Sermon Sunday June 26, 2022 – Who is Jesus?

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What is the most important question you will ever have to answer? Life is all about questions, asking and answering questions.

The most important question you will ever have to answer is, “Who is Jesus?” There is no other question that comes close.

In 1 John 2, John warns his readers that we are in the last hour and that the world has many Antichrists.

The word, “antichrist”, has a way of stirring up fear and wild speculation. What are these antichrists, and what do they do?

In the text today, John gives us three keys to help us recognize and defeat these enemies of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

  1. Antichrists Attack Christ (1 John 2:18).

The word “antichrist” means “against Christ” or “in the place of Christ.”

John writes at the beginning and the end of verse 18, “it is the last hour.” This means the entire period of time between when Jesus walked the earth and when he comes back again (See Acts 2:16-17 and Hebrews 1:1-2).

The phrase, “the last hour”, creates a sense of urgency that this world is temporary. We live in the age when the antichrists are active. This activity opposing Christ will increase until the Antichrist comes; the primary representative of Satan himself. Jesus spoke about the time we live in in Matthew 24:4-5.  

As we see the Gospel going out to the nations, we are seeing incredible things happening on the mission field as millions are coming to know Christ as Lord, at the same time Satan has his missionaries, these antichrists, and they are also going out into the world and into churches.

In 1 John 2:22, he makes plain what the spirit of antichrist is all about: “Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.”

The strategy of Satan and his demons is deception. They don’t directly oppose Jesus, they redefine him.

  • They will say, “he is good, but he is not God”.
  • They will say, “He may be a son of God, but He is not the Son of God.”
  • They will say, “He may have died on the cross as a martyr, but He did not die as a Savior.”

The spirit of antichrist always diminishes the person and work of Jesus. If Jesus wasn’t God, then his death and resurrection would have no power over sin. The core of Christianity is Jesus, his person and his work as the eternal son of God. If we get this wrong, then everything else in our faith falls apart.

The apostle John makes it clear that there is a difference between the many antichrists who are already here and have been around for centuries, and the one Antichrist who is coming at the very end of the age. This man will have such power and charisma that the whole world will follow him (Revelation 13:2-4).

2: Antichrists Abandon the Church (1 John 2:19).

The greatest threat to the church comes from within the church. Satan plants antichrists in the church and uses them to subtly persuade the church that Jesus is not really who he claims to be. When these antichrists leave the church, they leave a trail of pain and sometimes even take captives with them who have been deceived.

There are some who share [for a while] our earthly company who do not share our heavenly birth” Alistair Begg.

Now let me be clear, not everyone who leaves a church is an antichrist, there are many different reasons why people come and go in the modern church.

But sometimes when people leave it is because they were never really saved. They never had a personal relationship with Jesus as Lord. Breaking fellowship could indicate a defective faith (see 1 John 3:9).

3: Antichrists Assault the Christian

We can easily get discouraged and confused about who to believe. The antichrists, people who teach against the person and work of Jesus are all around us. These people have influence, they are intellectually very strong, and it is hard to even wrap our minds around some of their deceptive arguments. John makes it clear that these antichrists are committed to defeating the church. But we have the promise of 1 John 4:4.

John reminds his readers that we have a two-pronged weapon to defeat Satan’s plans. We have the anointing and the indwelling Holy Spirit, and we have the Word of God (1 John 2:20-21 and 27).

The apostle Paul calls this the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God in Ephesians 6:17.

In verse 20, John emphatically says, “…you have been anointed by the Holy One…”  it is a promise and refers to the promised Holy Spirit.

As followers of Jesus, we are consecrated and set apart by God and for God by the Holy Spirit, we now have an internal and abiding Teacher who will guide us in all knowledge and truth. As we abide in him, we will not be misled by false teaching.

The teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit does not involve revelation of new truth. Rather, it is the revelation of the written Word of God to us. In verse 24, John challenges the believer to simply remain in the teaching of Christ. To abide and remain in this teaching is to abide and remain in both the Son and the Father.

There is not any additional thing you need. Jesus plus something extra equals heresy and the teachings of the antichrist.

Jesus is the center of Christianity. He does not stand and point to a way; he is the way!

This is what the Bible teaches and what the holy spirit affirms.

Do you know the Word? Are you abiding in the Word by the Holy Spirit? If not, you are at risk of being deceived.

Who do you say Jesus is?  Is he Lord of your life?

Sermon Sunday May 22, 2022 Love One Another

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Church numerical growth has been a topic of study for decades. Many books have been written and seminars delivered. However, there is a very simple three-word prescription for church growth, “Love One Another”.

It might sound simplistic, but it is one of the most challenging things to do.

The apostle John is a succinct writer who simplifies the Christian life down to the essential elements, know Jesus, obey God, and love others.

