Sermon Sunday September 13, 2020 – Walking in Wisdom

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Ephesians 5:15-17

Walking in Wisdom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you walking in wisdom?

Sermon Sunday September 6, 2020 – Walking as Light

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Ephesians 5:7-14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus won the victory.

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

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

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Ephesians 5:3-6

Walk in Purity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The consequence for standing for truth today is temporal.

The consequence for appeasing the culture today is eternal.

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

How is your walk?

Sermon, Sunday August 9, 2020. Walk in Love

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Walk in Love

Ephesians 5:1-2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ephesians 4:13-16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1: Mature people are Christlike.

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

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

2: Maturity involves doctrinal stability.

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

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

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

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

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

3: Maturity involves Truth Joined with Love

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

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

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

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

4: Maturity involves Contribution

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 “Are you growing?”

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

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Ephesians 4:7-12

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

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

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

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

 Let us look at each of these gifts briefly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Sermon, Sunday May 31, 2020 Are You Healthy?

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Ephesians 4:1-6

Is your church healthy?

The first three chapters of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians address our position as followers of Jesus. The next three chapters speak about the very practical aspects of our Christian walk. We need to know our position before we can look at our walk.

Paul urges the church in verse one to walk worthy of their calling. Being a follower of Jesus is not a religion or becoming a nice person who follows a set of rules, becoming a Christian is about becoming a new person. Walking a different walk.

The term Christian literally means, “little Christs”. The more we walk with him, the more we look like him, daily being changed into his image.

Paul knew who he was. In verse 1 of chapter 4 he begins, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord…”

Paul didn’t say, “I therefore a prisoner of Rome”. He didn’t let his temporary situation define his position. Paul was a prisoner for Jesus and he surrendered his life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. His position with Christ had led him to be temporarily imprisoned in Rome.

Paul was not defined by His temporary situation. Are you defined by your current work situation, relationships, or financial status?

If you are defined by your temporary situation, you will never know what it means to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.

As followers of Jesus we have a common call, we are all saved by grace alone in Christ alone. We share a common experience of grace. And this is what unites us.

A healthy church is marked by unity.

When a church struggles with a lack of unity, it is often because they have taken their eyes off their common call and identity.

In verses 2 and 3, Paul explains how to practically walk worthy of the calling by listing five characteristics of the follower of Jesus: humility, gentleness, patience, love, and unity.

Jesus exemplified these 5 characteristics in his life on the earth:

Humility (Philippians 2:5-8); Gentleness (Matthew 11:28-29); Patience (1 Timothy 1:16); Love (Romans 5:8); and Unity (Ephesians 2:14).

Jesus is our example of how to walk as Christians. The more we look like Jesus individually, the more we live like Jesus relationally, and the more united the church will be.

Looking at each of these individually:

Humility

Paul constantly refers to humility as an essential characteristic of being a Christian in his letters. Humility was not common in the first century, Greek literature shows us that pride was highly valued and admired. We live in such a similar time. If people a thousand years from now look at our culture, they would see a culture obsessed with our own self-image.  

Our culture screams, “exalt yourself, pamper yourself, think about yourself first”. But being a follower of Jesus calls us to walk in the opposite spirit (Philippians 2:3).

Tim Keller wrote, “the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less”.

Gentleness:

This does not mean weakness or timidity, rather it is self-control.

Moses, arguably the greatest leader in the whole Bible, was the role model of meekness and gentleness (Numbers 12:3).

Moses had a special relationship with the Lord. He knew that God would defend him, and God was the source of his strength.

Galatians 5 tells us that gentleness is a fruit of the spirit and it is the way we are to live as believers.

Patience:

For some of us, no matter how fast the microwave heats up the milk, it will never be fast enough. A lack of patience is a display of a lack of humility and a lack of love. In 1 Corinthians 13, the Bible says that love is patient.

So how do we cultivate patience? By relying on the Holy Spirit and meditating on the patience that Christ has shown us (2 Peter 3:9).

Accepting one another in love:

Out of relationship comes grace. Unity in the church is impossible without loving acceptance of our differences. The Bible says in 1 Peter 4:8, “Love covers a multitude of sins”

Diligently keeping unity.

Verse 3 says, “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Notice Paul doesn’t write, “work towards unity”. This is an active maintaining, not a passive resting in unity.

We don’t create unity. We have unity because of the Holy Spirit. God unites us as the body of Christ, our role is to keep the unity.

How do we keep unity?

  • By walking in humility and preferring others.
  • By renouncing harshness and walking in gentleness towards others
  • By setting aside our own agenda and walking in patience.
  • By setting aside our own expectations and walking in love.

Anytime the church lacks unity, it is because we have stopped living in Christlike humility, patience, gentleness, and love.

