Sermon, Sunday May 3, 2020 What are You Building?

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Ephesians 2:11-22

What are you building?

The Apostle Paul wrote this letter to the church in Ephesus who were Gentiles that became followers of Jesus. The admission of the Gentiles into the early church was an important time in church history as we read in Acts 15.

Paul continues in verses 11 and 12, writing about the desperate plight of those who are outside of the promises of God. This is the former condition of all who have not put their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord. Before you and I trusted in Jesus as Lord; before God reached down and drew us in, we were spiritually dead and without hope.

I think the reason we see weak churches filled with believers who are more interested in their own welfare than the commission that God has given us, is because we have forgotten how desperate we were before Jesus. If we remember where we came from, we will never have a problem praising God and being grateful for what He has done in our lives.

But then we have verse 13, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”

But now in Christ! Everything changed when Jesus died and rose again. The blood of Jesus is the full and final payment for our sins and we have been brought near.

The Gentiles were not allowed to come into the temple. They were restricted to what was called the “court of the Gentiles”. But when Jesus died on the cross, the temple veil inside the holy place was torn by the hand of God, signifying that now all people had access to the throne of God. Jesus tore down the barriers of religion and race by his death on the cross (Ephesians 2:14). Jesus removed the barriers between races and he ushered in the new covenant (verses 15 and 16).

When Jesus preached the sermon on the mount, he said in Matthew 5:17, “…I have not come to abolish them (the Law) but to fulfill them”. The Law of Moses was for the Jewish people, but it pointed to Jesus and the need for a perfect sacrifice for the forgiveness of Sins.

This does not mean that the moral requirements of God’s law do not apply to us, rather, the the blood of Jesus atones for our sins as we confess and repent of our sins.  

But more than the fulfilling of the law, verse 15 says, “His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two”

The purpose of God was to create in Jesus one new humanity, that is the body of Christ, the church. JB Philipps in his paraphrase, uses the term “fused together”, meaning God has taken all ethnic people groups and fused us together in Christ. Welded together into one body.

This is incredible but also a warning that in the church there is absolutely no place for racism.

In verse 19, Paul writes that we all were once foreigners and strangers, but through Christ we are made fellow citizens of one new nation (1 Peter 2:9).

But Paul takes it one step further, we are not simply citizens; we are members of the family, adopted into God’s family. There is a huge difference between being a citizen and being family. Many believers are citizens, but don’t know what it means to be family.

The church is not a building or a place we go to attend an event, the church is family, living life and being on mission together.

In verses 20-22, Paul uses the analogy of a building being built. Verse 22 gives the indication of an ongoing work which is not yet completed. Paul writes that the foundation of this building is found in the Bible. All the Word of God points towards God’s redemption story in Jesus Christ.

Sadly, many churches have moved away from the Bible as being the central foundation and authority of the church. But the church will cease to exist if we discard the authority of God’s Word.

Remember the parable of the wise and foolish builders in Matthew 7. The wise man built his house on the rock and the foolish man built his house on the sand. The storms of life came up and destroyed the house built on a weak foundation, but not the one built on the rock. The church is a spiritual building that needs to be built on the solid foundation of God’s word.

Churches that are built on weak teaching and saying feel-good platitudes, will fall when the real tests come. The body of Christ needs to be built up on the sure foundation of God’s word.

These verses are all about construction, the building up of the body of Christ as a temple for God to dwell by the Holy Spirit. This is the purpose of everything, the glory of God and the presence of God with man.

As part of the family, the Body of Christ, we get to be a part of the construction team, working with God’s power to see the Kingdom of God grow and expand as we invite others from the outside in.  We get invited to spend our time building things that have eternal value and impact, not focusing on things that have temporary value that will eventually be consumed by fire.

Be a part of what God is doing through the church. That may mean going to your neighbor or going to the ends of the earth.

When the pandemic restrictions are lifted, let us be careful not to get trapped back into the craziness of building temporary temples. Too many people are happy just to be in the building,  but the real joy of being a follower of Jesus comes from being on the construction team.

You may be an accountant, lawyer, waiter, cash register attendant, teacher, medical professional, custodian, painter or any other role in life, you are equally positioned to be a part of the building of the Kingdom of God. Never look at your days as being insignificant.

Choose today to live with passion and purpose, living a life of eternal significance, don’t waste a moment of the time God has given you.  

Do You Know Why You Are Here? Sunday March 1, 2020

Ephesians 1:3-6

Do you know your purpose in life?