John uses the term “beloved” six times in this letter. John makes the case that the love of God is essential for us to be able to love our brothers and sisters. We aren’t called to love out of duty or legalism, that would be hypocritical. What John is writing about is a supernatural love, seen and experienced in those who abide in Jesus. This is the love that is the fruit of the Spirit.

There is way more to this supernatural love than a mushy, warm and fuzzy experience, there is power in this love. As we see in verse 8, perfect love as revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ has dealt a death blow to darkness. Darkness is on the run, and it cannot outrun the light. How we love one another gives evidence of all of this.

The love of Christ in us is not a shallow sentimental emotion. It is a matter of the will not of feelings. Christlike love is a determined decision to allow the love of God to reach others through you. Christlike love is the essential ingredient of true evangelism.

The best explanation of Christian love is found in 1 Corinthians 13. This chapter is not a text for weddings or valentine’s day messages, it is a day-to-day church passage. It is the prescription for how we are to live as the body of Christ.

The love of God is given to the church supernaturally for the building up of the church (Romans 5:5). God has poured his love into the hearts of everyone who has given their lives to the Lordship of Jesus.

John’s life was transformed by this supernatural love. He was not always loving, he and his brother James were known as the “sons of thunder”, because of their emotional outbursts. In Luke 9, James and John asked Jesus if they could call down fire from heaven to destroy the Samaritan village who rejected Jesus. John was transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, and he loved as Jesus loved.

And there is good reason why this love is supernatural, because it is a cosmic war between light and darkness. The world of light and love always go together (1 John 2:9-10).

The natural question that follows is, who is my brother? The Greek word used for brother here means a person who lives close by, literally my neighbor. Well, who is my neighbor? Jesus addressed this in Luke 10 by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus explained that our neighbor is the person in front of us right now. The person in need, the person we work with or the person we bump into while walking into the store. Are you aware of your neighbor? Those daily opportunities to love the way Jesus loved.

Verse 11 returns to those who are in darkness, “But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”

If you hate someone, you are walking blindly in continual darkness. This kind of darkness is spiritual death. Hatred is blinding people today and this happens in the church as little disagreements creep in, and relationships are broken.

This kind of blindness can creep into the church in many ways. It is not necessarily through arguments. Sometimes blindness can creep into the church in the form of doctrine and spiritual elitism. People have their favorite doctrine, theology, or experience and if they are not careful, they become critical of others who do not share the same view or experience. This kind of person thinks he is a spiritual giant, having it all figured out, but really, he is a spiritual babe, lacking the ability to discern what is important, loving one another. Some people are so in love with their doctrine and “rightness”, that they have lost their love for their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

In recent years it seems that we have lost the ability to disagree and still love each other.

It is impossible to be in fellowship with the Father and out of fellowship with another Christian at the same time. The Christian life has two relationships: the vertical (Godward) and the horizontal (manward). We need both, which is why gathering for worship and fellowship on a Sunday morning is so vital to our spiritual health.

If you put a group of people in a room long enough, someone is going to get offended. So how do we respond?

The follower of Jesus who has been offended must understand two things;

1) I have no right to be offended. I gave up my rights when I asked Jesus to be Lord of my life.

2) Harboring unforgiveness only harms the offended person.

“Unforgiveness is like drinking poison yourself and waiting for the other person to die.”

Marianne Williamson

Loving one another in the church is very practical and essential for the health of the church.

Practically we love each other by:

  • Serving one another.  Stepping up and volunteering when there is a need.
  • Love one another through theological differences. Jesus was critical of the pharisees, not because of their doctrine, but because they didn’t care for the flock.
  • Love one another through joy and pain. Carry one another’s burdens, look for practical ways to care when someone is hurting.
  • Love one another on mission. Serving alongside each other as we share the Gospel in our community.  
  • Love one another by confronting sin. Do we love one another enough to call out a brother or sister who is living in sin?
  • Love one another to grow spiritually. Just as the fruits and flowers need sunshine, so God’s people need love if they are going to grow.

How are you loving each other today?

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

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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?

Sermon Sunday May 8, 2022 – Let God be True and Every Man a Liar

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The number one problem in the world today is that humanity has a sin problem, and it affects everyone. But not everyone agrees with this assertion.

Today, we don’t hear people call sin for what it is. Sin is labelled an error of judgment, a mistake, a bad decision, etc. In fact people go to great lengths to rationalize or hide their sin.

But we must understand this basic truth, to deny sin is to call God a liar and question His character. In this passage, John uses the word “sin” nine times, and two times he will use the word “darkness.” To think correctly about Jesus, we must think correctly about sin.

In verse 5 we are reminded that we have good news, and it is a message that the world needs. This message concerns Jesus Christ, “the Word of life”. When we meet Jesus as our savior, our assignment is to take this message to the whole world. According to the JoshuaProject.net there are 7,418 unreached people groups who are yet to hear the Gospel.

