In the Name of Christ

Posted by on May 30, 2004 under Sermons


Read Acts 4:1-22
What is it that makes the Sanhedrin so nervous that they are asking "By what authority did you do this?"

  1. Was it Peter and John, the two fishermen from the hill country up north? Surely the well-placed, privileged blue-bloods of the Sanhedrin wouldn’t be intimidated by these yokels who still stink of salt air and fish. Annas, Caiaphas, and the inner circle of have the air of education about them. The grooming of the finest schools, the robes and laurels of hard-earned study and scholarship. Peter and John don’t even have a change of clothes. Annas, Caiaphas and the religious blue-bloods speak proper Aramaic with a distinguished tone of confidence. Surely they are not threatened by the burly tongued talk of these rubes with the thick Galilean twang.
    • Maybe it wasn’t Peter and John themselves, but they did notice that these men had been with Jesus.
  2. And like Jesus, Peter and John are at the center of unauthorized teaching and healing activity. Peter and John didn’t study with the Sanhedrin to earn their Biblical degree. They never filled out a doctrinal questionnaire. They didn’t even offer the courtesy of a meeting with the local religious leaders before beginning their ministry. The only credentials they have to offer evident would be the well-known temple paraplegic who has never walked in all his 40 years – and now he’s not only walking – he’s bouncing up and down the marble steps of Solomon’s Porch! And what makes this so unnerving for the "keepers of the authorized truth" in Jerusalem is all this troublesome talk about Jesus being involved in this undeniable healing – yes, the same Jesus they had executed as a heretic and blasphemer.
    • And like everyone else, the Sanhedrin noted that these men had been with Jesus.

8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: "Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.

12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name given under heaven by which we must be saved."

In whose name?

  1. In whose name do we find salvation? In whose name do we offer salvation, healing, mercy, service and aid? Do we act and speak in the name of Jesus as plainly as Peter and John did? Do we speak the name of Jesus as if he is still able to speak and act for himself? Do we act on it with the diligence and responsibility of agents who pronounce the name of their superior officer? Do we cite the name of Jesus like students and disciples who mention the name of their teacher? Or do we get distracted by the reputation and influence of our name?

    • When the fire broke out next door to our church building in Lake Jackson on Acacia street we knew we had to do something to show we cared. So we raised funds. And since these folks were next door, and since these folks were our next door neighbors we felt some urgency to be the first church to act – for their sake of course and because we wanted people to know we genuinely cared – and we did! There’s fewer churches more benevolent and compassionate than Lake Jackson Church of Christ.
    • Later in that day, my Presbyterian colleague from down the road on “church row,” Alan, came by to ask what we were doing to help the victims of the fire. He asked if we might combine our efforts. Well, we’d already put our plans in effect, and I admit I was concerned that Alan might suggest we pool our efforts and in my mind that would just complicate things. I had it clearly figured out that I would take the check of our collected funds and present the family a gift on behalf of the good folks of the Lake Jackson Church of Christ.
    • Alan clarified wasn’t concerned with how the gifts were collected or given, he simply said "Whatever we give we must give it in the name of Christ." I had never thought about that ever! Alan was only concerned about acting in the name of the Risen Lord. His vision was larger than mine. (I shared this insight with the elders of LJCC and they wondered why I would proceed any other way).
    • That experience taught me about true authority and the source of real power. It’s not the amount of the check, but the name attached to it – and I don’t mean the account holder but the name of the one in whom a gift is given!

Enable Your Servants to Speak your Word with Great Boldness

  1. Peter and John aren’t on trial because they dropped money in the crippled beggar’s plate. They aren’t even on trial because they healed – they are on trial because they claimed that the power on display is from Jesus. They named names – and the name behind the power is Jesus. And that threatened the leaders because it meant the leaders were wrong about Jesus – and that invalidates their teaching and authority.
  2. Peter and John weren’t trying to discredit Annas, Caiaphas, Alexander and the other elites. They were just telling the story the way they remembered it. They were just telling the truth. Jesus is doing great things and Peter and John are there to talk about it – to name it!
  3. The name we sign to our efforts makes all the difference …
    • When Alan charged me to give in the name of Christ it opened up new possibilities: I was no longer just the official representative or errand boy of a "good deeds institution." Suddenly I had become a spokesman for the Kingdom of Jesus.
    • The gift in my hand was more than the limit of LJCC’s generosity and capacity to give. It was a gift invested with spiritual authority of Jesus and therefore the possibilities remained endless for the name of the living Christ now backed that check (not just LJCC or FNB)

12 "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name given under heaven by which we must be saved."
19 But Peter and John replied, "Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! 20 As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard."

By Whose Authority do we speak and Act?

  • Consider that question very concretely with all our ministries and even our management efforts: By whose authority do we distribute clothes on Community Outreach Day? By whose authority do we give out food under the bridge or in the office? By whose authority does CURE store up resources to be utilized compassionately? By whose authority do sing and worship at the Way? By whose authority do we teach our children at VBS? By whose authority do send missionaries to other nations? By whose authority do we seek out and hire a minister to lead our mission to the campus of UAFS? By whose authority do we administer a budget? By whose authority do we spend funds and cut checks for everything from curriculum, communion bread, and computer disks? By whose authority do we speak prayers for the healing and comfort of others? By whose authority do we baptize men and women who call on the name of Jesus of Christ?
  • If the answer to any of these is the West-Ark Church of Christ – then we are at best limited to our own ability and understanding.
  • If the answer to any of these is the elders of the church – then we are at best limited to what six honorable and prayerful men can do.
  • If the answer to any of these is the ministers of the church – then we are at best limited to what seven learned and responsible men can do.
  • If the answer to any of these is the name of any of the faithful servants who lead and serve our various ministries then we are limited at best by the extent of their abilities and passions.
  • But if the answer is "by the authority of Jesus Christ" then we are limited to the saving power and authority of the one who conquered death and who reigns at the right hand of God Almighty!

This is why we acknowledge that our Guyana Medical Mission Team goes in Christ’s name just as we are all under the authority of Christ … Blessing the Guyana Team [… elder prays]

[Link to Guyana Medical Missions of West-Ark.]

Read Acts 4:23-31 – Praying for Courage to Trust in Jesus

Who do we listen to? Whoever gets the last word with us is the source of our authority and the limit of our power
Who do we listen to? Whoever gets the last word with us is the one whose judgment we fear

  • Peter has been with Jesus and he recognizes an authority greater than the Sanhedrin and a power greater than his fear.
  • Peter and the church pray for boldness and Pentecost happens again! The spirit is poured out and shakes the church.

Can we as a church pray for such courage and boldness? How can we not?
Isn’t the alternative to pray for calmness rather than courage and to pray for timidity rather than temerity?

Coming to Christ, part 5, “The Conversion Experience”

Posted by on May 16, 2004 under Sermons

In 1971 the country Joyce and I lived in closed down all religious activities of the Church of Christ and ordered all congregations not to meet. About 1960 the United Nations ended colonialism in Africa by dividing former African colonies into nations.

In most nations in Africa and in many nations in Europe, a church has to have permission to exist and work in that nation. If a religious movement is not registered with the government, it is illegal. It commonly is treated as an illegal organization.

