God’s Chosen, part 5

Posted by on August 31, 2003 under Sermons

God does some incredibly special things for those He has chosen in Christ. These things are available to anyone who will place his or her confidence (a) in Jesus Christ and (b) in the things God accomplished in Jesus’ death. Being a part of God’s chosen is a matter of entering and living in God’s mercy.

If we choose Christ, God chooses us. On neither side is that choosing irresponsible or inconsiderate. God is very committed in the promises He made to those who are in Christ. Those who are in Christ must be very committed to being God’s people.

This evening I want to focus your attention on one of the most incredible gifts God gives to His chosen. I would like for you to read with me 1 John 1:5-10.
This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.

  1. This is my understanding of the content of 1 John.
    1. The author, John, is writing to Christians (the letter’s emphasis and challenge’s indicate the writing was first written to those who were in Christ).
    2. He wrote as a self-declared eye witness and personal associate of the physical Jesus in his ministry.
    3. He wrote to encourage Christians to embrace Christian morality as they lived among deceitful, discouraging circumstances.
    4. He began his letter by noting a blessing that should be of profound encouragement to every man and woman who was (and is) a Christian.

  2. An overview of the promise involved in God’s forgiveness of the man or woman who is in Christ.
    1. A person comes to God with an understanding and acceptance of the fact that there is no evil in God.
      1. Jesus was clear about this truth.
      2. No matter what God expects of a person or requests of a person, there is no injustice in God (even if He requests death on a cross).
      3. Even when God’s requests require physical suffering, God seeks the person’s best interest.
      4. Therefore anyone who wishes to move away from the blackness of evil and toward to light of God will consciously move toward God.
    2. The very first understanding these Christians needed to grasp and accept was an understanding of the forgiveness of God.
      1. Without an understanding of God’s forgiveness in the life of a person who belongs to God by coming to Him through Christ, they would not understanding the meaning or significance of the lesson they were to follow.
      2. Basic understanding: a person who is in Christ cannot continue fellowship with God and deliberately, by conscious, continuous choice live a lifestyle of evil.
      3. When a Christian attempts to do that (which is impossible!), he or she is not practicing the truth.
        1. It is not enough to know that God’s holy people should not live an evil lifestyle!
        2. It is not enough to condemn evil lifestyles in others!
        3. The commitment of being in Christ involves knowing and doing.
    3. This understanding is based on an incredible promise from God.
      1. To the man or woman who is committed to coming to God, committed to a lifestyle of holiness, is obviously committed to a lifestyle consistent with God’s holiness.
        1. In this commitment, the person who is committed to being God’s holy person associates with and encourages others who are committed to a lifestyle of holiness.
        2. God’s promise to such people is that He will continuously cleanse them from all sin.
      2. John gave this caution to those Christians: “Do not say you have no need for God’s continuous forgiveness, continuous cleansing from all sin.”
        1. If a Christian says, “I do not need to be forgiven; I do not have any sins,” these two things are true of him or her.
          1. That person is self deceived.
          2. That person does not have the truth in him or her.
        2. This person knows he or she is dependent on God’s forgiveness every moment of life.
          1. Instead of denying sin exists in his or her life, he or she confesses sins.
          2. If we as Christians are willing to admit our sins as they occur, God will do two things: He will forgive the sins we confess, and He will cleanse us of all unrighteousness.
    4. Special consequences await the Christian who denies his own sinfulness (is blind to his own evil).
      1. Instead of being a person on a journey to God and holiness, he becomes a person who makes God a liar (in his or her arrogance, he or she is a self-righteous person who says, “I do not need what God says I need”).
      2. He or she makes it impossible for God’s words to dwell (live) in his or her life.

  3. We need to spend a few moments on the application of these statements to Christians’ lives right now.
    1. The first understanding: forgiveness is what Jesus’ blood is all about.
      1. Redemption is in Jesus’ blood (that is the only way we can be bought back from evil).
      2. Atonement is in Jesus’ blood (that is the only way our sins can be paid for).
      3. Cleansing is in Jesus’ blood (that is God’s sacrifice for our sins).
    2. The second understanding: the cleansing blood of Jesus flows in the Christian’s life on a continuous basis.
      1. There is no “in and out” situation that daily, at each moment, places us in and takes us out of God’s forgiveness.
      2. One is not forgiven when he or she because of faith in Jesus and repentance of sins is baptized into Christ because he or she has a perfect understanding and a total recognition of all evil in his or her life.
        1. That is impossible!
        2. He or she knows and accepts the fact that he or she is a sinner who needs to be forgiven.
        3. At the moment of baptism God does not merely forgive the sins he or she realizes, but forgives all his or her sins.
        4. God’s forgiveness of His children, of those who are in Christ, is not dependent on perfect knowledge and understanding of every form of personal evil.
        5. That forgiveness is dependent on Jesus’ blood and God’s promise to forgive.
        6. Forgiveness begins when one is baptized into Christ and continues as long as the person chooses to remain in Christ–it is a lifetime promise!
    3. Third understanding: does that mean the person who is in Christ can live irresponsibly by ignoring God’s call to holiness and living as he or she pleases? No!
      1. Continuous forgiveness of the person in Christ that is based on the person’s willingness to acknowledge his or her need to be forgiven occurs in the person committed to learning and living a lifestyle of holiness (godliness).
      2. This Christian so appreciates the incredible thing God does for him or her on a daily basis that he or she moves toward God’s holiness in a hatred of evil within self.
      3. He or she cannot be both godlessly irresponsible and appreciative at the same time!
      4. He or she cannot meaningfully say, “Thank you, God!” and deliberately, knowingly live in a way that insults God.
      5. Continuous forgiveness moves the person in Christ to a higher level of commitment, not a lower level of commitment.
    4. The fourth understanding: God’s promise of continuous forgiveness is the perfect solution for the human reality.
      1. No Christian can live with the stress and discouragement of the impossible, of constant failure, of constant agony and frustration.
      2. It is impossible for a human to be sinless–there are constantly failures to temptations, failures that are behavioral, failures that are mental, failures that are emotional.
      3. To impose the responsibility of sinless existence is to impose the impossible!
        1. It is suggesting that it is possible for a Christian to know all evil in every form, and to never be deceived or mistaken in his or her identification.
        2. Spiritual maturity involves the constant discovery of how evil we are.
        3. That discovery only deepens our appreciation of God’s forgiveness.
      4. God’s forgiveness is not based on achieving absolute sinlessness.
        1. It is based on a genuine, continual, committed effort to move toward God’s light.
        2. It is based on continuously trying, and God knows both my heart and my effort.
        3. Every Christian can live with that!
      5. God’s solution is perfect for my need!

This incredible blessing is promised by God to those who are in Christ! We cannot earn it! We must trust it!

To be a part of God’s chosen is to benefit from some incredible blessings!

