Sunday May 12, 2019 Mothers Day

As we honor mothers on Mother’s Day, we are reminded that the tasks that a mother performs often go unnoticed, however when they are not done, everyone notices.

God gives each of us assignments in life, one of the most important is that of being a godly mother.

In his final moments Jesus gave assignments to two men, John and Peter.

In John 19: 26-30, we read the well-known account of the crucifixion, the worst and the best day in all human history as Jesus gave his life for our sins.  As he was about to die, Jesus turns to Mary and John, the disciple he loved, and says, “here is your son”, “here is your mother”.

Jesus doesn’t simply ask John to look after his mother, he connects them as family and John took Mary into his home. At this time Mary was probably in her late forties and we assume that she was already widowed and had no way of supporting herself in that culture.

For Jesus, this was not an afterthought, it was part of his plan. Jesus never did anything without a definite purpose (See John 19:28). Jesus was not finished until he had taken care of his mother, in this he displayed the importance and value of caring for our mothers.

He entrusted his mother to John and in so doing, he honored his mother (see Ephesians 6:1-3).

In Ephesians 6, Paul taught the 5th commandment to the Gentile church in Ephesus, the only commandment with a promise, “that is may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”

We know that the children of Israel were the recipients of this law and it directly pointed them to the promised land that awaited them, but the principle of God is still the same, there is a blessing in honoring our parents.

This 5th commandment is not directed only to children, but to adults, honoring parents as we become adults, as we become parents and as they age.

Jesus honored his mother by ensuring that she is well cared for. Jesus gave John this assignment and the Bible tells us that he did as he was asked.

This takes us to the second assignment, the assignment that Jesus gave to the Apostle Peter in Matthew 16:13-20. Jesus and his disciples are making their way to Jerusalem, and as they come into the region of Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asks this question, “who do you say that I am?”, the most important question that we all must answer.

Peter, the bold disciple, inspired by the Holy Spirit, says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus affirms Peter’s declaration and makes a profound statement in verse 18, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

In the Greek language, Jesus uses the word “Petros” for Peter, which means small stone. And then he says, “and on this rock I will build my church”, the Greek word Jesus used for rock is “Petra”, which is a much bigger rock or a bedrock.

Jesus is saying that Peter is one of the small stones, but the foundation of the church was the message that Peter was to declare, the foundation of the church is the Gospel message, the Good news of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus the Christ, the son of the living God, which make a way for us to be righteous before God.

Jesus assigned Peter to declare the Gospel, and this is also the first time in the Bible that we see the word, “Church” used in the New Testament.

In verse 19, Jesus tells Peter, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom”. We use keys to open doors; these keys are not keys to open doors in heaven. Peter was given the keys to opening the door of faith in people by sharing the Gospel message. The key to the kingdom is the proclamation of the gospel. This is the role and responsibility of the church, to share the good news about Jesus Christ to unlock the hearts by faith as the Holy Spirit takes the message and transforms lives.

The Jewish rabbis often spoke of “binding and loosing,” meaning forbidding or permitting.

Jesus’ statement later included all the Apostles, as the representatives of their Lord, they would exercise authority according to His Word.

Verse 19 is frequently confused, and the Greek verbs for binding and loosing are crucial to our understanding. Both verbs, binding and loosing are in the perfect passive tense. This means that it is an already completed work. So, the original Greek translates as follows, “And whatever you bind on earth [forbid to be done], shall have been already bound … in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth [permit to be done], shall have already been loosed in heaven.”

Thus, Jesus is saying that Peter is to declare what God has already done in Heaven. Jesus did not say that God would obey what the Apostles declared on earth, but that the Apostles should do on earth whatever God had already willed. The church does not get man’s will done in heaven; it obeys God’s will on earth.

For Peter, this sounds like a mighty calling.

So, who got the more important role? Peter or John?

The keys to the kingdom or caring for a widow

We tend to view value or importance by the number of people influenced.

For example, don’t we view the CEO of a large company as being much more important than a CEO of a small company?

Surely, Billy Graham who preached to hundreds of thousands of people must have been more important than the unnamed preacher who walks the streets in India?

We tend to look for the impact or the influence, but God doesn’t look at influence, God looks at obedience.

We as those who have submitted ourselves to the lordship of Jesus Christ, daily need to be asking the Lord for direction and assignments. Sometimes the Lord asks us to do things that make a big noise in the world. Other times we are asked to do things that no-one notices, but God does!

So, who had the more important role, Peter or John? Both were equally important, both were equipped by God for the task that they had to do.

In the Kingdom of God as His children, there are no levels of importance, there is only obedience and disobedience to the calling of God on your life.

What is God inviting you to do with him?

(See Ephesians 4:11-12)

 

 

Sunday May 5, 2019 The Prescription for True Joy

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TRUE JOY

Paul’s letter to the Philippians

Are you joyful? The letter to the Philippian church is known as Paul’s letter of Joy. In Chapter 4:4 Paul makes a command, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”

So many people live joyless lives, we are surrounded things that steal our joy. Paul challenged the Philippian church to guard against things that would steal their joy.

Fear of opposition and suffering (Philippians 1:28 and 29)

In the western church, we have grown accustomed to the church being a respected part of society. The world is changing rapidly, and the true principles of Christianity are not welcomed or even tolerated. This should not surprise us if we read what Jesus taught as the signs of the end times in Matthew 24.

But we don’t need to be afraid of those who oppose Christianity, they are controlled by a different kingdom, a kingdom that tried to kill Jesus. As you live your life, being Christs ambassador, you will encounter opposition, it should not come as a surprise.

