Philippians – Paul’s letter of Joy Part 3 Sermon October 14, 2018

Philippians 1:12-18

 Have you ever been placed in a position or a job situation where you felt trapped and thought that this will not serve any purpose at all? The apostle Paul knew what that felt like. In the latter chapters of the book of Acts, we read that Paul desired to go to Rome to proclaim the good news of Jesus. Paul eventually did get to Rome, but we know it was not in the same way he intended. He was taken to Rome as a prisoner, chained to guards twenty-four hours a day.

The church in Philippi was obviously concerned for him, but Paul has a completely different perspective. He saw things from an eternal perspective. Paul writes in verse 12, “…what has happened to me has really served to advance the Gospel”.

Paul’s imprisonment was well known throughout Rome and the region. The imperial guard was tasked with his imprisonment and they were exposed to the Gospel message as he daily spoke to visitors and the guards themselves. Possibly five thousand guards heard the message that they would never have had the opportunity to hear.

Paul continues in verse 13 to say that his imprisonment was really the talk of the town, from the imperial guard to all the people of Rome and the surrounding regions, people knew about Paul and that his preaching caused him to be put in chains. The enemy used them to imprison God’s mouthpiece, but God had a special plan for their lives and used their role as prison guard to set them free. Paul was convinced that his imprisonment was the sovereign plan of God (see 2 Timothy 2:8-9).

Not once do we see Paul complaining about his chains, because he saw his chains as being supernaturally connected to the plan of God to advance the Gospel. How quickly we complain about the “chains” of our life; our job, family situation, debt, poor health and loneliness all these and other problems, all these are chains that can confine us if we do not see them as part of God’s sovereign plan. Our chains can be used by God, if we would turn our chains over to God and see what He can do with them. The Word of God is never bound.

In verse 15, we read that some people who knew Paul were preaching with envy and rivalry. Evidently there were people who saw what Paul was doing and they saw an opportunity to gain notoriety and fame, possibly they saw a way to make money from preaching the same message that Paul was preaching. It is evident that Paul did not have any problem with their message, it was the motives that he did not agree with.

What they didn’t see, was the suffering that Paul had gone through. Paul had the right to be on stage, because Paul had the right perspective to be used by God. (see Galatians 2:20). It is all about motivation, the moment our motivation to proclaim Christ turns away from the glory of God and turns to our own desire to be known, we are missing out on the eternal reward for serving Christ.

Paul says in verse 16, that he was actually put in chains for the defense of the gospel, he was appointed by God to be imprisoned for the Gospel. The word that he uses is actually the same as the word that would describe a soldier being placed at his post on guard duty. Paul knew without a shadow of a doubt that he was appointed to be chained to these guards at this particular time in his life, and he didn’t want to be anywhere else.

What is the appointment that God has for you in your life at this very moment? What situation are you in right now that you are struggling with? God has a purpose for you being where you are. If that is where you are today, do not leave your post, do not try to find a way to get out of the situation that God has called you to be in. God has placed you strategically where you are in order for you to proclaim the Gospel message to those around you.

Then jumping down to verse 18, we see Paul’s conviction. Paul was not going to let his emotions be swayed by his critics. This is such a difficult lesson for us to learn in life. If we are doing what God has called us to do, why do we get so disturbed when people criticize us? Are we living to please the people around us or are we living to please the king of kings? Paul was rejoicing that his critics were preaching the Gospel. He kept his eyes on the mission, the proclamation of the gospel.

We need to know what God has called us to. We need to have such a clear and unflinching knowledge of our calling that we are never tempted to leave our post. You may think that this only applies to pastors and missionaries, but if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, someone who has given his or her life over to the lordship of Jesus, then you have a post, you have a role to play in the kingdom of God and you must never be tempted to leave that post.

Paul closes verse 18 with five simple words, “and in that I rejoice”, Paul rejoiced that Christ was being proclaimed, he rejoiced that the true Gospel was being preached. Paul had made the decision that he was not going to be put down by his circumstances, rather he chose to rejoice despite his circumstances, and that as long as Christ was being preached, he was going to keep on rejoicing (see James 1:2-4).

From time to time, we all experience the pain of chains of some sort. It may be physical pain, emotional pain, loss of a job, loss of a loved one. These are chains that can rob us of our joy, but if we see the painful things in our life as God developing faith and maturity in us, we can make the choice to live in Joy.

However, when the storm clouds are on the horizon, and it seems that there is no end to the pain, simply deciding to be happy won’t cut it. What you need is a supernatural touch from the Lord. You need a miracle in order to see your chains in light of the glory and majesty of God. The Apostle Paul spent a lot of time in chains and in suffering, but he could write Galatians 5:1, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

We all have some type of chain that causes us to be less than what God intends us to be. Turn your chains over to God so that you will know and experience true freedom.

Sermon February 11, 2018 – The Trilogy of Parables

We all know of the original Star Wars trilogy released between 1977 and 1983. A trilogy is a set of stories, each with their own plot, but connected to a bigger plot when combined as a three-part story.

