Philippians – Paul’s letter of Joy Part 2 Sermon October 7, 2018

Philippians 1:7-11

Are you still growing?  Physically we may stop growing, but we must never stop growing in our walk with the Lord

The Apostle Paul shared a special connection with the Christians in Philippi, and in verse 9, Paul writes that he is continually praying for them, but notice that Paul doesn’t pray for their prosperity, health, or protection from the Roman authorities, rather he prays for their spiritual growth (Philippians 1:9). We are frequently taught in the Bible that we experience God’s blessing as we advance and mature in our Christian walk (2 Peter 3:18).

Paul prays that their love may abound more and more, using the Greek word agape, which means the kind of love that seeks the highest good of the other person, preferring others over yourself. As a church community, we sometimes find that the little things that others do sometimes annoy us. One can list any number of things that cause frustration for each other in the church. But what it all boils down to is that we don’t love each other. When we take the time to get to know someone and really begin to love them, we find that those little things that create tension, don’t seem to bother us as much (1 Peter 4:8-9). Love for each other is a gift from God.

Paul continues in verse 9 and asks the Lord that they would grow in knowledge and discernment. Knowledge and discernment are what keep our relationships in community healthy, they are like the banks in a river that keep the water of our emotions from rushing outside of its boundaries.

Knowledge comes out of caring for each other. When we are frustrated with someone’s behavior, we quickly rush to judgment before we know all the facts. If we care enough to know, we will be able to use discernment and respond appropriately (1 John 4:7-8). The same applies in our relationship with the Lord, we must know God to love Him, and in the same way we must know God in order to love His children.

One of the key errors that many Christians make is when they attempt to have a Lord that they do not know. Knowledge is not simply an intellectual understanding, it is developed from a personal relationship, which only comes from spending time alone with God in personal times reading His word and hearing from Him, allowing Him to direct your life.

Discernment, like wisdom is the practical application of the knowledge we have. We are to be motivated and informed by love, but when we have all the facts presented to us, our love for each other is what drives our actions and our responses. Our church has many different cultures and ages represented, but in Christs church, the only dominant culture should be the culture of the Kingdom of God. If we are ever tempted to criticize someone because their behavior does not conform to our expectation, then we need to step back quickly and ask the Lord for wisdom and discernment to know the love of the Kingdom of God.

Paul begins verse ten with two words, “So that…” in light of his prayer he lists what are the criteria for a person of character. Excellence, purity, being blameless and filled with the fruit of righteousness, all of these are Character traits of Holiness.

Excellence

The first characteristic of Holiness Paul lists is “approving what is excellent”, in other words, to test or to use discernment and focus on those things that really matter. Paul begins and ends this letter with the same exhortation (Philippians 4:8). As Christians we frequently settle for the good, when God offers us the excellent. We settle for coming to church on a Sunday twice a month, and barely spend 5 minutes each day in reading God’s word. But God offers us something excellent, not just in our relationship with Him, but also in our relationships with each other as we grow together in the church community.

Purity

The next character trait is purity. As followers of Jesus Christ, we need to be people who don’t hide our imperfections, but rather we are sincere and honest in our interactions with people. How do we discover the imperfections in our lives? By allowing God’s word to penetrate deep into our hearts and bring about the conviction of the Holy Spirit (Psalm 139).

Blameless

Paul prays that they would be blameless for the day of Christ. Now we know that as believers when it comes to the final judgment day, we are declared righteous because of the blood of Jesus, but that does not mean we can live as we please. We need to be people living with excellence, striving for purity and making daily decisions that would keep us blameless before our fellow man. To be blameless is to live as one who gives no offense to others, this is our outward witness, the character trait that people see in our lives (Titus 2:7-8).

Finally, in verse 11, we read that Paul prayed for the church to be “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

In Galatians 5:22-23, we read about the fruit of the Spirit, but what are the fruit of righteousness?

The fruit of the Spirit are primarily internal fruit, heart attitudes and thought patterns governed by the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. But the fruit of righteousness are outward displays of God’s presence in our lives. The fruit of righteousness come from our abiding in Christ (John 15).

