Sermon Sunday October 20, 2019 – Standing for Truth

Stand for Truth

Malachi 2:1-9

What is truth?

We can all agree that gravity causes objects to fall to the ground, fire is hot, and multiple other unquestioned truths.

The second paragraph of the declaration of independence begins with the sentence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident…

But we live in an age when truth is no longer considered self-evident. Truth is under attack and Biblical truth is under attack.

The apostle Paul challenges Timothy to preach the truth in 2 Timothy and then he speaks of a time when truth will be subjective (2 Timothy 4:3-4), that time is now.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we must not only know the truth, but we also must stand for the truth and proclaim the truth.

In Malachi 2, God rebukes the priests for their lack of holding to the truth, and he warns them in verse 2, that if they do not honor His name, He will curse them. God warns them to take the truth to heart. To take something to heart means more than simply hearing the truth, it means applying it to our every day lives. Hearing and then believing.

When we don’t take God’s truth to heart, we can hear it all day long, but we will continue to live in sin. It has been said that, “right belief produces right behavior.”

In verse 3, God says that he will rebuke their offspring, and this principle still applies today.  The way you live your life today, affects the lives of those who are coming after you. If you choose to walk in sin and not follow the path that God has for you, it will affect your children and their children. There are generational blessings and curses that we enact by our daily walk. Even our “secret sins”, which is an oxymoron because there are no secret sins, these affect the lives of those who will come after us.

God warns the priests that He will embarrass them publicly, He will shame them by smearing their faces with the dung from the offering animals, and then throw them out along with the scraps and leftovers. God cursed them not simply because of their laziness and poor offerings, God cursed them because they rejected the truth and misled others. They were not living according to the high standard of their calling as priests.

In verses 4 to 7, God reminds the priests of the covenant He established with Levi. The Levites had a greater honor, they were set apart by God and His covenant with them was one of life, peace, fear and awe (Malachi 2:5).  

The problem in most Christian circles today is that we no longer have reverence for the almighty God. We do a good job of portraying the loving Heavenly Father, full of grace and truth, but we seldom grasp the God who holds the entire universe in the palm of His hand, while at the same time holding every atom in our bodies together. We need to develop an awe, reverence, respect and fear of God. Most people do not fear God.

Oswald Chambers wrote, “The most remarkable thing about fearing God is that when you fear God, you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God, you fear everything else.”

The role of the priests was to guard the truth and then to declare the truth (Malachi 2:7). The priest is God’s messenger, declaring the truth of God’s word. This word from the Lord is equally relevant for us today as we are all priests who are called by God to proclaim His glory and majesty (1 Peter 2:9). The purpose of this proclamation is to turn people away from their sin and towards a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Wherever God has placed you, that is where He calls you to be a proclaimer of the truth. We do this as we disciple people in our lives.  

We must be a people who know the truth, stand for the truth and declare the truth.

We live in a time when truth itself has been despised – devalued. Truth has become a set of subjective statements and if you claim that there is objective truth, then you are criticized as being narrow minded at best or even prejudiced and bigoted. But truth, objective Biblical truth, is what holds society together.

President George Washington during his Farewell Address: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens.” “Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

We are seeing the consequences of a drift from truth all around us.

In Malachi 2:8, we see that because of the priest’s compromise, laziness and weakness, many had been led astray. God takes this seriously (Mark 9:42).

This sounds like a message that will preach well at a pastor’s conference, and yes, it is much needed in our culture where so many pastors are so concerned about numbers and finances that they will make any accommodation to culture, just to keep the people happy. But this applies to all of us. We as a church are called to be ambassadors for Christ, to stand for the light and truth of the Gospel, and at times this stand will require us to swim against the stream of our culture. We are all called to be priests, standing for the truth in a culture of relativism (John 17:17, and John 14:6).

We are not talking about a culture war, we are talking about life or death, eternal life or eternal separation and punishment. Our interactions with people, have eternal consequences.