When the missionaries were ordered by the government to cease all activities and the congregations were told they could not meet, several crises were immediately created. I want to share just one of them with you.

At that time, communication with this country was slow. Our fastest and most reliable method was to use aerograms (an air mail letter). It took those letters three weeks to travel one way. Thus a prompt response would take at least six weeks.

This crisis I share with you is a crisis among the missionary families. Each family notified its sponsoring congregation of the situation. The responses were varied and interesting. My sharing this is not a condemnation–Joyce and I had a wonderful overseeing congregation. Their response to us was, “Stay as long as possible and work with the government. The future of the church for generations yet to come hangs in the balance.”

But not all congregations responded to their families in such an encouraging manner. One said to its family, “We are not supporting you there to work with the government. If you cannot preach, either come home or go to a nation that will allow you to preach.” Another said to its family, “If you cannot be out baptizing people, you do not need to be there.”

The clear message communicated to some families was this: “No baptism reports, no support.”

The question I want you to consider this evening is this: “Is there more to biblical conversion to Christ than baptism?”

  1. Hopefully, before anyone begins to make assumptions about me, may I affirm as clearly as I know how that I believe everything scripture says and affirms about burial by water into Christ.
    1. Why? For two reasons.
      1. The first is that it is the clear teaching of scripture.
      2. The second is that it is by entering a covenant relationship with God on the basis of what God did and does in Jesus Christ.
    2. Do I conclude that baptism is the only thing important in conversion to Christ? No.
      1. The clear teaching of scripture is that baptism is not the only important thing.
      2. Much more is involved in conversion to Christ than the physical act of baptism.

  2. I want to share with you numerous readings from New Testament scripture in three categories: faith, repentance, and baptism. I particularly want scripture to connect each of these categories with salvation.
    1. First, I call your attention to some scriptures that talk about “faith” in regard to the concept of “salvation.”
      1. [At the conclusion of Jesus’ discussion with Nicodemus] John 3:16-18 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
      2. [A statement from John the Baptist about the significance of Jesus] John 3:36 “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
      3. [A statement from Jesus to his opponents] John 5:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.
      4. [A statement from Jesus] John 6:40 For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.
      5. [A statement Jesus made prior to Lazarus’ resurrection] John 11:25,26 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”
      6. [A statement from Paul to the Philippian jailer] Acts 16:28-31 But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!” And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
      7. [A statement from Paul to Christians in Rome] Romans 3:21-23 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God …
      8. [A statement from Paul to Christians in Rome] Romans 10:9-11 … if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.”
      9. Does scripture establish a clear link between faith in God’s work in Jesus [or confidence in God’s work in Jesus] and salvation? Yes.
    2. Second, I call your attention to scriptures that talk about “repentance” in regard to the concept of “salvation.”
      1. [A statement from Mark about the work of John the Baptist] Mark 1:4 John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
      2. [A statement from Luke concerning the preaching of John the Baptist] Luke 3:3 And he came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
      3. [A statement from Jesus on the power and importance of repentance] Matthew 11:20-24 Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day. Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.”
      4. [A statement from Jesus on the importance of repentance] Luke 13:1-5 Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
      5. [A statement from the resurrected Jesus to his apostles] Luke 24:46,47 He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”
      6. [A statement from Peter to Jews assembled at the temple on the necessity of repentance] Acts 3:18-20 But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you.
      7. [A comment by Jewish Christians concerning the first conversion of gentiles] Acts 11:18 When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, “Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.”
      8. [A statement from Paul to an assembly of Gentiles [who are not Christians] in Athens on the necessity of repentance] Acts 17:30,31 “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”
      9. [A statement from Paul to the elders from Ephesus] Acts 20:18-21 And when they had come to him, he said to them, “You yourselves know, from the first day that I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which came upon me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
      10. [A statement from Paul to King Agrippa] Acts 26:19,20 So, King Agrippa, I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision, but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance.
      11. [A statement from Paul to Timothy] 2 Timothy 2:24-26 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
      12. [A statement from Peter] 2 Peter 3:8,9 But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
      13. Does scripture declare a clear link between the human decision to repent and God granting salvation in Christ? Yes.
    3. Third I call your attention to scriptures that connect baptism and salvation.
      1. [A statement from Peter to a Jewish audience] Acts 2:38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
      2. [A statement from Christian Ananias to the yet to be Christian Paul] Acts 22:14-16 And he [Ananias] said, “The God of our fathers has appointed you [Paul] to know His will and to see the Righteous One and to hear an utterance from His mouth. For you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard. Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.”
      3. [A statement from Paul to Christians in Rome] Romans 6:1-11 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
      4. [A statement from Paul to the Christians at Corinth] 1 Corinthians 12:12,13 For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
      5. [A statement from Paul to the Christians in Galatia] Galatians 3:26,27 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
      6. [A statement from Paul to Christians at Colossae] Colossians 2:9-12 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.
      7. [A statement from Peter] 1 Peter 3:21,22 Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you–not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience–through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.

  3. Allow me to call something to your attention.
    1. Often our approach to conversion has been (is) definitely American.
      1. The restoration movement which resulted in the Church of Christ, the Christian Church, and The Disciples of Christ is an American movement. [That is not a criticism, just an observation.]
      2. We Americans have our own thought pattern, our own thought process, our own view.
        1. If you need a reminder of that, it is obvious that most of us do not think as the Iraqi people think, and the Iraqi people do not think as Americans think.
        2. It does not take many attempts to interact with other nationalities to realize that this is true with others, also including Europeans and Chinese.
      3. Commonly our American approach is to analyze everything and try to break it down into components.
        1. Then we consider which components are essential and which are incidental.
        2. Then we stress what we conclude is essential and assume that others already accept and know what we classify as incidental.
    2. Christianity did not begin in America and did not follow the American thought process.
      1. Jesus was born, lived, and died as an Israelite in Palestine.
      2. Jesus preached almost exclusively to Jewish audiences.
      3. The New Testament writers wrote to first century people living in first century societies.
    3. Salvation is presented to the people of the first century as a whole, as a unit, not as parts.
      1. It was not a matter of “steps”–which is an American emphasis.
      2. It is a matter of faith in the atonement of Jesus’ death and God’s power in Jesus’ resurrection.
        1. That faith is so real and so deep that it produces a redirection of life.
        2. That faith is so deep and real it enters a covenant with God by reenacting Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection as the person, by knowing choice, dies to sin and is resurrected by God into Christ.
        3. If I am to receive forgiveness of sins from God:
          1. Must I have faith in what God did in Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection? Yes!
          2. Must I redirect my life away from evil behavior and attitudes toward God? Yes!
          3. Must I be baptized in order to enter a covenant relationship with God? Yes!
          4. As steps? No! As a whole person response to a new relationship with God in which I permit God to rule me!
      3. Faith says, “I genuinely trust what God did in Jesus’ death and resurrection!”
      4. Repentance is an expression of that faith: “I trust what God did so much that I redirect my entire existence!”
      5. Baptism is an expression of that faith: “I trust what God did in Jesus so much that I personally make a covenant with God to be ruled by Him and Him alone!”
    4. Conversion is a whole person response that declares a person’s faith in God.