A key component of the Gospel message is to convey an understanding of the nature and character of God. This is a constant theme of John’s writing.For example, he teaches us that; God is light (1:5), God is love (4:8, 16), and God is true (5:20).

In 1 John the statement “God is light” means God has as His very nature and being the source of life. Martin Luther said, “There is no darkness in Him, not even the slightest”.

This is a message that we must passionately share with the world.

But our message must also include what God says about sin. The essence of sin is our attempting to take the place of God. We want to be in charge. And we want to provide our own definitions of what is right and wrong.

John is not interested in human opinions on the matter of sin. He uses three “if we say” statements to lead his readers to understand sin. He says we are prone to lie to others, lie to ourselves and ultimately call God a liar.

1: Do Not Lie to Others (1 John 1:6–7)

John writes in 1 John 1:6, “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth”.

If we say we have fellowship with God, but are walking in spiritual darkness, we are lying. We say to others, “I know God,” but our beliefs and behavior contradict our words. We lie to others about who we are.

In contrast, verse 7 says that if we live our lives in the realm of light, as God is in the light, our fellowship with one another is authentic and the blood of Jesus, His Son, keeps on cleansing us from all sin.

2: Do Not Lie to Yourself (1 John 1:8–9)

 Verse 8 says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

Those who live in death and darkness do not just lie to others, and eventually they lie to themselves. They lose their moral compass, and their conscience is seared (1 Timothy 4:2).  

If we claim to be sinless, a declaration that we are free from the guilt and penalty of sin, we are deceived, and the truth is not in us.  The truth is a person, if we say we have no sin, we really have no relationship with Jesus.

John then follows up with one of the greatest verses in the Bible, verse 9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”.

John writes that there are two kinds of people

  • There are some who cover and conceal their sin. They are liars.
  • There are also confessors who acknowledge and admit their sin. They are forgiven.

John is not saying that we need to be perfectly sinless as that is impossible. We need an advocate who can forgive us.

3: Do Not Lie about God (1 John 1:10)

John makes the case that we can lie to others about our sin, we will then lie to ourselves and ultimately, we will actually call God a liar. Verse 10, “If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”

Moving on to 1 John 2 verses 1 and 2, the world must know what God says about Jesus.

Jesus Is Our Advocate (1 John 2:1)

John has made it clear that in this life we cannot be sinless. However, he does believe we can sin less because we are now in intimate fellowship with the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.

We all still sin, but we have the amazing promise of 1 John 1:9. In verse 1, John tells his readers to run to our savior, our advocate to the Father. This advocate is sinless, undefiled, and spotless in his nature and in all his actions. There is no one else like him.

The word “advocate” means helper, who comes alongside in a time of need. This helper is the cleanser of sin (1:7), the forgiver of sin (1:9), and the helper when we do sin.

We have this misconception that when we sin, Jesus turns away from us and leaves us because we have disappointed him. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus is drawn to us when we sin, he cares for us and knows that our sin leads to pain. He comes near to prevent us hurting ourselves further.

Jesus Is Our Atonement(1 John 2:2)

Jesus can be our advocate, because he has made propitiation, an atonement for our sins.

The word “propitiation” is a very important word that carries the idea of satisfaction. Jesus Christ, by His sacrifice on the cross, satisfied God’s holiness and turned away His righteous wrath from sinners.

The work of atonement accomplished by Christ on the cross is where God’s holiness and God’s love meet. (See Isaiah 53:10 and Philippians 2:9).

How do you stand before God today? Are you lying to those around you? Are you lying to yourself? Are you calling God a liar?

Jesus offers right standing before God, his forgiveness is instant and paid for.

Sermon, Sunday January 30 2021, Ask Big

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2 Kings 4:1-7

What are you asking God for today? Is it big?

Are you boldly asking for a miracle from God? Many people don’t ask big, because they simply don’t believe that God can or will answer their prayers.

In 2 Kings 4, we read the account of a widow in desperate need, who reaches out to the prophet Elisha for help, knowing that he will have the answer. This poor widow had great confidence that reaching out to Elisha would save her family. She had no backup plan, she knew that she needed to speak to Elisha, he was the man of God who could help.

When you have a need, who do you turn to? Do you try to ask your social media “friends”? How quick are you to turn to prayer?

I have noticed that strangely many Christians ask for prayer, but they themselves are not praying for a miracle. Maybe the feeling is that God hears others who are perhaps more “holy” than me. We must remember that we all have equal access to the throne of grace.

Elisha asks the widow, “what shall I do for you?”  in verse 2.The need is obvious, but she must articulate it, and there is an act of faith in speaking out the need. Jesus required the same from Bartimaeus in Mark 10:51, “what do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus asked big, and he received his sight because he believed in the one who was standing in front of him.

Sometimes we are praying for crumbs when Jesus is inviting us to ask for a feast. Do you believe in the one who can supply all your needs?