The church will also suffer the consequences of turning away from the truth. Every denomination or church that has compromised the truth to accommodate culture, will eventually be dismissed and disregarded by society.

Do you stand for truth?

Do you fear God, or do you fear culture?

Sermon Sunday August 11, 2019 The Word of God – The Bread of Life

The Power of the Word

We have just returned from our third Grace Point mission trip to the city of Cincinnati. It was a smaller team, but we were so blessed to have a team of passionate followers of Jesus who love the Gospel.

The trip was a combination of door-to-door evangelism and running a VBS at the 1st Baptist Church in Reading Ohio.

As we knocked on doors and met people in the community, we were overwhelmed by the sheer volume of need in the area, so many people in desperate situations who were just trying to get through another day. Sadly, as we offered to pray with people, the common response was, “no thanks, I am good.”

The same response is common even in our churches as people have a form of religion, where they pray to God, hoping He hears, but honestly, they don’t have a relationship with Him. A relationship comes from the starting point of submitting ourselves to the Lordship of Jesus and walking as we are led by the spirit.

In Revelation 10, we read about the angel who holds a scroll in his hand and instructs John to eat the scroll, and then to go and prophesy to the nations about the contents of the scroll.

In Ezekiel 3:3, we read a similar account of the Lord instructing Ezekiel to eat of the scroll and to go and speak the Word to the house of Israel.

These two men were called to prophesy by eating the scroll which represented the Word of God given to them. This is similar language to what Jesus used in John 6:25-36 as he instructs his followers that he is the bread of life given from heaven.

We read in John 1:14 that Jesus is the Word made flesh, and later in John chapter 6 Jesus explained the Lords supper to those who were questioning him and who clearly didn’t understand what he was talking about when he said, “eat my flesh and drink my blood” (John 6:54).

In the crowd following Jesus were some scribes who knew the prophecy of Jeremiah and would have understood the concept of receiving God’s Word into one’s heart.

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jeremiah 31:33).

Jesus, when he was tempted by Satan to turn stones into bread responded in Matthew 4:4 by quoting Deuteronomy 8:3, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every WORD that comes from the mouth of God

In his letters, the apostle Paul frequently writes about being “in Christ”, and one of the crucial characteristics of being in Christ is to be filled with the Word, feeding on the Word of God as it sustains us. The Word of God is the bread of life that fuels our daily walk as followers of Jesus.

We live in what is called the post-modern culture, and we are all driven by hunger, desires and wants. Daily we seek comfort, joy, happiness, fulfilment, love and so many other pleasures, but only one thing can satisfy the hunger in man and that is the Bread of life that we feed on as people submitted to the Lordship of Jesus and filled with the Holy Spirit.

The adults we that we spoke to in Cincinnati were all struggling, they had spent a life feeding on other things and nothing has brought them satisfaction. But during the last night of our VBS, one of the young girls who became a follower of Jesus, really got it. As we were praying with her, we could see the joy of the Lord filling her life. This young 5th grade child was fully satisfied in Jesus and she didn’t want or need anything else. She was alive with the joy of the Lord and I know she is going to feed on the Word. Our prayer for her as she begins her Christian walk, was that she remains steadfast and true to the path that the Lord has for her as He reveals Himself to her in the Bible.

As followers of Jesus, as the Body of Christ in the 21st century, we must be people of the Word.

The secular humanistic society is constantly looking for meaning and purpose, but deny that objective truth exists, we know that the only truth that can satisfy is the glorious Gospel message.

As the church we are to know the word by feeding on the word, so that we can be the prophetic voice that God has called us to be. We cannot begin to address the problems around us, unless we are feeding on the Word.

Do you love God’s Word?

Sunday July 15, 2018 What about the Children?

Luke 18:15-17

As the New school year is just around the corner we honor our school teachers and commit to praying for our local schools and the children in our communities.

