Sermon Sunday November 03, 2019 – Where is God?

click on the camera to view a video of the worship time at Grace Point.

Malachi 2:17 to 3:5

Where is God?

We live in a very significant time in history. The world is shaking, and most people are living in fear and anxiety. Fear of the unknown, that something terrible might happen at any moment. Many people are turning to the church and asking, where is your God? Why doesn’t God stop the suffering? Why does God allow the terrible natural disasters and the genocides that seem to be increasing around the world? Even regular church attendees are asking the same questions.

This is the same question the people of Judah were asking, 2500 years ago. Where is God? Why does he not seem to answer our prayers? In Malachi 2:17 to 3:5 God responds and promises to bring justice to the people of Israel. His response applies equally to us today.

In verse 17 we read that the people were excusing sinful behavior, but not simply excusing it, they were celebrating it. They were calling evil good by saying that something that God had clearly condemned, is something to be celebrated and embraced. We see this so evident in our world today and in so many churches who celebrate what God has clearly called sinful and saying that it is not sin, it is diversity and an expression of love, therefore it must be good. God says to us as He said to the people of Judah – I am getting tired of this.

But not only that, the people were crying out, “where is the God of justice?”

The people were complaining that the wicked were prospering by oppressing the poor? But, Proverbs 11:18 says, “The wicked earns deceptive wages,”

Today, many followers of Jesus are also asking, “where is the God of Justice?”, why does he allow the celebration of sin, why does he allow the oppressor to go unpunished, why does He allow persecution of Christians?

After God spoke to the prophet Malachi, God was silent for four-hundred years. This cry of “where is the God of justice?” was uttered for generations. But then in verse 1, there is a promise that the Lord will come suddenly to his temple. The messenger of the covenant was Jesus himself, God incarnate, and he entered the temple as a fulfilment of this prophecy one week before his crucifixion.

John the Baptist was the messenger first mentioned in verse 1, he was the one who prepared the way of the Lord. But then the Lord suddenly or unexpectedly comes to the temple.

In Matthew 21 we read about when Jesus came into the temple, the Jews were not ready for him, and with a voice of authority that they have never heard before Jesus says, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.” Matthew 21:13

400 years after Malachi, Jesus walks into the temple, and he cleanses it from the corruption and injustice.

That was 2000 years ago, this same Jesus is coming back again, and he is not only going to cleanse the temple, he is going to cleanse the whole world of injustice and sin. Verse 1 speaks of Jesus coming as the messenger of the covenant to redeem mankind by paying the price for our sins, so that we could have a restored relationship with God the Father.

But verse 2 and 3 speak about the second coming of Jesus.  Jesus is coming back again, and when he comes again, it won’t be as a baby in a manger.  Verse 2 begins with, “who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?” These verses speak about The Day of the Lord, the day when Jesus will come to make everything right, to bring justice and the vengeance of God as we read in Revelation 19:11-16. Malachi describes Jesus as a refiner’s fire and a fullers soap, he is coming to burn off sin and make all things pure.

Verse 4 continues, “Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord…” Jesus, the lion of the tribe of Judah, and the spotless lamb, is the only perfect and eternal offering that is pleasing to the Father. It is only because of the perfect offering of Jesus that we can stand before the all Holy God without being consumed.

But there is more good news; verse 5 proclaims the justice the people were crying out for, this is the good news.

There is no oppression, injustice or abuse that God does not see. God is a God of justice and He will punish the wicked. God is faithful and He will not delay in bringing salvation to His people.

As we read the scriptures, we can easily get wrapped up in endless debates and opinions on the timeline and nature of the end-times. But there is a significantly more important question we need to ask; Are you ready?

As followers of Jesus we need be ready by daily examining our walk and the spiritual condition of our soul (see 2 Corinthians 13:5).

We will all one day stand before Jesus and if we are Christians, we will get rewards and the Bible says that he will judge us based on what we have done. How we have used the gifts he has given us (see 2 Corinthians 5:10).

Robby Gallaty said, “Examination of your works today is better than elimination of blessings tomorrow”

For every true Christian, God is working in us to make us more like Christ. We should not be surprised when God allows us to experience trials, challenges, suffering and even persecution as we read in James 1:2-4. As we go through trials, God uses them to purify us as a refiner’s fire and a fullers soap with the purpose of making us more like Christ (see Romans 8:29).

Let us encourage one another and pray for one another as we grow together in unity and community, because the Day is approaching (Hebrews 10:25).

Are you prepared?

Sermon Sunday September 22, Healthy Church Part 5

Click on the camera to view the full service from Sunday

Acts 1:1-14

In the first chapter of Acts, we read the last words that Jesus spoke on the earth before he ascended into heaven. Jesus was preparing the disciples, he told them to go to Jerusalem and wait for the promise of the Holy Spirit, which was the power that they would need to be the church.