Do we really need to understand conversion? Absolutely! One of the reasons we have so many baptized people willingly living evil lives is this: we do not understand conversion. The result of conversion is the genuine desire to have “my” life ruled by God. That is “my” choice–not my necessity!

The question of conversion to Christ is not resolved merely by asking the question, “Has he been baptized?” That is far too little! The question of conversion can be nothing less than, “Is he/she ruled by God?”

Serving Christ’s World

Posted by on under Sermons


Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church–about three thousand in all. 42They joined with the other believers and devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, sharing in the Lord’s Supper and in prayer. 43A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. 44And all the believers met together constantly and shared everything they had. 45They sold their possessions and shared the proceeds with those in need. 46They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity– 47all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved. (Acts 2:41-47)

What a fellowship …
Leaving the cozy, blessed confines of the fellowship of believers must have been intimidating. With over 3000, the people of God – the community of Christ – had a virtual city. Peter and John can remember how they began as 120 huddled together in prayer and waiting. And now the spirit has been poured out – their dreams and visions are made reality. This group of thousands is devoted to the highest of standards (the apostles teaching), they fellowship and observe the Lord’s Supper, they come together in prayer and worship because they recognize Jesus in their midst. And their relationships to one another and to possessions has changed – no one is lacking for anything he or she needs because this community shares. They are living out the spirit of Jesus.

Then something happened on the way to church …
1Peter and John went to the Temple one afternoon to take part in the three o’clock prayer service. 2As they approached the Temple, a man lame from birth was being carried in. Each day he was put beside the Temple gate, the one called the Beautiful Gate, so he could beg from the people going into the Temple. 3When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for some money. (Acts 3:1-3)

But this new community of faith lives on the edge of the world somewhere between here and the heavenly kingdom to come. As Peter and John are off to worship, they encounter the brokenness and misfortune in the world when they meet a man crippled from birth at the gate of the temple. He is completely dependent on others – not only for money but also for transportation. He has no wheelchair and there are no access ramps to the Temple. The man is carried to the main entrance so he can seek help from the pious folk on their way to worship. As people head to worship are they filled with compassion or are they annoyed by this intrusion into their spiritual experience? In Peter and John’s world this man is not simply disabled – he would be considered misfortunate. His disease is not merely a physical ailment, but the result of divine judgment (keep in mind this is their view of their world and Jesus teaches us otherwise in the case of the man blind since birth) – but just consider what that means for this man crippled from birth: he is not only disabled, he is something of an outcast. No one in his world – including himself – would see him as "challenged" or "handicapped" in his world he would be consider "poor" which was not just an economic condition – but a condition of fortune and fate. So even the pious who plink coins in the man’s plate may be silently praying as they pass by "Thank you God that I am not like this poor misfortunate."

From Jerusalem to Winslow …
The church building where I worshipped as a young man in Winslow sits on Highway 71. Before I-540 opened it was common to come to church and find the misfortunates of our day and age waiting for us as we made our way to worship. They were hardly crippled, but we sometimes did wonder what misfortune and what bad decisions had led to their current state. We would sometimes invite them to worship but they would often decline. They just needed gas money or a little bit for food. And even though we were always glad to help, we often wondered if we had done anything worthwhile at all. Even if we doubted their story (which was not always the case) we acted out of Christian responsibility, but we wondered if we had really done anything at all to help. With a quick prayer on our lips for the misfortunate and with thanks for our own blessings, we quickly ducked through the glass doors of the church house to get a taste of the kingdom to come.

Don’t we often feel ill-equipped to deal with the level of pain and suffering in this world? I admit I am overwhelmed by the depth of human sinfulness and sorrow in this world. I feel weak and inadequate. I can barely manage my own sinfulness and I am struggling with my own brokenness and the consequences of my sins. How am I to take on the burden of others?

Needy people can be quite insistent and they seem to have hard time helping you to help them. Out of self-protection from the depth of human suffering, it stands to reason that we try to build a fence – a barrier or buffer – between the church we worship in and the world we live in. We try to keep ourselves in here and we try to keep the pain and trouble out there.

Back at Winslow when we would call an impromptu "men’s business meeting" to discuss the request of a misfortunate traveler asking for a "loan that he would pay back when he started his new job," we were torn between helping the needy and "being good stewards of the Lord’s money." (That’s where I recall first hearing that statement.)
It was an awesome responsibility to find yourself a steward of God’s money. Our men’s business meetings were quite Rabbinical because we would debate both sides of the issue – "What if these folks are angels sent to test our generosity?" "We can’t throw our pearls before swine – if we give them cash they’ll spend it on booze and cigarettes." It was difficult, because we knew that there was no end to human need and if we cashed out all the "Lord’s money" and handed out $20 bills to every needy person it still wouldn’t be enough. Our little conferences were prayerful moments of discernment, but they were also a plank in our fence set up to manage the boundary between the church we worshipped in and the world we lived in …

Without the fence, the burden of need would overwhelm us. In Winslow, we knew we just weren’t able to serve at that level. And don’t we feel that here? Although West-Ark is ten times as large as the Winslow congregation of my youth, do you really think we can serve all of Fort Smith, much less Western Arkansas with the depth of brokenness and suffering out there? And this says nothing of the world at large! It seems impossible and overwhelming. None of us – not even all of us together – are adequate to the need!

But hold on. Our diagnosis of our weakness and inadequacy may be correct. (Even Peter and John admit that their pockets are empty), but maybe we need a different perspective on what it means to be the church of Christ. The question "How are we supposed to carry the burden" isn’t the best question to ask. It focuses on our limited resources and abilities. It concentrates on the "Lord’s money" but overlooks the Lord:

Thomas Aquinas once visited Pope Innocent II and the Pope showed Thomas the abundance of funds in the church treasury, the works of art, the extravagant decorations and ornaments in the chapel.
“You see, Thomas,” said the Pope, “the church can no longer say, ?Silver and gold have I none.’
“True,” Thomas replied, “but neither can she now say, ?Rise and walk.’

Haven’t we traded in the presence of Christ and the power of the Spirit for "silver and gold?" If we let silver and gold represent our own ability to solve problems and our own resources and our stewardship of the Lord’s gifts then I think you’ll see what I mean.

Why don’t we defer the need to Jesus? Why don’t we concede to his authority and power? Maybe because we ignore his presence?

We ought to thank God for our weakness and inadequacy to serve a world he loves. For if we are confronted with our weakness, then we might actually GIVE the world what it REALLY needs.

Peter and John, steward’s of the Lord’s might …

4Peter and John looked at him intently, and Peter said, “Look at us!” 5The lame man looked at them eagerly, expecting a gift. 6But Peter said, “I don’t have any money for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk!” 7Then Peter took the lame man by the right hand and helped him up. And as he did, the man’s feet and anklebones were healed and strengthened. 8He jumped up, stood on his feet, and began to walk! Then, walking, leaping, and praising God, he went into the Temple with them. 9All the people saw him walking and heard him praising God. 10When they realized he was the lame beggar they had seen so often at the Beautiful Gate, they were absolutely astounded! 11They all rushed out to Solomon’s Colonnade, where he was holding tightly to Peter and John. Everyone stood there in awe of the wonderful thing that had happened. (Acts 3:4-11)

  • Notice that Peter and John freely admit their limitations and weakness – We don’t have any silver and gold.
  • Notice that Peter and John don’t have any discussion about being stewards of the Lord’s money … in fact they realize that they are stewards of something much greater. Peter and John do not hoard the spirit of Jesus rather they give it away. (The spirit of Jesus – that power – is not a commodity that we can hoard or keep to ourselves.)

