13 October 2014

A CALL TO DISCERNMENT


1 Kings 3:6-13

An elderly woman stood on a very busy street corner in rush hour traffic. She was fearful, confused, and therefore hesitant to cross by herself. Finally, a man came up to her and asked if he could cross the street with her. Grateful and very relieved, she took his arm and stepped into the busy intersection. As they proceeded, she grew progressively alarmed as he zigzagged randomly across the street, to the blare of horns and screech of locked brakes. Finally, after reaching their destination, she turned to the gentleman and complained, "You almost got us killed! You walk like you're blind." "I am," he replied. "That's why I asked if I could cross with you." That dear lady did not make the best choice. The man who she thought was a steady arm and sufficient guide, was actually desperate for guidance himself. He didn't have a clue! Remember what Jesus said when it came to following after one another Jesus. When the blind lead the blind, they both end up in the ditch! Matt 15:14. We sometimes don’t make wise choices or examine things clearly! We sometimes go in like a blind man accepting whatever happens. Or say that it’s ok. We are constantly blitzed by powerful influences such as the media, peer pressure, social trends, moral relativism, culture driven religion and cults, each of which can lead us astray! The one thing the church is desperately lacking is discernment! The Church needs to reclaim this truth. Discernment is the synonym for the word ‘discriminate’ which in a way has a negative connotation, but the word itself is not! It simply means “to make a clear distinction”. People used to call someone “a discriminating person” if he or she exercised keen judgment. The same goes for someone who displays discernment in their life. Discernment signifies a positive line between good and evil, true and false, right and wrong. In today’s society! A person who was discerning (discriminating) would be considered radical bigotry!

For example:
  • Homosexuality is immoral (1 Cor 6:9-10) (1 Tim 1:9-10)
  • Women are to submit to their husbands (Eph 5:22) (Col 3:18)
  • Children are to obey their parents (Eph 6:1)

In fact the Greek verb translated ‘discern’ in the New Testament means “to make a distinction” It is commonly translated into English as ‘insight’ or ‘understanding’. In essence it means to separate things from one another at their points of difference in order to distinguish them.......Jay Adams said this about discernment “the process by which one comes to know or understand God’s thoughts and ways through separating things that are differ.” Discernment is the process of making careful distinction in our thinking about truth. Discernment is a skill we need to live a life that is morally and ethically pleasing to God. John MacArthur said “Discernment is black and white thinking..... the conscious refusal to color every issue in shades of gray. No one can be truly discerning without developing skill in separating divine truth from error” How do we do that? First of all Paul penned these words to the church in Thessalonica. “but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.” 1 Thess 5:21-22
Why are we to have discernment? And why is this so important to the church? As Paul continues in (v23) “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” I like what Tim Challies said “we need to be discerning first in what we believe and then in what we do. Spiritual Discernment doesn’t come from within. Paul said “the natural man can’t discern the things of God” Remember what Paul said to the church about the unconverted man and woman? “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.” 1 Cor 2:14-15. 

There is something we need to understand as Solomon made this request! See Solomon had very big shoes to fill. His father was a righteous and honorable King, despite his many downfalls and failures as a man. But none the less! David according to the word of God “was a man after God’s own heart” 1 Sam 13:14. So here is this young boy in charge of governing and ruling his people. This by the way is around 4 million. Here is a man, born into leadership and has unlimited power at his finger tips and he asks the Lord something that each and every one of us should ask on a daily basis. Look what Solomon asks for! “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?" (v9) He was seeking discernment so that He could govern his people properly. To be able to determine right from wrong….justice to injustice. Innocent to proven guilty, to know the truth from error. He did this not for himself, but for the good of his people in whom God entrusted to him.

The same principle could be said of our lives. 
  • A discerning heart when it comes to my relationships with opposite sex.
  • A discerning heart when it comes to being more involved when finding a church.
  • A discerning heart when how to deal with conflict with friends and loved ones.
  • A discerning heart when I’ve wronged someone.
  • A discerning heart so that I can determine what truth from error is. 

This has become a problem in the church today! From so-called Christian movies to books and false teachers who stand behind pulpits with their pretty faces trying to convince you of untruths. Charles Spurgeon said of his generation in the 1800’s “it’s a remarkable fact that all the heresies which have arisen in the Christian Church have had a decided tendency to dishonor God and to flatter man.” The Christian life is a life that tests all things….proclaim what is genuine and true. The Christian life is not being swayed or gullible to everything someone has to say. Paul wrote in Romans 12:9 “abhor what is evil”. See “abhor” means to hate; to turn from, to avoid. The word “evil” has reference to wickedness, or unkind. How can we avoid or turn away from evil? How can a young man govern his people according to God? By requesting for a discerning heart, not a critical heart condemn or to judge everything ignorantly. A discerning heart because your passion is for truth and for truth to be known for the glory of God.

SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT IS A GIFT FROM GOD

God grants Solomon this request in (v11) This is something only God can give through the transforming work of the gospel. As Jesus said “….I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children;” Matt 11:25. We need to be discerning with everything we do, because He has granted us this gift to understand through the work of the Spirit! Whether that is our relationships, friendships, business partners and so on. This gift must be guarded as a priceless treasure instead of treating it as a Walmart special. Question is…… do you have discernment? Have you felt a special responsibility to protect the truth of God's Word by exposing that which is wrong? Do you often make a swift assessment of someone or something that was said, that others did not see but yet proved to be correct? Are you keenly aware of moral sin and doctrinal heresy? Can you read a book or hear a teacher and almost immediately uncover any false teaching?
This gift is to be used to keep us sharp and aware as we make decisions in this life.
  • For our family
  • Our marriages
  • Our children
  • Who we hang out with
  • Who we will marry
  • What we watch read and listen to and so on

This gift is to help, guide our lives to make right choices in a perverse world that wants us to be quit, be a clone and do as I say and stand in line with the world system.

SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT IS A SIGN OF MATURITY AND GROWTH.

Heb 5:13-14 says “For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” Solid food relates to those who are growing and maturing in Christ. The understanding of God’s word and digging deep into His word can only be understood and appreciated by those who are advanced in Christian experience. To discern both good and evil - That is, in doctrine. They will appreciate and understand what is true; they will reject what is false. That’s what happens when we grow deep each and every day, year under His grace. Every Christian over time should be a great theologian and a beautiful example of the gospel to their families, communities and so on. God in Christ has granted understanding! Something the common man knows nothing of. He has given us a discerning heart to see the difference between truth and error. Those things that is wrong and right in this life. As this verse says in Hebrews 5:14 "constant practice to distinguish good from evil". As a child who is no longer an infant is and will be able to distinguish between sound and unsound doctrine. A child can put into its mouth things that are hurtful and things nutritious all at the same time, without discernment………..but not so for the maturing adult. For what purpose?  So that you will NOT “….be carried about with various and strange doctrines.” Heb 13:9

SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT REQUIRES A TEACHABLE AND EAGER SPIRIT.

As Luke penned these words “Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” Acts 17:10-11. Are you teachable? Are you excited to learn what the bible says and are you ready to conform to the bible says for your life, instead of the bible conforming to you ideologies? That only comes though discernment and testing everything to scripture.As Joseph Stowell said “Discernment in Scripture is the skill that enables us to discern. It is the ability to see issues clearly. We desperately need to cultivate this spiritual skill that will enable us to know right from wrong. We must be prepared to distinguish light from darkness, truth from error, best from better, righteousness from unrighteousness, purity from defilement, and principles from pragmatics". John MacArthur said “That is what the God-fearing and “noble-minded” Jews of Berea did when they first heard the gospel from Paul. They tested Paul’s word against what they knew of God’s Word, and because the two words matched they believed that what he preached was from God and not from demons. That is what every believer should do with every message that claims to be from God. No preacher or teacher of the gospel should resent having what he says judged against Scripture.” We need to test and hold to what is truth! According His word not ours but that only comes when we have a teachable spirit. The longer someone spends in the Word, the more they desire to be taught. Sadly though! Many people in our churches have become stale and are not reading or meditating on the blessed truth of our Savior, but have turned from truth and are following after men of this world for wisdom and understanding. “tickling ears” They are never growing spiritually and continue to be "babes in Christ." To some degree because they become unteachable and unwilling to listen to truth.

Discernment overlaps the Christian life at every point. And God's Word provides us with the needed discernment about every issue of life. According to Peter, God "has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence" 2 Peter 1:3. We are to continue, persevere, and hunger for the Word. We must have a desire for the spiritual food which can only come through reading and meditating on the Word. As the Psalmist says, “as the deer pants for water, my soul desires after you and your precious Word.” Jesus said "but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life." John 4:14. If a person has no desire to grow, then there is only one thing that will happen. The flesh will take up residence and will control your behavior and actions because the flesh only knows how to sin! And your discerning radar will be turned off! My challenge for you this week is this! Are you seeking Him today with a request for discernment? Do you desire to discern between false and truth statements? If you are incapable of discerning truth from error. You must seek the Lord today? Do you desire that understanding heart like Solomon? Are you aware of wolves in sheep clothing? Are you resting in the wisdom of God? As the apostle Paul said “and it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment.” Phil 1:9. This was Paul’s prayer for the church and it should be our prayer for one another here as well.

