Sermon September 16, 2018 – Re-Up part 5 – Fellowship

1 John 1

Over the last four weeks, we have been looking at various spiritual disciplines, and making personal commitments to Re-Up in the areas of Bible reading, prayer and evangelism. However, to make these commitments without support and encouragement will lead to discouragement. What we need is to re-up to fellowship to encourage one another in our personal lives. Fellowship is so much more than a handshake, a hug, or a pat on the back, fellowship in the church is doing life together, challenging one another and picking one another up when we stumble.

John starts this letter and it sounds very much like the Luke 24, where Jesus revealed himself to the disciples, he spoke to them, ate with them and allowed them to touch him in order to reveal his full and complete resurrection.

John begins this letter by making an overwhelming statement of the fact that he was a witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He makes the strongest possible case for the fact that he is a credible witness and what he is about to write, needs to be taken seriously.

He takes the first two verses to lay his foundation and then in verse three he explains why, “so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ”.

One of the primary reasons for John’s letter was to emphasize fellowship, the importance and the value of fellowship in the life of the church.

John writes that fellowship with each other is interconnected with our fellowship with God. As we walk in fellowship with each other, we have fellowship with God the Father and the Son. As we walk in fellowship with God, we grow in fellowship with each other. If either of those connections begins to fail, it affects the other.

In verses six to ten, John bounces back between and forth between walking in darkness and sin, and walking in repentance, light and freedom. 1 John 1:6, says that you are lying to yourself and to those around you if you claim to be in fellowship with God, yet you are allowing sin in your life. And in verse 8 and 10, the Apostle John is blunt and direct. If you say you are currently without sin, then you are deceiving yourself, because we all sin and we are all prone to sin. Daily we must repent of our sins and ask Jesus to forgive us of our sins. Our sin doesn’t only affect our fellowship with God, it affects our fellowship with each other. Our relational fellowship is hurt when we give in to sin in our lives. It may be imperceptible at the start, but eventually our relationships in the body of Christ will be destroyed by our sin.

Verses 7 and 9 give the beautiful contrast, as we walk in the light, allowing the light of the Holy Spirit to destroy the darkness of sin in our lives, our fellowship is restored with God and with each other and the blood of Jesus purifies us from our sins. Please note the order of this verse, walking in fellowship or walking in the light comes first and then the blood of Jesus purifies us. We have this crazy notion that we have to be sinless to be a part of the church. John responds to this in verse 8 by saying that we are deceived, and the truth is not in us.

We don’t have to be pure to walk in fellowship, but we do have to walk in the light, admitting our struggles and our weaknesses. The church is a place for sinners in need of grace, not perfect people. If you are waiting to be good enough to get connected to a group or a fellowship, you never will, and when you finally do, you will find that we are all sinners moving forward by the grace of God. Because we have a wonderful promise from God, found in verse 9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” This is one of the greatest verses in the Bible.

The blood of Jesus is what provides the way for fellowship with God and fellowship with each other. There are no higher levels of Christian, or lower-class Christians, we are all sinners desperate for a savior and saved by the blood (see 1 Corinthians 10:12).

God has put us in community, so that we can build one another up and walk together through the challenges of life. Fellowship is one of the keys to the effectiveness of the church. A church will never be able to grow beyond its fellowship. If the fellowship is healthy in the church, it will continue to minister and grow in maturity and in number.

The Greek word for fellowship is Koinonia, it is a beautiful word that means the sharing of common life. Not just the sitting next to each other on a Sunday morning, social gatherings or drinking coffee together, fellowship is standing with someone through the tough times in life. Fellowship is also staying in community even after a disagreement. True fellowship is fighting for restoration and unity even after a disagreement.

It all stems from our fellowship with God. As children of God we have two dimensions to our standing with God, we have a relationship which is based on the righteousness of Jesus. The blood of Jesus in faith brings us into a right standing with God. Romans 8 says we are adopted as His children (see Romans 8:15-16). Our relationship as adopted sons and daughters of God the Father never changes, that is fixed.

But, our fellowship can change. Our fellowship with God is damaged by our disobedience. As we allow sin into our lives, we pull away from God and our fellowship with God is disrupted, and at the same time our fellowship with other Christians is disrupted.

But confession restores fellowship. Confession is when we agree with God as to the nature of what we have done, and we apply the promise of 1 John 1:9 to our lives. Sin is not a simple, “slip up”, sin is terrifying. Our sin is what took Jesus to the cross, sin must never be taken lightly.

One of the first signs of drifting away from fellowship with God is a tendency to pull away from fellowship with each other. We need to be sensitive to each other, when you see another Christian struggling, gently reach out to them, pray for them and encourage them. This is what the Body of Christ is all about. (see Hebrews 10:24-25).