They freely take the name of Jesus with them from the church they worship in to the world they live in …

The name of Jesus has healed this man–and you know how lame he was before. Faith in Jesus’ name has caused this healing before your very eyes. (Acts 3:16)

  • Because this is who they are not just what they do. What they do flows from who they are. They are servants to the world in the name of Jesus – not their own name.
  • Peter’s speech – Why are you surprised? We didn’t do this – the living Jesus did!
  • You will notice that there are great similarities between the miracle which we find in our text and the miracles performed by Jesus (Matthew 21) and by Paul (Acts 14). That is because, as I understand it, the Lord Jesus was at work in each case, fulfilling the Messianic promise of healing(s) of the lame, as found in Isaiah 35. Thus, when John the Baptist wavered in his faith as to whether or not Jesus was the Messiah, He pointed to the healing of the lame (for one thing) as evidence to the fact that He was the Messiah (Matthew 11). – Robert Deffinbaugh at the Biblical Studies Foundation. See
  • Healing this man is not charity. It is not good works. They are witnesses to the presence and power of Jesus.

They freely take the name of Jesus with them from the church they worship in to the world they live in …

  • Because Jesus is not confined to the kingdom and absent in the world. God made the risen Christ Lord over all creation – over the church, the kingdom and the world. Now the world may not always act as if it is under Christ’s rule – but you’d better believe it is! There is no domain or territory outside the reach of his rule.
  • So Peter and John aren’t concerned about confining the presence of Christ and the power of the Spirit to the church they worship in and keeping it out of the world they live in. Because they know that Christ is alive and he goes where he wills.
  • That’s the gospel message Peter preaches to the wonderstruck crowd. And the power of the gospel brings healing and restoration.

Serving Christ’s World: What is our experience of the gospel?

Because he is present among us and active among us then . . .

  • … we don’t have to worry about not having enough silver and gold, or enough bread, or the right kind of credentials – our inadequacies are not the end of service …
  • … we don’t have to maintain a fence between the church and the world. It is not our calling to keep the realms separate but to let the kingdom of God pour into this world like a flood.

And when we try to separate the brokenness of the world from the presence of Christ we not only do a disservice to others, but also to ourselves:

  • How often do we speak of "leaving our cares and burdens outside so that we can focus on Jesus?" You can try to leave them out there, but when we go back outside those cares and burdens jump on us like hungry ticks in a field of high grass!
    • Some of us are struggling with burdens we will never share here because we are conditioned to think that it doesn’t belong here – Jesus never said you had to that.
    • Some of us dread the burdens (maybe those of others) that we leave out there. I imagine that many of you dread tomorrow because you have to face problems, pressures, and pain that you try to lay aside for just a while when you gather hereJesus says "Take me with you."
  • Why would we think that the risen Lord who heals a man crippled from birth and who restores the fortunes of the needy and who gives his spirit freely to those who call on his name. Why do we think he is honored by keeping our burdens hidden from his presence? Why do we think we have to keep the needy people from taking up his precious time?

The good news is not just physical healing. It is that the presence of Jesus among us (in his name) allows for new possibilities that are unknown to the world. The community of the resurrected Messiah lives in the presence of the one who conquered death. So, sickness and disease, pain and suffering will not get the final word either. The good news is about the restoration of truthful, human community – we can serve one another as Jesus did. He is described as a servant – and so are we.

When we serve a broken world full of pain and suffering in the name of Jesus we are doing more than just good works. We serve the world that Christ created and the world he loves. We serve the world for which he died. So our service is a sharing of the presence and power of the risen Christ. It is IN HIS NAME. And salvation and restoration follows.

May God give us his spirit and may we never hoard it or manage it, but give it away freely – like Peter and John.

In a world torn by hatred and suffering
Can a confident peace be found?
And if God, by sheer grace, should provide it,
Shall we hoard it or let it abound?

Where the need is so great, shall love falter?
God alone has enough for the task.
Let us open our hearts for His answer
To all we imagine or ask.

Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done
Here on the earth as it is above.
May we spread your Word with a heart of love.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.

Not a kingdom of might, nor of power,
But the rulership over each soul
Of the One, who by right as our Maker,
Gave His blood to make broken things whole

Let us pour out our lives in His service
The persuasion of love unfeigned
As we bear to the lost news of healing
Every wound in His glorious name.

Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done
Here on the earth as it is above.
May we spread your Word with a heart of love.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.

Nations shall rise, nations shall fall.
Thy kingdom come unto them all.
Whether we wax or whether we wane,
May our allegiance be first to Your name.

Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done
Here on the earth as it is above.
May we spread your Word with a heart of love.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.

Song by J. A. C. Redford

No Stainless Steel in God’s Kingdom!

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

2 Corinthians 4:7-11 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

One of the few things Joyce wanted when we returned to the USA was a stainless steel kitchen sink. I remember when mixing bowls were tempered glass or plastic. For years they have been stainless steel. This year I note another change. In the past, portable cooking grills were made of painted steel. This year I see lots of stainless steel portable grills. If stainless steel can do it, that seems to be the way to go!

While we humans are “into” stainless steel, God is not. When He sent His son to this world, Jesus did not come as “the stainless steel man,” but as a servant. When Jesus chose 12 disciples, he did not select “stainless steel men.” A common complaint against the 12: they were ordinary people. Paul did not consider himself a “stainless steel” Christian. Nor did he look at those whom God ruled and used as “stainless steel” Christians. Paul saw Christians, from leadership down, as clay pots.

While clay pots have many good uses, there are many uses clay pots, of themselves, cannot serve. [In Paul’s analogy, numerous metals were available–bonze, silver, gold.] Clay pots are fragile. They break too easily when encountering destructive forces. They don’t bend! They break!

Clay vessels were much too common. Poor people drank from clay cups! Poor people ate from clay bowls! To impress people, you did not “set the table with the good clay”–you brought out the metal vessels. What a mess and embarrassment if a clay vessel broke while being used by a guest! Clay was for the kitchen, not for the table!

We have produced a false image in the thinking of American Christians. Too often we see ourselves as the “stainless steel” Christians in a “clay world.” We have impeccable congregations with impeccable preachers, impeccable elders, impeccable deacons, impeccable teachers, and impeccable members. We groan and moan when we look at all the clay in society all around us. Yet, we are stainless steel! We are strong–we may bend but we will not break! We stand shiny and bright as we reflect ourselves–beware that our glare does not blind you! We are superior–just look at our accomplishments and origin!

Clay looks at us and says, “We can never be stainless steel.” We look at clay and say, “If you are not stainless steel, we cannot relate to you.”

Are Christians strong? Yes. Do they shine? Yes. Are they superior? No. They know they are clay. All good or strong in them is from God; the God who can live through Jesus in any clay pot.