It is right for us to show appreciation to the teachers of the children in our community, we need to pray for our local schools and encourage our local teachers. It is sad that our culture has developed the false mindset that schools are the place where education takes place and that is their domain.

Our society is in a mess; rampant gun violence, crime, abuse and the overflowing prisons, are all consequences of a society that has abdicated the responsibility to train up the next generation.

I believe that the Word of God and the Gospel, are the very best tools we can give our children to equip them to be healthy contributing members of society. We are all responsible to train up the next generation (see Proverbs 22:6). I believe that the level of criminal activity that we will see in the next generation in our cities will be a direct indicator of how seriously we took that verse.

A great teacher is not someone who simply conveys information, rather a great teacher wants their students to be lifted to higher heights than they were able to go themselves. We have a church word for this, it is called discipleship. Discipleship is teaching, it is inspiring life change. True discipleship is intentionally helping the person you are leading to reach for goals that you weren’t able to attain

Henry Brooks Adams said, “Teachers affect eternity, they can never know the full range of their influence.”

Throughout History we have had incredible teachers, people who have changed the world by their ideas and their vision. Just think of people like Galileo, sir Isaac Newton, Einstein and many others. But standing above all these is the ultimate teacher, Jesus Christ.

Jesus never got a degree and he never had a classroom, but no teacher has impacted humanity more than Jesus. He was a master communicator who used everyday objects to convey eternal truths. The Bible says in Matthew 7:28-29 that Jesus spoke with authority. The authority of the creator of the universe speaking to his creation. Jesus was also the greatest teacher because he had an eternal perspective and knew what was at stake (see John 3:16).

When you have the opportunity to impact the life of a young person, do you realize that you have just touched eternity? No moment with a child is insignificant.

The children of our churches and our community are so special to us, they are our life, our hope, our innocence and our future.

Christ himself tells us of their importance in Luke 18:15-17. The disciples were managing the crowd, ensuring that the high-profile people got to meet with Jesus. They were frustrated by the children because in that ancient culture, children were regarded as a burden until they could contribute to the family and society.

But, Jesus invited the children to bless them, and to teach the adults around him that the Kingdom of God belonged to those who were innocent and had childlike faith. It takes faith in Jesus Christ as Lord in order to enter into the kingdom of God, there is no other way. Faith is more than simply trusting, it is trusting without all the knowledge, trusting with abandon, trusting like a child.

Children are not a lower class of Christian merely because of their youth. The Apostle Peter, in Acts 2:38 and 39, as he ended his sermon on the street in Jerusalem, the people asked him “what shall we do?”.

Peter responded that the promise of the Gospel is for you and your children. The children were ready to receive the truth, not a watered-down fairy tale version of the Gospel. We do our children a disservice by trying to make the good news into a cartoon format.

With all this talk about education and training, whose responsibility is it to teach our children?

We live in a culture where we have abdicated our responsibility for teaching our children and left it up to the schools. It is not that schools are at fault, we are at fault for not taking our role as parents to train up our children. Whether you choose a public school, a private school, or you decide to homeschool your child, it is still the primary role of the parents to train up a child.

When we can come together and have fathers and mothers who love and train their children to understand and follow the way of the kingdom of God, we will grow stronger as families and as a church family, which will significantly impact our communities.

When we really see our children in church, their innocent faith challenges and provokes us. When we are challenged by our children with questions about the Bible, we will be inspired to learn more ourselves.

hen it comes to Biblical truths, children need to be taught among family. Fathers need to be there with their children to teach them and train them in the matters of God. Men take note, your careers are not as important as training your children. A generation ago we were told that children should be seen and not heard, children should not make a noise in the church, they are messy and disruptive. If that is still your thinking, my question to you is, do you think God minds? Do you think God the perfect Heavenly Father is disturbed if children feel free to be joyful in this place where we come to worship Him? Personally, I think He smiles, He may even desire that we all could be more like the children.