05 October 2014

BE STRONG IN THE LORD





Eph 6:10-20

What kind of person are you, when some says “What are your strengths?” What is the first thing you think of, when asked that question? Maybe you are emotionally strong. Maybe you can handle a lot of pressure, work for long hours, day after day after day. Maybe you are the one who is the emotional anchor in your family and everyone leans on you for support. There are many kinds of strength. But the most important one is the strength you need in the Lord. True Christian strength is not of the body. True Christian strength is of the spirit, measured in faithfulness, trust, and perseverance.  By Grace we live by Faith. If we don't listen and truly trust what the Word of God tells us, then we will never function properly in this life. The outcome of that truth is that our own strength in reality is weak and feeble. God requires every Christian to put on His strength, so that we can stand in a world full of hatred and violence towards Christianity. He requires this because He know what we need and we as Christians, have to be prepared each and every day. The Bible says put on the Lord Jesus Christ! Paul penned these words “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” Rom 13:14. Listen, our battle is not among each other, or what's happening on this earth. Our battle is not of this earth. Don’t get me wrong! There are many things to fight in this world. For instance, you can fight sickness, fatigue, death of loved ones, failure of your plans and hopes, questions without answers, and pain without reason. Yes, we fight in this world.  But we also fight in the spiritual world. It is Satan who opposes you! It is he who seeks to harm you and destroy your bodies and souls in the eternal blackness that will be his unending grave of torment. Yet the blood of Christ has guaranteed your deliverance from that awful end.

Listen to Peter as he warns Christians of the battle that's before us! In 1Peter 5:8 we read “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” We so easily devour one another and forget who we're at battle with. So how do we become sensitive and alert, being at watch all the days of our lives. How? By putting on the required equipment (spiritual armor) that the Lord tells us to wear, so that we can stand and face the day that He has given us in His strength. We must put on the Armor that our God has provided for us through Christ Jesus. If we do not put the whole armor then we are susceptible to the prince of this air who is roaring around, going about seeking who he may destroy for himself and also to see who's testimony he can discredit. There are 6 vital pieces of equipment the believer MUST put on every single minute of every single day…..if we’re breathing these things must be worn at all times. This is a non-negotiable for our good! My question to you is! Have you put on the whole armor of God today? The Bible says it’s our duty as good Soldiers of the Cross of Christ is to….
  • Endure
  • Persevere
  • Fight the good fight
  • Standing firm in the word of Truth

In 2Tim 2:3-4 we read “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.”

THE BELT OF TRUTH

What is this belt of truth? This is the belt of
  • Preparation 
  • Readiness
  • Commitment
  • Attitude  
  • Truthfulness, faithfulness

This is used to fasten other items to keep them in place, as we go into battle which holds our sword of truth! We must put on……
  • The belt of preparation,
  • The belt of sober and vigilance
  • The belt of truthfulness and faithfulness
  • The belt of Commitment
  • This belt will keep us prepared, sober, watchful, because the truth is what keeps everything together without flapping all over the place

Without truth we are lost and without hope and easily deceived
Paul said the believers in this letter, “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ.” Eph 4:14-15. Without truth we reason everything by our own understanding and look to false truths (Doctrines of Demons). Let me ask you something! If you turned on the T.V at home, read a newspaper, read a book! Can you truly determine what truth, to what is error is? The reason I say that without truth there is no way we can defend ourselves in a world that says:

"There is no absolute truth"
"There is no God"
"We are not created beings"
"The Bible is full of lies and tales"

See when we gird, surround, saturate ourselves, in the truth of God's we walk by faith in His truth. As Isaiah said “Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins, And faithfulness the belt of His waist.” Isa 11:5

THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS

We are to put on the breastplate of integrity and of moral rectitude  and right standing with God. This is a vital piece of Armor, which covers our major vital organs and most of all the heart. This is the breast plate of practical righteousness. A life lived out in joyful obedience to God's commands. A life of Integrity, holiness, purity of life, a deep longing and desire to live for Christ. Paul said in Rom 13:12-14 “The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy (Don't go to wild parties or get drunk or be vulgar or indecent. Don't quarrel or be jealous.) But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” Let the Lord Jesus Christ be as near to you as the clothes you wear. Then you won't try to satisfy your selfish desires. We are to put off, put away, the works of darkness and live a life of integrity, holiness, purity of life.
  • Is Jesus happy with the way you are living at the moment?
  • Is Jesus Happy with what you say or watch in the internet/ TV?
  • Is Jesus happy where your feet go?
  • Is Jesus happy with what your hands touch?
  • Is Jesus happy with your attitude about someone else?
  • Is Jesus happy with your attitude towards the things of God?

It’s like that children's song

Oh, be careful little eyes, what you see
Oh, be careful little eyes, what you see.
Oh, be careful little eyes, what you see.
There's a Father up above, looking down in tender love,
So be careful little eyes, what you see.
Be careful little ears what you hear
Be careful little mouth what you say...
Be careful little hands, what you touch...
Be careful little feet, where you go...