The church cannot be the church without us recognizing and responding to the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We can hold meetings and run programs, but we cannot be the church without the Holy Spirit.

In Acts 1:8 we read, “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.”

Jesus promised the Holy Spirit so that the church would have the power to do what Jesus called them to do. The Holy Spirit is given to the church to be the church and to proclaim the good news.

A healthy church is like a railroad track.  The two tracks of the church are: Evangelism and Discipleship. These two tracks run parallel and continuously in order for the church to be what God has called it to be.

The first component of the church is Discipleship.

Discipleship is the walking out of the Christian life with a community of believers. It involves instruction and the study of God’s word, but more importantly, it involves a walking together in community, encouraging each other as we all pursue becoming more like Christ.

Andrew Davis in his book, “Revitalize”, uses the acronym K.F.C.A.

Knowledge: More than just head knowledge, the church matures as we study and feed on God’s word. Discipleship occurs as we allow the Holy Spirit to transform us by the power of the Word of God applied to our lives. When Jesus was tempted in Matthew 4, he quoted scripture when he was tempted. How can we expect to stand against the attacks of the enemy unless we know the Word.

Faith: Having a strong sense and firm belief that the promises of God’s Word are true. An active reliance on Christ and trusting that God really does speak to us. Growing in faith pleases God as we read in Hebrews 11:6.

Character: Character is who we are when we are alone before God.Our life before making Jesus Lord must be different to our life today. Our decision making is no longer selfish, our language is different, we are more generous, and we care for the broken and the hurting. Our character is transformed as we become more like Christ.

Action: Mature Christians do what God tells them to do (see John 14:15). Mature followers of Jesus are on mission for Christ, daily walking out their salvation (see Ephesians 4:16).

Andrew Davis wrote, “I believe Scripture shows that biblical knowledge feeds faith, faith transforms character, and out of a transformed character, we walk in newness of life.”

Discipleship is not getting together once a week, studying a book written by a Christian author and drinking coffee. That is good, but true discipleship is activation, leading to a church on mission. True discipleship challenges and transforms us to be a people of action, doing what God has called us to do.  

The second component of the church is evangelism. Jesus said in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

If the purpose of our Lord was to seek and save the Lost, why would we as his representatives, those who call him Lord, not have the same passion.

As Jesus instructed his disciples in Acts 1:8, we are also to go to our neighbors, our city, our nation and to the ends of the earth. As people empowered by the Holy Spirit, we have all we need to do the work God calls us to do (see Ephesians 1:3).

The church exists to bring glory to God, and the greatest example of the Glory of God is the salvation of sinners as they put their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.

The world around us is a mess and desperate for hope. Everyone we meet is an eternal soul, and they will either spend eternity in heaven, or in hell, eternally separated from God.  

Frequently, you will hear that there are many different ways to get to heaven, however there is no other religion or system of faith that has a living savior. Jesus is the resurrected Lord and only He can save (See John 14:6).

We as a church must be focused on evangelism, sharing the good news of the Jesus Christ from our homes to the ends of the earth. It is such a blessing that we have so many people at Grace Point who understand this. This past summer we had individuals and teams that went to seven different nations, while at the same time we have outreaches to Ruskin Heights, Warford elementary and right here in our neighborhood.

Evangelism, like discipleship, is a primary component of the church, and like two railroad tracks they are tied together. The tie that holds these two components together is the Gospel message, God’s plan of salvation (See 1 Corinthians 15:1-5).

This Gospel message is the most important message we have, and it holds the church together in discipleship and mission.

Just like railroad tracks, which are only useful if each track is perfectly parallel and that they continue together. If the one track veers off or is longer than the other, the railroad track is of no use. So, it is with the healthy church, discipleship and evangelism must run parallel and continuously, held together by the Good news of Jesus Christ.

The progress of the Gospel is the evangelism track

The progress in the Gospel is the discipleship track.

But you can only participate in either of these if you have put your faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.

As a follower of Jesus are you participating in both discipleship and evangelism?

Sermon Sunday September 15, 2019 A Healthy Church part 4

Growth

Acts 2:41-47

I’ve had two trees in our backyard since we moved into our house five years ago.  They have grown rapidly and have quickly exceeded my ability to manage their growth.

As I was thinking about this problem, I realized that this is a common problem in churches that are experiencing growth. When the growth exceeds the capacity to manage the growth, the result is a poorly maintained organization that leaves people frustrated on the outside and burnt out on the inside.

Growth can be challenging, so how does a healthy church grow?

The early church is a model of church health and as we have seen in Acts 2:42, there were 4 distinctive indicators of a healthy church.

  1. Devoted to the study of the Word of God
  2. Devoted to community and fellowship
  3. Devoted to breaking bread together
  4. Devoted to prayer.

These are the four devotions of a healthy church and being devoted to these four principles leads to dramatic results as we see from verse 43 to 47.