And then there is suffering; suffering is when things we desire, love and enjoy are taken away from us. We suffer when we lose a loved one, our health, our job, or we encounter a tragedy such as a natural disaster. We don’t ask for suffering, but it is a real part of our lives.

The challenge is, how do we prevent opposition and suffering from stealing our joy.

Lack of unity (Philippians 2:2-4)

Paul was joyful because the Philippian church was united. Does this mean there are never disagreements in the church? Of course not. It is quite normal to expect differences of opinion on certain subjects, but we must never compromise on the essentials of our faith and the truth of the Word.

So, when we do have differences of opinion, the governing rule must be love, “having the same love” (Philippians 2:2). This is a preferential love, a love that always seeks the highest good of others. This goes against the narcissism of the age in which we live.

Verse 2 ends with two more descriptions of unity, “being in full accord and of one mind”. This means that the church knows its God given purpose.  The purpose of the church is to, worship God, proclaim the Gospel, reach the lost and to care for the broken. The mission of the church always supersedes our personal preferences, that is Holy Spirit unity.

When the church is united around its mission and calling, the individual members of the church will experience joy. We will joyfully give, joyfully serve and joyfully fellowship with each other.

Grumbling or disputing (Philippians 2:14-15)

Paul is clear that all everything we do must be done without grumbling or disputing. The church is the representation of Christ on the earth and if we are characterized by grumbling and disputing, we are not going to attract people to Jesus.

Grumbling is also translated, Murmuring. This is the muttering under your breath or gossiping. This is like an undercurrent at a beach. From the surface, everything looks great, but as you get deeper into the water, the undercurrent sucks you under.

Disputing is the open arguments within the body. Normally where there is grumbling, arguments and disputes will follow. This has no place in the church.

When we argue, we are showing the world that our own personal opinions are more valuable than the name of our savior that we preach. Grumbling and disputing rob us of our joy.

False teaching (Philippians 3:2-3)

Paul rebukes the Judaizers, those false teachers who teaching that to become true Christian, you must go back to the law of Moses and begin practicing and conforming to the ancient Levitical law with all the rituals and sacrifices. These Judaizers prided themselves in their holiness and their morality, but Paul says that they were evildoers who were deceived, and deceiving others.

Today we have so many people who are trying to work for their salvation and striving to be good enough for salvation. Philippians 2:12 says “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling

We cannot work for our salvation, but we must work out our salvation. When you try to do things for God to earn salvation, not only are you not saved, you will also not experience true joy and peace with God.

Bad thinking (Philippians 4:8)

Proper actions come from proper thinking. What we think about will ultimately determine our practices. What you choose what to dwell on affects your whole life. Spending hours looking at other peoples posts on facebook or Instagram will rob you of joy. Harboring resentment against someone, dwelling on past pain, thinking impure thoughts, will all rob you of joy.

Lack of contentment (Philippians 4:11-13)

Paul had learned the secret of contentment as he trusted in the Lord in every circumstance. This is knowledge he has gained because of walking with God. We all go through seasons of need and abundance and if we don’t have a God given contentment, we will never experience joy.

So, with all these warnings of things that steal our joy, how do we find true joy?

In the middle of the letter Paul makes one of the most powerful declarations in all of scripture in Chapter 2:5-11.

Paul emphasizes the centrality of Christ in his life and in the life of the Church. The example of Christ is the key. It was because of Christs humility that God exalted him.

The key to joy is humility. Humility means that I trust that Jesus is enough. Humility is the very act of submitting to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in every area of my life.

How have you lost your joy?

Where have you turned your focus away from the supremacy of Christ?

It doesn’t happen with one decision, it is a gradual process of neglecting spiritual disciplines. Neglecting prayer, neglecting God’s word, pulling back from fellowship with other believers.

All these things lead to a gradual turning away from the lordship of Christ and a gradual turning away from Joy.

Philippians – Paul’s letter of Joy – Philippians 4:8-9 – Sermon March 31, 2019

Philippians 4:8-9

How is your thinking?

Anxiety, depression, worry and fear all stem from our thinking.

“You are not what you think you are, but what you think – that you are”

You choose what to think about, and what you think about, affects your whole life.

In Philippians 4, Paul is coming to the end of the letter and he wants to encourage the Philippian church to healthy disciplines. Our thought life is a discipline, meditating on God’s word, allowing the Holy Spirit to renew our minds daily.

All sin begins with a thought, we see something, and it triggers a thought that leads to temptation.

We hear something in passing and a thought builds that leads to offence and we begin to hold a grudge. Our minds are the epicenter of the spiritual warfare that we are engaged in.

Whenever we begin to believe a lie, Satan has control over us in that area.

There is a battle for the control of our minds, therefore it is imperative for us to daily spend time in God’s word. We live in a world with a constant stream of information.  We are saturated with up to 16 hours a day of information and not much of it good. When we neglect feeding on God’s word, saturating ourselves with the truth, we will find it impossible to discern the between lies and the truth. it is impossible to have a growing relationship with Jesus Christ without spending time daily meditating on God’s word.

In 2 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul made it clear that we are in a battle for our minds (see 2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

In Philippians 4:8 Paul lists eight adjectives:

1. True: For something to be true, it is genuine, and not counterfeit. In Ephesians 6, we read about the armor of God, of which the belt of truth is the first part of the armor, so that we will be able to stand firm against the lies of the enemy.

2. Honorable: Honorable or noble. Someone who is worthy of respect, who acts honorably is thinking honorably. This is the inward thought life of the follower of Christ.

