Thankfulness a Spiritual Discipline

Click on the Camera to view the full message

As we celebrated another thanksgiving, we were grateful to spend time with some of our church family. I am so glad we live in a country that celebrates a day of gratitude.

I think Thanksgiving means so much to Debbie and I because like the Pilgrims, we are immigrants and have been blessed by God in these United States. The word “Pilgrim” means, “a person on a sacred journey in a foreign land.” We must remember that we who are followers of Jesus are all pilgrims and foreigners in this world.

Thanksgiving is all about God and recognizing all the blessings He has freely given us. In a world that has all but pushed God away in every sphere of society, it is amazing that we still celebrate thanksgiving.

Dante Rossetti once said; “The worst moment for the atheist is when he is really thankful and has nobody to thank”.

The Psalms are full of wonderful anthems of praise and thanksgiving, and Psalm 103 is one of them.

It is interesting to see what David focuses on as he thanks God. Not once in that entire Psalm does he give thanks for his family, his home, his possessions, or even his throne. David doesn’t give thanks for many of the things most people would mention. Instead, he praises God for forgiving his sins, healing all his diseases, redeeming his life from the pit, crowning him with love & compassion, and satisfying his desires with good things so that his youth was renewed. David couldn’t lose those things.

Jesus emphasized the same thing in the Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew 6:19-21). How thankful are we for the things we can never lose?

Psalm 103:2 says, “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,”

This is such a crucial verse. If we forget the blessings of the Lord, we will quickly become ungrateful, take things for granted, and maybe even begin to feel entitled. The danger of this is that we become focused on what we don’t have, rather than on the many things we receive from the Lord that we don’t deserve.

Psychologists will tell you that there is tremendous benefit in being thankful. It is needed for our physical health and for developing healthy relationships. I would like to suggest that thankfulness becomes a spiritual discipline that we can and must develop, and it will produce enduring fruit.

The Bible is full of commands, and it encourages us to be thankful (see Ephesians 5:19-20).

We know that the Bible is practical and recognizes the pain and suffering that we encounter on life’s journey. The command to be joyful and give thanks is not an excuse to turn a blind eye to pain and suffering. Rather it reveals to us that are unable to be continually thankful without the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Real thankfulness is not dependent on our circumstances, it is a response to the goodness of God and the Gospel message.

The Psalms are full of examples of thanksgiving during pain. Several the Psalms of David begin with him crying out in pain, but by the end of the Psalm, as he recognizes the hand of God, he thanks and praises the Lord.

Our lives are fragile, and we easily forget how dependent we are on God for everything we have (see Psalm 103:13-16). Our lives may be fragile and fleeting, but to God we are precious in His eyes, and He will never forget us.

Our Father provided a way to redeem us and bring us into relationship with Himself. Our sins and prideful nature separate us from God, and unless our sins are atoned for, we will never enter into eternal life in relationship with God. Psalm 103:12 says, “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” That is something to be thankful for!

Tim Keller observed: “The Christian gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued that Jesus was glad to die for me. This leads to deep humility and deep confidence at the same time. It undermines both swaggering and sniveling. I cannot feel superior to anyone, and yet I have nothing to prove to anyone. I do not think more of myself or less of myself. Instead, I think of myself less.”

Isn’t it amazing that two people who live in similar situations can have such a different outlook on life. One person is negative and complaining, while the other is optimistic and joyful.  The difference is gratitude.

Praise and thanksgiving make all the difference in life.

Each moment that we’re given is a precious gift from God. We can choose to have a thankful attitude and live each moment full of joy.

Being thankful is an act of worship because it reminds us of our provider, our Heavenly Father.

My challenge to you this week is that as you go about your day, make a point of being grateful for the little things, and if you struggle with identifying them, ask the Holy Spirit to give you eyes to see the blessings all around you.

As you do that, you will be praying without ceasing!

1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “pray without ceasing,” we repeat that verse but often overlook the full sentence starting in verse 16, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

We are called by God to rejoice always, pray without ceasing and give thanks in all circumstances.

Why? Because it is the will of God in Christ Jesus. God knows that this is the best for you and me. A spiritual discipline that will produce a harvest of righteousness.

Supernatural Love

Click on the camera to view the full message video

If you confess to be a Christian, how do people know?

It’s not because you wear a t-shirt, have a bumper sticker on your car or post encouraging words on Facebook.

