Sermon Sunday May 15, 2022 To Know and Obey Jesus.

Click on the Camera to view the full message video

Is it possible to know God and to live like the Devil? Is it possible to truly know God and have no life change?

Obedience follows relationship. If there is no obedience – is there relationship at all?

Adrian Rogers wrote, “Study the Bible to know about God. Obey the Bible to really know God.”

This is the theme of 1 John 2. John’s goal is for the reader to know God rightly and have assurance of salvation, which leads to a life of joy in Jesus. To know God is to love God and to love God is to obey God.

Obedience to God reveals the genuineness of our faith. There is a huge difference between saying and doing. The true Gospel transforms us and leads to obedience. 1 John 2:3 reads, “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments”.

The word “Keep”, means to guard, or protect like we would treat a precious treasure. And as we keep this treasure, our assurance in our salvation grows and we enjoy Jesus more. To obey His commands is never a burden, it is a blessing and a natural response to what He has done for me.

However we see in verse 4 that if we do not guard or keep the commands of the Lord, we are spiritual deceivers. We really don’t have a relationship with God.

Verse 5 gives is such a great promise, “but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him.”

Keeping the commands of God is not a condition of knowing God, but it is a clear sign and indication that we do know God.

The phrase, “the love of God”, refers to our love for God, and it is true that the more I know Him, the more I love Him, and the more I love Him, the more I know Him.

The same thing happens in a godly marriage. It should be that the more a husband and wife grow to know one another, the more they love one another. And the more love they share with each other, the more they will desire to know each other.

There is a tradition that on one occasion the apostle John, near the end of his life, was brought to the church on a pallet. All he said to the believing community was, “Love one another.” When he was asked why that was all he had to say, he responded, “Because it is enough.” (Matthew 22:37-40).

So how do we walk in the love of Christ? When we were saved it was so that we might be conformed in the image of His son (Romans 8:29). He saved us that we might “walk just as He walked.”

We have a moral obligation for our walk to match our talk. To truly abide in Christ means I will walk like Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1, Ephesians 5:1, 1 Peter 2:21).

Like Father, like Son. Like Savior, like saint. Christ’s life becomes my life, my example, my goal, and my pattern. And we must note that it is abiding in Him that enables me to live like Him. I don’t do it in my strength. I do it in His!

Looking back to verse 3, how can we tell if we “know” him?

What then does it mean to “know” Jesus? The Greek word used here, “ginosko”, means basically “grasping the full reality and nature of an object under consideration.”

John was writing to people who knew about Jesus but didn’t really know him personally. Today there are millions of people who know about Jesus, but don’t know him as Lord of their lives.

Jesus said in John 10:27, “My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me”. Those who belong to Jesus are responsive to His voice.

John does not suggest that relationship with God is established by obedience; rather, that relationship is demonstrated by obedience.

Sometimes people claim to know God but are unresponsive to His Word and His way of life. Such a person may possess accurate information about God and may be able to debate the finer points of theology. I have met people who have a deep grasp of the Bible and doctrine, but their lives do not match their words. Relationship is demonstrated by walking “as Jesus did” (1 John 2:6).

Jesus addressed this as he was speaking to the Jews, the scribes and the pharisees in John 8:44a, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.”

The religious leaders, knew about God, they knew the Torah, they knew a lot of theology, but they didn’t know God Himself or else they would have recognized His son, Jesus. They were worshipping the law of Moses, but they weren’t hearing the word of God. Jesus continued in verse 47, “Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

So, my question today is, who are you listening to?

I always get discouraged when I talk to people who have not been in church for a long time and they say, “well, I am not in church, but I listen to Charles Stanley (or their favorite radio or TV teacher) each Sunday morning.” What they fail to realize is that they are neglecting to gather with his body, disobeying the word of God that calls us to commit to a fellowship of believers to grow together in love and unity.

Listening to good teaching is excellent, but the question is, are you listening to the words of God? Why do we run after the words of the created being, when we can sit at the feet of the creator?

Many Christians wrestle with decisions and they often say the same thing. “I am not getting a clear word from God.” My friends, it’s not that God doesn’t speak clearly, it’s that we don’t listen. It’s time to turn off the TV, YouTube, the cell phone and all the other noise surrounding us and open the Word of God. Make time to listen to the God who created you with the ability to hear His voice.

Are you abiding in Him, keeping his commandments?

Do you know Jesus?