Coming to Christ, part 4, “The News”

Posted by on May 9, 2004 under Sermons

Do you frequently read the “newspaper”? Do you regularly read a “news” magazine? Do you frequently listen to the “news” on the radio? Do you frequently watch the world “news” on television?

I must confess I am pretty much a “news” nut. I examine a newspaper almost daily. Even when I am on a trip I usually find a newspaper. I do not take a news magazine, but if I happen to be in a waiting room with news magazines available, that is usually what I read. I listen to the news on my truck radio most days. If I have the choice, I watch both the local and national news on television. That happens almost daily.

Some would say, “I never watch or listen to or read the news. That is by my specific intention. I do not take a newspaper; I do not listen to news on the radio; I do not watch the news on television.”

If I asked “why,” what explanation would you give? Would you say the news is too depressing, so you choose not to listen to or read it? Would you say the news does not tell us the news, that it just tells us what “they” want us to hear, that what “they” say is biased and cannot be trusted? Would you say that most of the items reported are bad news and you do not like to focus on bad news? Would you say the news does not report what you want to hear, what you are interested in?

Let me ask you what is an interesting question to me. What do you consider to be news? For example, gossip is news. It is usually depressing news. It is usually slanted to someone else’s views or opinions. It usually is not to be trusted because it is biased and distorted. Most commonly it does not focus on anything good. Yet, it is news.

So … what is news? “News” in its simplest consideration is merely a report of recent or current events. Quite often, today’s news is next year’s history. All kinds of news exist. There is good news, there is bad news, and there is news neither good nor bad–it just happened. There is local news, there is national news, there is international news, and there is world news (Europeans often hold our news in contempt because we rarely devote more than five minutes to reporting anything happening in the rest of the world that does not involve American concerns.) There is political news, entertainment news, sports news, business news. There is news of what is happening in families, news about what is happening in your workplace, and news about things of personal special interest.

News is at the foundation of Christianity. This evening I want us to consider the importance of news to the existence of faith in Jesus as the Christ.

  1. Most, if not all of us, here this evening have known for many, many years that Christianity exists, even today, through the sharing of the gospel.
    1. The word “gospel” is a prominent word in the New Testament.
      • When the imprisoned John sent word to Jesus to inquire if Jesus was the Expected One, Jesus told John’s disciples to take this message back to John: “the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.” (Matthew 11:5,6)
      • Mark begins his writing with these words: (Mark 1:1) The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
      • Luke says of the limited commission of Jesus’ twelve disciples: (Luke 9:6) Departing, they began going throughout the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.
      • Acts 8:25 says of the work of the apostles Peter and John: So, when they had solemnly testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they started back to Jerusalem, and were preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans.
      • Acts 8:40 says of the work of Philip: But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he kept preaching the gospel to all the cities until he came to Caesarea.
      • Paul said in Romans 1:16,17: For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”
    2. What are we taking about when we talk about the gospel?
      1. We are talking about the news of God’s rule–the good news.
      2. The Greek word translated “gospel” is “euanggelion.”
      3. So the Greek word “euanggelion” equals the English word “gospel.”
      4. Most of you have long understood that “gospel” means “good news.”
      5. So “euanggelion” equal “gospel,” and “gospel” equals “good news.”
    3. May I ask this simple question: what is the news?
      1. Let me state the obvious: this news is not local news, or national news, or international news, or world news, or entertainment news, or sports news, or business news, or family news, or work news as we commonly understand those terms.
      2. “Gospel” has to do with the rule of God, and it is about “good news,” not “bad news” or “factual news neither good or bad.”
      3. Are you certain within your own understanding that you know what the news is and what the news is about?
        1. I think most of us would quickly say within ourselves, “Yes, I basically understand what this “news” is and what it is about.
        2. Then basically what is it and what is it about?
          1. If you say, “Forgiveness is the news; it is about forgiveness,” I would observe that forgiveness was not news to Israel, that God had dispensed forgiveness for centuries.
          2. If you say, “Sanctification is the news; it is about sanctification,” I would observe that sanctification was not news to Israel, that God dispensed sanctification for centuries.
          3. If you say purification, or redemption, or righteousness is the news, I would make the same observation–none of these concepts were new, none of the concepts are news.
        3. Yes, I understand that what God did in Jesus’ death and resurrection was permanent and superior in every way to the God-given system for Israel in the Old Testament.
          1. Forgiveness in Christ is different and superior to forgiveness in the Old Testament, but the concept of forgiveness was not new.
          2. Sanctification in Christ is different and superior to sanctification in the Old Testament, but the concept of sanctification was not new.
          3. The same can be said for purification, redemption, or righteousness.
          4. Considerations like permanent and continuing forgiveness, permanent and continuing sanctification, permanent and continuing purification, permanent and continuing redemption, permanent and continuing righteousness, etc. in Jesus Christ are benefits of the “good news,” but not the “good news.”
    4. Then what was the “news” that was so “good” it was to be understood in the fact that God’s rule came?
      1. Allow me to ask a question: what thing not from God’s original “very good” creation was injected into God’s “very good” creation that perverted everything God made?
      2. To answer that question, allow me to share some readings.
        • Genesis 3:1-4 Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’ ” The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die!”
        • Romans 5:10-12 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.
        • Romans 5:14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.
        • Romans 6:20-23 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
        • 1 Corinthians 15:20-22 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.
        • 1 Corinthians 15:42-45 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So also it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living soul.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
        • 1 Corinthians 15:54-58 But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.
        • 2 Timothy 1:8-10 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
        • Hebrews 2:14,15 Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.
        • 1 Corinthians 15:23-28 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death. For He has put all things in subjection under His feet. But when He says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.
      3. So what is the news?
        1. This is the news: sin produced death and death destroyed God’s rule in His creation, but now through Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection God conquered death.
        2. Because of what God did through Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection, we have the choice to be God’s new creatures once under God’s rule.
      4. What are the benefits of being under God’s rule in the awareness that God conquered death?
        1. We do not have to continue as slaves to the fear of death.
        2. We have the opportunity to be God’s new creatures under His rule.
        3. We can receive continuing forgiveness.
        4. We can receive continuing redemption.
        5. We can receive continuing purification and sanctification.
        6. We can live governed by God’s righteousness instead of evil’s rebellion.
        7. We can boldly come to God’s throne of grace expecting, anticipating help when we need it most.
        8. We can have the resurrected Jesus Christ as our continual mediator and intercessor before God.
      5. What we need to realize is this: these things are the benefits of the news, not the news.

  2. One of the massive failures we have imposed on Christianity is this: we make Christianity about us, not about God.
    1. We focus on the benefits to us, consequently we think much more about what we expect rather than about God’s place in our lives.
      1. We focus on our benefits, not on the news.
      2. Consider this chart.
      3. In the “good news” we focus on what we regard “good.”
        1. Forgiveness and the destruction of guilt and accountability for past evil.
        2. Sanctification by Christ so we can stand as pure before God.
        3. Redemption so we can be free.
        4. Being made righteous before God through Jesus Christ
        5. The right to come to God.
        6. The right for Jesus to represent us.
        7. Please remember my emphasis: these are benefits made possible because of the news; these are not the news.
    2. Now consider this chart.
      1. The benefits affirm the fact that the news is good news.
      2. God through Jesus defeated death.
      3. Because God defeated death, we can receive the benefits of God’s rule.
      4. The benefits affirm the news of God’s defeat of death resulting in God’s rule over His new creation.