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

 Evangelism, the mission of the church.

Luke 24:36-53

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sermon September 2, 2018 – Re-Up part 3, The Gospel

Re-Up to the Gospel

We talk a lot about the Gospel, but are we really able to articulate the Gospel message?

The word, “Gospel” is translated from the Greek word “euangelion” from which we get our word, Evangelism. The Gospel means the Good News and it all starts and ends with God.

The most succinct text we have for the Gospel is 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. God created the heavens and the Earth, and it was good. But, sin entered into the world as Satan tempted eve, she and Adam sinned by eating the fruit that God told them not to eat. Satan tempted Eve by making asking the question, “did God really say?” And that is the same question he tempts us with every day, if we don’t know and stand firmly on the authority of God’s word.

As a result of their sin, we are all sinners (Romans 3:23).  Sin has resulted in a break in relationship, a separation between God and man. All of creation suffers as a result of this separation. In order to provide for the restoration of the broken relationship between God and man, God required a perfect sacrifice, Jesus was that sacrifice. He came to earth as a baby, born of a virgin and he lived a perfect sinless life. Jesus was persecuted and crucified on the cruel Roman Cross where he died. But Jesus was raised to life on the 3rd day, by the power of God, overcoming death. After forty days of teaching and appearing to many people, Jesus ascended to heaven and today he is at the right hand of God the father. But Jesus didn’t leave us alone, he sent the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit to live in us, to empower us to do what he calls us to do. The Holy Spirit is the power and the fuel of the church.

This sacrifice that Jesus made was for all who would put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and savior. Paul tells us that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. We did nothing to deserve his love and sacrifice. All we have to do is accept this free gift from God (Romans 6:23). The Bible says that there is no other way to be saved, this makes the Gospel a message of offence and one that causes division, just as Jesus said in Luke 12. The Gospel is offensive in our culture mostly because of its exclusivity. Our age of political correctness hates the exclusivity of the Gospel (John 14:6).

In 2 Timothy 4:1-5, Paul was commissioning Timothy to Gospel ministry. In the first verse, Paul reminded Timothy that this commissioning is before God and Jesus Christ who is also going to judge all people when he comes again. If Timothy wasn’t aware of the weight of his commission he certainly got it there in the first sentence. Paul charges Timothy to be an evangelist, a Gospel proclaimer (2 Timothy 4:2). In the end of the previous chapter, Paul told Timothy that all Scripture is God-breathed and the he needs to preach all of scripture and not simply his favorite texts, or the texts that he knows people will enjoy hearing (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Paul writes and tells Timothy to be ready, “in season and out of season”, to preach the word. Naturally, we understand that Timothy is to be ready to preach the word when he is in front of a crowd or simply when he is sharing a meal with a family, being ready to speak about the Gospel at all times. But I suggest that there is more to this statement. Let us never forget that if we call ourselves Christians, the world is watching, and we preach a “form” of Gospel with our actions. How we respond to immorality in our workplaces, how we respond to financial and family challenges, how we respond to these and other challenges preaches a form of Gospel to the watching world.

But what about the bigger issues of life, the cultural issues that demand a response from the church?

What Gospel are we as a church preaching to the world when it comes to our response to the plight of the unborn in our nation? What Gospel are we preaching in our response to caring for those caught in sex slavery and trafficking?

What Gospel are we preaching in our response to the re-definition of marriage in our society? What Gospel are we preaching to those around us in our care for the widows and the orphans in our communities?

We have the opportunity everyday to declare the truth of God’s Word to those around us as they see our response to the challenges of everyday life.

Paul continues in his encouragement to Timothy and writes about a future time where there will be false teachers (2 Timothy 4: 3-4). Over the course of the past 2000 years, cultures have come and gone that have rejected the truth of God’s word, but it really sounds like Paul was talking about the era in which we now live.

There are primarily two kinds of false teachers today; firstly, those who intentionally teach a false Gospel in order to attract crowds and make people feel good about themselves. Many large churches have built enormous buildings and have incurred huge debts, now the pastors feel compelled to preach what the people want to hear in order to keep them coming to pay for the buildings.

Secondly, there are those who are too afraid of the cultural resistance to the Gospel, this is the preacher who doesn’t want to offend.

The truth is that the days of unquestioned respect for the church are gone. In our 21st century culture, if you truly believe and hold fast to this Gospel message, you could be risking your reputation, your social status and possibly you will face legal threats as we have already seen in our country.

But here is the wonderful good news, God himself by the Holy Spirit is committed to the results of the proclamation of the Gospel. You are not alone in this task, Jesus ended the Great Commission in Matthew 28 by promising, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

What is the Gospel that you are declaring to the world?