These are two fundamental questions everyone should ask themselves at some point in their lives.

Who am I? And why am I here?

You don’t hear much about this anymore, but a few years ago, people were always trying to find themselves, by going on vacations or pilgrimages. Ultimately, we will never know ourselves unless we know the One who created us. The prophet Jeremiah wrote a letter to the exiled children of Israel, who had lost their identity and in Jeremiah 29:13 we read, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”

Worship is the foundation of our lives and the beginning foundation for this letter. We worship many things, whatever we value, we worship at some level. Idolatry is when we worship something else above God. Idolatry is not having the right view of God.

What we do with our time, how we spend our money, how we use the talents that God has given us, all these things reveal who or what we worship.

Verse 3 of our passage begin with a declaration of worship, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…”

The verse continues that we praise God because He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. This indicates that we are blessed today, and in eternity, blessings that we cannot even begin to imagine.

But notice the foundation of these blessings, they are in Christ. We have everything only because of who we are in Christ and what he has done for us. Now it is true that we are blessed by walking in the will of God. We cannot expect God’s blessing on our lives if we are knowingly walking in sin.

But the blessing that Paul is writing about here is the free gift of God, blessings that we do not deserve and cannot earn. This is the grace of God. Getting something that we do not deserve. Verse 6 says, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved”

In verses 4 and 5 we encounter the truth that God chooses us, more than that he predestined us for adoption. The idea that God chooses a people for himself to reveal His glory is found throughout the Bible:

  • God chose to create the World for His glory.
  • He chose Abraham to be a great nation to bless the world.
  • He chose the nation of Israel to bless the world.
  • Jesus chose his 12 disciples.

In many Bible passages we read that God has chosen people for salvation for His glory, for His worship.

For centuries, theologians have wrestled with the doctrine of election and sadly it often leads to division and conflict. In very simple terms, one opinion states that God chooses us for salvation, and we don’t have a say in the matter. The other opinion is that we choose God, but He knows in advance who will choose Him.

That is really simplified, but the Bible is full of texts that indicate God chooses us without our knowledge or even input. Verse 4 says, “he chose us in him before the foundation of the world…”

In the eternal purposes of God, He planned your days, before He created the world. That is a mystery that should make your head hurt, but we should be comfortable with mystery (see Deuteronomy 29:29).

If we were to really think about it, is it not better to be called chosen by a loving God than for us to choose a distant God.

Election is a mystery, because it seems to me from personal experience that the more we share the Good news of Jesus Christ, the more people are chosen! And we as the church, are called to be a part of this mystery by being a faithful witness of the Gospel to the world around us.

In all the debates, the nature of God cannot be dismissed, God is perfectly loving.

Verse 5, “In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will”. Election is an expression of the love of God.

The mystery deepens as we read in John 3:16, And Romans 10:9. There is obviously a choosing and then on our part there is a belief or faith component.

We need to keep calling people to Jesus, and then when they put their faith in him as Lord, we can say together, “thank you God for drawing me to you”

Our ultimate response to election is humility, humbled that the Creator of the universe would call us by name, and this should put us on our faces in worship of the Almighty God.

As we look again at verse 5, we see the purpose of election, “In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,

We were chosen for adoption. Adoption is a beautiful picture of what God has done for us. Roman law placed a very high standard on adoption and an adopted child was under legal protection and permanently part of the family. The adopted child had every right to inheritance and received a new identity (see Romans 8:15).  

In our minds we love the fact that we are adopted, but we don’t like the fact that we are chosen.

But we must understand that adoption is choosing one who is helpless. This is the same as what God has done for us (see Romans 5:8).

So why did God adopt us? What is our purpose?

The answer is found in verse 6, “to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved”

Adoption magnifies the greatness of God the Father.

When we are adopted, we get brought into the family business, and we are given a mission.

The mission is to see the glory of God made known in all the world so that God is worshipped in all the world.

We are made to praise, and we are the most fulfilled in life when we are praising God.

We are the most useful when we are praising God and worshipping His holy name.

Do you know God as Father? Have you been adopted?

What’s the Big Deal about Christmas? Part 2. Sermon Sunday December 22, 2019

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Isaiah 9:6-7

When Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph had some idea who he was, but didn’t begin to grasp the full potential of the baby they were called to care for. Why did God choose for Jesus to be born as a baby? Why didn’t he simply appear as a full-grown man and begin to perform miraculous signs and wonders?

