Sermon Sunday June 20 2021 – Are you a Follower or and Observer?

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Mountain top experiences part 9
Luke 23:21-49

Calvary is the mountain top encounter that all the others point to. This little hill just outside Jerusalem, is the peak on which all of human history pivots. During the Roman empire, this was the place where criminals were executed by the most inhumane method of crucifixion.

As we look at the various people who witnessed the death of Jesus, I want to challenge you by saying that on that day, Jesus had only one follower. There were many observers but only one follower. Looking at your life today, are you a follower or are you an observer?

As we read the account of the crucifixion, we subconsciously categorize people as guilty or innocent. The women were innocent, the soldiers were guilty, Pilate was confused and guilty, Simon of Cyrene was innocent, and the two criminals were both guilty, but one was saved.  

But the reality is that there was only one person innocent in the entire world, and that was Jesus. Luke does well to point this out in Luke 23 verses 22, 41 and 47.

Jesus was the only one who was sinless, and he died for all sinners (see Romans 3:22-23).

Everyone was impacted that day by the decisions they made and what they saw.

Pilate saw that Jesus was innocent and he tried to recuse himself (see Matthew 27:24).
He was a politician and a people pleaser. He did not have the character to stand by his convictions. But I wonder if I would have the courage to stand against the angry crowd on that day. He gave in to the pressure of the fear of man, and as a result he was guilty.

Simon of Cyrene was not involved in the crucifixion but was drawn in (Luke 23:26).He was a religious man from Libya who had travelled eight hundred miles to celebrate the Passover. Jesus was understandably exhausted and weakened by the beatings and interrogations, and could not carry the cross, so the crowd had this foreigner carry the cross.

There is a significant picture here, to carry your cross was a sign of guilt, it was perfectly ordained by God the Father that Jesus was not to carry his cross to the hill.I want to come back to Simon later in this article.

The rulers, soldiers and one of the criminals mocked Jesus. These religious leaders were the men who had studied the law and the prophets, the Old Testament, but they were blind to what they were doing. In verse 36, we read that the soldiers mocked him, getting drawn along by the crowd, they seemed to be enjoying the moment and teased Jesus. Even the dying criminal next to Jesus had energy left to mock and jeer at Jesus.

But then we come to the repentant criminal. His dialogue with Jesus is often used to explain the fact that we are saved by grace and not by works. There is nothing this criminal could do to earn his salvation, he simply asked Jesus to save him. But we can easily miss the tremendous faith that it took for him to ask Jesus to save him. He possibly had never seen Jesus before, we don’t know. But here in front of all the people, as he was dying, he declared that Jesus was the King of Kings. If you were drowning, would you ask a drowning man for help?

Here was a dying man, asking a dying man for help. A crazy idea, unless he really believed that Jesus was the son of God.

As Jesus died, we have a snapshot of a centurion. He was a hardened Roman soldier who had probably witnessed hundreds of crucifixions, but he had never seen anyone die like Jesus did. He knew that Jesus was innocent, and he gave glory to God.  He knew that he had just witnessed God in the flesh, and he was forever changed.

The people who were cheering the crucifixion were changed (Luke 23:48). They came to see a spectacle and to mock but left in fear and remorse. As they witnessed the spotless son of God dying, they became aware of their own sins and began grieving. How terrible and hopeless that must have felt for them.

Coming back to Simon, the man recruited to carry the cross. It is likely that what he saw that day, led him to be a Christian. In Mark 15:21 and Romans 16:13 we see that his sons were a part of the early church.

Carrying the cross changed Simon and, on that day, he was the only true follower of Jesus. He was walking out a prophetic picture of what it means to be a Christian. Jesus said in Matthew 16:24, Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

Before Simon met Jesus, he was a religious Jew, going about his devotion. But to come to know Jesus, he had to leave behind his plans and his religion. He had to die to his plans and his ideas of what he wanted to do, and then he had to take up the cross of Jesus. Do you see the picture?

Matthew 16:24 is often misinterpreted. People often talk about a “cross” as a burden to carry, something like a chronic sickness or a thankless job, and we say, “it is my cross to bear”

But this is not what Jesus meant. In the 1st century, to carry your cross, was to walk to your death. It was a cruel and humiliating form of capital punishment. It wasn’t a temporary inconvenience.

Today we celebrate the cross as a symbol of our salvation and the love of God, but when Jesus said these words, it would have sounded a whole lot different.
To take up your cross is to completely abandon our plans and goals and submitting to the perfect will of God. This is the first step in being a follower of Jesus (see Luke 14:27).

Are you a follower of Jesus? Have you seen that radical change in your life? Or are you still the master of your own plan.

I can assure you that the only way to live in peace and have eternal salvation, is to be a follower of Jesus and not an observer.

Sermon, Sunday November 29, 2020 We are at War

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December 7, 1941, September 11 2001, April 15 2013. These dates will always be remembered as days when America was attacked by a foreign enemy. Dates when the distant war was brought close to home. But for the majority of people living in America in 2020, war is something that is glamorized in the movies or watched on the news from distant lands. The horror and the pain of war is not a reality that we are familiar with, and that is something to be thankful for this week as we celebrate Thanksgiving.

