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

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1 Kings 19:1-18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you afraid of today?

Bring it to the cross.

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

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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

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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

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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.

Sermon, Sunday November 8, 2020 – Spirit Filled Marriage.

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Ephesians 5:22-33

The starting point for discussing any relationship is found in Ephesians 5:18-21. Living a Spirit-filled life leads to healthy relationships and communities.  

Ephesians 5:22 to 24 has been challenged, thrown out, and ignored, because it doesn’t seem to sit well with our 21st century, post-modern, post-sexual revolution era. However, I believe it is extremely relevant to our culture. This passage gives us instruction in Spirit-filled marriages and the eternal purpose of God in marriage.

Sadly, in the 21st century, we must define marriage as it has been torn apart and challenged by our secular society. Marriage is ordained by God for an eternal purpose; thus, Satan hates marriage and has a specific purpose in destroying marriage.

John Stott wrote a definition of marriage: “Marriage is an exclusive heterosexual covenant between one man and one woman, ordained and sealed by God preceded by the leaving of parents, consummated in sexual union, issuing in a permanent mutually supportive partnership, and normally crowned with the gift of children

In Ephesians 5:22-24 Paul addresses wives:Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.”

Our culture struggles with this language of submission, but this is not about subjection or controlling power. Rather, as followers of Jesus, every aspect of our life is about submission.  

The key is in verse 25; a wife is called to submit to her husband who in turn is willing to die for her.  

While some may view submitting to one’s husband’s authority as something negative, a more accurate way of looking at marital roles is to understand that wives are called to follow their husband’s loving leadership.” – Andreas Kostenberger.

Husbands and wives have equal value, but different roles within marriage. When both are fulfilling their roles, marriage is a beautiful thing to observe. If we struggle with these verses, we have to go back to the basics, this is God’s authoritative word to us and He does not instruct us to do anything that is outside of His perfect nature and for our good.

We must be careful to reject any teaching that says that women are subservient to men, or that the husband is a form of a CEO in the marriage. Submission must be voluntary and follows sacrificial love. Christian wives freely follow the loving leadership of a faithful husband, they should not be forced to do so for a tyrannical husband.

What does it mean to submit? To put the will of the other person ahead of your own, to prefer the other person.

What does it mean to love? To put the needs of the other person ahead of your own needs, to prefer one another.

Love and submission are two sides of the same coin.

In Ephesians 5:25-33 Paul addresses husbands.

The first instruction we find is that Husbands are to display Christ-like love. Christlike love is a sacrificial love, it is the love that took Jesus to the cross to give his own life for the church.

Men, marriage is a call to die to self. It is daily giving yourself away for the good of your bride. It is sacrificial and preferential love.

You cannot love your wife like Christ loved the church and be passive. This is loving by serving and giving of your time and energy.

It is also a sanctifying love, as we see in verse 26. This does not mean that a husband can atone for sins, only Jesus can do that. But men are to be the spiritual leader in the home. Encouraging their wife and children to read and to allow the word of God to bring transformation.

Married men, are our wives more like Christ because she’s married to us?

Or is she more like Christ in spite of us?

Husbands are instructed to prefer their wives and care for her emotional and physical needs as we read in verse 28 and 29. The husbands’ role is not to simply occupy the couch and expect to be waited on. Our role is to care for the health and the needs of our spouse as we would care for our own bodies.

So that is the passage as it is traditionally taught, but there is a greater and more important message in this text. There is an eternal purpose in marriage.

The key is found in verse 32, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” Paul writes that this mystery is profound and beyond our understanding. When God created the world, and the covenant of marriage, he had Christ and the church in mind. Not the other way round.

Christ loves the church (v25), he gave his life for the church (v25), he sanctifies the church (v26), he cleanses the church (v26), he will present the church in splendor (v27), he provides and cares for the church (v29).

Marriage is not the ultimate, Christ is. If, the starting point for marriage is my own selfish desires, then I am starting at the wrong place. Marriage exists for the glory of Christ.

Marriage in this life is a shadow of the ultimate marriage of Christ and his bride the church. Christ is ultimate, not our husbands or our wives, our primary loyalty must be to Jesus.

Marriage is ordained by God for the glory of God. Therefore, He is the source of love and the only one who can cause a marriage to flourish and proclaim Christ to the World. The eternal purpose of marriage is to point us to the Gospel message. The church submitting to the headship of Christ, and Christ who already gave his life for the church. Christ is now sanctifying the church, his bride and preparing her for his return and the great marriage feast (Revelation 19).

As followers of Jesus, we need to celebrate marriage, we must pray for marriages, we must fight for marriages, because they have eternal significance.

Sermon Sunday September 6, 2020 – Walking as Light

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Ephesians 5:7-14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus won the victory.

