23 February 2015

A HEALTHY CHURCH CONTINUED




Is God, a jealous God? Well, “Jealousy” by definition is a resentment against an opponent, vigilance in maintaining or guarding something. A biblical definition of “jealousy” is "apprehensive of loss of exclusive devotion", it’s an intolerance of competition or unfaithfulness" The bible is very clear when it comes to God and His jealousy. Why? God has a passionate desire that things should transpire as He desires, which is always in accord with His character. "You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God,..” Exo 20:4-5. In Deut 4:23-24 we read “Take heed to yourselves, lest you forget the covenant of the LORD your God which He made with you, and make for yourselves a carved image in the form of anything which the LORD your God has forbidden you. For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” Joshua said “You cannot serve the LORD, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you, after He has done you good." Joshua 24:19-20

God is also jealous that we should not sin against Him, because it provokes Him to anger. The warning and the consequences went out to the people of Israel as they turned to worship gods created by man. "The LORD would not spare him; for then the anger of the LORD and His jealousy would burn against that man, and every curse that is written in this book would settle on him, and the LORD would blot out his name from under heaven.” Deut 29:20. “For they provoked Him to anger with their high places, And moved Him to jealousy with their carved images.” Psalm 78:58. Paul warned the church about playing games with God.“You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord's table and of the table of demons. Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He?” 1 Cor 10:21


What is something that we all have done and may still struggle with today that provokes God to anger? Our desires over God, I will do what makes me happy! This is Idolatry! This is something this church family turned from, to follow the Lord Jesus Christ and His gospel. But what is idolatry? “idolatry”  “is an image, form or representation, usually of a man or other animal, consecrated as an object of worship; a pagan deity.” Idols are usually statues or images, carved out of wood or stone, or formed of metals, particularly silver or gold. I always like to use Erwin Lutzer explanation of idolatry because it goes even deeper than that. Erwin, leaves no room for compromise for today’s generation when it comes to idolatry! He says “an idol can be a physical object, a property, a person, an activity, a role, an institution, a hope, an image, an idea, a pleasure, a hero. If I can simply define idolatry! It is something that gives you and me more pleasure (fulfillment) than GOD” It was John Calvin who said “our heart is an idol factory.”

In a fallen world, people regularly seek things they can worship, even though the Creator is before us in plain view.......Watch sporting events! Our homes even! Churches around the globe! Movies and television. The “idol factory” is hard at work and it does everything it can to get your eyes off of Christ, and gets our eyes fixed on temporal pleasure and passions that lead to destruction. 

Do you have any gods in your life at the present time? If we are not! Consuming our lives with more of Him and less of this world were susceptible to falling into the sin idolatry. If we are not! In drenching our lives, or families........in the Scripture, in prayer, sharing the hope of Christ and communion with the saints! Then, we are at risk of becoming an idolater! That’s how easily idolatry can happen to a person. It can be something as simple as…..
  • Idolizing your pastor…..He is so cool.
  • Idolizing personal prosperity……I love my money and stuff and all that bling.
  • Idolizing self-worship…..the “I love me” syndrome.
  • Idolizing of background…we can more proud to be a Canadian then we are a Christian at times.
  • Idolizing hobbies ……I find more pleasure in these over spending time with God.


Understand this though! God hates idolatry! And God says this is a major problem. Why?


Idolatry is an Abomination......“for it is an abomination to the LORD your God.” Deut 7:25

Idolatry is forbidden.......“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” You shall have no other gods before me.” Exo 20:2-3

Idolatry is changing the glory of God into an image.....“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” Rom 1:21-23

Idolatry is changing the truth of God into a lie......“because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator,…” Rom 1:25

Idolatry forgets God and brings judgment......“And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish. Like the nations that the LORD makes to perish before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the LORD your God.” Deut 8:19-20

The bible is filled with idol worship. The Nation of Israel built a Golden calf to worship because they were impatient with Moses and return from the mountain. (Exodus 32). King Jeroboam had two golden calves build for the people to worship because it was to much for the people to go to Jerusalem. (1 Kings 12:28). Mannasseh had alters build in the house of the Lord. (2 Kings 21:4-7). Amon walked in the way his father did. (2 Kings 21:21). Nebuchadnezzar had a 90 foot statue of him built for people to worship. (Dan 5:23). The people of Lystra thought Paul and Barnabas were Greek gods to worship (Acts 17:16)

But there is hope for the idolater! There is mercy and grace for sinners to find rest in Christ, and to be set free. We see it in this chapter of Paul’s letter……praising God for their transformed lives from idolatry! Again, not only were the Thessalonians living a Christian life commendable by all these things we have been looking at over the past month...But they showed the world that they were transformed by the living God....not a false or a dead god. The power of the Gospel changed the way these people…

  • Thought
  • Lived
  • Breathed
  • Desired
  • Who they worshipped
  • Who they would die for
Their testimony to everyone outside in the community and surrounding cities was so powerful and noticeable. That even an idolatrous people could see something different in them. But they were a church transformed by the power of the Gospel that Paul proclaimed to them. What’s more amazing is……the people outside the church knew it! Why? By what (v8b -v9) says! “for they themselves declare” the people who came in contact with the Thessalonian believers.This was a church that had a body that knew what it meant to worship the true Living God and people took notice of that.