HAVE YOU PUT ON THE BOOTS OF PEACE

We have been given a wonderful gift of peace as a defense to an unfriendly world. Before I was saved by His grace I had no peace because I was lost and without any real hope. The gospel of peace will give each and every Christian the sense of…
  • Joy
  • Excitement
  • Readiness
  • Preparedness
  • Purpose
  • Longing and desire to love one another

Richard Lenski said "This peace is in the heart but shows itself in the readiness of the feet" This readiness, this peace is the gospel of Jesus Christ “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” 1 Peter 3:15. How wonderful are those who obey God's precious Words. The only words that saved my life and yours through the feet of His faithful children. Does the Gospel truly bring joy to your heart? Does it give you that hunger, a deep desire, a passion to tell others if the opportunity is there? Does a runner trains with work boots on? Does a hockey player us roller skates on the ice? The same goes for us today. We must always be prepared. Have you begun this day and every day prepared with the word of God? We are to put on the shoes of the Preparation, training our bodies and minds with the Gospel of Peace. We must always wear the shoes of the gospel of peace and let it rule our hearts. 

HAVE YOU PUT ON THE SHIELD OF FAITH

The True Christian believes that God is who says He is, by wearing the shield of faith. The shield of Faith is a trusting completely and unconditionally in the Lord Jesus Christ with our marriages, children, church family. We trust Him with our lives but we forget we are to trust Him with everything else as well. Because 1 John 5:4 says “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” Our shield of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the only way to have victory when it comes to:
  • Temptations
  • Friends and peer pressure
  • Relationships
  • Your Christian walk

As the Hebrew writer says without the shield of faith “it’s impossible to please Him” according to Heb 11:6. So let me ask you! Have you put on your shield of faith today? What happens when you forget to put on the shield of faith? 10 out of 10 times we fail! We forget to put on our equipment that God supplies to us (the shield of faith). We lose the victory and Satan defeats us with our own doubt at times. The Christian shield of faith helps us in the areas where we’re weak, because it's powerful and effective to withstand the darts of the evil one. As Psalm 56:3-4 “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me?” Satan wants nothing more than to put doubt in your heart and mind, as he did to disciples at times. The only way to stand, or defend ourselves in that time of trials and doubt is to put on the shield of faith.

HAVE YOU PUT ON THE HELMET OF SALVATION

It all begins here! See, Satan battle begins with the believer’s security and assurance in Christ. Satan's battle is to discourage us ……
  • By pointing out our failures in life
  • Pointing our sins
  • Our unresolved problems
  • Our poor health
  • Whatever else seems negative in our lives

Why does he do this? He hates anything any anyone attached to the Lord Jesus Christ. That's why we cannot face the day without putting on our helmet of salvation. A prime example of this is found in Job “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. Even so, I will defend my own ways before Him.” Job 13:15
  • Do find discouragement easy?
  • Are you easily steered to bitterness and hatred?
  • Do you lack the trust the Bible promises to the Believer?
  • Do you have a low view of God?

Satan wants nothing more than the children of God to doubt and stumble in their Christian walk. There are many ways he achieves this…….Your personal meditation of God's word (I'm too busy or tired) Your prayer life (what's the us, nothing’s happening) Your witness to others (I'm too afraid) Attending church (I have to many things to do, soccer, hockey, baseball, and son on; or you say it’s my only day to relax) Your personal holiness ( inappropriate viewing on TV or Internet, worldly behavior) The Bible is very clear when it says that the TRUE BELEIVER never needs to doubt about their salvation. Doubt only comes when we forget to put on the Helmet of Salvation. Paul said “He who has begun a good work in you, will complete until the day of Jesus Christ.” Phil 1:6. This helmet of salvation enables us to endure, push forward in our Christian walk to what is ahead of us, the temptations and trials for that day. The helmet gives us security, peace and most of all rest in the finishing work on the Cross at Calvary

HAVE YOU EQUIPPED YOURSELF THE SWORD OF THE SPIRIT

This is the most powerful weapon and the only offensive Armor we have in the Christian life! This is the Divine Sword “the Word of God" The Word that is 
  • Infallible (2 Tim 3:16-17)
  • The Oracles of God  (Rom 3:2)
  • The record of divine prophecies  (2 Peter 1:19-21)
  • Authoritative  (Isa 1:2)
  • Effective  (Isa 55:11)
  • Its truthful and pure (John 17:17)

The word that is complete for every generation and culture. Isa 40:8 says “The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever." We have been given a wonderful and powerful sword, a sword that Jesus Himself used against the darts of the evil one. This is the only weapon that is able to defeat the blows of Satan. Satan hates the Word with a passion, and hates its divine power. He wants nothing more than to distort the truth in every generation. See our task is to use it and be equipped with it. UNDERSTAND THIS TRUTH! We're not to SHARPEN IT OR ADJUST IT! We're to just USE IT. God's word will do the work and defeat the enemy. As Spurgeon said “Defend the Bible? I would as soon defend a lion! Unchain it and it will defend itself. As Heb 4:12 says “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerned of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Without this defensive weapon we’re helpless against Satan and his fallen angels

