would send the Holy Spirit to baptize them with power. It was on this mountain where Jesus ascended into heaven as we read in Acts 1.

The book of the Acts of the Apostles is the account of the work of the Holy Spirit in and through the early church. This is the introduction to the church age, the same age in which we live. The time between when Jesus ascended into Heaven and the time he is coming back.

The church is the Body of Christ, the physical manifestation of the presence of Jesus on the earth and we have a job to do, we have a mission. Jesus’ life on earth was just the beginning.

Luke continues in verse 3 to emphasize the fact that Jesus rose from the dead. During the time after the resurrection of Jesus, there were a lot of rumors spread by the religious leaders that Jesus had not in fact risen. Luke just like the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 makes it clear that Jesus gave many proofs of his life. This is the foundation of the message we have; Jesus is alive! If Jesus is not alive the church would not exist. The resurrection was the primary message of the first church, and it should be our primary message today.

Before he ascended, Jesus told his disciples to wait for the promise that he had spoken about in John 14:16-17. Even though they were eyewitnesses to the greatest events in all of History, they were not equipped for the task that lay ahead of them. The Holy Spirit is the indispensable equipment that the child of God and the Church has.  It is imperative to remember that we don’t get to use the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit uses us.

Jesus goes on to say in verse 5, “…for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized withthe Holy Spirit not many days from now.” The tense of the verb “baptized” is a passive voice, which indicates that being filled with the Holy Spirit is a divine activity and comes about as we yield control of our lives to the power and lordship of Christ. This takes place as we yield control of our lives to Him daily. This is a spirit filled life and this is a life lived with Jesus as Lord.

Sadly, too many Christians live lives that do not require the power of the Holy Spirit. Living a passive Christian life does not require us to lean into God in desperation for His power. We as followers of Jesus have to be about the work of Kingdom, and in order to do that we need the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

The Disciples didn’t understand what Jesus was talking about and began asking about the plans to overthrow the Roman authorities. Jesus doesn’t rebuke them for their misunderstanding, but simply states, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:7-8.

Jesus takes their focus off the desire for an earthly kingdom and directs them to the work that needs to be done. The Holy Spirit will enable them to be witnesses to go in ever widening circles from Jerusalem all the way to the ends of the earth.

Jesus explains that the power of the church does not come from programs, leaders, buildings, or political influence, the power of the church to do the work that we have been commissioned to do comes from the Holy Spirit (see Zechariah 4:6). Ordinary people are able to do extraordinary things because of the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

The gift of the Holy Spirit is the power to do the work, to be witnesses of the Gospel. That is the primary call on the church. The church must be outward focused, Jesus commanded it to be so.

Any church that focuses purely inward on fellowship and comfort of community, without looking beyond their four walls has already ceased to exist as a church. They may have many people coming to attend and enjoy the fellowship and worship music and programs, but they are not the body of Christ.

Jesus said that when the Holy Spirit comes on them, they will receive power and will be witnesses. You cannot be a witness to something you have not experienced. Do you have a testimony of your life being impacted by a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? You are a witness.

In the church we have turned evangelism into an academic pursuit. We can get trained into the mindset that people are simply targets and we must get through our presentation. If we do that, we miss out on the beauty and joy of the relationship and seeing that people are not targets, they are brothers and sisters that you haven’t gotten to know yet.

Right after Jesus gives this incredible task, verse 9 tells us that Jesus ascended into heaven.

As the disciples were looking up, two angels stood beside them and made an incredible promise that Jesus would return. Are you expecting his return?

Sermon Sunday June 20 2021 – Are you a Follower or and Observer?

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Mountain top experiences part 9
Luke 23:21-49

Calvary is the mountain top encounter that all the others point to. This little hill just outside Jerusalem, is the peak on which all of human history pivots. During the Roman empire, this was the place where criminals were executed by the most inhumane method of crucifixion.

As we look at the various people who witnessed the death of Jesus, I want to challenge you by saying that on that day, Jesus had only one follower. There were many observers but only one follower. Looking at your life today, are you a follower or are you an observer?

As we read the account of the crucifixion, we subconsciously categorize people as guilty or innocent. The women were innocent, the soldiers were guilty, Pilate was confused and guilty, Simon of Cyrene was innocent, and the two criminals were both guilty, but one was saved.  

But the reality is that there was only one person innocent in the entire world, and that was Jesus. Luke does well to point this out in Luke 23 verses 22, 41 and 47.