THE MARK OF A HEALTHY CHURCH IS A BODY THAT HAS TURNED TO SERVE THE TRUE GOD OF THE UNIVERSE.


Paul wrote “You turned” (v9)

Which means “motion toward, to turn about, around or toward and then to convert.” Note the order, as it is not "accidental". First we fix our eyes on God. Then we turn from idols. When our eyes of faith are opened to see the true and living God, the vain, dead so called gods are seen for the empty unsatisfying worthless created things they are. The Gospel changes our lives from idolatry to repentance, a turning away from idols to a faith that submits to Christ alone. This is why Paul continues to write about this changed life in the following chapter. “ For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively (successfully)works in you who believe.” 1 Thess 2:13. William MacDonald rightly observes... “that they turned to God from idols, not from idols to God. It wasn’t that they had become fed up with their idols and then decided to give God a chance. No, they turned to God and found Him so satisfying that they dropped their idols. Let us never lose the sense of thrill and awe that is implicit in this account. Two men go into a heathen city with the word of the Lord. They preach the gospel in the power of the Spirit. The miracle of regeneration takes place: men and women become so enraptured with the Savior that they abandon their idols. Next you have a local assembly of believers praising God, living lives of holiness, bravely enduring persecution, and winning others to Christ. Truly the Lord’s service is the prince of callings!” See, it isn’t that their idols became boring or unpleasant to them. It’s because the gospel penetrated their hearts and they saw that it was sin. They didn’t just drop their idols….they repented because they were their gods for a season. “Turned” is same expression we use when a person repents over their own sin! Genuine repentance is evidence to the supernatural work in your life through the gospel. We see this in action! “Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38. The bible says that after Peter preached the gospel to the people they turned from their idols! In Act 2:41 we read “So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” Jesus said “….but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Luke 13:3b. “Repentance” a change one’s mind for better, heartily to amend with abomination of one’s past sins. Salvation involves a person turning of what they loved over God to God and His goodness and grace. Repentance requires taking in a whole new point of view; looking at it God's way. 

A great example of a people turning from idols is ……..Asa, the first good king who tore down all idols and burned them (1 King 15:9-14). Mannasseh later in his life turned and destroyed all the idolatry in the house of the Lord and in Jerusalem. (2 Chron 33:15). The city of Nineveh! “Jonah began to go into the city, going a day's journey. And he called out, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them. The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, "By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish." When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.” Jonah 3:4

God truly hates idolatry, because He created us to worship Him. This is why we need redemption. Every single one of us were idolaters’ before the gospel penetrated our sinful heart. We need to understand God hates idolatry and He does not take pleasure in the unconverted man or woman perishing because of the bondage of sin. Ezekiel penned these words “But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die……Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?” Eze 18:21-23. This church family had their eyes opened to see the glory of the cross and to understand Christ is our greatest treasure. Our prize for all eternity and His is [should be] our only desiring for worship, nothing else.


Paul also said “They Served” (v9)

Which means….”to serve as a bond-servant (doulas) to be a slave, the most demanding form of servitude” “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” Rom 6:16-18. We welcome slavery towards the Lord Jesus Christ…………..I know, I do! The Thessalonians’ had turned from mindless devotion to false, dead demonic idols, to a new (born again) welcome slavery to the ONE TRUE Living God! THE ONLY GOD THAT IS WORTHY OF OUR PRAISE ADORATION......We serve a living God......WHICH MEANS?

  • A Breathing God
  • A Caring God
  • A Loving God
  • A Sovereign God
  • A Wrathful God
  • A Patient God
  • A Merciful God
  • A Righteous God
Not a god made by……. man or of wood, silver, gold, or a statue, a cross or fallible man! We serve a God who desires and deserves our adoration and thanksgiving. That’s why I wake up every morning thankful, that he turned this wretched man that stands before you this morning, from false idols to the truth of the Gospel and the power of His salvation. So that I could be used for His glory in the local church to serve Him with my life! So that I could serve Him in the way He intended me to.…..by enjoying Him forever and bringing Him glory! What have you turned from to follow the Lord Jesus Christ? What was your idol or your god before salvation came? Do have any idols in your life this morning? As R C Sproul Jr said this week “Every idol, if you scratch it, is a mirror. We worship ourselves.” I know who I use to be, but the gospel changed my life forever! If you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you? Could you prove beyond reasonable doubt that your faith is true and genuine? What does the mirror of your life say now? Only you can answer these questions.


01 February 2015

A HEALTHY CHURCH IS A CALLED CHURCH




What do we know about God? Well, according to the scriptures we know that He is…….