Are you a teacher? We are all called to help train up the next generation, the generation who will lead our churches and lead our communities. Let us be a church who see the children the way Jesus sees them.

Sermon Sunday September 10, 2017 – Jeremiah part 2

Jeremiah 1:9-19

As Christian we can speak with authority, the authority we have comes from the word of God. When we speak our own words of wisdom, people can reject us, however, when we speak the word of God, we are referring to a much higher authority, one that we don’t have to try and defend. Do you know how to use the authority of the word of God?

In Jeremiah 1:9, we read that God touched Jeremiah’s mouth and gave him the message, God summarizes the message in verse 10. Notice the first words, “today I appoint you”. God gave Jeremiah authority over nations and kingdoms by the power of the word of God.

Jeremiah’s message was to be one of both judgment and blessing. The uprooting and tearing down was the coming judgment, but the metaphor of planting and building was a sign of God’s blessing to come after the judgment.

Then God gives Jeremiah 2 visions.  The first is a vision of an almond branch.  The Hebrew word for Almond tree sounds very similar to the word for watching. The symbolism of the Almond tree is that it is watchful, God is not slow in responding in judgment, the time is coming sooner than expected, and in verse 12 God confirms this vision and explains that He is watching the nation of Judah. The theme of God watching his people flows through the book of Jeremiah. This message to humanity is still the same today: God is watching! He will watch over the fulfilment of His word. When sin and immorality engulf nations and even penetrate the Church, we should remember, God is watching!

The second vision is of a boiling pot, shows that the message would be one of judgment at the hands of a people from the north. Ultimately this was the armies of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon coming to lay siege to Jerusalem.

The sin for which the people would be judged was the fundamental one of breaking the covenant with the Lord, by the rejection of him in favor of other gods (as we see in v16), and it continued to be a constant theme in the book.

God put His words into the prophet’s mouth and those words were effective to accomplish His will. God not only gave Jeremiah His words, but He also promised to “watch over” those words until they were fulfilled (Jer. 1:12).

Prophecy is not necessarily foretelling the future, rather it is to declare the words of God, to declare the truth, in that sense, the act of preaching the word of God is an act of prophecy.

Just like it was in Jeremiah’s day, so it is now, that the declaration of the word of God was not well received.

There were prophets in Jerusalem during Jeremiah’s time, those who spoke only words of blessing and wellbeing to the people. These prophets were well liked and had an adoring following, and the Kings who rejected God’s law loved to hear from these prophets.

Today as preachers, we have the same challenge.  Paul the apostle knew this and wrote the following in his second letter to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:3. Today, there are false teachers, those who twist the word of God for their own benefit. Stretching individual verses out of context with the primary goal of deceiving their hearers into parting with their money. If you don’t know the Word of God, you too will be deceived in these days as Jesus said in Matthew 24:11. We need to pray for wisdom and discernment as we read the word of God in order to stand firm in the calling that God has on our lives.

In verse 17, God speaks to Jeremiah and tells him to get ready, to brace himself for the challenge that lay ahead.

When Jesus sent out the disciples in Matthew 10, he issued a similar warning (read Matthew 10:16-20).

Both Jeremiah and the disciples were told that they were going to speak the very words of God, they didn’t have to figure out what would be the best thing to say, they could simply stand firm on the words of God. And this is the key, standing on the authority of the word of God. The church needs to be the prophetic voice in our culture. Not simply a voice known for what we oppose, but a voice that declares the truth in love and offers alternatives that bring life. What does the Bible have to say about the issues that we wrestle with in our culture, issues such as racism, broken homes, homosexuality, money, abortion and homelessness to name just a few.

Take the abortion debate as an example, the fact that there is any debate whatsoever is a sign of how far we have slipped as a culture, the Bible is clear that we are created in the image of God and it is wrong to take another human life, but as the church, the prophetic voice in our culture, what alternatives are we offering? Are we offering to take the children and raise them up?

