May 20, 2018 Saul part 2 – The Church Multiplies

Acts 9:26-31

The early church in the book of Acts grew rapidly, as we think about this, there are two methods of church growth. Firstly, a church can grow as more people come into the immediate fellowship, but secondly the church grows as we multiply by planting other churches and meeting in homes around the city.

As we look at these two options, the one that you prefer will tell you a lot about your motivation for being a part of the local body of believers.

In Acts 9:26, we find Saul trying to join the disciples in Jerusalem, and just like the Christians in Damascus, they are afraid of him because of his reputation. But Saul is introduced by Barnabas, the “son of encouragement” (Acts 4:36). Barnabas is the bridge-builder, the encourager and he brings Saul to Peter. Every church needs these bridge builders, someone who welcomes people in and connects them.

As we get back to Saul, we read in verse 27 and 28, that he first preached boldly in Damascus, and then when he came to Jerusalem, he preached boldly in the name of the Lord. Where did this boldness come from? He was not in the slightest bit ashamed of the fact that a few years earlier he was persecuting believers in Jesus, now he was defending the resurrection of Jesus. In verse 17, when Saul was healed by the prayer of Ananias, he was filled with the Holy Spirit. And then in verse 22, we read, “But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.”

Saul was filled with the Holy Spirit, and then in the next few days we read that he increased in strength, he increased in spiritual authority as he prayed, as God prepared him for the work that lay ahead. We need to understand that it is important to spend time with God in order to be prepared and strengthened for the task ahead. It is crucial that every day we spend time reading and praying over God’s word, so that we may be strengthened.

In verse 29, we read, “And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists. But they were seeking to kill him”

These Hellenists were Greek’s who followed Judaism, and as a result they carried with them the reasoning, the passion for Rhetoric, and the culture of the Greeks. They would not have simply taken Saul’s word for it, they wanted to test him and debate with him. And they eventually realized that there was going to be only one way to deal with Saul, and that was to kill him. The disciples sent Saul out of town for his own safety, he is sent back to Tarsus where he stays for the next seven or eight years. We don’t know much of what he did in Tarsus, but he was probably, studying, writing and teaching, I doubt he simply went into hiding.

At the beginning of Acts 9, Saul first leaves Jerusalem as a man of power with authority from the High Priest to capture and persecute Christians, then he meets Jesus on the way to Damascus and finally he has to leave Jerusalem as one who himself is being persecuted. In the rest of the book of Acts we read that he suffered much as he obeyed the call of God on his life. He was stoned in Lystra and left for dead. He was beaten and imprisoned in Philippi, he caused a riot in Ephesus, he was shipwrecked, imprisoned in Jerusalem and imprisoned in Rome.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “suffering then, is the badge of true discipleship”.

As Luke closes the Chapter, he gives us a snapshot of what is happening to the early church, “So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.” (Acts 9:31).

The Roman Emperor seems to ignore the growth of Christianity, and the church spreads and grows throughout the region. Looking at this verse we see four factors that contributed to the growth of the church.

Firstly, they had peace, they were free from external persecution and influence. God gave the church time to settle.

Secondly, the church was being built up, it was in this time that the early church began to determine their fundamental core beliefs such as believer’s baptism and celebrating the Lords supper. A strong church, a healthy church is one that has the core beliefs firmly in place.

Thirdly, the early believers were walking in the fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord is walking in holiness. This doesn’t mean that we never sin, but that when we do sin, we quickly repent, and ask Jesus to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. The fear of the Lord is what drives us to want to please God, to honor and respect Him so much that we don’t want to be out of His perfect will for our lives.

And then finally they walked in the comfort of the Holy Spirit. This is the special ministry of the Holy Spirit in the church, the Greek word is Paraklesis used here by Luke the writer of Acts.

Paraklesis is a multi-faceted word, just like the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the church. Amongst other definitions it means; appealing, comforting, encouraging, urging, inviting, imploring and exhorting.

The Holy Spirit is the fuel of the church, the Holy Spirit is the energy and the driving force of the church.

And then the last two words of Acts 9 say that the church multiplied.

And as the church multiplies, by nature, it becomes healthy and grows. Healthy churches plant other churches. Healthy churches trust the Lord to send their best people away, into the mission field.

A healthy church is not a perfect church, a healthy church is one where we identify our brokenness, and humbly encourage one another to walk in the light. A healthy church is where we obey the Great Commission that Jesus left us in Matthew 28.

A healthy church is a praying church, if we want to be led and built up in the comfort of the Holy Spirt, we need to be gathering to pray.

The early church didn’t simply grow, it multiplied, there is a significant difference. Multiplication is the result of active discipleship.

We can grow without multiplication, but it is impossible to multiply and not grow.

May 6, 2018 – Saul – An Encounter with Jesus

Acts 9:1-24

Over the next few weeks we are going to be looking at the life of the Apostle Paul. The man Saul, changes his name to Paul in to have a name that would not hinder his ministry to the Gentiles.

Saul, didn’t grow up as the great missionary, apostle and writer of almost a third of the New Testament. Saul was the exact opposite, but one day, God reached down and touched his life.

Born a Roman citizen to Jewish parents in 6 A.D. in the town of Tarsus, he was sent by his parents to Jerusalem to study the Torah under Gamaliel, one of the most prominent Jewish scholars of his time. Saul was so dedicated that at a relatively early age he was admitted to the Sanhedrin, which was the ruling group of Jewish leaders.