The New Person Requires a Beginning

Posted by on under Sermons

There are many times we wish we could start over, make different decisions, go in different directions. Most commonly we encounter these desires in marriage, in parenting, in careers, and in focusing life. Too often we feel powerless, resigned, and defeated. Too often we say to ourselves, “Things could have been different if I made different choices, but it is too late now.” Too often we continue on our journey of self destruction because we convinced ourselves nothing can change.

What we are incapable of doing in our lives, God can do in our lives.

Read with me as we focus on John 1:1-15.
Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony. If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.”

Right now I want Jesus to focus us in this statement.

  1. Nicodemus came to Jesus for a private conversation between the two of them.
    1. This is one of a very few prestigious persons who wanted to have a serious conversation with Jesus.
      1. Nicodemus was a member of the Jerusalem Sanhedrin.
      2. In our terminology, he was on the Supreme Court of the nation of Israel.
        1. He was recognized as one of the 70 men in that nation who had the kind of knowledge and insight that qualified him to make tough decisions.
        2. The fact that he held that position probably meant that he was politically connected with the most powerful politicians in Israel’s government.
        3. He helped make the most difficult religious and social decisions made in the nation at that time.
        4. This is a man who would be listed in first century Israel’s book of “Who’s Who”–this is a powerful, prominent man.
    2. I want you to notice something about this man.
      1. First, this prominent, powerful man who is known as an expert in the law of Moses and its applications to then current situations called Jesus Rabbi.
        1. This is an incredible declaration of respect.
        2. People in his position did not quickly declare someone to be a teacher deserving of respect.
      2. Second, this man was honest enough to see the obvious.
        1. He knew and admitted to Jesus that God sent him–Jesus was God’s teacher.
        2. He knew no one could do the miracles Jesus did unless God was with that person.
    3. I want you to notice Jesus’ first response to Nicodemus.
      1. It was not, “Thank you! I am honored that a man of your position sees those things.”
      2. It was, “The key to being in God’s kingdom is being born again.”
    4. Note this prominent man, this recognized expert in the law of Moses, this man who was part of the nation’s group who solved hard problems, this man did not have a clue of what Jesus was talking about.
      1. Jesus said, “You are supposed to be Israel’s teacher, and you do not understand the new birth?”
      2. Then Jesus said, “You must understand much more about me, beyond your present understanding. Believing in me is the key to eternal life.”

  2. Focus your attention on the new birth.
    1. A birth in humans brings a being to life who never existed before.
      1. By virtue of birth, someone now exists who never existed before.
      2. From the moment of birth, the objective is much more than being born–the objective is to nurture the newborn to maturity.
    2. If you are tempted to be hard on Nicodemus by condemning his ignorance, don’t!
      1. Jesus introduced Nicodemus to a concept he never heard before, never thought about before.
      2. For Nicodemus, being in God’s kingdom was a matter of physical heritage.
        1. Being born an Israelite made you a part of God’s chosen people–it was an automatic!
        2. Jesus said being a part of God’s kingdom involves a new birth, a being born again.
        3. It is not a matter of heritage.
        4. It is a matter of entering a new relationship with God through me.
        5. It is a matter of becoming someone you have never been.

  3. If it were not for what Jesus did for us, we could not be born again.
    1. Because of Jesus’ death, we can come to God.
    2. Because of Jesus’ resurrection, we can allow God to remake us.
    3. Because of Jesus Christ, we can begin again.

    Let’s focus our minds on Jesus Christ, God’s gift of the son, and the son’s gift of atoning blood as we take the Lord’s Supper together.

    [At this time the congregation took communion.]

    I want you to think about two things.

  4. The first thing I want you to think about is God’s involvement in the new birth, the spiritual beginning again, for every man and every woman who comes to God through Jesus the Christ.
    1. There is great concern today regarding church growth or increasing the number of those who are born again because they see Jesus Christ for who he is.
      1. There are all kinds of theories, ideas, and suggestions made.
        1. Some say, “If we could just emphasize what we emphasized 50 years ago in the same way we emphasized it then, we would grow.”
          1. I find it interesting that this suggestion only wants to go back 50 years ago, not 2000 years ago.
          2. I find it interesting that some decide that the best way to glorify God is to glorify the recent past.
        2. Some say, “If we would just allow people’s wants to determine what we do, then we would grow.”
          1. We need to ask, “Shall those who have little or no spiritual interests be the guides of those who seek to be spiritual?”
          2. The objective is not human pleasure.
          3. The objective is to move closer and closer to God.
        3. Some say, “The preference of the vocal majority must demand the conformity of everyone.”
          1. People being different have never bothered God–it just bothers humans.
          2. Humans are emotionally impressed with externals; God is impressed with hearts.
          3. God knows when a human is or is not praising Him.
          4. God knows motivations–humans are the ones who need to get 2 x 4s out of their eyes before they remove specks from others’ eyes.
      2. In all our concerns about church growth, two things stand out to me. [And I surely recognize it is an extremely complex problem.]
        1. Solutions are usually focused in us–it is frequently about us, not about God.
        2. Solutions are frequently focused on procedures–if we could just find the “proper way” to do things, we would grow.
    2. May I make an observation?
      1. The most important element in church growth is God.
        1. It is not the past.
        2. It is not pleasure.
        3. It is not preference.
        4. It is God.
      2. God will entrust us with people He knows are seeking Him when He knows they will find God at the center of who we are and what we are about.
      3. Have we not heard Jesus?
        John 6:44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.

  5. The second thing I want you to think about is this: those who belong to God specialize in mending broken people who want to be mended.
    1. Let me stress no one can be mended in Christ except the person who wants to be mended.
      1. A person must acknowledge brokenness.
      2. A person must accept responsibility rather than playing the blame game.
      3. A person must repent, find redirection, new birth in Christ.
    2. I want you to ask yourself two questions:
      1. Question one: would God send a broken person to this congregation to find new birth in Christ? [Would God trust such a person to us?]
      2. Question two: ask yourself, would God send a broken person to this congregation because I am here, and God knows I would help the person mend his or her brokenness?

If we want to grow so we can “feel proud” of who we are and what we do, it will never happen.

If we want to grow because we have a passion to help people discover a new beginning in Jesus Christ so that God can be praised and glorified, nothing can prevent it from happening.

Living For Eternity or Right Now?

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

I specifically remember times as a teen when I would watch the setting sun and hope to return the world to God. That was quite a dream for an insignificant country boy on small mountain top farm. Though I dreamed, I had no clue as to how big the world is, how complex cultures are, or how many people have no interest in God.

Perhaps that was a significant motivation when Joyce agreed that we should move our young family to West Africa. The naive country boy learned enormous lessons in West Africa, lessons he fervently prayed God would never let him forget.

I learned how big the world is. I learned how powerfully people are defined by their cultures. I learned how complex we all are. I learned the meaning of faith in Christ. I was introduced to the relationship between patience and faith. I was made aware of the deep, incredible link between having faith in God and having the desire to repent. I learned that we can use religious motivations and agendas for many different objectives. I learned how much of America’s culture and social values are incorporated in the American Christians’ concepts of God’s will and faithfulness.

