08 February 2016

Battle Of Prayer


Psalm 61:1-8

Have you or do you ever feel defeated when it comes to your prayer life? If you’re having a hard time answering that question, looking back to your prayer life from this past week or month.
  • How many times did you pray for the list of people and things in your bulletin?
  • How many times did you pray with your church family?
  • How many times did you pray with your children?
  • How many times did you pray with your spouse?
  • How many times did you pray for your spouse or child?
  • How many times did you pray for a stranger you saw or meet at the local store?
  • How many times did you seek God through prayer with your personal spiritual problem?
  • How many times did you see the value and blessing in prayer?
I’m not here to hurt your feelings or to make you feel guilty…….I ask those questions because we’re all guilty of this….myself included; there are many days when I fail at the privilege that we have been given in prayer. I want to look at some things that hinder us from praying genuinely and effectively. But we need to understand what the word “hinder” means! By definition it’s the “act of hampering or restraining motion.” Where have we seen this in the scriptures? A prime example is found in Mark’s gospel, when the disciples hindered certain individuals from coming to Jesus. Who were those individuals? Children In Mark 10:13-15 we read “Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it."

Hindrance is something that plagues us all when it comes to prayer!
  • It holds us back when we fall into sin and carnality.
  • It holds us back when the word is not central in our lives.
  • It holds us back to blessing that is found in His fellowship with the saints.
  • It holds us back to endure under pressure.
  • It holds us back to an unforgiving spirit.
  • It holds us back from communion that is found in prayer. 

I want to look at 6 SPECIFIC obstacles or difficulties that hinder our prayer life! Maybe you’ll be able to relate to one of the six and maybe, just maybe the chains will be broken for you today as you and I fight the battle for our depleting prayer life.

SPIRITUAL WARFARE

We need to understand the more you pray the more you will experience spiritual warfare. Satan and his fallen angels will fight to keep you from praying. The Bible makes a fascinating statement in 1 Thess 2:18 when the Apostle Paul states, “Satan hindered us.” This naturally raises the question! Why would God allow Satan to hinder trouble and persecute God's children? Jesus said in Revelation 2:10 “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. “ Sadly though, we have a tendency to fear what surrounds us and we forget who truly is in control of our lives! It’s like the story I came across of a man crossing the ice“He had to cross a wide river on the ice. He was afraid it might be too thin, so he began to crawl on his hands and knees in great terror. He thought he might fall through at any moment. Just as he neared the opposite shore, all exhausted, another man glided past him nonchalantly sitting on a sled loaded with pig iron. How like some Christians! Headed for Heaven, they tremble at every step lest the divine promises break under their feet. See! By resting completely upon Him and taking His promises at face value, we can drive out the paralyzing fear that hinders our effectiveness in serving Christ.” Satan hates when you pray! David Wilkerson said this is His plan from the beginning! “all the devil wants to do is get the fight out of you and kill it. So you won't labor in prayer anymore, you won't weep before God anymore.” We need to remember ourselves daily that we have Helper in the midst of our battles; and we have access to seek His face through prayer at any moment to fight our spiritual battles.

UNFORGIVENESS

Unforgiveness in the heart of a Christian is a major problem that hinders his or her prayer life. A grudge, a root of bitterness, or even hate has the power to affect our prayer life. In read in Matthew 6:9-13 we are given the model prayer, or the Lord's Prayer. And in that model prayer the Saviour taught us to pray daily "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." And when the prayer was finished Jesus added this plain, sharp word of warning, "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matt 6:14-15. John Rice in his commentary on Matthew 18 when Peter is confronted with Jesus about forgiveness! He said “How many times shall we forgive one who sins against us? Peter thought seven times would be the perfect number; but Jesus answered back, "I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven." And when you have forgiven the same person 490 times, no doubt you would have lost count and would have conquered that wicked disposition to temper and bitterness in your own heart!” In order to have genuine prayer we need to be able to forgive one another….if not your prayers will be hindered according to His word……not me. “I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear.” Psalm 66:18. In Prov 28:9 it says “One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, Even his prayer is an abomination [which means disgusting or detestable],” So if need be! Repent and reconcile so your prayer may be heard.