3. Just: This suggests dealing in justice towards every-person, not given to favoritism or partiality. How we think about people will determine our justice towards them. Do we think about people differently because of the color of their skin, their age, their financial status or their education?

4. Pure: Authentic, stainless or without blemish. A pure glass of water can allow the light to go through unfiltered and clear. We as believers, as we keep ourselves pure, we allow the light of Jesus to shine through us. Sin is impurity that hinders the light of Christ to shine through our lives.

5. Lovely: Something that is lovely is pleasing and orderly. This speaks of harmony of thought not chaotic and hap-hazard thinking. When we allow sin to dwell in our hearts, when we think about impure things, our minds get flustered and easily frustrated.

6. Commendable: This is the opposite of Gossip. In our fallen and sinful state, we tend to gossip about someone rather than commend them. If you want to change the mood and atmosphere in a room, start speaking highly of each other, honoring and commending each other, and those not present.

7&8: Excellence and worthy of praise

Moral excellence is virtue and develops our fellowship with God.

Worthy of praise; to praise someone, rather than to tear them down.

As we look at these eight adjectives, these are the adjectives of the way we should be thinking. As we think about these things, we see that they are adjectives describing God.

God is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, praiseworthy.

God’s word is encouraging us to think about God, spending our time thinking deeply about the Creator God. Meditating on His awesome attributes and worshipping Him.

Then verse 9 Paul writes, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you

Proper actions come from proper thinking. What we think about will ultimately determine our practices. We often are surprised when someone we know is caught in a grievous sin or criminal activity, but it all begins with improper thinking.

J.D. Pentecost said, “Maturity in the Christian is not measured by what a man knows, but by what a man does.”

Thinking translates to doing and Paul was a living example of the conduct he expected the Philippian believers to walk in. Live by these thought patterns, taking them to heart allowing the Holy Spirit to dwell in you and transform your life, then you will know and experience the peace of God.

If you struggle to know the will of God for your life, you need to have a renewal of the mind (see Romans 12:2). Every-day we are exposed to images, words, experiences that soil our minds, we begin to become desensitized to sin and as a result our minds are full of impure thoughts and images. But here is the good news, God is able to transform our minds. As we ask God with repentance and thanksgiving, He renews our minds. Make a daily habit to pray for your mind to be renewed.

King David, after he sinned with Bathsheba he repented in Psalm 51. We read in Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” David cried to God to supernaturally renew his spirit to change his thinking.

Our thought patterns can be so destructive.

Thoughts of unforgiveness

Thoughts of shame

Thoughts of rejection

Thoughts of inadequacy.

When Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave, he didn’t only make a way for us to be made right with God so that we would not have to spend eternity separated from God in Hell.

Jesus also made a way for us to know peace, for us to have renewed minds, healed and restored minds.

How is your thinking?

Philippians – Paul’s letter of Joy – Philippians 4:1-3 – Sermon March 10, 2019

Living in Unity

Philippians 4:1-3

 Have you ever had an argument with a fellow believer?

What was the fruit of that argument?

In Philippians 4 we read about two women who had a disagreement in the church in Philippi. These women were gifted leaders, who’s argument had the potential to create division in the church.

The Apostle Paul addressed the issue directly because he saw the bigger picture, the eternal implications. We need to have an eternal perspective on disagreements, if someone is turned away from the church because of a personal disagreement and that person rejects Christ as a result, they will spend eternity in Hell.

Paul had been building the letter to get to this point, teaching and leading the church to pursue maturity and victorious Christian living. He begins the chapter by using a number of phrases to show his affection for the people of the church in Philippi;

my brothers, whom I love”, the Greek word he uses is agape, which refers to the love of God that has been given to us through the Holy Spirit (see Romans 5:5). This is the love that God gives us for each other in the Body of Christ. Without the agape, “love glue”, the church would simply not be able to stay together while on mission.

And long for”, Paul is approximately 800 miles away, he misses his family, longing to be with them.

my joy and my crown”, not only does he love them and miss them, he celebrates them. The members of the church in Philippi were his favorites, and his crown. Paul writes that the Philippian church was a reward for faithful service.

How often do we celebrate our brothers and sisters in Christ? Sadly, as a culture we only celebrate someone at their funeral.  Let us be Christians that celebrates on another, speaking life and encouragement over each other, this will bring joy and unity to the church.

Paul writes in verse 1 encouraging the Philippian believers to stand firm, standing on the truth’s that they have been taught. We need this encouragement today, we need to stand firm, unwavering on the truth’s that we have in God’s unchanging word.

Standing firm is a Roman military term of standing guard against any attack from the enemy. The implication is that the victory has already been won, Jesus won the victory on the cross and we are to hold the ground that he conquered as we declare the truth of the Gospel.

Watchman Nee writes “Remembering that we fight from victory not for victory. “

We stand firm by holding to the Word of God, not twisting it to be acceptable to culture.

We stand firm by loving God’s people.

We stand firm by loving the lost.

We stand by obeying what God tells us to do, even if it seems crazy to those around us.

In verse 2, Paul calls out two women, Euodia and Syntyche who were engaged in a fruitless argument. We don’t know anything about their dispute, but since Paul mentions them by name, it must have been a severe threat to the unity and the ministry of the church. Not taking sides, Paul pleads with them to end their disagreement. Paul knows that this argument is a threat to unity.

As believers, we can be right in an argument, but we have no right to create disunity in the church.

This does not mean that we forgo standing firm on foundational Biblical truths, but when an argument is a difference of opinion regarding secondary church issues, church unity and fellowship is more important.