How important is the Armor for the Believer? It’s the only way for the Christian to survive in a world full of darkness and evil. There are many things that Satan wants to achieve in this battle against you and me. He wants you to distrust God. He wants to tempt you to forsake obedience to God's standards and calling. He wants to cause doctrinal confusion so that you become easy prey to wrong ideas about the things of God. He attacks believers by persuading them to trust their own heart and resources. He wants believers to becoming hypocrites, or two faced. He wants to cause division among the true family of God. He wants to enticing you to let the world squeeze you "into its own mold" There are many other ways he attacks us! But if we do not put on the WHOLE Armor of God we’re vulnerable and weak against his attacks. We must always be prepared for battle. John MacArthur said about William Tyndale “it was William Tyndale's vow that every English plowman and every boy that pulled a plow would one day be able to read and understand the scriptures, and to that end he devoted his life to translating it into the English language. It is essential for the Word of God to be known, and loved, and practiced if we are to win the battle against Satan. Are you ready for battle today? Have you put on the whole armor of God? If not! You are vulnerable and prone to his fiery darts! Your answer to that question will determine your walk, talk, and life!

28 September 2014

DON’T EXPECT ANYTHING DIFFERENT


John 15:18-25

The late great Leonard Ravenhill said “Why Do we expect to be better treated in this world than Jesus was.” What did the Romans & Jews do to Jesus? A better question might be asked this morning! What did we do to Jesus? According to the Bible!
  • He was spit and slapped repeatedly in the face.
  • He was blindfolded and was repeatedly punched by multiple people.
  • His clothing was torn and removed from His body and it was sold amongst themselves.
  • He was made to stand there almost naked in front of a captive crowd of on-lookers.
  • His back and front was brutally beaten and whipped to the point of death due to shock of pain and agony.
  • He was ridiculed dressed like a king as He carried His cross up to Calvary, which is outside the camp.
  • He’s hands and feet had long spikes put through his skin into the wood to hold His body in a position that would cause His lungs to fill up with fluid as He hangs there and dies a slow sinner’s death on a cross.
According to Isaiah some 700 years before Christ came, penned these prophetic words. “As many were astonished at you His appearance was so marred [disfigured] beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind” Isaiah 52:14. Never was any man's face more disfigured, or his form more altered, than his was. As John Calvin said “Christ was disfigured among men, or that his beauty was defaced by the perverse judgment of men.” All this suffering because mankind’s hatred towards Jesus Christ and who He claimed to be. There hostility demonstrated their true heart of the Jews. Hey hated Him through His words and actions, because it revealed to the Jews how sinful they truly were. This is a picture of the hostile world system then and today. This is a picture of us…..this is a picture of our culture and world system today. This response by the Jews reminded of a missionary who was approached by an African Chief, in this case a woman. “And Hanging outside the missionary’s cabin, on a tree, was a little mirror. The chief happened to look into the mirror and her reflection, with its hideous paint and evil features. She gazed at her own terrifying countenance and jumped back in horror exclaiming, “Who is that horrible-looking person inside the tree?” “Oh,” the missionary said, “it is not in the tree. The glass is a reflecting your own face." The African would not believe it until she held the mirror in her hand. She said “I must have the glass. How much will you sell it for?” “Oh” the missionary said, “I don’t want to sell it.” But she begged until the missionary caved! She took the mirror. Exclaiming, “I will never have it making faces at me again,” so she threw it down and broke it to pieces.

This is what the Jews did with Jesus. This is what you did before salvation. For those of you here who don’t have a relationship with Christ? This is what you’re doing every day and you don’t even know it, because your sin has blinded your eyes to see truth and the reality of your desperate need to be saved. Jesus suffered and died physically because people don’t want to hear the truth and they hate it when you expose their sins. There is something that many in the church that “don’t” or “won’t” talk about among the fellowship of brother and sisters. It’s a fact and a known truth today, that we too could face persecution like Jesus did in the year 2014. But this shouldn't surprise us! Should it? According to Jesus as we open John’s letter. He continues His conversation with His disciples as he prepares them for the coming days and future with this statement found in (v18-v20) “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.” And sadly, we expect this world to get along with you and me! Jesus has for the past few hours or chapters for us telling His disciples what? He has been telling them and demonstrating His love for them by washing their nasty stinky feet. Telling them not to worry or be troubled about His departure and what is before them. He gently reminds them that apart from Him we can do nothing, or endure nothing if we are not attached to the Vine. He tells us we’re to love and willing lay down our lives for the branches, because He did that for us. Again what did Jesus say “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (v13)

THE WORLD REJECTS CHRISTIANS FOR THE REASON WE’RE NO LONGER IDENTIFIED WITH THE WORLD. (V19)