Sunday May 1, 2022 Volunteering in the Church

Click on the camera to view the full message

Today we recognized volunteers, the people that make everything run smoothly. As we called each volunteer forward, we asked them to put a crayon in a vase. Each one of the crayons represents a task that needs to be done in the church. It was evident that it took a lot of people to do all that needs to be done in the church.  

But let’s think about the church, why do we come to church?

I think one of the failures of the church in the past fifty years is the advent of the mega church and the multiple campus church models. One of the primary motivators of the seeker friendly church is to make the church as welcoming and inviting as possible in order to get people through the doors.

Now, don’t get me wrong, we absolutely need to be welcoming and inviting. And there is nothing wrong with large numbers. But what has happened is that the church has gone from being a sending agent and become a Christian entertainment venue.

Feeding peoples wants and desires by programs, features, and entertainment. Instead of people coming to church to be equipped for the work of the ministry, people are coming to church to be entertained, and they are dictating to the leadership what they want in order to stay.

If we are honest, who has become the object of attention? It is the attendees, and if we are focusing on the attendees, who are we worshipping?

The church is not a professional organization, it is a body. We are all members of the body and as such we all serve alongside one another, for one purpose – for the glory of God.

We are saved for more than simply getting a ticket to heaven – there is so much more for us.

God delivered us so that we would have a relationship with him, through which He calls us to be a part of His mission to bring the Gospel message to the lost. What a privilege. Paul makes this clear in Ephesians 2:8-10.

We are saved in order to do good works. Now, the church is not the only place where we can do these works, but it is an essential part of serving the Lord. Every volunteer that we recognized this morning has a motivation to serve.

As I was thinking about it, there are many different reasons why people serve as a volunteer, but only one right reason.

Some people serve for recognition, others for the applause of man or to earn favor with God, and some serve out of guilt. But the true motivation to serve the Lord comes from a genuine experience of joy. When you genuinely serve the Lord out of love for the Lord and understanding the call of God on your life, you experience joy, deep seated contentment, and it is not a burden or hardship at all.

One of the keys to contentment is serving in the place of obscurity. Doing things that no one sees other than the Lord. Genuine contentment and joy is knowing that the only person who really notices is the only one who really matters.

The truth is that the church would not exist without volunteers, so how do we get people to volunteer? The normal way is to make a good promo video and beg people to sign up to serve. Failing that we could offer them free donuts and coffee!

But I propose that there is a purer motivation that comes from a move of God. We don’t need more manipulation; we need more of the power of God. As God begins to move on peoples’ hearts, they are compelled by a sense of calling and purpose. Doing what God has called them to do. In Psalm 110:3 we read, “Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power, in holy garments; from the womb of the morning, the dew of your youth will be yours.”

This Psalm is speaking about Jesus coming in glory and his followers offering themselves to serve him. What we need in the church is not more calls for volunteers or pleading videos, what we need is revival. Throughout the history of revivals, there has never been a shortage of workers who give themselves to the work of the Lord.

Henry Blackaby wrote, “Only the power of God can free us from our natural self-centeredness and reorient us toward the mission of God”

And finally, we have the privilege to serve the Lord because we gain an eternal reward. Revelation 19:7-8 reads, “Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.”

At the marriage feast, the church, the Bride of Christ, will be clothed in fine linen, bright and pure, but the linen is made up of the righteous deeds that we do. Now we know that we are not made righteous by what we do. Rather, we work from a position of righteousness because of the blood of Jesus.

The good works that we do, are righteous deeds that have an eternal value. Christ will reward us for our faithfulness. And the rewards we receive will make up the wedding gown.

Dr. Lehman Strauss writes, “Has it ever occurred to you … that at the marriage of the Bride to the Lamb, each of us will be wearing the wedding garment of our own making?”

That is a tremendous paradigm shift; we don’t serve out of duty, we serve as an act of worship.

How is your heart? What is the response of your heart today? Is your heart so filled with gratitude and worship that you are waiting for the opportunity to say like Isaiah, “here I am, send me.”

Sermon, Sunday April 24, 2022 – A Life Like No Other

Click on the camera to view the full message.

Jonathan Haidt recently wrote, “Artificial intelligence is close to enabling the limitless spread of highly believable disinformation.”

We live in a world where truth is almost unbelievable because of the saturation of lies and false narratives that are being promoted globally. Objective truth has been denied and sadly many Christians do not turn to the Word of God for truth and discernment. We should not be surprised by the ever-increasing volume of lies and misinformation in a world where Satan has his domain (John 8:44)

In John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”. Jesus embodies truth. He is truth. John the Beloved disciple of Jesus wrote three short letters to the church in and around Ephesus. The primary purpose of the letters was to counter false teaching, causing confusion in the early church. The primary lie that was being promoted in the early church in Asia Minor was that Jesus was not God.