  • Omnipotent [all powerful]….(Job 42:2)
  • Omnipresent [everywhere present]….(Ps 139:7)
  • Omniscient [all- knowing]…..(1 John 3:20)
  • Self-sustaining……(Job 12:10)
  • Self-Exist…….(Exo 3:13-14)
  • Sovereign……(Isa 46:10)
  • Great………. (Psalm 104:1)
  • Love…..(1 John 4:8)
  • Just….(Gen 18:25)
  • Wrathful ……(Rom 9:22)
  • Merciful…….(Micah 7:18-20)
  • Truth…..(John 17:17)
  • Holy…….(Isa 6:3)
  • Immutable….(Heb 13:8)
  • Transcendent……..(Heb1:3)
See an "Attribute “a quality or feature regarded as a characteristic or inherent part of someone or something. The attributes of God are generally a collection of descriptions from Scripture of who God is. An "attribute" can be defined as something God has revealed himself to be. Perfection a quality, trait, or feature of the highest degree of excellence; the act or fact of perfecting as seen in……..Ps 18:30-31 “This God—his way is perfect…” They are the qualities of the Godhead (Father, Son and Holy Spirit)
They are permanent qualities. They are inseparable from the being or the essence of God. They belong to His nature and that outwardly reveals His essential qualities. They are His permanent or essential qualities of His nature which He has made known to us in His Word. The Bible declares though various passages that these belong to God! Here is what I want you understand though! We find comfort in these attributes as God’s children in knowing this truth, but this knowledge or illumination only came to us when God drew you to Himself when you were at the bottom of the sea, dead in your sins and trespasses. John penned these words that Jesus spoke “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” John 6:44. We were all dead, drowning in a well until the Lord gave us new life.

God asked Ezekiel? In Ezekiel 37:3 we read “And He said to me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" And I answered, "O Lord GOD, you know." Then God told Ezekiel to do something. “Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the LORD." So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, "Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live." So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army. Then he said to me, "Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, 'Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.' Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD." Eze 37:4-14

We come to a part in this passage that causes many people to step around it or ignore it all together. But this passage conveys to us a beautiful truth that exemplifies the dry bones in Ezekiel! It gives me such comfort and rest in knowing that a Holy God saw my helpless state and breathed into me a new life. See, the doctrine of Election teaches us that God chose certain people in Christ before the foundation of the world. 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.” Eph 1:3-6. Listen to what Paul calls the church at Thessalonica “Beloved by God” Which means “Christians are the recipients of the sovereign love of God.” See, Christians are the elect, chosen of God solely by His sovereign, loving, purpose, apart from any human effort or wisdom. But we also need to understand that this wonderful doctrine does not teach that He chose some to be damned. If men are finally lost, it is because of their own sin and unbelief. See, the same bible that teaches election, also teaches human responsibility. You can either respond to this wonderful free gift or you can reject it. It’s not that you accepted Jesus, it’s that Jesus found you and drew to Himself and by that act of His love and your heart is receptive to His gift of salvation. We see that response to God’s prompting in (v6) “received the word” which simply means “they had believed the gospel and been converted.” As John MacArthur says “Election is the act of God whereby in eternity past He chose those who will be saved. Election is unconditional, because it does not depend on anything outside of God, such as good works or foreseen faith (Romans 9:16). This doctrine is repeatedly taught in the Bible, and is also demanded by our knowledge of God.

Again you might struggle in this area of life because the word “Election” is only for the religious elites or the pastors to debate, study or argue over. But it’s not! Because it’s written that you might rest in His sovereign hands. This truth is not to divide, but to encourage you in your Christian walk to know how personal and how much God is invested in your life. Again, a holy God saw our helpless state and rescued us from danger; which is Hell. Is it hard to comprehend this doctrine to fit into our finite-minds? Yes. Sadly though, some try to dismiss it or reconcile it with their own predispositions. But Spurgeon warned such people about this way of creating theology to fit our life styles. He said “Men who are morbidly anxious to possess a self-consistent creed, a creed which will put together and form some a square like a Chinese puzzle, - - are very apt to narrow their souls.” So we can’t ignore this wonderful truth found in God’s word. The church will never be able to reconcile this doctrine, but we must not turn our backs on such a blessing found in this truth of God’s election. For example! Take this book you hold in your hands for a moment, to help you understand how God “called you” out of darkness. Jesus said “I’m the Way the Truth and the Life...............no one comes to the Father but by Me!” Jesus also said Broad and wide is the road that leads to destruction.....and many will go in by it! But narrow is the way....which is difficult, which leads to eternal life and few find it! Matt 7:13. This was a church that received the Gospel with much affliction because of the Roman presence and there brutal war times tactics....and their hatred to the Gospel because it was exclusive! Not only the Roman Empire! But they also faced ..............Jewish people, leaders (who were haters of the Gospel) going in and disrupting the fellowship or the Gospel that was being proclaimed by Paul and his faithful brothers in Christ. (Act 14-20)…………..all because it was exclusive through Jesus Christ.

See this was a church that - Heard the Gospel and responded to the calling and prompting of God’s grace. They were once dead, but God made them alive again as He did with the dry bones.They were a people who were transformed by the Gospel and it was exemplified in and through their lives.

A HEALTHY CHURCH IS A BODY THAT HAS BEEN CALLED TO A GENUINE SALVATION.