The one defining aspect of a true Christian is love. And not the easy kind of love, loving those who love you in return. The defining mark of a follower of Jesus is to do what Jesus said in Matthew 5:43-44, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

That is a great memory verse, easy to say…until someone begins to persecute you.

I have heard dozens of people, claiming to be followers of Jesus, who say, “well I just can’t love that person, that’s just the way it is.”

The Bible says if you can’t love your enemies, you are not saved. But, the good news is that being filled with the Holy Spirit, we have the power to love our worst enemy.

Our actions are determined by our identity.

Loving as Jesus commands can seem impossible. Even loving our brothers and sisters in the church can be challenging at times. But we can love by the power of God living in us.

We need to remember our identity in Christ.

Abiding in Christ forms our identity, and as a result, abiding empowers love.

How do we know if we are abiding in Christ?

1 John 4:13 is the answer, “By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.

Abiding in Christ is only possible because God fills us with His presence in the Holy Spirit. And notice the verse says, “we abide in Him and He in us”. We don’t even begin to fully grasp that. We don’t know what we have. We who have confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, and submitted to his lordship in our lives, have the presence of God abiding in us by the Holy Spirit. And this abiding presence of God leads to love.

1 John 4:16 states that love is a product of abiding in God. As followers of Jesus, we are the temple that God chooses to dwell in and reveal His love to the world.

You and I are witnesses of the presence of God, it is an awesome privilege and responsibility. Are we displaying the Love of God to the world around us?

This is the way we grow as Christians. As we abide in Christ, spend time with his Word and in communion with him, we grow to love God more, we grow to love other believers more and we grow to love those who don’t know Jesus more, even our enemies. As we share the love of the Father with others, we experience more of His love, it is a blessed exchange.

“God is love,” is not simply a statement in the Bible about the nature of God, it is the very foundation of our relationship with God and our neighbor. Loving one another isn’t simply a command to be obeyed, it is a privilege that flows from our relationship with God.

As we move to verse 17 and 18, we see another response to our abiding in Christ and he in us. Abiding produces love and love leads to confidence (1 John 4:17).

The Love of God has a goal, an intended completion and when it is perfected, we can face our final judgment before Christ with confidence.

Many churches today don’t like to mention the day of judgment. Judgment and Hell are more real than Satan would like us to believe. Jesus came to set us free from the fear of judgment (1 John 4:18).

Our world is controlled by fear. The word that John uses here to describe the fear of the coming judgment is “krisisphobia”. The Bible says that God has put eternity in the heart of man (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Whether we face it or not, every human being knows that there is an eternity outside of time here on earth and the one who created it all is going to hold us accountable for how we lived. Without Jesus and his perfect love, that is terrifying.

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

This is the incredible gift of God’s grace, we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ and John can write in verse 17 that we can have confidence before God. Boldly coming before his throne of Grace as His beloved Children. There is no situation, no sickness, no difficulty, that we could possibly face that is beyond the power of God to carry us through it (Romans 8:35-39).  

In Matthew 22, Jesus gave the two greatest commands, “Love God and Love others”.

Love is a command. 1 John 4:19, is one of the simplest verses in the Bible to understand, “We love because He first loved us.God took the initiative and His love overflows from us to others.

But verse 20 states, “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar…

If we do not love those around us as we are commanded to do, then we do not know the love of God, and it should cause us to live in fear and anxiety.

 “It is obviously easier to love and serve a visible man than an invisible God, and if we fail in the easier task, it is absurd to claim success in the harder” John Stott.

Verse 21 sums it all up, “And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother”

When Jesus said we must love our enemies, it wasn’t a suggestion, it was a command. If we love God wholeheartedly, we will love our brother, including those who slander us and persecute us.  

Going back to my original question, if you confess to be a Christian, how does the unsaved world know?

It is hard, in fact it is impossible without the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives empowering us to love as Jesus loved. Do you know the love of Jesus?

Who are you listening to?

Click on the Camera to view the full message.

Who are you Listening to?

In the first few verses of 1 John 4, we have a warning against false prophets, who are deceiving the church. Satan is the master liar and manipulator.

John says in verse 1, “many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

Satan is constantly sending out evil spirits to deceive and spread a false message, influencing false teachers to teach a false Gospel.

We need to be alert, ready and praying for discernment, especially in our world of mass media where we can view thousands of hours of teaching on any subject we choose.