The world’s love is also conditional. If you want to be “loved” by the world, you need to do what the world does. This means that the only way we will ever be accepted is if we follow after this worlds system and stop this foolish game called religion. In the spiritual realm, if you follow Jesus Christ, you will be hated. That’s right: HATED! Whether you like it or not, the Bible is clear that Christians will be hated and rejected by the world.
This world wants to……Ridicule, mock, slander, misrepresent, remove our rights, call us bigots and narrowed minded, intolerant, haters. Their desire is to destroy us and anyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ, so don’t be surprised when this happens to you at school, at work, in the home and around the community. See history is destined to repeat itself, if people will not stop to listen or change their ways as their forefathers did. They hated Christ way before they hated you, so don’t be surprise when we get treated the same way as Jesus did when He walked amongst the people. As Paul said in 2Tim 3:12 “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” And we need to be careful! Persecution doesn’t just come in physical harm as we have seen in the Middle East or Asia. That is one form of persecution and it breaks my heart, but there are other subtle ways as well this world is trying to destroy you. See, the world wants you to fall and fail.
  • They want us gossip about others
  • Have bad marriages that lead to divorce
  • Fight and argue and never reconcile.
  • Say bad words
  • View inappropriate images
  • Have pre-marital relations
  • Fall to peer-pressure
  • Live promiscuously and free to explore other sinful behaviour
  • They want us to like the things they like
  • They want us to dress, talk and act like the world
  • They want us to leave the God we love, for the things of this world.

See, the world wants to watch Christians waver and sin. When we participate in their behavior, it makes them feel better about their own sinful lifestyles. So which is better? To fit in and be liked? Or to know that the God of all creation loves you and me? As one writer said “Jesus insists that He chose us out of the world for the purpose of salvation and service. It’s better to be loved than liked.”

THE WORLD REJECTS CHRISTIANS BECAUSE OUR IDENTITY IS HIDDEN IN CHRIST. (V20)

Our lives are hidden in Christ and this is a problem for the world today. As followers of Jesus, we can’t expect to have an easier time than He did. As the Apostle Paul says, we will smell either as the aroma of death or life. In 2 Cor 2:14-16 we read “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?” If the disciples were looking for gratitude, kindness and praises from men they would be painfully disappointed after this statement by Jesus. See, this thinking according to Jesus would be false and not to be expected! They hated Jesus, what do you think they will do with us? Jesus was and is perfect and sinless, where we’re sinners, who are no better than anyone else. So for people to accept our message [the Bible and the gospel] and accept us is insane! We’re living on hostile ground according to this world system and Jesus. But understand this! Not everyone hates Christians! But a good majority hate anything that involves the bible and the gospel. But I personally believe and you can disagree with me if you like! But this is one of the major problems with the North American church. We try so hard to fit in and have people accept us, instead of winning then with the full the truth found in the Word of God and the gospel. We want to be relevant and contemporary with good morals and we forget the reason we are breathing at this moment! It’s all because of Christ and what He did and faced on the cross for you and me! And this is where our identity is. As John MacArthur said “the reason why more Christians are not persecuted is simply because so few are truly godly, ….and it’s easy to be distinguished in the eyes of the world if we compromise godly living.” As the Apostle Paul reminded the church “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Gal 2:20. This should be the anthem of our lives every day. To know that Jesus called me and chose me to be His child for the glory of His name. What can man do to me when we have this heavenly promise? According to Jesus, nothing…absolutely nothing! “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven,” Matt 10:28-32

THE WORLD REJECTS CHRISTIANS FOR THE REASON THEY ARE IGNORANT OF GOD. (V21)

This world system is doing what they deem right in their own eyes, and they think they know what’s best for everyone else…including me and you. This goes all the way back during the period of the Judges. On own hand you have Joshua saying Jos 24:15  And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." Joshua 24:15. And then we see the people turn so quickly to ignorance. In Judges 21:25 we read “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” We see this in religious circles. There is a huge difference between knowing about God and knowing God. Persecution because of their ignorance and hatred towards God…it’s not you! It’s all about Him so don’t take persecution personal. This was to be expected……..JESUS SAID SO. Jesus goes on to say about their ignorance in the next few verses. (v22-v23). Jesus argues that the world is guilty because they have rejected His words. Jesus said “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates Me hates My Father also.” Jesus isn’t saying that men and women would have been innocent if He had not come or spoken to them. The world was already sinful and rebellious before He came as a baby in a manger. Christ’s coming highlighted sin in human hearts; He pointed it out so people had less grounds to claim ignorance. Therefore, to reject Christ and His words brings greater condemnation. That’s why it’s worse for those who have tasted the truth and do nothing with it. That’s why Jesus said He will have more mercy over Sodom and Gomorrah then those who heard the truth of the gospel and do nothing with it. Ignorance is not bliss and it doesn’t lead to Heaven! It leads to death and forever torment…..that’s the road the world system is on during the time of Jesus and they’re still on it today around the globe. 