God’s election give evidence to your new “calling” Why? There has been a dramatic change in your life which is demonstrated through the new birth! The Bible says prior to salvation, all people are dead in sin--spiritually dead. And in this state of death, the sinner is utterly unable to respond to any spiritual motivation and therefore unable to…… love God, obey Him, or please Him in any way. Eph 2:1-3 we read “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. This is where the beauty of election shines into our lives……God doesn’t just sort or save you for a while or a certain sin behaviour. He saves with His perfecting love by choosing [adopting you] into His family through the gospel. As Paul Washer said “When God saves a man, He is regenerating his heart, turns him into a new creature, and the evidence is this … he will live like a new creature and he will confess Christ.” God in His mighty power gives us the ability to understand this great love by demonstrating this through ……A working faith, a labour of love and steadfastness that is irremovable found in the hope of future things. It’s by the power of God through the HOLY SPIRIT (v5)

“Power” means specifically miraculous power (usually by implication a miracle itself), ability, abundance, strength, mighty wonderful work. Think about it! Your new life is a miracle on display of God’s handy work in your life. See it’s a miracle that God has allowed anyone of us to be saved! The bible says.......
It’s by His unmerited favour and grace to wretched sinners like us (you and me). He humbled Himself and by Himself on the cross to reconcile us back to the Father! Please remember: He does the saving...You don’t. Why? Because all we know how to do... is SIN! And God must get the glory! As Psalm 79:9 says “Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and atone for our sins, for your name's sake! LISTEN TO WHAT JESUS SAIDYou did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed (selected) you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain ...” John 15:16. Though He was talking with His disciples about their future ministry! Shouldn’t these same principles apply to our lives a well? We see the answer in (v4). In 2 Timothy 1:9 informs us that God "has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity." In 2 Thess 2:13, the apostle Paul tells his readers, "God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation." The Thessalonians embraced this truth because it was the power of the Spirit that brought and produced conviction of sin…..repentance and conversion. And we see that they accepted this wonderful truth (v5). This is only possible through the saving work of God through the Holy Spirit through the preaching of His word. We read that truth in 1 Cor 2:9-12 “But as it is written: "EYE HAS NOT SEEN, NOR EAR HEARD, NOR HAVE ENTERED INTO THE HEART OF MAN THE THINGS WHICH GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM." But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.  For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.”

Again I cannot stress this enough.......He does the calling........you don’t! It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that any person will ever be saved. The Bible says faith comes by hearing, hearing by the word of God. Don’t get me wrong! That’s a major part of everyone’s conversion! But there is more than just hearing someone preach the Gospel.....there are many people who have heard the Gospel and refuse to come to the cross of Christ! Take For example......2 people hear the same gospel message proclaimed by the preacher......the invitation is given to come forward and confess your sins to a holy God and to follow by faith in the Risen Saviour. The first person goes forward, but the second person turns around and walks away! Why did one go forward and the other turn around to go home? They both heard the same gospel message! And sometime we shake our fist at God angrily and ask “Why don’t you or why you didn’t save my_______?” SEE the simple answer is this! It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that we are able to go forward.....Because He gets the glory in a person salvation.........................not the other way around! As Paul said In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” Eph 1:11-14. It’s the power of God through the Holy Spirit that anyone is saved! It’s only by His grace I’m able to breath His air, the smile that I have, the food I eat, my position as pastor, my amazing family, my everything, is all [and only] by the Grace of a sovereign God, who looked upon me and saw nothing good but saved me despite my fallen state. It’s only by grace He saved me and you! What is the Mark of a Healthy Church?
This church had a genuine salvation by the power of the Holy Spirit the third person of the Godhead (v4) 

Knowing this truth...We can personally be assured of the great love of God towards us in Christ based on our own election. Though we may not fully know God’s purposes, how election works, or why the Lord chooses as He does, but, we do have enough to encourage, comfort, and inspire us as we walk by faith, fulfill the good works prepared for us by God. Election is good and glorious; it is beautiful and it displays for us the glory of God in your salvation. As John Piper said “It is good news to know that the root of your salvation goes down forever and ever into eternal grace and never gets to a point where it is contingent and fragile and dependent on your foreseen faith or your foreseen good works.” Are you confused yet? I hope not! Maybe you’re asking yourself! Why hasn’t God saved my spouse, my parent, my son or daughter, my co-worker or neighbor? I guess the ultimate question of why God chose some for salvation and left others in their sinful state is one that we, with our finite knowledge, cannot answer. But! We do know that God's attributes always are in perfect harmony with each other, so that God's sovereignty will always operate in perfect harmony with His goodness, love, wisdom, and justice. The doctrine of election is an evidence to God’s saving grace, which in turn produces a healthy church for the glory of His name. As R C Sproul said “If God did not act first, no one would be saved. The divine initiative is the only possible principle that can account for any person coming to Jesus Christ. God has chosen to save some people and bypass others. We don’t know the reason for this, but he does act in this way. It is his decision, based on his nature, character, and plan. We cannot understand his reasons, but we can be grateful that he chose to save us.” Remember that truth! Because He chose to save you and me. We are walking miracles by the grace of God, that there is still a hope for sinners to be saved through the gospel. And God uses the church as a means to display this glory - His “called out ones!”