Jesus was the only one who was sinless, and he died for all sinners (see Romans 3:22-23).

Everyone was impacted that day by the decisions they made and what they saw.

Pilate saw that Jesus was innocent and he tried to recuse himself (see Matthew 27:24).
He was a politician and a people pleaser. He did not have the character to stand by his convictions. But I wonder if I would have the courage to stand against the angry crowd on that day. He gave in to the pressure of the fear of man, and as a result he was guilty.

Simon of Cyrene was not involved in the crucifixion but was drawn in (Luke 23:26).He was a religious man from Libya who had travelled eight hundred miles to celebrate the Passover. Jesus was understandably exhausted and weakened by the beatings and interrogations, and could not carry the cross, so the crowd had this foreigner carry the cross.

There is a significant picture here, to carry your cross was a sign of guilt, it was perfectly ordained by God the Father that Jesus was not to carry his cross to the hill.I want to come back to Simon later in this article.

The rulers, soldiers and one of the criminals mocked Jesus. These religious leaders were the men who had studied the law and the prophets, the Old Testament, but they were blind to what they were doing. In verse 36, we read that the soldiers mocked him, getting drawn along by the crowd, they seemed to be enjoying the moment and teased Jesus. Even the dying criminal next to Jesus had energy left to mock and jeer at Jesus.

But then we come to the repentant criminal. His dialogue with Jesus is often used to explain the fact that we are saved by grace and not by works. There is nothing this criminal could do to earn his salvation, he simply asked Jesus to save him. But we can easily miss the tremendous faith that it took for him to ask Jesus to save him. He possibly had never seen Jesus before, we don’t know. But here in front of all the people, as he was dying, he declared that Jesus was the King of Kings. If you were drowning, would you ask a drowning man for help?

Here was a dying man, asking a dying man for help. A crazy idea, unless he really believed that Jesus was the son of God.

As Jesus died, we have a snapshot of a centurion. He was a hardened Roman soldier who had probably witnessed hundreds of crucifixions, but he had never seen anyone die like Jesus did. He knew that Jesus was innocent, and he gave glory to God.  He knew that he had just witnessed God in the flesh, and he was forever changed.

The people who were cheering the crucifixion were changed (Luke 23:48). They came to see a spectacle and to mock but left in fear and remorse. As they witnessed the spotless son of God dying, they became aware of their own sins and began grieving. How terrible and hopeless that must have felt for them.

Coming back to Simon, the man recruited to carry the cross. It is likely that what he saw that day, led him to be a Christian. In Mark 15:21 and Romans 16:13 we see that his sons were a part of the early church.

Carrying the cross changed Simon and, on that day, he was the only true follower of Jesus. He was walking out a prophetic picture of what it means to be a Christian. Jesus said in Matthew 16:24, Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

Before Simon met Jesus, he was a religious Jew, going about his devotion. But to come to know Jesus, he had to leave behind his plans and his religion. He had to die to his plans and his ideas of what he wanted to do, and then he had to take up the cross of Jesus. Do you see the picture?

Matthew 16:24 is often misinterpreted. People often talk about a “cross” as a burden to carry, something like a chronic sickness or a thankless job, and we say, “it is my cross to bear”

But this is not what Jesus meant. In the 1st century, to carry your cross, was to walk to your death. It was a cruel and humiliating form of capital punishment. It wasn’t a temporary inconvenience.

Today we celebrate the cross as a symbol of our salvation and the love of God, but when Jesus said these words, it would have sounded a whole lot different.
To take up your cross is to completely abandon our plans and goals and submitting to the perfect will of God. This is the first step in being a follower of Jesus (see Luke 14:27).

Are you a follower of Jesus? Have you seen that radical change in your life? Or are you still the master of your own plan.

I can assure you that the only way to live in peace and have eternal salvation, is to be a follower of Jesus and not an observer.

Sermon, Sunday June 6, 2021 – The Transfiguration

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Matthew 17:1-13

Have you ever been in a meeting or a gathering where you wonder why you were asked to be there? Maybe you were called into a meeting to discuss some important subject with a group of experts, and you were not one of the experts!

This week we are looking at the mount of transfiguration that we have recorded in Matthew and Luke’s Gospel accounts. Peter, James and John must have felt very self-conscious as they stood on the mountain with Jesus, Moses and Elijah.

Why were they singled out to be on this mountain top for this amazing encounter?