Paul pleads with them to agree in the Lord. Essentially what he is saying is that their vision is too small. So often we disagree over secondary things, because we have forgotten the glorious purpose of the church, to proclaim the Gospel to every tribe and people group to the ends of the earth.

Satan loves to have the church fight over styles and colors and vehicles, all the while we are distracted from the primary purpose of our existence. What opinions do you need to let go of today that are hindering the ministry of the church?

Then in verse 3, he appeals to an unnamed person, someone he could trust to help these two women come to forgiveness and restore their relationship. This person, most likely a woman, may have been Lydia, who was the first Philippian convert. Early scholars suggested that this may have been Paul’s wife. Whoever this was, Paul was appealing to her to help bring restoration of the relationship between Euodia and Syntyche.

These two women were dedicated committed believers, who had served to advance the Gospel, but now they were wasting their energy on a fruitless argument. Not only that, they were also robbing themselves of joy. When you have a disagreement with someone and you refuse to forgive them, you are the one who suffers the most. You are robbing yourself of joy and even possibly your health.

Paul gently rebukes them, while at the same time he lovingly affirms them. Paul knows they are saved, but that they were not living out their calling and their fullest potential because they were living with unforgiveness. It’s not that they didn’t know Christ, but for a time, they had stepped away from the Lordship of Christ in their lives. This can happen to us at any-time as we fall into sin by giving in to temptation and step out of the Lordship of Christ over our lives. As soon as the Holy Spirit convicts us, we need to quickly repent and ask Jesus to forgive us of our sins (See 1 John 1:9).

Realistically we will always have disagreements in the church over matters of opinion, but we need to quickly repent and seek restoration, always remembering the mission, the greater purpose of the church.

What do you need to let go of today?

Who do you need to forgive?

Who do you need to ask for forgiveness?

Psalm 133

Philippians – Paul’s letter of Joy – Philippians 3:15-21 – Sermon February 24, 2019

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Philippians 3:15-21

 The Apostle Paul often refers to the Christian life as a race and the Bible is full of stories of men and women of God, who began the race well, but failed in the end because they disregarded God’s rules for the race (see 2 Timothy 2:5). As a Christian if you don’t follow the rules, you don’t lose your salvation, but you miss out on the rewards (see 1 Corinthians 3:14-15).

In 2 Corinthians 5:10, we read that every believer must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, and we will be called to give an account for how we made use of our spiritual gifts and the calling of God on our lives.

Paul writes in verse 15, “Let those of us who are mature think this way…”

Spiritual maturity is not perfection, but it is daily making progress towards holiness and purity in our lives. The plan for our lives this side of heaven is progress not perfection.

Paul continues in verse 15, “Only let us hold true to what we have attained.”

The Christian life must be one of consistency, holding on to the ground that has already been taken as we grow in the Lord.

There are two primary reasons why people do not grow and mature in their walk with the Lord.

  1. They assume they are already mature A person who makes a decision for Christ is not mature, they are spiritual infants. In this life spiritual maturity is a journey and not a destination.
  2. They are not willing to pay the price for maturity. Maturity comes at a cost. We must give up things that hold us back. There is pain involved in growth and we naturally shy away from pain. James 1:1-4 explains the common process of spiritual growth.

To mature as a Christian, we need role models, mature Christians who have walked the road ahead of us, that we can look to for inspiration and encouragement.  Paul writes in verse 17 that the Philippian Christians should imitate him as an example. As Christians our life is what other people scrutinize. What kind of role-model are you for a younger Christian?

If that sounds intimidating, we need to be reminded that this is the design that God has for the church.

But then in verse 18 and 19 Paul describes a group of people that we should not follow as role-models. These people were in the church, members of the church in Philippi. This is why he says that he is writing with tears, it grieves him.

Paul says that these professing Christians are actually enemies of the cross, and he lists 4 rebukes against these people:

  1. Their end is destruction” – These people are playing at being Christians, but they are wasting their lives.
  2. their god is their belly” – They are driven by sensual appetites, this doesn’t mean that they are all gluttons, rather they run after every desire they have without self-control. Living for the moment and they have no concern for their eternal destination.
  3. They glory in their shame” – People give themselves over to their passions and their appetites and then try to find a way to justify their actions, even declaring that what they are doing is right and good. God’s standard never changes, but the world and sadly many churches today have so embraced sin, even celebrating sin, “They glory in their shame”.
  4. with minds set on earthly things “– Much like the modern Western church, we are programmed by materialism and the present world full of entertainment. One of my goals is to have an eternal perspective on everything and one of the goals of my ministry is to convey that passion to others.

Can you imagine the impact a church could have on the world if we saw everything we did and every dollar we spent through the lens of eternity?

Paul picks up that theme in verses 20 and 21: “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”

As Christians, we are under the rule and the authority of the kingdom of heaven. The people of Philippi grasped this easily, because even though they lived in Greece, they were under Roman rule. They submitted themselves to the higher authority of Rome. While we are here on the earth, living in the United States of America, we are subject to the laws of the land where we live. But these laws are temporary, this land is temporary, but our citizenship in the kingdom of God is eternal. So, while we adhere to the laws of the land, where those laws conflict with the laws of the eternal kingdom we must submit to the higher authority.

Paul has an eager expectation of Jesus coming again, this is what it means to have an eternal perspective. Our residence here is temporary, the things we spend most of our time stressing about are temporary (see 2 Corinthians 4:18).