07 December 2014

CHRISTMAS MOMENT [PART 1]


Luke 1:39-47

Christmas is a wonderful time of blessing for most people………..especially us Christians! Why?  Christmas reminds us of God’s goodness in our lives, because He sent His Son to save our wretched soul out of the blackness of sin. Christmas is a time to reflect and give thanks to a holy God who loved us and gave us the greatest gift ever given………HIMSELF! A gift that only God could give worthy of all acceptance and praise for sinners like us. Christmas time displays and speaks volumes of Christ……whether the Atheist likes it or not. Christmas is a time that reminds us and always points us to Christ ad His redeeming love. Christmas is all Christ…..it’s all about birth of Christ! It’s a time that we shouldn't take lightly because without this divine historical birth we are still in our sins facing condemnation from a holy God. Though, we may not know the actual date of his birth and all the stories we read about paganism that surrounds Christmas! One thing for sure….. the birth of Christ is a vital doctrine to the Christian faith. Sadly our culture is trying very hard to stop us from celebrating the virgin birth of our Lord through the Christmas season….with a “Humbug” attitude towards anything Christian. How? Everything from removal of Christmas trees, to singing of carols in government buildings, to schools and public places. This generation is trying desperately to literally replace the term “Merry Christmas” with “Happy Holidays”. This generation is trying to re-name our traditional Christmas tree as the “holiday tree.” They’re trying to take out the baby from the manger scenes. Sadly, the world doesn’t want to remember that day some 2000 plus years ago; but there is no escaping this truth of the supernatural work of God in the virgin birth. When we read in scripture about the coming Messiah found in the Old Testament and that He will come from a virgin young lady………..What comes to your mind? We read these passages in our casual reading, but do we really sit down and ponder what truly happened. We really need to stop and understand the significance about this blessed event in History. My question for you this morning is…………What does the virgin birth mean to you? This supernatural historical event is so vital, that it’s mentioned throughout the scriptures. Moses penned these words “.....will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel." Gen 3:15. Isaiah penned these words some 700 years before Christ was born "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel."  Isa 7:14. Jeremiah said “How long will you waver, O faithless daughter? For the LORD has created a new thing on the earth: a woman encircles a man."  Jer 31:22. In the New Testament we continue to read passages like…“and she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus..." Matt 1:21. The apostle Paul said "God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law” Gal 4:4. The virgin birth is non-negotiable doctrinal truth. Why do I say that? Again, many today are trying to convince it never happened. And if that’s true, then we are in a heap of trouble.

One young lady wrote these reasons for not believing in the virgin birth.....There is no reliable evidence. We have no eyewitness accounts, no doctor confirmations, no DNA samples. The earliest references are late and sparse. It seems likely the virgin birth was created to boost the authority of Christianity through prophecy and compete with rival gods who were born of virgins. It’s the same old myth. The claims of Jesus’ birth are no different from any of the other virgin birth legends. It doesn’t have any more evidence or appear to be any more likely. Why believe it over the others? Is it more likely to be a lie, or to be true? Now what is more likely, that she is lying or telling the truth? Even if Mary claimed this herself, we would not believe her. Now consider that the story didn’t appear until over 50 years after it supposedly happened. The likelihood of the virgin birth being true is very, very, very low. We would never, ever, believe this today. Imagine if a teenage girl in your neighborhood claimed that her pregnancy was due to God impregnating her and that she was still a virgin. Would you believe her? Or would you think she was lying? If she insisted on it being true, we would put her in a mental hospital. Sadly like this person, many continue to try and rationalize everything to fit their world view or how they see things! But as the bible says “it is foolishness to those who perish” and we also know according to the scriptures“The fool says in his heart there is no God” But the other side to disbelief, is wrong worshipSome even try to make the virgin birth as a means to worship Mary herself, above Jesus the God man. John MacArthur wrote this “A long tradition of overzealous souls throughout history have wrongly exalted her to godlike status. Unfortunately, even in our era, Mary, not Christ, is the central focus of worship and religious affection for millions. They think of her as more approachable and more sympathetic than Christ. They revere her as the perfect Madonna, supposedly untouched by original sin, a perpetual virgin, and even co-redemptrix with Christ Himself.” John goes on to say “Catholic dogma teaches that she was taken bodily to heaven, where she was crowned “Queen of Heaven.” Her role today, according to Catholic legend, is mediatory and intercessory. Therefore, multitudes direct their prayers to her instead of to God alone—as if Mary were omnipresent and omniscient.” So I ask you the question again! What does the virgin birth mean to you?Why is the doctrine of the virgin birth so important to the Christian church? The world doesn’t want to believe this supernatural work found in the virgin birth. But! This has been His promise since the very beginning of time, when Adam and Eve sinned in the garden. This has been our.....
  • Blessed hope to future things with Him in Heaven.
  • Peace and rest in a holy God.
  • Restoration and reconciliation with a wrathful and just God.
  • Joy of salvation found in Christ alone. (Sola Christus)

We need to see this importance and realize how important the birth of Christ is, as we come into this Christmas season once again. Please turn with me to Luke chapter 1 as we get front row seats to this wonderful historical account of the virgin birth!

