Christ In Us — Our Hope!

Posted by on July 27, 2003 under Sermons

What impressed you about our world this week? Your spent an entire week living in this world. I doubt that you spent seven days wearing a blind fold. I doubt you spent seven days wearing ear plugs. I doubt you spent the entire seven days interacting with people who make you feel good. So, what are your impressions from this week?

If your response is, “That depends,” I understand. For some it was not a typical seven days. Because of circumstances, some had their time consumed by situations that do not ordinarily consume their week. Some in those special circumstances were impressed by kindness, thoughtfulness, and love. Some in those special circumstances were impressed by grief, pain, and hopelessness.

Others who did have a typical week were impressed with a mixture of things. At moments they were impressed with some very good, encouraging happenings. At moments they were impressed with the rottenness of this world.

“Well, David, what about you? You lived in this world the last seven days, too. What impressed you about this week?” For me, it was a fairly typical week. In a typical week, usually several different things happen in my thinking and my seeing.

  1. It is fairly common for me to stand in awe of God’s mercy and love. That is not a commentary on others, but on me. I have a sense of who I am and am not. I know how I struggle. I know how easily my weakness trip me up. When I see God’s goodness, I know the only goodness in me are the bits and pieces that feebly reflect God’s presence. And I marvel that God could be so patient with me. And I marvel that God could find any reason to even want me.

  2. It is fairly common for me to be touched by the many kindness I see. Christians constantly amaze me with their ability to care, be kind, and love unselfishly.

  3. It is fairly common for me to be distressed by evil. There is so much pain in people’s lives, so much hate in our world, so much violence because people despise people. This world can be a ugly place controlled by the acts of godless, selfish people.

  4. It is fairly common for me to feel a sense of challenge in all the opportunities I see. There is so much need, so much potential, so many ways to show people that there is a way to live that does not involve hate, resentment, or causing suffering.

  1. Let me go to the heart of the matter: evil in this world attacks physical existence.
    1. This world has been a place of fear in every generation as far back as there has been recorded history.
      1. The fears have not changed, and I do not think the fears will ever change.
        1. The economic fear–“I won’t have enough to take care of my needs!”
        2. The disease fear–“Sickness will control my life!”
        3. The abandonment fear–“I will have to face a hostile world alone!”
        4. The death fear–“I will die!”
      2. There has never been a time when these fears did not exist prominently.
        1. Poverty has always been a reality.
        2. Sickness has always been a reality.
        3. Loneliness has always been a reality.
        4. Dying has always been a reality.
      3. There will never be a period in this physical world when there is no poverty, no sickness, no abandonment, no dying.
        1. No matter what lifestyle some people attain, those fears will be a daily reality for most people who live in our world.
        2. There always have been “the have and have nots.”
        3. There always will be “the have and have nots.”
        4. The purpose of life involves more than becoming a “have” or avoiding the existence of a “have not.”
    2. Your initial reaction may be, “David, that is crazy!” but consider some realities.
      1. On January 8, 1964 in a State of The Union address President Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty in this country.
        1. Almost forty years later does this nation still have people struggling in poverty?
        2. I am impressed with the fact that we have proven that poverty is a very complex reality.
        3. You and I know the fear of poverty is a very real fear–right now!
      2. This nation has made incredible medical advancements in the past fifty years.
        1. I find it equally incredible to note the prominent new diseases of today that we had never heard of fifty years ago.
        2. With today’s astounding medical treatments, can you afford them?
        3. Just in this country, does everyone who has genuine need for these medical procedures have access to them?
        4. You and I know the fear of disease is a very real fear–right now!
      3. There are an enormous number of people in this society who deal with abandonment issues–and they include children and elderly people.
        1. Do you know anyone who struggles with a feeling of abandonment?
        2. Do you know anyone who just cannot escape that feeling?
        3. You and I know the fear of being abandoned is a very real fear–right now!
      4. The fear of death is universal.
        1. Accidents cause death.
        2. Violence causes death.
        3. Greed cause death.
        4. War causes death.
        5. Poverty, disease, and abandonment cause death.
        6. Time causes death.
        7. Nobody, absolutely nobody, beats death.
        8. You and I know the fear of death is a very real fear–right now!