Our needs are more than physical, our greatest need is spiritual. How desperate are you for God to intervene in power in your life? Jesus said in Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

We don’t thirst for righteousness because we are lulled into comfort by the entertainment of the world, and we don’t realize our deepest need. Remember in all this, God is for you, and He is generous.

Elisha continues and asks the widow, “What have you in the house?” She had nothing left, only a small amount of oil, and she was ready to give that to the Lord.

What do you have that you can bring to Jesus? Sometimes all we have is a little faith. God can use that.

Elisha then gives her an unusual instruction, but it was the step of faith that she needed to take, “Then he said, “Go outside, borrow vessels from all your neighbors, empty vessels and not too few.”

This was another test of her faith because the size of the miracle was dependent on the size of her faith; how many vessels she borrowed. There are times when we have to take a step in faith even before we see the miracle we are praying for.

I am certain if the family had known what would happen, they would have rented the local warehouse and brought in vessels from every city in the nation, but how could they have known. They acted in faith.  

In verse 6 we read how the miraculous flow of the oil ended when the vessels were all full. The miracle ended, not because God could not provide anymore, but because the capacity to receive had been exceeded.

The limiting factor is never God’s ability to give, it is our capacity to receive. What it boils down to, is how much of our lives are we willing to give over to the control of the Holy Spirit (see Luke 11:13).

Another lesson we can learn from this is that the oil was multiplied in the pouring out from the little she had. The way to increase what we have is to use it, sometimes to give it away.  It is not hoarding the talents, but trading with them, that doubles them (see Luke 19).

It takes faith to use what God has given you, especially when the world says, “hold on to what you have, you never know when a rainy day will come”. What talent is God inviting you to invest in the kingdom today?

Finally, notice that this miracle took place in the private place, the prophet told the widow to go into her room and close the door. Her need was met when she met certain conditions. One of the acts of obedience was to close the door, to be alone with her sons and the presence of God.

It was a personal miracle and she had to be the one doing the pouring, not Elisha or anyone else. When God tells you to do something, don’t look over your shoulder and see who might be a more qualified person to do it. What God has blessed you with will increase best in your own hands as you are obedient to God.

This miracle not only meets the widow’s needs, but she was blessed with abundance. God performed a powerful creative miracle and it all started with the level of expectation of the widow. She sent for Elisha because she had absolute confidence that a miracle would happen.

What are you praying for today? What is the level of your expectation?

Maybe if your heart was fully exposed, you don’t believe that God is going to give you what you are asking for? Deep down, you don’t believe he is able or that he is generous.

Another word for expectation is faith. Do you pray, believing in the God of the impossible? We read about men and women of faith in Hebrews 11, they all had an expectation in the power of God.

Duncan Campbell wrote, “there is a place beyond consecration, there is a place beyond sanctification, and that is the place of implicit confidence in God”

The level of your confidence in the power of God determines the size of your ask.

What are you asking for?

Sermon, Sunday January 23 2022 – ASK Part 2

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Before You Ask

James 4:1-10

When my son Joshua wants to ask me for something that he knows I might not want to give him, he uses a lot of strategy and downright emotional manipulation. He is a master of the ask. He prepares me for the question, softens me up and then when he thinks the moment is right, he makes his case.

Sometimes as children of God, we think we must prepare God for our ask. But I would propose rather that we need to prepare ourselves before we ask God for what we want.

God is not a mean vindictive father who withholds blessings until we get our act together. Matthew 7:11 says, “…how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

But, what does it mean to prepare ourselves to ask God? I am talking about the personal pursuit of holiness and purity that we are all called to as followers of Jesus.

James was dealing with conflict in the church as a result of the people embracing sinful lifestyles (see James 4:1). Some of the members of the church in Jerusalem were seeking pleasure by running after things which they thought would bring them joy. Things that were contrary to the perfect will of God.

God designed us to enjoy things and to find pleasure in things, so that is not wrong, but the driving desire for pleasure that is selfish is the problem. Looking to the world to satisfy what only God can, leads to dissatisfaction, pain, and broken lives. This is the result of a prayerless and selfish lifestyle.

The battle for holiness is fought in the mind. How healthy are the thoughts you entertain?

In verse 4, James exposes that as Christians, we have a singular allegiance, and that is to Christ alone. He calls our friendship with the world as spiritual adultery.

What are the affections of your heart? Do you find yourself thinking about; sexually immoral things, the accumulation of possessions, a certain addiction you entertain, how to manipulate people or situations for your own personal gain? Do you entertain sin by the movies you watch, the music you listen to or the places you go to?

Some may say that I am being old fashioned and that we need to stay away from challenging people’s moral decisions. But God’s requirement for holiness has never changed, and as James tells us, by accommodating these things, we are making ourselves enemies of God. You are making yourself the enemy of the one who gave His son for your salvation. It is time that we challenged each other in the area of purity.