“Can I be forgiven of my sins?” Yes! “Can I be redeemed?” Yes! “Can I stand before God as one who is sanctified, pure?” Yes! “Can I live in the righteousness of God?” Yes! “Can I confidently look to God for strength, guidance, and hope?” Yes! “Can I trust Jesus to represent me well to God?” Yes!


Because God has defeated death and given me opportunity to let Him rule my life! That is the good news!

Would Your Congregation Choose You?

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

Acts 11:19-24 So then those who were scattered because of the persecution that occurred in connection with Stephen made their way to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except to Jews alone. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord. The news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas off to Antioch. Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord; for he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And considerable numbers were brought to the Lord.

So much is contained in these few verses that literally a relevant book could be written about them. These verses document a major shift in sharing the resurrected Jesus Christ.

For a while Jesus’ resurrection was declared exclusively to Jews. God promised Israel a Messiah. God’s intent: the Messiah would be God’s fulfillment of His ultimate accomplishment through Israel. Israel had many expectations about the Messiah’s impact on Israel. What could be more natural than an intense discussion about Jesus’ identity among Jews? After all, they were certain the Messiah was promised to them to meet their expectations. They did not understand God’s original promise to Abraham, their ancestor: “… in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3).

For a while, Jesus’ resurrection was discussed only among Jews. Then some Jewish converts from Cyprus and Cyrene taught people in Syrian Antioch who were not Israelites. “The hand of the Lord” was with them. The result: “many who believed turned to the Lord.”

This startling news reached converted Jews in Jerusalem where the teaching about Jesus’ resurrection began. Naturally, the question was, “What is going on?” They selected a Jewish convert, Barnabas, to travel to Antioch to examine the situation. This is the same man whose name was changed from Joseph to Barnabas (son of encouragement) by the apostles, who sold some land and gave the money to the apostles to help the needy (Acts 4:36, 37), and who saw spiritual potential in Saul (Paul) the man previously violent against Jewish Christians (Acts 9:26-28).

Few Jewish Christians could visit a Gentile city and be elated about God’s work among people who were not Jews! In Antioch Barnabas continued doing what he did among Jerusalem converts: “he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord.” He was not jealous because God’s grace worked among these people! He did not feel threatened on behalf of Jewish converts! He saw God’s grace and rejoiced! Why? “He was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.”

If your congregation wondered, “What is going on?” would they send you to investigate because you are an encourager with godly attitudes, filled with faith and God’s presence?

Coming to Christ, part 3, “God’s Kingdom”

Posted by on May 2, 2004 under Sermons

The things I want you to consider this evening must begin with a clear and certain understanding.

You must understand several things about me. I love my country. One of the great gifts God gave me in life is the gift of being an American citizen. Because of situations I have experienced, I have an enormous appreciation for this nation.

With my own eyes I have seen citizens in another country endure unjust, uncalled for abuse without recourse. Their own government had no regard for its citizens. I have talked with people face to face who literally cannot imagine our freedoms or our wealth.

Around 1990 Joyce and I visited Poland to assist with some follow-up teaching in their “Lets’ Start Talking” outreach. At that time Poland had reached independence for a few months. The major population area we were in was a very bleak place–no color, no advertising, very few things available–not even tooth brushes and toothpaste!.

We returned to Poland about two years later for the same reason. The transformation was incredible! Color was everywhere! Advertisement was everywhere! New building activity was quite obvious! Most things available here were available there!

While there the second time, we heard of a man who was visiting Poland from St. Petersburg, Russia. He said all of his life he dreamed of visiting America just to see the incredible things he heard about this country. As he returned to Russia, he said, “I no longer dream of going to America. I have been to Poland! It would be impossible for America to have as much as Poland has!”

U.S. flag I love our freedoms, I love our prosperity, I love our opportunities, I love and enjoy our way of life. I lived for years in a place that had very few of the things we take for granted everyday of our lives. I so deeply appreciate living in this nation that on our first trip back to the USA in 1972, when I saw the huge American flag at customs, I cried. My most emotional experience in 1972 upon our return for a leave was going to a supermarket. I had not seen that much food or variety in almost two years!

What I ask you to consider tonight has nothing to do with my not liking this nation. It has to do with understanding and loving God’s kingdom.

  1. The Bible has a lot to say about God’s rule.
    1. The New Testament often speaks of God’s rule by speaking of the kingdom of God (Matthew often uses “the kingdom of heaven” because Israelites did not use the word “God” in order to protect against using God’s holy name in vain).
      1. The kingdom of God was at the foundation of the preaching of John the Baptist.
        Matthew 3:1,2 Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
        1. The kingdom of God was at the foundation of Jesus’ preaching.
          Matthew 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
      2. May I call to your attention to something fascinating to me about John’s and Jesus’ emphasis on God’s kingdom: both of them preached to people who thought they knew everything there was to know about God’s rule, yet these people did not understand the rule of God.

  2. I want you to consider Paul’s statement in Colossians 1:13,14:
    For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

    1. Notice these things:
      1. Paul divided the whole world into two realms: “the domain of darkness” (which is ruled by Satan) and “the kingdom of His beloved Son.”
      2. Everyone was in the domain of darkness and needed deliverance.
      3. What everyone needed was to be moved from the domain of darkness and placed in the kingdom of Jesus where God rules.
        1. It is under God’s rule through Jesus that we can have redemption (be freed from the control of the domain of darkness).
        2. It is under God’s rule through Jesus that we can have the forgiveness of sins.
        3. The two cannot be separated.
        4. If we have one we have both.
        5. We cannot have redemption or the forgiveness of sins in the domain of darkness.
      4. However, we of ourselves could not change kingdoms.
        1. We could try to build a bridge across the separation of kingdoms through human goodness, but it could never bridge the gap.
        2. We could try to build a bridge across the separation of kingdoms through human achievement, but it could never bridge the gap.
        3. Thus then we of ourselves could produce no escape from the domain of darkness.
        4. If we were to escape from the domain of darkness and be placed in God’s kingdom, Someone would have to build a bridge for us–we cannot and could not build it.
      5. I want you to notice on the chart that the further away from God we are, the greater the darkness increases.
        1. Those who have no influence of God in their lives are in the black area.
        2. The more influence God has in their lives, the more into the gray they move.
        3. Yet, if people go as close to God as they can get in the domain of darkness, they are still ruled by Satan and still in Satan’s domain.
        4. Even if they want through their efforts to come closer to God, they of themselves cannot escape Satan’s rule and enter God’s rule.
        5. Why? We cannot produce our own redemption, our own forgiveness.