Everything we have is temporary, but what will endure is the lasting effects of a life lived for Jesus, how you spend your time, how you spend your money will determine the eternal rewards that Jesus has in store for you. Are you living with an eternal perspective?

Are you living as a true follower of Jesus?

Are you a citizen of heaven or are you an enemy of the cross?

Philippians – Paul’s letter of Joy – Philippians 2:14-18 – Sermon January 6, 2019

Philippians 2:14-18

This is a sad season, a time of turning off the Christmas celebration lights and the beginning of the cold dreary days of winter. However, as Christians we are commanded to keep our lights shinning.

Obviously, this is not the decorative lights on our houses, rather, we are called to shine as a light in the place where God has placed us. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you will shine, it won’t even be an option for you.

In Philippians 2:14 Paul writes, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing,” This one verse is a single lifetime goal for every believer. Everything we do, we must do without grumbling or disputing.

Grumbling, also translated as murmuring is the muttering under your breath or gossiping. Murmuring is like an undercurrent at the beach, it is deadly to the church.

Disputing, is open arguments within the body. Normally where there is grumbling, and murmuring, arguments and disputes will follow. Sadly, many churches have reputations for having business meetings characterized by arguments and disputes. This is unacceptable because the church is the representation of Christ in the World, when we argue, we are showing the world that our personal opinions are more valuable than the name of our savior.

 Both murmuring and disputing damage our witness, and they have no place in the church. We can have differences of opinion absolutely, but we handle it in a way that operates out of the love of Christ.

Verse 15, Paul writes to the church to stop grumbling and disputing so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish…”. Paul sets the bar high, we are not there yet, but we must keep moving forward allowing God to reveal areas of our lives that need to be brought in line with His holiness.

When we become followers of Jesus we begin the process of becoming more like Christ. (see 1 John 3:2), this is the process of sanctification.

To be blameless is to live a life above reproach, a life of Character and integrity. Too many people call themselves Christians, but how they live during the week is very different from how they appear on Sundays. If your private life and your public life don’t match up, you are probably not saved.

To live innocently is not to live blissfully unaware of evil, but rather to live without mixed motives. To live openly and relate to people without an agenda or ulterior motive.

When we hear the word unblemished, it reminds one of the Old testament requirements of an unblemished lamb that was to be brought before God as a sacrifice for sins. To be unblemished is to walk in holiness and purity, to have no spot or stain, to live above reproach.

The standard is high and unattainable in our own strength. The goal of being blameless, innocent and without blemish is only possible as we lay down our own desires and passions and allow the Holy Spirit to lead us. We are to live blameless, innocent and unblemished because we are representing Christ.

According to Philippians 2:15, the Christians in Philippi were living in a crooked and twisted generation, much like we find in the world today. People who live for their own self worship, twisting the truth and denying the existence of God. The world has always had people who deny God, who are cruel and crooked, we should never be surprised by the behavior of people who deny the existence of God, they have no moral compass. But God is looking for those who would choose Him, who would submit to His lordship over their lives. Noah was such a man (see Genesis 6:9). God is looking for the man or woman today who would shine as a light in the world (Philippians 2:15).

As Christians we do not create the light, we reflect the light of Christ (see 1 Peter 2:9).

Every Christian filled with the Holy Spirit, carries the light of Christ which is visible to the world, the only difference is how much of that light are you allowing to emanate from you. When we sin, we dim the light of Jesus that we reflect. Sin is like a cloud obscuring the moon’s reflection of the sun.

The tragedy of the 21st century professing Christian is that sin is so accepted that we barely reflect the glory of our Lord to a dark world. The reason why the world mocks Christians is because they don’t see Jesus. They see people living in sin but playing religious games. Let us be a people that hate sin, striving for personal holiness and purity, reflecting the glory and majesty of Jesus Christ our Lord (see 1 John 1:5-6).

When we entertain sin, when we live outside of the will of God for our lives, we are missing the purpose for which we were saved. We were created and saved by God to bring Glory to His name and when we step outside of His will, we are wasting our lives and making a mockery of the cross.

Philippians 2:16, “holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.”

The Word of Life is the Gospel message, 1 John 1 says that Jesus is the Word of Life.

The Greek word for “holding fast”, could either mean to cling to or to hold forth or present.

To hold fast, is a picture of how we desperately cling to the Word of Life for our salvation and daily life. Holding forth is a picture of presenting the light of the Gospel for the world to see.

I believe both meanings are intended, we as Christians must grab hold of the Gospel and cling to it for our very lives as we are faced with temptation and then as those who reflect the light of Jesus, we hold out the Gospel as a witness to the dark world.

This life is so very short, let us be a people who are so totally committed to reflecting the light of the Gospel, the light of Jesus that we become less and less visible (Philippians 2:17).

Are you reflecting the Word of Life? Are you Holding out the Word of Life as a light in this dark world? When people see you, do they see Jesus?

Philippians – Paul’s letter of Joy Part 5 Sermon October 28, 2018

Philippians 1:19-30

The Gift of Suffering

The greatest threat facing the Western church is not persecution or opposition, rather the greatest threat to the church is comfort. Our culture resists anything that is inconvenient and produces discomfort and as a result, when our Christian walk becomes uncomfortable, we shy away and look for an easy road. But that is not what the Christian life that we are called to.

If comfort is our goal and our pursuit, we will never attain to the full measure of the calling of God on our lives.

In Philippians 3:27-30, we see three characteristics of the New Testament church that applies to us today.