The question for us to answer is who do we wanted be accepted by? The world where they will leave you alone? Or a Holy God who loves you and says you will be hated [you can count on that]for following after Him? In ancient Rome, crowds by the tens of thousands would gather in the Colosseum to watch as Christians were torn apart by wild animals. A man named Paul Rader, commenting on his visit to this famous landmark, said, "I stood uncovered to the heavens above, where He sits for whom they gladly died, and asked myself, 'Would I, could I, die for Him tonight to get this gospel to the ends of the earth?'" Rader continued, "I prayed most fervently in that Roman arena for the spirit of a martyr, and for the working of the Holy Spirit in my heart, as He worked in Paul's heart when He brought him on his handcuffed way to Rome." Those early Christians "lived on the threshold of heaven, within a heartbeat of home, no possessions to hold them back." Can that be said of us? Or is our possession, or acceptance holding us back because we want  the world more than Jesus to like us. “Jesus insists that He chose us out of the world for the purpose of salvation and service. It’s better to be loved than liked.


21 September 2014

HE CALLS ME FRIEND



John 15:12-16

Let me begin by saying "that there is not one person in this sanctuary that doesn’t need, care or desire for a companion or friend to turn to." Every person, every loving Christian would give anything for one good friendship. I can remember growing up and my best friend who I considered being more like a brother than a friend, but he was a friend none the less. We were inseparable and sometimes that wasn't so good…maybe we should have been apart, so that we wouldn't get into trouble like we use to. But the one thing I knew about our friendship is that I knew he would always be there for me no matter what or where I ended up. That’s a true friend! See a friend is someone you can……Always count on and call upon at any time to help you through whatever is going on in your life.
Trust with your deepest thoughts or secrets. Won’t stab you in the back or hurt you intentionally. Respect, because they care about you and your well-being. Again that’s a friend! Not only did I have that kind of friend growing up but the Lord has blessed me again with my very best friend in my wife Julie. God is good and he knows we can’t and shouldn’t be alone in this evil world system. We need one another…in the family…in the church ….in our Christian lives. “Friend” by definition “is a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard” according to Dictionary.com. That’s nice and simple, right? But according to the bible when it comes to “friendship” We’re told that friends love at all times. Prov 17:17 says “A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity." A prime example of this is found in David and Jonathan. They were well-known for their close friendship. 1 Samuel 18:1-5 talks about the knitting of the two men's souls. Jonathan gave his robe and armor to David, essentially honoring David above himself and stripping himself of his kingly position. A position which was rightfully his, since his father was King Saul. But his love for David and the friendship they had was more important than power or fame.

A FRIEND ACCORDING TO PROVERBS IS MORE LOYAL THAN FAMILY AT TIMES. Prov 18: 24 says “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

A FRIEND CAN PROVIDE YOU WITH GOOD WISDOM. Prov 13:20 speaks about this “He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will be destroyed.”

A FRIEND WILL WILLINGLY SACRIFICE THEMSELVES FOR THEIR FRIENDS. John 15:13 we read Jesus saying “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends.”

That’s what a true friend by definition is! This is what Jesus is telling us this morning. That sacrificial love that cares and has wisdom to bring to the table and selflessly seeks the interest of their friend over themselves continually day in and day out. We see this kind of friendship displayed in the life of Christ in His incarnate form. Not only did He display this type of love but He calls us out of darkness to do the same towards one another. If we went back to the Old Testament we see this same love demonstrated towards Abraham by God Himself. The bible says Abraham was “a friend of God” In 2 Chron 20:7 we read “Are You not our God, who drove out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel, and gave it to the descendants of Abraham Your friend forever?” The Letter by James we are reminded of that truth! James 2:23 it says “And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS ACCOUNTED TO HIM FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS." And he was called the friend of God.” The extraordinary friendship Abraham had with God was special and it was a friendship that would last forever just as it does for us under the gospel of Christ. Again this was no ordinary friendship and the same rule applies to us today. This kind of friendship that Abraham had to be called “a friend  of God” is the same thing as or carries the same meaning as “we are His adopted children” This was only possible through the shedding of blood on a cross through Christ, who laid down his life to preserve and keep us for all eternity by pleasing the Father’s wrath. That’s off the charts love……that’s off the charts friendship. This is the same kind of love Christ wants us to exemplify towards one another not only to the world but to the family of God. Everyone who is attached to the Vine is a branch through the saving working and power of God through the gospel. See not only are we to love Christ [which is a no brainer] but we are to love the branches that He prunes and prepares to produce more fruit. It’s a sacrificial love for the true church….the fellow branches saved by His sovereign grace.Genuine friendship that Jesus describes to His disciples is to exist among the family of God. Everything we read in this chapter alone tells…screams to us how we’re to live with one another. The very beginning of this chapter we see how our relationship begins and ends with Christ. For without Him we can do NOTHING! Then we see how we are to love one another in the branches in this portion that we are going to look at this morning. Then we see the end of the chapter how we’re to love and live in this world that not only hates Christ but you and me the true church. How are we to love one another according to what Jesus is saying before He leaves He’s disciples and this earth to go to His Father? We can demonstrate this through sacrificial love…willing to lay your life down for your friend.