  2. People who accepted the challenge to be Christians after Jesus’ death and resurrection confronted bigger fears and struggles than we face.
    1. In no way is that an attempt to minimize our fears and struggles.
      1. Our problems and struggles are quite real.
      2. I just want us to realize that there have been many people in many ages who faced greater demands than we face.
    2. In every age, people make the same religious mistakes.
      1. In the first century world, commonly people were convinced that there was a religious key to being a person to whom God gave His approval.
        1. They even declared what the key was.
        2. Some said the key was having the right lineage–a person had to be a physical descendant of Abraham through Isaac.
        3. Some said the key was proper religious rites–doing the right thing in the right way (even if you had no understanding of what you did) was the key to gaining God’s approval.
        4. Some said self-denial was key to gaining God’s approval (so make yourself suffer physically for religious reasons).
        5. Some said becoming a fanatic for God was the key to gaining God’s approval–just do weird things for religious reasons.
      2. Paul said there is a key, but none of those are that key.
        1. “Well, Paul, if none of those are the key, what is the key?”
        2. Paul told the Christians at Colossae in Colossians 1:27 this was the key: “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
    3. I want to illustrate what Paul meant by “Christ in you, the hope of glory” in these ways.
      1. First, in your mind look at a sheet of paper with “Satan,” “God,” and “humans” on the sheet.
        1. “Satan” is on the lower left hand corner of the sheet.
        2. “God” is on the upper right hand corner of the sheet.
        3. “Humans” are in the middle of the sheet with a pull in both directions being exerted on them.
      2. Second, in your mind look at that same sheet of paper, but this time have a continuous line (arrow) drawn from “Satan” to “God.”
        1. Basically Paul told those Christians at Colossae that God was unconcerned where you were on the line.
        2. God’s basic concern was this: which direction are you going? Are you moving toward God or are you moving toward Satan? Are you deliberately becoming more evil in your life, or are you reflecting more and more of God’s goodness in your life?
      3. If you really think about these two illustrations, there is a basic problem.
        1. It is easy for humans to move in the direction of Satan–it is really simple to do evil.
        2. It is hard for humans to move in the direction of God–doing God’s good when you are surrounded by evil is hard.
        3. If it were as easy to move toward God than it is to move toward Satan, there would be many more good people in the world.
        4. People, of themselves, of their own strength, of their own doing have a hard time moving toward God. Let me illustrate this fact in several ways.
          1. It is easier to be a racist than it is to care about people not like me.
          2. It is easier to hate the poor because some of them abuse the system than it is to care about the poor.
          3. It is easier to resent stealing, or adultery, or sexual perversion, or addiction to pornography, or alcoholism, or substance abuse than it is to care, be helpful, and extend forgiveness to such people.
          4. It is easier to ignore the divorced person, the jobless person, the mean person, the insecure person, the abandoned person, the defeated person than it is to care about and help such people.
        5. It is surely easier to live with any problem in my lifestyle than it is to change my life style.
        6. So where does the power to change come from? Where do we find the power to move closer to God? Is it just up to us and our human strength?
          1. Paul said, “No, it is not just up to human strength.”
          2. Paul said the source of your power as a Christian is this, “Christ in you.”
          3. I must move toward God, but I find the strength to move toward God in Jesus Christ.

  3. I want us to read together Paul’s statement to these people, the Colossian Christians.
    1. As we read, I want you to notice something–see it, pay attention to it, note it.
      1. “What? What is so important that I should pay that much attention to it?”
      2. Note the two things:
        1. Note what it means for Christ to be in a person.
        2. Note that Christ is the power source.
    2. The reading:
      Colossians 3:1-17 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him– a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

We belong to a Savior who was resurrected from the dead. God says to us, “If I can raise that Savior from the dead, I can use him to lead you to me.”

So I ask you, which direction are you moving? Toward God? Do you know the impossible frustration of trying alone, or do you let Christ live in you and provide the strength?

“Change? Me Change? In What Ways?”

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

Virtually all the Christians receiving Paul’s letters in our New Testament were first generation Christians. What does that mean? They did not grow up in Christian homes with Christian fathers and mothers. They were the first Christians in their families.

In Jewish families, Christian ethics and morality were quite familiar. [Ethics concern principles for determining right and wrong. Morality applies the principles to lifestyle behavior.] Old Testament Judaism and New Testament Christianity agreed God must be reverenced and people must be treated properly. For the devout Jewish adult, the big issue did not involve basic questions of Jewish/Christian ethics or morality. The big issue involved Jesus’ identity. Was Jesus God’s promised Messiah, the Christ?

For people who grew up in pagan families, it was quite a different matter. Often idolatrous ethics and morality seriously contrasted with Christian ethics and morality. Among pagan people there was a genuine clash with Christianity (a) about right and wrong and (b) about lifestyles [behavior]. For many idol worshippers, becoming a Christian involved major lifestyle changes [not minor lifestyle adjustments!].