  • Awe resulting from miracles (v 43)

The apostles had walked with Jesus, they had seen his many powerful miracles and they began to do the same things. Signs and wonders are for the express purpose of bringing glory to God. Today, all over the world, amazing miracles are happening, and the primary purpose is to declare the glory of God and the Gospel message. We see this throughout the book of Acts; signs and wonders lead to salvations. Awe or fear came upon everyone because they recognized a greater power at work, they couldn’t ignore that God was working in power and it caused a reverent fear (See Hebrews 2:3-4).

  • They were a unified church (verse 44)

This was the church in its infancy.  There were no arguments over false teaching, doctrine or opinions. This was before the church began to argue about buildings and programs. A church that is devoted to the things of God, will be a unified church. The moment we lack unity, it is because we have lost our purpose.

The early church had an intense feeling of responsibility towards one another (see John 17:21-22). The early church as described in Acts 2, was an answer to that prayer of Jesus, and many were drawn to the Savior as a result.

  • They were a generous church (verse 45)

This verse is not promoting a form of socialism, rather this was a voluntary caring for each other as they shared their wealth to help those in need.

The rapid growth of the early church resulted in many physical needs. During Pentecost, there were Jews from every nation of the world, who had been converted and most of them stayed in Jerusalem. They would have quickly run out of money and food, and they needed places to stay. There was an outpouring of generosity as the unity of the church led to caring for these needs.

Generosity must be an essential mark of the church (see 1 John 3:16-18).

William Barclay wrote, “a real Christian cannot bear to have too much while others have too little.”

  • They were a rejoicing church (verse 46).

Daily the believers were celebrating their salvation, they were celebrating that Jesus was alive and that their lives had purpose. They weren’t simply following a religion of going through the weekly and yearly festivals, this new devotion to Christ affected every aspect of their lives.

There was not a separation between secular and sacred, they didn’t only gather once a week for a time to dress up in their Sunday best and try to impress people with their holiness. Their lives were transformed by being totally committed to the Lordship of Jesus in their lives and it affected every aspect of their lives.

This is such a challenge for us in the western culture, we have bought into the idea that we can be Christians so long as we attend church regularly and give to the church. This is not what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Being a Christian affects every minute of every day of our lives, whether it is at home, work, school or in fellowship with other believers.

We don’t add Jesus to our lives, we give our lives to Jesus, that is Lordship, and real Christianity.

  • They were an attractive church (verse 47).

There have been many books and seminars regarding the subject of church growth, encouraging churches to change the décor, the music, the lighting, the website and much more. Some even encourage pastors to reduce the amount of teaching using the Bible and please don’t tell people that they are sinners! These books and seminars have made a lot of people rich, but what they have also done is created a church culture that is so focused on the desires of the attendees that the church has forgotten their reason for gathering.

A consumer driven church culture has been created and it is extremely damaging to the understanding of the Church. If we cater to what people want in order to gather a crowd, it will necessitate a deviation from the Gospel message.

The church is good at religion, creating a list of things to do that a good Christian should do. But the early church focused not on what they should do, rather they focused on what has already been done by Jesus’ death and resurrection.  

The early church praised God for all that He has done, they were not seeking any fame or notoriety, they gave all the glory to God. As a result, they grew in number. People were attracted to the miracles that were being done, and to the genuine, authentic worship of the early church.

True church growth must be a work of God as it is an authentic display of individuals living as followers of Christ which will draw others to want the same.

We can do our part to welcome people and invite people and witness to people, but ultimately Jesus is the one who builds the church (see Matthew 16:18).

Sermon Sunday September 1, 2019 A Healthy Church part 2

(watch the video by clicking on the picture)

Fellowship/ community

Romans 15:1-7

We live in an era where we are more connected than any other time in the history of man.

But psychologists tell us that loneliness is the number one health issue of our time. How can it be it that we are so connected but at the same time so lonely?

In Acts 2:42, we read that the early church devoted themselves to fellowship, the Greek word Koinonia, which means; partnership, participation, communion and companionship.

In Romans 15:1-7, the Apostle Paul instructs the Roman church how to live and how to relate to one another in light of the Gospel. In the first verse he gets straight to the point, “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” He uses the word obligation, which could also mean, duty, or legal requirement,

We don’t like this kind of language in our culture today, we are free individuals, why should we be obligated to do anything for someone else? Obviously, just as in 2019, this was a problem in the first century. Paul answers the question very clearly in verse 3 of Romans 15, “For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.”

Christ gave himself for us. This is the foundation for the Gospel message, Jesus being obedient to the Father preferred us over his own life and his position in heaven. True unity in the church is an outworking of the Gospel, it is a miracle of God as the Holy Spirit draws us to prefer each other, in light of what Jesus has done for us.

But It still takes work, Paul repeats the phrase “endurance and encouragement” in verse 4 and

It takes endurance, it takes hard work, it takes commitment (that word that our generation seems find troublesome).