When speaking of the promised Messiah, the teachers of the day would have described someone who had the wisdom of Solomon, the charisma and authority of David, the leadership ability of Moses and the military genius of Joshua. But, instead, Jesus came into the world as a little baby, weak, needy, and humble. It was, and still is hard for us to fully understand how the second person of the trinity would enter the world in the form of an infant.

But Jesus was both fully God and fully man. The virgin birth is proof that he was divine, but being born as an infant shows that he was also human in every way (see Hebrews 4:15). If Jesus did not take on the form of a man, his sacrifice would have been unconvincing, because he would have been aloof and separated from the common man. If Jesus had been a mere man and not God, he would have died a martyr’s death. We can trust this same Jesus with our lives, because he knows what we are going through, he overcame the world and all its temptations.

In the first chapter of Matthew, we read that the angel told Joseph that the child born to Mary was to be called Jesus. The name Jesus is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew “Joshua”, which means, “God Saves”. The Hebrew name Joshua, and the Greek equivalent, Jesus, were common names at the time of Jesus’ birth and life. But after Jesus died and rose again, historians have found that the name Jesus was no longer used in the region. The simple reason is that the name Jesus took on a much more controversial meaning. For early Christians, they felt that no child was worthy to carry the same name as the messiah. For those who did not believe that Jesus was the promised Messiah, they did not want their child to be associated with such a controversial character.

But now the name of Jesus means so much more to us.  We call on the name of Jesus for our salvation and we pray in the name of Jesus (see John 14:13-14 and Acts 4:12).  

The Prophet Isaiah calls Jesus, “…Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace,” (Isaiah 9:6b)

If you are struggling to lead your family in the ways of the Lord, or you are struggling with a difficult situation in life and need wisdom to make tough decisions, remember that Jesus is the Wonderful Counselor.

If you are facing spiritual warfare and opposition in your Christian walk, and if you seem to be facing impossible mountains, always wrestling with temptation, remember that Jesus is the Mighty God.

If you simply need to cry in the loving embrace of One who understands when everyone seems to have abandoned you, remember that Jesus is the Everlasting Father. – He is the uncreated creator of all things.

If all around you seem to be facing personal conflict, and it seems that your world is in a state of perpetual conflict, remember that Jesus is the Prince of Peace

Jesus wasn’t simply a baby born with potential, he is the one who was born so that every child born could have unlimited potential. A personal relationship with Jesus begins the unleashing of that potential (see Acts 4:12).

This time of the year many people who don’t even know Jesus, are celebrating Christmas. Sadly, many people who attend churches every Sunday, may believe in the existence of the historical person of Jesus, but that is not enough (see James 2:19). James wrote that belief in God is not enough unless it is accompanied by a life of faith and action.

Merely giving mental agreement to the virgin birth, even believing that he came to be a sacrifice for our sins is not enough. Someone who is truly saved is someone who takes the truth of the Gospel, believes it and then acts accordingly.  The Gospel message must change our lives, as we make Jesus lord of our lives. Belief doesn’t change lives, lordship does.

Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be born again in John 3:3. The term Jesus used, “Born again”, is better translated, “Born from above”.

So, what does it mean to be born from above? We say; “I was saved”, “I became a Christian”, “I decided to follow Christ”, and other phrases. For many people what this translates to is a decision to raise your hand in a meeting or walk down the aisle for prayer. But the truth is that there are many people who claim to be Christians, who show no evidence of a transformed life, they show no evidence of being born from above.

Jesus made it clear that to follow him is not a simple decision to raise your hand or saying a prayer; to follow Jesus means to die to your old self, to take on a new name, to completely give everything you have to God.

When we are born again, we take on the name of Jesus, we become so closely identified with him, that we are his ambassadors, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:20.

As we are born again, the Holy Spirit works in our lives to produce faith and change the way in which we live our lives. We grow in a Biblical worldview, seeing everything through a different lens with an eternal perspective.

In Isaiah 9:7, the prophet speaks of a time yet to come. The final outworking of this prophesy is not fully realized, and we wait for the day when Justice and righteousness will be established and continue forever.

The first coming of Jesus was a mission of humility and sacrifice where he came to deal with the problem of sin and conquer death. But the next time Jesus comes, he will come on a mission of triumph and justice. Only those who know Jesus Christ as Lord and savior will celebrate with him when he comes again.

Can you say today that you will be part of that celebration?

Sermon September 17, 2017 – Jeremiah part 3

Jeremiah 17:1-10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rules without a Relationship is Bondage.

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

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