Sermon February 11, 2018 – The Trilogy of Parables

We all know of the original Star Wars trilogy released between 1977 and 1983. A trilogy is a set of stories, each with their own plot, but connected to a bigger plot when combined as a three-part story.

Jesus also told a trilogy of stories, in Luke 15 we read three well known parables that Jesus told. The three parables of Luke 15, the lost sheep, the lost coin and the prodigal son, were all told by Jesus in quick succession in response to the grumbling Pharisees (see Luke 15:2).

The Pharisees were grumbling because Jesus was receiving sinner, I am so glad that Jesus still receives sinners today! I pray that our church never shy’s away from fellowship with sinners, because we are all sinners saved by grace and have nothing that makes us better other than the grace of God and His gracious indwelling presence.

Jesus responds to them by telling three short parables, the first one is the parable of the lost sheep, where the shepherd leaves the 99 sheep to search for the one which was lost. Then Jesus tells the story of the woman who has lost a coin, she searches diligently until it is found. Jesus ends both these parables with the gentle rebuke to the Pharisees and the scribes in verses 7 and 10, “joy in heaven over one sinner who repents …”.

These sinners that the Pharisees viewed as worthless, were of immense value in the kingdom of heaven.

Then Jesus tells the story of the Prodigal son, or the lost son, seems more appropriate.

This son asks his father for his share of his inheritance, essentially telling his father that he wishes he was already dead. He takes the money and wastes it, he defiles himself and ends up reaching a point of desperation. It is at this point that he seems to come to his senses, the Bible says; “came to himself”. He turned and headed for home.

In our salvation experience, we all must come to the place of turning, realizing that we cannot do anything good on our own to earn our salvation. We must hit rock bottom and cry out to God to be saved by accepting the free gift of salvation and asking Jesus to be the Lord of our lives.

The prodigal son goes home and hopes just to be a slave, hoping to pay back what he wasted. He just wants to be around his father and the household, in his mind he has disqualified himself from sonship.

Then we see the overwhelming Gospel story in the prodigal son, as the brokenhearted father, who has missed his son so much, is waiting for him. The son begins his prepared speech, humbly asking for a position of servanthood, but the father doesn’t pay any attention to his plea and commands that he be given three things. These three items are vital in our understanding of the story.

The Best Robe: The robe symbolizes cleansing and forgiveness, a washing and putting on new clothes. When you become a Christian, you are washed with the blood of Jesus and then you are clothed in the righteousness of Christ.

 The Ring: The ring was probably like a signet ring, which carried the seal of the family. The implications of this are huge. The son was reinstated with authority into the family. He has been brought back into his original position. When you become a Christian, you are adopted into God’s family with full authority of a son or daughter of the King. You are an ambassador, you have the authority to represent the king of kings.

 The sandals: Sandals were given to represent the fact that the son was not a slave, he had freedom. Slaves were kept in subjection, without shoes, but true children were free to walk around.

The tragedy is that so many people come to Jesus and ask for the forgiveness of their sins and then assume that the Lord has recruited them to be his hired hands, rather than being a beloved child whose debt has been paid in full by the blood Jesus shed on the cross.

Is that you today? You are limping in with a dirty coat, when God shows you the ring, the robe and the sandals, you decline because you feel unworthy of such forgiveness and grace, and you would be right!

But God gives you and I that new robe of righteousness, the ring of adoption into the family, and the sandals of freedom. Stop living as a slave and begin living as a desired and treasured part of the Family of God (see 1 Peter 2:9).

As Jesus ends the parable of the lost son, he throws in the picture of the older son, the Pharisees must have really felt the slap in the face of that. It was obvious that Jesus was referring to them and to all self-righteous people in the church who don’t know who they are in Christ, living according to a set of rules, rather than living as a child of the king.

But why the three parables in answer to the grumbling of the Pharisees? Jesus never wasted words, he didn’t simply tell three stories to make the same point, combined the parables reveal a profound truth about our salvation.

When we look at the parable of the good shepherd, we can easily see that the shepherd is Jesus. Jesus himself said that “I am the good shepherd” in John 10.

In the parable of the lost coin, the woman lights a lamp, sweeps the house in search of it. The Holy Spirit is the light revealing the word to us and sweeping out the house of our souls to prepare the way for the transformation of God in our lives.

When we look at the parable of the lost son, we see the true focus of the story is on the Father who forgives and lavished love and blessings on the returning son. Tim Keller writes in his book “The Prodigal God”, where he shows God to be the prominent prodigal, because he loves us with reckless abandon, pouring out unmerited favor and blessing, holding nothing back.