Saul was zealous and ambitious, probably in his twenties we read in Acts chapter 7, that when Stephen, the first Christian Martyr was stoned to death, a young man by the name of Saul, stood by and approved of his death.

Saul’s ambition drove him to persecute Christians, and he decided to go to Damascus to round up followers of the “Way”. As Saul gets close to Damascus, he is blinded by a light from the sky. This light is so powerful that it knocks him to the ground. And as he is lying there, a voice from heaven speaks to him. “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”  Saul had an immediate understanding, but he needed clarification, and the voice responds, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” Can you imagine the fear, guilt and the shame as Saul realized that Jesus was risen, and that he was the son of God?  It all made sense, he must have been in fear that surely Jesus would kill him now, but Jesus graciously doesn’t leave him there as he immediately continues, “rise up – go to the city and you will be told what to do”.

Jesus takes attacks on the church very personally. When we hurt a fellow Christian, someone who is part of the body of Christ, Jesus takes it very personally. Jesus feels the pain, when his body, the church is slandered, persecuted or ill-treated. Never think it is a small matter to ill-treat another believer, whether it is in business or gossip, it is always a very serious matter.

Saul encountered the risen Christ and it transformed him. Saul was blinded, so bright was the encounter with Jesus that he could not see. I believe that Saul didn’t just see a bright light, but he actually saw the risen Christ, what he saw was Jesus in his current glorified being. Jesus, the exact representation of the Father, is so glorious and so powerful that he is brighter than any sun, or any light we could imagine (1 John 1:5).

Saul later writing in 1 Corinthians 15 about the resurrected Christ, was speaking from experience. He was an eyewitness to the fact that Jesus rose from the dead in a resurrected glorious body.

Saul is led into Damascus, where he refuses to eat or drink, he is blind and trying to process all that just happened. He goes through this mourning period of 3 days. And just like Jonah who was in the fish for 3 days, Saul was being reborn, he was being born of the Spirit, being made new so that God could use him for His Glory.

In verse 10 we are introduced to Ananias, we know little about him, but we are told he was a disciple, a follower of Jesus. A disciple is a follower of Jesus who makes other followers of Jesus.

A disciple is an active follower, not just a passive student.

Ananias was looking for people to win to Christ and to disciple. But I doubt he ever expected to encounter someone like Saul. Saul was praying, and his prayers were being answered as God directed Ananias.

Don’t ever think prayer is not the most valuable thing you can do with your time.

Ananias, knew exactly who Saul was and he responds with some hesitation, But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” Acts 9:15-16.

God chose Saul. Whether you agree with the doctrine of election or not, the apostle Paul in his later writings, made it abundantly clear that he was chosen by God and not the other way around.

Saul was called to be a suffering servant, Jesus made it very clear that Saul was going to be persecuted for his faith. But this is nothing new and a clear expectation of all who would follow Jesus as Lord (John 15:18-20).

As Ananias prays for Saul, something like scales fall from his eyes, these were a physical manifestation of the healing that took place, but the miracle of his spiritual eyesight was far more important. As Ananias prayed for him, Saul’s spiritual blindness was lifted, and he was able to see the truth that Jesus is the Son of God.

In verse 20 we have the evidence of Saul’s conversion, as he immediately began to tell others about Jesus. He went into the synagogues and declared boldly that Jesus was the Son of God. The priests had obviously heard about what had happened on the road, but now they were seeing the evidence of a life transformed by Jesus.

And the people ask the question, “Is this not the man?”  When you encounter Jesus, those around you should ask the same question. You may not have been a terrible person in the eyes of those around you, but the change in your life must be evident to everyone. Your priorities change, when it comes to how you spend your time and your money, people will notice your commitment to the things of the Lord.

Have you had that life changing encounter with Jesus, where he changed your priorities and your goals in life?

Saul had priorities and goals, being a driven man, he was motivated to eradicate Christianity. But when he encountered Jesus, all that changed, and he was never the same again.

The Resurrection of Jesus – Sunday April 1, 2018

He is Risen – the Hope of the resurrection

Luke 24:1-12

  Every Easter we celebrate Jesus being raised from the dead. The cross without the resurrection is simply a story of a good man dying, but the resurrection proves that He is God, and everything he said is true

There are some still who claim that Jesus never died, he was simply in a coma and revived himself in the tomb, however there is indisputable evidence that Jesus was dead, and he was raised to life by the power of God (Romans 8:11). The greatest miracle in all of history is not simply when Jesus rose from the dead by the power of God, but that he defeated death and destroyed the works of Satan.

In Luke 24, we read about the resurrection, and we see three things that Jesus left behind when he came out of the tomb.