Endurance is the ability to endure and continue to do something even when the finish line never seems to get any closer.  Walking in unity requires endurance, there are days when it seems easier than others, but we keep on going, because we are committed to each other.

Along with endurance, we need Encouragement, we are encouraged by the faithfulness of those who have gone before us (see Hebrews 12:1), We are encouraged by the Word of God,

And we are encouraged by the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in the church.

All of these encourage us and keep us moving forward towards greater unity, towards a healthier community.

Community literally means living with unity. But what is the purpose of unity in the church?

Is it so that we can just get along? Is it so that we portray the image of a nice happy family?

Is it so that we attract more people to our happy community and grow? Actually it is significantly important than all of those, unity in the church is to bring glory to God (see Romans 15:6).

How do we display the glory of God as the church? In Ephesians 3:10 we read, “so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.”

God is using the followers of Jesus to display His wisdom to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. The word for manifold is the same word that one would use to describe the many facets of a diamond. God holds the church up like a diamond and points to the church and teaches about himself to the angels and principalities of the spirit world. Even as we are weak, broken and struggling towards unity, because of the Gospel and the righteousness of Jesus, we are used by God more than we will ever know. When we walk in unity and prefer others, we display the Glory of God. In John 17:22 and 23, as Jesus was praying for the church, he prayed that we would display the glory given to him by the Father, in order to draw others to a saving knowledge of himself.

Unity is not simply getting along for the sake of peace, unity is a miracle of God in order to display the glory of God to a lost and dying world. Jesus desires unity more than we do, he went to the cross so that we could be a community of believers in fellowship and love.

There is much at stake, it is vital that we are a healthy community, the eternal destiny of our neighbors is at stake. Our culture is starving for authentic community.

Many people are thirsting for community but are afraid to step into community, reaching out and being proactive, not for what we can get out of it, but for the Glory of God to be displayed. When you do that, you will get more out of a community than you ever imagined.

The focus will be off ourselves and we will lift our heads up and be healthy.

When we grasp how Jesus went to the cross for us, we will easily give ourselves and our self-interests away in order to step into a community where Jesus is glorified. If we struggle to stay in fellowship with each other, it is because we are not allowing the Gospel message to permeate our relationships, we are self-centered rather than grace centered.

We live in a culture of individualism and consumerism and the church can easily fall into the trap of feeding the desires of the consumers, instead of focusing on the glory of God. A healthy church is where people willingly step into community in order to display the glory of Jesus.

So how do we step into community?

Firstly, we need to understand that supernatural unity can only be found in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as the head of the church. A church community that is not centered around a common relationship with Jesus will always leave us wanting (see John 4:13-14a).

Stepping into community requires vulnerability, it requires a risk. Step into community, volunteer to serve, host a meal and invite people around. We are all busy, but we prioritize what we value. What is we prioritized and valued authentic community, what can be a better way to spend our time than displaying the glory of God?

Take a step today.

Sermon Sunday August 11, 2019 The Word of God – The Bread of Life

The Power of the Word

We have just returned from our third Grace Point mission trip to the city of Cincinnati. It was a smaller team, but we were so blessed to have a team of passionate followers of Jesus who love the Gospel.

The trip was a combination of door-to-door evangelism and running a VBS at the 1st Baptist Church in Reading Ohio.

As we knocked on doors and met people in the community, we were overwhelmed by the sheer volume of need in the area, so many people in desperate situations who were just trying to get through another day. Sadly, as we offered to pray with people, the common response was, “no thanks, I am good.”

The same response is common even in our churches as people have a form of religion, where they pray to God, hoping He hears, but honestly, they don’t have a relationship with Him. A relationship comes from the starting point of submitting ourselves to the Lordship of Jesus and walking as we are led by the spirit.

In Revelation 10, we read about the angel who holds a scroll in his hand and instructs John to eat the scroll, and then to go and prophesy to the nations about the contents of the scroll.

In Ezekiel 3:3, we read a similar account of the Lord instructing Ezekiel to eat of the scroll and to go and speak the Word to the house of Israel.

These two men were called to prophesy by eating the scroll which represented the Word of God given to them. This is similar language to what Jesus used in John 6:25-36 as he instructs his followers that he is the bread of life given from heaven.

We read in John 1:14 that Jesus is the Word made flesh, and later in John chapter 6 Jesus explained the Lords supper to those who were questioning him and who clearly didn’t understand what he was talking about when he said, “eat my flesh and drink my blood” (John 6:54).

In the crowd following Jesus were some scribes who knew the prophecy of Jeremiah and would have understood the concept of receiving God’s Word into one’s heart.

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jeremiah 31:33).