I was greatly humbled by another understanding. God’s intent was never to Americanize the world. God’s intent was (is) to offer the world salvation in Jesus Christ.

No human can change the world. That power resides only in God, and He offers that change through Christ. Only in Christ resides the power for change.

Each generation accepts or rejects God’s offer. Each parent learns that truth! Frequently we are reminded not even our own children may accept Christian values and concepts!

In each age our power is to model the value and privilege of God’s molding. We knowledgeably share our faith in Christ. We prayerfully hope our children, friends, and world see in us the value and privilege of serving God. We earnestly, genuinely hope our children, friends, and world will see the reality of eternity. Yet, we grieve realizing many refuse to see the reality of eternity. These prefer “now” to “then.”

If in Jesus’ world many were not impressed with him, why should all in this world be impressed with him? Pessimism? No! Acceptance! Those rejecting repentance never recognize God. The greatest tragedy: many who could see God, respond to Jesus, and repent, either (a) never hear or (b) are blinded by Christians with good intentions but little faith.

Hebrews 11:13,14 All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own.

God’s Chosen, part 4

Posted by on August 24, 2003 under Sermons

This evening I want to begin with a brief review. I want to begin that review by reading Ephesians 1:3-6.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

Please notice in this reading:

  1. In some sense God chose the Christians at Ephesus (and us) before the foundation of the world–prior to creation.
  2. This “choosing by God” is based on Jesus Christ.
    1. Every spiritual blessing from God is in Christ.
    2. God chose them “in Christ.”
    3. Our adoption as sons of God was predetermined in Christ.
    4. God’s grace is freely bestowed on them (and us) in Christ.
  3. God’s objective in Christians: to make us a holy people who are serious about being God’s people, who exist to praise God’s glory.

My understanding is this: this is a statement of corporate election. God chose everyone who chooses Christ by placing his or her faith in Christ and allows Christ to teach him or her how to live like a person who belongs to God. God does not choose Christians in order for them to live as they please, but He chooses them to learn to live as a person who belongs to God.

  1. Teachers use the concept of corporate election when they grade.
  2. Employers use the concept of corporate election when they use job descriptions to determine hiring.

We accept God’s adoption by placing ourselves and our confidence in Jesus Christ. Paul is not talking about placing confidence in a system, but placing confidence in a Savior.

  1. This evening I want you as Christians to see what a blessing that election (being one who is chosen of God) is. In the past we spend a lot of effort trying to declare what election is not, and too little effort declaring what election is.
    1. There are two foundation questions, and we have done a poor job of (a) separating those questions and (b) separating our answers to those questions (we too often interchange our answers as if there is one question).
      1. Question one: how does a person become a part of God’s chosen?
      2. Question two: how does a person continue within God’s chosen?
      3. Question one has to do with how does a person become a Christian.
      4. Question two has to do with how does a person continue being a Christian.
      5. This evening my focus is on question two.
    2. Consider some critical contrasts:
      1. This is not the situation: a person who was enslaved to evil suddenly becomes a person who has no evil in his or her life.
      2. This is the situation: an unforgiven person enslaved to evil becomes a forgiven person enslaved to God (we are the servants of the one we obey).
      3. This is not the attitude of God’s chosen: “I am forgiven so I can continue living any way I wish.”
      4. This is the attitude of God’s chosen: “God in His forgiveness constantly helps me discover how much evil there is in me, but assures me His forgiveness will continue as I grow more and more like Him.”
      5. This is the irony: the closer I come to God, the more I see my evil; the further I am removed from God, the more blind I am to my evil.”

  2. I want to focus you on the benefits of being God’s chosen by calling your attention to Romans 6-9.
    1. Lets begin with a brief review of those chapters.
      1. Romans 6:
        1. The whole purpose of baptism into Christ was to give God control of our lives.
        2. In each of our lives, we belong to the one we obey–Satan or God.
      2. Romans 7:
        1. Christ is our salvation.
        2. We cannot save ourselves through practicing self-control.
      3. Romans 8:
        1. We must become a person whose life is controlled by God’s Spirit.
        2. We cannot be a person whose life is controlled by the physical.
        3. Then there is an enumeration of some of the blessings given to people who are ruled by the Spirit.
      4. Romans 9:
        1. God always has functioned in human relationships by choice or election.
        2. Specific examples are Jacob, Moses, Pharaoh, the potter, and statements from Hosea and Isaiah.
        3. The fact God chooses is the specific reason that He can include people who are not Jews among His chosen.
    2. I want to focus your attention on the blessings God gives the chosen or elect by calling to your attention to several promises in Romans 8.
      1. Romans 8:1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
        1. Remember that we added the chapter and verse divisions for our convenience in citing and finding places.
        2. I suggest to you that there is a direct connection between the person in despair in the last of chapter 7 and the assurance that there is no condemnation in Christ in 8:1.
        3. When we are in Christ God does not “count sins” as we struggle in our weakness, but notes our faith in Jesus as we seek to grow in spirituality.
        4. The Christian is not burdened with an oppressive sense of guilt but with the assurance of God’s forgiveness in Christ.
        5. Is there no condemnation to the Christian because he or she has committed no evil in his or her mind, emotions, or body? No!
        6. There is no condemnation because of what God did for him or her in Jesus’ death and resurrection.
        7. That is an enormous blessing given the redeemed, the chosen, the elect–no condemnation!
        8. Jesus affirmed this is the reason God sent him into this world: John 3:17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.
      2. Romans 8:26 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
        1. For the man or woman who dares to be a Christian, a spiritual person, in an evil world, there will be severe struggles.
        2. Sometimes the war between Satan and God involves matters beyond our comprehension, and when we are caught up in those struggles we, in our confusion, do not even know what to pray.
        3. We are assured that God’s Spirit, which lives in us, which God gave us at the same moment forgiveness began in our lives, at the moment of baptism because of faith and repentance, intercedes for us.
        4. The Spirit can communicate the heart concerns of the Christian to God in ways that are clear and understandable to God–even when the Christian cannot put into words his or her concerns!
        5. There is no experience we can have as a human that God cannot understand!
        6. That is an enormous blessing given to the redeemed, the chosen, the elect!
      3. Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
        1. God can use any struggle, any horrible circumstance, any undesirable situation to bring the Christian closer to Him!
        2. There is nothing Satan can cause to happen to the Christian that God cannot use to the Christian’s eternal benefit!
        3. There are two conditions the Christian must maintain within himself or herself for this to happen: (a) love for God and (b) commitment to God’s will.
        4. That is an enormous blessing given to the redeemed, the chosen, the elect!
      4. Romans 8:31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?
        1. The superior force in all creation supports the Christian.
        2. Nothing bigger than God (or even equal to God!) will ever oppose the Christian.
        3. The proof that God “is in our corner”? His willingness to sacrifice His son!
        4. God’s commitment to us is unquestionable–He is our constant Encourager!
        5. That is an enormous blessing given to the redeemed, the chosen, the elect.
      5. Romans 8:33,34 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.
        1. If my understanding is correct, Paul declared that Satan cannot accuse the Christian before God as Satan accused Job before God.
        2. God won’t hear the accusation! He justified! If God, the superior force, justifies, Satan, the inferior force, cannot accuse.
        3. The enthronement of Jesus assures us that God will listen to Jesus’ pleas for us, not Satan’s accusations against us.
          1. The resurrected Jesus is enthroned at the right hand of God.
          2. The resurrected Jesus who is enthroned at God’s right hand intercedes for the Christian.
          3. God listens to Jesus’ intercession and refuses to hear Satan’s accusations!
          4. That is an enormous blessing given to the redeemed, the chosen, the elect!
      6. Romans 8:35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
        1. Nothing external of ourselves can force God to stop loving us as His chosen people!
        2. We cannot be kidnapped from God’s love!
        3. We not only can endure in God’s love, but we can be victorious in God’s love!
        4. Why? Because we are so special? We are so strong? No!
        5. It is because of what God’s love in Christ Jesus does for us!
        6. That is an enormous blessing given to the redeemed, the chosen, the elect!