However, as Christians, we need to be reminded that we are on the frontlines of a real war with a vicious enemy who does not adhere to conventional rules of engagement. I am talking about the spiritual warfare that we are engaged in daily, whether we realize it or not.

Our enemy is an ancient one. Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

Satan was the most beautiful and anointed of the angels (Ezekiel 28:11-19). But because of his pride, the root of all sin, he fell and was cast out by God (Isaiah 14:9-20). But Satan still has access to God, and he is the accuser (Revelation 12:10), the deceiver (2 Corinthians 11:3) and the destroyer (1 Peter 5:8–9). The enemy of our souls and the enemy of the church is powerful and real.

The Apostle Paul closed the letter to the Ephesians with an encouragement to stand firm against the enemy of our souls. He began the letter by teaching on our identity as children of God in chapters 1 to 3. Then he continues with instructions of how we are to live and walk in our new identity as followers of Jesus in chapters 4 to the first part of chapter 6. This final section is not simply a closing paragraph, but is rather the capstone of this incredible letter.

Many people claim to be Christians because they have gone through the motions of some religious tradition, but they are not aware of the spiritual forces of evil that surround us on a daily basis. The Bible is clear that as true children of God, we are in a war. We are in a daily battle of life and death. We are fighting for the lives of our children, our co-workers and our neighbors. We are at war against spiritual forces that have the primary objective of taking souls with them to hell.

But there is good news, this enemy is raging because he is already defeated. When Jesus died and rose again, the victory over Satan was accomplished (John 12:31 and John 16:11). The apostle Paul does not urge us to fight for victory, rather we are fighting from the victory that is already completed. Satan is described in the Bible as the god of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4). We live in a broken world, eagerly waiting for Jesus to come again and finally cast Satan and his demons into the eternal fire of Hell (Revelation 20:10). But until that time, we are called to stand firm.

The encouragement to stand firm is echoed through verses 11 to 14. The key to standing is found in verse 10, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.” We are standing not in our own strength, but in the strength of the all-powerful God of the universe. He is our strength, His is the victory (Romans 8:37).

The Apostle Paul was keenly aware of his dependency on the strength of God, he embraced his weakness because he realized that this was the key to victory (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

If dependence is the objective, weakness becomes an advantage. Beware your strengths, not your weaknesses, because your strengths are those places you are most likely to forget God.” JD Greear

We are dependent on God for our salvation and for our daily strength to stand against the enemy. We do not fight for victory, rather we fight from victory.

The key to living the victorious Christian life is living from the first three chapters of Ephesians. If we are not sitting before Jesus in worship, knowing our identity and walking in that, we will never be able to stand against the attacks of the enemy. Only those who sit can stand.

Our spiritual warfare is defensive, standing firm on the ground that Jesus has already secured with his victory over sin and death. As we stand firm, we have been given a defensive armor as we will see in the following verses of Ephesians 6.

Satan primarily attacks believers through our thoughts and feelings. Our emotions and our will. As we sit at the feet of Jesus and know our true identity as children of God, we are able to stand firm against these attacks.

We need to have a paradigm shift in our approach to the attacks of the enemy of our souls. We frequently ask God to help us to defeat Satan in a certain area of our lives, but may I suggest a different way of praying. We need to pray, thanking God for the victory that Jesus has already won and ask Him for the strength to stand firm.

This requires faith. Praising God for the miracle of victory even before we experience it. When you feel oppressed and attacked by Satan and his demons, simply praise God for what He has done and thank Him for the victory. Allowing God then to bring about the experience of that reality.

What is our reality? Remember that we are seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). Our limited faith and weak flesh struggles to accept this reality and we somehow feel that we have to win battles that have already been won. We have been saved to declare the truth of our position, by being Christ’s ambassadors here in order to bring glory to God.

If only the modern church grasped the truth that we stand from a position of victory. The victory does not occur in the book of Revelation, it has already occurred in the resurrection of Jesus that we read about in the Gospels.

Sermon, Sunday August 16, 2020 – How Is Your Walk?

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Ephesians 5:3-6

Walk in Purity

As followers of Jesus, we are called to imitate God as we saw in Ephesians 5:1. Imitating God is walking in love as Jesus modeled for us. In addition to this we are to walk in light, as we have put on the new “clothing” of Christ.

In Ephesians 5:8, Paul makes the powerful assessment of our previous condition, “you were once darkness”. We were not simply in darkness before giving our lives to the Lord, we were darkness! Even our “good” deeds were tainted by our lack of identity. We lived for selfish motives.

But now, as followers of Jesus, we have taken on a new identity, we are light! (1 Peter 2:9).

So many church attenders and people who claim to be Christians have no idea that we are called to walk as Children of light (Ephesians 5:8). We walk as light as we exalt God, as we worship God our Father above all else.

The truth is that we so quickly give ourselves to idols. The Idols of the twenty-first century are not new, they are simply ancient idols repackaged.