The fact the Jesus is the creator God himself is the foundational truth of the church. If that is not true, then his death and resurrection have no redemptive purpose.

Looking at the first four verses of 1 John, the author focuses our gaze on the Word of Life, the Son of God. In these verses we will see three aspects of how we relate to the truth that is Jesus. It is essential that we get the correct understanding of this man who is fully God and fully man at the same time.

1: A passion to know Jesus.

John wants us to know Jesus, the Word of Life who came down from heaven, and by his life, death, and resurrection provided a way for us to have fellowship with God the Father, now and for eternity. In the first 2 verses, John highlights two key truths about the uniqueness of Jesus.

A: He Is Divine

He begins with, “that which was from the beginning.” And in verse 2, “the eternal life that was with the Father…”

Jesus has always eternally existed with the Father as God. There has never been a time when the Son did not exist (John 8:58 and John 10:30). There never was a time when the Son was not fully God.

B: He Is Human

In these same verses John makes a clear case for the humanity of Jesus. He speaks as an eyewitness of the life and ministry of Jesus. He speaks about hearing Jesus, seeing Jesus and touching Jesus. He was a real person.

At the time, there was a false teaching that John was countering, an early form of what is called “Gnosticism,” a term based on the Greek word that means knowledge. They believed that all matter was evil and that salvation is by a mystical spiritual knowledge. Some of the Gnostics taught that Jesus only appeared to be human.

It is essential that we believe that, Jesus really became a human being in the flesh (John 1:14).

John Piper wrote, “When God becomes a man, man ceases to be the measure of all things, and this man becomes the measure of all things. This is simply intolerable to the rebellious heart of men and women. The incarnation is a violation of the bill of human rights written by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. It is totalitarian. It’s authoritarian! Imperialism! Despotism! Usurpation! Absolutism! Who does he think he is! GOD!”

2: Once we know Jesus, we will have a passion to Share Jesus.

“That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you…” 1 John 1:3a.

Jesus chose twelve men, and they were so impacted by following him that the world was turned upside down (Acts 17:6). They were ordinary uneducated men who were compelled to take this Gospel message to the entire world. What they had experienced in Jesus they wanted others to experience too.

Everyone in the Bible who encountered Jesus, was compelled to share Jesus with others. Many believers today excuse themselves from sharing the Gospel because they feel that they don’t have the gift of evangelism. But it is not about a spiritual gift, it is about encountering Jesus. Simply put, encountering Jesus leads to speaking about Jesus.

If you are not sharing Jesus, you are not encountering Jesus. Which begs the question, do you know Jesus?

And what is the purpose of this sharing? Verse 3 continues, “…so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.”

This sharing is an invitation to relationship with Jesus, and an added blessing is the family that we get introduced to as a result. The invitation is open to everyone.

This fellowship that we enjoy as the body of Christ is far deeper than a gathering of like-minded people, or a social club or a fraternity. We are invited into a family that transcends all earthly barriers. Christianity is all about relationships being restored, firstly our relationship with God, and then we get millions of brothers and sisters all around the world.

3: We will enjoy Jesus.

And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete” 1 John 1:4. John wrote this letter so that we might know the fulness of Joy. Jesus also said this in John 15:11.

That fullness of joy is ours through our friendship with one another and with God, who is now our Father. And all of it made possible by the gospel of Jesus Christ, God’s Son.

As we walk this earth daily confronted by sin and pain, how can we experience joy?

The real issue is the difference between Joy and happiness. Happiness is short lived and dependent on external factors. Joy is peace based on security. We have Joy because we are in Christ and we have a certainty of his love for us, displayed on the cross and promised in his return.

To enjoy Jesus, we must receive him as he is; the eternal son of God, crucified, and raised back to life for our sins and coming back again. And as we submit to him as Lord, we will fully enjoy him.

Do you know this Jesus?

Are you sharing this Jesus?

Are you enjoying this Jesus?

Sermon, Sunday November 28 2021, Compassion part 2

click on the camera above to view the full sermon video

This past week we celebrated Thanksgiving. Since moving to the United States in 2000, Debbie and I have so much to be thankful for. In particular, our church in Atlanta, Roswell Street Baptist church, played a significant role in helping us as immigrants. The church responded as the body of Christ and showed compassion.  

