Sermon Sunday September 26, 2021 The Lord’s Supper

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Communion, The Lord’s Supper, one of the two ordinances that Jesus left for the church to do until he comes again. But we easily miss the gravity of the ordinance in the tradition and the routine.

In Luke 22:15, we read that Jesus earnestly desired to eat the Passover meal with his disciples before his suffering. As Jesus knew what lay ahead, he longed for this final time of fellowship and teaching with his disciples and friends.

We easily miss the importance of sharing a meal in our rushed culture of microwave dinners and busy schedules. But Jesus knew the importance of eating with people, and it was even used as an accusation by the religious leaders (Mark 2:16).  

But this meal was different, it was the most important meal he had ever shared with people. And it must not be overlooked that Jesus chose the Passover to be the last meal he ate before his crucifixion. Can you imagine, Jesus eating the sacrificed lamb with his disciples, knowing that this would be the last Passover that they would need to celebrate. Jesus was establishing the New Covenant. As Jesus eats the bread and drinks the cup, he knows that they will eternally be symbols of what he is about to suffer in the next few hours.

Luke 22:7-13 is all about preparation. Jesus sent Peter and John to go and prepare the meal. It is interesting to note that the two chosen for this important task were to be significant leaders of the church. Leaders who were willing to serve their brothers and sisters. When God gives you an assignment, never think that it is insignificant.

Jesus directed them to an upper room in a house that had been chosen before the foundations of the world. There was never an unplanned moment in the life of Jesus.

The disciples took time to prepare for the meal, and the question for us is how do we prepare to partake of the Lord’s supper? We celebrate communion once a month and we can easily slip into the routine and lose the significance of what we are doing.

In 1 Corinthians 11:29 Paul writes, “For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.”

Discerning the body is not simply referring to the symbol of the bread and its significance. If you read the verses leading up to verse 29, Paul is reprimanding the church in Corinth because there are people who had been feasting when they got together and ignoring the poor and the hungry in their midst. The Lord’s Supper had become a form of segregation between the haves and the have nots. They were creating division, hurting relationships, acting selfishly, and self-righteously.

When Paul refers to discerning the body, I believe it means to discern the health of our relationships. How are we relating to one another as the body of Christ? Are we ignoring division and broken relationships? Verse 28 tells us to examine ourselves, allowing the Holy Spirit to bring conviction leading us to repentance and reconciliation. We need to ask ourselves, whether my relationships in the church, reflect the character of our lord and savior whom we represent (Matthew 5:23-24).

As the Passover meal progressed, the disciples reclined familiarly and began enjoying the evening together. But then Jesus began saying things that caused the atmosphere in the room to shift. Verse 15 ends with, “before I suffer” and then in verse 16 he says, “For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Jesus is saying that on God’s calendar, there would be no more need for the prophetic picture of the Passover, it is being fulfilled in Jesus. Jesus points to the next feast, one that we are still waiting for. The marriage supper of the lamb that we see in Revelation 19. What a feast that will be.

Jesus goes on to institute what we know as the Lord’s supper in the following verses. There are two elements in the memorial celebration, and both are significant.

First Jesus took the bread and broke it saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me” Luke 22:19. The Bread broken symbolizes the body of Jesus that was beaten and broken by the Roman soldiers.

Notice that Jesus invites them into participation. He gave it to them, they had to reach out and take it. We too are invited to participate. The invitation to salvation is there, we need to reach out in faith and as we do that we individually say, “I am taking the benefits of Christs body for myself”. Furthermore, bread is nourishment, we are strengthened as we participate in the body of Christ. Feeding on his spiritual body nourishes our souls. The single loaf of bread is a picture of the unity that we have as the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:17).

Then we come to the cup, we read in Luke 22:20, “And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”

The cup is the symbol of the blood of Jesus. In our sterile 21st century mindset, blood is not that meaningful. In fact, many people are sickened by the sight of blood and don’t like to talk about blood. But God instructed Moses to sprinkle the blood of the lamb on the book of the law and the people as He instituted the covenant with the Children of Israel.  We read in Hebrews 9:22, “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” Blood is a symbol of life.

The poured-out blood of Jesus established the new covenant. The covenant that we live under in the church age. That is why Jesus said in verse 20, “…This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”

As we participate in Communion, let us remember that we are celebrating our salvation and declaring the Gospel.