In Ephesians 5:3-6, Paul lists the sins of sexual immorality, impurity, greed and crude speech. He implores the believers in Ephesus to live lives where these sins are not even named among them.

Sexual immorality and impurity contain a wide variety of sins, and we are prone to identify those that we see in other people, but gloss over the weaknesses in our own hearts. God calls us to holiness and purity (1 Peter 1:16), there are no exceptions.

Our culture is not very different to the first century in terms of our acceptance of sexual immorality. We see that the laws of the land are changing as various forms of immorality are becoming more and more acceptable. We must resist the temptation to rename sin, or to justify sin in order to appear socially acceptable or loving to those around us. God’s standard of purity and holiness has and will never change.

The gift of sex is only to be expressed within a marriage covenant between a man and a woman. Romans 1:18-32 shows the progression of how one’s life and actions are the overflow of one’s heart. Sexual sin is not simply a problem with lust or emotions, rather it is a problem of worship. We sin because we do not worship God. Once we get the worship problem aligned with God, we will find that the struggles of the flesh are less pervasive.

Pornography is an idol in so many people’s lives. It is an addiction that is destroying lives and marriages. Overcoming this addiction is a process of repentance, and worship, as we align our hearts and minds with the glory and the majesty of God.

Greed or covetousness is listed right along with impurity in verse 3 and it is no less an addiction than sexual immorality. Covetousness is the insatiable desire for more and it is defined as idolatry in verse 5. Greed is desiring anything more than God. Covetousness is a societal blind spot in our culture. You will never hear anyone say, “I think I love money too much”, simply because our culture thrives on us being consumers who are daily given reasons why we cannot be satisfied with what we have (see 1 Timothy 6:6).

Gambling is sinful for multiple reasons and it is an addiction that destroys lives. But the primary reason that gambling is sinful is because it is rooted in greed, a continual lust for more that can never be satisfied. This is idolatry and a direct breaking of the first commandment in Exodus 20:3.

Along with sexual immorality and covetousness, Paul includes foolish talk and crude joking in verse 4. Apart from the obvious bad language, slander, and gossiping, this also includes inappropriate humor and making jokes at the expense of other’s (see Colossians 3:8). Because we are children of God and filled with the Holy Spirit, every word we say is in the presence of the all-holy God.

The most effective way to purify our speech is to adopt a vocabulary of thanksgiving (1 Thessalonians 5:18). As the commentator Klyne Snodgrass explains, “thanksgiving is the antidote for sin, for it is difficult (impossible) to give thanks and sin at the same time.”

Ultimately, sexual sin, greed and corrupt speech are all based in self-centeredness. And if we are honest, we have all failed and probably will fail again in these areas, but we are called to walk as light and not dwell in darkness. A true follower of Jesus will not persist in these sins, but rather by the love and grace of God, we will quickly repent and turn back to walking in light (1 John 1:9).

Paul makes the sure statement in verse 5 that there will be consequences for living in sexual immorality, greed and foolish talk. The consequences are eternal.

There were those in the first century church who were trying to convince the believers they could live in sin without any consequences and the same dangerous teaching is prevalent today. Sadly, this way of thinking is not only contrary to the Word of God, it also prevents believers from fulfilling their calling and potential as followers of Jesus.

The consequence for standing for truth today is temporal.

The consequence for appeasing the culture today is eternal.

As believers we have a relationship with a Father who is more satisfying than anything the world has to offer. Our God is worthy of endless thanksgiving. Let us worship God alone and not a cheap substitute.

How is your walk?

Sermon, Sunday April 26, 2020 What are You Wearing?

By Grace Alone – Ephesians 2:8-10

What are you wearing? Rather, what are you wearing spiritually?

More about that later.

In Ephesians 2:8 Paul writing to the church in Ephesus says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—”

You may have heard this said:

Justice is getting what you deserve.
Mercy is not getting what you deserve.
And Grace is getting what you don’t deserve.

Paul says that this saving grace comes to us through faith, and faith is the instrument that allows us to grab hold of the truth of the Gospel and be saved. But faith itself is a gift from God, we cannot muster up faith. Faith comes from God, for us to believe in God.

Everything is a gift; grace is a gift, faith is a gift and salvation is a gift.

We must never ever think of our salvation as a transaction, whereby I give my life to Jesus and he saves me. Rather God gives me grace, then He gives me faith to believe and He saves me.

Because grace, faith and salvation are divine gifts, we cannot earn them, nor do we deserve them. Every human being is equally lost before God grants them grace. We were dead in our sins, dead people cannot have faith in God.

Ephesians 2:9 continues, “not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Salvation can only be attributed to Jesus and what he did for us on the cross, and he deserves all the glory.

God sent Jesus to live the life we couldn’t live, to die the death we should have died, and rise from the dead on our behalf.

We really struggle with this in our culture, we as a culture loves accolades for doing something noteworthy. But in our salvation the glory goes to God (see 1 Corinthians 1:31).

Paul continues in verse 10, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

After saying clearly that we are not saved by anything we do, Paul notes the importance of works. Works are not the root of our salvation, but they are the fruit of our salvation.