1. The Unity of the church (Verse 27).

Paul was writing to another Roman city, the Philippians were part of the Roman Empire, and as such, they had to live and abide by the rules of the Roman authorities, but more primarily they were citizens of Heaven, and ought to be living according to the laws of that Kingdom (Philippians 3:20).

When we become followers of Jesus Christ, we take on a new citizenship and we commit to living a life that abides by the principles and laws of that citizenship. Whether we like it or not, the world is watching our walk to see if we behave as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.  It has been said that the most powerful influence on an unbeliever is not a book or a video presentation, but rather it is the consistent life of a believer.

Verse 27, continues, “…so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel,”

Paul is writing about church unity; the alternative is disunity which results in a church that is unable to accomplish that which God has called them to. Church unity is everyone’s responsibility, unity comes about as we serve, pray and worship together, uniting around the mission of the church.

In this verse, Paul writes something that seems to go against our 21st century church culture, “with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel”. Striving together is a term that speaks of an athletic contest or a sports team standing shoulder to shoulder defending their goal line. This is the picture of the church that is standing firm and close, protecting each other and working together. In the church, there can be no passengers, we are together in a spiritual war, without unity there is a weakness that the enemy will use to his full advantage. Gossip, slander and apathy are weaknesses that will prevent unity and prevent us from taking the ground that the Lord has called us to take. Are you all in? Are you prepared to sacrifice your personal preferences for the purposes of Jesus in His church?

2. Opposition to the church (verse 28).

This is another one of those comforts that we wrestle with in the western church. We have grown accustomed to the church being a respected part of society. However, you may have noticed that this is not the case in the twenty-first century. The Bible is full of warnings to us that we will be hated by the world, Jesus himself spoke about this in Matthew 24:9.

Does this mean that we must live in fear, cowering in the corner? Absolutely not, as we stand firm, courageous and united, those who oppose us and what we stand for, will be convicted by the Holy Spirit of their own spiritual condition.

In Acts 16, we read about Paul and Silas being in prison in the Philippian jail. After the earthquake struck and their chains had fallen off the jailer was about to kill himself because he thought his prisoners had all fled. However, Paul called out to him and saved his life, resulting in the jailer and his whole family becoming followers of Jesus. Why did Paul and Silas not escape? Because they were not afraid, they had no fear of their opposition and they were proclaiming the Good News of Jesus during their suffering.

As Christians we don’t need to be afraid of those who oppose us because we are Christians. As we live our lives as Christs ambassadors, expect to encounter opposition.

3. The suffering of the church (Verses 29 and 30).

We know that salvation is a free gift from God, we cannot earn it, we simply receive it. But along with the gift of salvation, Paul says that we get the gift of suffering. Have you ever received a gift you didn’t want?

Suffering is when things we desire, love and enjoy, are taken away from us. We suffer when we lose a loved one, our health, our career or we lose our home in a tragedy such as a storm or natural disaster. Suffering comes because of situations that are out of our control. We don’t ask for suffering, but suffering is a very real part of life, even the life of a Christian. But how can suffering be a gift?

Suffering becomes a gift when seeing and treasuring Christ above all else is your goal.

David Platt said, “when we pursue Christ in a world of sin and suffering, then we will experience sin and suffering. And the more that suffering takes things away from our lives, the more we’ll be drawn to Christ.”

Paul wrote this letter from prison, he was suffering and yet during his suffering he saw the purpose of God to spread the Gospel. There is a connection between suffering and the spread of the Good news of Jesus. If you profess to be a Christian and everything goes well in your life, the world does not notice that. However, if God allows you to experience suffering and you go through that loss with joy and peace and hope in Christ, the World will take notice of that because it speaks of a supernatural power in your life, the power of God.

Job knew this, he experienced unimaginable pain and yet could say what he did in Job 19:25-26.

(See also 1 Peter 4:12-13)

God doesn’t waste suffering; will you allow Him to use your pain to bring glory to the name of Jesus?

Philippians – Paul’s letter of Joy Part 2 Sermon October 7, 2018

Philippians 1:7-11

Are you still growing?  Physically we may stop growing, but we must never stop growing in our walk with the Lord

The Apostle Paul shared a special connection with the Christians in Philippi, and in verse 9, Paul writes that he is continually praying for them, but notice that Paul doesn’t pray for their prosperity, health, or protection from the Roman authorities, rather he prays for their spiritual growth (Philippians 1:9). We are frequently taught in the Bible that we experience God’s blessing as we advance and mature in our Christian walk (2 Peter 3:18).

Paul prays that their love may abound more and more, using the Greek word agape, which means the kind of love that seeks the highest good of the other person, preferring others over yourself. As a church community, we sometimes find that the little things that others do sometimes annoy us. One can list any number of things that cause frustration for each other in the church. But what it all boils down to is that we don’t love each other. When we take the time to get to know someone and really begin to love them, we find that those little things that create tension, don’t seem to bother us as much (1 Peter 4:8-9). Love for each other is a gift from God.

Paul continues in verse 9 and asks the Lord that they would grow in knowledge and discernment. Knowledge and discernment are what keep our relationships in community healthy, they are like the banks in a river that keep the water of our emotions from rushing outside of its boundaries.

Knowledge comes out of caring for each other. When we are frustrated with someone’s behavior, we quickly rush to judgment before we know all the facts. If we care enough to know, we will be able to use discernment and respond appropriately (1 John 4:7-8). The same applies in our relationship with the Lord, we must know God to love Him, and in the same way we must know God in order to love His children.

One of the key errors that many Christians make is when they attempt to have a Lord that they do not know. Knowledge is not simply an intellectual understanding, it is developed from a personal relationship, which only comes from spending time alone with God in personal times reading His word and hearing from Him, allowing Him to direct your life.