Jesus also told a trilogy of stories, in Luke 15 we read three well known parables that Jesus told. The three parables of Luke 15, the lost sheep, the lost coin and the prodigal son, were all told by Jesus in quick succession in response to the grumbling Pharisees (see Luke 15:2).

The Pharisees were grumbling because Jesus was receiving sinner, I am so glad that Jesus still receives sinners today! I pray that our church never shy’s away from fellowship with sinners, because we are all sinners saved by grace and have nothing that makes us better other than the grace of God and His gracious indwelling presence.

Jesus responds to them by telling three short parables, the first one is the parable of the lost sheep, where the shepherd leaves the 99 sheep to search for the one which was lost. Then Jesus tells the story of the woman who has lost a coin, she searches diligently until it is found. Jesus ends both these parables with the gentle rebuke to the Pharisees and the scribes in verses 7 and 10, “joy in heaven over one sinner who repents …”.

These sinners that the Pharisees viewed as worthless, were of immense value in the kingdom of heaven.

Then Jesus tells the story of the Prodigal son, or the lost son, seems more appropriate.

This son asks his father for his share of his inheritance, essentially telling his father that he wishes he was already dead. He takes the money and wastes it, he defiles himself and ends up reaching a point of desperation. It is at this point that he seems to come to his senses, the Bible says; “came to himself”. He turned and headed for home.

In our salvation experience, we all must come to the place of turning, realizing that we cannot do anything good on our own to earn our salvation. We must hit rock bottom and cry out to God to be saved by accepting the free gift of salvation and asking Jesus to be the Lord of our lives.

The prodigal son goes home and hopes just to be a slave, hoping to pay back what he wasted. He just wants to be around his father and the household, in his mind he has disqualified himself from sonship.

Then we see the overwhelming Gospel story in the prodigal son, as the brokenhearted father, who has missed his son so much, is waiting for him. The son begins his prepared speech, humbly asking for a position of servanthood, but the father doesn’t pay any attention to his plea and commands that he be given three things. These three items are vital in our understanding of the story.

The Best Robe: The robe symbolizes cleansing and forgiveness, a washing and putting on new clothes. When you become a Christian, you are washed with the blood of Jesus and then you are clothed in the righteousness of Christ.

 The Ring: The ring was probably like a signet ring, which carried the seal of the family. The implications of this are huge. The son was reinstated with authority into the family. He has been brought back into his original position. When you become a Christian, you are adopted into God’s family with full authority of a son or daughter of the King. You are an ambassador, you have the authority to represent the king of kings.

 The sandals: Sandals were given to represent the fact that the son was not a slave, he had freedom. Slaves were kept in subjection, without shoes, but true children were free to walk around.

The tragedy is that so many people come to Jesus and ask for the forgiveness of their sins and then assume that the Lord has recruited them to be his hired hands, rather than being a beloved child whose debt has been paid in full by the blood Jesus shed on the cross.

Is that you today? You are limping in with a dirty coat, when God shows you the ring, the robe and the sandals, you decline because you feel unworthy of such forgiveness and grace, and you would be right!

But God gives you and I that new robe of righteousness, the ring of adoption into the family, and the sandals of freedom. Stop living as a slave and begin living as a desired and treasured part of the Family of God (see 1 Peter 2:9).

As Jesus ends the parable of the lost son, he throws in the picture of the older son, the Pharisees must have really felt the slap in the face of that. It was obvious that Jesus was referring to them and to all self-righteous people in the church who don’t know who they are in Christ, living according to a set of rules, rather than living as a child of the king.

But why the three parables in answer to the grumbling of the Pharisees? Jesus never wasted words, he didn’t simply tell three stories to make the same point, combined the parables reveal a profound truth about our salvation.

When we look at the parable of the good shepherd, we can easily see that the shepherd is Jesus. Jesus himself said that “I am the good shepherd” in John 10.

In the parable of the lost coin, the woman lights a lamp, sweeps the house in search of it. The Holy Spirit is the light revealing the word to us and sweeping out the house of our souls to prepare the way for the transformation of God in our lives.

When we look at the parable of the lost son, we see the true focus of the story is on the Father who forgives and lavished love and blessings on the returning son. Tim Keller writes in his book “The Prodigal God”, where he shows God to be the prominent prodigal, because he loves us with reckless abandon, pouring out unmerited favor and blessing, holding nothing back.

We have three parables revealing distinct aspects of the working of the trinity in God’s plan of salvation.

The parable that consumes our attention is the Prodigal son, because we can so identify with either the young son or the older son. Neither son realized who they were in the family, and sometimes we are no different, we choose to live as orphans when our Heavenly Father has adopted us into His family.

We choose to live in spiritual poverty when we have been granted unmerited spiritual authority.

We have been clothed in righteousness and given the Holy Spirit to help us daily in our walk.

Do you really know what it means to be a Christian?

Thanksgiving part 1 – November 12, 2017

Psalm 107

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

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

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

The Wanderer (v 4).

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

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

The Rebel Prisoner (v10).

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

The Sick (v17).

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

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

The Sea Traveler (v23).