We pray for revival, and historically a revival is a move of God that is characterized by repentance and people crying out to God for mercy as they were made aware their sins.

The question is, do we want this? Or are we comfortable and satisfied with weak and ineffectual Christian lives? We are no different to the world, we don’t take holiness seriously, we don’t take sin seriously. We fear man more than we fear God.

When we entertain sin in our lives and in the lives of the people around us, we are making ourselves the enemy of God. Sin is never personal; it affects all those around us. There are no private sins. When we entertain sin, we cheapen the grace of God, and we grieve the Holy Spirit.

But there is good news! As followers of Jesus filled with His spirit, when we fall and run after the pleasures that are contrary to the will of God for our lives, we are still greatly loved by our Heavenly Father. He is jealous for us, and He yearns for us to return to him.

When we sin, God does not stop loving us as that would be contrary to His nature. When we sin, God’s love for us is on full display. He reaches towards us to prevent us from hurting ourselves.

The root of all sin is pride, and that is where we need to start. We need to be humble and repent of our sins. Here is the amazingly good news of the Gospel, God offers us salvation freely and he offers his grace freely to grow in humility (James 4:6).

With humility as our starting point, we see a list of remedies for our sin in the following verses. James gives a prescription for our struggle with sin. It is only by the grace of God, but as we follow this prescription, we will know joy, peace, power, and freedom in our Christian lives.

The prescription is found in verses 7 -10, Submit yourself to God, resist the devil, draw near to God (meditating on His word and time in prayer and worship), cleanse your hands (repent of your sins), purify your heart (Psalm 51:10), mourn and weep, humble yourself.

Finally, we come to the closing phrase of verse 10, “and He will exalt you”

We must be careful; this is not an exalting in the way we would exalt a hero or a sports star. James means that after you have humbled yourself, repented and mourned over your sin, then He will lift you up. He will restore your identity. He will restore your standing before the throne of grace. Then you will live and thrive, living from your identity of who you are in Christ.

When we are not humble and in a right relationship with God, we are not going to ask for things that are on God’s heart, the things that are good for us.

Once we prepare our hearts and minds, once we humble ourselves and repent, only then will we know the perfect will of God and we will want what He wants.

What area of your life is God inviting you to deal with today?

Sermon, Sunday January 16 2022, What Are You Asking For?

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Matthew 7:1-11

As we stand on the cusp of a New Year, what are you asking God to give you?

Matthew 7 verses 7 to 11 are amongst the most comforting verses in all of Scripture. And what makes them even more encouraging is that the one who makes the promise is the Son of God who has been given all authority.

We all face uncertainty in the year ahead, but we can face it with certainty in the promise of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.

Jesus does not promise to remove our hardships and difficulties, he said so in John 16:33. But he always promises to sustain us and provide for us through the challenges.

In the early years of our marriage, Debbie and I prayed fervently for God to give us children. He didn’t give us the answer in the way we wanted. But looking back now, we are so grateful that God has given us far more than we could ever imagine in our two children.

What are you asking God for today that might not be in His perfect plan for your life? Will you have the faith to trust Him with the better gift that He has in store for you?

When we read Matthew 5,6 and 7, we are confronted by the incredibly high standard for Christian living that Jesus presents. In fact, the standard that Jesus lifts up in the sermon on the Mount, is so high it is impossible to keep without the help and grace of God.

And this is exactly what Jesus offers beginning in verse 7. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”

Think about this promise from Jesus in the light of living the Christian life.

This passage offers us three conditions to receiving this promise from Jesus.

Firstly, we need to recognize our need.

The fact is that we are born in sin. We are all separated from a relationship with our Creator. We all have the same desperate need, the need to be in a right relationship with God.

The Good News is that we can be reconciled to God through the blood of Jesus that was shed on the cross. However, to be a Christian is not a onetime event causing us to be perfect for the rest of our lives. We all live imperfect lives, subject to failure.

We are saved when we make Jesus Lord of our lives, but the process of sanctification takes the rest of our lives as God, by His mercy, renews us into the image of His son.

The Greek verbs that Jesus used in Matthew 7:7 are in the present active tense. Jesus is saying, keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking. There is a daily persistence in prayer, asking the Lord to help us. In fact, the Greek verb conveys urgency. This is an urgent asking, seeking, and knocking, desperate for Jesus to help us.

It’s the New Year and always a time when people make resolutions and lifestyle commitments. Many believers make commitments to pray more, read their bibles more and share the Gospel more regularly. But as we all know all too well, many New Years resolutions fade and are soon forgotten. The reason is that we don’t keep on asking for God to help us, we aren’t persistent in our cry to God for His strength to help us grow in our Christian lives (see Philippians 3:13-14).

If we were honest, this is where we struggle the most. We don’t have the persistence and the endurance. We need help.

Secondly, we see in this passage is that God is our Father.