Paul’s letters to congregations primarily were to pagan people. Since the resurrected Jesus gave Paul a ministry to non-Jews (Acts 9:15, 16; Galatians 2:8-10), that is understandable. Paul had the God-given mission of reconciling people to God who did not know God.

A common method Paul used to show pagan converts the distinction between the lifestyle of a person who does not know God and the lifestyle of a person who belongs to God can be called the “before and after” method. What is that? Paul often said, “This is who you were and how you lived before you were Christians. This is who you are and how you must live as Christians.”

Consider Ephesians 4:17-32. This is a statement of “you do not live as you used to live, but you now live as people who belong to God”–a clear “before and after” statement.

Some of the pagan “baggage” they injected into Christian lifestyle was lying, anger, stealing, anti-godly speech, bad attitudes, and hate (Ephesians 4:25-32). This lifestyle could not continue. These practices must be replaced with truth, concern for people, helping those in need, encouragement, kindness, and forgiveness. Their new role model for godly lifestyle and Christian behavior: God as reflected in Jesus.

What a change! What power this change involved! Where can this “power to change lifestyles” be found? In God! God always has been the power source for godly lifestyle changes–even for us! How well does your behavior model Paul’s “before and after”?

When God Listens To Prayer

Posted by on July 20, 2003 under Sermons

It is so simple to misrepresent God. It is so easy to substitute our concerns for God’s concerns. It is so simple to defend our conclusion instead of learning more about God’s nature and purposes.

As always on Sunday evenings, we will look at scripture and let the text speak to us. May God help us have open minds and soft hearts so we all listen to scripture instead of listening to our past conditioning. May we all let God direct our thinking instead of past sincere convictions directing our thinking.

As we study directly from the text, we will study from both the Old Testament and the New Testament. First, we will examine 1 Kings 8 by looking at Solomon’s prayer of dedication for the new temple he built. Then we will look in John 9 at the healing of the man born blind.

  1. Please open your Bibles to 1 Kings 8 and note some specifics about Solomon’s prayer of dedication.
    1. Context:
      1. The building of the first Jewish temple was completed and the ark of the covenant was placed in the holy of holies by the priests and Levites (1 Kings 8:4).
      2. It was a time of festival so a pilgrimage to Jerusalem was made to keep a national holy feast. The result: the men of Israel were in the city (1 Kings 8:2).
      3. Solomon assembled the nation’s elders, the leaders of tribes, and the leaders of families (clans) for the dedication of the temple (1 Kings 8:1).
      4. When the transfer from King David’s holy tent to temple was complete, a cloud filled the temple: the cloud represented the glory of God [this was God’s act of acceptance of the temple] (1 Kings 8:10,11).
      5. First, Solomon faced the temple and pronounced a blessing upon the structure (1 Kings 8:12,13).
      6. Second, Solomon faced the assembly and pronounced an blessing on the Lord (1 Kings 8:14,15).
      7. Solomon’s prayer of dedication began in 1 Kings 8:22.
    2. There are some specific things I ask you to notice.
      1. First, Solomon declares the primary function of the temple to be a place of prayer. [Does that increase understanding of Jesus’ anger in Mark 12:15-18 when he said God’s house was a house of prayer, but they made it a den of robbers?]
        1. Solomon stands before the Lord with his hands spread toward heaven.
        2. He asks God to hear Israel’s prayers and forgive them when they pray toward that place (1 Kings 8:30).
      2. Second, I want you to notice the limitations of the first temple.
        1. Verse 27–it is inadequate to contain God.
        2. Verse 30–while the presence of God is in this temple, God’s place to live is in heaven.
        3. However, even with its limitations, listen to the prayers that are directed toward this place.
      3. Third, I want you to notice the request to hear prayers included people who were not Israelites. Note verses 1 Kings 8:41-43:
        Also concerning the foreigner who is not of Your people Israel, when he comes from a far country for Your name’s sake (for they will hear of Your great name and Your mighty hand, and of Your outstretched arm); when he comes and prays toward this house, hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to You, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know Your name, to fear You, as do Your people Israel, and that they may know that this house which I have built is called by Your name.
        1. Note the reason the person who is not Jewish has come is for the sake of God’s great name.
        2. Note the reason that God is asked to answer the prayer is to cause others to understand God’s name is great–it is primarily about advancing or spreading God’s greatness!
      4. God not only heard the prayers of people who were not Israelites, He answered them! And Solomon asked Him to do so!

