The Normal Christian Life – Part 4 – 10/22/17

Romans 9:30-10:17

What is the difference between desire and desperation?

Many of us have a desire to see the lost in our city reached, but few of us have a desperation to see the lost reached and saved by the Gospel message. Are we desperate for our community and our nation impacted by the Gospel?

 Paul writing to the Christians in Rome, is encouraging these early Christians that they have obtained righteousness not by works, but by faith (Romans 9:30). In the next verse Paul says that the People of Israel, did not have faith, rather they tried to follow the law in order to obtain salvation.

I am sure you have heard someone say, “I am sure I am a Christian, I go to church every Sunday, I give money to the church, I try to follow the ten commandments”. Unfortunately, the Bible is clear that without faith in Jesus Christ as the risen Lord, you are not saved.

In Romans 10, Paul realizes that the problem with the Israelites being saved, is not their zeal for God, the problem is Jesus. Jesus is the stumbling block, the hurdle that they cannot overcome. Many people will say that they believe in God, however when asked if they believe in the son of God, Jesus Christ, and that God raised him from the dead, many would struggle at that point of clarification. To say that you believe and have a personal relationship with Jesus, who today is seated at the right hand of the father, is a line in the sand that causes offense. The name of Jesus, was a stone that caused the people of Israel to stumble, and still does the same today.

If you think about it, we all know people who are willing to say that they believe in God. But if you mention Jesus, they think you are too radical, you are being judgmental, divisive (read Luke 12:49-53 see what Jesus said about how his presence influences the world).

Getting back to Romans 10, as Paul is writing, he begins to lay out what is salvation through faith in Christ.

  1. In verse 4 he says that Christ is the culmination of the law, literally translated, Jesus put an end to the law of working for salvation by being good enough.
  2. In verses 5-7 Paul writes that salvation is found by faith alone in the risen Lord Jesus.
  3. In verse 8, Paul starts getting to his main point, “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim.” Paul is saying, that we have this message in our mouth and it is in our hearts.
  4. One  gets the picture of a burning message that is so much a part of you, that you cannot hold back, it is in your heart and in your mouth. The message is the Gospel, the Good News about Jesus Christ (v9). Paul goes on to make very clear that this is a global message for all who call on the name of Jesus (v 12).

There is a common thread in verses 8,9 and 10, we must speak this Gospel message out. As Christ’s ambassadors we need to be vocal about telling others about the Good news of Jesus Christ.

Never fall into the trap of thinking that simply be being a kind person people will somehow know the Gospel through seeing you. You must be kind, that is a given, but you must tell those around you about the Gospel that has changed your life.

Paul has defined the message and then he begins to call out the messenger.

 In verses 14 and 15, Paul asks 4 rhetorical questions, 4 statements of building desperation.

  1. How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in (v14)? People will only call on Jesus to be the Lord of their lives, if they believe that he is actually able to save them?
  2. And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard (v14)? Belief in Jesus Christ cannot exist without knowledge about him (see Romans 10:17).
  3. And how can they hear without someone preaching to them (v14)?  One hears about Christ only when someone proclaims the Gospel message. A better translation for preaching is to herald, like a town crier announcing an important message. Paul is referring to someone walking down the street and shouting out the Good News of the Gospel.
  4. And how can anyone preach unless they are sent (v15)? This message will never be proclaimed unless someone is sent to give the message. The Greek word for being sent here is Apostolos, meaning, being sent by God.

Paul believed that the only way to be saved was to hear and believe in the Gospel message. Believing that God sent his only son into the world to die for our sins so that by believing in Jesus, our relationship with God can be restored.

And then we have the final “how”, it is a declaration of joy and hope – “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news! (v15).

The feet that carry the message of the Gospel are made beautiful by the message. Do you have beautiful feet? Are your feet carrying the beautiful message?

Have you heard the word? Have you heard the Good news about Jesus? And if you have, can you tell the story?

If you have a personal relationship with Jesus, you have a story of the Gospel being applied to your life.

As a follower of Jesus, you are called to go and tell. Everyone fits into two categories. Either you still need to make Jesus Lord of your life or you need to tell others about what Jesus has done for you.

There is no such thing as passive Christianity.

The Normal Christian life is a life of action, being about the Masters business, doing the work that the Lord of your life prepared in advance for you to do (Ephesians 2:10).

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.