As I read the account in Matthew, I had so many questions:

  • Which Mountain?
  • Why Peter, James and John?
  • Why Moses and Elijah?
  • What is a transfiguration?
  • What language were they speaking?
  • How did Peter know it was Moses and Elijah?
  • What was the purpose of the transfiguration?

I will try to answer a few of these questions below:

  • On which mountain did this take place?

There are two choices, Mount Tabor or Mount Hermon for the site of the transfiguration.

Most Scholars believe that Mt Hermon is the correct location of the transfiguration. It is almost 9000 feet high, whereas Mount Tabor is only 2000 feet high.

Matthew’s gospel places events leading up to the transfiguration in the district of Caesarea Philippi, making Mount Hermon the closer site.

  • Why Peter, James, and John?

Jesus had an inner circle, these three disciples. Jesus revealed certain things to them as he was equipping them and training them to lead the early church.

Interestingly, we read in Exodus 24 that when Moses went up mount Sinai to receive the Law, he had three men with him, Aaron, Nadab and Abiu.

Peter, James and John became eyewitnesses to the glory of Jesus (see 2 Peter 1:16-18 and John 1:14). What these men witnessed became their testimony and they were changed forever.

  • Why Moses and Elijah?

Why not some other Old Testament characters?

Moses and Elijah represent the Old Testament. Moses represents the Law and Elijah is the first among the prophets.

Jesus referred to the combination of the law and the prophets frequently as this encompassed the canon of the Old Testament (See Matthew 5:17, Matthew 7:12, Matthew 22:36-40).

The Appearance of Moses and Elijah, declares that Jesus is the Messiah, the fulfilment of everything that they themselves pointed towards.  

  • What is the Transfiguration?

The Greek word translated transfigured gives us our English word “metamorphosis.” A metamorphosis is a change on the outside that comes from the inside.

Jesus did not reflect glory from elsewhere, but he radiated glory and light from within. His human features changed, so that for a brief moment the disciples could see his true glory.

During the transfiguration as Jesus, Moses and Elijah were talking, Peter struggling for words, asked if he could build a shelter for them. He wanted to remain there and enjoy the glory.

But God the Father came down in a cloud and dispelled any confusion that the disciples might have had. God the Father would never permit His son to be placed on the same level as any human being.

This encounter changed the three disciples. When you encounter the risen Lord Jesus, you will never be the same again. Have you encountered the risen Lord?

As Jesus and His three disciples came down from the mountaintop, He cautioned them not to reveal what they had seen, not even to the other nine disciples.

The disciples were obviously full of questions. If Jesus was the Messiah, what about the prophecies that they had been taught since childhood? Malachi 4:5, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.”

Was this the beginning of the Day of the Lord, the great day of judgment?

Jesus explained to them that John the Baptist was the forerunner, he was the Elijah, that made straight the pathway for Jesus. Jesus went on to explain that he was about to suffer and that his agenda was different to the plans that they had been taught for the Messiah. Jesus was the fulfilment of Isaiah 53, the suffering servant.

They still didn’t grasp what Jesus was about to be and do. Do we fully grasp who Jesus is?

He is more than a good man, a powerful miracle worker, a good role model or a respected teacher. The world around us, accepts this version of Jesus, but he is so much more than that.

Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God (Matthew 16:16). He is the way the truth and the life (John 14:6). He is the only name by which anyone can be saved (Acts 4:12).

  • How did Peter James and John know it was Moses and Elijah?

This may shock some of the younger generation, but they did not have Instagram accounts during the time of Moses. There was no way they would know what they looked like.

This is where we get a glimpse into eternity. I believe that in heaven, we will know everyone by name, a supernatural knowledge of each person.

This was such an incredible event in the life of Jesus on the earth, but for me there was one significant moment that precipitated the transfiguration.

Jesus invited the disciples to follow him, and they said yes!

In Matthew 4 we see that Peter, James, and John were of the first disciples to be called by Jesus, and immediately they dropped everything and gave him their yes.

When Jesus invited them up the mountain, they said yes.

Daily God gives us invitations to say yes. Sometimes it is a small yes, like taking a meal to a sick neighbor or helping someone who needs a ride. Maybe it is simply praying for someone you meet in a store.

Sometimes it is a bigger yes, when God might invite you to leave your home and move to a foreign land as a missionary. God might invite you to leave your career and go into ministry.

Whatever the invitation, when you give your yes, I can tell you from experience that your life will never be short of adventure, and it will certainly never be ordinary.

In what area of your life are you withholding a yes from God?