In verse 11 Jesus said, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

We can get so familiar with our Christian terminology that we can easily miss how crucial this is for us. To say we believe that God is our Heavenly Father is one thing, but is it something we are conscious of on a daily/ hourly basis? Do we really get it?

What a privilege it is that we can come to the throne of God in prayer. We get invited to call on God as Father (see James 1:17).

But not everyone has the privilege to call God Father. The incredible privilege is only available to those who know Jesus Christ as Lord (see John 1:11-12).

Once we become His children, we receive all the benefits of being adopted sons and daughters. He watches over us and gives us good and perfect gifts. Your Heavenly Father is eager to bless you.

God will never give you anything that is evil, but just because God will never give us anything evil, it doesn’t mean that we will never experience anything unpleasant. There is still suffering and evil in the world.

Thirdly, God never makes a mistake.

Matthew 7:8 says, “…how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him.”  How much More! This is the overarching theme of the Bible; God is generous towards His children and he blesses them beyond their expectations.

But what is the best gift God can give us?

Solomon was offered anything he wanted, and he chose wisdom. But there is still a better gift.  

Luke’s account of the Sermon on the Mount gives us the answer in Luke 11:13, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

In giving us the Holy Spirit, God gives us His very presence and we receive spiritual gifts. We receive everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).

The need for the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives is an ongoing need. Daily we are invited to ask the Father to be filled with the Spirit as we see in Ephesians 5:18. Daily asking the Father for a renewing, a fresh filling, to live the Christian life to the glory of God.

What are you asking for?

Are you asking for a fresh touch from God today?

Are you desperate for more of His presence in your life? (See Matthew 6:33).

Sermon Sunday September 5, 2021 – Hearing God’s Voice

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The sad truth about Christian discipleship today is that we teach people about God, but we don’t teach people to experience God.

As followers of Jesus, we are invited into a relationship, having our daily steps ordered by the Lord (Proverbs 3:5-6 and Psalm 37:23).

I often hear from people who wish they could hear from God regarding His will for their lives.

The incredible news is that God does still speak to His children, and Jesus made this clear in John 10.

The sheepfold of the first century was usually an enclosure made of rocks, and the shepherd would guard the flock at night by lying across the opening. It was not unusual for several flocks to be sheltered together in the same fold. In the morning, the shepherds would come, call their sheep, and assemble their own flocks. This is what Jesus was referring to in John 10:3-4.

Jesus calls himself two different things in this passage, firstly he is the door (John 10:9). He is the Door of salvation for all who put their faith in him.
Then Jesus declares himself to be the Good Shepherd and in verse 11 he says, “the Good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep”. Those hearing these words must have struggled to understand what he was saying. Jesus willingly went to the cross to die for our sins so that we could have a relationship with God the Father.

We miss the point when we get so focused on the plan of salvation as a means to get out of hell and into heaven. There is so much more. We are invited into a relationship with Jesus, in verse 10 he says, I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

In verse 16 Jesus speaks to the Gentiles who were outside of the Jewish “fold”. He uses the key phrase, “they will listen to my voice.” Are you listening to the voice of The Good Shepherd?

Prayer is not a monologue where you recite all your needs to God, and He responds like a vending machine. It is a two-way fellowship, where we speak to God, and He speaks to us.

Henry Blackaby wrote, “what God says to you in prayer, is far more important than what you say to Him. After all, God already knows what you are going to tell Him.”

How does God speak to us?

1. Primarily God speaks to us through His word, the Bible.
The bible is the starting point in our pursuit of a personal relationship with God because it is His special revelation of Jesus to mankind (2 Timothy 3:16). However, for us to hear and respond to the God breathed Word, we need to open it and meditate on it.
Having said that, God is not limited to speaking to us through the Bible. God can speak in any way that He knows will get our attention.

2. God speaks through other Christians. God will use other godly people in our lives to speak to us, and we all need mentors and encouragers who will pray for us and then speak the truth in love. God will speak to us through the Holy Spirit, as fellow believers use their spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:7-9).   

3. God will speak through Circumstances. In Genesis 50 Joseph saw how God used the seemingly impossible circumstances and redeem them to his glory. Be aware of God leading through circumstances.

4. God speaks audibly. In 1 Kings 19:11-12 God spoke to Elijah. The voice of God was a gentle whisper, and he knew that God was speaking to him.  God also speaks to us in that still small voice, the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
It is so important to be quiet before the Lord and to listen for His voice.

This is where the value of a journal comes in. When you sit down with your Bible each day, come with an expectation that He is going to speak to you. Sometimes through the words on the page, sometimes through the inner voice of the Holy Spirit, and as that happens, write down your dialogue with God. Write out your prayers and write down what you hear from the Lord. I am always encouraged as I look back at my journals from years gone by and see how the Lord was speaking and directing me.