The Greek word for handiwork here is poiema, which is where we get the word Poem from. The word refers to a work of art or masterpiece, a piece of art created by a master craftsman.

This word is only used one other time in the New Testament, in Romans 1, referring to the glory of God’s creation.

We, as saved believers in Jesus, are God’s new creation (see 2 Corinthians 5:21)

But God does not create a masterpiece to hide it away, we were created to display the work and the glory of God.

As God’s workmanship people around us should see our works and say, “That is a work of God!” (see Matthew 5:16).

We should never be working out of duty or guilt. We do good works because we are walking in a new nature, and as a result we cannot help ourselves from being used by God to do good works.

But not only are we to do good works, we are told that God has prepared these works for us to do. God, in His sovereignty, had tasks in mind for us when He saved us.

We are not saved by faith plus good works, but by a faith that works

The believer has God working in him, and therefore his works are good. His works are not good because he himself is good, but because he has a new nature and the Holy Spirit works in him and through him to produce these good works.

We do not perform good works to glorify ourselves, but to glorify God. Paul wrote that we should “abound to every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8), and to be “fruitful in every good work” (Colossians 1:10).

Back to the question, what are you wearing?

In John 11 we read the account where Jesus raised Lazarus back to life after he had been dead for four days. Jesus stood in front of the tomb and in a loud voice commanded Lazarus to come out. Notice what Lazarus was wearing, he was wearing grave clothes, the embalming material that was wrapped tightly around his body.

As Lazarus comes out of the tomb, Jesus instructs those standing around to… “Take off the grave clothes and let him go” (John 11:44).

So, what are you wearing?

Are you wearing “grave clothes” or “grace clothes”?

Are you enjoying the liberty you have in Christ, or are you still bound by the habits of the old life of sin?

Lazarus was freed from the restrictions of the grave clothes and freed to do what he had been raised to do.

We were dead in our sins when God raised us up with Jesus, sadly many of us are wrapped in the grave clothes. Some of us are so comfortable in the grave clothes that we don’t know how to do the good works that God has prepared for us to do.

They are the grave clothes of addiction, anger, jealousy, lust, pride, fear, self-sufficiency and many more. All of these hold us back and restrict us from being and doing what we are created for. All these are clothes that were your grave clothes, and Jesus commands them to be taken off, for you to be set free. Why are you holding on to your grave clothes?

As a Christian, you have been raised and seated with Christ in the heavenly places, you have been clothed in righteousness.

Practice your position in Christ!

You are clothed in righteousness in Christ Jesus.

Sermon April 15, 2018 – Heaven

Revelation 21:1-8

Do you know where you are going when you die? We are all eternal beings, designed by God to live forever. We as frail humanity, for fear of the unknown, struggle to live in these broken bodies for as long as we possibly can.

We struggle to hold on to something that is temporal, because we don’t see ourselves as eternal. We are afraid of the unknown, but the unknown is going to be infinitely better than anything we have ever experienced in this life.

There are two primary reasons why one fears death,

Firstly, if you don’t have the security of knowing that you are saved by the blood of Jesus, death is to be feared.

And secondly, we don’t trust the God who created us for eternity, we don’t trust that the one who created us knows what would be best for us.

We fear the unknown primarily because we don’t trust the goodness of the Designer.

Heaven is a real place, in Revelation 21:3 we read that God himself speaking from the throne, says that the dwelling place of God is with man. The new earth is a real place as Jesus promised in John 14:1-2.

This earth will one day be renewed made perfect, delivered from sin and the curse, will one day be our home and the place where God dwells. Heaven is a real place, and the new heaven and the new earth will be real as well.

While it is probable that heaven is in another dimension, we still can be assured that heaven is both a place and a state. I do not agree that it is primarily a state, since we are living on earth in a physical / spiritual dimension, why would this be so different in heaven. We would live in our resurrected bodies, but our soul would still exist and commune with God. I agree with the theologian Erickson that wrote, “life in heaven will be more real than our present existence.”

When we die, we are not going to have one single complaint, not one single thing about heaven will be imperfect. We have no idea of the glory and the beauty and the peace of the presence of our Heavenly Father.

In the new heaven, we will have real, perfect resurrected bodies, as Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 15. These will be our eternal bodies, ones that will never fail or break down. And we will live with God in His presence.

We were made to have communion with God, God created man in His own image to have fellowship with him. But when sin entered the world, that relationship was broken, there was a separation that took place. Inside every human being is a longing and an unfulfilled desire that can only be met by the perfect presence of God himself, we read in Ecclesiastes 3:11; “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

Being in the presence of God for eternity is heaven and being separated from God for eternity is hell. Our selfish and humanistic mindset cannot even begin to grasp what it will be like to be in the presence of God and to worship him. It will not be boring, that is a lie from Satan, Heaven will be the most exciting and thrilling experience that we cannot imagine. I know that sentence doesn’t make sense, because we cannot begin to grasp heaven. In our self-serving culture, we have no idea of what it will be like to be in the presence of the creator of the universe. Heaven will be a place of unending worship and praising God for all that He has done and all that He is.