BLESSED IS THE WOMAN THAT CARES THE LORD AND SAVIOUR (V42)

"Blessed are you among women" a woman chosen by God. In the Hebrew this statement means "You're the most blessed of all woman" In Luke 1:28 “And having come in, the angel said to her, "Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!" The angel said "highly favored one" which literally means “full of grace” This is the same meaning for anyone that calls upon the name Jesus and believes by faith. Paul said according to his writings that we are favored, make accepted by the Lord, full of grace. In Eph 1:6 we read the same expression for the believer “to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.
We are accepted.” Elizabeth was telling Mary that she was most blessed because she was going to give birth to the greatest child ever to walk this earth. Mary was so blessed that people would make comments when they were in Jesus' presence……..In Luke 11:27 “And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, "Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!" No doubt about it! Mary was an extremely blessed woman, but she was not a woman to be worshipped by mankind or to elevate above Jesus and His Incarnate Deity. She was sinner just like us, who needed a Saviour. (v47)

BLESSED IS THE CHILD THAT COMES TO REDEEM THE WORLD (V42)

"Blessed is the fruit of your womb" Why is this Child blessed? He is blessed because He comes to save people from their sins. He is blessed because He has come to free us from the bondage of sin. He is blessed because He has come to be LORD of our lives! Mary understood this blessing that Elizabeth was speaking in the Holy Spirit   (v41-v42) Why do I say that? Mary speaks of this supernatural blessing she has growing inside of her though praises to God. "My soul magnifies the Lord” (v46)….. My soul is saturated with the Lord. "My spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior" (v47)…… This is showing her need for a Savior. Mary also goes on to express her love to a holy God by saying……….
  • He is Love “regarded the lowly...”  ( me a maidservant) (v48). He is Mighty  "has done great things for me"  (v49)
  • He is Holy "holy is His name" (v49)
  • He is Mercy "to those who fear Him" (v50)
  • He is Sovereign "strength with His arm" (v51)
  • He is Righteous Judge "He has scattered... He has put down... He has exalted the lowly" (v52)
  • He is Provider "filled the hungry with good things"  (v53)
  • He is the Finisher of our Salvation "He has helped His servant Israel... " (v54)

This Child is truly blessed, so blessed; Zechariah prophesied about Him "Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited and redeemed His people" (v68). And Zechariah goes on to say that his son John will go before this great Lord and Savior! In Luke 1:76-79 we read "And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest; For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways, To give knowledge of salvation to His people By the remission of their sins, Through the tender mercy of our God, With which the Dayspring from on high has visited us; To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace." See, without this virgin birth, without Him coming in the form of man….the sin issue is not resolved and we are still damned to hell! As Oswald Chambers said “Jesus Christ became Incarnate for one purpose, to make a way back to God that man might stand before Him as He was created to do, the friend and lover of God Himself.”

BLESSED ARE THE ONES WHO BELIEVES BY FAITH (V45)

This is an important truth that overflows with blessing! Elizabeth was praising God by faith. Mary was parsing God by faith. Zechariah was praising God by faith, even John the Baptist was praising God by faith "The baby leaped in my womb for joy" Think about! How do we have that kind of faith and joy as John had in the womb of Elizabeth? By what Paul wrote to the church! In 2Cor 4:6 we read “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.” He has put His knowledge and glory of Himself in our hearts through the gospel. He has given us His promise and assurance of His great salvation through His son, Jesus Christ. The Apostle Peter says the faith that we have is the faith of love……“whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:8-9. The English Standard Version says "Though you have not seen him, you love him"The King James Version says "Whom having not seen, ye love". Our faith is a faith in a person who we cannot see, smell or touch, but He lives inside of us through the Holy Spirit. I must trust in the scriptures when it speaks about the supernatural work found in the virgin birth. For by faith [a faith that God gives us, as a gift] we are saved! Because we believe the scriptures.

This virgin birth is so much more than a miracle………………it about our [your] redemption! For without this virgin birth……………. I am doomed and so are you! Faith is a must, in order to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ who came as a baby born of virgin young girl…..a faith that He gives us. As Paul wrote “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.  Eph 2:8–9. See! Faith is simply breathing the breath that God’s grace supplies to each one who believes through the gospel that saves. That's why John leaped in the womb! Redemption is here to save sinners. Prophecy has been fulfilled as the prophets foretold. The Seed has finally come to crush Satan and his fallen angels once and for all. Immanuel (God is with Us) has finally come to deliver Us! As Simeon “took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, "Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel." And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him.  And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed." Luke 2:28-35. As Simeon praises God for this selfless gift! Never forget this wonderful truth of the virgin birth and always be ready to give an account for the hope that is in your heart this Christmas season.

THE VIRGIN BIRTH IS ESSENTIAL TO THE CHRISTIAN FAITH
  • If this revelation is rejected, then any other Biblical fact may be rejected. 
  • If the virgin birth is rejected, the deity or humanity (or both) of the Savior must also be discarded.
  • If the virgin birth is not true there is no valid salvation.
  • If the virgin birth is not fact, then the doctrine of the incarnation, as revealed in scripture, cannot be accepted.
  • If the virgin birth is not valid, man is without hope in time and eternity.
  • If the virgin birth is error, other doctrines lose meaning and purpose.