Sermon October 23, 2016 – The Word Part 2

 word-pt-2-title-2 

The Enduring Word of God

Psalm 119:105-112

Throughout history many dictators and rulers have tried to eradicate the Bible from their society, but the Word of God is still the most published book and read book in all of history.  The word of the lord endures forever – Isaiah 40:8

The truth is that the Bible is not always popular, and as followers of Jesus Christ if we obey the Word of God we will be in the minority in our culture. Here in America, we need to come to terms with the fact that this world is not our home, we are living for our eternal home and as time moves closer to Jesus coming again, we are going to experience more persecution for believing the Bible. No matter who wins the election next month, we need to understand the season we are living in, and it is not one that promises wealth and prosperity to Christians.

The writer of Psalm 119 was living in similar times. In the 176 verses of this Psalm there are 27 references to persecutors or an enemy who were making life difficult for the Psalmist. But the attacks on the Psalmist seem to get worse, as we see mocking and slander in verses 51 and 69 leading to violence and fear of death in verses 87 and 95. The Psalmist is in real danger of physical harm and even death.

Looking at the four sections of Psalm 119 verses 105 to 112:

  1. The first section starts with that well known verse; “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” The Psalmist was referencing a small flickering olive oil lamp, which was only bright enough to light the way for a traveler to see a few steps ahead. As Christians, we look at God’s word as a lamp that gives us light for the next few steps, we are called to walk in faith that the next steps and the months and years ahead are in God’s hands.

The Psalmist continues in v106 stating that he took an oath to follow the righteous laws of God, he was willing to give his life to this. But not only that, he confirmed it, he followed through and did what he promised to do. It doesn’t help to make a commitment and then sit back and do nothing, we cannot simply drift into holiness, we cannot become more like Jesus in our personal lives without intentional effort.

  1. The second section of the stanza begins with a harsh line that stands out; “I have suffered much”, but the suffering and danger is not over, he goes on to cry out to God to; “preserve my life” how? “According to your Word” According to the promises in God’s word. In the midst of trials and our darkest seasons, we can go back time and time again to the promises of God’s word. There are over 2000 promises in God’s word, these promises are our hope and strength in difficult times. In the midst of suffering and persecution the Psalmist praises God (v108). He praises God for the many good things he has learnt from the Word of God and he goes on to ask God for more teaching of the word because in it he knows that he has life, the priceless treasure of God’s word.
  1. Continuing to verse 109; the author uses the expression; “I constantly take my life in my hands”. This is similar to what Job experienced in Job 13:14; “Why do I put myself in jeopardy and take my life in my hands?” or when Jonathan defending David before his father King Saul in 1 Samuel 19, said that David took his life in his own hands when he killed Goliath. We don’t know who the Psalmist’s enemies were, but it is evident that he was in mortal danger and his enemies had set a trap for him.

In the face of such opposition he stands firm and declares “I have not strayed from your precepts”. Even in the face of death, he will keep his oath to following the word of God. Much the same as so many people around the word today who face death for believing that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Open Doors has released its annual list of countries where Christians face the greatest persecution and found that it has reached unprecedented levels worldwide. Over 7,000 Christians were killed for their faith between Nov. 1, 2014, and Oct. 31, 2015. There are millions of Christians in the world today, who face persecution and death simply for believing this book.

see: https://www.opendoors.org/

  1. Looking to verses 111 and 112, we see the Psalmist gaining an eternal perspective, he looked beyond the trials and challenges he was facing and looked to his eternal destiny, the reason why he could stand firm. The author knew and acknowledged that the Word of God was his heritage forever.

in the midst of his challenges and threats, his heart was glad, he experienced joy in his heart, a real deep-seated joy that is found in knowing the presence of God.

The author of this Psalm made a commitment to follow the Word of God, even when times got tough and his very life was threatened, he still stayed true to his commitment that he made. The word of God was his foundation, it was his security and it was his joy.

What are you struggling with today? You may not be facing a life threatening persecution as the author of this Psalm, but the Word of God has promises that apply to your life right now;

  • You may be going through financial trials that don’t seem to have any answer. Philippians 4:19
  • You may be struggling to believe that your sins are truly forgiven. 1 John 1:9
  • You may be struggling with the weight of a stressful life that is crushing you. Matthew 11:28-29
  • You may be struggling to really grasp that God loves you. Romans 8:38-39

The Word of God is relevant and has the answers for your situation today. Where are you turning for help?

In order to apply the promises of the word of God, we need to know the Bible.

Psalm 119:165 says; “Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.”

In 2016 we need a firm foundation for our lives and our families, there is no better foundation than the Word of God.

bible