Jesus, when he was tempted by Satan to turn stones into bread responded in Matthew 4:4 by quoting Deuteronomy 8:3, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every WORD that comes from the mouth of God

In his letters, the apostle Paul frequently writes about being “in Christ”, and one of the crucial characteristics of being in Christ is to be filled with the Word, feeding on the Word of God as it sustains us. The Word of God is the bread of life that fuels our daily walk as followers of Jesus.

We live in what is called the post-modern culture, and we are all driven by hunger, desires and wants. Daily we seek comfort, joy, happiness, fulfilment, love and so many other pleasures, but only one thing can satisfy the hunger in man and that is the Bread of life that we feed on as people submitted to the Lordship of Jesus and filled with the Holy Spirit.

The adults we that we spoke to in Cincinnati were all struggling, they had spent a life feeding on other things and nothing has brought them satisfaction. But during the last night of our VBS, one of the young girls who became a follower of Jesus, really got it. As we were praying with her, we could see the joy of the Lord filling her life. This young 5th grade child was fully satisfied in Jesus and she didn’t want or need anything else. She was alive with the joy of the Lord and I know she is going to feed on the Word. Our prayer for her as she begins her Christian walk, was that she remains steadfast and true to the path that the Lord has for her as He reveals Himself to her in the Bible.

As followers of Jesus, as the Body of Christ in the 21st century, we must be people of the Word.

The secular humanistic society is constantly looking for meaning and purpose, but deny that objective truth exists, we know that the only truth that can satisfy is the glorious Gospel message.

As the church we are to know the word by feeding on the word, so that we can be the prophetic voice that God has called us to be. We cannot begin to address the problems around us, unless we are feeding on the Word.

Do you love God’s Word?

Sermon May 26, 2019 – The Word of God

Did you read something supernatural this morning?

DL Moody said: “The scriptures were not given for our information but our transformation.

Psalm 19 begins as the Psalmist declares the general revelation of God through nature, but then David changes from the general revelation to the special revelation of God in verses 7 to 9. In these verses we see, six different names, six attributes and six ministries of the word in the lives of those who read and obey this revelation.

 Verse 7a: The law of the Lord is perfect,
    reviving the soul

 The word “Law” refers to the Torah or the instructions of God, it refers to helpful teaching and a set of instructions for life, this is the same as what we commonly call, the Word of the Lord.

The first attribute is that the Law is perfect, it doesn’t need to be revised or added to. It is the fine surgical instrument that God uses to turn people from darkness to light. The Bible was originally written in Hebrew and Greek, we must be diligent that when we read a translation of the Bible, it is the most accurate translation, conveying the original meaning of the text.

The first ministry of the Word is that it, “it revives the Soul”.

The word of God is supernatural, it is inspired by God the Holy Spirit, therefore it is supernatural in its application. Reviving the soul means to convict and bring people back to their original place. When someone is revived, they are given new life. Spiritual new life is found in the Word of God.

Verse 7b: the testimony of the Lord is sure,
    making wise the simple;

The second part of verse 7, calls the Word, “the testimony of the Lord”. A testimony is a recalling of what God has done. All Scripture testifies to the nature and character of God, and what He wants us to be and to do.

The attribute of this testimony is that it is sure, reliable and trustworthy. The Bible is a foundation on which someone can safely build, there is no foundation as secure as the Word of God on which to build your life.

And the ministry of this testimony is that it makes wise the simple. The term for simple here is not foolish or unintelligent, rather it means inexperienced but teachable (Psalm 119:130).

Verse 8a: the precepts of the Lord are right,
    rejoicing the heart;

Precepts are the practical instructions and can also be translated as orders. These words, this book contains the instructions spoken with authority of the Almighty God.

The attribute of these precepts is that they are right and true. But the result of living according to these precepts is “rejoicing the heart”. By following the guidance and instruction of God’s Word, we will know true, deep, satisfying Joy. Our creator knows what is good for us and has given us instructions that will bring us Joy (1 John 5:3).

Verse 8b: the commandment of the LORD is pure,

enlightening the eyes;

In the second part of verse 8, the Psalmist gets more specific, from precepts to Commandments, these are rules for what to do and what not to do. The way we respond to these commandments is life or death.

But these commandments are pure in their intention, God only gives what is good for us. And these commandments will lead to purity in life as we obey them (119:11).

Pure actions come from pure thoughts, which comes from the pure instructions of God’s Word. What you put into your mind, will lead to what you do and become. Therefore, it is crucial to read God’s Word daily.

The ministry of the Commandments is that they are “enlightening the eyes”.

Scientists and Psychologists have determined that the eyes really are the window to the soul (Matthew 6:22-23). Purity of thought can be seen in the eyes.

verse 9a:  the fear of the Lord is clean,

enduring forever;

The fear of the Lord may not seem to fit as another name for the word of God, but the fear of the Lord is the reaction of the reader and the natural response of the person who meditates on God’s word. The fear of the Lord is a holy reverence for God in response to meditating on His word. God’s word does not submit to our will, we must submit ourselves to God’s word.