FEAR OF INTIMACY

We tend to protect ourselves from becoming to close with any one especially God at times. Prayer makes us vulnerable because we are expressing what’s in our hearts and sometime we want to build walls around our heart so that no one can see in. Just like the Watchtower Group who have no windows on their buildings. [What’s up with that any ways? Seriously though! If you don’t believe me that is a major issue….Then look back to this past week and ask yourself how many times have you sought His face through your trials of life! Or who have you confided in to pray with you about your situation? If you can’t, think of any time in your week… then may I suggest that you may be fearful of opening up with others through prayer when it comes to your life. It’s that attitude “I’ll keep it to myself, because I don’t want anyone to know that I don’t have it all together or that I’m struggling in my Christian life at this moment!” God saved us and called us out so that we could care, love, encourage, challenge, and defend one another as we fight the good fight that Paul told Timothy before he lost his life. We need to remove the pride and humbly seek one another as we go through different circumstances of life. Remember God wants us to be intimate with Him! We read in scriptures that it’s good to draw near to Him. “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith” Heb 10:22. God also wants us to be close to each other as a family……….and prayer is an avenue that we can come together on. As Paul wrote from a Roman’s prison cell! “always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy,” Phil 1:4

MISGUIDED MOTIVATION

We view prayer as a back-up plan to our already perfect plan….so we think! We have a tendency to treat prayer as a way to manage our affairs by giving God instructions to how we want things to turn out or go. It’s that idea “my will be done, not yours LORD” James penned these words “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” James 4:3. As one writer said “when one tries to use a hammer to baste a turkey or a light bulb to brush our hair, the results is frustration and failure…..He went on to say “it’s imperative that we have a clear understanding of the foundation and focus of prayer as found in the “owner’s manual” the WORD OF GOD.” Prayer is not a list of demands…………. its coming to throne in worship and giving Him the praise even if He chooses not to answer our prayer list.


BOREDOM

Do you find prayer is boring by yourself or with others? Some of you have been Disciples of Christ for many, many years! And there are also some here who have only just staring out their discipleship in Christ. But I think at large in the church we have given up our high expectations about prayer. Sadly for many, prayer has become a real yawner to take part in. As one preacher calls this problem “sleepy prayer meetings” Where have we seen this in the scriptures? In Matt 26:40-41 we read Jesus rebuking His disciples “Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, "What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."
  • Many, good intentional Christians however find prayer to boring
  • Eyes go half-mast because they don’t take prayer seriously.
  • A chore to hurry and get done.
  • Done only out of obligation otherwise the preacher is let me have it.
  • That “Drowsy Prayer” a ritual to be rushed and ended, which in reality has no power in it.

For prayer to be truly meaningful….we must look at prayer as a means to a relationship!
  • Speaking to out towards our Heavenly Father.
  • Developing a friendship with God.
  • Getting to know the way He works in and through our lives.
  • Getting to know His character, His precepts and His desires for our lives.
  • Spending time with Him, letting Him speak to your heart through His word and prayer.


This isn’t supposed to be boring and if you find that boring I challenge you to examine your faith this morning. Prayer is not to be boring …..Its life giving and liberating because of what Jesus did for us on the cross of Calvary.

LACK OF POSITIVE ROLE MODEL

Maybe you have never had a person in your life where you see the example of prayer so passionate expressed. Has there ever been a person in your life that has infected in that way when it comes to the power of prayer? Maybe…

  • A mother
  • A father
  • A sister
  • A brother
  • A aunt, uncle
  • Grand parent
Maybe the reason you have such a hindered prayer life, is because you have never had that affluence from someone close to you. I think the greatest role model is found in the person of Jesus Christ. Numerous times Jesus would go off to pray! Praying and praising God that we would know Him “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.” Matt 11:25. Jesus praying before he raised Lazarus "Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me." John 11:41-42. If you struggle in this area seek someone to mentor you so that you can find blessing and power in your prayer life. Since we are surrounded by such a great many who have gone before us, let us follow in their footsteps of these faith servants who saw prayer as a vital organ to life giving spirit.. D A Carson said “many facets of Christian discipleship, not the least prayer, are more effectively passed on by modeling than by formal teaching. Good praying is more easily caught than taught.” Do you know someone like that…if so follow after, if not keep looking! There out there.

How do I look for that? Well maybe this will help! Early African converts to Christianity were earnest and regular in private devotions. Each one reportedly had a separate spot in the brush where he would pour out his heart to God. Over time the paths to these places became well worn. As a result, if one of these believers began to neglect prayer, it was soon apparent to the others. They would kindly remind the negligent one, "Brother, the grass grows on your path." Let me ask you! Is your path worn over or is it growing over? What is hindering your prayer life?

Has it been or is still one of things I’ve addressed this morning?
  • Is it spiritual warfare that is keeping you prayer?
  • Is there Unforgiveness that is keeping you from prayer?
  • Is it a fear of opening up that is keeping you from prayer?
  • Is it a misguided focus that is keeping you from prayer?
  • Is it a sense of boredom that is keeping you from prayer?
  • Is it a lack of role models in your life that is keeping you from prayer?
There are many times when I feel all these points in my life! But one things for sure though……..we have a Heaven Father who cares about you and he desires that we seek Him with not just our problems but our joy as well. Prayer is an avenue for that to bring blessing and maturity for everyone no matter how old or young you are. Don’t let the things of this world hinder you as you cry out to God. Don’t let your busyness hinder your ability to pray. Don’t let your pride hinder you from the blessing of prayer! Remember! Our daily life in the world is the best indication of our power in prayer. God deals with my prayers not according to the spirit and tone which I exhibit when I am praying in public or private, but according to the spirit I show in my daily life.