Compassion is a pillar of the church but does not stand alone. There needs to be a strong connection between compassion and mission, between compassion and worship and between compassion and the Word. James chapter 2 explains to us that faith without works is dead, rather we show our faith in God through our works of good deeds. The compassion of the church must always bring glory to the name above all names, and only his name. Acts of compassion done for the glory of God are in themselves acts of worship.

Compassion without the foundation of the Word of God, lacks true empathy and the power to change lives. only the word of God, coupled with the revelation of the Holy Spirit, has the power to change lives. Compassion is essential in the church, not because it is what good people do to help one another, but because it is the way the church points people to Jesus.

Jesus displayed compassion for the people around him as he walked the earth. Jesus’ compassion was not simply a good trait that Jesus displayed, it was the very core he is.

If we are not careful, we can easily fall into the trap of seeing Jesus as the compassionate part of the Trinity, and God the Father as the stern and judgmental one who needs to be appeased. Yes, it is true that God is perfectly holy and that we are only able to be in a right relationship with Him because of the blood of Jesus shed on the cross. But that is the righteous holiness of God the Father. What does the Bible teach us about His character and His nature?

We know that the Bible is the revelation of Jesus. I think sometimes that we need to be reminded that the revelation of Jesus is a revelation of God. Jesus is God in the flesh. Jesus said in John 14:9, “…Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” John’s Gospel begins, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1

One of the passages in the Bible that is the greatest revelation of God the Father, is the encounter the God had with Moses and the Children of Israel on mount Sinai. In Exodus 34, Moses returns to the top of the mountain with new stone tablets after he smashed the previous ones in anger at the nation’s idolatry. In Exodus 34:6-7, God reveals himself in a way that is unlike anything else prior to the incarnation. Exodus 34:6, “The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”

This is not simply God telling Moses some information about Himself. In the previous chapter, Moses courageously asks God to show him His glory, to which God responds by displaying and declaring His goodness. When I think about the glory of God, I always think of his incredible power and majesty. But God reveals that His glory is in His goodness. The glory of God is in his compassion. The first words that God uses to describe himself are, “merciful and gracious…

This is where we struggle to come to terms with the nature of the holiness of God. To be holy is to be set apart. The Hebrew word used for holy, means to be cut off, or separate from everything else. It means to be in a class of your own, distinct from anything that has ever existed or will ever exist.

Frequently in the Old Testament, we read that God was provoked to anger. The nation of Israel constantly provoked God to anger by their disobedience. God was provoked to anger, but here in Exodus 34, we read that God by nature is merciful and gracious, which is His character and nature. God is naturally compassionate but provoked to anger.

How about us? Depending on who you are, some of us are more prone to anger than others, but I don’t know anyone who struggles to get angry if the right set of circumstances presents themselves.

But how about compassion, love, and mercy? These attributes don’t come naturally to us, in our sinful nature. That is why the writer to the Hebrews says, And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,” Hebrews 10:24. The writer encourages the readers to stir up, or provoke, love and good deeds in one another. We are sinful by nature, and we need to be provoked to be merciful.

How far we as beings created in the image of God have deviated from our original design because of the fall. When sin entered the world, our very core nature was disrupted and as a result we in turn view God through our own broken lenses. God is compassionate at His core.

The ultimate purpose of compassion is leading people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. True compassion is caring for someone’s eternal destination.

In Isaiah 58:6-8 God reveals that acts of compassion are true fasting, denying ourselves to focus on the will of God. Caring for the hurting, the poor, and the unlovely, with the purpose of showing and speaking the Gospel message to them. Notice the final line in verse 8, “…the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.” What is the glory of God? It is his goodness on display. When we display the goodness of God, He is glorified.

The Gospel message is the ultimate display of compassion, John 3:16, “For God so loved…that He gave”. The ultimate purpose of compassion is leading people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. True compassion is caring for someone’s eternal destination.

Our strength and resources can at best provide some temporary relief to someone in need. However, our resources coupled with the power of the name of Jesus, will lead to life transformation and eternal salvation.

Sermon, Sunday November 14, 2021 – The Local Mission of the Church

click on the camera to view the full message

If you are a believer in Jesus, you are his representative in your workplace, neighborhood and community. The city in which we live is our mission field. The church has been strategically placed by Jesus to impact the community that surrounds it.  

Philip was a faithful apostle and missionary who had followed the command of Jesus and went to Samaria to proclaim the Gospel. As a result of his work, there was a powerful move of God and the region was receiving Christ Jesus as Lord.