The process of producing fruit is all about allowing Jesus to produce the fruit through us to the glory and praise of God alone.

Here are some examples of the fruit of righteousness.

  •  Evangelism – proverbs 11:30
  • Service – Colossians 1:10
  • Holiness – Romans 6:22

There are many more examples of the Fruit of Righteousness which all come from living in Christ, to the glory of God the Father (Matthew 5:16)

Are you growing in your walk with the Lord?

Are you living a life of excellence, purity, so that you can be blameless and produce much fruit through Jesus Christ to the glory of God?

The Purpose of Unity – Sunday, August 27, 2017

THE PURPOSE OF UNITY

Ephesians 4:1-16

Have you ever been part of a team of people who share the same vision, share the same passion and are completely united together to accomplish a specific goal? Unity in the church is absolutely critical because we are in a spiritual war that has eternal consequences.

Grace Point is a very diverse church, we have people from many different nationalities, races and socio-economic backgrounds, all of which make unity almost impossible. There must be a common bond, a reason for unity. What is our purpose for gathering as the church? Is it to come on a Sunday and spend an hour, participating in a worship service, is that the purpose? If that was the case, then it is not surprising why so many churches around the world are closing. There must be a bigger purpose that draws us together.

The Apostle Paul writing to the first century church in Ephesus, made a plea for them to be united (see Ephesians 4:1-16).

Paul begins this chapter by pointing out that there is an individual responsibility for unity. Paul makes it personal, “I urge you!” therefore no-one is exempt. And then in verse 2, Paul lists what looks like the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22. Daily submitting ourselves to the Holy Spirit, we will produce the fruit of the Spirit, that will in turn create unity. It starts with the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. And in verse 3 he reminds us that this will take effort, requiring us to lay down our own desires and submitting ourselves to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Unity in the church is not something that we can manufacture by a well worked plan and strategy, no, our unity as the church is already established, unity has been established by the Gospel message. Just read to verse 4 to 6,

In these verses, he uses the word ONE 7 times as he draws attention to the Gospel. The unity of the church is already established, it was established in Jesus Christ. True unity is only found in the good news of Jesus Christ. (see what Jesus prayed in John 17:21-23).

 So, all this talk about unity and the will of God for us as a church, how does this work practically? Each of us has a part to play in this, no believer is exempt. Every believer has been given gifts by the Holy Spirit. These gifts have been given not for our own benefit and pleasure, but to be used to build up the body of Christ.

These spiritual gifts are the same gifts that we read about in 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12.

In verse 11 we read the beginning of a long sentence and we are frequently guilty of quoting only part of this sentence, as you will see.

We read the Christ gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers given to the church, but why? Verse 12 answers, “12 to equip his people for works of service…” While it is good, to be able to do good things, serve and bless out community, but what’s the goal of this service?

Verse 12 continues, “so that the body of Christ may be built up”. So, as the church serves, it is built up.

But Paul goes further, 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God…”

So, as we are equipped, we serve, as we serve we are built up, as we are built up, we achieve unity. Do you see the pattern? Unity is achieved by serving together.

Verse 13 continues, “…and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Paul is talking about spiritual maturity. There are many teenagers who are mature in their faith, while others who may have been in the church for decades, are still spiritual babies. As we work together in the church, we attain unity, as we are united in faith and action, we grow together and become mature.

Verse 16 of this passage wraps up the discussion on unity in the Body of Christ, “16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”

From Jesus, the whole body, the whole church is joined together by every supporting ligament. Every little part of the body is valuable, every part is important. As we see the value in each other in the church, we are built up in Love. Without the supernatural love that the Holy Spirit gives us for each other, we would never be drawn together. It is purely the grace of God and the love of God that holds the church together and builds the church. We can talk about unity and church growth all we like, but if it is not held together by the supernatural love that the Lord gives us for each other, we would never grow together as a church.

And then we come to the final six words of verse 16, “…as each part does its work”.