A prophet is a person who declares the truth of God and seldom is it in the context of foretelling the future.

The Bible warns us that not everyone who claims to be speaking for God is actually a prophet of God (Matthew 7:15 and Matthew 24:11). With the advent of the internet, we have seen a rise in false prophets.

In this passage, six times John uses the term “from God”, and six times he uses the term, “the World”. We must not be so naïve as to think that those who are from the world, are not in the church. Satan’s greatest attack against the church has always been from inside the church.

John gives us four tests we can use to avoid being led astray.

1: Am I being deceived? (1 John 4:1).

The problem is that we are theologically lazy. The vast majority of the church is Biblically illiterate or weak at best. How can we know if someone is speaking God’s truth or not if we don’t know the Word of God. Satan and his demons know the Bible and how to twist the word and make it sound true when it is not. Satan is still casting doubt in people’s minds as he did in Genesis 3:1.

Behind every prophet there is an empowering spirit, and their message will let us know if they are from God are not. We don’t have to look further than the recent history of high-profile church leaders who had incredible ministries, but behind the scenes there was manipulation, control, and sexual sin. These sins were often excused by the incredible “fruit” from their ministry. But God is not mocked, and hundreds and thousands of people are hurt in the end.

2: Are they proclaiming the true Jesus? (1 John 4:2).

Christianity is about Jesus. What do you believe about Jesus.

Is he simply a great religious leader? Is he just one option amongst many? Or Is he God in the flesh, fully God and fully man, the only way the truth and the life.

The best way to test the spirits is to ask the Jesus question. The Holy Spirit of God will always honor Jesus Christ, the Son of God (John 16:14).

The alternative is in verse 3, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.

John writes that false prophets will not confess that Jesus is the Christ. Many false teachers today, even in some mainline denominations refuse to acknowledge that Jesus is God. This is the spirit of the Antichrist. As we looked at in 1 John 2:22 on June 26, http://atholbarnes.com/2022/06/26/sermon-sunday-june-26-2022-who-is-jesus/

The spirit of Antichrist always diminishes the person and work of Jesus. Rejecting that he is fully God and fully man, rejecting the fact that his blood atones for our sins.

3: Who are you trusting? (1 John 4:4).

What an incredible promise, “for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”

Are you trusting in the greater spirit?

Satan and his demons have a large following, the world seems to be powerfully opposed to the things of God. The daily attacks are sometimes overwhelming. But all of Satan’s plans are divinely destined to fail (Matthew 16:18).

Notice the tense of verse 4, “you are of God, and have overcome them…”

We have the misconception that spiritual warfare is about swinging the sword of the spirit and slaying demons. However, the victory has already been won. Spiritual Warfare is about standing firm and declaring the promises of God’s word, as Watchman Nee writes in his book, “Sit, Walk, Stand”.  

As we commit our lives to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, his victory becomes our victory and God’s Spirit lives in us. The Holy Spirit is the one who glorifies Christ through our lives as we stand firm on the promises of God.

As believers we need to be reminded of this, we hide and don’t speak up in the public square. We pray for Jesus to come again so that we can put all this messy world behind us. But Jesus calls us to live victoriously with a supernatural assurance that the victory is already won. Are we living daily from that victory, boldly living for Christ?

4: Are you listening to the right teachers? (1 John 4:5-6).

False teachers are not of God, but from the world and the domain of Satan and his demons. False teachers have a secular worldview.  

If you have a Biblical worldview, based on the promises and the truths of God’s word, then you will have an eternal perspective on everything, marriage, sexuality, abortion, death, war, finances, and even the pain and challenges of life (1 Corinthians 4:16-18).

A secular worldview proclaims that this is all there is, grab as much as you can, pursue pleasure, make a name for yourself, leave a legacy. A secular world view leads to hopelessness.

Who are you listening to?

Boldness Through Faith

Click on the Camera to view the full message.

How bold are your prayers?

What are you praying for right now that requires a supernatural move of God?

Prayer is an outflow of our relationship and a declaration of faith.

The boldness of our prayers must come from our faith in the statement, “God is love”, and that we are abiding, or are rooted in the promises of God’s Word.

The Bible frequently talks about the human heart. Our innermost being that is vulnerable, complex, and if properly aligned with God, our hearts are a blessing.