Sermon Sunday April 25, 2021 – Mountain Top Experiences part 1

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Throughout the Bible God encountered people on the tops of mountains. He revealed Himself to them and changed the course of human history. Over the next several weeks we will be looking at some of those encounters and the lessons we can learn from them.

One of the most significant mountain top experiences took place on Mt Moriah as God tested the faith of Abraham. We read about this in Genesis 22, and it is well known to Christians, Jews and Muslims1.

For Christians, the story is traditionally viewed in light of Abraham’s tremendous faith in response to the unthinkable request from God to sacrifice his only beloved son. However, there is so much we can learn from this mountain top experience.

  • What does this account reveal about Abraham?

The first sentence in chapter 22 simply states, “After these things God tested Abraham…”.  

Here is where we must remove our 21st century “Sunday School” lenses and see that this is a truly horrifying account in history. God asks Abraham to kill his own son. A human sacrifice is counter to everything we know about God. It offends us and challenges our sense of decency and understanding of God. Yet we are told that this was Abraham’s finest hour and his most glorious victory.

We have the advantage of knowing how the story unfolds, but for Abraham it must have been the most difficult few days of his entire life.

Amazingly, we see that Abraham remained silent and seemed passive. Abraham must have been going through tremendous inner turmoil as he scoured through hundreds of scenarios in his mind. Verse 4 of chapter 22 says that; “On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar.” It appears that he had been walking for three days with his eyes on the ground before him, deep in thought and anguish. Abraham’s quick response and silence seems to indicate resigned numbness to God’s will, steeling himself against the emotions tearing through his heart.

After passing the test, God pronounces an incredible blessing over Abraham, but life doesn’t go back to the way it was. Most scholars agree that Isaac didn’t return with him to Beersheba (Gen 22:19), and shortly thereafter his wife, Sarah dies. There was an understandable strain in the relationships in the house of Abraham.

  • What does the Account reveal about God?

In verse 2 God says, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah…” From this it is evident that God does not recognize that Ishmael was even a child of Abraham. In verse 11 we see that God stopped the sacrifice of Isaac right at the point when there was no doubt that Abraham was going to go through with the killing of his son. God showed that He never intended to allow Abraham to kill Isaac and went on to explain the test to him.

This picture of God is not the soft and amicable Heavenly Father that our modern-day “Christianity” likes to portray. On the contrary, the picture of Abraham lowering the knife was, in God’s eyes, the passing grade of the test. I doubt that this display of the nature of God would be palatable to the masses in our post-modern society (Isaiah 55:8). But we must come to grips with the fact that the God of the Old Testament has not changed. What has changed is our relationship with him because of what Jesus did for us on the cross.  

  • What about Isaac?

Traditionally the focus is on Abraham, but what about Isaac?

According to Jewish historians, Isaac was between 25 and 37 years old and not an unsuspecting child. As mentioned earlier, Isaac left Abraham and the next time we see him is in the Negev in chapter 24.  This event must have been incredibly traumatic for Isaac; his own father betrayed him and tried to kill him.

In contrast, according to a few ancient rabbinical documents, we read of Isaac as a willing sacrifice, actually asking his father to bind him tightly so that he would not move out of the way of the knife. This gives us a totally different picture of Isaac, one of a willing sacrifice and one who understood the importance of obeying his father and God.

  • Jesus and Isaac

There are many parallels between the life of Isaac and that of Jesus.

Both Isaac and Jesus were foretold, and their names were given to their parents by God. They were both conceived miraculously, and both were called “beloved son”.

Leading up to Mt Moriah, Abraham was silent. So too, God the Father was silent in Gethsemane leading up to the crucifixion of His beloved Son.

The fact that the wood for the offering was laid on the back of Isaac is a symbol of the cross that Jesus would one day carry on his shoulders.

Leading up to his crucifixion, Jesus was unwavering in his path to the cross and he was silent during his trial.  In the same way, Isaac walked silently alongside his father.

This account in essence is the salvation of Israel.  Even though Isaac was not killed, the intervention by the angel saved the nation that was to come. So too, Jesus was sacrificed in order to save all nations.

Like Isaac, Jesus’ walk to the cross was not simply passive resignation to his fate, but rather there was a determination to obey his Father’s will (Luke 22:42).

By his resurrection, Jesus provided for the salvation for all who would believe in him. The staying of the sacrifice of Isaac, was his “resurrection”, and that provided for the continuation and fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham (Hebrews 11:17-19)

What makes this account so horrifying is that God instructed Abraham to slaughter his own son, but if we really think about the crucifixion on Calvary we should be even more offended.