Every one of us is called by God to play a part in the ministry of the church. What is the ministry of the church? It is not to build a better building or to be a comfortable social club. The ministry of the church is the Great Commission, to share the Gospel message, to reach the lost, to disciple the new believers, baptizing them and training them to go and share the Gospel message.

The church as the living Body of Christ, where everyone functions with their own unique spiritual gifts, will be very different than societies idea of a church. Society has the picture of the church that is static, boring, uniform, liturgical. This church will be a place where love is unconditional, charity abounds freely, where differences in race and age are celebrated rather than causing division. A place where we all serve one another in humility and grace, understanding that as we do so, we are contributing to the growth and the maturity of the body.

Sermon – Starting Over Part 3 – January 29 2017

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Commitment to Serving the Lord

We read John 13:1-17 the account of Jesus washing the disciple’s feet, in which Jesus makes a loud statement in a simple act of service. It is important to note that Jesus was secure in his authority (verse 3), he did not have any doubt as to who he was. This makes the first word of verse 4 so powerful; “So”, in light of his knowledge of his status he got up from the meal and began to serve his disciples. Often people don’t serve others because they feel that it will diminish their position and authority, they feel that it will somehow reduce their power or status. But Jesus did not need to be recognized, and he shows us that servanthood comes out of being secure in who you are. If you have ever felt that a particular act of service was below you, then you really don’t know who you are, as a Christian you already have a title that is far superior to any title given by man; you are a child of God.

Jesus continues to teach, and verses 16 and 17 are the key verses here. “Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him”. Jesus makes it clear, that he as the ultimate example of a leader was willing to serve in such a humble capacity, if we call ourselves his followers, then we better not think any act of service is below our title or position. Verse 17 contains the promise of the blessing; “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” Now that you have learnt this lesson, and if you do them, if you serve others sacrificially, you will be blessed. We will be blessed as we serve others.

Jesus in teaching his disciples frequently challenged the leadership paradigms of the day (see Matthew 20:26-28).

Jesus taught that genuine service ignores the usual arguments about greatness. There is no place for selfish motives and self-promotion when you are serving the Lord (see John 13:13-14).

A healthy church is one where everyone serves the Lord, serves each other and serves the lost. An unhealthy church, and unfortunately this is the typical Western church, is where 10% of the people do all the work of serving, and the rest treat the church as a convenience store where they come to once a week to get what they feel they need.

As we focus on becoming a healthy church this year, I want to challenge you to recommit to serving the Lord right here at Grace Point. We are the body of Christ and our calling is to be the salt and light to our community. Sharing the wonderful gospel message, giving freely of our time and resources in order to invite as many people as possible into the Kingdom of God. Would you re-commit to serving the Lord in 2017 here at Grace Point?

The truth is that you are not going to be always serving grateful or even deserving people, and when we are tempted to question whether or not the person or persons we are serving are deserving of our time and effort, we just need to be reminded of the fact that Jesus washed Judas’ feet. Jesus washed the feet of the one who had already made the decision to betray him, and Jesus knew it! We are not serving each other, we are serving the Lord.

Many of you already serve in so many capacities, and I don’t want you to sign up for more work and more activities, but I want to challenge you to think about your area of service, are you serving out of routine? Are you serving because you figure no-one else will do it? Maybe you are serving out of your own expectations, rather than serving the Lord.

As Christians, every act of service that we perform, points beyond itself and ultimately focuses attention on the cross of Jesus Christ.

There is joy and freedom in serving the LORD, his yolk is easy and his burden is light is what Jesus said in Matthew 11. When our service is to the Lord, it is life giving and it brings joy. If your service to the Lord is not bringing you joy, you need to stop and ask the Lord to realign your motivation and your passion. I know what I am talking about. I sometimes find that in ministry, I get tired and lose my zeal and enthusiasm, I lead between 9 and 11 ministry meetings each week. From prayer meetings to Sunday morning service, each one needs a different amount of preparation. I have found that every now and then, I need to stop, take some time with the Lord and remember why I am doing what I am doing, the tremendous privilege I have, the joy of serving the Lord and seeing lives transformed for the Kingdom of heaven. There is no greater privilege.