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lessons from the life of David Part 4, April, 24 2016

King David 4 Title.2-01

2 Samuel 12

Repentance

Have you experienced the annoyance and frustration of having your check engine light come on in your car?Check-Engine-Light-Portland

When your check engine light comes on you have two options. Take the car to the shop and get it seen to, or ignore it and hope the problem will resolve by itself. Ultimately you have to do something about the check engine light. It is after all there for a reason.

In the story of David in 2 Samuel 11, things were looking good in Israel, the nation was united. David was a good and wise King. The nation was expanding, and it looked like everything that God had promised Abraham, Moses and Joshua was all about to come to fruition. But David began to rest on his laurels, and he began to enjoy the ease of his success. He took a break from going out with the armies in the springtime, he was probably about fifty years old at this time. David lapses into complacency and that is when he falls into sin. 2 Samuel 11 relates the well-known account of his adulterous relationship with Bathsheba and the murderous plot to cover up his sins.

After about a year, God sends his prophet Nathan to David to pronounce God’s judgment on him. On the surface it seems that he has gotten away with his sins, but he is being eaten away inside (see Psalm 32:3-4).

Nathan tells a simple parable, and then Nathan says those crashing words; “You are that man!”

Nathan continues by listing all that God has done for David, each line must have been like sharp darts piercing the heart of David; we read in verse 7 and 8

  • “I anointed you King over Israel”
  • “I delivered you from the hand of Saul”
  • “I gave you your master’s house and wives”
  • “I gave you all of Israel and Judah”
  • “And I would have given you more

And in verse 10, the judgment is read out: The sword will never depart from David’s house. Out of his own household, the Lord is going to bring Calamity. God will take his wives away mocking David in broad daylight.  And the son born to David & Bathsheba will die.

The weight of the judgment must have sent David to his knees, he was being punished severely for his sins. God still punishes sins today. This does not mean that everytime we experience a tragedy it is because of God’s punishment, but sometimes it might be. The immediate punishment that we all feel when we sin is the loss of peace, that broken fellowship with God as we silence the voice of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Broken fellowship with God and broken fellowship with other believers. The truth is that private sins have public consequences.

But looking carefully at the verses we read you will notice a common thread in the judgment of God. God points out David’s physical wrongdoings, but there was a greater sin that David committed.

  • Verse 9; “Why did you despise the word of the Lord’
  • Verse 10; “…because you despised me…”
  • Verse 14; “…you have shown utter contempt for the Lord,”

David’s sins were in effect saying to God that His blessings were not enough. All that God had given him was not good enough, he was tempted and craved for more.

This is the underlying cause of much of our sin if we know Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we sin because we want more than what he has blessed us with. We sin because we are not fully satisfied in Jesus.

God took the sins of David very personally, “David…you despised ME!” “You have shown utter contempt ME!”

If we think our sins are simply bad things that we do, and that God does not feel our sins, we are horribly mistaken. All of our sins are a personal affront to God. Because of our sin, Jesus went to the cross. He was punished because of our sins. It is personal, everytime we sin we show contempt for God.

David responds immediately and confesses his sins. He understands that his actions were an affront to God and he repents. It was at this time that David wrote Psalm 51, that great repentance Psalm, and he acknowledges that his sin is against God (see Psalm 51:3-4).

True repentance has 4 parts.

  1. Open unguarded admission – A full disclosure of our sins.
  2. Desire to make a complete break from the sin – Repentance means walking in the opposite direction.
  3. A humble and broken spirit. (see Psalm 51:17) Humility is a key to revival.
  4. Receiving God’s forgiveness and acceptance (see 1 John 1:9).

Getting back to that check engine light in your car. Our lives also have a check engine light, he is called the Holy Spirit. It is a lie from Satan to think that our personal sins are something that will not affect anyone else, and that we can handle our secret sins. The secret sins of; cheating on your taxes, not being completely truthful in our workplace, addiction to pornography (a “secret” sin that is destroying families), envy, pride, slander or gossip. Every time we sin, the check engine light in our lives comes on, and we try to ignore it, but it keeps getting brighter.

David felt the pain of unconfessed sin as we see in Psalm 32:3-4, but this Psalm ends with a shout of joy and praise to God as David experiences the relief and freedom as God forgives his sins. “Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!”

However God did not take away the consequences of David’s sin, but we don’t hear David complaining about that. Every sin has consequences. Sin leads to loss of privilege and status, those are real life consequences for sin. But by the grace of God, He is able to restore the sinner.

Look at the restoration that God accomplished in David’s life, Solomon was a son born later to David and Bathsheba. The Bible tells us that God loved Solomon and gave him supernatural wisdom. The child who should never have been born, became arguably the greatest king of Israel until Jesus himself. Praise God that even in the midst of the messiness of sin and repentance, there is redemption and grace.

It all starts with repentance. True repentance, acknowledging our sin before an all Holy God, turning the other way, humbling ourselves and accepting the forgiveness of our sins before the cross.

Repentance leads to freedom and health, but covering up our sins leads to further brokenness. Today we all have a choice, to choose life and freedom or to not repent of our sins before God and in so doing we choose death.