5. God still speaks in dreams.  The life of Daniel was one filled with dreams and interpretation. Today we are hearing stories of thousands of Muslims who are encountering Jesus in dreams and are being converted.

There is no doubt that God speaks today, but we must be careful to test every word. To test to discern if God is speaking, use these five simple tests.

1. Does it Exalt Christ?(John 16:13-14) If what you think you heard does not exalt Christ but exalts something or someone else instead, you can be certain that the leading is not from God.

2. Is it Scriptural? (Proverbs 30:5-6) God will never contradict His Word. If the person presenting the word to you takes the Bible out of context, you can reject it. Always go back to God’s primary revelation, His Word the Bible.

3. Do Other Christians Confirm it?(1 Corinthians 14:29) If you feel that God is speaking to you on a certain issue, but you are not sure. Take it to wise people in the church who can guide you and join in prayer with you.

4. Does it Produce Good Fruit?(John 15:5) Compare what you hear with the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23. God’s word will always produce the fruit of the Spirit.  

5. Does God Bring it to Pass?  (Isaiah 55:10-11) If it never comes to pass, you can be sure God was not in it.

It is essential that you learn to test the word, whether it is something you read or something someone tells you. God is not intimidated by our questions, but He does expect our obedience when His word is confirmed.

The most important part of your day is the time spent waiting on the Lord.

Sermon Sunday June 27, 2021 – The Power of the Holy Spirit

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Acts 1:1-12

Have you ever struggled to complete a project in your home or on your computer, all the time not knowing that you had a tool or program that would have made your task so much easier?

Sometimes, in the church we attempt to do great programs and missional activity, but we do not utilize the one person who has the power to accomplish more than we could ever imagine. We ignore the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is way more than a handy tool, He is the power and the source of all fruit that we can expect as a church. In fact, without the Holy Spirit, there is no church.

It was on the mount of Olives that Jesus promised his disciples that he would send the Holy Spirit to baptize them with power. It was on this mountain where Jesus ascended into heaven as we read in Acts 1.

The book of the Acts of the Apostles is the account of the work of the Holy Spirit in and through the early church. This is the introduction to the church age, the same age in which we live. The time between when Jesus ascended into Heaven and the time he is coming back.

The church is the Body of Christ, the physical manifestation of the presence of Jesus on the earth and we have a job to do, we have a mission. Jesus’ life on earth was just the beginning.

Luke continues in verse 3 to emphasize the fact that Jesus rose from the dead. During the time after the resurrection of Jesus, there were a lot of rumors spread by the religious leaders that Jesus had not in fact risen. Luke just like the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 makes it clear that Jesus gave many proofs of his life. This is the foundation of the message we have; Jesus is alive! If Jesus is not alive the church would not exist. The resurrection was the primary message of the first church, and it should be our primary message today.

Before he ascended, Jesus told his disciples to wait for the promise that he had spoken about in John 14:16-17. Even though they were eyewitnesses to the greatest events in all of History, they were not equipped for the task that lay ahead of them. The Holy Spirit is the indispensable equipment that the child of God and the Church has.  It is imperative to remember that we don’t get to use the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit uses us.

Jesus goes on to say in verse 5, “…for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized withthe Holy Spirit not many days from now.” The tense of the verb “baptized” is a passive voice, which indicates that being filled with the Holy Spirit is a divine activity and comes about as we yield control of our lives to the power and lordship of Christ. This takes place as we yield control of our lives to Him daily. This is a spirit filled life and this is a life lived with Jesus as Lord.

Sadly, too many Christians live lives that do not require the power of the Holy Spirit. Living a passive Christian life does not require us to lean into God in desperation for His power. We as followers of Jesus have to be about the work of Kingdom, and in order to do that we need the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

The Disciples didn’t understand what Jesus was talking about and began asking about the plans to overthrow the Roman authorities. Jesus doesn’t rebuke them for their misunderstanding, but simply states, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 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.” Acts 1:7-8.

Jesus takes their focus off the desire for an earthly kingdom and directs them to the work that needs to be done. The Holy Spirit will enable them to be witnesses to go in ever widening circles from Jerusalem all the way to the ends of the earth.

Jesus explains that the power of the church does not come from programs, leaders, buildings, or political influence, the power of the church to do the work that we have been commissioned to do comes from the Holy Spirit (see Zechariah 4:6). Ordinary people are able to do extraordinary things because of the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

The gift of the Holy Spirit is the power to do the work, to be witnesses of the Gospel. That is the primary call on the church. The church must be outward focused, Jesus commanded it to be so.

Any church that focuses purely inward on fellowship and comfort of community, without looking beyond their four walls has already ceased to exist as a church. They may have many people coming to attend and enjoy the fellowship and worship music and programs, but they are not the body of Christ.