25 January 2016

THIS IS NOT MAN’S GOSPEL


Gal 1:10-24

As we continue in Paul’s letter to the churches there is an underlining truth that we never want to forget. That truth is…….The gospel is God’s story, not man’s invention. And this is what makes other religious groups, social groups and so on, very upset. Because they hate the suggestion and the dogmatic stand the word of God proclaims that there is only one way to Heaven. But, if Paul watered down or changed the message to fit every persons religious understandings and ideas of what they believe…then Paul would be pleasing men rather than God. That’s why he says “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Gal 1:10. 

In fact he would be inviting the wrath of God to fall upon himself as he already stated twice previously. See, this gospel is all about how God by His good grace saves bad people. And as my fellow brother Art Azurdia says “Are you a bad person today then I’m exceedingly glad you are here.” And so am I. Why? For this very reason……. God saves bad peopleOur congregation is full of bad people, whom God loves, rescues and extends mercy and grace to……God saves bad people. And by Him doing this! It demonstrates the beauty of His love founded in the gospel. God loves to save the most despicable kinds of people. This portion of God’s letter compliments and affirms that truth. That man did not invent the gospel, it comes from God……and this is the standard in which we are to measure every other religion or philosophy created by man. As one writer said “the gospel of grace is like water: people did not invent it, and people cannot live without it.” Paul begins to explain his conversion in how God got a hold of his life! Though his story is divinely unique, we can see and find similarities to our own conversion. So what do we learn through Paul’s life as he reaffirms his position to the churches as an Apostle and as a preacher of the gospel.

Paul’s conversion involves God’s intervention (v15)

Beginning with the word “But” which is a conjunction word, which is a part of speech that connects words, sentences, phrases, or clauses. This word “but” plays a very important part here! Why? Look what Paul previously said (v12-v14). It holds the same importance when we read passages like Eph 2:1-5 “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved” Or Titus 3:3-7 “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

See, the gospel is a rescue mission and God intervened in Paul’s life and He did the same with the gospel in your life, in my life. “But” is a word of rescue or comfort! For example:
  • The Sens thought they could beat the Leafs, but Reimer shut them out.
  • I got into a car accident, but no one was hurt.
  • He got hit in the face with a puck, but nothing was broken.
  • You find out you have cancer, but it can be treated.
  • I was on the verge of suicide, but God keep me alive.

God intervened and rescued you and me from danger and destruction. And though Paul’s conversion is divine in the sense God called him to apostleship……your conversion was a divine appointment also He intervened and drew you to Himself and adopted you in His family.

Paul’s conversion involves God’s eternal planning (v15)

“God who separated me” God uniquely chose Paul to Apostleship, as He did when he chose His prophets in the Old Testament. Jer 1:5 "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations." In Isaiah 49:1 it says “Listen to me, O coastlands, and give attention, you peoples from afar. The LORD called me from the womb; from the body of my mother he named my name." The testimony of John the Baptist, we read “And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.  And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared." Luke 1:12-17. 

Though we recognize the unique and divine calling of God on Paul’s life, we also recognize that God called us as to be His children through the power of the gospel. As Paul said “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.  In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight  making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ” Eph 1:3-9. This is one of those wow moments, not just for Paul, but for us as well! Because in Psalm 139:1-4 it says "O LORD, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.”

Think about this as it pertains to Paul! God called Paul knowing he was going to be a rebel for many years and become a persecutor of Christians and a hater of the true gospel. This is amazing….because this goes to show that God came to save sinners. (bad people, despicable people like and me…and even you)

Think about that as it pertains to you! It also shows that God is very patient and has an eternal plan for you and me, just like He did for Paul. Paul’s conversion is great reminder for all of us and the difference Jesus Christ can make in a sinners life. Paul knew that all too well as He told Timothy “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.” 1Tim 1:15-16. The gospel is God’s plan to save sinners. His providential plan to rescue you and me.