  1.  The first thing Jesus left behind was his grave clothes. When Peter and John went into the tomb looking for the body of Jesus, all they saw was the strips of linen, Jesus didn’t need them anymore. In John 11, we read how Jesus raised Lazarus who had been dead for four days.  Lazarus came out of the tomb, bound in the grave clothes, and Jesus instructed those who witnessed the miracle to free him. Jesus left the grave clothes behind because he didn’t need them, but Lazarus was going to die again, he would live a natural life and die like all of us, Jesus would never again die, he had defeated death. He had no need for future grave clothes, the strips of linen were left behind to show us that death has been defeated, it holds no fear for us.
  2.  In John 19:39-40 Joseph and Nicodemus put large quantities of spices and perfumes in the tomb with Jesus, and the women who came on that first resurrection Sunday brought perfumes and spices. These were traditional spices to conceal the smell of death. But when Jesus rose from the dead, he left the incense and the perfumes behind, he left them behind because he transformed death from something that smells awful into something that is filled with the sweet smell of eternal life. In 2 Corinthians 2:15-16, Paul describes the aroma of Christ in those who are his followers. Jesus left behind an aroma that we who have the Holy Spirit in us carry with us. How do you smell to the world around you?
  3.  When Jesus rose from the dead, he left the door open. In Matthews Gospel the angel rolled back the stone and sat on it. Pilate had agreed to the request of the chief priests to post a security detail at the entrance to the tomb, but when the angel of the Lord came, rolling back the stone, the guards trembled and became like dead men. The Angel opened the tomb and then secured the opening, making sure that it was never to be shut again. When Jesus died, the curtain in the temple that separated us from the Holy of Holies was torn by the hand of God, because of what Jesus did, we now have unlimited and free access to the presence of the creator of the universe. Jesus provided an opening and secured it, by defeating death, we will never see the stone rolled in front of the tomb again.

In Luke 24:5 the angels, these two men in dazzling apparel, stood next to the women and said, “why do you seek the living amongst the dead”. This is still the question that needs to be asked of mankind today. At some point everyone begins to question the purpose and the goal of it all, why are we here? Is there life after death? And if there is a heaven, how do I get to go there? Without the secure knowledge of the resurrected Jesus, people are striving and trying to extend their lives or find meaning and purpose in life.

People try to find alternative ways of salvation, from trying to live a good life to earn favor from God. People try religion, traditions, even giving money to the church or other good works, all of these will not save you, all this is looking for the living among the dead.

There is no other way of salvation than through faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12). The truth is that there is no other God, who sent his only son, to take on human form, to suffer and die to take our place to offer us salvation as a free gift. There is no other religion that can claim that truth. We celebrate today because of the empty tomb, without it we would be following a hollow religion. Rather we are invited into a relationship with the creator of the universe, we aren’t looking for the living among the dead.

As Christians we are freed from the grave, Jesus paid the price so that you could be free from your past life. As a follower of Jesus, we must never look back, don’t go back to the grave of alcohol addiction, drug addiction, gambling, pornography, gossip, slander and the likes, all these are graves that lead to death. Jesus died that you would be free from the grave, why would we go back and wallow in sin? Jesus left the tomb behind, he didn’t look back and neither should we. He walked away because he was done with death, death had been defeated. When you have been made new in Christ, you have a new life, how can you look back?

Job wrote these words hundreds of years before Jesus walked the earth, but God gave him a prophetic glimpse into the resurrection and the second coming of Jesus. He was so thrilled that he couldn’t contain his joy. I pray that in this season, you would have a glimpse of the risen Lord Jesus.

Job 19:25-27

For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.

And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see for myself,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
My heart faints within me!

Sermon March 25, 2018 – Seeing but not Seeing

Matthew 21:1-11

Seeing but not Seeing

The way we view the world around us is clouded by our culture, education and ultimately our worldview. We filter what we see, hear and read through what we have been taught or have seen and heard in the media, and if we are bold enough to admit it, we don’t always see things the way they really are.

In Jerusalem on the Sunday before the traditional Passover feast, the people of Jerusalem witnessed a world changing event, something that set in motion the greatest weekend in all of history. However, as we will see because of their worldview, and their cultural expectations, they were not able to grasp what was happening.

On that first Palm Sunday, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a colt. The crowd was celebrating the long-awaited Messiah coming into the city, however Jesus was painting a visual picture, a parable for those who would look back on that day.

The account begins with Jesus instructing two disciples to go and borrow a donkey and her colt. Jesus gave the disciples the instruction in verse 3, that, “If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.” Jesus called himself the Lord, he was saying that he was in control, and the sovereign orchestrator of the events. Not only was Jesus the Lord over the events taking place, and the events that were about to take place, he was also the Lord over all creation. Jesus rides on a wild colt, Matthew is the only Gospel author who notes this detail, but Jesus was riding on an animal that was never ridden before, amid a screaming crowd. Jesus was showing, just like he did when he calmed the storm, the creator is in complete control over his creation.

As Jesus rode down the hill to Jerusalem, the people threw down their cloaks on the road, symbolizing submission to Jesus as king (see 2 Kings 9).

The crowd broke branches and palm branches and waved them as Jesus went by. This was significant because this reflected a scene that took place in Jerusalem about 200 years before, during the Maccabean uprising against the ruling Seleucid empire and the Hellenistic Jews. This is a fascinating time in the history or Israel, but the palm branches became symbols of the revolt and the interesting feature of the Maccabean revolt is that after entering Jerusalem, the rebels, came into the temple and cleansed the temple of all the false idol worship. This is also what Jesus did as he went to the temple and cleared out the traders. The people must have seen the messianic symbolism and they began to ask the question which we find in verse 10, “who is this?” (see Matthew 21:9).

The crowd around Jesus had no doubt that he was the promised Messiah, the one who would set up his throne in Jerusalem, ushering in a new Kingdom and empire for Israel. But they were filtering what they were seeing through their worldview, they were seeing what they wanted to see. Jesus was coming to introduce the Kingdom, but not a temporary earthly kingdom, but to overthrow the works of the devil and setup the eternal Kingdom of God on the earth. Jesus was walking out a parable, and like most of Jesus’ parables, the people did not understand what he was saying (read Matthew 13:10-17).