But, right at the height of what seemed to be a very successful mission, an angel sent from God  re-directs Philip and sends him to the desert (Acts 8:26).

We can learn four things from this account in Acts chapter 8.

1: Philip obeyed immediately.

Philip was experiencing the joys of ministry success, the Holy Spirit was moving, they even called in the big-name preachers, Peter, and John (Acts 8:14).  It would be understandable that he would want to stay there, but that was not God’s plan for him. God directed him to go south to the desert.

Philip could have had a dozen excuses, but he obeyed without hesitation.  When the opportunity comes for us to share the Good News with our co-worker or neighbor, are we prepared to go without hesitation? God directed Philip to the right person at the right time.

2: Philip listened to the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:29).

This is fundamental Christianity. Being a child of God, we must wait on the Lord for direction; where to go and who to speak to. Who has the Holy Spirit prepared in advance for me to share the Gospel with?

3: Philip listened to the Ethiopian official (Acts 8:30).

As Philip ran alongside the chariot, he waited patiently and listened to what the man was reading.

The challenge that we often face is that we don’t listen to people and as a result we miss the mark in evangelism, because we aren’t paying attention to their personal situation and struggles.

Are you listening to the questions that people are asking?

4: Philip then asked a question (Acts 8:30).

Once Philip understood the situation, he was able to ask the penetrating question. One of the most important skills one needs to develop in life, is asking questions.

Questions not only show the person that we care about them, it also is a way to move the conversation towards eternal matters.

Probing questions unlock the heart. People will respond to questions and open their lives to you if you take the time to ask questions. Again, this is where listening to the Holy Spirit becomes so vital. He will give you the questions to ask, questions that will unlock the soul for the Gospel.

The question Philip asked opened the way for the man to hear the Gospel (Acts 8:31). The Ethiopian official was reading from Isaiah 53, the prophecy of the suffering servant, pointing to the ministry of Jesus. Verse 35 is the moment Philip had been waiting for; “Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.” Acts 8:35.

Isn’t this story a wonderful reminder of the amazing grace and goodness of God to reach out to the “one”. This man goes to Jerusalem to worship God, where the church is growing and thriving. Tragically he missed the greatest news of all of history.

But God pursued him, sending his best evangelist to run after him.

God still pursues the lost. And he is sending you and me to run after them.

Do you remember when God pursued you?

As Philip explained the prophecy to him, the Ethiopian began to understand the Gospel because the Spirit of God was opening his mind to God’s truth. It is not enough for the lost sinner to desire salvation; he must also understand God’s plan of salvation. It is the heart that understands the Word that eventually bears fruit, the heart that has been prepared by the Spirit of God (Romans 10:17).

The Ethiopian believed on Jesus Christ and was born again. So real was his experience that he insisted on stopping the caravan and be baptized immediately. He wanted everybody to know what the Lord had done for him. The Ethiopian was testifying to Philip and all of his travel companions. He was an important man, and you can be sure that his attendants were paying close attention. Baptism is a witness and a declaration. History tells us that the church in Ethiopia today finds its roots in this encounter.

The Gospel changes lives, the Gospel changes nations.

If you have become a follower of Jesus, you are called to be the light in the World. To shine the light of Jesus wherever God has placed you.

I have heard people say when asked about a person’s salvation, “Its none of my business”. If we are not concerned about a person’s relationship with Jesus, it means that we truly don’t believe the Gospel. We don’t believe that if you don’t know Jesus Christ as Lord, you will spend eternity separated from God in Hell. That is the tragic reality.

Sharing the Gospel is a discipline, it needs to be prioritized in our lives. Sadly, we are so focused on temporal things that we don’t prioritize the eternal things in life.

Just like Philip was sent to one person with the Good News. To whom is God sending you?

Begin today to pray for your one.

Begin listening to the Holy Spirit.

Begin listening to the person.

Begin asking questions.

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

Click on the camera to view the full message

Why do people join a church?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God’s plan to reach people with the gospel is not primarily evangelists or apologists. God’s plan to reach people with the gospel is the church. You are the plan God has in mind to change the world!

In addition to these five gifts, God has given spiritual gifts to every Christian as we see in 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12. The church will be rich when every member is using their spiritual gifts. Tony Merida writes, “Every member should grow up and use a towel, not wear a bib. They should not be immature consumers but eager servants.”

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

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

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

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

Click on the camera to view the full message video

1 Kings 19:1-18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you afraid of today?

Bring it to the cross.