Paul’s conversion involves God’s gracious calling (v15)

“called me by his grace” It’s the power of God unto salvation and by God’s power he called Paul, just as he called you and me out of darkness. “Called me by His grace” refers to God's effectual call in the sense of His choosing so that one might receive some special benefit or experience (meaning salvation for us but a special duty for Paul to apostleship). God's effectual call was realized on the Damascus Road as it says in Acts 9:1-22. The Westminster Shorter Catechism states "Effectual calling is the work of God's Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, He doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the Gospel." Though we are not called to Apostleship ….God called you and me by His grace… none the less. Rob Morgan said “You have been foreknown from the beginning of time. God has always known in advance exactly what you would look like. He has always known your innermost thoughts, your background, your history, your problems, your struggles, your strengths, your weaknesses, and the course of your life. He has always known His plans for you. With a single glance He knew all about you, long before the earth launched its maiden orbit around the sun. “ God’s calling is powerful! Well, what do I mean by that…….See, God’s calling is much different then how we “well….let say calling our children to the dinner table for supper.” Julie and I can call the kids for supper and they will usually say “Okay, were coming” However that “okay” might take 10 minutes before they start moving towards the dinner table. See, while I can call my children……getting them to move is a different story. But! When God calls you….it’s not in 10 minutes, 30 minutes or hour later! It’s immediately! As God said “let there be light” it was instant, not a million of years…..”There was light” Gen 1:3. When Jesus said “silence” to the storm and the waves…. it was right away! It wasn’t “I invite you to be still, or I hope you will be still.” “And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” Mark 4:39. When Jesus spoke to the grave of Lazarus “Come forth” John 11. He didn’t have to go to the tomb and do CPR first or offer a chant or cast a spell to raise the dead. God’s words, power and authority are what bring life instantly.

If a person asks how did you become a Christian? Respond by saying “God called me by His grace, through the power of His word and the truth of the gospel.” The bible is filled with people just like you and me who have tasted God’s grace….not because of their own goodness or merit; but because of His abundance of grace for bad people. God called us to be a people zealous for His mercy and grace and proclaim that truth to lost people. As Mark Dever saidthe church is the gospel made visible.” We are living proof that God can save bad people…..Paul is living proof of that………. it’s all of God and none of man.

Paul’s conversion involves seeing the glory of Christ. (v16)

The wonderful reality of Jesus crucified, raised and reigning was made known to Paul on that Damascus road. Paul previously knew Christian teaching, but he did not accept it. The idea of a crucified Messiah was uncalled for and repulsive to him and the Jews. But when Christ revealed Himself, everything changed for Paul. Now! We need to understand that we never had a Damascus road experience, but if you are a child of God, you have experienced this through the gospel that saves. Eph 1:17-23 says “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” We were blind until God revealed His Son to us through the gospel message. Faith comes by hearing the message…..it doesn’t come osmosis! Why? Romans 10:15-17 says “And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?" So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

How does God remove the blinders? Well, the blinders (before my conversion) are like me trying to do driver’s eyes test without my glasses. I can’t read or guess what’s on the lines because I can’t see! But, when I put my glasses on. I can see clearly to read the numbers or letters that are on the line. See, apart from corrective lens I can’t see anything…no matter how hard I try by my strength or will. The same rule applies for the Christian conversion……apart from the corrective lens provided to us by the Holy Spirit we can see nothing. We desperately need His help when it comes to our conversion to give us sight, to remove the blinders from our eyes. As the scripture says “we see with new eyes”In 2 Cor 5:17 says “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” According to this passage! God gives us new eyes to see, new ears to hear, and we feel with new affections and desires. God’s affections and desires. So, rejoice that Christ has been made known to you. The power on Paul’s life and yours is rooted and founded in God’s gospel. The urgency of this letter and the testimony of Paul affirm that truth. If you ever watch sporting events, especially hockey, you’ve seen this scenario, with the exception of curling: a time-out is called, and the players gather breathlessly around the coach. The coach’s words are littered with urgency. He doesn’t smile and he gestures intently at his clipboard. Why? The outcome of the game hangs in the balance.  Paul is like this coach on the sidelines. His words are urgent, truthful, straight-forward and a wonderful reminder for you and me this morning.

A reminder that…….. God is the one who intervened into your life and saved you from yourself. God is the one who gave us His Son…the only plan of redemption for sinners. God is the one who pursues us with His relentless grace and called us out of darkness into His glorious light. God is the one who makes this possible for us to see the glory of Jesus Christ. The Gospel is not man’s gospel….it’s God’s gospel.

17 January 2016

AN UNCHANGING MESSAGE FOR AN EVER CHANGING WORLD


Gal 1:6-9

I want to start by asking a two part question! Are all religions the same? And do we all worship the same God? The reason I ask that question is because of the latest comments the Pope made this past week in a video. Francis contends that all the religions of the world simply represent mankind’s diversity in seeking God. He says that despite the differing beliefs, everyone is a child of the same God. Francis said this and I quote “Many think differently, feel differently, seeking God or meeting God in different ways,” he states. “In this crowd, in this range of religions, there is only one certainty that we have for all: we are all children of God." If that is true than why did Jesus say this to the Pharisee’s “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” John 8:44. The pope’s proclamation that all mankind meets with/seeks after the same God, just in different ways, is false according to the word of God. As Paul penned these words “no one understands; no one seeks for God.” Rom 3:11. There is only one true God and in order to come to Him we have to die to self and cry out to Jesus to save us. “….And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” 2 Cor 4:1-6

See, there are five major, popular myths about religion in Canada and around the world.