The crowds on that first Palm Sunday wanted a Warrior King, they wanted the prophesied messiah to come and re-established the glory days of the nation of Israel. But we know that Jesus came as the suffering servant of Isaiah 53.

The crowd was seeing without really seeing, they were hearing but not understanding (Matthew 13:13).

Jesus knew that he was about to disappoint these crowds, he knew that they would be turning on him in a few days and calling for his crucifixion. But all the while as Jesus was riding on the colt into Jerusalem, he was thinking about you and me, he was thinking about the mission he was on. Jesus saw through the lens of heaven, he saw the purposes of God through all eternity.

But what about us? We know that Jesus came 2000 years ago as the suffering servant, entering Jerusalem knowing that he would suffer and die, and that God would raise him from the dead, to be the atonement for our sins, but what about Jesus today? Are we looking for a messiah to call on when we have a problem or need something to be made right? Are we only looking for a messiah who would make all our injustices right? Or are we really looking forward to the King Jesus coming to rule over the earth in justice and righteousness. Are we looking for a temporal messiah rather than the eternal Lord?

As we look at the world around us, there is a crowd gathering, a crowd of people waiting for a messiah, someone who would make all the wrongs of the world right. The world around us is looking for a political messiah or a military ruler who can correct all the evil in the world. But, Jesus won’t be that either. As we read in Revelation 19, when Jesus comes again, he will be the rider on the white horse. The next time Jesus rides, things will be quite different. He will no longer be a reluctant King riding on a colt. He will come in the clouds with great glory as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords – not as ‘king for the day,’ but as ‘King for all time and eternity.'”

Jesus spoke about the end times in Matthew 24, where Jesus goes on to describe the great tribulation, famines earthquakes, terrible unprecedented global disasters and persecution.

Sadly, the church is being deceived and losing its focus on the eternal Kingdom of God, rather the church is focusing on the temporal things such as wealth and prosperity.

Are you seeing but not seeing? Hearing but not understanding? Are you so caught up in the things of this present age, that you don’t even have a desire for Jesus to come again?

As Jesus was teaching in John 8 he said to those who believed in him, “…If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32.

Let us be a people who have a Biblical Worldview and an eternal perspective.

Sermon March 18, 2018 – Who Is This Man?

Mark 4:35-41

 Every Easter we focus on the cross where Jesus died, we need to be reminded and perhaps for the first time realize who it was that died on the cross 2000 years ago.

C.S. Lewis has made famous the trilemma that Jesus must either be a lunatic, a liar, or the Lord of all in his book “Mere Christianity”.  Ever since the time of Jesus, men have argued about who this man from Galilee really was.  During Jesus’ time on earth the religious leaders did not grasp the fact that the long-awaited Messiah had arrived.

The disciples had to answer that question themselves, even after seeing many miracles and the authority with which he taught, they took some time to realize that Jesus was no ordinary man. In Mark 4:35-42 we read the incredible account of Jesus calming the storm.

Jesus had just completed the preaching of the sermon on the mount. He was tired he tired physically and spiritually, he had been teaching and healing the sick. Jesus needed some time to recharge and get away, verse 36, tells us that Jesus left just as he was, he didn’t go back to the town to pack a bag, he just needed to get away, but we read that other boats followed them. This was a fishing community, so people followed in their boats, little did they know what they were about to witness. Soon after leaving Capernaum Jesus went to sleep on a cushion.  A storm turned the sea into a deadly nightmare for the sailors and the disciples thought they would surely all drown. The disciples woke Jesus and rebuked him for not caring. The original Greek says something like, “we know you care about us, but right now it seems as if you don’t.” Isn’t that so much like us, when we encounter the storms of life, we know in our hearts and believe by faith that Jesus does care, but in that moment, it seems like he is distant. But God is always near, and even in the fiercest storm, he is right there, and you are one miracle away from peace and calm.

Jesus stands ignoring the disciples and rebukes the wind and the waves. Jesus didn’t just perform a miracle, this was the creator speaking to his creation. Jesus speaks directly to the wind and the waves and there is instant calm. The Bible says in verse 39, there was a great calm.

Jesus rebukes the disciples and says, “Have you still no faith?” What he really was asking them was, “do you still not know who I am?” Obviously, they didn’t because verse 41 tells us that they were filled with great fear and asked each other, “who then is this that even the wind and the sea obey him?” The truth was beginning to become real to them, as the apostle Paul would later write in Colossians 1:15-17.

As the disciples looked back on this moment they might have realized that what took place on the sea of Galilee that night was written by king David prophetically over a thousand years before in Psalm 107:23-31.

Jesus was God: This short record for us that we have in the three synoptic Gospels, is incredibly powerful in revealing that Jesus was what he claimed to be. He was fully God and fully man. Jesus’ incarnation was not a loss of his divine attributes, but rather it was an addition of human attributes (Philippians 2:6-7). This does not indicate that Jesus emptied himself of his divine nature, but rather as Colossians 2:9 clarifies, Jesus was the fullness of the deity in bodily form. Rather Jesus subordinated himself to the Father and became a servant in his incarnation. By giving up his equality with God, he willingly poured his divine essence into human form and submitted himself as a servant for a season to reveal God to mankind and provide the means to salvation at the same time.

Jesus always was God and will always be God. He is uncreated, eternal God (John 1:1-2).