Sermon August 26, 2018 Re-Up Part 2 – Prayer

Re-Up –  Prayer – James 5:13-20

What is the one thing you could do that would have the greatest impact on your life?

The answer is Prayer. There is nothing more important, more strategic or more rewarding than prayer.

James 5 verse 13 has a header that says, “the prayer of faith”. This is what prayer is all about. And when we lack the desire to pray it is because we lack faith. If we could even glimpse the majesty and omnipotence of Who we are praying to, we would never be lacking in our zeal and our time for prayer.

Verse 13 begins with two categories of people; anyone suffering and anyone cheerful. The person going through troubles in life is told to pray, and the cheerful person, who has peace and joy is encouraged to sing praises to God.  But then in the next verse James addresses another category of people, the sick person.

Over the next few verses it seems like James is giving a prescription, a way to pray for the sick that will work every time. James instructs to gather the elders, anoint with oil, pray in the name of Jesus and to pray in faith. The result would seem to be that healing is to be expected. So why do we not see instant healing with every prayer offered for healing?

As we look at each of these “conditions” we see firstly that the sick person is obviously unable to come to the meeting place and calls the elder, this person is possibly bedridden, and in a place of humility and dependence. The sick person takes the initiative and calls out for help. We must never let our culture of self-sufficiency, get in the way of our healing. Our independent culture is actually a form of pride and we need to humble ourselves and reach out to others when we are in need.

Secondly, the elder is another name for a pastor or a shepherd. This does not mean that only pastors are allowed to pray for the sick, according to 1 Peter 2, we believe in the priesthood of all believers. The key here is praying in obedience to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and praying in faith.

Thirdly, James says that one must anoint the person with oil, is this the key that we are missing? Scholars have different ideas on this and the word for anointing oil here could mean a medicinal balm, so that could indicate using some medicine along with the prayer. I have seen miracles happen with or without oil.

Next, James instructs that the prayer be offered in the name of the Lord, this is always a good reminder that human beings cannot do miracles, we can pray for them, but God is the sovereign worker of miracles. To pray in the name of the Lord is to indicate our willingness to permit our prayers to be acted on under the sovereign will and purposes of God.

And finally, in verse 15 we read, “And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up.” So, what is this prayer of faith? The answer is in 1 John 5:14–15, The “prayer of faith” is a prayer offered when you know the will of God. The prayer of faith is twofold; firstly, we pray with faith in the all-powerful God we serve because we believe that He is able and secondly, we pray trusting in the outcome. Trusting in the outcome is faith that God is working all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).

We are so focused on the temporary physical need that we miss the eternal and far more important need of every human being.

As you read different translations of verse 15, some read that “the prayer of faith will make the sick person well”. But the ESV translates it; “the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick”, the Greek word SOZO, means to heal or to save, so it could be either. However, in the 20th verse of our text, where James is talking about the backslider who returns to the faith, he uses the exact same Greek word.

In fact, if we carefully note the overarching theme of the text from verse 13 to 20, this passage is more about the need for righteousness and salvation than it is about physical healing. We get so wrapped up in the first four verses that we miss the big picture. The theme of this text is holiness and righteousness, or a right standing before God. We are so focused on our temporal physical needs that we can forget that we are eternal beings and we all have a fatal sin condition. We are all sinners who are desperately in need of saving. We all need saving power of the blood of Jesus to save us from an eternity separated from the presence of God.

Verse 16 says, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” Who is a righteous person? It is a person who is in right standing with God. Someone who has repented of their sins and has trusted in the promises of God’s Word (see 1 John 1:9). Personal holiness is not just being a good person, it flows from a powerful and intimate relationship with God through prayer. Let us be a people who pray with power, because our hearts are in tune with the Holy Spirit.

In verse 17, we read that Elijah prayed fervently. James notes that Elijah was a man just like us, although God used him incredibly (see 1 Kings 17 and 18), but the key was Elijah was a man of fervent prayer.

The Oxford Dictionary describers fervent as, “having or displaying a passionate intensity”.

I pray that we would be a people of fervent prayer.

We can never overemphasize the importance of prayer and the power of prayer. It is the life blood of every true believer. Prayer is so much more than we could possibly imagine as we get to communicate with the creator of the universe!

“Satan dreads nothing but prayer. His one concern is to keep the saints from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, he mocks our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray.”
Samuel Chadwick

Sermon August 19, 2018 Re-Up Part 1

 

The Word – John 1:1-5

This week we began a new series called “Re-Up”, this is a call to re-enlist, to recommit to personal spiritual disciplines, gathering together and being a church on mission. The summer break has a way of breaking our good routines and disrupting our spiritual growth.