Myth #1: There is no way to know who is right.
Myth #2: It is arrogant to suggest that you alone have the truth.
Myth #3: All religions basically teach the same thing.
Myth #4: I can be spiritual without being religious.
Myth #5: It doesn't make a difference anyway.

Those myths raise several important questions.
  • What gives legitimacy to a religion?
  • Is the concept of God enough to unite us?
  • Are there multiple paths to God?
  • What distinguishes Christianity from all others?
  • Isn't sincerity enough?
  • Why does this matter at all?
What do you think would happen if we preached from our pulpits that all religions are equal and we worship the same God anyways?
  • It would get me removed from my position as shepherd
  • It would make God very angry with how we are handling His truth.
  • It would lead many to live a lie and a life of unrepentance.
  • It would give a person a sense of false hope and security.
  • It would lead many to destruction and eternal separation from God. 

This is sad news; not good news!  This world desires and is embracing this false gospel of equality! And this is exactly what Satan wants! And many follow this path of pain and forever torment! The Bible says "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.  "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.  Matt 7:13-15. John MacArthur said in his commentary “Satan’s primary target for false teaching is the doctrine of salvation, because if people are confused about that they have no way of coming to God in the first place and thus remains under Satan’s influence and control.”

There was a problem in the churches and Paul had to address it rather swiftly. The same urgency a doctor would have to hurry you into surgery to remove the cancer before it spreads throughout your whole body. See, false teachers were spreading a false gospel (cancer for the soul) and to make matters worse, the Galatians were listening to them. Many in the early church were being deceived by man’s gospel and forgetting the true Gospel.  The Judaizers were disrupting the Christians during the time of Paul’s ministry. The Judaizers were Jewish false teachers who were plaguing the Galatian church with legalism and bondage. These false teachers were preaching a different Gospel. And what’s worse they would follow Paul through the land, and when Paul left they would go in and disrupt the fellowship. But this wasn’t the first time! This was going from the very beginning of Paul’s missionary journey. And Paul gave warning to the spiritual leaders in these churches.

In Acts 20:27-31 Paul pleads with the pastors and spiritual leaders. “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

Paul sounds an alarm and then he gently rebukes the Galatian churches! Look at (v6)I marvel (amazed, bewildered, and astounded) that you are turning away so soon....” (NKJV) “Turning away” is better translated “deserted, or change sides” They were being easily misled to believe another gospel by leaving GRACE and pursuing another way to God. To desert the true gospel is to desert Jesus Christ, the one who made it possible to receive grace, through His death and resurrection. Another gospel only perverts the purity of the message of the true gospel. See the issue of legalism (another gospel) wasn’t just a matter of someone who has higher standards or more rules than you have. We don’t serve the same God…because one is trying in their own strength, where the other (like me) is completely dependent on Christ and His sustain grace. See, God, has no need or desire for our works…..apart from a genuine desire of faith and repentance, to serve and to follow Jesus Christ. In fact, our works are offensive to Him according to the scriptures. As Isa 64:6 says "All our righteousness’s are as filthy rags..." If I try to impress God with my works. He discards them “as filthy rags”. We need to remember any righteousness other than the imputed righteousness of Christ……. is mere legalism. It is such an offense to God, which is as if we were offering Him soiled rags and expecting Him to applaud us for them. This kind of legalism is what we would call “spiritually fatalism” the outcome has devastating eternal effects. Thomas Schreiner writes “legalism has its origin in self worship. If people are justified through their obedience to the Law, then they merit praise, honor, and glory. Legalism in other words, means the glory goes to people rather than GOD”

That is dangerous, since God according to Moses is a jealous God “(for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God),” Exo 34:14. This other gospel the Judaizers’ were preaching was no gospel at all! This gospel promoted and elevated you and me over Christ’s death. This in reality makes His death insufficient for you and me for salvation. I must add my works and my goodness and whatever I believe to the Cross in order to be saved. Again, “THAT’S NOT GRACE!” Look what Paul says next because he uses 2 very important words in the next few verses. (v7) says “some want to pervert the Gospel” 

“Perverted” means: to distort the truth, or to turn someone in the opposite direction by adding something to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When we change the message, what we are doing is perverting the true gospel. To change the message of grace is to choke and eventually suffocate the church. Look at what Paul says in (v8) “if any person man or angel preaches any other Gospel! Anything other than Christ Jesus “let him be accused” 