Jesus was Human: Mathew and Luke both record the genealogy of Jesus, even though we know he was conceived by the Holy Spirit, he still had a long and somewhat controversial family tree. Also, Jesus grew in wisdom and stature (Luke 2:52). This sounds obvious, but sometimes we forget that Jesus was a toddler, a young boy, a teenager and a young man before he began his ministry. Jesus also experienced the same physical discomforts that we experience, he was hungry (Matthew 4:2), Jesus was thirsty (John 19:28) and he grew tired (John 4:6). Jesus felt emotions, he wept at the death of Lazarus he had compassion on the crowds, and he expressed anger and disappointment. He experienced life as a human being just like you and me.

This same Jesus allowed himself to be killed on a cross and then on the third day he rose again triumphant over death. He ascended into heaven and forever lives at the right hand of the Father interceding for us. This same Jesus is coming back as a conquering warrior, what a terrifying day that will be (Revelation 19:11-16).

Jesus is Lord, but is he your Lord?

This is what it means to be a Christian. Not simply believing that Jesus was the son of God or believing that he died for your sins. You must allow Jesus Lordship of your life. When you submit to the Lordship of Jesus, only then will you experience freedom, Joy and true purpose in life. Is Jesus Lord of your life? Or is Jesus someone you confess, but, he is just one aspect of your busy schedule. Sometimes Jesus gets in the way of your plans, if he is not lord of your life, you probably are not saved.

Sermon Sunday March 4, 2018 Jesus came to Destroy the works of the Devil

We are in March! Spring is coming and naturally we begin to think about Easter. The danger is that we become so accustomed to the season, that we can easily gloss over the fact that this single event is the pivotal event of all human history. No other event carries more weight and no other event has more impact on humanity than the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As we focus on the cross, we must ask ourselves the question, why did Jesus have to die? The very simple answer is found in 1 John 3:8b, “…The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”

 Satan deceived Adam and Eve into thinking that God’s ways were not perfect. Sin is ultimately a failure to trust God, to trust that His ways are perfect, to know and be satisfied with the goodness of God and His perfect will for our lives. Sin is ultimately idolatry, when we sin we are saying to God, in this area of my life currently, you are not on the throne, rather I choose to worship a god of my own choosing.

As we read this letter from John, we see that John constantly compares the glory and the light of Jesus against the evil and darkness of sin. He very directly states that when we sin, we choose to follow the devil. To show us how vile our sin is, John holds up the pure spotless lamb of God (see 1 John 2:29, 1 John 3:3 and 5).

In contrast to the purity of Jesus we have the statements of verses 6 and 9. Those are some harsh words, and not well accepted in our post-modern culture. But does John mean that a Christian never sins? Of course not, what it does mean is that if you have made Jesus Christ Lord of your life then persistent sin is inconceivable in the light of his presence and glory. No one who is a follower of Jesus can actively persistently walk in sin.

If your life is united with Christ, you hate sin as much as he does. But we are so casual and minimize sin, in the church today, we talk about “stumbling” or “areas of weakness”, rather than seeing the death and destruction that it causes in our lives and those around us. Because of our new birth in Jesus, persistent sin impossible. Being born of God, being filled with the Holy Spirit, you and I cannot keep on sinning without any remorse.

The idea that we are saved from our sin, but still live as the rest of the world making light and trivializing sin, the idea that this is even possible is inconceivable, and yet this is today’s church. We rationalize sin, we make light of the grace of God, the gift that God gave us that cost him everything.

Today’s church has made the goal of large churches and church membership so important that we don’t call people to the standard of what it means to be a Christian.

But verse 6 and 9 say that if you continue to sin, and it does not consume you with guilt and shame, you have never encountered Jesus, you are not saved, I don’t care if your name is on the membership role of the church, your name is not in the Lamb’s Book of Life and that is the only list that matters.

As a Christian you have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside you and when you walk into a room, you bring into that room the fragrance of Christ. Your life must be characterized by, all the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

The fruit if the spirit is not some vague ideal that only a few sanctified believers hope to attain to, these are to be the mark and the evidence of a believer in Jesus Christ.

Are you a Christian? Do you have a growing relationship with Jesus Christ? Or do you harbor sin, and even enjoy sin?

Are you holding a grudge against someone? That is persistent sin.

Do you like to gossip? That is persistent sin. We are so quick to identify the sins of various addictions, drugs, pornography, lust, but we tolerate the sins of unforgiveness, lack of faith, fear and gossip.

2000 years ago, Jesus came to destroy the work of the Devil, so why would those who have been born again continue to wallow in doing the works of the devil?

As a true Christian we are not perfect, there is a daily transformation taking place in us, Christians are people who are daily becoming more like Christ. This is called sanctification. As we gaze on the glory of our savior, it leads us to become like him. We will never be sinless, but we will be quick to repent (1 John 1:9).

But John begins chapter 3 with the wonderful truth of the Gospel message (1 john 3:1). God calls us to be His Adopted Children, not because of anything we have done, but only because of His great love for us? (Ephesians 5:1).

In a few weeks we will focus our gaze on the beauty and the horror of the cross, may we never forget that Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. We have been set free from slavery, and yet we hold on to our chains (Hebrews 2:14-15).

Jesus, in the Gospel of John sums up this whole argument in one verse, John 10:10. Satan hates Jesus, Satan hates us. Why do we give the devil any control in our lives? My friends, don’t ever be deceived into thinking that sin is not a big deal, because of our sin, the pure holy Son of God suffered and died, Sin should make our knees tremble, we must learn once again to hate sin.

What do you need to repent of today?  Prayerfully read Psalm 139: 23-24.

