Archive for February, 2016

Spirit Led

February 29, 2016

I remember as a young Christian being introduced to the idea that as a Christian my life would always be happy and carefree.

That was not true.  The Christian life in this world still battles with sin, the flesh and the devil.

I.  Spirit Led:  Acts 13:1-4

Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.

So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus.

Barnabas and Saul are set apart and sent out to proclaim the gospel.  They have fasted, prayed and are being led by the Spirit.  We can believe that this decision was indeed the will of God.

II.  Tribulation:  Acts 14:19-22

Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there; and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. 20 However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went into the city. And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.

21 And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.”

Even though they have been led by God and are doing the work of God, they encountered resistance.  In these verses Paul is stoned and left for dead.  Just because we are doing the will of God does not mean that we will escape problems.  Actually, as we serve the Lord we are in the midst of a spiritual battle and things will be difficult at times.  God will give us the strength that we need for the challenges that come our way.

III.  Dissension:  Acts 15:1-2

And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question.

Even in the early church there was occasional disagreement among the followers of Christ.  It was probably quite heated.  We are saved, but we are still human.  Our human nature can lead us to places that the Spirit would not wish to go.  We are far from perfect.

IV.  Decision:  Acts 15:22-29

Then it pleased the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, namely, Judas who was also named Barsabas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren.

23 They wrote this letter by them:

The apostles, the elders, and the brethren,

To the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia:

Greetings.

24 Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, “You must be circumcised and keep the law” —to whom we gave no such commandment— 25 it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who will also report the same things by word of mouth. 28 For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: 29 that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.

Farewell.

Here they have come to a decision.  Still, there would continue to be occasional controversy over various doctrinal issues.  That continues until the present day.  It does not mean that we are unsaved.  It means that we are limited by our flesh. We think that we are right.  If we knew what was wrong, most of us would change.  Our current understanding is limited.  One day we will know all the truth, but that time will have to wait until we are in heaven.  We should be patient with those with whom we have disagreements, as we all seek to understand the truth.

V.  Division:  Acts 15:36-41

 Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing.” 37 Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. 39 Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus; 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God. 41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

Here two mature believers who had worked together for years have a disagreement that leads to division.  We might be tempted to say that Barnabas was wrong, after all, Paul literally wrote most of the New Testament.  However, many believe that  this Mark wrote the gospel denoted by his name.  It is often considered to be the first of the synoptic gospels and may even have served as a model for Matthew and Luke.  So here is an example of “all things working together for good”.

VI.  Walking in the Spirit:  Galatians 5:16-18*

 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

Even though we will not be perfect, we should strive to walk in the Spirit.  We should seek to recognize when our flesh is taking over, and we should ask God to help us.

The Christian life is a life that is led by the Spirit, but walked out in the flesh.  We will occasionally make mistakes, but God will not abandon us.  We should be patient with one another as we all seek to be Spirit led.

These are the sermon notes from 1/31/16.  Any advertisements that might appear are placed by WordPress.  I have no control over them, nor do I receive any money from them. 

*This is the memory verse for the week. 

The Christian Experience

February 22, 2016

I.  Repent!  Acts 3:19

 Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,

A.  Repentance involves two aspects: a turning away from sin and a turning towards God. It is not simply a cessation from sin.  It is a time of drawing closer to God.  There is the initial repentance when we are first saved, but that is not the only time that it is needed.  Repentance is needed anytime that we have strayed off the course that God has for us.  It is like a course correction.   It does not necessarily mean that we have lost our salvation, but rather that we have momentarily lost our way.  We need to get back on track.

B.  In our initial conversion, we become something new.  We are born again, a new creation.  (John 3:3, II Corinthians 5:17)

C.  At this point our sins are blotted out.  They are removed from our account even more effectively than hitting the delete button.

D.  We cannot overestimate the importance of receiving the refreshing that comes from being right with God.  God is our source of strength.  If you are feeling weary, turn to God for strength.