Because of our sins, God the Father required a perfect sacrifice. The only way we could be saved was by the perfect sacrifice of the spotless lamb of God (Isaiah 53:6, 2 Corinthians 5:21).

But here is the amazing truth that we miss, Abraham – the father had to raise his hand against his son.

Jesus knew that he would bear the incredible pain of the cross while bearing our sins. God the Father knew that he would have to inflict this pain on his own beloved son Jesus (Isaiah 53:10).

We must never miss the horror and the offense of the cross. God the Father inflicted His perfect wrath on God the Son.

Thank God today for the amazing gift of salvation.

1Muslim accounts of this event replace Isaac with Ishmael.

Sermon, Sunday August 9, 2020. Walk in Love

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Walk in Love

Ephesians 5:1-2

“Like father like son.” We have all heard this expression and seen it played out in the lives of those around us. Young boys take on the characteristics and mannerisms of their fathers, sometimes without even being aware of it. A few weeks ago, Christie mentioned that Joshua was standing next to the car with the same posture that I always use. No one told Joshua to stand that way, he simply was following what he saw in me, hopefully he learns my good habits and not my bad ones.

Sadly, today we are witnessing the effects of a fatherless generation.  A generation growing up with absent or abusive fathers. But praise be to God, we have the privilege and blessing to call the creator of the universe, Father. Ephesians 5:1 says, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.”

In The previous chapters of the letter to the church in Ephesus, Paul paints a glorious picture of God the Father, and now he adds that we must imitate Him. Obviously, we cannot be exact imitators of all the characteristics and nature of God, but we can and must reflect His character as we have put on the “new self” in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 4:24).

Ephesians 5 verses 3 to 21 are clear and direct instructions for walking in love and walking in the light as followers of Jesus. These verses are setup by verses 1 and 2, we can only walk in Christ as we walk in love.

When we become followers of Jesus, we receive the Holy Spirit who enables us to love the way we were first loved by God (Romans 5:5). Paul reminds his readers in verse 1 that we are “beloved children”. This takes us back to Ephesians 1:5, “In love He predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will.” We are adopted sons and daughters of God our Heavenly Father. We have probably heard that so many times, it has lost its impact on us. I encourage you to spend time praying and meditating on all that it means to be adopted and chosen by the Great I Am.

Along with being adopted, we are welcomed into a family, the church filled with brothers and sisters. We as family have responsibilities, chores to do. Our responsibilities include caring for the widows and the orphans, practicing hospitality, caring for the poor, sharing the Gospel, praying together and living sacrificially for one another (James 1:27, Romans 12:13, Ephesians 4:28, Luke 6:36). As part of this family, we gather together, not out of tradition, but because we need each other. We are created and adopted for community to live and grow together. This is why, even in the midst of this pandemic, we need to meet together regularly, building one another up as we read in Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

Paul continues in verse 2 to focus our attention on the ultimate example of love. Jesus is the perfect imitator of the Father, he was able to say, “…Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” In John 14:9. Jesus loved perfectly, and the greatest display of this love in history was when he willingly died on the cross for us. Jesus died the death we deserved, and he rose again from the dead, overcoming death so that we might have eternal life.

When we submit ourselves to the Lordship of Jesus, we are empowered with the Holy Spirit to be able to love others sacrificially.

The love that Jesus displayed for us is the love that we are called to. This love is not sentimental o a feeling, this love is displayed in sacrifice and action (1 John 3:18).

Last week, we returned from our mission trip to Cincinnati, where we displayed the love of God as we prayed for people and shared the Gospel with people we met in the streets. One of the greatest displays of Christlike love, is sharing the Gospel. Telling people we have never met about Jesus. We go because we are driven by the love of Christ for the lost (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)

One of the most transformative prayers you can pray is to ask the Father to give you His heart for the lost. You will be overwhelmed with compassion and love for those you meet.

Meditate on the love of your savior, and you will be filled with love like your savior.

Paul ends the sentence in verse 2 stating that the sacrifice that Jesus made for us was a fragrant offering to God. We read in the Old Testament occasions that God received the burnt offerings that were placed on the altar as a pleasing aroma. The sacrifice that Jesus made was the ultimate acceptable offering and was pleasing to the Father. Christ gave himself for us, but the offering was to God to atone for our sins. In response to this, we offer our lives as living sacrifices, living generously for the glory of God (Philippians 4:8).

May we be a people who love others like Christ loved us and may our love be a pleasing aroma to God.

