Rural Missions Sunday– Village Missions and Bangor, CA

Rural Missions Sunday

Village Missions and Bangor, CA

 

 

Across the Nation: Proclaiming the Gospel in Rural America from Village Missions on Vimeo.

 

 

Good Morning. Go ahead and turn to Romans 10 in your Bibles. The passage that was read earlier is going to be our anchor text for this morning. You know, Village Missions produces numerous short videos about rural ministry, and that is far and away, one of my favorites. And they all revolve around Jesus Christ. Preach the Word and Love the People. I love that. And at the end of that video, when the Village Missions logo came up, what did it say underneath? Keeping Country Churches alive.
I don’t know if you guys know this, but we are a country church. This church was put here by God in Bangor, CA for a very specific reason. That is to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the lost. Village Missions has partnered with this church since 1964. Reading up on the history of this church, it had essentially closed down prior to partnership with Village Missions. God preserved his church here in Bangor for a reason. To Preach the Word and to Love the People.
But what does a country church bring to a community? Why is it important to keep these churches alive? And not just alive. Village Missions stated purpose is that they exist to develop spiritually vital churches in Rural North America. Thats us. Thats you guys out here. Village Missions purpose is to make you spiritually vital, so that you can go out and bring the light of the Gospel to the community.
So, today we are talking about missions. Specifically, rural missions, and the role that you and I and Village Missions plays in rural missions. When talking about missions, we can get some images in our heads. We can think of missions as some one else going to some far of country to teach Jesus to primitive tribes in the middle of nowhere. If we are involved at all, it is through giving money to our church or a missions organization and don’t give it another thought.
Some a couple of things about that. First of all, missions don’t just exist out there. John Piper famously says that “Missions exist because worship doesn’t…” Missions, which is simply sharing the Gospel with those who don’t know Christ. Missions are not just out there. Missions are everywhere. Missions are in out family, missions are in our churches, often. Missions are in our communities especially. In terms of un saved population numbers, The United States of America is the third largest mission field in the world.
And even when missions organizations or churches think of domestic missions, they think of urban and suburban areas, and no one will argue, or no one can argue anyway, that these communities don’t need Jesus. But, as we saw in that video, what happens to the rural areas, the small “picturesque,” towns that dot the landscape of America? They get forgotten. They get overlooked.
And the idea, whether it was ever accurate or not, that the problems from the cities, the problems that plague America, didn’t also effect small town, rural communities, is gone. Today, drugs & alcohol, addiction in general, teen and unwed pregnancy, suicide, poverty, loneliness, broken homes, all of it are just as prevalent, if not more so in rural communities than in urban and suburban communities. Look at the insert in your bulletin and it tells a couple of stories about drugs becoming and, in fact, already being a major problem in these rural communities. Many of you know people or family members or neighbors that are somehow affected by drug addiction.
And that’s where the local church comes in, that’s where we, Bangor Community Church comes in and that’s where Village Missions comes in. Because we have the solution to broken lives, broken hearts, hopelessness, and weariness. That solution is Jesus Christ.
Are your Bibles still open to Romans chapter 10? Lets read again, first verses 9-13, which shows Jesus as the solution to these problems. Romans 10:9-13. Paul writes:
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is LORD and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same LORD is LORD of all. Bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.

Now, we are going through a sermon series through Romans, and we are coming towards the end of Chapter 9, so we will get to this passage in a few weeks, and we will get deep into it at that point. But I want us to just see the point of this passage here.
Call on the name of the LORD and you will be saved. Turn away from your sins and put your complete trust and faith in Jesus Christ as your only hope of salvation.
There is a need. We are a broken people. God created the world perfect and good. The first two chapters of Genesis show us that ALL of creation, all the way through the creation of Adam and Eve and marriage of husband and Wife was created perfect and good. In Genesis 3, everything changed. Adam and Eve sinned and brought a sinful nature that has infected every single person ever born like a disease.
That moment not only left us all sinful by nature and guilty of sin, but it left us spiritually dead. It left us longing and searching for something to fulfill us. Before sin, we had a purpose. We were created to give glory to God, to worship him, in essence.
Now, our purpose is obscured. We don’t want to worship God, we want to be God. We instead worship ourself or our own desires and wants. So we are missing our purpose. We have a need inside of us that is unfulfilled.
That manifests itself in a wide variety of ways. Looking for purpose, looking for acceptance, looking for understanding, looking to numb pain and emptiness. We see drugs and alcohol abuse sky-rocket. We see suicide when we get to what we think is our wits end, when the pain is just too much. We see Sexual sin, seeking pleasure, acceptance, intimacy and love. We see abusive relationships, both sides of them. The abuser doesn’t see that the person they are abusing is made in Gods image. They see themselves as god and the one who gets to decide what happens to the one who they are abusing. On the abuser’s side, they think that this is what love truly is. They think this is what they deserve. They think their abuser has the right to do with them what they want.
All of this sin, all of this evil is here because we are trying, with imperfect avenues, with imperfect, broken people, and with imperfect, temporary measures, trying to restore the relationship that we were created to be in with the One, Holy, God.
And even in what I just describes, you can see two different extremes. One side is the side that elevates themselves up to a god status. They are the authority. They decide what happens and who it happens to. There is no need for a savior because they havent done anything wrong.
Also in this group are those who are good, moral people and think that they can be good enough, or do good enough, or somehow earn their way back into Gods good graces.
The other side, the other extreme is the one who knows just how broken and sinful they are, but there is no hope for salvation. God either doesn’t exist, or doesn’t love them. God doesn’t know what I’ve done and if he did, he could never forgive me. There is no hope, no point and I deserve what ever I get.
Both of these extremes are wrong. Jesus says differently. Jesus puts the invitation out to all who hear. He puts the invitation out that there is only one way, what the Bible describes as the hard and narrow path. But that path is open to all who believe. Jesus is the only path to salvation. He is the only way to restore the relationship between us and the Holy, creator, perfect, triune God.
Jesus comes, not to promise earthly comforts, but freedom from our sins. The freedom to choose to do right. He changes lives and hearts and can change generational problems. He brings hope to the hopeless. He gives a father to the Fatherless. He restores relationships and purposes. He offers rest for the weary.
This life, here in this world is draining. It is wearisome. We get tired easily. Especially when we are trying to earn something we cannot ever earn. We get tired of fighting the truth. It wears us down trying to go against God, think we know better than him. When we rely on ourselves, it takes a lot out of us.
Its like trying to stop a train by standing on tracks. And the more we rebel against God, his plans, his offers, the more we trust in our own understanding. The more we try to hold onto what we think we have in this life, the more extremes we will go to.
If you talk to anyone who has been an addict, no matter what it was that they were addicted to. They will tell you, at the beginning, it just takes a little bit. The further things go, the deeper down they go, the more it takes to reach the same level of feelings. The more it takes, the harder it is to stop, both habitually and physically.
Sin is an addiction as well. And we cannot get ourselves out of it. The hold it has on us is too strong. Strong enough, that of ourselves, we don’t want sin to let us go. But Jesus, fully God, fully man is the one who can break those chains that hold us. He will fix the brokenness that is our lives. He will change our lives and our hearts from the inside out. He will bring us from spiritual death to spiritual life.
He will do that, if we repent and believe. He will do that if we confess him as our LORD and savior, If we have faith, But that has to be a real, true, saving faith. Not a verbal confession and we go on living the same life, but a faith that he gives us that breaks the changes of sin and gives a heart for his plans, his desires and helps us to lean on his understanding.
And how can people make that decision, if they don’t know that option is there? Lets read the rest of the passage in Romans 10, verses 14-17:
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?[c] And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