  3. Therefore Someone had to do something for us to benefit us that we could not do for ourselves.

    1. It was not and is not a matter of a number of things:
      1. It was not and is not a matter of desire–while desire is important, that is not enough to produce a change of kingdoms and rules.
      2. It was not and is not a matter of preference–while preference is important, that is not enough to produce a change of kingdoms and rules.
      3. It was not and is not a matter of fearing the consequences–while fearing consequences is important, that is not enough to produce a change of kingdoms and rules.
      4. We of ourselves could not cause a change of kingdoms and rules–regardless of how we act or what we do.
    2. God through Jesus’ death and resurrection did for us what we could not do for ourselves.
      1. God built the bridge that permitted us to escape the domain of darkness, to change kingdoms, and to change who rules us.
      2. God built the bridge with His grace, with His expression of love and kindness that no human deserves.
        1. He built that bridge of grace with the blood of Jesus who died for our sins.
        2. That innocent blood provided us redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
        3. Then God raised Jesus from death to prove God could resurrect us from death–that God defeated our greatest enemy, the enemy of death.
        4. We are provided opportunity to change rulers, to change kingdoms because of what God did for us in Jesus’ death and resurrection.
    3. Our objective is not to get across the bridge and sit down.
      1. The object is to cross the bridge and continue our journey toward God.
      2. We do not wish merely to be in God’s kingdom, under God’s control.
      3. Our entire lives we want to continue to move closer and closer to God.
      4. We change kingdoms because we want God to rule us–we will be ruled; we merely are choosing who our ruler will be.
      5. We do not change kingdoms to continue Satan’s rule in our lives.
      6. This is not the objective: to change kingdoms but remain under the same ruler. (That is not even an option for us! Romans 6:16)
      7. The reason we enter God’s kingdom is because we want God to rule us.

  4. God’s kingdom exists to allow anyone who wants to be ruled by God to be in and a part of God’s kingdom.
    1. That kingdom will ultimately experience a heavenly reality in which all who have been ruled by God on earth live in His presence after the judgment, and all who reject God’s rule on earth are destroyed after the judgment.
      1. The purpose of God’s kingdom is to rule those who choose God through Christ until they are permitted to exist in God’s presence.
      2. We want and encourage people to leave the domain of darkness and enter the kingdom of God.
      3. We want and encourage people to have the kind of faith in Christ that results in God ruling their lives.
      4. We understand our journey in God’s kingdom will reach its destination when we live in the presence of God.
      5. We will be faithful to God, submit willingly to His rule in our lives now, so we can live in His presence after the judgment.
    2. This is not the purpose of God’s kingdom: to impose God’s control and rule in the domain of darkness over people who have no faith in God, no faith in what God did for us in Jesus’ blood and resurrection.
      1. The objective of God’s kingdom never has been to control godless people through force; to make those in the domain of darkness surrender to a God they reject by giving Him some form of faithless obedience.
      2. We seek to call to God and influence for God through the examples of our lives as we surrender ourselves to God’s rule.
      3. We do not seek to conquer the godless domain of darkness through law, but through faith in Jesus Christ and God.
    3. I am very afraid that we are concluding three things as Christians.
      1. I am afraid we are concluding that God’s objectives are primarily accomplished through laws that favor Christianity instead of faith in God.
      2. I am afraid we are concluding that God’ kingdom can exist only if laws that favor Christianity exist.
      3. I am afraid we redefine the objective of God’s kingdom as controlling society instead of calling individuals to God’s rule through faith in Jesus Christ.
      4. The more we accept any of those three things, the weaker Christians become spirituality.

  5. Let me use the social, moral problem of domestic violence as an example.
    1. Domestic violence is an enormous moral problem in our society, and it is growing rapidly.
      1. At this moment, 28% of everyone living in this society is a victim of domestic violence–that is more than one of every four people living in America!
      2. There are so many instances of domestic violence in this nation that on average an act of domestic violence occurs every 9 seconds.
      3. Domestic violence occurs in every economic level and in every social level in our society–in economically well to do families who live in $250,000 homes and in extremely poor families who own almost nothing.
      4. Children who grow up in homes witnessing domestic violence are 1000 times (that is correct!) more likely to be abused as adults.
      5. Women who flee domestic violence are 75% more likely to be murdered.
      6. Over 50% of the men who abuse their wives also abuse their children.
      7. Domestic violence is the leading cause of physical injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44 in this country.
        1. It is the # 1 cause of physical suffering for women–more women suffer injury through domestic violence than through car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined!
        2. 30% of all female murders are the result of a violent act of a husband or boyfriend–that has been at around 3,000 murders annually since 1990.
        3. To me the chilling realization is this: the greater majority of perpetrators of abuse were the victims of abuse as children!
    2. We have a huge moral problem in this society right now–what are we going to do to solve it?
      1. Someone says, “We simply must pass some laws that make this a crime.”
        1. Excuse me!
        2. Do we have laws against murdering someone? Is not murder a crime?
        3. Do we have laws against beating and physically injuring an adult? Is such activity not a crime?
        4. Do we have laws against abusing children? Is not such abuse a crime?
        5. Have these laws solved these problems?
      2. The problem is not centered in a lack of laws–the problem is centered in ungodly, immoral behavior.

So you ask me, “What are you saying, David? Can we not be concerned about laws, about the direction of society, about confronting evil in society?” Surely everyone of us can be! In our nation we have every right to express our concerns and views.

I am saying two things: (1) the objective of God’s rule is expressed through faith in Jesus Christ which changes us morally. The objective of God’s rule is not controlling those who have no faith in God. (2) Passing laws will never be a substitute for godly living. Our basic concern is demonstrating God’s rule to society through the way we live our lives. There are no short cuts to the influence of godly existence produced by letting God rule our lives.

Let me give you something to consider. It is my understanding that the fastest growth ever experienced by the kingdom of God occurred in the first century. That occurred at a time when (1) Christianity was an illegal religion in a world of idolatry and (2) societies more brutal and immoral than most this society is today.

The single greatest problem Christians have in influencing society today is found in the fact we do not let God rule our lives!

Let people see the difference belonging to God makes in your life!

Proclaiming Christ’s Reign

Posted by on under Sermons


Intro to Acts 2

  • The church is waiting and praying. Now the gift of empowerment that Jesuspromised is delivered. It is noticed by the crowd
  • The spirit enables them to speak out boldly and proclaim
  • But even more – The crowd is enabled to hear in their own languages. It is not thatthe apostles preach it in various languages. People from every nation. Each onehears in own dialect
  • In their own language they hear the Greatness of God. They were amazed. Speaking to each other about this: What does this mean? Some critics say -They’re drunk!