We have three parables revealing distinct aspects of the working of the trinity in God’s plan of salvation.

The parable that consumes our attention is the Prodigal son, because we can so identify with either the young son or the older son. Neither son realized who they were in the family, and sometimes we are no different, we choose to live as orphans when our Heavenly Father has adopted us into His family.

We choose to live in spiritual poverty when we have been granted unmerited spiritual authority.

We have been clothed in righteousness and given the Holy Spirit to help us daily in our walk.

Do you really know what it means to be a Christian?

Thanksgiving part 1 – November 12, 2017

Psalm 107

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday what are you thankful for? As Christians we have been given something that is so immeasurably good and wonderful, that it should be the very first thing we share around the dinner table. Psalm 107 is a Psalm of thanksgiving and praise to God for deliverance and freedom, it starts with an exhortation to give God thanks (Psalm 107:2). To be redeemed means to have one’s debts paid for and to be set free. As Christians this is you and me, Jesus bought and paid for our freedom on the cross.

But, to be thankful, we need to be aware of what have you been saved from. Do you remember the day you gave your life to the Lordship of Jesus, the redeemer? Do you remember the hopelessness you felt before you encountered Jesus? For many of us, we need to be reminded of our lives before we met Jesus to awaken a heart of thanksgiving in us.

Continuing in verse 3 as the Psalmist paints a picture for us of the exiles returning to Jerusalem from the four corners of the earth and beginning in verse 4 we have four different examples of people being set free. Each of these four represent distinct characteristics of lostness.

The Wanderer (v 4).

The picture we have is of a group of people who have been banished from the promised land, they are lost and wandering in the desert, possibly the Sinai desert. These people were hungry and thirsty, but worse than their physical condition we read that their spirits failed them, they had given into the hopelessness of their situation.

People who do not know Jesus as their lord and savior, wander aimlessly, without the hope of eternity for them life is a hopeless gathering of possessions and wealth to lose it all when you die, what a miserable existence! However, in verse 6 they cried out to God and he rescued them, and led them to a city where they could live. It is a beautiful picture of a people being restored to their God and His Promised Land.

The Rebel Prisoner (v10).

Here the Psalmist paints a picture of someone in chains, in prison because they intentionally went against God’s perfect plan and will. Many of us have experienced the prison of intentionally going against the will and plan of God for our lives. There are many forms of imprisonment; addiction to drugs, pornography, alcohol, and pleasure. And then there is the prison of fear of man, the of fear of failure or guilt and shame from our past. Are you in prison today because of your rebellion to God? He can set you free as he did these prisoners in verses 14 and 15.

The Sick (v17).

This group of people are suffering affliction as a result of their sins, in the form of sickness as we see in verse 18.  This is a group similar to the previous one, whereas the previous group are in prison because of their rebellion, this group suffers sickness because of rebellion.

I want to make clear that not every sickness is because of sin, however, there are times when sickness is the result of our rebellion against God. The fact is that sin separates us from God, it separates us from the peace and joy of the Lord, as a result we suffer from stress, which is a known contributor to many kinds of ailments. Anxiety and hypertension are just two of the symptoms of stress that may be as a result of not walking in the way and the peace of the Lord. In many people’s lives, God has used the desperation of sickness to draw them back to himself, and through his healing power they are redeemed. In verse 19 and 20, the sick people cry out to God and he healed them. Is that your story? Do you remember being healed and set free by the healing power of the cross?

The Sea Traveler (v23).

This is such an interesting picture, because during this time in the history of the nation of Judah, they were not seafarers like the Philistines. But the picture here rather is of someone on a ship consumed by the wind and the waves, it is a picture of someone consumed by a busy life. In verse 27 we read that they were at their wits end, desperate and overwhelmed.  The ocean traveler on a small vessel during a storm is constantly looking at the storm and the waves, just trying to survive. If your life is so busy that all you are doing is simply trying to stay alive, that is not God’s plan for you. Business is not a sin, but business that consumes you and takes your eyes off the plan and purposes of God for your life, can leave you desperately in need of redemption.

So, we have four pictures of desperation, four groups of people who are lost and in need of a touch from God.

Each of these 4 pictures ends with the person, or group of people crying out to God during their troubles. And the psalmist says that God rescued them, he brought them out of their distress. Verses 8 is a verse that is repeated at the end of each of these pictures like a chorus, “Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind”. These verses echo verse 2, “Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story—  those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,”

We can all relate to being in one or more of these categories at one time or another in our lives, maybe you are there now, and you are crying out for freedom. God will hear your cry and he is waiting to set you free.