“Accursed” means: an anathema which refers to someone to destruction in eternal Hell. Basically Paul is warning the church that if any:
  • Person
  • Pastor
  • Evangelist
  • Friend
  • Loved one
  • Stranger
  • Church as a whole
Preach any other Gospel than the grace of God through Christ alone, let him be damned to Hell for all eternity. So my question for you is this! If Paul is gently rebuking these people over a false gospel, then; how can all religions be seeking and worshipping the same God? Why would Peter say “let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.  And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." Acts 4:10-12. Why would John write “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” John 3:36. In John 14:6 we read "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

So what is the Gospel? Well, first I think we need to understand what the Gospel isn’t!
  • Not through works or my good intentions.
  • Not saying a prayer or bowing a head.
  • Not attending a church/bible study regularly.
  • Not having or growing up in a Christian home.
  • Not having many paths to Heaven.

As the bible says……“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Rom 3:23. Solomon penned “For there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin.” Eccl 7:20. Paul was reminding the churches there is no other Gospel under Heaven to which a person can be saved. Paul understood that truth himself personally as it is written in His letter to Philippi. “If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so:  circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel (direct descendent of Abraham), of the tribe of Benjamin (from the tribe of the second son of Rachel), a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee (legalistic fundamentalist of Judaism); concerning zeal (passion for anything that threatened the Law), persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,”  Phil 3:4-10. So, what is the true and only gospel?

THE TRUE AND ONLY GOSPEL EXHIBITS THE GRACE OF GOD. 
(Sola Gratia)

“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Eph 2:4-7

THE TRUE AND ONLY GOSPEL REVEALS THE GLORY OF GOD
(Sola Deo Gloria)

“For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”  2 Cor 4:6

THE TRUE AND ONLY GOSPEL IS FOUNDED IN THE WORD OF GOD
(Sola Scriptura)

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep…..Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 1 Cor 15:3-9


THE TRUE AND ONLY GOSPEL IS THROUGH FAITH ALONE
(Sola Fide)

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Rom 5:1-2


THE TRUE AND ONLY GOSPEL IS ALL ABOUT THE SON, JESUS CHRIST
(Sola Christos)

looking to Jesus, the Founder and Perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Heb 12:4

The beauty of the gospel and what separates His grace from all the religions out there……… is that He does all the work, and all the saving. The one thing God required of me is that I humble myself through repentance and faith and….. Rejoice in His saving grace with the understanding that it’s only through Him; I’m able to find this rest and freedom from my sin and bondage. And what that means for you and me is! There is no record of wrong with a new heart and that’s only made possible through Christ alone! David Platt gives a story about a gentleman who bought a Rolls Royce: “the car that never breaks down.” Well guess what, one day the man was driving and it broke down. So he called Rolls Royce and told him. They immediately sent a mechanic by helicopter (Our CAA is good, but that takes the cake!). Surely the man thought this would cost a pretty penny, but several weeks went by and there was no bill. He once again called the company wanting to settle up, but the lady who answered said “Sir, we are deeply sorry, but we have absolutely no record of anything having gone wrong with your car.” God says the same thing when he showers us with His grace “I have absolutely no record of anything ever having gone wrong with your life.” That’s the gospel! That’s the only GOSPEL.

No other religion has good news like this, which confirms there is only one true gospel. Are all religions equal and is Pope Francis right? Answer, NO! There are many roads, but only one leads to eternal life. There are many religions but there is only one true religion and its foundation is in Christ alone “sola Christos” and His word “sola scriptura”. And the warning goes out to anyone, including the Pope! “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” Gal 1:8-9. The Gospel goes against all other religions and man centered ways to God.

The Gospel stands against every false teaching, because……
  • There is only one way to heaven
  • There is only one Gospel
  • There is only one way to God
  • There is only one Savior and His name is Jesus Christ

As Charles Spurgeon said “Are you satisfied with Christ? If you are not, you have not really got Him. If you have got Him, He is everything to you.” Many ethnic groups, religious groups, and society groups today, will debate and fight you against those dogmatic statements. Why? They don’t want to believe that it’s true and that Jesus is the only way to God. This is because! They love their sin and they will choose the broad road that leads to Hell and the wrath of God. But for those who are being saved we will cling to Christ….the One who can set us free. As the hymn “Rock Of Ages” says …..

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress,
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die
Rock of ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee

Is this your heart this morning? Are you going to desert the Lord as some were or have? There is only one Gospel, and any other Gospel is accused, an abomination to Him and His glory. Which gospel are you going to listen to? The true gospel or a gospel created by man? A false gospel that has and is leading many to Hell then and more so today!