  2. Now turn with me to John 9.
    1. The situation:
      1. Jesus and the disciples passed a man born blind.
      2. The disciples asked Jesus if the man had sinned or his parents had sinned.
        1. Physical defects were often considered as evidence of sin.
        2. The defect was a punishment for the sin.
      3. Jesus said neither sinned, but this happened to display God’s works.
      4. Then Jesus healed the man’s blindness.
      5. A serious controversy arose among the neighbors who saw the blind man begging. The controversy: “Who is this seeing man?”
        1. Jesus healed the man on a Sabbath day.
        2. Thus the situation was reported to the Pharisees.
        3. The Pharisees asked the man to explain how he got his sight back, and he told them.
        4. They asked him, “Who do you think this man is?” [“Who” in the sense of whether he was from God or not.]
        5. He replied, “He is a prophet” [God’s spokesman].
      6. The Pharisees did not believe the healed man, so they asked his parents.
        1. The Pharisees asked, “Is this your son? If so, how can he see?
        2. The parents replied, “This is our son, but we do not know how he sees.”
          1. “He is old enough to answer for himself, so ask him.”
          2. They were afraid.
      7. A second time they called the healed man in to be interviewed and demanded that he give God credit for what happened because his healer was a sinner.
        1. He said, “I do not know if he is a sinner or not; all I know is that I was blind and now I see.”
        2. They asked, “How did he give you your sight back?”
        3. He said, “I told you once, why do you want me to tell you again? Do you want to be his disciple?”
      8. With that answer the situation became very ugly.
        1. They begin to verbally abuse the healed man and to declare he is his healer’s disciple, but they are Moses’ disciples.
        2. They know God spoke to Moses, but they know nothing about the man’s healer.
        3. The healed man responded, “That is amazing! He healed me, and you do not know the origin of this man!”
        4. Then the healed man made this statement in verses John 9:31-33:
          We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He hears him. Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.”
      9. Think about this statement:
        1. Who made it? The man healed from his blindness.
        2. What was he doing? Stating the obvious.
        3. What was the obvious? A person does not have the power to heal a blind person unless God gives the healer the power.
        4. Was this a commentary on God hearing prayers? No.
        5. What was it? A commentary on Jesus’ identity as a person from God made by a person who did not even know who Jesus was (see verses 35-39).

  3. Look at Acts 10.
    1. Cornelius, who is not a Jew, is praying to God as he frequently does.
      1. He is a devout man who reverences God (with his household), who gave alms to Jewish people, and who prayed to God continually.
      2. He was praying at 3 in the afternoon when an angel appeared to him and made this statement:
        Acts 10:4 “Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God.”
      3. What did Cornelius understand that statement to mean? Scripture tells us the meaning of this statement to Cornelius.
        1. Later he told Peter what that statement meant when he explained why he, a person who was not a Jew nor a Christian, send for Peter who was both a Jew and a Christian.
          Acts 10:30,31 Cornelius said, “Four days ago to this hour, I was praying in my house during the ninth hour; and behold, a man stood before me in shining garments, and he *said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God.'”
        2. We can engage in lots of discussion, but the bottom line from scripture is this:
          1. God listened to the prayers of a person who was not a Christian.
          2. God listened to those prayers before the person became a Christian.

  4. Is there ever a time when God will not listen?
    1. Absolutely!
      1. God does not hear when the prayer asks God to serve the purposes of evil rather than the purposes of righteousness.
      2. Is the basic issue who makes the request? No.
      3. The basic issue is serving righteousness as God’s purposes are sought.
    2. Listen to a very frightening statement.
      Isaiah 59:1,2 Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short that it cannot save; nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.
      1. Note to whom this statement was made: to people who were God’s chosen people.
      2. Note their position did not provide them the privilege of practicing evil.
      3. In their willing evil behavior, they separated themselves from God, and God stopped hearing their prayers.

Remember: a condition God places on hearing our prayers is this: we must be concerned about godliness, not evil, when we ask.

What Is Your Life About?

Posted by on under Sermons

For a moment, play a game of “let’s pretend” with me. Let’s pretend that God Himself sent a messenger to your home to interview you and your children about the purpose of life. This messenger’s interview centered on the answers to two questions. Each person in the family would answer these two questions. Each person had to answer with what he or she really believed was true (no “tactful evasions,” no lies). No one in your family could control the interview. Everyone but the person interviewed had to listen quietly without comment. The interview would start with the youngest child. It would go from youngest to oldest until everyone–children and adults–was interviewed.