Sermon February 4, 2018 – The Pillar of Compassion of the Church

In Luke 10, we read the well-known parable of the Good Samaritan. This well-known parable has become a part of our culture, even past presidents have referred to it in speeches. The parable was told by Jesus in response to a challenge, a question posed by an expert in the Mosaic Law. His question was interesting, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He was obviously trying to trick Jesus, because he knew exactly the requirements of the law. Jesus answers the question with a question, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” (Luke 10:26). Jesus immediately directs the man to an authority that they both can accept, the Law of Moses.

The scribe answers Jesus’ question by quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18.

This is the correct answer, but the learned man is not satisfied, he knows that that he is not perfectly loving towards his fellow man, so he is looking for a lower standard. He tries to limit the law’s command by limiting its parameters and asked the question “who is my neighbor?” One of the meanings of the word “neighbor” in the Greek could be translated as someone of the same race or tribe. But this makes the goal attainable, so Jesus tells this parable of the Good Samaritan to correct the false understanding that the scribe had of who his neighbor was.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan tells the story of a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho, Jesus doesn’t mention anything about the man, we don’t know his nationality or race, and while on the way he is robbed of everything he had, including his clothing, and is beaten to within an inch of his life. Both a priest and a Levite pass by the man and refuse to offer assistance to him. The next person to come by is the Samaritan, the one least likely to have shown compassion for the man, due to the racial prejudice between the Jews and the Samaritans.

We do not know if the injured man was a Jew or Gentile, but it made no difference to the Samaritan; he did not consider the man’s race or religion, he only saw a person in need of assistance, and he assists him by going above and beyond what would have been expected.

He pays for the man’s care and essentially gave the innkeeper a blank check. He seemed to be very trusting, but I don’t think the lesson is trust, I think the lesson is abundance, he was not concerned because he knew that his supply was from God, and that God never will run out of money. So even if the innkeeper took advantage of him, it would be okay, because it wasn’t his money anyway, it was God’s money and He will pay the bill (see Proverbs 19:17). God’s kingdom is not a kingdom of lack or a miserly mindset, God’s kingdom is a kingdom of excessive abundance, of extravagant generosity, of joyful giving, because that is what our Heavenly father gives to us (see Luke 6:38). Let us be extravagant in our generosity because we serve an extravagant God.

The Samaritan saw his neighbor as anyone who was in need, and we are to follow the Samaritan’s example in our own conduct by showing compassion and love for those we encounter in our everyday activities regardless of their race or religion; the criterion is need.

However, there is no person on earth who can meet this standard, our desires are mostly selfish. When left to our own, we do the wrong thing, we see the person in need and justify why we don’t need to help them. What about the drug addict, the homeless person or what about the Muslim refugee? One could go on listing examples of modern-day needy people who make us look far worse than priest or the Levite.

Even if we do right by the Lord, and those in need,  we must realize that no amount of good works will ever meet the standard set by Jesus. We will never be able to do enough good things to inherit eternal life. The question of the legal expert, is the question of the ages, “what must I do….to inherit eternal life?”

We don’t need a list of tasks, we need a savior. To inherit eternal life, we must put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ, the risen Lord and allow the Holy Spirit’s transforming power to enable us to love our neighbor. We cannot love our neighbor without the Holy Spirit in us, leading us and giving us the love of God for those around us. If you find it difficult to love that person who annoys you at work, who offends you or who hurt you, you don’t need patience or more strength; you need Jesus Christ in you, transforming you by the power of the Holy Spirit.

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. Acts of social justice done for the Glory of God are in themselves acts of worship. However, compassion without the foundation of the Word of God lacks true empathy because it lacks true 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, compassion is essential because it is the way the church points people to Jesus. As Jared Wilson wrote in his book, “the story telling God”, “Economic justice is temporal justice…the Gospel’s justice is eternal.”

Just like the work of the church is not done until the Great Commission is completed, so too the opportunities for the church to be a compassionate example of Christ will not go away until Jesus comes again. Let us be a church that proclaims the Gospel loud and clear, intentionally helping those in need with an eternal perspective.

What Child is This? part 2 – December 10, 2017

In Matthew chapter 2 we read the account of the wise men who came from the east to meet Jesus.

We must ask ourselves, who were these men, and why did they get invited to meet the Messiah?

 The first thing we notice is that these wise men came from the east, most likely they were Gentiles from Arabia, this would have included modern day Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, UAE and Iraq.

One of the clearest explanations for their place of origin would be the types of gifts they brought to Jesus as we read in verse 11 of Matthew 2. The Gold which these wise men brought was probably mined in the region of Ophir and Sheba, which is mentioned in 2 Kings 9 as the place where King Solomon obtained huge quantities of gold for his extravagant building projects. The gifts of Frankincense and Myrrh are also derived from trees that primarily grow in Southern Arabia. It is important to understand the origin of these wealthy travelers in order to understand that they were fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 60:1-6

So how does knowing this information about the wise men help us in answering the question, “what child is this?”

Firstly; both Jesus and the wise men came from a distant place to Bethlehem. The Wise men travelled from a distant country in the east, and Jesus as we know came from God the Father and took on human form as he became Emmanuel, God with us (see John 1:1-2, 9-12).

Secondly; one might be tempted to think that because of all the prophecies relating to the messiah being Jewish, it would mean that he only came for the Jews. However, with these wise men coming from the east, God clearly announced that Jesus came for all mankind.