The Lordship of Jesus over your life, is a predetermined yes in your heart.

Sermon Sunday May 30, 2021 – Sermon on the Mount

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In Matthew 5,6 and 7, we have the record of the greatest sermon ever preached, as Jesus taught his disciples in what is known as the sermon on the mount.

Jesus was introducing and teaching the ways of the kingdom that he wants to form in the lives of his followers. At first glance, it seemed that Jesus was giving a new law, one that seemed different to the Law of Moses given at Sinai to the nation of Israel. But, as we read these chapters, we see that Jesus is calling his followers to a radical lifestyle. As followers of Jesus, we are called to live very differently to the world around us. The words of Jesus are a call to selflessness, holiness, and a call to be set apart from the world.

Every sentence in the sermon on the mount declares a separation between living as a Christian and living as an unbeliever. As Jesus addresses every aspect of social, spiritual, and personal relationships, he is setting the bar extremely high. As followers of Jesus, we are to live differently, to speak differently, and to think differently to those who do not know Jesus as Lord.

Sadly, there are many in the church and even many churches, that look no different than the world. Churches are filled with hypocrisy, gossip, sexual immorality, greed, and fear of man. Doesn’t sound like the church of Jesus, does it?

There is often talk about nominal Christians and nominal churches. What does that even mean?

Nowhere in the Bible do we ever find reference to nominal Christianity. To be a Christian is to be all in! To be dead to our old way of life and alive to God, filled with His spirit. There is no neutral ground, you are either radically living for Jesus or you are not.

Sadly, many people today are like the person who buys a Mahomes shirt, watches every game on TV and then thinks he is part of the Chiefs team. You are not saved by going to church or trying to live a good life. Only those who have been raised to new life by the Spirit of God have been saved. Jesus spoke about this very directly in the sermon on the mount in Matthew 7:21-23.

So how do we live this radical life in a world that continues to get more and more sinful? Jesus knew it would be difficult and that is why he prayed for his disciples right before he went to the cross (read John 17:15-17).

Jesus asked his Father to sanctify his followers, that we might be daily transformed in our thoughts and actions. Jesus said this sanctifying process is done by the truth of the word of God. If you do not have a desire to read and meditate on the word of God, there is a very real possibility that it is because you have no relationship with Jesus.

The Word that Jesus is speaking about and the Law he is referring to is what we know as the Old Testament.

There is a theory in some Christian circles teaching that Jesus came to do away with the Old Testament and that the Law no longer applies to us today. They argue that we are under grace and therefore we are not subject to the punishment of God. But in verse 17 and 18 of Matthew 5 we read, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”

If you read the first five books of the Old Testament, you will see that there are a lot of laws that honestly seem quite strange and frankly impossible for us to observe in our culture.

The law that Moses received on Mount Sinai, that was given as the constitution of the nation of Israel consists of three parts.

  1. The moral laws: The Ten Commandments and the moral principles given for all mankind for all history.
  2. The judicial laws: Given as the legislative guide to the nation of Israel for their governance.
  3. The ceremonial law: The instructions regarding the offerings and sacrifices.

Jesus said that he came to fulfill the law or complete the law. If we look at the ceremonial law, we see that it all points to Jesus as the perfect sacrificial lamb, slain for the sins of the world. When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, he fulfilled the prophetic law, the law pointing to the messiah. In Matthew 5:17-18, Jesus confirms the authority and his seal of approval on the collection of books that we call the Old Testament.

Jesus didn’t abolish the moral law. Jesus went on to say that not one smallest part of the law will be abolished until it is all completed. The Moral law is the permanent and perpetual way in which we relate to God and the way we relate to each other.

The Old Testament is a rich mine with untold treasures. And the gold nuggets to look for are the ones that point to Jesus, the second person of the trinity, the Word of God. If you look carefully with the help of the Holy Spirit, you will see Jesus written all over the pages of the Old Testament.

If we cannot be saved by keeping a set of rules, why is the moral law of Moses still relevant?

The Law was never intended to save man because we could never keep the Law perfectly. Rather the law was given to us to show us the true character and holiness of God, to show how far short of the glory of God we fall, to show us how desperately we need a savior. The law of God was given to bring us to our savior, Jesus Christ.

And when we come to Jesus in complete dependence on his lordship over our lives, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit that enables us to walk in holiness as we daily are being made new.

Do you know this Jesus?