SACRIFICE IS ESSENTIAL FOR GENUINE FRIENDSHIP AND LOVE (V12-V13)

Jesus demonstrated that to the world on the cross of Calvary. Always understand! That Jesus did not die for Himself, but so that others might live. Do you remember what Paul wrote……“For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Rom 5:6-8. The greatest sacrifice given to mankind is the plumb line where we’re to sacrifice for the sake of His glory and His precious gospel.See! Sacrificing for one another goes along way and builds many things. For example! Longer-lasting and happier relationship. It builds trust and brings honor to the friendship. It says “I care so much about you. That I’m willing to take your place.” Relationships like that are more likely to last when people are willing to make sacrifices for the sake of the relationship. See! Sacrifice has been grafted into the Christian’s DNA. Paul wrote “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” Rom 12:1. We must sacrifice ourselves for one another. Sacrifice is the essence of godly love. "Service" is the last word in the verse, and sacrifice is our reasonable, logical, rational, spiritual service. This is the way we minister to one another and exhibit godly love.

IT’S ONLY THE GOSPEL THAT MAKES THIS ALL POSSIBLE FOR YOU AND ME (V14-V16)

Jesus says “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” See we always need to understand! Jesus would never command us to do what is impossible for us to do. The secret, of course, is that we are to love, he says, "as I have loved you." And it’s through this kind of love relationship that Jesus had with the Father that makes it possible for Jesus to love us. In this same manner, and from the same foundation, we are to love one another with the same quality of love towards those who are attached to the Vine. The bible calls those who know and love Christ by many names……..
  • Beloved of God ……Rom 1:7
  • Beloved brethren…….1 Cor15:58
  • The called…… Rom 1:6
  • Children of God……John 1:12
  • Children of promise…….Gal 4:28
  • Sons of the Resurrection…….Luke 20:36
  • Heirs of God……Gal 3:29
  • Vessels of Honor……2 Tim 2:21
  • Vessels of Mercy…..Rom 9:23
  • Slaves of Christ…… 1 Cor 7:22

And the list is endless…..

But “friend” captures a very unique relationship that we have with the Lord Jesus Christ. See God has “appointed” you friend, which means “set apart, ordained for special service to do His will. He doesn’t call us servants! Servants didn’t have a close relationship with their earthly masters. Servants didn’t usually know what their master was doing because they were on a need to know basis. Servants were to be instructed and had no right to the Masters purposes and plans. But we are not called “servants” we’re called “friend” which is a more exalting title then being called “a disciple”. God has called us friends to live in a way that exemplifies the Lord in and through our lives. Demonstrating what a true friend looks like as we love one another sacrificially under the grace that was given in Christ. He chose us out of darkness to be a people that are different in how we live, speak and act with one another. He chose us to live sacrificially every day for the sake of this name and His precious gospel.

How?

By being a friend of honor, mercy and love to the branches that are attached to the Vine. Not trying to be the Vinedresser by cutting and tearing people done. Not by being self-centered and unloving or trying to get people to more like you. Jesus died for your wickedness and we deserve His wrath and through His grace He became for us the greatest friend a person could ever know. And Jesus graciously grants this access to His friends through the gospel truth. As He has “made known to you” (v15) God’s divine truth revealed to the heart so that you’re able to fulfill this command given in (v12-v13). When the disciples asked Jesus why do you speak in parables? Jesus responded with this answer! “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.” Matt 13:11. The word “mystery,” in the Bible, properly means a thing that is “concealed,” or that “has been concealed.” We’re a blessed people for Him to call us His friend. A friend to whom the truth has been revealed to. And we need to bless the family of God with that same love and grace that was given to us. We are to graciously do likewise with one another! Why? That’s what friends are for and Christ means everything to me and you. Right? This is how we know love, all because of what Christ did on our behalf. A friend of Jesus knows divine truth and wants to share that truth with others. A friend of Jesus has been chosen by Christ Himself and wants to open up and love others as Christ loved us. Again this has been put into the Christians DNA for a reason! The exemplify Christ in and through our lives.

What does that look like for you and me? There was a man named Deng Jinjie saw people struggling in the water of the Sunshui River in the Hunan province of China, he didn’t just walk by. In an act of bravery, he jumped into the water and helped save four members of a family. Unfortunately, the family left the area while he was still in the water. Sadly, Jinjie, exhausted from his rescue efforts, was overwhelmed and swept away by the river current and drowned. When we were drowning in our sin, Jesus Christ gave His life to come to our aid. We were the ones He came to rescue. He came down from heaven above and pulled us to safety. Jesus’ sacrificial love for us now inspires us to show genuine love for one another. Genuine love for a friend has a cost! The cost is sacrificial love and seeking the interest of others above you. This is a command to you and me "fellow branches".