Here are the two questions:

  • What are the most important things in life?
  • What does each specific person in this family think is the most important thing in life?

Each adult, each teenager had to listen quietly as a brother, sister, parent, or spouse stated aloud his or her truthful impression of what you think life is all about, what you think is really important as you live your life in your family. Would you like to hear what your family members think you regard as important in life?

  1. Would you read with me Deuteronomy 8:2-6?
    You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord. Your clothing did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years. Thus you are to know in your heart that the Lord your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son. Therefore, you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to fear (reverence) Him.
    1. Context: Moses spoke to second generation Israel before they entered the territory God promised them.
      1. All the adult men who left Egypt in the exodus are dead but three, and one of those three would be dead before they crossed the Jordan River into Canaan.
      2. Moses would be dead and buried before this nation crossed the river.
      3. In Deuteronomy, Moses emphasized what was important, what must be remembered as being important.
        1. This book centered on a very sobering moment in Israelite history.
          1. A lot of people were dead.
          2. Knowing why they died was extremely important.
          3. All these dead people gave a testimony to a very sobering truth: “If you do not understand what your life is about, you will be as dead as I am.”
        2. This moment could easily become a very materialistic, tragic moment: these people could allow the moment to focus them on the wrong thing.
          1. They could think about getting the finest piece of land in Canaan.
          2. They could think about indulging themselves with pleasures in a settled existence.
          3. They could think about becoming wealthy.
          4. They could think about prestige and power.
        3. It was extremely important that they be focused on life’s correct purpose.
    2. Think carefully about the reminder Moses gave them in our reading.
      1. “Do not forget your experiences of the past forty years in the wilderness.”
        1. It was not to be a “Phew! I am glad that is over!” time in their history.
        2. It was to be, “Did I ever learn something from that!” time in their history.
      2. Moses said, “God did three things in your experience of the forty years of your wandering.”
        1. “He humbled you to be certain you knew and understood who was the dependent and who was the sustainer.”
        2. “He tested you: are you like your parents who built the golden calf, or are you a people who trust Me?”
        3. “He provided you an opportunity to show Him your heart: is your heart in obedience to Me or in rebellion against Me?”
      3. “God humbled you by making you totally dependent on Him–you could not even provide yourself food.”
        1. “He let you get hungry–but it was for a reason.”
        2. “He gave you food to eat that neither you nor any of your ancestors had ever seen or eaten–and it was for a reason.
        3. “The reason is found in this understanding: the purpose of life is not found in physical need or desire; the purpose of life is found in listening to God.”
      4. “For forty years God took care of you: your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell.”
      5. “In the core of your being you need to understand that God was discipling you just like you discipline your sons–because they need to learn, and because you seek their best interests.”
      6. “So keep God’s commands, live a godly lifestyle, and reverence God.”
    3. Your success, your future, and future generations depend on these two basic truths:
      1. You must trust God’s teachings, not physical desires.
      2. You always must depend on God to determine who you are and how you live.

  2. Now move hundreds of years forward to Matthew 4:1-4 and read with me.
    Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.'”
    1. Jesus just had the exhilarating experience of being baptized.
      1. God Himself spoke on that occasion: “This is My beloved son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).
      2. God’s Spirit came from heaven in the form of a dove and landed on Jesus.
      3. This was a heady experience!
        1. This was the kind of experience that can build evil pride!
        2. We all are pretty much deceived by the compliments and praise of others.
        3. God Himself acted in an extraordinary way when Jesus was baptized!
      4. Soon after this incredible experience at baptism, God’s Spirit led Jesus into a deserted area to be tempted by the devil.
        1. Jesus spent forty days and nights focusing–he fasted for that period.
        2. He had to know who he was and what his life was about.
        3. Was sonship about serving or about position?
        4. Was sonship about obedience or about controlling?
      5. When he concluded this period of focus, he was hungry.
    2. The temptation:
      1. “Jesus, are you really God’s son? Are you real sure of who you are?”
      2. “If you are God’s son, you can turn these stones into something to eat.”
      3. “You are hungry, and eating is not a ‘right and wrong’ issue.”
      4. “You are hungry; you have been here for forty days fasting; you are weak; your really need some food; so make these stones into bread, not a royal feast, just a poor man’s meal of bread.”
        1. “It would be stupid for you to die out here from hunger and weakness.”
        2. “You know who you are!”
        3. “You have important things to do!”
        4. “So eat and get on with it!”
      5. Jesus quoted the statement from Deuteronomy 8.
        1. He said there was a bigger issue at stake than being hungry.
        2. The issue: is life fundamentally about physical need/desire or about letting God guide?
        3. Jesus was there to focus on who he was and what he was about, and neither feeling sorry for himself or becoming absorbed in physical need must be allowed to define who he was or what he was about.