Heaven will be a place of rest, peace and worship of God, but heaven will also be a place of service and work. We will not be idly sitting on clouds playing harps. God is a creative God and he designed us to be creative beings along with him. We see in Genesis 1, that God created man to have dominion and care for the creation. Remember the parable that Jesus told about the parable of the Talents given to the servants in Matthew 25. The servants who served faithfully were given more to rule over and more responsibility, this is a glimpse into our eternal destiny.

So, we know heaven is real, it is eternal, we have some idea of what we will be doing, but how can we be certain we are going to heaven? Randy Alcorn, in his book on Heaven said that a recent Barna poll shows that for every American who believes he or she is going to Hell, there are 120 who believe they’re going to Heaven. Yet Christ said otherwise in Matthew 7:13-14.

Heaven is not our default condition. Increasingly in our politically correct culture we don’t often hear people preaching on the fact that heaven is only for people who have submitted themselves to the lordship of Jesus Christ. Only people who have acknowledge that Jesus is the way the truth and the life are going to heaven.

If heaven was the default position of everyone who dies, then Jesus gave up his position in heaven, he humbled himself and even humbled himself to die on the cross, for nothing. The greatest act of love in all of human history was a waste of time, if heaven is the default position.

Heaven is where God dwells and before we are even allowed into the presence of God we need to deal with our sin problem, the sin that separates us from God. You deal with that sin by accepting Jesus as Lord and repenting of your sins. You can know, with absolute certainty, that you are going to heaven (see 1 John 5:13).

on the cross, he took upon himself the Hell we deserve, in order to purchase the Heaven we don’t deserve”

Randy Alcorn.

Sermon Sunday March 4, 2018 Jesus came to Destroy the works of the Devil

We are in March! Spring is coming and naturally we begin to think about Easter. The danger is that we become so accustomed to the season, that we can easily gloss over the fact that this single event is the pivotal event of all human history. No other event carries more weight and no other event has more impact on humanity than the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As we focus on the cross, we must ask ourselves the question, why did Jesus have to die? The very simple answer is found in 1 John 3:8b, “…The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”

 Satan deceived Adam and Eve into thinking that God’s ways were not perfect. Sin is ultimately a failure to trust God, to trust that His ways are perfect, to know and be satisfied with the goodness of God and His perfect will for our lives. Sin is ultimately idolatry, when we sin we are saying to God, in this area of my life currently, you are not on the throne, rather I choose to worship a god of my own choosing.

As we read this letter from John, we see that John constantly compares the glory and the light of Jesus against the evil and darkness of sin. He very directly states that when we sin, we choose to follow the devil. To show us how vile our sin is, John holds up the pure spotless lamb of God (see 1 John 2:29, 1 John 3:3 and 5).

In contrast to the purity of Jesus we have the statements of verses 6 and 9. Those are some harsh words, and not well accepted in our post-modern culture. But does John mean that a Christian never sins? Of course not, what it does mean is that if you have made Jesus Christ Lord of your life then persistent sin is inconceivable in the light of his presence and glory. No one who is a follower of Jesus can actively persistently walk in sin.

If your life is united with Christ, you hate sin as much as he does. But we are so casual and minimize sin, in the church today, we talk about “stumbling” or “areas of weakness”, rather than seeing the death and destruction that it causes in our lives and those around us. Because of our new birth in Jesus, persistent sin impossible. Being born of God, being filled with the Holy Spirit, you and I cannot keep on sinning without any remorse.

The idea that we are saved from our sin, but still live as the rest of the world making light and trivializing sin, the idea that this is even possible is inconceivable, and yet this is today’s church. We rationalize sin, we make light of the grace of God, the gift that God gave us that cost him everything.

Today’s church has made the goal of large churches and church membership so important that we don’t call people to the standard of what it means to be a Christian.

But verse 6 and 9 say that if you continue to sin, and it does not consume you with guilt and shame, you have never encountered Jesus, you are not saved, I don’t care if your name is on the membership role of the church, your name is not in the Lamb’s Book of Life and that is the only list that matters.

As a Christian you have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside you and when you walk into a room, you bring into that room the fragrance of Christ. Your life must be characterized by, all the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

The fruit if the spirit is not some vague ideal that only a few sanctified believers hope to attain to, these are to be the mark and the evidence of a believer in Jesus Christ.

Are you a Christian? Do you have a growing relationship with Jesus Christ? Or do you harbor sin, and even enjoy sin?

Are you holding a grudge against someone? That is persistent sin.

Do you like to gossip? That is persistent sin. We are so quick to identify the sins of various addictions, drugs, pornography, lust, but we tolerate the sins of unforgiveness, lack of faith, fear and gossip.

2000 years ago, Jesus came to destroy the work of the Devil, so why would those who have been born again continue to wallow in doing the works of the devil?

As a true Christian we are not perfect, there is a daily transformation taking place in us, Christians are people who are daily becoming more like Christ. This is called sanctification. As we gaze on the glory of our savior, it leads us to become like him. We will never be sinless, but we will be quick to repent (1 John 1:9).