Thirdly; these wise men were wealthy, but to say that Jesus came from a place of means, is probably the greatest understatement in history. If you read Revelation chapters 4 and 5, you will see a glimpse of the majesty and the incredible riches of heaven. Jesus was surrounded by wealth, power and majesty in heaven, and yet he humbled himself to come as a poor baby born to a poor couple in a humble stable.  This child born in the manger is the Lord who created everything and owns everything.

And finally, the wise men were generous as they brought extravagant gifts for Jesus. Jesus himself came to bring a gift of unimaginable worth to all who would receive it. Jesus came from a position of wealth and he came with a gift, the ultimate gift of eternal life (see Galatians 1:3-4a, 1 John 3:16, John 14:27a, Philippians 4:13, Mark 10:45).

Have you ever wondered why the wise men came to Bethlehem?

The greater question is, how did these wise men know that the King of the Jews was to be born. We know that ancient eastern scholars were students of the natural sciences and in fact they came from a culture that valued the study of the stars and the planets. Thus, when they saw this strange star in the sky, they began digging to find out why it was there. To find out how they came to know about Jesus, you must go back nearly six centuries to the Babylonian exile of the southern kingdom of Israel in 587 B.C. After the exile had ended, some of the people of Judah remained in the eastern lands where they maintained their oral traditions and scriptures. They would have taken the tradition of telling the stories of the ancient scriptures to whoever would listen. These transplanted exiles would have told of the prophecies of Jeremiah, Daniel, and Isaiah about the coming Messiah the King of the Jews.

These wise men would have known of the ancient prophecies of the Messiah coming in the west. And when they saw the star, they came to meet this king. However simply knowing of an important birth happening hundreds of miles away probably wasn’t the real motivation for their coming to Bethlehem. I believe is the real reason the wise men visited Bethlehem was that God the Holy Spirit invited them and compelled them to meet Jesus.

Just as God invited, and prompted the wise men to come and see Jesus, so to, today, the Holy Spirit invites and compels people to come and meet Jesus.

One of the incorrect statements we often hear is, “I found Jesus”. Well the truth is that you didn’t find Jesus, he invited you to meet him.

When the wise men finally come to the house of Mary and Joseph, imagine Mary’s surprise when these wealthy, well dressed, upper class men come into her home and when they see the baby, they bow down and worship. These gentiles probably didn’t speak Aramaic or Hebrew, but they bow down and worship the king. They had been invited to witness the most important birth in all of history and unlike the rest of the people around them, they knew who deserved to be worshipped. The rest of the people in Bethlehem at that time did not recognize Jesus for who he was, and they never did.

These wise men were the first non-Jewish people to worship the Son of God, and just like you and me today, they were invited in. Because Jesus didn’t come only for the Jews, but he came for all nations for all people groups.

So, what about you? You have been invited to meet the King of Kings, the one born in Bethlehem, who brought the gift of eternal life to all mankind

Have you met Jesus? Have you worshipped Jesus? There is only one gift that we have to offer Jesus, and that is the gift of our lives, fully committing our lives to worship him and live for him.

What Child is This? part 1 – December 03, 2017

The Christmas carol “What Child Is This?” was published in the United Kingdom in 1871, and for close to one hundred and fifty years, the question found in the title of this carol has become an annual reminder that something significant happened on that night in Bethlehem as someone significant lay wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger.

The title of the carol is intended to be the primary question the shepherds must have asked on the night they visited the baby Jesus. After their angelic encounter and receiving the startling news while they tended their sheep on the outskirts of Bethlehem, their heads must have been spinning as they tried to comprehend all they experienced on that first Christmas night.

Luke’s Gospel records the scene in Luke 2:8-18.

While no nativity scene is complete without the shepherds’ presence, and the answer to this Christmas Carol’s question also would be only partial without the description of “shepherd.”

What child is this? He is a shepherd; Jesus described Himself as the good shepherd in John 10:11.

He is the one who came to lay His life down for all of humanity just as a good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. While at times the shepherds in the Christmas story have been labeled as the ones who were a bit rough around the edges and living on the lowest rung of society’s ladder, Jesus describes Himself as being a shepherd who has great responsibility. There is no greater responsibility than holding the life of another in the control of one’s own hands. Protecting the life of others was the responsibility and calling of the shepherd.

The imagery of the shepherd is prominent in Ancient Near Eastern history. Shepherds were equated with righteous government and often appear in contexts where the subject of justice is prominent. Shepherds were expected to be the ones who showed kindness in counseling, protecting, and guiding those whom they were responsible for through every difficulty. Even the shepherd’s crook has been viewed throughout the ages as a symbol of power, authority, and strength.

shepherds are mentioned over one hundred times in the Bible. One of the first careers found in the pages of the Bible is that of the shepherd, Abel, the son of Adam and Eve was a shepherd (Genesis 4:2).

In the Bible, those who possessed flocks of sheep and other animals that needed shepherding, were viewed as wealthy and powerful. Great flocks and herds were seen as blessings from the hand of God. Abraham is an example of such a blessing of this type when he is described in Genesis 24:35. Jesus himself, speaks about having many sheep later in John 10:14-16.

Jesse’s son, David, was given the responsibility to take care of his father’s sheep before he would be called to care for and lead the people of Israel as their king. The place David was found before he was anointed as king by the prophet Samuel was out in the fields tending his father’s sheep in 1 Samuel 16.