  3. When Jesus began his ministry, listen to what he said in Matthew 6:19-34.
    Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
    1. Jesus was not talking about “happy go lucky” irresponsibility; he was talking about the purpose of life. Let me try to focus us in this way.
      1. Is your job in jeopardy because of our weak economy?
      2. How much did you lose in the stock market the last year? In certificates of deposits? In investments?
      3. Have you had to adjust your lifestyle?
      4. What can you do to make it all “go away”? Nothing.
      5. If material things define your life, this is a time of high anxiety for you.
    2. In Jesus’ statement, allow me to focus your attention on a couple of things.
      1. In verse 32 Jesus said the Gentiles eagerly seek the same things you seek if the focus of your life is food, drink, and clothes.
        1. We miss the central point if we do not understand the context.
        2. Jesus spoke to people who seriously regarded themselves to be God’s people.
        3. In this context, the word “Gentiles” referred to people who did not know God, who did not want to know God, and who were not influenced by God.
        4. Jesus said, “You are the people who claim to know God, who claim to belong to God, who claim to be God’s people.”
        5. “But…you are acting and feeling and thinking just like the people you say do not know God and do not care who God is.”
        6. “There is no difference in what your life is about and what these godless people’s life is about.”
      2. The number one purpose in the lives of God’s people is being ruled by God.
        1. “I want God in control.”
        2. “I want to live the lifestyle of a person who places God in control.”
        3. “I want people quietly to note that the reason I am different, the reason my lifestyle is different can be understood only by knowing this fact: God rules who I am and what I am about.”

In concluding, I want to focus you on three facts that are true for each one of us.

  1. Determining God’s will in your life is a life time journey, not a simple decision.
  2. Physical death is certain; every physical body in this auditorium will die.
  3. While your physical body will die, you as a person won’t die.

“So what does all that mean?” It means there is a whole lot more to life than physical existence. It means only God our Creator can guide us in all of life. It means when you face God after death, you will not present Him a financial report or a list of possessions.

So, in your family, what do your family members think life is about? What do you say by the way you live that life is all about?

What Human Act Does God Find Impressive?

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

Suppose an insightful, devout Old Testament Israelite was asked, “How can a person impress God?” He would not make these replies: “Give a million dollars to the tabernacle or temple”; “Offer a thousand sacrificial bulls”; “Observe every tabernacle or temple ritual precisely, correctly”; “Make every Jerusalem pilgrimage on holy days”; or “Attend synagogue services each week without fail.”

First in his reply: “Give God your broken heart.” In more familiar words: “in your brokenness, repent.” In practical terms, nothing is accomplished in the God-human relationship when a human gives God an enormous monetary gift if he does not first give God a broken heart. Giving a thousand sacrificial bulls or keeping all rituals correctly or making every Jerusalem pilgrimage or faithful synagogue attendance meant nothing individually or collectively if the Israelite did not first give God a broken, contrite heart.

Read Psalm 51. David, AFTER committing adultery with Bathsheba, AFTER plotting Uriah’s murder, was confronted by Nathan the prophet (read 2 Samuel 11, 12). God obviously knew everything. Yet, Nathan said, “The Lord also has taken away your sin; you shall not die.”

The Lord took away this adulterer and murderer’s sin? What happened to “an eye for an eye; a tooth for a tooth”? Note David’s comment prior to Nathan’s declaration: “I have sinned against the Lord.” David was broken before God. Were there consequences? Certainly! Yet, when David realized what he had done, he bowed in penitent brokenness.

Do you realize the arrogance, disrespect, and presumptuousness if David said to God, “Lord, here’s a million dollars (or a thousand sacrifices or faithful rituals or leadership for holy day gatherings or a pledge for synagogue attendance).” All David had to give God was a broken heart that contritely bowed before the God he offended.

We urgently need to learn this lesson! Money, sacrifice, rituals, attendance are meaningful only if they come from broken, contrite hearts. The first offense of all evil deeds, words, and emotions are offenses against our loving, forgiving God. Unthinkable!

Paul in 2 Corinthians 7:9,10: “I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.”

And God Said To Us, “And Your Reasoning Was???”

Posted by on July 6, 2003 under Sermons

This morning I want to begin by reading two statements from Paul written to the Christians at Ephesus. I want you to read with me either from your Bible or from the overhead. As we read, I want you to notice some specific things in each scripture.