But John begins chapter 3 with the wonderful truth of the Gospel message (1 john 3:1). God calls us to be His Adopted Children, not because of anything we have done, but only because of His great love for us? (Ephesians 5:1).

In a few weeks we will focus our gaze on the beauty and the horror of the cross, may we never forget that Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. We have been set free from slavery, and yet we hold on to our chains (Hebrews 2:14-15).

Jesus, in the Gospel of John sums up this whole argument in one verse, John 10:10. Satan hates Jesus, Satan hates us. Why do we give the devil any control in our lives? My friends, don’t ever be deceived into thinking that sin is not a big deal, because of our sin, the pure holy Son of God suffered and died, Sin should make our knees tremble, we must learn once again to hate sin.

What do you need to repent of today?  Prayerfully read Psalm 139: 23-24.

January 7, 2018 Worship or Fear, we have a Choice

Matthew 6:25-34

At the beginning of the New Year we are looking at the four foundational pillars of our church, which are Worship, Word, Mission/ Evangelism and Compassion. This week we will be turning our attention to Worship by looking at Mathew 6 and verses 25-34. Not normally a scripture portion that is associated with worship.

What is Worship?  Is worship singing? Is it a church service? Do we only worship on a Sunday morning?  The word Worship comes from an old English word which is made up of two words, Worth and Ship. We worship what we give value to and what we dwell on. It is not just singing, or meditating, although that is a large part of worship. We worship what we give value to, the way we use our money, in the way we work, the way we share the Gospel with others and how we spend our free time. When we understand worship, we understand that we worship God with our very lives.

Frequently we hear the question, “how did you like worship today?” If you think about it, that is an absurd question as it reveals that the true nature of our desire to come to a church gathering is not to worship God, but rather to worship our own desires and our own preferences.

One of the ways that a lack of worship manifests itself is in fear and anxiety, this is especially true at the beginning of the New Year as the global future looks more and more unstable.

We don’t have a fear problem, we have a belief in God problem. And I contend that We don’t have a fear problem, we have a worship problem. If we really knew God, and that begins by daily reading His word and daily talking with him in prayer, we would find that our fears would melt away.

In Matthew chapter 6, Jesus has just been teaching his disciples about the importance of not storing up for themselves riches on the earth, but rather store up for themselves riches in heaven. Jesus taught things that were counter culture in the first century and even more so today. Jesus makes it very plain in verse 24, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

Jesus makes it very clear, that if we focus on the things around us, if we focus on building our own little kingdom here on this earth we cannot serve God. You may say that saving money for a rainy day is simply prudent, but how much of our saving is based on the fear of the unknown, which in turn is based on the fear that God really cannot take care of His children.

Jesus continued in verse 25, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?”

Notice that Jesus doesn’t try to encourage them to try not to worry, rather he forcefully tells them not to worry at all. It is a sin to worry, because when we worry, we show that we doubt the power of God over our circumstances. When we worry, we take God off the throne in our lives and we pay lip service to the all-powerful God, but do not believe it.

Putting God first is a constant struggle as we are so overwhelmed with information and entertainment in our day.

Think of how God feels when we carry around useless burdens which do nothing but weigh us down. Like a good parent God doesn’t want His children to struggle with things that He could help them with. God is our heavenly Father, the all-knowing Father who owns everything and lavishes his love on us. Jesus continues in verse 26 to say that Our Heavenly Father is committed to caring for His creation, why would we think that He is not able to care for us His children?

In verse 32, Jesus said, “your Heavenly Father knows you need all these things.” God is not unaware of your need to pay your mortgage, your health issues, your children’s education, or your ailing parent. God knows everything about your life.

“No man ever sank under the burden of the day. It is when tomorrow’s burden is added to the burden of today, that the weight is more than a man can bear.” — Gordon MacDonald

If worrying is a sin, how do we practically stop worrying? Jesus makes this clear in verse 33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Worship is focusing on the Kingdom of Heaven, worship is focusing on the God who created the universe (see Psalm 145:13-16). Worship is about taking our eyes off our small world and focusing on the Kingdom of God

(see Philippians 4:6-7). That is living by the Spirit, God designed us to live by the Spirit in Christ and when we do that our very lives are consumed by worship. Being led by the Holy Spirit we are directed into His presence where our fears melt away.

We can worry, or we can worship, it is a choice we make and a decision we will live by. Worshipping God is always the best option, one that produces life. Anything in our lives that is more important than God, that causes us to take our eyes off God is and idol. Fear and worry are idols. Which altar are you worshipping at?

When we truly worship God, and get a glimpse of His glory on the throne, all the problems and the concerns of life will melt away. As the song by Helen Lemmel goes,

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth
Will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace”

The Normal Christian Life – Part 1 – 10/1/17

The Webster dictionary defines a Christian as “one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ

What a terrible definition! How does the Bible define Christianity, after all, isn’t the Bible our authority as Christians?