The world around us frequently tells us, “Trust your heart”, “go with what your gut is telling you”. But the Bible tells us in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

Many people struggle with their heart and the feelings of self-condemnation. The apostle John recognized that as followers of Jesus, we still struggle with emotions, condemnation, and guilt. He also knew that the truth of God’s word provides healing and a re-alignment of our hearts.

Thus, the question, “How bold is your prayer life” might be preceded by the question, “How is your heart?”

1 John 3:19 says, “By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him.”

And as children of God, we have confidence in His presence.

1 John 3:20 may seem confusing at first, “for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.”

Even though we know the scriptures and have heard the Gospel hundreds of times, sometimes we experience condemnation and guilt as Satan brings back to mind past sins. When we experience condemnation, we must go back to the promises of 1 John 1:9 and Romans 8:1.

We must remember who we are, “in Christ”. We stand before the all-knowing God, our Father, covered in the righteousness of Christ. It is a heart issue, we can be misled by our emotions and feelings. That is why King David wrote this in Psalm 139:23, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts”.

Ask God to expose the lies in your life and begin to live by God’s promises.

Like the promises of verses 21-22, “Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.”

When we have confidence in our standing before God, we can have confidence in our prayers.

Charles Spurgeon wrote, He who has a clear conscience comes to God with confidence, and that confidence of faith ensures to him the answer of his prayer. Childlike confidence makes us pray as none else can. It makes a man pray for great things, which he would never have asked for if he had not learned this confidence; and makes him pray for little things which a great many are afraid to ask for, because they have not yet felt towards God the confidence of children.… The man of obedience is the man whom God will hear, because his obedient heart leads him to pray humbly, and with submission, for he feels it to be his highest desire that the Lord’s will should be done. Hence it is that the man or obedient heart prays like an oracle; his prayers are prophecies. Is he not one with God? Doth he not desire and ask for exactly what God intends? How can a prayer shot from such a bow ever fail to reach its target?”

Sadly, many Christians are living command oriented Christian lives. We know God’s holy requirements and we are so committed to do the right thing, so that God will approve of us and answer our prayers.

God wants us to live by His promises, from a heart of pure relationship with Him, then we will live every day in the power of His spirit, leading us in obedience, out of relationship.

How are you living today? In fear and law or love and relationship?

Verse 23 says, there is one thing that we need to begin with. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.”

It all begins and ends with belief in Jesus Christ as Lord. A personal relationship with the Creator of the universe.

Believing that Jesus is the son of God, the eternal God, who became like one of his creation 2000 years ago. He lived a perfect sinless life and was crucified and died as a willing sacrifice for our sins. This same Jesus rose from the dead three days later and lives forever today, interceding for us at the Father’s right hand. Believing that Jesus is preparing a place for us and that he will one day return to take the Church to be with him in glory.

Finally looking at verse 24, “Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.”

King David knew his purpose in life, found in Psalm 27:4. David knew that the greatest goal in life was to abide in God’s presence.

The Spirit of God is given to us and by the Holy Spirit, we know that God abides with us and we with Him. There is an assurance that comes from abiding.

The presence of the Holy Spirit is not something that we can earn or merit by obedience.  As we abide in Christ, the Holy Spirit gives us the strength and the passion for obeying God. As we abide in God and He in us, we come to know God as our perfect Heavenly Father.

Prayer is an outflow of our relationship with God.

The more we abide in Him and He in us, the bolder our prayers will become, because we will know Him as a good and perfect heavenly Father, who is generous in His gifts.

How Bold is your prayer life?

Are you praying like a child who has absolute confidence in your father?

How is Your Love Life?

Click on the Camera to view the full message

Up to this point in the letter, John has focused on the theme, “God is Light” (1 John 1:5).

Now he shifts focus and introduces the theme, “God is love” (1 John 3:11).

It is essential that as Christians, we display God’s love, by loving one another. Jesus taught this in John 13:35.

John begins this section by using the first example we have in the Bible of hate, Cain murdering his brother Abel in Genesis 4 (1 John 3:12).

Why did God reject Cain’s offering? I believe it was the heart posture. Man looks at the outer things, but God looks at the heart. And God saw that Cain’s heart was not in his worship.

Love is at the heart of the Gospel, the phrase to “love one another” is found throughout the New Testament.  God thinks that our loving one another is really important.

We are called to love one another consistently and without favoritism. This is impossible in the natural realm, the love that we have for one another in Christ, is a supernatural love that comes from the Father. When we display love in the church, we display not only who we are, but we display who’s we are. We belong to our heavenly Father.