You want to be a part of the redeemed, the chosen, the elect! It is our choice to be one of God’s chosen! Only the elect have the promises of (1) no condemnation, (2) the Spirit interceding for us, (3) the assurance the God can use anything Satan does to us for our eternal blessing, (4) having the superior force nurturing us, (5) being in a condition where we cannot be charged before God, (6) being in a situation where nothing eternal of ourselves can separate us from God’s love, (7) being assured that overcoming is absolutely possible.

These are some of the promises to God’s chosen, His elect.

Christ Is the Focus of Christian Existence

Posted by on under Sermons

I want to begin by reading the statement made in John 6:59-69:
These things He [Jesus] said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum. Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble? What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.” As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”

Human life is a mess. It has been since people allowed evil to be an active force in human life. There are two overriding realities in human existence. One is what I would call the “reality of right now.” The other is the “reality of eternity.”

We humans make an enormous mess out of the “reality of right now.” Then we make a bad situation worse. Most humans do not even deal with the “reality of eternity.”

In the reading we just looked at, I focus your attention on this fact: Jesus was talking to disciples. He had just finished telling them that he was the bread of life. “Just as your forefathers ate manna in the wilderness and lived, you can live if you eat me.”

The disciples who heard this statement said (my paraphrase) , “Whoa! What is he talking about? That is a hard thing (impossible?) to understand. That statement is totally unreasonable. We cannot continue to follow a man who says those things?!”

As a result, many disciples left him and did not follow him any more. The exodus from following Jesus was so great that Jesus asked the twelve if they, too, were leaving. Peter responded, “Where would we go? Only you can tell us about eternal life. Only you are God’s holy one.”

The one thing I want you to notice: the catastrophe of following Jesus only as long as we consider what Jesus says as reasonable and understandable. If a person accept the Lordship of Jesus Christ, that person allows Jesus to teach him or her everything about living–Jesus becomes the focus of that person’s life, and nothing is “off limits,” nothing is unreasonable because Jesus is my guide as I deal with the “reality of eternity.”

  1. Read with me Colossians 3:15-4:1.
    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. Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them. Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart. Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven
    1. Notice these things as we carefully examine this scripture from an overall perspective.
      1. If the Christians at Colossae understood what it meant to give yourself to Jesus Christ, three things would result.
        1. The peace of Christ would rule their hearts.
          1. Why?
          2. Two reasons: as the redeemed, they had God’s forgiveness; and as the forgiven, they were existing for the “reality of eternity.”
        2. The word of Christ would live in them.
          1. Why?
          2. Jesus was the only one who could tell them how to live in “the reality of now” for the “reality of eternity.”
        3. The result: everything they did was influenced by Jesus Christ.
          1. They were thankful to be the redeemed.
          2. They acted like the redeemed.
          3. They thanked God for the opportunity to be the redeemed.
      2. Then Paul gave them some specific, real, every day examples of the meaning of letting the peace of Christ rule you, the word of Christ living in you, and letting everything in your life be influenced by Jesus Christ.
        1. Christian wives would honor their husbands “because it was fitting in the Lord.”
        2. Christian husbands would love their wives taking care not to make them resent them.
        3. Christian children would honor the directives of their parents because “this is well pleasing to the Lord.”
        4. Christian fathers would not exasperate their children causing the child to lose heart.
        5. Christian slaves would obey their masters, their owners.
          1. Not just externally obey them to make them happy.
          2. But sincerely obey them in reverence for the Lord.
          3. No matter what job they did, they worked for their master as if they were working for the Lord.
          4. Why? Because they really belonged to the Lord; they were his servants; he would reward them with an inheritance (the “eternal reality” rather than the “now reality.”)
        6. Christian master would treat their slaves with justice and fairness.
          1. A slave would be much more than just some “property” they owned.
          2. The Christian master must never forget the eternal reality–he, too, has a master.
      3. Pay careful attention to Paul’s emphasis.
        1. Ask and answer the question “WHY.”
          1. Did Christian wives treat their husbands with respect because all husbands deserve such treatment?
          2. Do Christian husbands love their wives because all wives deserve it?
          3. Do Christian children respect their parents because all parents deserve it?
          4. Do Christian fathers give great consideration to how they treat their children because children are deserving?
          5. Do Christian slaves work hard for their masters because all masters are deserving of such effort?
          6. Do Christian masters deal with their slaves as persons instead of property because all slaves are deserving?
        2. NO!
          1. They did it because everything they did in their total lives was done in the name of (to the benefit of) the Lord Jesus.
          2. Christians had the privilege of representing the Lord Jesus in every aspect of every relationship in their lives.
          3. It is the Christians’ commitment to represent the Lord well every single day in every single matter.
    2. Let me predict the reaction of at least some of us who are Christians: “That is the most ridiculous thing I every heard of! Everyone understands that religion should have its place in every man or woman’s life, but that idea is taking religion much to far.”
      1. Really? That depends on how the Christian deals with the eternal reality.
      2. If you think that is my emphasis and not Paul’s, allow me to call a couple of Paul’s statements to your attention.
        1 Corinthians 10:31-33 Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved.
        1. First, focus on the context of this statement.
          1. Paul told the Christians who were not Jews to avoid the mistakes that Israel made.
          2. He told them that in every consideration they needed to run from idolatry because it is their spiritual enemy.
          3. These people had some religious and social problems that many of us do not have.
          4. Religious occasions were sacrifice and eating occasions–in both Judaism and in paganism.
          5. Social occasions were often a combination of a religious occasion and a social occasion.
          6. Christians often found themselves in circumstances that demanded they make choices–even in something as simple as food and drink.
        2. Listen carefully to Paul’s instructions.
          1. Notice he did not give them a long list of rules.
          2. He gave them instead two simple principles to always be aware of as they make difficult choices.
          3. First, be certain that God is glorified (not compromised!) in everything you do.
          4. Second, show genuine consideration for the people you are with–Jews, people who are not Jews, the church.
          5. He said that is what I do–I do not seek my benefit, but other’s salvation.
          6. So even what a Christians eats or drinks, he wants God to be honored and others be respected.
            1 Corinthians 7:21-24 Were you called while a slave? Do not worry about it; but if you are able also to become free, rather do that. For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord’s freedman; likewise he who was called while free, is Christ’s slave. You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. Brethren, each one is to remain with God in that condition in which he was called.
        3. Paul answered a question the Christians at Corinth sent him concerning marriage.
          1. In Corinth at that time Paul said my encouragement is this: whatever was your situation when you came to Christ, stay in that situation.
          2. Singles, stay single; married, stay married; circumcised (Jews) stay as circumcised; uncircumcised (non-Jews) stay as uncircumcised.
          3. Whatever you were when you became a Christian, remain in that situation as a Christian.
        4. In the reading I think Paul carried that fact to its ultimate situation.
          1. When you became a Christian were you a slave? Then be a Christian slave.
          2. When you became a Christian were you a master (slave owner)? Then be a Christian slave owner knowing that you, too, have a Master.