Discernment, like wisdom is the practical application of the knowledge we have. We are to be motivated and informed by love, but when we have all the facts presented to us, our love for each other is what drives our actions and our responses. Our church has many different cultures and ages represented, but in Christs church, the only dominant culture should be the culture of the Kingdom of God. If we are ever tempted to criticize someone because their behavior does not conform to our expectation, then we need to step back quickly and ask the Lord for wisdom and discernment to know the love of the Kingdom of God.

Paul begins verse ten with two words, “So that…” in light of his prayer he lists what are the criteria for a person of character. Excellence, purity, being blameless and filled with the fruit of righteousness, all of these are Character traits of Holiness.

Excellence

The first characteristic of Holiness Paul lists is “approving what is excellent”, in other words, to test or to use discernment and focus on those things that really matter. Paul begins and ends this letter with the same exhortation (Philippians 4:8). As Christians we frequently settle for the good, when God offers us the excellent. We settle for coming to church on a Sunday twice a month, and barely spend 5 minutes each day in reading God’s word. But God offers us something excellent, not just in our relationship with Him, but also in our relationships with each other as we grow together in the church community.

Purity

The next character trait is purity. As followers of Jesus Christ, we need to be people who don’t hide our imperfections, but rather we are sincere and honest in our interactions with people. How do we discover the imperfections in our lives? By allowing God’s word to penetrate deep into our hearts and bring about the conviction of the Holy Spirit (Psalm 139).

Blameless

Paul prays that they would be blameless for the day of Christ. Now we know that as believers when it comes to the final judgment day, we are declared righteous because of the blood of Jesus, but that does not mean we can live as we please. We need to be people living with excellence, striving for purity and making daily decisions that would keep us blameless before our fellow man. To be blameless is to live as one who gives no offense to others, this is our outward witness, the character trait that people see in our lives (Titus 2:7-8).

Finally, in verse 11, we read that Paul prayed for the church to be “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

In Galatians 5:22-23, we read about the fruit of the Spirit, but what are the fruit of righteousness?

The fruit of the Spirit are primarily internal fruit, heart attitudes and thought patterns governed by the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. But the fruit of righteousness are outward displays of God’s presence in our lives. The fruit of righteousness come from our abiding in Christ (John 15).

The process of producing fruit is all about allowing Jesus to produce the fruit through us to the glory and praise of God alone.

Here are some examples of the fruit of righteousness.

  •  Evangelism – proverbs 11:30
  • Service – Colossians 1:10
  • Holiness – Romans 6:22

There are many more examples of the Fruit of Righteousness which all come from living in Christ, to the glory of God the Father (Matthew 5:16)

Are you growing in your walk with the Lord?

Are you living a life of excellence, purity, so that you can be blameless and produce much fruit through Jesus Christ to the glory of God?

Philippians – Paul’s letter of Joy Part 1 Sermon September 30, 2018

Philippians 1:1-6

Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi was written around A.D. 61, while Paul was in house arrest in Rome. Paul was writing to the church that he planted while in Macedonia about ten years earlier.

This letter is mostly a letter of thankfulness and joy, in these four short chapters, Paul mentions Joy or rejoicing nineteen times. Paul begins the Letter by introducing himself and Timothy as servants of Christ, the Greek word he used is Doulos, which means bond-slave. Picture this, Paul, the accomplished church planter, missionary, Roman citizen, premier theologian in all of history and he introduces himself as a bond-slave.  Paul understood that by becoming a follower of Jesus, he surrendered all his rights, as he wrote in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.

Hudson Taylor the missionary to China, once said, “Let us give up our work, our thoughts, our plans, ourselves, our lives, our loved ones, our influence, our all, right into God’s hand; and then, when we have given all over to Him, there will be nothing left for us to be troubled about or to make trouble about.”

This is what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

Paul goes on to address the recipients of the letter and says, “to all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi…”

The term Holy People is usually translated as “saints”, the Greek meaning is to be set apart, separate from the rest of the people. The church is made up of people who are different and separate by being in Christ.

To be in Christ, is a positional statement of being set apart unto God and exclusively belonging to Christ.

In verse two Paul proclaims a blessing on them. “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”. Grace and peace are promises from God for believers in Jesus Christ. Grace is unmerited favor, getting something that we don’t deserve.

Justice is getting what you deserve, mercy is not getting what you deserve and grace is getting what you don’t deserve.

Additionaly, term used for peace here is more than just peace with God, it can best be described by the Hebrew word Shalom. Shalom is a Hebrew word meaning peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare and tranquility and can be used like the term Aloha in Hawaiian to mean both hello and goodbye. Paul is reminding his beloved readers that in Christ they have received grace, and experience peace.

Are you experiencing peace? True peace is not a life without trouble, rather it is knowing God’s peace in the midst of troubles (see Philippians 4:7). Maybe today you need to repent of your sins and allow the grace of God to refresh you by the blood of Jesus so that you can know the peace of God in your life.

Paul continues, “I thank my God every time I remember you.” Paul must have been looking back to what took place in Acts 16 some eleven years earlier. He must have remembered Lydia, the cloth trader, the demon possessed slave girl and the jailer, all who became miraculous followers of Jesus.  Paul loves these people, he has great memories of spending time with them and he is thankful to God for them (verse 4).