Sermon Sunday May 23, 2021 – Mountain Top Experiences part 5

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1 Kings 19:1-18

Psychologists talk about the “fight or flight” response to fear, how we respond when afraid. Fear itself is not a bad thing, it depends on where it leads us.

In 1 Kings 18, the prophet Elijah was used by God to challenge the prophets of Baal. He won a decisive victory as he stood courageously against the 850 false prophets of the pagan gods. Elijah was bold and aggressive, but within a matter of hours this brave prophet was running for his life in fear. Elijah fled from the threats of the wicked queen Jezebel. He began by running to Beersheba in Judah and then on to the wilderness, where it seems he intended to die.

He quickly went from victory to intense depression. It is not uncommon for people serving the Lord to experience an intense struggle after a powerful time of being used by God. Immediately following a mission trip or a time of ministry, is when a believer is most vulnerable to discouragement. Satan loves to come in and attack when we are spiritually spent, that is when we need to be on our guard for the temptations and lies of the enemy.

Elijah was discouraged, focusing on the fact that his life was threatened and that all he had done at Mt Carmel had been for nothing. But, in his weakness, at his most vulnerable, God meets Elijah and sends an angel to feed him. He eats heavenly food in the same wilderness where God fed the children of Israel many years before. As Elijah eats and recovers, the Lord gives him direction and a plan to move forward. One of the best ways to defeat discouragement is to have a fresh vision, something new on which to focus our attention.

In verse 8 we read that the food he ate gave him the strength to walk for 40 days, covering two-hundred miles to Mount Sinai. The mountain where God gave the Law to the nation of Israel.

At Sinai, Elijah has one of the most incredible mountain top encounters in the Bible.

The Word of the Lord comes to Elijah and asks him a rhetorical question, “what are you doing here Elijah?”, 1 Kings 19:9. Elijah twists the truth and distances himself from the nation of Israel blaming the people for the action and threats of Jezebel. He continues to say that he is the only prophet left who follows the Lord, however, we know from chapter 18 that this is not true.  

But God seems to ignore this deviation from the truth and tells him to stand at the entrance of the cave. God causes three powerful displays of His control over nature, a powerful wind, a strong earthquake and a consuming fire. All three of these natural events are attributed to the presence of God in the Bible, but at this time, they are just the preceding the Word of the Lord.  

Then Elijah hears a low whisper, a sound that he was waiting for. God speaks and the dialogue from 9 and 10 are repeated. There are so many similarities to the encounter that Moses had with God on the same mountain, when God gave Moses the Law. God told him to come up the mountain and the Lord spoke to him one to one. When God brought Moses up the mountain, it was to receive the Law. Now when God brought Elijah up the mountain, it was to revive the Law.

God again seems to ignore the complaints of Elijah, and gives him what seems to be a confusing mission in verses 15 and 16. He must go and anoint Hazael as king of Syria, Jehu as king over Israel and he must anoint Elisha to take his place as a prophet. However, as we read further in the Bible, God uses these three leaders to bring punishment on the nation of Israel (see 2 Kings 10:32). Elijah was given the commission to go back and continue the work of seeing the nation of Israel coming back to the one true God. God used Elijah’s fear to bring him to this point of revelation.

One of the most repeated commands in the Bible is, “do not fear”. And a case can be made that in certain circumstances, it is sinful to fear. But simply to say, “do not be afraid”, does not automatically take the fear away. Fear can paralyze us, and it can even become an idol. There are real practical things to fear, like falling off a tall building, or encountering a wild predator in the forest. Fear is a gift from God as it preserves our lives.

Elijah was overcome by fear in his weakened state, but his fear became the very thing that drove him to being restored and totally dependent on God. This account in Elijah’s life is not a story of weakness or burnout, as it is often taught. Rather, it is an account of the Gospel demonstrated in the Old Testament. Elijah was driven to the end of himself and into the arms of God to be cared for like a weak, dependent child.

Our culture honors and respects strength, courage, and independence. But the kingdom of God is about dependence not independence. We cannot be saved by our strength, our good works, or by anything that we might have to offer. Jesus said of the children around him in Matthew 19:14, “…the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to these little ones”. We need to learn what it is to be crucified with Christ, coming to him in our weakness and brokenness.

When fear drives us to Jesus and to the Gospel, it is not a reaction to the situation, it is a revelation. Elijah had to be brought to the end of himself, to become totally dependent on God. Only then did the Lord commission him and give him the next assignment.

Jesus died on the cross so that we do not have to fear the wrath of God. Jesus rose from the dead so that we do not have to fear death.  