Then in verses 4 to 6, we have what was possibly an early church creed, which includes seven “one” statements.

One body: the church is the body of Christ.

One Spirit: The Holy Spirit is the one who creates unity and then empowers us to maintain it.

One hope: We share a common hope in Jesus Christ. This hope is not wishful thinking, and the Greek word used here is one of trusting in a certain outcome. Jesus is coming again and those who put their trust in him will be saved.

One Lord: The early believers, by stating that Jesus is Lord, they were proclaiming that Caesar is not Lord. This could mean the death penalty. By declaring Jesus is Lord, we are giving him authority and lordship over every decision of our lives.

One faith: These are the essential truths of our faith.

One baptism: This may refer to the act of being baptized in water, but it probably means what John the Baptist was referring to in Luke 3:16.

One God and Father: We have been adopted into the family of God. Regardless of our ethnicity, we are all part of one body.

This creed includes the doctrine of the trinity. The three in one, Father son and Holy Spirit are in perfect unity. The trinity not only creates unity but serves as the ultimate picture of unity.

A healthy church maintains unity.

Sermon, Sunday May 24, 2020 Do You Know How Much God Loves You?

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Ephesians 3:14-21
Do you know how much you are loved?

Truthfully, we simply have no ability to grasp the love of God for us.

The Apostle Paul prays two prayers in the first three chapters of the letter to the church in Ephesus. In Ephesians 3:14-21, Paul prays for the church to live out the knowledge of their position in Christ.

The church has incredible amounts of knowledge and teaching available to us, yet we don’t live from the position of that knowledge, and our position as followers of Jesus and citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.

There are three key things we can learn from this prayer by the apostle for the early church.

1: Paul Prays with Humility.
He begins with, “for this reason”. Paul is referring to chapters 1 and 2, and the facts that we are chosen by God, saved by grace, and all called as the body of Christ, being built up as members of the church.

It is crucial that prayer is always from a posture of worship and humility. Prayer begins and ends in worship (See Psalm 95:6-7).
Prayer must begin with worship. If you launch into prayer requests, you are treating God like a vending machine, while He wants a relationship.

But more than humility, Paul approached God with desperation, because he recognized that only God could act on his behalf. Paul knew that believers needed something that only God could give, His power. I don’t think we are aware of how helpless and powerless we are without God. Jesus himself said this in John 15:5.
This should make us humble and desperate, but not only that, it should encourage us, because we are called to be Christ’s ambassadors, to be used by him for his glory by His power.

We can pray with confidence in our position before the throne of God as beloved children (Ephesians 2:18).
In Christ, we have unlimited access to the Father. We can call Him Father and He is unimaginably rich and powerful.

2: Praying for the Fullness of God’s Power and Love.
Paul presents his requests to God in these verses. They seem to flow together and we lose some of the impact of them, but they are like a staircase that climbs to a crescendo, each one separated by the conjunction, “that” (See Ephesians 3:16-19)
Paul begins by praying for strength in the inner man. Strength to stand firm against temptation, strength to courageously proclaim the Gospel, strength to love our neighbor the way Jesus loves them, and strength for many more areas of our life.

Our culture places so much emphasis on the outer man, whether it is Instagram filters, or a supplement to develop ripped muscles overnight. In our culture, image is such an idol.
But the inner person, the soul, is the only eternal part of our being. Everything else is fading away (Proverbs 31:30).

Paul prays in verse 17, “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith…”
When the Holy Spirit takes up residence in us, he is transforming us to reflect the character of Jesus Christ. This is the process of sanctification that we are all living out.

In the next verses, Paul moves from praying for power, to praying for them to know how much they are loved by God. How much we need this revelation of God’s love today.

When we understand the love of God for us, we easily submit to his perfect will and our lives will become lives of radical obedience, because we know that whatever He asks us to do, He is asking out of love (Galatians 2:20).

There is a huge difference between knowledge of love and experience of love.
I can tell Debbie and my children that I love them all day long, but if I never show affection or care, it will be knowledge that remains intellectual.
This is more than simply reading about the love of Jesus, but experiencing it because of the Gospel and the power of God living in us and through us as we submit to his perfect plan for our lives.

Have you moved from intellectual knowledge of the love of God to the experiential knowledge of God’s love? (See Romans 8:31-39).
Paul knew his readers wouldn’t get it. He knew this understanding of God’s love only comes by a supernatural revelation of God.

Try as we might to comprehend the love of God, we need God to show us how much He loves us and I contend that even then, we still only have scratched the surface of understanding how much we are loved by the creator of the universe.
We are never meant to experience and grow in this knowledge on our own. We need to share stories of His love. We need to encourage one another with miracles and experiences that we share together. God intends us to live in community with other believers as we reflect on the love of Christ in and through the Gospel message.