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

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

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Ephesians 4:7-12

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

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

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

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

 Let us look at each of these gifts briefly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Sermon, Sunday May 31, 2020 Are You Healthy?

Click on the camera to watch a video of the full message.

Ephesians 4:1-6

Is your church healthy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A healthy church is marked by unity.

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

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

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

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

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

Looking at each of these individually:

Humility

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

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

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

Gentleness:

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

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

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

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

Patience:

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

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

Accepting one another in love:

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

Diligently keeping unity.

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

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

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

How do we keep unity?

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

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

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

One body: the church is the body of Christ.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A healthy church maintains unity.

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

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Ephesians 3:1-13  

Do you know that you are being watched?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The church is preaching a cosmic sermon to the universe.

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

Never underestimate the glory of God in the church!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is all said as part of the mystery.

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

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

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

Do You Know Your Net Worth? Sermon, Sunday March 8, 2020

Ephesians 1:7-14

Do you know your net worth?

If you are a follower of Jesus, you are infinitely more valuable than Jeff Bezos who is currently the wealthiest man on the planet.

Ephesians 1:11 says, “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.”

Romans 8:17 says that as adopted children, we are co-heirs with Christ. The inheritance that Jesus is one day going to receive is infinite and we are co-heirs. There is real net-worth in being a child of God.

This is a reality that we see in Ephesians 1:7-14. It all begins with Jesus, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.

The word redemption is a word that means to set free by paying a price. In the Roman empire, slaves were often bought and sold like pieces of furniture. It was possible under Roman law for someone to purchase a slave and then set him free. This is exactly what Jesus has done for us. We were once slaves to sin, and Jesus paid the price for our freedom (see Galatians 1:3-4).

But more than simply being freed slaves, we have been adopted by God, with full rights of inheritance as His children.

The word forgive means “to carry away”, as we see in the picture of the scapegoat in Leviticus 16.

Christ died to carry away our sins so they might never again be seen. When John the Baptist saw Jesus in John 1:29 he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

No written accusation stands against us because our sins have been taken away!

Verse 7 and 8 continue that all this is, “according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight”

God’s grace has been defined as “God’s favor toward the unworthy or the undeserving.”

In His grace, God is willing to forgive us and bless us abundantly, even though we don’t deserve to be dealt with so generously.

More than that, this grace is lavished on us. God pours out His amazing grace with abundance, more than we ever need or could ask for. Our Heavenly Father is generous, He gives freely and abundantly.

But it gets better. Not only are we redeemed, forgiven and blessed with abundant grace, we are also given wisdom and insight.

It is one thing to set someone free, but what if they have never been free before?

When we are set free from Satan’s grasp, we have no idea how to walk in the light. This is where God blesses us with wisdom and insight by the Holy Spirit, to be able to walk as His child.

Paul continues this long sentence in Ephesians 1:9-10, “making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”

All of history is controlled and purposed by God, and as His children God lets us in to the secrets of His plan of redemption for the world. We get to see first-hand that God’s plan centers around a redeemer – Jesus (see Ephesians 1:10). Jesus is the redeemer that the whole earth is waiting for (see Romans 8:22-23).

In Ephesians 1:11 and 14, we read about an inheritance, “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.” (see also 1 Peter 1:3-4).

Then we come to the final verses in this section and in verse 13 we have the complete plan of salvation, “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,”

  1. The first step is hearing the Gospel, the news about what Jesus has done on the cross and the power of his resurrection.
  2. Then there is the belief component, this is where the mystery of predestination and faith collide as we read in Romans 10:9-10.
  3. And the third component of salvation is that those who believe are sealed with the promise of the Holy Spirit, who was promised by Jesus and by the Old Testament prophets. The Holy Spirit is not an optional extra for living the Christian life. If you don’t have the presence of the Holy Spirit, you do not have the seal of ownership of God on your life. When you are saved God puts His mark on you; the Holy Spirit is God’s seal of ownership and the fulfillment of His promise.

But the Holy Spirit is way more than a seal of God’s ownership, in verse 14 we see, “who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

We know that the Holy Spirit is our counsellor, the revealer of truth and so much more, but he is also a guarantee, a down payment of what is to come. God doesn’t only promise us an amazing future, He has brought the future into the present, so that we might have a foretaste of what is to come.

Here is the bottom line, we need all the Trinity for our salvation.

  • The adoption by the Father
  • The redemption by the Son
  • The seal of the Holy Spirit

Do you know your net worth?

Something is only as valuable as the price someone is willing to pay for it.

Jesus paid the price for our redemption. The creator of the universe redeemed us by His own precious blood. He sacrificed everything, gave up his position in heaven to ultimately suffer and die on a cruel Roman cross. The price that Jesus paid for your salvation was infinite (See Romans 5:8), therefore God places an infinite value on your life.

Do you know what you have been saved from?

Do you really know how much God values your life?

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9