We begin with the Bible, which is a perfect place to start in getting back to personal spiritual disciplines and growing in our knowledge and the call of God on our lives.

In John 17 Jesus asked the Father that He would “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” Jesus prayed that believers would be transformed as they are exposed to the truth that is God’s Word.  God’s Word is the truth that re-creates us, refines us and makes us more like Jesus.

The Bible is no ordinary book, it is the Word of God. We need to get a fresh perspective of the value and the immense importance of this book in our lives.

In 2 Timothy 3:16, Paul writes that, “all scripture is God breathed…” we believe that all scripture, all 66 books written by multiple authors over thousands of years, is fully inspired by the Holy Spirit.

The Gospel of John is a portrait of Jesus Christ and his saving work. The central theme is the eternal majesty and deity of Jesus Christ, and we see in the first five verses this theme being developed. John does not mention the name of Jesus until the 29th verse, rather he calls Jesus the Word. John calls Jesus the Word because he had come to see the words of Jesus as the truth of God, and the person of Jesus as the truth of God in such a unified way that Jesus himself — in his coming, and working, and teaching, and dying and rising — was the final and decisive message of God. As we read the first five verses of John’s gospel there are six key phrases that jump out of the page:

1 In the beginning.

The apostle John began his Gospel in a very different way to the other gospels, he went back to the beginning of time on the earth, echoing Genesis 1:1. Jesus is the pre-existent God who spoke creation into existence.

2 The Word was with God.

The Word has always been in a relationship with God the Father. Christ did not at some point in time come into existence or begin a relationship with the Father. In eternity past the Father (God) and the Son (the Word) and the Holy Spirit, have always been in a loving communion with each other. verse 2 clarifies this point, “He was in the beginning with God.”  Jesus was always God.

3 The Word was God.

The Word, who became flesh and dwelt among us, Jesus Christ, was and is God. Jesus Christ was with God, and he is God, he is the image of God. There is one divine essence and three persons in the trinity.

4  All things were made through him.

Why is there something rather than nothing? That is the great question in philosophy. The answer is God, He is eternal, and He is the Creator of all things. And the Word was the Father’s agent, or Word, in the creation of all things. God, the Word, created the world. Your Savior, your Lord, your friend, this same Jesus is your Maker.

5 In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

This is one of the key themes in the Gospel of John, John 10:10 states, “…I came that they may have life and have it abundantly”. John makes it clear that Jesus was not only the creator of life, he is the sustainer and supplier of life. Jesus said in john 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life”

Not only is Jesus the life, he is also the light. In John 8, Jesus declares himself the “light of the World”.

In the Bible darkness is commonly used to denote death, ignorance, sin, and separation from God. The prophet Isaiah described the coming of the Messiah in Isaiah 9, saying, “the people living in darkness seeing a great light.”

6 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Light dispels darkness, Jesus exposes darkness and in his presence, all evil must retreat. Jesus coming to the earth was God turning on the light switch and exposing and defeating the darkness of sin. The light shines, it has not gone out it is still shining through his church, we are the ambassadors of Christ to go into dark places and turn on the light.

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The entire Bible is the revelation of Jesus to us, the Old Testament points to him, the Gospels reveal his life and the rest of the New Testament point back to the cross and reveal the church, the Body of Christ and then in the Revelation, we read about this same Jesus who will come again as the warrior king. All scripture points us to Jesus.

With all that we have been given, how can we call ourselves followers of Jesus, and not have a passion for his word?” Why do we struggle to spend time reading and meditating on the Word of God?

We need to rekindle a love for the Word of God. It is no ordinary collection of pages and ink, it is supernatural in its authoring, it is supernatural in its reading and it is supernatural in its application.

The word of God does not change, the truth of God’s word does not change, it is our plumb-line and our authority for business, for parenting, for marriage and all other aspects of life.

But, we like to redefine truth to fit our own personal preferences or desires. Let us be careful not to ignore or discard selected truths, just because we find them hard to receive or difficult to understand. And above all, we must be careful not to become lazy or apathetic with the truth of God’s word because it is not socially acceptable or because the cost of defending or standing on the truth becomes too demanding.

This world we live in is vehemently opposed to the truth of the Word of God.

The Word of God was truth before the beginning of time and will continue to be truth for all eternity.  (See, 1 Peter 1:23-25.)

We desperately need time away from the business and steward our time reading and meditating on God’s word.

As you read the Bible, you will encounter Jesus, the Word of God and the Holy Spirit will reveal his glory and majesty to you.

Have you read the Word of God today?

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.