We live in a hurting world, all around us there is an abundance of pain and suffering, most the people you will encounter this week as you go about your daily life, do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Everyone of those people are destined to spend eternity in Hell. All around us the need is great. We have the Gospel message, we have the good news, and we also have a towel in our hands, something that the Lord has blessed us with to serve others. Serving your community in what may seem to be a small way, has unlimited potential to change the world for Christ. No act of service is too small.

When we develop a servant mindset in our community, it spills over beyond the four walls of this church and to the check-out counter at the grocery store, or the waiter at your favorite restaurant, or your neighbor who lost their dog. Every exchange with others is an opportunity for us to be a servant, and an opportunity for us to share the Gospel message. Let us be people who serve like Jesus did.

Sermon series on Stewardship part 1 September 25, 2016

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Redeeming the time.

We all know that life is short and that it is a constant struggle to prioritize our lives. Daily we are faced with more and more distractions from entertainment to the rise of social media.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines stewardship as; “the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care”

Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:16; “making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” The King James version says; “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”

The Greek word for redeem used here literally means to “purchase out of”. This particular word is only used four times in the Bible and all of those times by Paul. Here in Ephesians, in Colossians 4:5, and twice in Galatians, 3:13 and 4:5. The references in Galatians refers to what Christ has done for us, Galatians 3:13; “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law” KJV.

The Greek word literally means to purchase freedom, the act of paying the price to free a slave. We are redeemed from our slavery to sin by Jesus Christ. So Paul is saying, that by redeeming the time you are set free from the slavery to time.

The Greek word Paul uses for time is Kairos. Kairos does not refer to the passing of time or a duration of time, but rather it means the appointed time. For example, lunch time is a Kairos time – it the appointed time for lunch. Kairos means the appointed time for a task or event. Kairos could be a short window of time or a longer duration, but it is the set and appointed time. Kairos denotes a significant time.

Paul says that we are to redeem the Kairos moments in life, or as the NIV translates it; “Making the most of every opportunity.”

So why does Paul use this imagery of redeeming the time? Looking again at verse 16; ““Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” We need to be redeeming the time, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil and our opportunities to do good will slip away. We will miss the Kairos moments if we do not redeem the time and act now.

I do not need to remind you, that life is short, and our opportunities to serve the Lord when He calls come and go. Sometimes we miss the opportunities, we get busy, we are tired, or worse – we get lazy.

We are redeemed by Christ for the work of the Lord – redeemed to serve Him (see Ephesians 2:10)

In these three verses Paul is in essence saying “wake up and make the most of the day” It is sad to see so many Christians going about their lives simply drifting through life, like sleepwalkers who never really make the most of every opportunity to live for Christ and serve him. As Christians we need to be masters of planning our schedules, taking every day by the scruff of the neck and making wise use of our time. It has been said that “a planned life can better deal with unexpected events

Life consists of millions of decisions that relate to how we spend our time. If you want to do something that is not urgent, you need to plan for it. Many of the activities that we do that have the most long-term benefit, require a steady ongoing effort. They are seldom urgent activities.

How many of us, when we are facing our last days, will look back on our lives and regret that we didn’t spend more time on facebook, or more time watching TV, or more time playing video games. We would never do that, but we would wish we spent more time building meaningful relationships, telling others about Jesus or discipling a person who is younger than us.

Time is our most valuable commodity in life, after all, why do we use the term “spend time” if it is not a valuable commodity.

I want to challenge you to really take a good look at your personal time management. Time is a gift from God, we need to realize that just like the parable of the talents that Jesus told in Matthew 25, time is given to us as our talent. This valuable talent given to us by God is intended to be used for His glory. How are we spending the talent that God has given us?

As believers in Jesus Christ, we no longer live for ourselves, we live a life of purpose, a life dedicated to serving the Lord Jesus Christ. That is what it means to be a Christian, daily asking the Lord for his direction, daily asking Him how we can live for him.

That is a life of purpose that is a life that redeems the time.