Verse 12 says that Cain murdered because he was of the evil one, he was a child of Satan. Jesus said the same thing in John 8:44.  

The truth is, you are either a child of God or you are a child of the devil. There is no third option.

The Bible makes it absolutely clear that only those who have been born again, who have given their lives to the lordship of Jesus Christ, can be called Children of God.

If you have not been born again, you are a child of the devil (Matthew 5:21-22).

Hate is equivalent to murder, the only difference between the hate and murder is the actual taking of a life, the intent of the heart is the same.

This does not mean, of course, that hatred in the heart does the same amount of damage, or involves the same degree of guilt, as actual murder. But in God’s sight, hatred is the moral equivalent of murder, and if left unbridled it leads to murder.

One of the benefits of loving one another from the heart, is the assurance that we have been born again. We are given a supernatural love as the Holy Spirit fills us (1 John 3:14).

John doesn’t say that we are saved by our love for one another, rather we are saved by grace and the proof of our salvation is our love for one another.

On the opposite end, those whose lives are characterized by a lack of love and concern give evidence that they are not saved (1 John 3:15).

Love and hate cannot reside in the same heart at the same time. Real love is very practical, it is spoken, and it is demonstrated.

How do we really know what Holy Spirit fueled love really is? Here are two practical explanations of Christian love.

1: Love is displayed by dying for others.

God demonstrated his love for us on the cross and then calls us to lay down our lives for others. Does this mean that we run the risk of being used by other people? Yes, and if we struggle with that we need to go back to the cross. We need to keep going back to the cross until we grasp the depth of the sacrifice that Jesus made for us.  

Jesus died the death that we should have died, because of love. Love at the core is about self-sacrifice and service. Jesus didn’t die as a martyr, he willingly laid down his life.

“Self-preservation” is the first law of physical life,

But

 “self-sacrifice” is the first law of spiritual life.

Warren Wiersbe

If we think about what has been given to us, we won’t feel obligated to be grateful, we will joyfully present our lives as a living sacrifice in worship.

2: Service to others always involves giving.

In verse 17 and 18, John gets practical.

In our modern cities, there are multiple social agencies that help people in need, and it is easy to simply refer people to an agency when the Lord has told us to step in. It is easy for Christians to forget their obligations (see Galatians 6:10).

Let us not confuse doing good, by simply writing a check or handing over a dollar bill. This doing good that Paul writes about includes giving of our time and physical help. There are many people in our church and community who simply need someone to show them love and concern.

Our lives are busy, and our schedules are full. Sadly people “pray about” getting involved, when really, they are thinking about how much it is going to cost them. The reality is that it will cost to live this lifestyle of love.

If it doesn’t cost us anything to love, is it really love?

It cost Jesus everything, why should we think we are exempt from showing practical love.

It takes faith. Giving our time, our finances, our energy, needs to come from a lifestyle of faith. At times, God calls us to give that which we don’t have and simply trust Him for the provision.

I think sometimes we need to be reminded of the abundance of the Kingdom of God. We cannot outgive God.

In verse 18, John concludes with the word, “truth”. John is addressing our motivation for giving. We are tempted to give to be noticed or even to manipulate, our motives are impure. God cares about our motives.

“What does it look like? It has hands to help others, feet to hasten to the poor and needy, eyes to see misery and want, ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.” Augustine.

How is your love life?

To Know and Obey Jesus.

Click on the Camera to view the full message video

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you abiding in Him, keeping his commandments?

Do you know Jesus?

Sunday May 1, 2022 Volunteering in the Church

Click on the camera to view the full message

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click on the camera to view the full message.

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

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

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

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

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

1: A passion to know Jesus.

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

A: He Is Divine

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

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

B: He Is Human

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3: We will enjoy Jesus.

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

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

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

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

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

Do you know this Jesus?

Are you sharing this Jesus?

Are you enjoying this Jesus?

Sermon, Sunday November 28 2021, Compassion part 2

click on the camera above to view the full sermon video

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

click on the camera to view the full message

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

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

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

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

1: Philip obeyed immediately.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you listening to the questions that people are asking?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you remember when God pursued you?

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

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

The Gospel changes lives, the Gospel changes nations.

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

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

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

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

Begin today to pray for your one.

Begin listening to the Holy Spirit.

Begin listening to the person.

Begin asking questions.