We will begin with Ephesians 2:11-16.

This is what I want you to notice in this reading. You have two very different groups of people Paul acknowledged. The first group was the Jews who were God’s “called out people” for over 1400 years. For 1400 years they received God’s scripture. In fact, this scripture was written to them. For 1400 years they heard God’s prophets. The prophets were God’s voice to them. For l400 years they have had specific forms, specific ways of doing things. Those forms included everything from the way they worshipped to the way the treated each other.

The second group, known to Jews as Gentiles, were all people who were not Jews. God did not write any scripture to these people. All the known prophets from scripture were Jewish prophets. These people who were not Jews had a different set of gods, a different set of forms, differences in the way they worshipped, and differences in the way they treated each other [morality codes].

The problem: most Jews who were Christians adamantly declared that people who were not Jews and became Christians had to do things their way. If religiously people who were not Jews did not do things their way, then God could not possibly accept them as His people.

As we read, this is what I want you to notice.

  1. These two groups of Christians had real problems accepting each other.
  2. Paul wanted them to understand that God did not care if they were Jews or gentiles as long as they placed their lives in Jesus Christ.
  3. The problem was a human problem, not God’s problem. What was a struggle for humans was an achieved goal for God.

Read with me as we look at Ephesians 2:11-16.
Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” which is performed in the flesh by human hands–remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.

Did you notice what Paul said to the Christians at Ephesus?

  1. “The problem you have in reacting to differences is your problem, not God’s problem.”
  2. “What you consider a problem God considers an accomplished goal in Jesus Christ.”

The second statement from Paul I want you to notice is found in this same letter to the Christians at Ephesus. It is found in Ephesians 4:20-24.

In this statement Paul focused their attention on God’s goal in all of them. Not their goal, but God’s goal! One of the reasons they had problems as Christians accepting each other was caused by this: they substituted their goals for God’s goal.

As we read this statement, ask yourself one question: “What was God’s goal?” As we read together, ask that question, and see if you hear Paul’s answer.

Ephesians 4:20-24 But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

In Paul’s statement to the Christians at Ephesus, what was God’s goal? God’s goal is to create again or anew any and every person who comes to Him through Jesus Christ. If a person is in Christ, God’s goal to is recreate that man or woman. Instead of being the person he or she was, he or she will become a new, recreated self. And how will it be visibly evident that this person has been recreated? By God’s standards, he or he is committed to being a righteous person dedicated to holiness.

  1. Since Jesus died and was resurrected long ago, what is God’s goal in your life and my life?
    1. God’s goal had not changed.
      1. It was God’s goal throughout the generations before He sent Jesus.
      2. It was God’s goal throughout the generations after He send Jesus.
      3. It is God’s goal right now.
      4. It will still be God’s goal after everyone of us is dead and buried.
    2. God created a “very good” world with humans made in His image.
      1. Evil perverted the “very good” creation God made by enticing humans to rebel against God.
      2. From the moment evil produced human rebellion, God tried to influence humans to reconcile to Him.
      3. God can cause reconciliation to occur in the lives of those who accept Jesus as the Christ, and God does it by recreating the lives of those in Christ.
    3. Look at the simple progression:
      1. The sovereign God created a “very good” creation.
      2. Rebellious humans rejected the sovereign God and ruined His “very good” creation.
      3. God wants to destroy the rebellion through the reconciliation of recreating the person who comes to Jesus Christ.
    4. Stated very simply: God’s goal is to make us spiritual people in Christ.

  2. The “us” problem: we are all very different.
    1. There are likely no two persons in this gathering who agree 100% on everything.
      1. There are likely no two persons in this gathering who are in 100% spiritual agreement.
      2. While all of us would find some who would agree with many of our general principals, each of us would be hard pressed to find one person who would agree with all of our personal applications of those principles.
      3. One of the hardest lessons to learn as a Christian is this: “every Christian is not exactly like me, and this congregation would not be a healthy congregation if every Christian was exactly like me.”
    2. One huge problem that causes endless struggle and often hurt among us is this: we simply do not learn alike.
      1. Some of us learn by the lecture method, and we are going to go to classes that have an authority figure who is in charge of the class.
      2. Some of us learn by the discussion method, and we are going to class where everyone says what is on his or her mind.
      3. Some of us learn by the interaction method, and we love being a part of a small group in which all of us study, all of us share, and no one is intimidated.
      4. Some of us learn by the mentoring method; we seek guidance from someone who has “been there, done that, and used faith in Christ to cope with the problem.”
    3. So which is the best method to learn? None of them and all of them.
      1. There is no “best method”; if we are not careful, methods have more to do with our goals than with God’s goal.
      2. God’s goal is for us to be recreated in Christ and become a spiritual person who is committed to righteousness and holiness.
        1. If the way you learn and understand best is by the lecture method, God does not care.
        2. If the way you learn and understand best is by the discussion method, God does not care.
        3. If the way you learn and understand best is by the interaction method, God does not care.
        4. If the way you learn and understand best is by the mentoring method, God does not care.
      3. God wants each of us to be recreated in Christ, dedicated to being God’s righteous, holy person–that is what God wants!
        1. The method we use to let God change us in Christ is not what is important to God!
        2. It is not “how we got there;” it is being the godly man or woman in Christ that God wants us to be!