Sermon, Sunday April 11, 2021 – Washing Each Other’s Feet

Click here to listen to the full sermon

John 13:1-17

The night before he was crucified, Jesus met with his disciples to share what we call today, the Last Supper. Before they ate, Jesus shocked them all by humbling himself and washing their feet. This was the role of the servant of the house, why did the Lord make such a dramatic move?

What was he teaching his disciples and what can we learn from this in the church today?

Jesus loved these men. He wanted to spend this last evening with his inner circle, those he had chosen. Jesus loved his disciples right up to the cross, even though he knew one of them would betray him.

Jesus was teaching them about authority and showing that leadership does not mean you have to have people do your bidding. He could have called angels to come and wash their feet, he could have called a servant in, but he chose to serve them. Notably, Jesus also washed the feet of Judas, who would soon betray him. Jesus was showing that leadership is often a one-way street.

As Jesus comes to wash Peter’s feet, he resists and says in verse 6, “Lord, do you wash my feet?”, further in verse 8 he says, “You shall never wash my feet.”  We must not mistake this for pride, this was respect, Peter knew Jesus was Lord and God.

Jesus responds in verse 8, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”

At first glance, it may seem that Jesus is exaggerating to force peter to allow him to wash his feet. But what if Jesus is referring to a more significant truth than simply cleaning feet?

I want to suggest two interpretations to what Jesus is saying to Peter in this verse.

Firstly, Jesus was humbling himself prior to the ultimate act of humility by dying on the cross.

If it would be beneath Jesus’ position and dignity to wash his beloved disciples’ feet, then it would be beneath him to suffer and die on the cross. The Gospel is a message of humility as the creator stepped down from glory and subjected himself to a cruel Roman cross. The son of God, who poured water into a basin to wash the disciple’s feet, in a few hours poured his blood out into a basin to wash us from our sins.

And secondly, what if Jesus is saying to Peter that if he didn’t learn from this act of servanthood, then he would have no part in the kingdom of God.  I will come back to this in a later in the article.

As Peter begins to understand the significance of what Jesus is doing, he asks Jesus to wash his hands and his head as well. But Jesus explains in verse 10 that this is not necessary. This speaks to us as believers today, daily we need a washing of our sins. Washing off the dirt and grime from our daily contact with a sinful world.

I believe daily repentance is key to a healthy Christian walk. Like dust on our feet, sin lingers in our lives. The more we leave the dirt on our feet, the more it affects us, and we lose our effectiveness in the kingdom.

Jesus reclines at the table and begins to explain what he was teaching them. Not only were they to learn servant leadership, but they were also to learn to wash one another’s feet. In verse 15, Jesus gave them an imperative command to continue to serve one another as he had served them.

Looking back to verse 8, what if Jesus was saying to Peter; “if you don’t learn from this and wash each other’s feet, then you can have no part in the kingdom of heaven.”

Applying this to modern day disciples of Jesus in the church, how often don’t we refuse to “wash each other’s feet? How often do we come to church on a Sunday, wanting to be served, but with no intention of serving?

If you are unwilling to wash the feet of the people around you, you are separating yourself from the body of Christ. The principle that Jesus is displaying is that the kingdom of God must take preference over every desire or self-interest (see Matthew 19:29-30). This is radical, this is true Christianity, this is not the comfortable suit and tie Christianity that the church has been selling.

In verse 17 Jesus says that this command comes with a promise of blessing.  Sadly, even in the church we don’t serve each other because we constantly ask, “what’s in it for me?”

Now that we have established that we are to “wash each other’s feet”, how do we do this?

When Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, he showed them that ministry is not done from a platform, but rather it is done with a basin and a towel. One of the greatest roles in the church is refreshment, reminding each other of the basics and the original plan of God for their lives. This is not a ministry reserved for a few who have been to seminary, this is a ministry that we are all called to. We who have the Holy Spirit, have the power in us to encourage and lift the load off the shoulders of our brothers and sisters (1 Peter 2:9).

But before we can do that we have to be in right relationship with God. We cannot act as ministers in the church if we are not in right relationship with God. If we are simply trying to serve in the church out of duty and we are not right with God, we will just bring others down. Watchman Nee wrote, “to be at odds with God is the sure way to be a drain upon the life of His Church”.

It is imperative that when we gather on Sunday mornings, we have prepared our hearts before the Lord, ready to serve one another. If you know there is some sin in your life, something that is hindering your relationship with God, you are not able to serve as a minister in the church and you have gone from being an asset in the church to being a burden. The simple principle in the body of Christ is this, we are refreshing and being refreshed all the time.