We live in an age where Bible is regarded as offensive, but the word of God supersedes culture, the Bible transcends seasons, Isaiah 40:8 says, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”

God continues in verse 17 to say to Jeremiah, “do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them.”

God knew Jeremiah and God knows us too, He knows that our natural inclination is to be afraid of what others might be thinking. But the fear of God is the best antidote against the fear of man. Let us always be afraid of offending God first (see Proverbs 1:7). Remember you and God are a majority, even if everyone else opposes you, as they opposed Jeremiah, as you follow God’s leading in your life, you are in the majority.

But in order to be the prophetic voice in our culture, we need to know the word of God. There is no substitute for living the Christian life in our culture, other than to spend time daily reading the Word of God, allowing God to speak to you.

The 4 Pillars of the Church – Part 1 – February 12, 2017

word

John 14:1-7

The Bible is no ordinary collection of ancient writings, the Apostle Paul wrote; “all scripture is God breathed…” we believe that all scripture, all 66 books by multiple authors, is fully inspired by the Holy Spirit.

At the core of our foundation is the understanding that for the Bible to be relevant and to be a pillar of the church, it must contain the absolute truth. And therein lies the point of contention with our society and culture. However, without a certain foundation built on the foundation of truth, cultures fall into chaos. Without the firm foundation of the word of God and the knowledge of absolute truth, churches dissolve into weak and irrelevant institutions.

Jesus in speaking to his disciples is in John 14 begins by addressing their fears and uncertainty, Jesus begins by saying; “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me”. Notice the order of that statement; Jesus knew that the disciples believed in the God of creation, but now their belief must be the foundation of their faith in him.  Jesus knew that the disciples were about to go through the most traumatic time of their lives, it would shake their faith, they would question everything they had learned from Jesus.

Our culture is wrapped in fear. Fear literally drives the economy as products are sold to protect against a yet unrealized danger. This fear unfortunately has paralyzed Christians all over the world. It seems that Christians are no different than the rest of the world in relation to fear. But just like Jesus told his disciples not to let their hearts be troubled, and makes the same statement to us today. As we look at this verse, it becomes clear, that it is not that we have a problem with fear, rather we have a problem with unbelief. We fear the unknown, simply because we do not believe that Jesus is Lord and that our Heavenly Father does indeed hold all things in his almighty hand.

Looking further in verse 6, Jesus makes one of the most profound statements, one that causes the most offence in the post-modern world; “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Jesus is the way, because he is the truth and the life.

As the modern church, we have been guilty of trying to make the church so palatable and user friendly to attract people to the church, that we have lowered the bar and in some cases, denied the truth. The truth of God’s word is an offence to the world because it is exclusive and not all inclusive.

So how do we discern the truth in a world full of so many opinions? The first step is to read the Word, plant the word of God in your heart, let it permeate your life so that when you hear or read something that is slightly out of line with the Bible, the Holy Spirit will reveal the false teaching to you. Every true Christian should know and love the truth. Jesus said in John 8:32; “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (see 1 Timothy 3:15)

History is filled with accounts of people who chose to accept death rather than to deny the truth. These martyrs believed the truth of this book, it was not some theoretical choice of a religion. However, the modern Christian is so concerned about trying to get everyone to like them that they seem willing to lay aside the truth. But precisely because of the truth of the Bible, Christians ought to be the most willing to sacrifice and take a stand for the Gospel.

God and truth are inseparable. God is the foundation of all truth, that is why Jesus, God incarnate, calls himself “the truth”. It should come as no surprise that when people reject God, they reject truth as well. In our colleges and universities, many philosophy teachers deny that truth is a reality or even knowable, unbelief in God is at the root of that teaching (see Romans 8:7).

Truth is the revelation of God himself. The truths of the laws of nature and science are truths leading to the revelation of God (see Psalm 19:1 and Romans 1 and 2). With all the revelation of God, we can say with the Psalmist; “the fool says in his heart, “there is no God”” Psalm 14:1.