Acts 2:14 – 36 (Peter’s Sermon – Let’s give attention to this first proclamationof the church)

God gives the church its voice and message through Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Weare heralds of the kingdom rule of God emerging into the world. Peter’s sermon canshow us the basics of our continuing message and proclamation …

Borrowing statements from the letters of Paul and Peter, let us consider how wecontinue to proclaim Christ’s kingdom in the same way Peter did on Pentecost …

  1. We Believe Therefore We Speak
    But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance withscripture–“I believed, and so I spoke”–we also believe, and so we speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also withJesus, and will bring us with you into his presence. – 2 Corinthians 4:13-14

    • When the apostles spoke, they spoke as witnesses. They were doing more thansimply articulating their personal convictions. They were doing more thanproposing a philosophy or theory. They spoke out of their experience of God’samazing deeds.
      • In 2 Peter 1:16, Peter grounds his message in the fact that he and the otherapostles were eyewitnesses of Christ’s majesty and that conforms to themessage of the prophets.
      • In I John, John says that he and the other apostles declare “what was fromthe beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, whatwe have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life.
      • Paul’s ministry and message are rooted in his experience on the road toDamascus where he encountered the Risen Christ.
      • These may be slightly different personal experiences, but they have onething in common – Christ, the crucified one, is risen from the dead andexalted as Lord. That reality is transforming. It’s implications are striking.
    • Usually when we experience something we try and fit that experience into one ofwell-known categories. But the experience of Jesus, the risen Lord, rearranges ourcategories. (Consider how radically Paul’s life is changed).
    • Consider what this means for us: Our proclamation of the gospel is more than justa debate with others about our personal beliefs versus theirs. (Remember thatPeter doesn’t spend much time refuting the critics who claim he is drunk). Ratherour proclamation is of something new.
      • The definition of news – We report, you decide. We can speak of the newsof God. We witness his actions, we report his work.
    • Is this objective or subjective? It is both. Certainly God has made Christ Lord -regardless of how you or I respond to that. This is objective. (Note: that Peter doesnot invite the crowd to make Jesus Lord of their Life but he affirms that God hasmade Christ Lord regardless of their response or invitation). Nevertheless, thereis a place for us to speak of our subjective experience of Christ’s lordship. How hasit changed me? How do I see the world differently? The apostles do this. This hasits place because we experience this news about God as something wonderfullygood!

  2. We declare the praises of him who called us out of darkness into hismarvelous light.

    But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people,in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out ofdarkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you areGod’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.- 1 Peter 2:9-10

    • When the apostles claim that salvation is found in no other name than Jesus, theyare not being crude and intolerant. Their primary agenda is not to condemn otherviews. Rather, they first proclaim what is unique and exceptional about the gospel. They are speaking from experience of the mercy and goodness of what God hasdone. (Recall that Peter betrayed Christ and was restored. Recall that Paul wasa persecutor yet he was spared and received by others with forgiveness). Theysimply state that God has done something unique to overcome the powers of sinand evil. So, this is the only real hope. There just isn’t an alternative.
    • When Oprah Winfrey (among others) says that there are many paths to God, itassumes that God is out there waiting to be found by us. And even if we disagreewith many paths we sometimes operate under the assumption that God needs tobe found by us. But the reason why the apostolic news is so good is that God is nothiding while we seek him – he has arrived and revealed his grace in Jesus Christ. That’s why the Hebrew writer says these are such incredible days because Longago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but inthese last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things,through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and theexact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word.When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of theMajesty on high … – Hebrews 1:1-4

    • Consider what this means for us: When we proclaim the uniqueness of God’skingdom rule it is not from arrogance (as though we found the path to God) but fromhumility – God has found all of us. Paul seems to express this humility when hesays to the Galatians (4:8-9) Formerly, when you did not know God, you wereenslaved to beings that by nature are not gods. Now, however, that you havecome to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back againto the weak and beggarly elemental spirits?
    • Our proclamation is not arrogant – it cannot be – for it isn’t about us, rather it isabout God. Although the news we proclaim is about the great things that areexclusive to God and that goodness is exceptional with God, we never have theright to claim this is exclusive among us! For God extends his grace to all who hearand respond in trust. The story of the book of Acts describes how Israel discoversthat God’s mercy and love includes the Gentiles. God has empowered us to sendout the invitation, but he hasn’t authorized us to make the guest list!

  3. Speaking the Truth in Love

    But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is thehead, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by everyligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes thebody’s growth in building itself up in love. – Ephesians 4:15-16

    • Words have creative power. God spoke the world into being with words. Adam hadauthority to name creatures. Apostles are empowered to speak and the result ofthat empowerment is not just an argument to consider or a sermon to compliment,it is a new reality – this is Kingdom breaking in.
    • The result of Peter’s Spirit-Powered Sermon is new creation. Not only are languagebarriers overcome (reversal of Babel) but also social and political ones Lukedescribes the church as a new community quite different from anything we know -Acts 2:41-47
    • A witness to the power of words is marriage: “By the authority invested in me Ipronounce you man and wife” – that’s more than just flowery speech. That iswitness and proclamation of a new reality: two are now one! This is why discussionabout the meaning and definition of marriage are not primarily political issues theyare first Kingdom of God issues. May the law of the land conform to God’sproclamation (so I pray) but if not we still know who has the only final authority tocreate with words and speech.

This calls on us to do more that just speak out against what is not (wrong) it callson us to proclaim what is true and good. If we cannot do that, then we must remainsilent for we will not be proclaiming Christ’s Kingdom – no, we will just be griping. Unfortunately, there’s been too much griping passed off as “biblical preaching.” What’s the difference?

When Peter called the crowd to realize that they had crucified God’s Messiah itwould have been griping if his only goal was to make them feel bad or to prove howterrible they were. (And wouldn’t that have been hypocritical on Peter’s part – afterall where was he when Jesus was on trial?) Griping offers no hope. But to thepeople who were suddenly feeling hopeless and lost because they had crucifiedtheir rescuer and promised King Peter speaks for God when he says – “Repent, andbe baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may beforgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you,for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our Godcalls to him.” (Acts 2:38)

Helping Others Find the “Hope of Glory”

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. (Colossians 1:25-28)

Last Sunday was exceptional! Numerous people opened homes Saturday night to the Harding University Singers and returned the chorus to study and worship Sunday morning. Curtis McDonald and his crew (Bob Fisher, Jack and Glenda Lewis, Joe Parker, Maxine Yates) arrived early Sunday to prepare our fellowship meal. Though the Family Life Center was the site of a wedding reception Saturday afternoon, the “set up” crew (David Berger, Bruce Davenport, Kerry Jenkins, and helpers) had tables and chairs ready for several hundred people to eat lunch on Sunday. Numerous people brought desserts to go with our meal.

After dismissal Betty Porter fell against a pew and sustained a large cut. Many immediately came to her rescue. Dr. Larry Armstrong took her to the hospital and attended to her physical needs. In less than an hour she was home and doing well.

By 12:30 p.m. all were fed (781 were in attendance for worship). A “clean up” crew (including lots of teen help) stored the tables and chairs, then prepared the area for an afternoon birthday party.

The Harding University Singers sang at 1 p.m. to a good audience.

Sunday morning in worship Chris spoke passionately about being a community of God’s people living under the cross. [Link to sermon.] We refuse to be an unattached group who merely knows what God achieved in Jesus’ cross and resurrection. We choose to be a community who individually and collectively are formed by God’s achievements in Jesus’ cross and resurrection.

A biblical shift is occurring among us that we need to understand well. The shift: society and the world will be touched by Christ when Christians have the courage to be missional individuals. Past concepts of church growth commonly saw the congregations as super markets. Our goal was to offer better programs than everyone else. People would choose us because we offered “the best programs” to be found.

The missional emphasis: be a person whose whole life belongs to God. Help form a community who reflects God. Call people to a changed existence because of God’s accomplishments in Christ. We exist, not to challenge people to choose us, but to challenge people to choose God. We exist to encourage people continually to come closer to God. We challenge people to serve the Christ, our hope of glory.