What are you afraid of today?

Bring it to the cross.

Sermon, Sunday May 16, 2021 The Duel on Mt Carmel

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1 Kings 18:17-40

Have you ever tried walking on two different paths at the same time?

Under the leadership of King Ahab, Israel was walking two different paths, worshipping the one true God and worshipping idols and pagan religions. Ahab had married Jezebel who was the daughter of the pagan king of Sidon. She brought with her the pagan practices and idol worship of her homeland, and was aggressively promoting the idols of Baal and Asherah.

God had judged Israel by bringing about a famine and Elijah the prophet was used by God to confront Ahab and his wicked practices. The drought and famine brought the worship of this pagan god into question, and a perfect time for this standoff on mt Carmel to take place between Elijah and the prophets of the pagan gods.

Elijah was a bold and courageous prophet as he confronted the king who wanted to have him killed. But Elijah knew that he was protected by God. When you know who you represent you can be courageous.

Elijah then boldly calls a duel, telling the King to assemble the nation and the prophets of Baal and Asherah at mount Carmel. Ahab agreed, thinking that this would be the perfect time to have the nation turn against Elijah and have him killed.

The nation assembles at Carmel and Elijah makes this powerful statement in verse 21, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions?”

The prophets of Baal go first and spend most of the day in prayer and aggressive pleading to their god. It was to no avail and the skies were silent. Elijah exposes the false religion and taunts the prophets and mocks them (1 Kings 18:26-29).

Finally, Elijah stops the prophets in their futile effort and says to the people, “come near to me” (1 Kings 18:30). He wants them to observe closely the importance of what he is doing.  

Elijah deliberately begins to repair the altar of sacrifice that had been demolished under the leadership of King Ahab. He takes twelve stones to build the altar representing the unity of the twelve tribes of Israel.

Exposing the foolishness and sin of Baal worship was only half of Elijah’s task for the day, his focus was bringing the nation back to worshipping the God of Abraham, the one true God. The first step was to repair the altar, the place of worship. In our lives, the first step to personal revival is the repairing of the personal altar of devotion.

During this season of COVID, many altars have been allowed to erode and are in need of repair. Maybe you once had a daily time set aside for prayer and reading the Bible, and maybe now is the time to rebuild that altar. Maybe you had a habit of praying together as a family, but schedules and business got in the way, the altar needs to be rebuilt. Maybe you had a discipline of worship and giving to the Lord, but your priorities changed, you need to rebuild those places of devotion to the Lord. What area of your life is God calling you back to wholehearted devotion?

Back to Carmel, the altar is rebuilt, and Elijah prepares the sacrifice. After soaking the sacrifice, Elijah prays. Prayer is the key to revival. There has never been revival without concerted prayer. Elijah prays what seems to be a simple prayer in 1 Kings 18:36-37 and God responds immediately by sending fire from heaven, consuming all the elements of the altar and the sacrifice. This was a powerful display of the glory of God, and the people responded with immediate repentance and worship (1 Kings 18:39). The prophets of Baal were quickly chased down and killed as the people turned from their wicked practices.

In our personal lives, it is not enough for us to acknowledge that “the Lord, He is God” (v. 39); we must also hate that which is evil and remove it from our lives. Judgment always prepares the way for blessing. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we all have idols in our lives, things that take the place of worshipping God. It could be our career, our relationships, entertainment, finances or many other seemingly harmless practices or possessions.

On a personal note, the first thing we turn to in the morning sets the tone for the day. If we open our phones and look at the latest news or social media feed, before we spend time in prayer, that could be an idol. What we turn to first thing in the morning, sets the tone for the day. Do we spend those first few moments focusing on the Lord, or do we fill our minds with fear, anxiety and the fear of man.

So the challenge for us is the same challenge that Elijah threw out to the nation of Israel, “are you limping between two opinions”

Whatever is more important in your life than knowing God, is an idol. The result for us is the same as it was for Israel, if we have a worship problem, we will experience drought and famine in our souls.

AW Tozer once said, “for the Christian, everything begins and ends with worship. Whatever interferes with one’s personal worship of God needs to be properly dealt with and dismissed.”

Our idols cause us to limp, we are weak in our devotion and weak in our witness for Christ.

What idol is the Holy Spirit challenging you to destroy today? It may be an app on your phone, your social media account, your spending habits, your viewing habits, or it may be your career.

What changes to your daily routine is God asking you to make today?

Hebrews12:1, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,”