So rejoice, because we know through the scripture how important and real the virgin birth was! Christmas is a blessed time for family of God! So are you leaping for Joy this morning? Is your spirit rejoicing in the promise found in Christ alone this morning? Does your soul magnify the Lord this morning? Are you praising Him for finding favour in you? Are you thankful for that wonderful Christmas gift? That gift is? Salvation in the one true King……………….Jesus Christ.I love what John MacArthur says about the Christmas baby "If we could  condense all the truths of Christmas into only three words, these would be the words: "God with us." .

16 November 2014

A FRIEND IN HIGH PLACES




Heb 4:14-26

We have all used the expression, "Been there, done that!" When we say, "Been there, done that," we can usually relate to what a person is going through! I came across an example of this though my studying this week. A story about a boy who had lost an arm in a terrible accident. The story says “He had become bitter and depressed. “He withdrew into a shell and refused to see the people who came to try to cheer him up.  But he experienced an abrupt change of heart when he was visited by another Christian who suffered from a similar handicap [this reminded me of my buddy Darrell].  The sight of that one-armed man coming into his room gave the youngster new hope. He felt he had found someone who could really identify with him and his feelings. His outlook immediately improved." It was if that one armed man was saying to that boy, "Been there, done that!" Another story I came across was about a man named Booth Tucker, who was conducting evangelistic meetings in the great Salvation Army Citadel in Chicago. “One night, after he had preached on the sympathy of Jesus, a man came forward and asked Mr. Tucker how he could talk about a loving, understanding, sympathetic God. 'If your wife had just died, like mine had,' the man said, 'and your babies were crying for their mother who would never come back, you wouldn't be saying what you're saying.' "A few days later Mr. Tucker's wife was killed in a train wreck. Her body was brought to Chicago and carried to the Citadel for the funeral. After the service the grieving preacher looked down into the silent face of his wife and then turned to those who were attending. “The other day when  I was here, he said, a man told me that, if my wife had just died and my children were crying for their mother, I would not able to say that Christ was understanding and sympathetic, or that He was sufficient for every need. If that man is here, I want to tell him that Christ is sufficient. My heart is broken, it is crushed, but it has a song, and Christ put it there. I want to tell that man that Jesus Christ speaks comfort to me today.” What’s amazing about this story is that the man was there, and he came and knelt beside the casket while Booth Tucker introduced him to Jesus Christ. Booth Tucker could say to that distraught husband, "BEEN THERE, DONE THAT!" 

In the course of a life time you will face many problems, many hurts, many difficulties and many temptations. There are even going to be times when someone can relate to you and say, "Been there, done that!" Other times you will feel that nobody is relating to what you are facing and you feel all alone. I have a reminder for you this morning we have a friend in high places we can seek when we feel all alone. There is a person who always understands your problem, always feels your problem, can always relate, and can always say, "BEEN THERE, DONE THAT!" He may have not faced the exact trial but he faced trials so similar that he can always relate. The person's name is The Lord Jesus Christ! Turn with me to Hebrew’s chapter 4 this morning as we look at this friend we have in high places. A friend we can turn to when we are faced with approaching storms of life. He is no ordinary friend! He is King Jesus and He is always there no matter what happens in our lives. WHY?

OUR FRIEND IS SEATED IN HEAVEN

See, this is no ordinary friend, according to the writer of Hebrews he is a “High Priest”. What I find interesting is that the author of Hebrews contrasts Jesus with the ministry of the Levitical High Priest in this portion of scripture. A priest according to Old Testament writings once a year passed from the sight of the people into the Holy of Holies bearing the blood of atonement? Once a year the High Priest representing all the people entered the Holy of Holies. Where he would sprinkle blood with his finger on the mercy seat to symbolically atone for the sins of the people. But even before this could be done, he would have to offer a sacrifice for his own sin. Then he would be able to enter, but would only stay long enough to sprinkle the atoning blood. Historically it is said “bells were sewn to the hem of his robe so people outside could hear him moving and thus know that God had not struck him dead.” And the Hebrew writer wants us to know who are High Priest  is as we face our next trial, temptation or decision in life. A High Priest who made it possible for us to approach God on our own though the Holy of Holies! How has Jesus made this possible? “who has passed through the Heavens” See the priest entrance into the Holy Holies was though portals or sections of the Tabernacle. The first portal was he bore the blood through the door into the “outer court”. The second portal he entered a door into the Holy Place. The third portal he entered through the veil of the Holy of Holies. Understand! The priest had to do this year after year

IN CONTRAST:

Jesus our great High Priest, after once only sacrifice for sin on the cross passed “though the heavens” First Jesus went through the first heaven “the atmosphere”. Second Jesus went through the second heaven “outer space”. Third Jesus went through in the third heaven “the most HOLY of places…the presence of God”. A place where He is seated, something that no priest had ever done. Why? The spotless, sinless, perfect Lamb of God once and for all appeased the Father’s wrath though His offering for sin…….Himself “For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people's, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.” Heb 7:26-27. This is our friend in High Places, so hold fast to your confession in Him, because God holds you in His sovereign arms.