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?

Philippians – Paul’s letter of Joy – Philippians 2:1-4 – Sermon December 2, 2018

Philippians 2:1-4

Whenever there is disunity in the church, danger is on the horizon. Disunity is very seldom because of external forces or persecution, rather disunity comes because of a personal agenda by one or more persons in the body of the Christ. Disunity happens because we take our eyes off the primary mission of the church.

Paul was concerned about a lack of unity creeping into the Philippian church and he starts by writing, “if there is any encouragement – In Christ…” remember being in Christ is our position as Christians, this is our standing before God and being In Christ is one of the primary ways Paul describes what it means to be a Christian. This is our vertical resource, we experience encouragement because of communion with God through the Holy Spirit. This is the first and primary position for unity – are you In Christ?

Paul continues and says, “if there is any comfort from love…” When you come to know Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior, your attitude changes towards other people. The fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22, the first one mentioned is Love, which is a natural outflow of a life controlled by the Holy Spirit. The Greek word for love used here is a love that is governed by a willful decision to seek the highest good of the other individual.

Verse 1 continues, “any participation in the Spirit…” This is true fellowship that is more than simply sharing a meal together, this is unity because we are united by the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. When we become followers of Jesus we are baptized into the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit, as we read in 1 Corinthians 12:13,

Verse 1 ends with, “any affection and sympathy”. The bottom line is that because of the tenderness, mercy and compassion that we have received from Christ, we should be displaying this to one another. To not have concern for others, is a very clear indication that a person is not in a right relationship with Jesus Christ.

So, what is the result of unity? In verse 2 we read that the first result of unity is joy. Paul was overjoyed by their response because he knew that as the Philippian church grew in unity, they would become more effective as a church, being used by God to proclaim the good news of Jesus.

Paul was joyful because he knew that they would be like-minded. Unity is not a temporal goal, where we have a great meeting and then we experience some warm and fuzzies and then we hope to remain in unity. Not at all, we remain in unity, because the message of the Gospel is what binds us. We have a common message, we have the same Holy Spirit, thus we have unity.

This does not mean that we will never have disagreements. It is quite normal to expect differences of opinion on certain methods of church activity, but we never compromise on the essentials of our faith and the truth of the Word of God. And when we do have differences of opinion, the governing rule must be love, the preferential love that always seeks the highest good of others.

Verse 2 ends with two more descriptions of unity, “being in full accord and of one mind”.

These two descriptions are not simply tagged on by Paul, to be in full accord and of one mind means that the church knows their purpose and mission. At Grace Point we have the 4 pillars that we talk about; Worship, Word, Evangelism and Compassion, this is what we exist to do. The mission of the church always superseded our personal preferences, that is Holy Spirit unity.

As we come to verse 3, it seems that Paul really gets down to the heart of the matter, and he begins by launching into a list of things that they cannot do if they are to experience unity.

The first sin he attacks is selfish ambition, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit”, conceit is vain glory, this is the person who makes amazing claims about themselves and their ability, while at the same time putting others down (see Proverbs 27:2). Our culture teaches people to promote themselves, but this does little to create a platform for unity.

The verse continues, “but in Humility count others more significant than yourselves.” This is the culture of the Kingdom, Jesus put others first when he died on the cross for our sins. If we would display humility, we would see unity and love flourish in every relationship in our lives. Johnny Hunt said, “the Christian in right relationship with the Lord treats others as if they were his superiors” that is the key to this verse and the key to living as a part of the body of Christ (see Matthew 20:26-28).

In the final verse Paul explains humility, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” A follower of Jesus must be counter culture, they should stop looking at themselves, their comforts and their own self-interest and look out for the interest of others. This is the normal Christian life. Our social media culture has created a generation of people who only look at themselves. But the Kingdom of God tells us to look out for the interests of others, to have genuine concern for others, even promoting the interests of others (see John 13:35).

This is so much bigger than simply getting along in the church. This is spiritual warfare, we need to fight to prefer others, we need to wrestle with our flesh to look out for the interests of others.

Why is this spiritual warfare? Looking back to the original fall of Satan, his primary sin was pride. The sin of pride and self-seeking is the root of all sins. So, to walk in the opposite spirit of humility goes against the spirit of this world. But it is worth it, for the unity of the church and for the glory of God.

Lessons from Jonah – Part 2 May 7, 2017

Jonah Chapter 2

Have you ever been in a hopeless situation? A time when you were in a place in life where there was no human way for you to get relief or find a way out of the situation?