Paul ends this long sentence in verse 19, with the why of God’s love, “…that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
Simply stated, being filed with the fullness of God is to be all that God has called us to be to be spiritually mature. We become spiritually mature, as we know and experience the love of God for us.

Do you know how much you are loved? (see Romans 5:8).

3: Praying with Expectation.
Finally, we come to the doxology in the middle of the letter. But it is a dividing section in the letter and it is an overflow of praise and worship.

This revelation of God’s love is the most important bedrock and foundation for all our Christian life. It begins with God’s love, and if God doesn’t reveal His love to us, everything else is striving to please God.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21

Sermon, Sunday May 17, 2020 – You are Being Watched.

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Ephesians 3:1-13  

Do you know that you are being watched?

In 1984, there was a hit song, “I always feel like, somebodies watching me” by Rockwell, and as the church, this is true of us today. We as the church are being watched all the time.

In our society, we have a consumer mindset when it come to the church. The church is there for us, right? We view the church as a place where we gather to encourage, challenge, disciple and mobilize people for missions. These are all good purposes for the church, but they are not the most important function of the church.

Paul, writing to the church in Ephesus, lets them know that he has been entrusted to bring them the Gospel message by the grace of God (Ephesians 3:2).

Grace is a gift of God, and an essential key for being a follower of Jesus. We are all called to fulltime ministry in whatever role in society God has given us. But we must remember that we cannot serve the Lord in our own strength. Our very best is never good enough, we need to operate In Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Serving God in your own strength will lead to burnout and disappointment.

Paul was given grace from God to proclaim the mystery that gentiles are now adopted into the family of God to share in the promises of God that were previously only for the Israelites (Ephesians 3:6). Gentiles are all people groups around the world who are not Jews (Romans 9:24-25). Aren’t you glad for the mystery?

In verse 7, Paul writes that he is a minister of the Gospel, but the Greek word also means servant. He doesn’t see being a servant as a negative thing. He sees it as an incredible privilege. Paul was humble and knew that he was not operating in his own strength (Ephesians 3:8).

To be a servant of the Lord, we cannot do what God calls us to do in our own strength. This is not just for pastors and missionaries. We all need God’s grace, because we are all called to serve the Lord in the role He has placed us in life.

If you are able to do what God calls you to do in your own strength, it might not be the call of God on your life.

The call of god on your life will always stretch you beyond your own abilities.

Verses 10 and 11 of Ephesians 3 take the mystery of the church and the call of God to a completely different level. God’s intent, from before the creation of the universe, was that the church would be used to teach the manifold wisdom of God to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

Theologians agree that these “rulers and authorities”, are all spiritual beings outside of our visible realm: angels, demons, good and bad heavenly beings. The angels look on and marvel at the grace and wisdom of God (1 Peter 1:12).  Demons look at the church and know that their rule on the earth is coming to an end once and for all.

We know God knows all things and that He is all wise. Wisdom is found in God. God is teaching the universe by taking people from all nations, all ethnic people groups from all backgrounds and bringing them together into one body, the church, the body of Christ.

The church is preaching a cosmic sermon to the universe.

Kent Hughes writes, “the inescapable conclusion is that the angels watch us because we are part of the mystery!… We have a far bigger and more observant audience than any of us realize!”

Never underestimate the glory of God in the church!

The church is not the teacher. God is the revealer of His wisdom, God is the teacher and we are the whiteboard. God uses the church to reveal his wisdom and glory.

The global church is so much more essential than we could ever imagine. there are cosmic realities that we know nothing about.

The church is so much more than meeting together and enjoying each-other’s company.

Getting back to the initial question; do you know that you are being watched?

Does the fact of knowing that you are being watched, change the way you think about being part of the church?

Before you decide not to be a part of a community outreach, remember, you are being watched.

Before you think about gossiping, saying some negative word about a fellow member of the church, remember you are being watched.

Before you dismiss the value of gathering-together, sleeping in rather than preparing your heart to receive from the Lord in worship and hearing His word, remember you are being watched.

This is all said as part of the mystery.

I don’t want to make you feel manipulated or guilted into coming to church rather I want to impress on you the privilege, the absolute honor we have to be used by God to declare His wisdom to the watching universe.

In these uncertain times, God’s mystery is being revealed through the church. You are part of God revealing His wisdom to the universe of heavenly powers.

Be encouraged. Lift your eyes and see the glory of God being revealed as the church gathers to worship.