II.  Continue!  Acts 2:42

And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.

A.  They continued steadfastly.  Sometimes people fade, or go in spurts.  We should seek to be people that are consistent in our walk with God.

B.  Doctrine is not a bad word.  It simply means teaching.  We should continue to grow in our knowledge of the Word and the things of God.

C.  They continued in fellowship with other believers.  We are not meant to be alone.  We are meant to be a part of a community of disciples.

Hebrews 10:23-25*

 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

D.  The breaking of bread may be a reference both to sharing communion and to sharing meals.  Both of these activities can help to bring a sense of solidarity to a group of people.

E.  Praying together is important.  Our prayers are strengthened by numbers.  Prayer is one of the most important things that we do as the people of God.

The Christian experience is not just a moment in time, but a lifetime of moments.  Once we have our new life in Christ, we are to live out that new life, not just occasionally, but continually.

These are the sermon notes from 1/24/16.  Any advertisement that might appear has been placed by WordPress.  I have no control over them, nor do I receive any money from them. 

*This is the memory verse for this week. 

Good and Faithful Servant

February 18, 2016

We hear a lot about leadership these days.  Today I want to address the idea of being a servant.

I.  Washing Feet:  John 13:1-5, 12-15

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.

And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.

12 So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.

Don’t get nervous, we are not going to have a foot washing service.  Although there are some churches that practice that ritual, we are not going to do that here today.

I do want us to recognize this action of Jesus as a powerful symbol of humble service.  We are called to be the servants of God.  If we are to follow the example of Jesus then we would recognize that there is nothing that we are ‘too good’ to do.

II.  Be a Servant:  Matthew 20:25-28

But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. 26 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. 27 And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

We have a tendency to dream of greatness.  We want to be powerful, successful leaders; not humble servants.  Yet, we are called to serve.

There are many ways to serve.  If we ask God to guide us, He will.

Sometimes faithful servants are elevated into positions of leadership.  Sometimes they are not.  The goal for us as Christians is not worldly success, but faithful service to the Father in whatever capacity He calls us to serve.

III.  Bearing Burdens:  Galatians 6:2-5

 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load.

At first glance these verses seem contradictory.  Which is it?  Bear one another’s burden, or bear our own load?

It is both.  A part of our load is to help each other.  However, when we stand before God, we will not be able to point our finger at someone else to blame them for our choices.  We are to help each other, and we will each answer for our own choices.

IV.  Not Grow Weary:  Galatians 6:9*

 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

A life of service is hard work.  Sometimes we see the fruit of our labor, and sometimes we do not.  We are called to continue to do good, and not lose heart.  God is faithful.  We should be faithful to Him.

Our ultimate goal should not have anything to do with success as this world measures it.  Our ultimate goal should be to one day stand before the Father and hear the words “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  (Matthew 25:21)

Christ In Our Hearts

February 16, 2016

I grew up in the Lutheran church.  I asked Jesus into my heart as a young child.  As a young adult, I questioned the biblical grounds for the practice of asking Jesus into our hearts.  I want to share some of those thoughts with you today.

I.  Born Again:  John 3:1-8

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 are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”

Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, 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? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”

Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter 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 marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

I believe that the reference to being born of water is referring to the natural birth.  The reference to being born of the Spirit is a reference to what happens when we are saved.  The first birth is physical, the second birth is spiritual.

II.  A New Creation:  II Corinthians 5:17*

 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

This verse reemphasizes the idea of newness.  When we are in Christ, the old passes away and we are made new.

A new birth.

A new creation.

New.

III.  Knock, Knock:  Revelations 3:20

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.

Who’s there?

Jesus.

Will you let Him in?

Into where?

Into your heart.

It doesn’t say that in this verse.  That is one interpretation.

IV.  Christ in Your Hearts:  Ephesians 3:14-21

For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

First I want to point out that we are strengthened by His Spirit.  God is the source of our strength.