During this season of thanksgiving, I want to challenge you to think back and remember what Jesus saved you from. If you know what you have been saved from, you will never hold back praising God and declaring His wonderful works.

Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story…” (Psalm 107:2a).

Playing Our Part – The “What” of Evangelism. May 22, 2016

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Romans 1:14-17

It is so important to step back and refocus, to remind ourselves why we exist as a church and why do we do missions and evangelism. Why do we do what we do as a church?

As we look at evangelism over the next 4 weeks, we will look at the “what” of evangelism, the “Why” of evangelism, the “How” of evangelism and the “When” of evangelism.

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Starting with the “what”

What is the story, what is the message?

The Apostle Paul was also on a mission to Rome, he was obsessed and passionate to let the people of Rome hear the Gospel message. In verse 14 we read that Paul was obligated. Actually a better translation of what Paul says, is that he is a debtor to all men. Paul encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9), and now he was appointed by God to be a mouthpiece, a herald, an evangelist, someone who was compelled to tell the good news.

Not only does he feel obligated, Paul goes on in verse 15 and 16 to say that he was eager to preach the Gospel, he was not ashamed of the Gospel.

But why would Paul be ashamed?

He had confidence in his message, and he gave us several reasons that explain why he was not ashamed.

Firstly, the Gospel was a message directly from God about the Son of God, it was not a message from any political figure or even from Cesar himself. Paul believed in the authority of the message he was declaring.

Secondly Paul refers to the Gospel message as the Power of God. God is all-powerful and here was Paul going to Rome, the seat of power of the Roman Empire, an empire that ruled by fear and terrible cruelty. But Rome was weak because of its immoral and wicked behavior. The 2nd century writer Juvenal called it a “filthy sewer into which the dregs of the empire flood.”

No wonder Paul was not ashamed: he was taking to sinful Rome the one message that had the power to change men’s lives! He had seen the Gospel work in other wicked cities such as Corinth and Ephesus; and he was confident that it would work in Rome. It had transformed his own life, and he knew it could transform the lives of others.

Do we believe in the power of the Gospel message? The Gospel message is stronger than our greatest fears, because the all-powerful God stands in the middle of the Gospel message.

Thirdly Paul was not ashamed because the Gospel message carried the power of salvation.  That word “salvation” carried tremendous meaning in Paul’s day. Its basic meaning is “deliverance,” and it was applied to personal and national deliverance. The Gospel delivers sinners from the penalty and power of sin. “Salvation” is a major theme in this letter to the Romans and salvation is the great need of the human race today.

This is something that is lost in our modern day preaching and Bible teaching, so much emphasis is placed on living well, getting the most out of life, making an impact or changing society that we forget that every human being is destined for en eternity in hell, without the saving power of this Gospel message.

Paul continues in verse 17 to say; “For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

The righteousness of God is the ability to be in a right standing before an all Holy God, not to be ashamed of our past, the blood of Jesus takes away all our sins and we are able to stand in the presence of God.

Paul states that this righteousness is by faith from first to last.

Salvation first, is when we repent and first asked God to forgive us of our sins, when we first applied to Gospel message to our lives,

Salvation present, is how we need the Gospel daily in our lives. We need the blood of Jesus on a daily basis, we need the Holy Spirit to enable us to live a godly life on a daily basis.

Salvation future, is the eternity that we look forward to in the presence of God.

Salvation from first to last.

You see the Gospel is not simply a message that we need to tell people when we go out on a mission trip or an evangelism event. No the Gospel is our sustenance and our hope on a daily basis. From first to last.

Do we have a passion for people? Are you painfully aware that most of the people you see in the streets every day are lost, and are heading to an eternity in hell?

We need to pray that God would give us a passion for the lost, the ability to feel a glimpse of the heart of God for the lost. If God gives us a glimpse into his heart for the lost, we like Paul will be compelled, we will be obligated, we will be eager, and we will not be ashamed of the Gospel message of Jesus Christ.

Let’s return to our primary objective – the purpose of the church. To declare the Gospel message to a hurting and dying world.

We do this by sharing the Gospel with our friends and neighbors, we will cover this more in the weeks to come.

The purpose of the church is to equip and send. To send people to the nations, to the places where the name of Jesus has not been heard.

The Spirit of Christ is the Spirit of missions. The nearer we get to him, the more intensely missionary we become.” Henry Martyn