During this COVID season of isolation, I am always disturbed when people say that they do not need to gather with the body of Christ and that they are happy to watch a sermon online. The Bible shows clearly that if you do not desire the meeting together with other believers, there is something seriously wrong with your walk with the Lord. Gathering in regular fellowship is way more than simply a cultural tradition, it is essential for our growth and overcoming the plans of the enemy for our lives. Church is essential, no matter what anyone might say to you.

As we actively engage in ministry towards one another, Jesus promises us a blessing. What we wrestle with is our tendency towards passivity.

I pray that everyone would come to a worship service on a Sunday with this prayer in their hearts, “Lord who would you have me pray for and encourage today?”

January 17, 2021 The Power in Weakness

Click on the camera to view the full message video

2 Corinthians 12:1-10

How easily do you admit to weakness?

If you ever want to have me do something, just tell me I cannot do it.

If I am struggling to complete a household project, Debbie knows that I will be annoyed if she says, “why don’t you hire a professional to do that?” What? Now you have just thrown down the gauntlet.

Our culture despises weakness and values people based on their physical and intellectual strength. As we read the scriptures, we see a paradox. In the kingdom of God, there is power in weakness (Psalm 8:2).

The Apostle Paul was arguably the greatest theologian, church planter and missionary in history. Yet, he understood the power in weakness.  In 2 Corinthians 11:30 he wrote, “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” This is not false humility, the apostle understood something we do not.

As Paul goes to great lengths to diminish his own stature, he is aware of the power of God working through him.

To keep him from being conceited, Paul wrote that God gave him a “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7). There is good reason why we do not know the specific nature of this thorn, because whatever ailments and challenges we experience, Paul’s thorn becomes our thorn, and we can identify with his struggles.

We do not know what the thorn in the flesh was, but we must never forget that God allowed it. Satan would never do something to keep someone from being prideful, that is the opposite of what he does. God is in control and allowing your thorn in the flesh for his purposes and his glory.

CS Lewis wrote, “we can ignore even pleasure, but pain insists on being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

God used Paul’s thorn in the flesh to focus his attention on Christ and to draw him into a place of greater dependence. Paul prayed for the thorn to be removed but Jesus responded by saying, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9.

Jesus gave Paul the key, power is found in weakness. The perfect power of Jesus is experienced when the grace of God is able to minister to us in our weakness. Our inability is the beginning of the manifest power of God.

Notice the two nouns, “Grace” and “Power”. We agree that the definition of grace is unmerited favor, that is the true message of the Gospel. But we do not often see grace as power. There is power in the Grace of God. Grace is more than a noun; it is a powerful verb.

Grace is not something we receive at salvation and then put on the shelf as a memorial. The Grace of God is active and powerful in our lives. The key to this power is our weakness.  

The Gospel is a picture of power in weakness. Jesus the all-powerful creator God, took on the form of a weak baby, and lived a life of humility setting aside his glory for a season.

The cross of our salvation, where Jesus paid the price for our sins, was where Jesus submitted himself in a picture of weakness and hopelessness. God’s plan of redemption was that there was to be weakness, on the cross, before there was power at the resurrection. God displayed His power when he raised Jesus from the dead. This same power is at work in us as we read in Ephesians 1:19-20. This gift of salvation is available to anyone who truly admits how weak they are. Only then can we experience and begin to live out the immeasurable power of God.

Doing what we cannot do, that is Christ in me. As you submit your life to the will of God, there will be times when God calls you to do something that is impossible to do…in your own strength. God calls you to take a stand against corruption, start a non-profit to help orphans and widows, stand in front of a crowd and preach the Gospel, witness to your family, or any other mission that seems impossible or impractical. The purpose of God is that we step out in faith, relying on Christ to do the impossible through us.

God needs our weakness more than He needs our strength. Our strength is often His rival. Our weakness is His servant as we rely on His resources to accomplish His purposes, to bring Him glory (Galatians 2:20).

We have a wonderful example of this in the life of Jesus in John chapter 6. Here we read the account of the feeding of the 5000 from just five barley loaves and two fish.

Before the miracle, Jesus asked Philip how they were going to be able to buy enough food to feed all the people.  Jesus was testing Philip; he was asking him to do the impossible. We know that Andrew, in faith brought the little that they could find to Jesus. The five loaves and the two fish represented our weakness, that must be brought to Jesus as an offering in faith. And Jesus used what little was offered and miraculously fed a multitude.