Bottom line, what is the spiritual reality for every man or woman who is a Christian any place on earth? No matter what situation a person is in, he or she can be a Christian in that situation. The Christian objective is not to find the “ideal situation”; the objective is to represent God well in the way I live where I am. Why? Because I have finally understood the “eternal reality,” and in Christ I devote my life to that reality.

“On That Day …”

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

Matthew 7:21-23, Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”

In every generation God’s people fall to this enormous temptation: substituting “being technically correct” for faith in God, His son [Jesus Christ], and His presence in our lives [the Holy Spirit]. Once we fall to that temptation, we quickly surrender to another: placing faith in our acts of “technical correctness” instead of placing faith in God.

In a lesson [Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7], Jesus contrasted the emphasis in his teachings with the emphasis in the Pharisees’ teachings. Before we “trash the Pharisees,” recognize the good things to say about them: their faith in God was enormous; they promoted spiritual cleanness and meticulous keeping of the Sabbath; they were experts in scripture [as Jesus acknowledged in Matthew 23:2,3]; to them scripture was a living expression of God’s self-revelation, God inspired; they thought scripture must regulate all of life; they thought scripture should be protected.

We agree with them in all those matters. Unfortunately, too many of us agree with them on another matter. They believed “technical correctness was the essential evidence proving people belonged to God.” Thus, a faith in God that changed life was insignificant if the person was not “technically correct.” Of course, they determined what was and was not “technically correct.”

Near the close of Matthew 5-7, Jesus included a judgment scene lesson. On that day some were excluded who were certain they should be included. “What an injustice! Do you know who we are? Do you know what we did? We prophesied in Your name! [Jesus prophesied.] We cast out demons in Your name! [Jesus cast demons out.] We performed numerous miracles in Your name! [Jesus performed numerous miracles.]”

In Jesus’ day, these great evidences proved God sent the person: being a prophet with power over demons who could perform many miracles. To do this in “Your name” irrefutably proved the person represented Jesus with “technical correctness.”

Jesus, the judge on that day, ordered these people to depart from him. Why? Carefully note the reason. They were ordered to depart from Jesus on that day because of the way they lived. “You mean a person can do what is ‘technically correct’ and still be rejected by Jesus on that day?” Jesus said it would happen.

Should we seek correctness before God? Yes! Is “correctness” a substitute for godly living? Never! We cannot earn salvation, but we can show by our lives how deeply we appreciate salvation. We will not regret godly lives on that day. Be as well as know!

God’s Chosen, part 3

Posted by on August 17, 2003 under Sermons

Tonight I want to discuss with you the third lesson which focuses on God’s Chosen. In the first lesson we noted that it is inherently a part of God’s nature to chose. In the second lesson we noted God’s choices focus in God’s nature, not in human approval. We also noted the people always have tended to trust themselves rather than God.

Tonight I want to begin by asking you to react to a statement. When you hear the word “election,” or the word “elect,” or the words “God’s elect,” do those words have an initial negative impact on you or a positive impact on you?

For many people in the Churches of Christ, such words have an immediate, initial negative impact. When they begin their study of God’s election, they begin conditioned to think negative thoughts. Very often they begin with a negative perspective created by negative thoughts that is more concerned about explaining away scripture rather than understanding scripture.

That is very unfortunate. One of the most encouraging teachings given to Christians by scripture is the teaching of election. To reject scripture’s concept of election is to reject one of the greatest encouragements God gives us in Christ.

  1. I want us to begin this evening by focusing on a part of God’s nature: God’s sovereignty.
    1. The fact that God is sovereign basically means that God is so superior to any human or any group of humans that God does what He chooses to do.
      1. God does not have to acquire or seek human approval for His choices or His actions.
      2. God made us; we did not make God.
      3. In every way God is superior to us and commonly in His superiority He is above our understanding.
      4. The Christian understands that fact to be a good thing, not a bad thing.
        1. God is by His divine nature a just God, so [no matter how things might appear to some human perspectives] God will never act in injustice.
        2. God is by His divine nature a faithful God [trustworthy, will not fail those who place their confidence in Him, will not fail to keep His promises].
        3. Even when we do not understand Him or His actions, He is just and faithful.
      5. What does that mean?
        1. It means that from the human perspective, He is deserving of confidence, but He is not predictable as humans understand predictability.
        2. For example, we can always trust God to keep His promises, but He often keeps His promises by taking an unpredictable route–consider His selection of Jacob, and His sending Jesus to become the Christ.
        3. It means He is consistent, but not always from the human concept of consistency–consider David’s forgiveness when he was guilty of adultery and murder; consider God’s dedication to opposing evil.
        4. There will always be more involved in God’s decisions and choices than the most intelligent human or group of humans will conceive or grasp.
      6. That is a good thing, not a bad thing. That is a blessing to humans, not a curse to humans.
        1. From the perspective of human reasoning, divine mercy is unjust–God is kind to us when we do not deserve His kindness.
        2. From the perspective of human reasoning, divine grace is unjust–God is good to us when we do not deserve His goodness.
        3. From the perspective of human reasoning, divine forgiveness is unjust–God forgives us when we do not deserve His forgiveness.
    2. Godly people [those who were close to God and allowed God to rule their lives] always understood the sovereignty of God surpassed human understanding.
      1. Consider some of the declarations found in scripture.
        Psalm 8:3-9 When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained; What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty! You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, All sheep and oxen, And also the beasts of the field, The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, Whatever passes through the paths of the seas. O Lord, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth!
        Psalm 139:1-6 O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, And are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O Lord, You know it all. You have enclosed me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it.
        Psalm 145:1-3 I will extol You, my God, O King, And I will bless Your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless You, And I will praise Your name forever and ever. Great is the Lord, and highly to be praised, And His greatness is unsearchable.
        Isaiah 55:6-9 Seek the Lord while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way And the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to the Lord, And He will have compassion on him, And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.
        Romans 11:33,34 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor?
        1 Corinthians 2:6-8 Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; but just as it is written, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him.”
      2. God is just, trustworthy, and praise worthy, but God exceeds our understanding.