You may have heard it said, that Christianity is not a religion, but it is a relationship. That is somewhat true, but also falls far short of what the Bible defines Christianity. A true relationship with my Creator only begins when I completely submit to Him and lay aside my own desires, wills, passions and preferences. Dying to my will and self is the beginning of what it means to be a Christian.

Galatians 2:20 reads; “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Beginning with the first phrase; “I have been crucified with Christ”.

Even though our sins that we have committed in the past have been forgiven (1 John 1:7), what about our sinful nature? That old nature that desires to do what is contrary to the will of God. We have peace with God, but we don’t have peace in ourselves because we wrestle with sin and temptation. This is where the cross of Jesus Christ provides an answer for us. Obviously, Paul was not on the cross with Jesus, and neither were you and I, but here is the profound miracle. When Jesus died on the cross, it was once for all. The death of Jesus on the cross included all who put their faith and trust in him. This is where those two beautiful words apply, “IN CHRIST” (see Romans 6:6-7, 11).

Do you want to be free from sin? You must realize your old self crucified with Christ, this is powerful, and it is absolutely crucial to being a Christian. The blood deals with what we have done, but the cross deals with what we are, the cross strikes at the root of our capacity to sin.

But do we apply the cross to our lives?

Satan will point to our struggle with sin and bring to mind our weakness in areas in our lives, but that is when we can point to the cross, and quote Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ…”. You see it is a declaration of faith, the essence of Christianity is faith.

So, if we are in Christ, does that make us perfect? Absolutely not, but we will be deeply troubled by sin in our lives. We will not have peace in our lives, because we know that we have fallen short of the Glory of God.

If you are not troubled by sin in your life or have no desire for holiness, I would seriously examine your heart to see if you truly are in Christ – if you have truly given your life wholly to Him and are saved

Galatians 2:20; “ I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

So how do we live this life, this crucified life? We live by faith in the Son of God. Daily asking the Holy Spirit to lead us and direct us. Our life goals are radically different, our aspirations change, instead of trying to build our own kingdom, we live to make the name of Jesus known.

The trouble with many people is that they think that when they become a Christian, God wants to take them and make them a better version of themselves. But we have it all wrong, there is nothing good, nothing worthwhile, nothing redemptive in my old self. God is not out to reform our life, he sent his son so that we can be born again.

This is where Christianity is completely different to any other religion. I cannot save myself, I cannot gradually get better until I am saved, I have to die, and then be reborn of the Spirit of God (John 3:3).

Coming to the final phrase of Galatians 2:20; “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Jesus loves you more than you will ever know, the cross is deeply personal for you and for me. When Jesus went to the cross, it was because he loved you so much, his love compelled him to give his life for you (see Ephesians 1:4).

1 Peter 2:9 tells us that we have been chosen by God, you are royalty, you are God’s special possession!

Have you ever heard of a royal prince cowering in the corner and begging for scraps from the King’s table?

But that is what we do, we don’t realize the value that God has placed on us, we are his special possession. He loves you far more than you will ever know.

When Jesus ascended into heaven he sent his indwelling Spirit. The Holy Spirit, the third person of the trinity, lives inside every true believer in Jesus Christ. The very same God who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you.

I know that we don’t come close to understanding the reality of the presence of God in our lives.

But what is the purpose of the Gospel? Why did God send his son? Why did God choose you and me and then fill us with his presence?  We have a natural tendency to see things from our perspective and say that God saved us so that we wouldn’t go to hell. Yes, that is true, but there is more, there is a greater and more glorious purpose for our salvation. God saved us so that we might bring Glory and praise to His name for eternity. This is what we were created to do. As we live by the Spirit and our lives become a living testimony of His presence we bring glory to His name.

Are you a Christian? If you don’t want to love and follow Christ, you are not a Christian. You may believe in Jesus, but is Jesus Lord of your life? Stop what you are doing right now, get on your knees, and make sure that you know Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior.

Christmas sermon series part 1 – December 4 2016

christmas-pt-1

Every year when Christmas comes around, we traditionally look at the Christmas story in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. The story of a baby being born in Bethlehem, not just any baby, but the very son of God. The Christmas story is just another beautiful story unless we connect Christmas with the cross. This baby being born in Bethlehem was part of God’s perfect plan to provide a way of salvation for a lost and dying world.

Jumping ahead 33 years, Jesus’ final words on the cross as recorded in John 19; “it is finished”. What was finished? The mission Jesus came to accomplish? We have to look all the way back to the first book of the Bible to see what Jesus was talking about. What Jesus came to finish began in the book of Genesis chapter 3. In the beginning God created mankind in his own image, he put something of himself in man. There was perfect communion, but then Adam and Eve sinned, and the result of this sin was a separation between God and man. All of creation has suffered as a result of the sin of Adam and Eve. The separation between God and man was so great that mankind could never cross over back to God, no matter how good man tried to be or how many laws man tried to obey. One of the most tragic verses in the Bible is verse 8; ”… and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God…” The tragedy is that mankind has been trying to hide from God ever since.