At the beginning of 2021, give God what you have, your talents, your finances, your gifts and see what He can do with them.

What vision has God given you that you cannot do in your own strength?

Sermon, Sunday November 15, 2020 Spirit Filled Families

To view the full sermon, click on the camera

As a church we can proclaim to be fiercely pro-life, from conception to the grave, but sometimes we can be guilty of categorizing the value of people based on their productive ability.

And this is never more prevalent in the area of our children. Our children can be noisy and messy, but they are of inestimable value in the Kingdom of God (see Mark 10:13-14).

We are so blessed to have so many children in our church family and I believe that they are our greatest responsibility. The training up of children in the ways of the Lord is the primary responsibility of the parents, but it is all of our responsibility. The community of believers all bear the responsibility of caring for and setting examples for our children.

In the first century Roman Empire, children were not valued at all. It was legal for a father to discard a newborn onto the trash heap if he decided not to keep the child. But the early church was radically different to their culture and had a high regard for children, as should we. There is no greater responsibility than to be entrusted with the short time that we must teach and mold these children in the ways of the Lord.

Paul begins by addressing children and telling them to obey their parents, “…for this is right”, Ephesians 6:1.

This seems obvious, but sadly our post-modern culture would re-write this verse to say, “Parents, obey your children, for this will keep them happy and bring peace to the home.

When Paul says, “for this is right”, he is simply stating that this is the ordained order of nature. It is part of the natural law of God written on every human heart. If you study history, virtually every civilization in history has regarded this natural law as indispensable for a stable society.

In Paul’s letter to the Colossian Church he adds the phrase, “…for this pleases the Lord” Colossians 3:20.

Now, this must not be a blanket statement that parents use for abuse. Our foremost authority is to Jesus, and if parents instruct their children to do things that are obviously contrary to the Word of God, then the child’s first line of obedience is to the Lord.

Paul writes in verse 2 that children must honor their parents. To honor means to show respect and love. Children do not honor when they talk back to their parents or mock them. This is not simply wrong; it is dishonoring to God Himself who has given you those parents.

Paul was referring to the fifth commandment in Exodus 20:12 and in Exodus 21 anyone who cursed their parent or hit them, was to be put to death!

This commandment does not only apply to a certain age group, God requires all of us to honor our parents. 

Verse 4 has a particular challenge to parents, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” Ephesians 6:4. The word translated as fathers, is translated in other passages as “parents”, so it is safe to assume that Paul is referring to both parents in the role of raising their children.

This verse is more than simply an instruction not to make children angry, it is an instruction to parents to directly teach children and to disciple them in the ways of God. Our society has abdicated the responsibility of raising our children to the public-school systems and we wonder why society is failing in so many areas.

Parents taking the responsibility for the training of their children is the way God intends society to function (Proverbs 6:20).

In the ancient world, fathers had absolute control, they could abuse and even kill their children without any repercussions. We don’t have that challenge in our culture; however, we can be guilty of causing anger and discouragement in our children. Our children are often neglected and fail to receive the love and approval that will cause them to thrive in society. We can easily discourage our children by comparing them to other children or by using sarcasm and ridicule. Conversely, nothing causes a child to thrive like positive encouragement and unconditional love.

The Apostle Paul writes that parents are to, “but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” Ephesians 6:4b.

Contemporary parent counsellors and sociologists teach that we are to be more hands-off in the training of children. We are told to be non-directive and let them, “find their own way”.

Let me assure you, someone has an agenda for your children. Satan and his demons love to find children who have been left to, “find their own way”. Parents, it is our primary responsibility to train and instruct our children in the ways of the Lord. Danny Akin says about parenting, “have fun and talk about Jesus a lot”

We must teach our children that Jesus is Lord, and he is the ultimate and highest good. We must teach our children faith by living it in front of them. Involve our children in the process of praying through important life decisions. Parents, we can talk all day about living under the lordship of Jesus Christ, but unless our children see it in our lives, they will never make it their own.

Sadly, so many young people have left the church the moment they graduated from high school. I believe the primary reason is that they see the church as a social construct or a social club that their parents belong to. They do not see the power of the Gospel on display and the lifestyle of faith that the Bible talks about.

Parents lead your homes by faith and involve your children in the journey.

Unless the Lord builds the house,
    those who build it labor in vain.

Psalm 127:1a

Parenting is only possible with God and it is a daily walk by faith. We need to learn to commit our children to the Lord daily in prayer as we look to Him for grace and wisdom.