  2. The basis of God’s choosing, of God’s election is placing confidence in Jesus Christ.
    1. Permit me to state that fact in ways that many challenge your thinking.
      1. It is confidence in what God did in Jesus’ death and resurrection that gives power and meaning to baptism, not baptism that gives meaning to Jesus Christ.
      2. It is confidence in what God did in Jesus’ death and resurrection that gives power and meaning to the church, not the church that gives power and meaning to Jesus Christ.
      3. It is confidence in what God did in Jesus’ death and resurrection that gives power and meaning to human repentance, not human repentance that gives power and meaning to Jesus Christ.
      4. It is confidence in what God did in Jesus’ death and resurrection that gives power and meaning to human obedience, not human obedience that gives power and meaning to Jesus Christ.
    2. Let me illustrate these statements by Paul’s teaching found in his letter to Christians at Colossae.
      1. The congregation [group of Christians associating in] Colossae had quite a distorted understanding of what it meant to be spiritual.
        1. Some of them thought a synthesis of pagan beliefs and Christian emphases was the key to being spiritual.
        2. Some of them thought practices of physical self denial was the key to being spiritual.
        3. Some of them thought the teachings and practices of Judaism was the key to being spiritual.
      2. Paul said the key to understanding the mysteries of God was Jesus Christ.
        1. The key to understanding God’s mystery of salvation for people who are not Jews is not pagan thoughts.
        2. The key to understanding God’s mystery of salvation for people who are not Jews is not ascetic practices.
        3. The key to understanding God’s mystery of salvation for people who are not Jews is not Jewish traditions.
      3. The key is this: Christ in you, the hope of glory (1:27).
        1. Having Christ in you will provide you salvation–that is the mystery!
        2. The full riches of God’s glory are found in Christ.
        3. All you need in order to have every blessing God gives is to have Jesus Christ living in your life.
    3. I call your attention to Paul’s emphasis on Christ to Christians at Colossae.
      Colossians 2:1-3 For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face, that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
      Colossians 2:8-12 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
      Colossians 2:20-23 If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)–in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.
      Colossians 3:1-3 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.
      Colossians 3:9-11 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.
      Colossians 3:12-17 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.

  3. God chooses those who place their confidence in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
    Ephesians 1:3-6 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.
    1. God chooses those who place their confidence in Christ.
    2. It is not an individual election, but a corporate election.
      1. It is not an individual “you are in and you are out.”
      2. It is a “anyone who places his/her confidence in Jesus Christ is in.”
    3. In our society we commonly practice that form of election frequently.
      1. When a teacher predetermines a grading system, that is a form of corporate election.
      2. When someone uses a job description as the basis of hiring, that is a form of corporate election.

The concept of God’s choosing is frightening only if a person is terrified of God because he/she loves evil. It is a comforting, encouraging, reassuring concept to the person who, by desire, comes to God. God is bigger than people. Because we are God’s elect, God will not fail us.

The Gift and the Response

Posted by on under Sermons

This morning I want to begin with a question. I want you keep this question in your thoughts as we discuss a specific situation. The question:

How do you pay that back?

Now consider the situation. I want to use a situation that everyone of us, without exception, has experienced. Each of us has been a child. Not one single person here, regardless of your age, has not been a child. Our childhood experiences were not alike, but all of us were born to someone and all of us had a childhood. No one’s childhood was perfect. No one had perfect parents. No one grew up in a flawless environment.

Think for a moment about an exceptional childhood experience. In an exceptional experience: (please remember that we are talking about the exceptional experience–there is no intent or desire to dredge up horrible memories or stir regrets)

  1. The child has a nurturing mother and a nurturing father and is allowed to grow up in a two parent family.

  2. The child has a mother and father who love each other, and the child is the product of that love and a recipient of that love. Thus the child grows up in a love environment created by a father and mother.

  3. The child is never emotionally or physically abused, never victimized by the parents’ anger, never emotionally or physically neglected, never emotionally or physically exploited.

  4. The child is only expected to be, not expected to prove.

  5. Therefore the child is encouraged, challenged, guided in helpful directions, provided with good examples.

Now ask the question. If any child is fortunate enough to have that exceptional experience for eighteen years, how can he or she pay his or her parents back for that exceptional experience? The child cannot pay his or her parents back for an exceptional childhood. The child can only allow that exceptional experience contribute to who he or she is and what he or she becomes.

Sometime ago I was talking to my daughter who is in California. She was thanking Joyce and me. That week she was with a group of girl friends, and they were discussing in specifics their horrible experiences they had in their homes as children. She said, “I could not relate to what they said. I never had those experiences.”

My point is not that Joyce and I were ideal parents. I will not presume to speak for Joyce, but it surely would have been wonderful if I understood forty years ago what I understand now. My point: some experiences are gifts to be appreciated. All we can do is appreciate them. We can never pay them back.

I would be surprised if anyone did not understand that truth in his/her heart of hearts.

  1. With that question and that understanding in mind, allow me to direct your attention to salvation and judgment.
    1. Allow me to give you some contrasts regarding salvation and judgment.
      1. Salvation is a gift that flows from God’s mercy and grace; godly living is our response to God’s gift.
      2. Salvation is God’s gift; judgment is an evaluation of our lives as the saved.
      3. Forgiveness is the gift of God’s mercy; obedience is expressed appreciation for forgiveness.
      4. Redemption focuses on God’s gift; judgment focuses on the redeemed’s life.
    2. There is nothing we can do to deserve the mercy in God’s forgiveness.
      1. Nobody deserves to be saved from his or her sins.
      2. The only response we can give to this gift is a godly life.
      3. We can appreciate salvation and show our appreciation by obedience.
      4. We cannot pay God back for what He does for us in saving us.