Remember, the Lord sent Samuel to Jesse to anoint one of his sons as the future King of Israel. Jesse presents each of his sons before the great prophet and the Lord rejects all of them, finally Samuel asks Jesse in verse 11, “Are these all the sons you have?” Jesse responds that there is one more, but he is out tending the sheep. He is the little shepherd boy, and the thinking was that he could never be the future king.

Even after this incredibly significant anointing of David as the future king of Israel, he continued to fulfill his duties as a shepherd while King Saul still sat as the King of Israel.

The child that would be born in the manger in Bethlehem would be near the pastures that David grazed his father’s sheep centuries beforehand. The Savior of the world, the good shepherd, would be born in the City of David and a direct descendant of the King who also was a good shepherd.

What child is this? He is a shepherd and king just as his ancestor David.

The principal duty of the shepherd was to make sure that the animals under his care had enough food and water. David’s most famous Psalm speaks to this in Psalm 23, that begins with truth that echoes the answer to the question of the carol: What Child Is this? (see Psalm 23:1-2).

Just as the shepherd was responsible for the food and water provisions of the sheep, protecting the flock also was a priority that continually must be provided. When David was preparing to fight against Goliath, he told king Saul about his encounters with wild animals as he protected the sheep (1 Samuel 17:34-35)

What Child Is This? He is the one who will provide for and protect all who are under His care.

The good shepherd went to great lengths to take care of those under his or her care. He would make sure they were kept intact and would go to great lengths to find one sheep that was missing (see Matthew 18:10-14).

What child is this?  He is the one who left all the riches and comfort of heaven to look for the ones who went astray. The prophet Isaiah wrote, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one of us—to our own way.” (Isaiah 53:6).

This child in the manger would grow to become the one who came to seek and to save those who were lost, alone, exposed, and astray.

What child is this?

He is the one who came to lay down His life.

He is the one who came to provide for and protect His flock.

He is the one blessed with ones He would call His own and who would come to know His voice.

He is the one who is the good shepherd.

Thanksgiving part 2 – November 19, 2017

Recalling the history of the early Pilgrims, Governor William Bradford wrote concerning their faith, “God gave them health and strength in a good measure; and shewed them by experience ye truth of the word.” And he quoted Deuteronomy 8:3, “He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word, that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”

Thanksgiving is all about God, and recognizing who He is and 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, because how can we celebrate this holiday if we don’t acknowledge our Lord and Creator.

Thanksgiving is such a great holiday, but it is not an end in itself; thanksgiving must lead us into something. Thanksgiving should lead to something that is infinitely more significant.

In Luke 17 we read about a man that was truly thankful. This account from the life of Jesus took place while he was on his way to Jerusalem, on the way he encounters ten men with leprosy. At that time and according to the Law of Moses, people with leprosy had to wear torn clothing and live on their own outside of the city, waiting for their probable death.

They had nothing to lose and they cried out to Jesus, calling him Master, recognizing that Jesus was the messiah. Sadly, it is often only those who are desperate who recognize their need for Jesus.

Jesus heard their cry for help and in response he told them to go and show themselves to the priests. The implication was clear to the lepers, according to the law, people with a skin disease had to be examined by a priest, who would determine whether they were clean allowing them to be re-integrated into society.

They hurried away to do just this, and Luke 17:14 says, “as they went, they were cleansed”. They didn’t go and sit back under the tree and wait for their symptoms to disappear. The Bible is clear that they were healed when they went in faith. Can you imagine their emotional roller-coaster they must have gone through? They started walking and after one mile they still were sick, maybe after two miles, they still saw no sign of relief. Every step was a step in faith and as they continued in faith they were healed. We are not told when the healing took place, but they were healed as they walked in faith. Faith in the healing power of Jesus often requires us to obey before we see the full evidence of God’s work within us

From the account in Luke’s Gospel it seems that all ten are healed, but only one man, a Samaritan comes back praising God (Luke 17:15-16).

The people of Samaria were of mixed Israelite and foreign descent, so the Jewish people did not accept them as part of the Jewish community. The Samaritans were despised by Jews for both ethnic and religious reasons; there was mutual hatred by the Samaritans toward Jews.

We don’t know the nationalities of the other nine, but the response Jesus gave in verse 18 seems to indicate that the other nine were Jews. This Samaritan fell at the feet of Jesus and worshipped loudly. He recognized and glorified God, and this is the key, his thanksgiving led to Worship. Worship is a natural response of a heart filled with gratitude.

It would have been logical for him to have followed the other men and gone to the temple, but he first came to the Lord Jesus with his sacrifice of praise. The law required that after being inspected by the priests at the temple, one would have to offer a sacrifice to God. But this Samaritan didn’t even get to the temple, he turned around and ran to Jesus, this pleased the Lord more than all the sacrifices the other men offered, even though they were obeying the Law. And instead of going to the priest, the Samaritan became a priest, and he built his altar at the feet of Jesus.

If you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you are a royal priesthood with a purpose. 1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

Looking at our last verse, I saw something that I had never discovered before in this passage, in verse 19 Jesus said to the Samaritan man, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

At first glance, this seems to tell us that the faith of this man is the reason for his physical healing, and yes to a certain extent it is. But the word used in the Greek to indicate being made well comes from the root word “sozo”.

What Jesus really said to the man was, “your faith has saved you”

This man was grateful, and he knew the reason for his healing, he immediately came to Jesus and worshipped him.

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

The essence of Thanksgiving is that it is an act of worship. True worship flows from gratitude which comes from our relationship with our Heavenly Father.

Are you worshipping God today? Is your worship coming from a heart of gratitude?