12 January 2016

ITS ALL ABOUT GRACE


Gal 1:1-5

The gospel has and always will be about this one simple truth; a truth that has become a stumbling block for many people today......and that is the gospel is all about grace. Not just any "ole grace", but God’s perfect, abundant and unmerited grace that he gives to under-seeing sinners like you and me. It’s this one truth, that sets the bar to God relentless mercy and long-suffering that He has towards you and me. It’s this one truth that blows the mind of self-righteous man thinking to himself “how could God do such a thing.” As the Pharisee’s said “And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, "Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?" Mark 2:16. How could he sit and eat dinner with such wicked and evil people. Sadly, people then and now misunderstand this grace. This only creates confusion and ideas of ways to finding grace or working to win favor with God by our goodness. This letter Paul writes to the churches in Galatia, not just one church, but many as it says in the opening of Paul’s letter “To the churches in Galatia” (v2). This is a letter written in response to their sudden defection from the gospel of grace unto a gospel of works. In light of the surrounding events this letter is a rebuke and gentle reminder that Christians are free from legalism and bondage. This letter demonstrates that man is justified by faith alone. This letter demonstrates that man is saved by Christ alone. This letter demonstrates and defines the Christians response to this gospel, full of grace and liberty.

But this wasn't happening! Things were taking a turn for the worst kind……denying God’s grace and going back to their old ways of bondage and works. See these churches were ignorant, prone to fear and superstitious. Caesar once made this comment about them “they are fickle in their resolves, fond of change and not to be trusted.” Maybe Caesar said this because of what we read in Acts 14:6-20. Which talks about them healing a man who was crippled from birth and when the people saw this, they began to worship Paul and Barnabas as if they were gods. Acts 14:11-13. But the scripture says “But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, "Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. Acts 14:14-15. Theologian Lehman Strauss said this about those churches “they lacked two essential attributes of Christian character….spiritual discernment and steadfast determination.” We will see this numerous times over the course of letter! For example we see it in the opening (1:6)….and in (3:1), (3:3) and in (4:9). As it says “But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage?” Gal 4:9. This letter is vital to the Christian life and understanding the true gospel that saves sinners where there at….and this is only made possible through God’s overflowing grace.

Why is this vital? Unfortunately many were moving away from this grace and replacing it with works or legalism, which is what we would call “bondage”. See, the doctrine of works has long appealed to new believers who often desire to please God and attain holy living. A doctrine of faith, plus works was not uncommon in the church then with all the Judaizers and the same is happening today. And by thinking this way what we are doing is replacing the complete finished work of Christ with our good deeds to win favor with a holy God. This means…… its Jesus plus, what I bring to table. But this is the point! You bring nothing to the table. The only thing we bring to the table is our sin and Jesus by His own merit places our sin upon Himself to save us from ourselves.

See, the gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of pure grace. It is completely contradictory to the ideas that God needs my works in order to attain a holy life and eternal life. It’s the idea, that if I don’t do this or that then I may not have a seat at His table in the end. This is a different gospel and contradicts the true gospel that has been given to the saints once and for all through Jesus Christ alone. And to add anything to it is not complementary, it’s downright unbiblical and wrong. This letter is to remind us of the doctrine of grace and the gospel of Jesus Christ is all about grace.

In this letter we will see…….
  • The issue of legalism
  • The issue of Justification by faith
  • The truth of Christian liberty

But will also see……
  • The Gospel of grace defended (chapter 1 & 2)
  • The Gospel of grace explained (chapter 3 & 4)
  • The Gospel of grace applied (chapter 5 & 6)

But before we get digging deep into this wonderful letter to the church….We need to understand the two conflicting elements to this letter.

What is legalism and what is grace? We need to understand these truths in order to understand this letter. We need to understand these truths in order to understand why Paul wrote what he wrote. Paul’s audience and listeners were straying away from the doctrine of grace and replacing it with the false teaching of works righteousness. False teachers were coming in (Judaizers) who came teaching a different gospel and it was no gospel at all. The only thing their gospel led to was bondage and legalism. Acts 15:1 says “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." This was a problem and very confusing for new believers. See, Gentiles in Jerusalem were coming to faith in Christ, but a group of men were saying that in order for them to be accepted in the church (in order for them to be a Christian). These Gentiles needed to be circumcised like the Jews. But, Jesus came to save Jew and Gentiles alike and this was a different gospel. In Acts 15:7-11 it says “And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: "Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they." What Peter preached was the opposite  of what these false teachers where saying to the churches. They were teaching a gospel of bondage and legalism, set out by the Jews and the false teachers and sadly this teaching still plagues the church today.

So what is legalism?

Legalism is the excessive and improper use of the law (10 commandments, holiness laws, etc.,). Legalism can take different forms. THE FIRST is where a person attempts to keep the Law in order to attain salvation. According to Paul’s letter to the Romans “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.” Rom 3:28-30. THE SECOND is where a person keeps the law in order to maintain his salvation. Paul wrote “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Eph 2:8-9. THE THIRD is when a Christian judges other Christians for not keeping certain codes of conduct that he thinks need to be observed. Rom 14:1-3 says “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. See, spotting legalism correctly is important because sometimes we label things legalistic that are not legalistic.