  2. I do not ask you to take my word for what I have just said. Instead, I ask you to listen from your heart as we read Paul’s words in Ephesians 2:1-10.
    And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
    1. As Paul wrote to the Christians at Ephesus, note these things in your full awareness that Paul spoke to Christians who were converted from idolatry.
      1. “First, you need to understand that you had no life in you.”
        1. “You were dead.”
        2. “You were a bunch of lifeless corpses.”
        3. I seriously doubt that any people any where at any time would respond to Paul’s observation with, “Yes, indeed! Are you ever right, Paul!
        4. You would not! I would not! In fact, we would fight Paul’s description.
      2. “Paul, what ever do you mean? We were religious! We believed in some form of deity! Why would you ever say we were corpses back then?”
        1. “I would say that because of the way you lived and what you allowed to control your lives.”
        2. “What are you talking about?”
          1. “You allowed ungodly influences in society to determine what you thought and how you acted.”
          2. “How you behaved was controlled by Satan, not by God–and Satan specializes in spiritually killing people, not in giving them life.”
          3. “In fact, if anyone looked inside you and looked inside people who defied God, he or she would not see anything different.”
        3. “Just look at how you lived and acted:”
          1. “Your passions determined your behavior.”
          2. “You indulged your body and your emotions on the basis of desire.”
          3. “The way you lived and acted insulted God and rightly filled Him with wrath toward your ungodliness.”
      3. Paul: “All the credit for your salvation goes to God, not to you.”
        1. “You were saved because of God’s great love.”
        2. “You were saved because of God’s mercy.”
        3. “God through Jesus Christ gave our dead bodies life.”
        4. “Never forget that this life came from God’s grace.”
        5. “Just like He resurrected Jesus from the grave, God resurrected you.”
      4. “The most astounding act of God’s grace goes far beyond God giving our dead bodies life through Jesus Christ–the most astounding thing God gives us through grace are the gifts He provides us when we are in Jesus Christ.”
      5. “There are two things I want you to understand:”
        1. “I want you to understand your salvation comes from God, not yourselves.”
        2. “You have no reason or right to brag because salvation is produced by God’s kindness, not your achievements.”
          1. “God is the master craftsman who brought you into existence–you are God-made, God-designed as Christians.”
          2. “The master designer had a specific reason, a specific purpose for creating you in Jesus Christ.”
          3. “God created you in order for you to do good works” (understanding that God defines what is good).”
          4. “God designed your purpose before He designed you–before Jesus came, before Christianity existed, God determined that those who accepted salvation in Christ would live their lives doing good works.”
    2. Today we must not miss the over-all point Paul made to these Christians.
      1. It matters how the man or woman who has received life in Christ lives!
      2. Christians cannot and must not live like people who do not even know God!
      3. When a Christian appreciates the salvation that God’s mercy and grace provided, he or she will show that appreciation in the way he or she lives!
      4. We cannot live and behave like godless people and appreciate our salvation!

  3. Would you allow Paul to illustrate this truth in this letter in Ephesians 4:25-32?
    1. Read with me.
      Ephesians 4:25-32 Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity. He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
    2. The reason Paul mentioned these things: they were happening among Christians right there in Ephesus in God’s family.
      1. Some Christians were liars.
        1. They were liars before they became Christians.
        2. They kept on lying after they became Christians.
        3. Christians speak truth to others because they now belong to the God of truth.
      2. Some Christians were angry people.
        1. They were angry people before they became Christians.
        2. They were the same angry people after they became Christians.
        3. Because they nursed their anger, they did all kinds of ungodly things.
        4. Paul said give anger a short life instead of letting your anger create opportunity for Satan.
      3. Some Christians were thieves–they existed by the selfishness of stealing.
        1. They were thieves before they became Christians.
        2. They continued to be thieves after they became Christians.
        3. Paul said because becoming a Christian changes you, you cannot continue to steal.
        4. Instead:
          1. They work instead of steal.
          2. They do what is good instead of what is evil.
          3. Their motivation was not to be selfish–their motivation was to help those who had needs (a total reversal of stealing!).
      4. Some Christians just said anything–they did not care who was hurt or offended.
        1. They had an evil tongue before they became a Christian.
        2. They had the same evil tongue after they became a Christian.
        3. Paul said Christians do not have evil tongues!
        4. They are encouragers who give grace to listeners–they care, and what they say shows it.
      5. Some Christians were working against God’s influence in their lives and gave the Holy Spirit which lived in them grief.
        1. Paul said the existence of the Holy Spirit in your lives is the mark that identifies you as a person who belongs to God.
        2. The seal Paul spoke of is a mark of identity.
        3. “Don’t make it hard for God’s presence in your life to encourage you to be closer to God.”
      6. “Purposely get rid of negative, ungodly emotions in your life.”
      7. “Give your life to kindness, tender-heartedness, and forgiveness–and allow God’s forgiveness to be your example.”

The person who accepts God’s salvation shows his or her appreciation to God by living like a person who belongs to God.

Who or What Determines Who I Am?

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

Too often I get that “overwhelmed” feeling. I am certain you do, too. I feel it. I see others as they feel it. I watch our society glorify the choices and the forms of indulgence that guarantee the disasters of crumbling lives and empty existences. I see our world shutter as the majority is forced to drink the bitterness of hate and greed. Whether seen in persons, families, society, or the world, the effect is the same: we helplessly reel under the onslaught of so many forms of evil. We are overwhelmed!

Evil thoughts, deeds, and values are not without consequence. Even when we repent, we cannot and do not escape the consequences of evil. Without fail, God forgives us if we repent. Yet, even with God’s forgiveness, the consequences of poor decisions, poorly used lives, or past ungodly character are not escaped.

Perhaps the tragedy created by evil results from plain, simple ignorance. How often we say or think, “I had no idea this would happen!” Or, “When I made that decision I was not bargaining for this!” Or, “I never thought that would lead me to this place (situation, condition, struggle, conflict).” Or, “I just wanted to have a good time.” Or, “I was looking for fun–not making a forever decision!”

Temptation lies to us. It depends on deceit to make its lies effective. The devil does not possess the enormous, overwhelming power that forces us humans to fall to the father of lies. Satan deceived Eve. Satan deceived those responsible for Jesus’ death. Satan deceives those who conclude “here and now” is all there is. Satan deceives us when he leads us to believe, if we can classify something as “desirable,” it has no consequences. We are so foolish that we fail to grasp a truth: temptation’s deception is effective because it gets us to work against ourselves! We are betrayed by our own desires!

Nothing has changed. People’s evil desires betray them in every age. It is not the “evil out there” that is our greatest threat. It is the evil inside us that is our greatest threat. Hundreds of years ago Isaiah tried to awaken the deceived with this truth in Isaiah 5:20,21: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight!”

The bottom line, “big cost item” in life has not changed in any generation. The question confronting each person always has been the same. All “glitter” and “advancements” aside, the fundamental question is (and always has been!) simply this: Who or what do we allow decide who we are? Or who do we allow to shape our values, determine our priorities, decide what is “good for us,” form our character, and guide our integrity? What forces in your life do you allow to make you you?

Ephesians 4:23,24 “… 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.”

God’s Chosen, part 2

Posted by on August 10, 2003 under Sermons

This evening I want to begin with a lengthy reading. I truly want you to read with me. Pay close attention to Paul’s thoughts. After we read Romans 9, I want to call some things to your attention. Read with me.

Romans 9:1-33

When understood in context, this is one of the most frightening scriptures in the New Testament for Christians. When you focus on Paul’s concepts and take your meaning from Paul’s meaning, we Christians should be terrified.