Notice Paul’s prayers are not simply generic prayers, he remembers them and prays diligently for them because they were true partners with him in the ministry (verse 5). Paul was financially supported by churches that he planted. This letter was to his financial supporters and he thanked them for their partnership. But this partnership was not simply a one-way transaction, Paul gave of himself for the church and prayed diligently for the church that sent him finances and encouraged him.

As we look at the ancient church in Philippi, we will see that we are very similar to the Philippian church, and what Paul wrote to them applies to us today in the 21st century. They were a missionary sending and supporting church.

This is what healthy churches do, we must never see sending missionaries as a financial transaction, rather sending and receiving is all part of the Grace and Peace of God in the church.

Looking at verse 6, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Paul is confident, he has faith that what was begun ten years earlier will continue to grow and be fruitful until Jesus comes again. Paul was confident that Jesus will build His church, just as he promised in Matthew 16:18. Sometimes we need to be reminded, that this is not our church, this church belongs to Jesus and he is continuing to work out his plans and build his church until he comes again to receive his bride.

I hope you see that the church is something so much greater and more glorious than a social gathering on a Sunday morning. Even this small church, is a part of the bigger church, the universal Body of Christ, and we feel those connections through the missionaries we pray for and other Christians we meet from other churches, and as we remember and pray for the persecuted church.

Growing individually and corporately as the church, is not a matter of making ourselves better people, rather it is the power of God working in us, as we lay down our preferences and allowing the Holy Spirit to work in us and through us for God’s glory.

Are you daily being changed by the Gospel?

If someone was to write a letter to your church, would they see the three characteristics that Paul saw in the church in Philippi.

  1. Would they see a true partnership? Are you all in? Or are you just attending church.
  2. Would they see that you are motivated by the Gospel? The Good News must be the driving force of the church.
  3. Would they see that we are looking towards Jesus coming again? This world does not offer hope, our only hope is found in Jesus Christ.

Sermon September 9, 2018 Re-Up part 4 – Evangelism

 Evangelism, the mission of the church.

Luke 24:36-53

At the end of Luke’s Gospel, we read how Jesus revealed himself to select groups of people. Firstly, to the women who went to the tomb and found it empty, then Jesus met the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. At the end of the chapter 24 Jesus appears in the room where the eleven disciples were meeting.  The disciples must have been terrified, they had seen Jesus die, and now he simply appears in the middle of the room.

Jesus begins to give them multiple proofs of his physical resurrection. He invites them to touch him and see that he is really in human form and not a spirit being. They were still struggling to comprehend what was happening when Jesus asks them for something to eat, and he eats the fish in front of them to prove his resurrection.

Jesus’ resurrection from death opens the way for all who trust in him to follow him in a resurrection like his when he returns. This is important because it shows that our ultimate hope is not just for our souls to go to heaven, but for our physical bodies to be raised to new life like Jesus’ was (see 1 John 3:1-2).

Jesus continues in verse 44 to show them that the Old Testament was not simply a record of history or a collection of stories and poetry, but rather the entire Old Testament points towards Jesus. In verse 45 we read, “he opened their minds to understand the scriptures”.  This simple statement has profound implications, up till now the disciples had heard the teachings of Jesus, but they really struggled to understand the implications of what they were witnessing. Jesus gave them supernatural understanding of the Word of God. Jesus gave them a gift.

True understanding of the Bible is a gift from God. As Christians we have the Holy Spirit in us, not only to guide and counsel but also to understand the Bible (John 16:13). The Bible is the supernatural word of God and before you open the pages pray for understanding through the Holy Spirit (pray Psalm 119:18).

Jesus explained that his death and resurrection was the necessary process by which people can be restored to a right relationship with God. Jesus gave them the Great Commission, and then told them to stay in Jerusalem to wait for a mysterious power to do the work he was telling them to do. Jesus ascended into heaven with the promise that he would send the helper, the comforter, the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit.

As we go out to share the Gospel, we must never try to go out in our own strength, we must never go without relying on the Holy Spirit for direction, for wisdom and for power. It is the Holy Spirit who takes our weak words and transforms them into life changing authority.

The disciples did not know what exactly Jesus was talking about, but as we know in the second chapter of the book of Acts, they were filled with the Holy Spirit and they were given the power to do what Jesus had instructed them to do.

As Jesus ascended into heaven he blessed the disciples. What a blessing that must have been, the disciples were a truly privileged group of men who had personally witnessed the greatest moments in all of history. But privilege always brings responsibility, they were to be witnesses of all that Jesus had said and done, Acts 1:8 reads, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

A witness is somebody who accurately reports what he or she has seen and heard. The disciples were witnesses, the word witness is used in one way or another twenty-nine times in the Book of Acts. As Christians, we are not judges or prosecuting attorneys sent to condemn the world, we are witnesses who point to Jesus Christ and tell lost sinners how to be saved. The Greek word for witness is “Martys”, which is where we get the word Martyr.

To be a witness for Christ will cost you something, it may cost you your reputation, or a promotion, in many parts of the world it will cost you your life. But the very act of sharing the Gospel is valuing the message and the person you are speaking to, more than your own comfort and preferences. This is what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. To value the Gospel more than our own lives, to value Jesus more than our own comfort. After all, didn’t Jesus value you more than his own comfort? Didn’t Jesus value you more than his own life?

As the church, we are a people who gather to worship, sing, pray and study God’s word. But with all those activities of the gathering of the body of Christ, what is the primary goal of the church? Worship, fellowship and praise are important and necessary, but all of these will continue on for eternity when we get to heaven. However, we will never be able to share the Gospel with the lost when life on this earth is over. It is and always has been the primary role of the church, to be the salt and light in the world, proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ.   John McArthur