  3. Mark records a fascinating interaction between Jesus and one of his three closest disciples [John] in Mark 9:38-42.
    John said to Him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we tried to prevent him because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not hinder him, for there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is for us. For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because of your name as followers of Christ, truly I say to you, he will not lose his reward. Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea.”
    1. In the New Testament, there is much more condemnation about causing division than there is about keeping forms.
    2. God invested hundreds of years in creating the Old Testament nation of Israel in order to send Jesus, and when that nation failed God, He did not give up.
      1. God sent many prophets to His people because His people loved evil, but God did not give up.
      2. God exiled His people into a harsh captivity, but God did not give up.
      3. God send Jesus, and God’s people rejected Jesus, but God did not give up.
      4. God allowed His son to be killed cruelly, and God did not give up.
      5. God raised His son from the dead, and people laugh at the idea of resurrection, and God does not give up.
      6. Today, we too often define God’s goal as something far less than allowing God to recreate us in Christ into people committed to a righteous, holy existence, and God still does not give up.
    3. Then, in human arrogance, we say to another Christian who has been baptized into Christ, “If you do not do things my way, God will give up on you!”
      1. Listen to a statement Paul made to the Christians in Rome in Romans 14:1-8:
        Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God. For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.

May we be only God’s people who are concerned with God’s goal, not our preferences. May the goal be to be spiritual, to be the recreated people of God dedicated to righteousness and holiness. And may we respect and encourage each other as we pursue that goal.

Good News!

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

Peter said Christians cannot “come up short!” We will not be like the family who went “to close” on a house they wished to buy, but were $10,000 short! We will not be like the person who wanted to purchase a new vehicle, but was $1,000 short! We will not be like the person who went grocery shopping, but was $10.00 short! We will not be like the person who went to the doctor, but could not afford the prescription! Peter said that could not happen to the person who comes to our glorious God through Jesus Christ.

Many conclude the letter we call 2 Peter was written by Peter late in his life. That suggests it was written prior to 70 A.D. Jesus’ was killed and resurrected about 30 years earlier. We humans are an impatient, restless group. We always have been and always will be. [Fortunately for us, God does not have our impatience problem.]

We impatient humans constantly conclude that something is inadequate, “not enough.” The probability: some suggested “since Jesus died and was raised so long ago,” he, by himself, was not enough to come to God. They were insistent that Jesus was “inadequate past history.” People needed Jesus plus something else to find and belong to God.

Peter said, “Not so!” The patient, glorious God, through His own power, “granted us everything pertaining to life and godliness…” (2 Peter 1:3). What God’s divine power achieved through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection was (is) fully adequate for every spiritual need humans have. God sent His son, God sustained His son, God offered His son, God resurrected His son, and God seated His son as the Christ by His side to be our mediator and intercessor-continually! There was no inadequacy in what God did for us!

We do not need “something plus Jesus” to be saved, forgiven, redeemed, spiritually clothed, live in divine mercy, or exist in divine grace. Jesus Christ is enough!

Enough for what? It is enough to partake of the divine nature and escape the physical forces and pleasures that seek to destroy us. It is enough to move us to a diligent pursuit of faith, moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. It is enough to replace the uselessness of evil with fruitfulness in Jesus Christ. It is enough to replace spiritual blindness with the spiritual sight God’s power gives in Christ. It is enough to make us certain about God’s spiritual call. It is enough to allow us to stand in God’s presence. It is enough to let us enter the eternal kingdom.

Following Jesus as his disciple is enough to make us everything God wants us to be! The man or woman with the courage to live in Jesus has total spiritual adequacy! What wonderful news! Take the “guess work” out of belonging to God! Live for Jesus!