Mother’s Day May 10, 2020

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THE UNCONDITIONAL LOVE OF GOD

By: Debbie Barnes

Motherhood looks different for everyone. Different seasons, different roles, difficult seasons, difficult roles, less challenging seasons, less challenging roles…

Let me start at the beginning of motherhood for me.  Athol and I had tried to fall pregnant for many years, and this was a difficult and painful season for both of us.  Then the Lord blessed us with 2 children through adoption, and with Christie, we were literally thrust into parenthood overnight!

In the business of trying to be the perfect wife and mother, of trying to prove that I had this motherhood thing under control, I began to neglect my personal walk with the Lord.  I was so consumed with the gift of the child, that I neglected the giver of the child, the giver of that life itself.  I was looking for something, yearning for something in my relationship with my children.  And no matter how hard I tried, that sense of complete and utter fulfillment was always just beyond my reach.  I didn’t understand it.  And then one morning it dawned on me.  Motherhood is completely selfless.  My children were not there to meet my needs, I was there to meet theirs.    

This brings me to my first point: 

  1. God is enough, He is sufficient to meet all my needs. (Philippians 4:19)

God was there to meet my needs, and I had walked away from Him.  It was only after I rekindled my relationship with the Lord that I found that true fulfillment. 

And only once I found all I needed in my relationship with God did I stop looking for God in my relationship with my children! How liberating! 

Only then did I find my joy in motherhood and could enjoy my children for who they were.  This not only applies to motherhood, but to all relationships, whether it be between a husband and wife, siblings, other family members and friends.  It is only once you find everything you need in your relationship with God that will you stop looking for God in all your relationships with others.

2)    God’s love is unconditional. (1 John 4: 19 and Ephesians 3: 17-19).

As most of you know, Athol and I became licensed foster parents in 2016, and this opened our eyes to a whole new world.  With Joshie’s autism and other special needs, we feel that the Lord has equipped us and called us to fostering children with autism and other special needs. 

Now it’s easy to love your own children but not so easy to love someone else’s, especially when they come from a background of trauma, abuse, and neglect.   BUT GOD!  He gives us a supernatural love for every child that comes into our home.  He gives us the ability to put aside the bruises from kicking, biting, scratching, screaming etc.,  and the ability to tuck this child into bed, kiss him or her on the cheek, and say “I love you.”  To see each child through His lens, as His beautiful creation.

I get really frustrated when I share that I am a foster mom, and people respond with “Oh, I could never do that, I would become too attached.”  Does that mean they assume that I don’t get attached?  If, as a foster parent, you don’t get attached, then there is something seriously wrong. When we have a foster child in our home, we love them as deeply as our own children, with the supernatural love that comes from the Father Himself. 

How much does God love us?  So much so that he gave us His only begotten Son so that we may enjoy an eternity with Him if we believe in Him as our Lord and Savior.

3)    God equips us when He calls us.

When God calls you, He will equip and prepare you to effectively complete that which He is calling you to do. He knows us and will use everything about us to bring Glory to his name. ( see Hebrews 13: 21  and 2 Timothy 3:16-17)

The first day of our first foster placement did not go well.  We were this child’s 4th foster home in 6 weeks, and he was severely autistic, non-verbal, and aggressive. By that evening, I was full of bruises and bite marks.  I remember crying after getting everyone in bed that night, and Athol put his arms around me and kept saying that things would get better.  I turned to Athol and remember saying, ” I’m not crying for me, I’m crying for him. How can we expect him to change when no-one is prepared to invest in his life or give him the tools to change?”

 We decided that night to stand in the gap for this child, to fight for him and his needs, just as Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father and intercedes for us.  Athol and I went to weekly therapy with him, and reinforced positive behavior daily.  Slowly but surely, we started to notice change.  He didn’t like being touched, but by the end of his time with us before he was reunified with his biological mom, he was crawling onto my lap, putting my hand on top of his head to ruffle his hair, and putting my hand on his back for me to tickle his back whenever he could.  Christie was even able to teach him to say, “I love you”. His aggressive behavior decreased the more he saw us as a family model loving behavior toward one another and underwent a total transformation as he started to mimic the same loving behavior at home and at school.

4)  It’s not about us. 

Everything we do should point right back to Jesus and glorify the Father. I have not shared these stories with you to get a pat on the back.  I share them because I am nothing without God.  He doesn’t need me, yet I get to walk with Him and follow His leading every day.  And every time I am with Him, He fills me and equips me for the day ahead.  He is the source of the unconditional love I can pour out daily, and He can do the same for you.

Just as being a mother and foster mom is not about me, it’s about my children, and it’s my relationship with the Lord that enables me to pour into my children out of the abundance of love and joy that the Father pours into me through my relationship with Him.  So too, Christianity is not about us either.  It is about bringing glory to the Father through everything we say and do.