Jonah was in a desperate situation. He had hoped to die, because his prejudice towards the Assyrian people in Nineveh was so great the he would rather die than preach God’s word to them. I think that in Jonah’s mind, there was a sense of relief when they threw him overboard, now it was over, there was no more tension between being obedient to the Lord or not. But, God was not done with Jonah.

The Lord provided a large sea creature and commanded the fish to swallow Jonah. God is sovereign over all of creation, He made it and he controls it.

This was not a “plan B” by God. Jonah, as we saw last week was a prophetic picture of Jesus, that Jesus used to rebuke the Pharisees who were asking for a sign from Jesus to convince them that he was the Messiah (Matthew 12:40).

Jonah finds himself in the belly of a large sea creature, feeling the digestive acids beginning to eat at his skin, in the pitch dark he remembers the Lord. In the first chapter, Jonah does not pray or address the Lord at all, rather the sailors cry out to God and are saved. But now, Jonah realizes that this is no ordinary fish, God has his attention and he is beginning to re-evaluate his priorities.

God is disciplining Jonah. Just as God is sovereign over all of creation, so too he has the right to discipline and correct his children (see Proverbs 3:11-12). When God disciplines us, it isn’t evidence of his lack of care, it is proof of His love for us.

Jonah begins to repent and recognizes the hand of God in his situation. As we read Jonah’s prayer we see glimpses of hope, he begins to take his focus off the situation he finds himself in and begins to hope in God (Jonah 2:4 &6).

Notice the second part of verse 6. “But you Lord my God, brought my life up from the pit” Jonah realized that he did nothing to deserve his salvation, he realized that he was at the mercy of God and that he had nothing in himself that was good. His salvation was only by the Grace of God. If we ever think that we are saved because of our good life, how much money we have given to the church, how many people we have helped, even how many people we have told about Jesus – we are horribly mistaken. We are saved by Grace alone through Christ alone, Jonah understood this.

In verse 8 it seems that Jonah changes his line of thinking, as he goes from repentance and remorse to condemning people who worship idols. But I think Jonah understood that an idol is not necessarily a block of wood or stone carved into a shape. But rather an idol is anything that takes the place of the pre-eminence of God in one’s life. Jonah realized that his idol was his own patriotism and his own self-righteous prejudice against the people of Nineveh. He realized that his idol had turned him away from God’s love for him.

Anytime we have anything in our own lives that takes the place of God, that is more important to us than God, it is an idol and because of that idol we turn away from God’s love for us, and we miss out on the best that God has for us. An Idol may be the love of money, or a relationship that you know is not right for you, or maybe the love of your own comfort, the list could go on. These things are examples of idols in our lives.

As Jonah repents, he begins to realize his position with God, he begins to rejoice in his love for the Lord (Jonah 2:9). Remember that he is still in the belly of the whale. Jonah’s position has not changed, but his heart has changed. He begins to worship the Lord and praise the Lord in his darkest hour, literally – I don’t think the large fish had any internal lighting.

What we see here is the offering of a sacrifice of praise. The Psalmists often speak of offering a sacrifice of praise to God, and Hebrews 13:15 says, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.”

When we praise God, it pleases Him, our singing and praise is an offering to God.

When you are going through the tough times in life, the loss of a loved one, or financial struggles, your marriage is in a difficult place; when you are going through those tough times, that is when it is the hardest to stand up and sing praises to God. That is the sacrifice of praise, it is white knuckle praise. Praising God in the midst of your darkest hour because even though you don’t see it now, he is faithful and he will always remain true to his promises.

Those are the praises that please God. The same writer to the Hebrews writes in Hebrews 11:6, “without faith it is impossible to please God.”

When you are going through tough times, that is when it takes faith to praise and sing to God, that is a sacrifice of praise that pleases God.

Jonah repents and rededicates himself to his ministry (Verse 9). As we read further in the book of Jonah, he becomes one of the most successful evangelists in the Bible. Talk about a turnaround. Being in the digestive juices of a whale will do that to you.

The Lord knew Jonah’s heart and knew that Jonah’s repentance was genuine, and commands the fish to spit him out on the shore.

What are you struggling with? It doesn’t matter what we are struggling with, it may be because of our disobedience or even our obedience, we must praise God in all circumstances.

God never takes us through difficult times just to see how we will respond, he carries us through the tough times, in order for us to learn to trust him more, in order for us to grow in our relationship with him.

Will you offer a sacrifice of praise to God today?