The attribute of this fear is cleanness and purity, as we submit ourselves to the word of God, we will be made clean (Ephesians 5:25-27). Reading aloud God’s word has a cleansing effect.

And the ministry of this is that God’s word endures forever. Satan has tried to destroy the Bible throughout history, but the Word of God is still the most published book in all history (Isaiah 40:8).

Verse 9b: the rules of the LORD are true,

and righteous altogether.

The sixth and final description of the Word of God is “rules”, a better translation is the judgments, these are God’s final pronouncements and His final authority on all things. God’s judgments reflect His righteous character. We specifically see God’s righteous judgment on our sin as Jesus took our punishment on the cross.

These judgments of God are true (John 17:17), Jesus prayed that the Apostles would be set aside for the ministry of truth, declaring God’s word.

The final ministry of the rules of God’s word is righteousness.  Our righteousness is only because of faith in Jesus as our Lord and savior and another example of why John introduced Jesus as the word in John 1.

The Psalmist closes in prayer asking that God would help him to live in purity and holiness. Purity of thought, word and action (Psalm 19:14). This is only possible as the Holy Spirit transforms us, makes us more like Jesus. Without the Holy Spirit’s presence in your life, this book will just be a collection of words on a page.

If you find that reading the Bible is boring, maybe it is because you don’t know the author.

Have you read something supernatural today?

Sermon May 19, 2019 The Mission of the Church

 

Acts 1:1-8

The mission of the church is a foundational pillar of the church. The mission of the church, the outward focus of the church is lost in the mire of the programs of the church. In reading God’s word, I am convinced that the church that does not focus on missions and evangelism is being disobedient to the call of God.

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 time between when Jesus ascended into Heaven and when he is coming back.

In Acts 1:4 Jesus says, And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father…”

Jesus told them that even though they were eyewitnesses to the greatest events in all of history, they were unprepared for the task that lay ahead of them. Jesus told them not to do anything until they had received power. The Holy Spirit is the indispensable in the life of every believer if we are going to be in any way effective in the work that God has called us to. But sadly, too many Christians live lives that do not require the power of the Holy Spirit. Lives of mediocrity and passivity, lives that do not force us to lean into God in desperation for His power.

Jesus says in verse 5, “…but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now”. The tense of the verb “baptized” is in the 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.

The Disciples didn’t understand what Jesus was talking about, and we cannot blame them, how could they possibly know what Jesus was talking about. Jesus was instituting the church age and commissioning the church to proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the earth. The work of the church is unfinished, there are still 3.15 billion people who have never heard the name of Jesus, that is over 41 % of the world’s population. 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.

Acts 1:8 is the verse that every missionary knows so well, 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.”

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

The Gospel must start at home, in the church, in our city, but then we are all to be part of taking the message further and further as the Holy Spirit gives power and direction.

This is the church, this is the design and purpose for the church that Jesus instituted.

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.

Jesus said that the Holy Spirit will be the source of power to be witnesses. A witness is someone who testifies to what they have seen and experienced. Every Christian has had an encounter with the living God, every Christian has the power and the testimony to be a witness. But you cannot be a witness to something you have not experienced. When I hear people saying that they cannot witness, I question whether or not they have had a life changing encounter with the risen Lord Jesus. This doesn’t mean that everyone has the gift of evangelism, but every believer is called to be a witness to their personal experience with Jesus.

In the church we have turned evangelism into an academic pursuit. We do a lot of training, but very little doing. I am not against being well prepared, but we can get trained into the mindset that people are simply targets and we must get through our presentation. When we do that, we miss out on the beauty and joy of the relationship and seeing that people are not targets, they are just brothers and sisters that the Holy Spirit is inviting into a life changing encounter with Jesus.

Another concern people have is that they struggle to articulate the Gospel, the Good News.

The Gospel begins with knowing what we have been saved from. We are eternal beings, and there are only two destinations, eternal separation from God in hell, or eternal joy and peace in the presence of God in heaven. At the very beginning, in the Garden of Eden, man turned his back on God and sin entered the world. Sin has resulted in a break in relationship, a separation between God and man and all mankind suffers because of this separation (Romans 3:23).

But because of his great love for us, God has provided a way for man to be made right in His sight.

All we must do is accept this free gift from God, Romans 6:23 says; “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The Bible says that there is no other way to be saved. It is only by accepting the offer of salvation and making Jesus Christ Lord of your life.

That is the Gospel message, this is the foundation for us as Christians and we need to be able to articulate it. As Jesus instructed the disciples, it starts here at home, and then out to the nations, this is the calling on all of us as a part of the church.

Dr. Oswald Smith said, “the light that shines farthest will shine the brightest at home.”