Christ dwells in our hearts through faith.  Faith is the key.  We are saved by our faith in Jesus.  (Ephesians 2:8-10)  Our new life is available only because of what Christ did for us on the cross.

Our new lives are rooted in love.  God loves us.  We love God.  God loves everyone.  We should love everyone.

We can be filled with the fullness of God.  Not that we will become gods.  Our capacity for God is not that great, but our vessel can be filled with the Spirit of God.  God is infinite.  We are finite.  We can, however,  continue to grow in that relationship with God  throughout our lives.  It is sort of like a balloon that expands as air is breathed into it.

We will not ask Jesus into our hearts if we do not have faith in Him.  In doing this, our sins our forgiven, we are born again, made a new creation in Christ.

I believe that it is a good practice to ask Jesus into our hearts, even if that exact phrase is not found in Scripture.

This are the sermon notes from 1/3/16.  Any advertisements are placed by WordPress.  I have no control over them, nor do I receive any money from them. 

*This is the memory verse for this week. 

 

Holiness

February 11, 2016

If we believe that the Spirit of God enters into our hearts at salvation, then surely we recognize that our lives should change.

I.   Holiness Under the Law:

A.  Leviticus 10:1-3

Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. So fire went out from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord. And Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord spoke, saying:

‘By those who come near Me
I must be regarded as holy;
And before all the people
I must be glorified.’”

So Aaron held his peace.

One of the duties of the priests was to offer incense at the appointed times.  Nadab and Abihu did not follow the directions that God had given to them.  The penalty for not following the law was instant death.

It seems harsh.  It was harsh.

God did not routinely strike dead everyone who broke His commands.  This happened when the law was first established to make a point.  Disobedience brings death.  We get the point. God is serious about His commands.

    B.  Leviticus 11:45

For I am the Lord who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.

As the people of God, Israel was called to be holy.  This meant to follow the commandments that God had given to them.  They were to be different from the other people, because they were to be the people of God.

II.  Holiness in the New Testament

    A.  Acts 5: 1-11

But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”

Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things. And the young men arose and wrapped him up, carried him out, and buried him.

Now it was about three hours later when his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter answered her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much?”

She said, “Yes, for so much.”

Then Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10 Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband. 11 So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.

As God is establishing the New Covenant, it is again necessary to make a point.  Sin is still wrong.  Ananias and Sapphira were guilty of lying.  They wanted to look better than they actually were.  Today, we call people like them hypocrites.  There are quite a few of them.  They are not all struck dead.  At the beginning of this New Covenant, which is based on grace, faith, love and forgiveness, God wanted to express that sin and disobedience were still wrong, that it was still serious.

B.  Romans 6:1-2

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?

We are supposed to be dead to sin.  We now have the Spirit of God.  We are meant to be changed by the presence of God’s Spirit in our lives.

C.  *Hebrews 12:14

Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord:

We are to pursue holiness.  Thankfully, we are not saved by being holy, but because we are saved we should become holy.  It is a lifelong process. We will grow in holiness, but we will not achieve perfection in this life.  The law demanded perfection.  That was unattainable.  We are saved by grace, through faith, for good works. (see Ephesian 2:8-10)  We do not do good works in order to be saved.  We do good works because we are saved.

III.  Holiness

A.  Holiness begins in our hearts with our faith in Jesus.  We are to love God and to love our neighbor.

B.  If we love God and our neighbor, our lives will be changed.  Our actions will reflect the attitude of our hearts.

C.  Our words will reflect the change that has taken place.  We will bring honor to God through what we do, and what we say.  Not just in the easy times, but at all times.

God still takes holiness seriously.  Thankfully, we are not expected to be perfect, but we are expected to change, to become more like Christ, to grow in holiness.

These are the sermon notes from 12/27/15.  Any advertisements that might appear are placed by WordPress.  I have no control over them, nor do I receive any money from them. 

* This is the memory verse for this week.