  1. Background and context:
    1. Paul endured major problems as he fulfilled his God given mission because the vast majority of Israelites of his day who rejected Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ, actively opposed him.
      1. They resented him, hated him for becoming a Christian.
      2. Right after his conversion, a significant group of Jewish people created a plot to kill him because the man who was supposed to come arrest Christians was now defending Christ (Acts 9:23-25).
        1. They watched for him to leave the city so they could kill him.
        2. If it had not been for Christian Jews lowering him over the Damascus wall so he could escape, his enemies well may have succeeded.
      3. On his first visit to Jerusalem after his conversion, Jewish Christians again had to come to his rescue (Acts 9:28-30).
        1. Paul was going freely among the Jewish people who rejected Jesus as the Messiah boldly declaring Jesus was the Christ.
        2. The Hellenistic Jews (Jews who adopted the Greek language and some of the Greek culture) resented what Paul said with such fervency that they were determined to kill him.
        3. When some of the Jewish Christians understood the serious intent of some of the unbelieving Jews, they escorted Paul to the sea coast city of Caesarea (also the center for Roman authority in Palestine) and sent him home to Tarsus.
    2. It was not just the Israelites who rejected Jesus as the Messiah, but also many of the Jewish Christians who did accept Jesus who hated Paul and his message.
      1. Many Jews who became Christians fervently believed that the Messiah belonged to Israel.
        1. God loved them more than He loved anyone else.
        2. It was okay for people who were not Jews to convert to Jewish tradition first, and then become Christians.
          1. It was not all right to become Christians without first becoming Jews.
          2. They deeply resented Paul teaching non-Jews that they could be Christians without becoming Jews!
      2. There are two profound evidences of how deeply some Christians resented Paul’s message about Jesus to non-Jews.
        1. The first evidence is found in the Judaizing teachers that followed after Paul when he left a new congregation.
          1. This was a group of Jewish Christians who followed Paul and told new converts, new churches that they were not saved.
          2. The writing we call Galatians speaks about the work of these Jewish Christians who opposed Paul and his message.
          3. They told new converts that Paul did not tell them the whole truth.
          4. They told new converts that their baptism was meaningless unless they adopted Jewish teachings and customs.
        2. The second evidence is found in the false rumor they spread about Paul and his message.
          1. We are introduced to this rumor in Acts 21:19-26.
          2. The rumor: Paul (on his mission trips) was teaching Jewish people that they had to abandon Jewish practices: do not listen to Moses; do not circumcise your children; do not follow Jewish traditions.
          3. There were thousands of these Jewish Christians in Jerusalem who heard this false rumor.
          4. Paul never stopped being Jewish; he just did not bind Jewishness on non-Jews.
          5. In his mission work he did not teach Jews they had to stop being Jewish in order to be Christian.
          6. In an attempt to demonstrate the truth to Jewish Christians who believed the rumor, the church leaders asked Paul to sponsor at the Jewish temple some Jewish Christian men who had taken a Jewish vow (likely a Nazarite vow).
          7. All of this happened because of Jewish Christian’s opposition to Paul.
        3. If you are tempted to think this Jewish Christian opposition was not strong, consider Galatians 2:6-10.
          1. Paul went to Jerusalem to talk to church leaders, and that included at least some of the apostles.
          2. He wanted them to understand that God sent him as apostle to the Gentiles (people who were not Jews) in the same way that God sent Peter to the Jews as an apostle.
          3. The leaders of the church in Jerusalem agreed God did this, agreed with the gospel Paul taught non-Jews, and gave Paul the right hand of fellowship.

  2. In the text we read, Romans 9, I call your attention to some things.
    1. Why did many Israelites, both Christian and non-Christian, resent Paul’s message so much?
      1. They believed they were special just because of their physical heritage–they were special because the were the descendants of Abraham through Isaac.
      2. If what Paul said was true, they were not special in the way they considered themselves special.
      3. In their thinking, if Paul’s message to the non-Jews was correct that had to mean that God had not kept His promises to Israel.
      4. They placed their faith in their commitment to their system and its functions, not their God and His purposes–they were special because of who they were and what they did, not because of what their God had done.
    2. Paul said Jewish Christians cannot “explain away” Paul’s message to people who were not Jews by saying that “Paul does not love Israel.”
      1. Paul said, “I love Israel as a nation and the Israelites as people–so much that I would be willing to be condemned to hell if it would result in their accepting Christ.”
      2. The realization that Israel rejected God’s son and all the blessings that God wished to give to them caused Paul constant sorrow and grief.
      3. Israelites, of which Paul was one, needed to realize something that could not be changed, not even if Paul went to hell for them: being an Israelite was no longer determined by physical lineage, but by faith in what God did in Jesus Christ.
    3. Paul said to Israelites, including Christian Israelite opponents, “YOU DO NOT HAVE GOD FIGURED OUT, AND YOU SURELY DO NOT OWN HIM!”
      1. They thought their past relationship with God made them special.
        1. They thought because they had scripture and the prophets for hundreds of years, they had God figured out.
        2. They did not just think it; they were sure of it.
      2. Paul said you are so focused on your system, on your procedures, that you have developed a completely mistaken view of God.
        1. God has given you some powerful insights into the way He always does things.
          1. In your earliest ancestors, Jacob and Esau, He did things the exact opposite of what society did–and Jacob and Esau had nothing to do with God’s choice because God made His choice before they were born.
          2. Moses understood that was a key part of God’s nature. Moses said in God’s voice: Romans 9:15, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
          3. God placed Pharaoh in the position Pharaoh occupied for God’s purposes: Romans 9:17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.” (Exodus 9:16)
          4. The prophet Hosea said this is precisely what God had in mind: Romans 9:25,26 “I will call those who were not My people, ‘My people,’ And her who was not beloved, ‘beloved.’ And it shall be that in the place where it was said to them, ‘you are not My people,’ There they shall be called sons of the living God.”
          5. Isaiah lso understood God’s intention: Romans 9:27 Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, “Though the number of the sons of Israel be like the sand of the sea, it is the remnant that will be saved.”
      3. According to Paul, why did Israel have such a huge misunderstanding of the way God works?
        1. They placed their faith that they were righteous in what they did or were doing.
        2. They did not have faith in the fact that they were righteous because of what God did for them.
        3. Their faith was misplaced; they placed their confidence in what they did instead of placing their faith in God.

  3. “David, why do you regard this as such a frightening scripture as far as we are concerned?”
    1. Too many of us make the same mistake–we think we are special to God because we place confidence in what we do.
    2. Too many of us think that God chooses us because of what we do, not because of who He is.
      1. “We were baptized for the right reason, we worship in the right ways, we follow scripture.”
      2. Israel of Paul’s day said the same thing: “We were cleaned the way God said to be cleansed, we worship in the temple exactly as God told us too, we follow the scripture–and they were given to us!”
      3. They thought they were righteous because of what they did, not because of what God did.
      4. It is too easy for us to decide we are righteous because of what we do instead of because of what God did in Jesus’ death.
    3. There is a lot of difference in believing, “We are righteous because we have been baptized for the right reason and do the right things in worship,” and saying, “We are righteous because God redeemed us and atoned for us in Jesus’ blood.”

Israel of Paul’s day misplaced their faith and trusted the wrong thing because they misunderstood God. It is very easy for us to make the same mistake.