Sunday May 5, 2019 The Prescription for True Joy

click on the camera to watch the video of the message

TRUE JOY

Paul’s letter to the Philippians

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lack of unity (Philippians 2:2-4)

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

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

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

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

Grumbling or disputing (Philippians 2:14-15)

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

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

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

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

False teaching (Philippians 3:2-3)

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

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

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

Bad thinking (Philippians 4:8)

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

Lack of contentment (Philippians 4:11-13)

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

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

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

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

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

How have you lost your joy?

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

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

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

Sermon – April 21, 2019 Resurrection Sunday

He is Risen!

We were all struck by the spectacle of the fire that destroyed the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.

As I was watching the coverage, somthing struck me, I began thinking about why this burning building caused so much grief and angst. One of the reasons was that we as God’s created beings, desire transcendence, we have a desire for something that endures beyond our lives. We desperately want to know that eternity is real and achievable. The thought that everything around us that we see will one day fall to decay is simply too hard for us to face (see Ecclesiastes 3:11).

We were made for so much more than the accumulation of wealth, knowledge and the pursuit of comfort and happiness, we were made for eternal glory with Jesus.

On Easter Sunday, we celebrate the fact that Jesus rose from the dead and that he paid the price for our eternal salvation. Isaiah 53 is one of the clearest Old Testament prophetic Scriptures that points to the death and resurrection of Jesus. These words also remind us that Jesus was not a victim of a terribly botched trial, or mistaken identity. Jesus was the creator God, who took on flesh, was born and lived at a specific time in history to die on a Roman cross and then to be raised to life. Only Jesus could do what He did, only Jesus who was fully God and fully man, was the one who could pay the price for the sins of man.

In Isaiah 53:10-12 we see five key attributes of Jesus, starting at verse 10a, “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt,”
Jesus is – the Perfect Sacrifice.

Under the Law of Moses, there were multiple different offerings, the prophet Isaiah wrote that Jesus was a guilt offering. The guilt offering was to provide a way to be cleansed from unintentional sin, or a way to provide restitution when someone has been personally wronged because of a sinner’s actions. Jesus knows what sins we have committed in the past, but the guilt offering was for unintentional or yet unknown sin. On the cross, Jesus paid the price for our sins and for the sins we are yet to commit even our unintentional sins. Does this mean I sin without consequence? Absolutely not, it was our sin that drove Jesus to the cross, past present and future. Jesus is the perfect sacrifice, the only pure spotless lamb of God (see Hebrews 10:11-14).

Jesus is – the Risen Lord.

Jesus is alive! Isaiah 53:10b-11a says, “he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. 11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;”

Only living people see their offspring, only living people have extended days and prosper.

This is the line in the sand that differentiates Christianity from any other world religion. Our God is alive, the tomb where he was buried was only occupied for a few days. Paul clearly stated this in 1 Corinthians 15:3-6, this is the Good News, he is risen!

Not only that, Jesus was raised with a body that will never decay, the same kind that we will also get one day if we believe in Jesus as Lord. The resurrection of Jesus is our glorious hope of a certain eternal future.

Jesus is – our Righteousness.

Isaiah 53:11b, “by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.”

The word righteous means that there is no longer a need for justice or punishment. For the Christian, to be righteous means to be in right standing before God. This is the privilege that we have as those covered by the perfect sacrifice of Jesus. We cannot stand before the all-holy God without the righteousness of Christ.

Without the righteousness of Christ, we have no hope of any sin being forgiven, but because of what he had done, no sin is too great for his forgiveness.

In Isaiah 64, we read that those who trust in their own righteousness or good works, are described as filthy rags in God’s sight. There is no good work that we could do that would make us righteous.  Nothing we can do will make us righteous before God, only through Jesus can we stand righteous before the all-holy God

In Jeremiah 23:6 we read that Jesus is Jehovah Tsidkenu, meaning Jehovah is our righteousness.

Our being in right standing with God is only because of us placing our faith in the completed work of Jesus on the cross. Righteousness comes through faith.

Jesus is our Inheritance

Isaiah 53:12a, “Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,

The Bible is full of references to the inheritance believers have in Christ (see Ephesians 1:11).

Our inheritance is the sum of all God has promised us in salvation. Our inheritance is not dependent on our works, our inheritance is based on our family, being part of the family of God, being a Christian makes us heirs along with Christ (See Romans 8:16-17).

When we understand and value the glory that awaits us, we are better able to endure whatever comes our way in this life. With an eternal perspective, we realize that this life is gone in a flash and eternity awaits us all. We can praise God during trials because we have His guarantee that we will receive all He has promised (see 2 Corinthians 4:17).

Jesus is our Advocate.

Isaiah 53:12 closes, “because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many and makes intercession for the transgressors.”

An advocate is someone who pleads the cause of another before a court or tribunal, Jesus is our advocate (see 1 John 2:1).

Jesus, the creator of the universe, gave his life for you, and now he is seated next to God the father and he is pleading and advocating for us (see Hebrews 7:23-25).