Why Jesus was not a martyr – March 20 2016

 

Palm Sunday

Jesus was not a martyr

Luke 19:28-44

Not a Martyr newsletter

This past Sunday we celebrated what is known as Palm Sunday, the Sunday before resurrection Sunday. The day when Jesus completed his final journey to Jerusalem. And through all this journey we have seen one thing in common, Jesus had his eyes fixed on eternity. Jerusalem was not his destination, it was a stop on the journey, the journey that led to him being seated at the right hand of the Father.

In Luke 19:28 we see Jesus walking on ahead once again, he was walking on ahead and focused on the prize, he was not being distracted. As the crowd around him sees what is happening, their excitement begins to boil over, some of them probably have memorized the prophet Zechariah, and they would immediately see what is going on as Jesus begins to ride on the colt into Jerusalem. 500 years before these were the words of the Lord given to the prophet Zechariah 9:9:

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
    Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
    righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Can you imagine the excitement, here they were seeing prophecy fulfilled, Jesus was coming to establish his kingdom in Jerusalem, the promised messiah was here and he was going to throw off the oppressive Roman rulers. They spread their cloaks on the roadway as a sign of homage and respect. We must remember the context here, this was the beginning of Passover week, the time when the ancient Israelites were liberated from the slavery of the Egyptians. The beginning of the Exodus. For them the enemy was Rome, but Jesus was focused on defeating Satan, sin and death. Their vision was too small, Jesus had a much bigger mission in mind.

As Jesus was riding into Jerusalem he knew what lay ahead, he knew that within a few short days, these same people would be part of a crowd that would be screaming for him to be crucified. But how could they possible understand that the messiah of Zachariah 9:9 was the same person as the suffering servant that the Lord spoke to the prophet Isaiah about in Isaiah 53.

Many unbelievers look at the death of Jesus as an awful tragedy, as a terrible mistake that a great man made. Those who don’t know Jesus as the messiah, will see the death of Jesus as a result of the betrayal of one of his close followers, or maybe the envy of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish religious leaders. Maybe Jesus’ death was a result of the weak leadership of Pilate. It all seems such a terrible mistake, a tragedy.

But look back at Luke 9:51; Jesus was not caught up as a victim of a web of deceit. This was not some kind of an afterthought by God. God planned this out from before time began, because of his love for sinners like me and you. Jesus knew what was about to take place, he kept silent as they cheered him and worshipped him.

Jesus willingly entered Jerusalem, and endured the cross without resistance, he willingly allowed himself to be nailed to the cross, not because of some cause he was trying to defend. (read John 10:18)

The definition of a martyr is someone who is killed for their religious beliefs, they become victims

But Jesus died as the sacrificial lamb. He died on purpose in order to atone for our sins as an offering to God the Father, so that we can be made right with God (see 1 John 1:9).

This past Sunday we witnessed four people being baptized, it is always a wonderful celebration as we see people giving a public witness and a testimony of what God has done in their lives. Each of these four candidates for Baptism have shared their testimony of how God the Holy Spirit worked in their lives to firstly convict them of sin, and then to lead them to repentance and finally to give their lives to Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and savior.

The reality is that Jesus is not an add-on to our lives. He is not simply a check box on a list that we need to get done in order to get into heaven. The Bible makes it clear that when you become a Christian, it is all or nothing. Unfortunately in our western culture of ease and convenience, we have removed the deep significance of what it means to become a follower of Jesus.

Baptism is a beautiful symbol of what happens when we become a Christian. When the person goes under the water, they are saying; “I am identifying with Christ, I am dying and being buried to my old life” It is a symbol of dying and giving up the past. Then as the person comes up out of the water, it is symbolizing that they are being raised to a new life in Christ.

Just as Jesus went to Jerusalem, to die on purpose, not as a victim or a martyr, he calls us to die as well.

Dying to our old way of life, dying to our selfish desires and beginning to live a new life, a life that is committed to living for Jesus Christ.

Only by Dying can you truly live.

Only by dying can you begin to bring life to those around you.

See what Jesus said in Matthew 16:24-26. That raises the bar a bit doesn’t it? Jesus is saying that this is the norm. This is the only way to become his disciple.

Today as you look at your life, do you qualify as a disciple of Jesus? You may have been baptized many years ago, you may have prayed the prayer of salvation many years ago, but are you truly living a new life in Christ.

Does your life reflect the life of Jesus, not the life of a martyr, but the life of a person who is dying on purpose?