Archive for April, 2017

A Big Week

April 12, 2017

(This message was preached the Saturday night before Palm Sunday.)

Tomorrow morning kicks off the busiest week in the Christian calendar.  Palm Sunday we remember the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.  He cleanses the temple by throwing out those who sold animals for sacrifice and the money changers.  He has several days filled with wonderful teachings and then we have what we now call Maundy Thursday.  That is the night that Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, instituted the Lord’s Supper and prayed in the garden before being betrayed and arrested.  Good Friday we remember His time in front of the Sanhedrin, then Pilot, then His crucifixion, death and burial.  Then on Sunday we will celebrate His resurrection.

Like I said, it is a big week, called Holy Week by many Christians.

Since we do not have services through the week here it seems like I need to pick what I consider to be the highlight of the week.  There is so much good material but there is certainly one part that stands out to me.

II Corinthians 5:12-21

 For we do not commend ourselves again to you, but give you opportunity to boast on our behalf, that you may have an answer for those who boast in appearance and not in heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; or if we are of sound mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.

16 Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

I.  Compelled

It is the heart that matters most, but people do see the outside before they get to know what is inside.  Sometimes Pentecostal believers may act in peculiar ways during worship.  People respond differently to an encounter with the Holy Spirit.  When we are spending time in the presence of God our eyes should be on the Lord and not on each other.  When we preach and teach, hopefully, things are more straight forward.  We need to speak in ways that can be understood by all.  Through all of it we are compelled by the love of Christ; whether in worship or in preaching and teaching.

II.  A New Creation

The person who we were has been replaced with the person whom we are becoming in Christ.  The opportunity for a new beginning is a central promise of scripture.  The old man dies and we are born again as a child of God.

III.  Reconciled

A central part of this new life is the fact that we have been reconciled to God.  We were separated from Him because of our sin, but through Jesus Christ we can be reconciled with God.  On our own we could not make this happen.  It was necessary for God to reach out to us.

IV.  The Main Event

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us”.

We cannot begin to comprehend what this phrase truly means.  Jesus as God or man had never sinned.  He understood temptation, but He had never given in to sin.  Yet He took upon Himself the sins of the whole world.  The penalty for our sins was laid upon Him.  Exactly what this entails we can only speculate.  We do know that Jesus in the garden recognized the cost and asked if it could pass from Him, but if not, may the will of God be done.

There was, and is, no other way.

Salvation is only through Jesus and belief in Him who died for us.  (John 14:6)

Everything else in Holy Week is important, wonderful, beautiful and special, but without the death of Christ on the cross we would still be left in our sins.

Thank you God.

Thank you Jesus.

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Be Ready

April 5, 2017

I enjoy church history.  Reading about how God has worked in the lives of people over the years is an interesting study to me.  One thing that I has impressed me is how the core of the Christian message can be compacted into simple statements.  Today we celebrated communion.  An ancient creed that was used simply says: Christ has come, Christ has died, Christ has risen and Christ will come again.

We celebrate the coming of Christ every year at Christmas.  For many it is their favorite holiday.  Every time that we have communion we remember the death of Christ on the cross.  Easter is coming soon, and at Easter we celebrate the resurrection of Christ.

What about the second coming of Christ?

I.  The Return of Christ:  Luke 21:25-28

 “And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; 26 men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”

When Jesus came the first time, He came as a servant, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  When He returns it will be as the Lion of Judah, the King of kings and Lord of lords, the Judge of all.

The early Christians thought that Christ would return in their lifetime.  It was only as the first generation of believers was dying out that they realized they had better write down the story of Christ in the gospels for future generations.

Throughout church history there have been many generations that believed that they were living in the last days, the days of Christ’s return.  This is true for today as well.  Many believe that Christ will return in their lifetime.

II.  The Rapture

A.  Luke 17:34-37

I tell you, in that night there will be two men in one bed: the one will be taken and the other will be left. 35 Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left. 36 Two men will be in the field: the one will be taken and the other left.”

37 And they answered and said to Him, “Where, Lord?”

So He said to them, “Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together.”

This event of one person being taken and another being left is an event that has come to be known as the rapture.  The believers who are on the earth at the time of the rapture will be taken from the earth to be with the Lord. It is described again in the first letter to the Thessalonians.

B.  I Thessalonians 4:16-17

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.

When will the rapture take place?  Only God knows, but people have debated it for years.  Today, there are three primary groups.  The first group is the group that believes that the rapture will take place prior to the Tribulation.  The Tribulation is the seven year reign of the Antichrist.  Many people believe that Christians will be removed from the earth before this time.  Others believe that the rapture will take place at the midpoint of the reign of the Antichrist.  They believe that the rapture will take place when the covenant that was made is broken.  Still others believe that the rapture will take place only at the very end, even as Christ is returning to defeat the Antichrist and establish His kingdom on earth.

Which is right?  There is biblical support for each position.  My personal recommendation is to pray that the pre-tribulation position is right, but be prepared to endure tribulation if they are wrong.  So, pray for pre, prepare for post.

III.  Be Ready

A.  I Thessalonians 5:1-2

But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.

We do not know when Christ will return, so the wise thing to do is to live in a state of readiness.  If Christ were to return at this moment, to be ready.

B.  Luke 21:34-36

 “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. 35 For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

It is not that hard to be ready.  Thankfully we do not earn our salvation, but rather we receive it as a gift through our faith in Jesus Christ.  That faith produces a living relationship with God that transforms our life.  We simply need to remember to keep Christ first is our lives and not be seduced by the things of the world.

Keep Christ First.

Ready or not, Christ will return one day.

Be Ready.