In addition to this, Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

Do you know Jesus?

Sermon on Palm Sunday April 14, 2019 Matthew 21:1-17

Matthew 21:1-17

Have you ever been to an event or meeting and something happened that you didn’t expect or fully understand?

The Sunday prior to Easter is Palm Sunday, the day when we traditionally remember Jesus coming into Jerusalem one week prior to his crucifixion and resurrection.

Everything that Jesus did on that day made a statement, he was intentionally dropping hints along the way about his identity and intentions. Those witnessing the events, did not see the significance of what Jesus was doing. Jesus was following a script that had been written before the creation of the world (see John 5:19).

Jesus avoided the limelight, throughout his public ministry. Most of Jesus’ ministry happened outside of towns or in small towns, away from the center of Jerusalem. But on Palm Sunday, all of that changed. In Matthews Gospel account we see six signs that Jesus left indicating his identity and purpose.The first sign we see is that Jesus instructs his disciples to go and get a donkey and her young foal and bring them to him.

His disciples dutifully obeyed and went and got him this wild animal that had never been ridden before. Riding into the city was a public declaration that Jesus was a king (See Zechariah 9:9). In times of war a conquering king would ride on a chariot or a stallion, but Jesus rode on a colt to declare that he is a king proclaiming peace.

But aside from the obvious declaration, this animal had never been ridden before. Anyone who has worked with horses before would know that you cannot simply ride a wild foal, it needs to be broken in, unless the creator of the foal was the one riding. The people didn’t recognize the creator God, but the foal did, the animal knew who was riding on its back, and it submitted to the authority of Jesus.

The people reacted by spreading their cloaks in front of Jesus, this was a sign of honor for a king as we see in 2 Kings chapter 9. The fact that the people were waving palm branches showed that they didn’t grasp who Jesus was, and why he was coming to Jerusalem. Two generations before this time, the Maccabean revolt took place that liberated the Israelites from the Syrian oppressors, at that time the worship in the temple was re-established. By waving palm branches, the people were expecting a military ruler to free them from the oppression of Rome, they expected Jesus to be another warlord or general of the armies, one who would lead them to liberation from their oppressors. They were ready to pick up their swords and go to war if Jesus would lead them!

In verse 9 we see that the people were crying out, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”.

We sing the word, Hosanna, and assume it is simply a declaration of worship, but it is a cry for help, it is a cry for salvation. The Aramaic word, Hosanna, comes from the Hebrew and the same word we find in Psalm 118:25, Save us, we pray, O Lord! O Lord, we pray, give us success!”

The crowds were full of expectation that Jesus was coming to save them, but it was originally a cry for help. The people were misguided in their expectations of Jesus as the military messiah, but their declaration of Hosanna, was a prophetic declaration of the salvation that Jesus was about to bring through his death and resurrection.

Jesus enters Jerusalem and the whole city was stirred up, little did they know what was about to take place. The greatest and the darkest day in all of history. Jesus goes to the temple and begins to turn over the tables of the money changers and the traders. Jesus then quotes the Prophet Isaiah and says, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”

We easily miss the significance of what Jesus was doing, he was making a public statement that the sacrificial system was not needed anymore, he was about to become the perfect and final sacrifice for all who would put their faith in him. Jesus was passing judgment on the sacrificial system. Even today we still need to be reminded that there is only one sacrifice that gains us favor with God, and it has already been completed when Jesus died and rose again.

In verse 14 we read, “And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them.” During the chaos and confusion, Jesus takes time to heal the blind and the lame.

Jesus was intentionally making a declaration of his true identity. The irony is that the seeing people were the blind ones. The blind came to him, because they recognized him for who he was.

Remember at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he went to the synagogue in Nazareth and read from Isaiah chapter 61 (see Luke 4:18-19). Jesus was declaring who he was, but the seeing were blind.

And then finally in verse 15, we read that the chief priests and scribes were indignant, they were offended because of the miracles, they were offended because the children were upsetting their neat little world of religion and crying out, “Hosanna to the Son of David!”

The priests were very religious, but religion – a set of rules and regulations to earn salvation – that is not for children. Christianity is a true relationship with our heavenly father through Jesus Christ and children get that much easier than adults do. Jesus quotes King David from Psalm 8:2. There is power in the praise of children, but more than that, the children hear from God much clearer than we adults do. The children are the faith and prophetic voices for the church as we get so busy “doing church”. We get so busy doing religion, that we miss the power of the praises and prayers of the children.

Jesus made statement after statement, declaring his true identity, but all the people in Jerusalem that day missed what he was saying.

Do you know who Jesus is?

Perhaps you follow Jesus because of his miracles and what you can get from him?

Do you follow Jesus because it is your tradition?

The only way of salvation is through recognizing who Jesus is and then submitting to him as Lord of your life.