Here are some ways we can spot a legalistic person in the church……..
  • They cheapen grace by focusing on what we must do rather than on what Christ has already done.
  • They'll contradict themselves when they say, "Salvation is free but it will cost you everything you have."
  • They are "fruit inspectors" and assume how much spiritual fruit a person must produce in order to truly be saved.
  • They focus on things like turning, trying and crying instead of faith alone in Christ alone for salvation.
  • Their "gospel" could never be falsely accused of being a license to sin.
  • They scare others with claims that, if you preach too much grace, people will run wild in the streets.
  • They conveniently avoid large portions of gospel-centric New Testament books like Galatians, Romans and John.
  • They blend justification passages with sanctification passages and then try to get us to buy into their Jello of truth!
  • They have same works-based righteousness that Mormons and Muslims, do but cover it with evangelical language.
  • They use the phrase, "You mean to tell me…" a lot. Then they create worst case salvation scenarios of those who claim to be Christians but abuse the grace of God. "You mean to tell me that someone can be saved and still….?"

See legalism destroys the beauty and purpose of the gospel.
  • It emphasis’ more on what we do, then what Jesus did already for us.
  • It appeals to our pride and to human experience.
  • It’s easier to manage then grace.
  • That’s Legalism!

What is grace?

Grace is unmerited favor. It is God's free action for the benefit of His people. It is different from justice and mercy! Justice is getting what we deserve. See, mercy is not getting what we deserve. Grace is getting what we do not deserve. With God’s grace we get eternal life, something we do not deserve, but because of God's love and kindness manifested in Jesus on the Cross, we receive the great blessing of redemption. Grace is God's riches at Christ’s expense for you and me. We need to understand that grace rules out all human merit. As Paul said “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.” Rom 11:6. Now! I don’t want to mix up this unmerited grace with common grace. There is a common grace that God extends to the unsaved as it does the saved.

Common Grace is the grace God gives to creation as a whole, to all unbelievers. And in this universal grace, God allows the sun to shine upon both the righteous and the unrighteous as it says in Matt 5:43-48. Also, God does not judge unbelievers right away due to the work of Christ on the Cross by which people are saved…..that’s reserved for the great White Throne. This is not the grace the false teachers were telling the people to steer away from. This is not the grace they are trying to replace with works righteousness. The grace that is being downplayed or rejected in the churches was God’s unmerited grace founded in the true gospel. See legalism and grace don’t work together or complement one another. See God’s grace destroys legalism and those who proclaim and live it. We see this in the opening remarks of Paul’s letter…..which sets the stage for the rest of the letter. Grace will always trump our works and legalism….this is proven in the opening remarks of Paul’s letter…..(look at V1-v5). The first thing I want I want us to see about this unmerited grace is that……

THIS GRACE COMES AT A HIGH COST (V4)

“who gave Himself for our sins.” This demonstrates for us the love God has towards us and the abundance of grace that he pours over us. The heart of the gospel is Christ’s willing sacrifice for you and me. Salvation is not earned by my efforts, but by trusting in God’s only begotten Son. Jesus’ atoning death on the cross is the most essential part to our redemption. And since man cannot eliminate or reconcile through works, it has to be done through Christ alone. Rom 3:20-24 says “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

THIS GRACE BRINGS US GENUINE PEACE IN A HOSTILE WORLD. (V4)

“that he might deliver us from this present evil world.” This is God’s grace and provision for us as we live in an evil world system. The true gospel brings grace and peace. See, it’s only by His grace that we are able to find peace. Grace is the source of this peace and its pure and undefiled given to us by a holy God. If we didn’t receive this grace we would have no peace. Jesus said this to His disciples “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you….” John 14:27

THIS GRACE SHOWS US WHO HAS THE RIGHT TO GIVE IT. (V4-V5)

“according to the will of God our Father.” This is the primary reason for receiving such grace…..This is according to His will. The source of this grace is the sovereign, loving, compassionate, gracious will of our God and Father. The Father who “so loved the world” The Father who Jesus (in His humanity) prayed to in the garden before His arrest. It was the Father’s perfect will to crush His Son for you and me. (Isaiah 53). That’s grace and demonstrates the only One is worthy and capable of such a gift. As John 1:12-13 says “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 

Grace is the ability to fellowship once again with a holy God. Salvation is not a trophy to brag upon, but a banner to stand under. It is the understanding that God came and bore the weight of our sins, placing Jesus, with arms outstretched, in the space between Him and us. There are two things that you and I must do to claim His unmerited grace. “if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your  heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9. That’s what unmerited grace looks like! Not Jesus plus what I can do, but JESUS ONLY!