Jesus said that when the Holy Spirit comes on them, they will receive power and will be witnesses. You cannot be a witness to something you have not experienced. Do you have a testimony of your life being impacted by a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? You are a witness.

In the church we have turned evangelism into an academic pursuit. We can get trained into the mindset that people are simply targets and we must get through our presentation. If we do that, we miss out on the beauty and joy of the relationship and seeing that people are not targets, they are brothers and sisters that you haven’t gotten to know yet.

Right after Jesus gives this incredible task, verse 9 tells us that Jesus ascended into heaven.

As the disciples were looking up, two angels stood beside them and made an incredible promise that Jesus would return. Are you expecting his return?

Sermon Sunday May 30, 2021 – Sermon on the Mount

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In Matthew 5,6 and 7, we have the record of the greatest sermon ever preached, as Jesus taught his disciples in what is known as the sermon on the mount.

Jesus was introducing and teaching the ways of the kingdom that he wants to form in the lives of his followers. At first glance, it seemed that Jesus was giving a new law, one that seemed different to the Law of Moses given at Sinai to the nation of Israel. But, as we read these chapters, we see that Jesus is calling his followers to a radical lifestyle. As followers of Jesus, we are called to live very differently to the world around us. The words of Jesus are a call to selflessness, holiness, and a call to be set apart from the world.

Every sentence in the sermon on the mount declares a separation between living as a Christian and living as an unbeliever. As Jesus addresses every aspect of social, spiritual, and personal relationships, he is setting the bar extremely high. As followers of Jesus, we are to live differently, to speak differently, and to think differently to those who do not know Jesus as Lord.

Sadly, there are many in the church and even many churches, that look no different than the world. Churches are filled with hypocrisy, gossip, sexual immorality, greed, and fear of man. Doesn’t sound like the church of Jesus, does it?

There is often talk about nominal Christians and nominal churches. What does that even mean?

Nowhere in the Bible do we ever find reference to nominal Christianity. To be a Christian is to be all in! To be dead to our old way of life and alive to God, filled with His spirit. There is no neutral ground, you are either radically living for Jesus or you are not.

Sadly, many people today are like the person who buys a Mahomes shirt, watches every game on TV and then thinks he is part of the Chiefs team. You are not saved by going to church or trying to live a good life. Only those who have been raised to new life by the Spirit of God have been saved. Jesus spoke about this very directly in the sermon on the mount in Matthew 7:21-23.

So how do we live this radical life in a world that continues to get more and more sinful? Jesus knew it would be difficult and that is why he prayed for his disciples right before he went to the cross (read John 17:15-17).

Jesus asked his Father to sanctify his followers, that we might be daily transformed in our thoughts and actions. Jesus said this sanctifying process is done by the truth of the word of God. If you do not have a desire to read and meditate on the word of God, there is a very real possibility that it is because you have no relationship with Jesus.

The Word that Jesus is speaking about and the Law he is referring to is what we know as the Old Testament.

There is a theory in some Christian circles teaching that Jesus came to do away with the Old Testament and that the Law no longer applies to us today. They argue that we are under grace and therefore we are not subject to the punishment of God. But in verse 17 and 18 of Matthew 5 we read, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”

If you read the first five books of the Old Testament, you will see that there are a lot of laws that honestly seem quite strange and frankly impossible for us to observe in our culture.

The law that Moses received on Mount Sinai, that was given as the constitution of the nation of Israel consists of three parts.

  1. The moral laws: The Ten Commandments and the moral principles given for all mankind for all history.
  2. The judicial laws: Given as the legislative guide to the nation of Israel for their governance.
  3. The ceremonial law: The instructions regarding the offerings and sacrifices.

Jesus said that he came to fulfill the law or complete the law. If we look at the ceremonial law, we see that it all points to Jesus as the perfect sacrificial lamb, slain for the sins of the world. When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, he fulfilled the prophetic law, the law pointing to the messiah. In Matthew 5:17-18, Jesus confirms the authority and his seal of approval on the collection of books that we call the Old Testament.

Jesus didn’t abolish the moral law. Jesus went on to say that not one smallest part of the law will be abolished until it is all completed. The Moral law is the permanent and perpetual way in which we relate to God and the way we relate to each other.

The Old Testament is a rich mine with untold treasures. And the gold nuggets to look for are the ones that point to Jesus, the second person of the trinity, the Word of God. If you look carefully with the help of the Holy Spirit, you will see Jesus written all over the pages of the Old Testament.

If we cannot be saved by keeping a set of rules, why is the moral law of Moses still relevant?

The Law was never intended to save man because we could never keep the Law perfectly. Rather the law was given to us to show us the true character and holiness of God, to show how far short of the glory of God we fall, to show us how desperately we need a savior. The law of God was given to bring us to our savior, Jesus Christ.

And when we come to Jesus in complete dependence on his lordship over our lives, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit that enables us to walk in holiness as we daily are being made new.

Do you know this Jesus?