As Adam and Eve are hiding, God begins to ask a series of questions; “Where are you?”, “Who told you that you were naked?”, “Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

God knows everything, so why is he asking all these questions? God is not asking because he needs information, rather God is asking questions to give Adam and Eve an opportunity to repent. God the Father is walking through the garden with a broken heart, knowing the terrible course of events that have been set in motion. What began with two people eating forbidden fruit, would lead to centuries of pain and heartache for billions of people and ultimately to the death of his own son on the cross at Calvary.

In Genesis 3:14, God begins to deliver judgment and in verse 15 we read what God says to the serpent Satan; “And I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

God promised that a child of Eve’s would crush the head of the serpent Satan. Eve thought that this was accomplished when she had her first son Cain as we read in Genesis 4, but Cain was even more wicked and because of his pride he killed his own brother Abel. God was not looking to the immediate offspring of Eve, he was looking thousands of years and many generations down the line to Jesus. Jesus would be the one that ultimately crushed the head of Satan. Genesis 3:15 is the first declaration of the wonderful Gospel message.

Genesis 3:15 says that Satan will bruise the heel of Jesus, Jesus would suffer pain and more pain than we could ever imagine, but the wound inflicted on him would not be fatal (see Isaiah 53).

But by rising from the dead, Jesus crushed the head of Satan, ultimately which will lead to his being sent to hell (see Rev 20:10). In order for Jesus to restore the relationship between God and mankind, he had to become as a man. In part to fulfill what God promised Eve, but also to be the perfect sacrifice. God had to become a man in order to pay the price for sins and the restoration of our relationship to God the Father.

As a result of that first sin the problem of sin permeated the whole world, the solution had to come from God as mankind was helpless. The first step was for God to introduce himself to mankind, a way for God to connect with his creation. We could not connect with God, but he could connect with us and reveal himself to mankind. So God had to become a man, taking on flesh by being born of a woman. What an incredible concept and miracle. The creator of the universe left his throne, disguised himself as a man, and walked among us. The creator became like one of the creatures and revealed his nature to mankind (see John 14:9).

As we celebrate Christmas, let us not become so wrapped up in the beauty of the lights and the tinsel and the singing of Christmas Carols, that we forget the rescue mission, the real story of Christmas that is the enormous price that Jesus paid in setting aside his glory and taking on flesh.

Looking back to Genesis 3 verse 21, we read that God made clothes for Adam and Eve from animal skin. But in order to make those first clothes, God had to kill an animal, this was the first blood-shed in order to cover sin. It became the foreshadow of the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus himself.

RA Crisswell wrote:  Somewhere in the ground of Eden the ground drank the blood of the first offering for sin, and from that harmless and blameless creature a coat was made to cover up the shame and nakedness of the man and his wife. It is a picture of the covering, the atonement, the washing away of our sins in the sacrificial victim on the cross of Calvary.

The Power of Forgiveness.

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While Jesus was teaching in Matthew 18, Peter came to Jesus and asked him the following question; “…Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Jesus went on to tell the parable of the unmerciful servant in verses 23 to 34. We sometimes read only as far as verse 34 and neglect to read what Jesus said in verse 35; ““This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” What a remarkable cautionary word from Jesus. We have been forgiven so much because of what Jesus did for us on the cross and yet we are often reluctant to forgive those who wrong us.

But not only are we told to forgive each other, Jesus said that we must forgive from the heart. Our forgiveness must be complete which includes letting go of the offense. The offense of sin hurts, and sometimes the scars run deep, but when someone sins against us, we are called to forgive.

Boyd Bailey puts it this way; “When their sin assaults your character, you are to forgive them. When

their sin berates your work, you are to forgive them. When their sin violates your trust, you are to forgive them. When their sin steals your joy, you are to forgive them. When someone’s sin crushes your dreams, you are to forgive them. When their sin steals from you, you are to forgive them. This level of

forgiveness is counterintuitive and countercultural, but it is the way of Christ. Forgiveness is God’s game plan. You will lose if you don’t forgive. Un-forgiveness is torturous to the soul. It is unhealthy for the

body and emotions. Un-forgiveness fills prescriptions and leaves hollow lives in its wake.”

Forgiveness is a precious gift that only has value when you give it away. Forgiveness that is not granted is un-forgiveness, and it will become a festering wound in your heart.

Most of us have had the experience of being hurt or offended by someone who has no idea that they have wronged us, perhaps they were unthinking, perhaps they were uncaring. We lie awake at night with thoughts running through our mind of an imaginary conflict that we will have when we confront them. We are the ones suffering while the other person is probably sleeping soundly. By choosing to forgive, we set ourselves free. We are to forgive those who do not even ask for forgiveness. We are called to forgive those who intentionally hurt us and offend us.

Jesus teaching on prayer and faith said this; “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:25. Our standing before God, is tied to our forgiveness of others. A Christian who has accepted God’s forgiveness is expected to forgive others just as God has forgiven us. If we don’t forgive others, we forfeit God’s forgiveness in our daily lives.

Let us be a people who forgive often and forgive quickly. As a result we will experience peace and freedom in our own lives.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32.