OUR FRIEND FEELS YOUR PAIN

The bible says our High Priest our friend “sympathize with our weaknesses” Sympathize means “to share the experience of another”..…which gives the expression ”been there, done that”
Jesus the most sensitive man who ever lived and walked this earth feels for you and me. That’s a comforting truth as we face today and the next, isn’t it? No one truly understands like Jesus, when it comes to your pain, failures and sin. Isn’t that true in your life? I know it is for me! The God of the universe came in likeness of man to demonstrate His love for fallen sinners like us. And to top it off he shares in our weaknesses and faced the same trials you possibly face today. He experienced every kind of temptation you could invent or come up with. As the bible says “He was in all points tempted as we are”. Every kind of unpleasant, every kind of circumstance you face or about to face, he has also faced them. Jesus not only had all the feelings of:
  • Love
  • Concern
  • Disappointment
  • Grief
  • And Frustration that we have

Jesus knows the limitations to our human capability and we need to understand He faced each of these temptations to the maximum! John MacArthur said “there is a degree of temptation that we may never experience simply because, no matter what our spirituality, we will succumb before we reach it. But Jesus Christ had no such limitations. Since he was sinless He took the full extent of all Satan could throw at Him. He had no shock system or weakness limit, to turn off temptation at a certain point. Since he never succumbed, He experienced every temptation to the maximum. And he experienced it as a man, as a human being. In every way he was tempted as we are, and more.” Remember what Paul wrote? “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” 1 Cor 10:13. We will never be able fathom the depth of the temptation Jesus endured. Yet He withstood the depth, as well as the force, of these temptations…..He overcame them as the sinless One. This gives me great comfort! To know that whatever I face in this life he has faced it before me and has faced it head on to its full maximum capability. What I find also confronting about this is that earlier the Hebrew writer pens these words about our friend in high places. “For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” Heb 2:18
  • When you feel like committing adultery on your wife
  • When you feel like committing adultery on your husband
  • When you’re all alone, mouse in hand on the internet ready to search the web.
  • When you feel like gossiping about someone else.
  • When you feel like giving up your purity to find love.
  • When you feel like abusing a loved one physically or with words.
  • When you feel unloved and want things to come to an end.
  • When you feel nobody cares and God isn’t real.

Jesus knows the depths of your pains because he has also endured to their fullest before you. Do you want sympathy from this friend? If your answer is YES, Do not go anywhere elseIf your answer is NO, then keep listening.


OUR FRIEND HAS OPENED THE DOOR

Our friend has open help line 24 hours, 365 days a year. This High Priest who has fulfilled the requirement for sin once and for all, and has made His presence available to all who are call upon the name of the Lord. This is amazing! Something only a High Priest could do once a year with a rope around his waist and bells attached to robe. Jesus has made the Holy of Holies available “the veil was torn” to all His sanctified children at any time! No matter where you are. And the Hebrew writer says “come boldly to throne of grace”. Boldly or confidence means “to be free and open speech of citizens with one another.” What does that look like? We are to come to God without hesitation or tentativeness! Why? He has completed everything that is required to be in God’s presence. He has removed the requirement to enter His throne of grace. The place from which grace flows for saved sinners like you and me. And here is the promise! When we hold to our confession and have a boldness or confidence….we receive “mercy” for past failures and “grace” to meet our present and future needs. So we can say with Jesus’ brother James “But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "GOD RESISTS THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE." James 4:6. The One who understands us perfectly will also provide for us perfectly and accordingly to His will. God’s throne of judgement is turned into a throne of grace for those who trust in Him! Most ancient rulers were unapproachable by the common people. Historically it says “some would not even allow their highest ranking officials to come before them without permission.”. But because of the finished work in Christ! We can approach the throne no matter how sinful and undeserving we are. We may approach God’s throne at any time for forgiveness, restoration, help and time of need. You and I, having this confidence that we will be received with mercy and grace! How can anyone reject or ignore such a friend? Jesus, not permits us to come before His throne for help, but pleads with us to come in confidence. Many of us sometimes feel……

“God doesn't want to hear about my problems”
“Who am I that he would even care”
“I don’t feel worthy enough to come to Him”
“I’m too ashamed of what I done”

Exactly, this is the reason he went to the cross for me and you! And he has not left us alone to fight this fight. He is calling us to approach Him because he is filled with grace and mercy and he wants to lavish this upon you. Please, don’t miss or take this truth lightly! His death gives you an open door into His presence not for a moment for as long as you need. “Trials reveal our weakness. Weakness reveals our need. Need moves us to pray. And prayer opens the door to God’s endless supply. ”Paul Washer
  • Are you a born-again Christian? COME TO THE THRONE OF GRACE.
  • Do you hurt? COME TO THE THRONE OF GRACE.
  • Do you have troubles? COME TO THE THRONE OF GRACE
  • Do you need strength? COME TO THE THRONE OF GRACE!
  • Are you tempted to sin? COME TO THE THRONE OF GRACE!
  • Are you worried? COME TO THE THRONE OF GRACE!
  • Have you failed God? COME TO THE THRONE OF GRACE!

Andrew Bonar was ministering in a service at Northfield, Massachusetts. D.L. Moody, who was in charge said impulsively, "Dr. Bonar, these people would like to know how you live this victorious life about which you have been preaching. Tell us your experience…." With some hesitation Bonar quietly replied, "I do not like to speak about myself; but for 50 years I have had access to the Throne of Grace." So do we…….a friend in High Places.