The only way for someone to respond to Christ is to hear the gospel, giving them something to respond to. The only way for them to hear the Gospel is for someone to bring the Gospel message to them. Thats what missions is. Thats the job of believers every where, to share the Good News with every one around us. And, to those called, to be sent, to go out and become a part of a community and to, in the words of Village Missions, to Preach the Word and Love the People.
As we mentioned earlier, missions come in all sorts of varieties. Urban, Suburban, foreign, tribal, and rural just to name a few. Each of them has their own challenges and their own opportunities, their own rewards.
Village Missions tries to identify some of the challenges of rural missions. Once they are identified, we can see how to reach the people of these rural communities. Whats interesting to me is that a number of these challenges all the same solution. Some of the unique characteristics of rural communities, we see that it takes awhile to become a part of the community. Newcomers stay newcomers for many, many years.
When Hope and I arrived at our last field, a month or two after we got there, a guy pulls up in his blazer, introduces himself and as we were talking, he mentions that he is still considered the new guy, having “only” lived in town for 15 years.
In many rural communities and small town, family and social connections go back generation upon generations. Everyone knows everyone else. People come and go, but family sticks around. It’s not uncommon, and we have heard it in our short time here, for the thought towards newcomers to be, “How long til this guy leaves?”
And we know that question doesn’t come out of nowhere. There is a reason that question is common. People come and go. IT takes a while to make a difference. It takes a while to gain and earn trust. It takes awhile to show the people of communities that you truly do love them.
There’s a saying that “People dont care how much you know until they know how much you care.” And showing you care takes time. So when Village Missions places Missionary Pastor into these communities, the idea is for them, for us, for Hope and I, for all the couples that are a part of VM, to be a part of the community, to be there for a long time, to show the People that we are committed to them and that we love them. Preach the Word and Love the People.
Another challenge in reaching the people in rural areas is that many people have moved out from the city, from the suburbs, and many of them have moved because they don’t want to be known or found. In many of these communities, it is really not a good idea to start going door to door, up random driveways.
To meet and get to know people who don’t want to be found, it takes time and presence. Just being around, a part of the community. The church being a presence in the community. Think about what this church has done or is doing to help Bangor. The fire relief, Commodities, used to have AA meetings here, weddings and funerals, even open doors and a listening ear. Those things make a difference. They show people that the church is open, for one. They show people that we are here to serve, to show the love of Christ, to be the arms and the feet and earn a hearing with them so that we can share the Gospel with them.
The last unique thing about rural communities and rural churches especially that I will share is that feuds and loyalties run deep and last seemingly forever. When there are very few churches around, or, as in many Village Missions fields, only one church, it is guaranteed that you will talk to people who wont go to the church because of something that happened years and years ago, sometimes with the church, sometimes with someone else in the community who happens to attend the church. Often times, in these feuds, the initial cause isn’t even remembered years later. But loyalties and feuds run deep.
This works the other way as well. We have some people here who attended when this building was built. We have people whose parents, maybe even grandparents attended Bangor Community Church. The problem comes in when, as is so common in America especially, the Bible Belt and rural communities especially, is cultural Christianity. My folks went to church, my grandma took me to Sunday School, so I’m good. I raised my hand, I prayed a prayer, I walked down an aisle, but with no real relationship with Christ.
Showing people what real, true, biblical Christianity is can take time as well. We get entrenched in our beliefs. We assume there is no more to learn, or no need to learn more. Bible Studies, one on one discipleship, the teachings her on Sunday mornings, all are ways to show the truth of what the Bible actually says. Combined with fellowship, potlucks, work party’s, generally living our lives with each other, walking through the ups and downs of life, as the bible says, bearing each others burdens. Preach the Word and Love the People.
That is the call and mission of all believers. Missions in one form or another. You are a missionary to your family, to your coworkers, your neighbors, your community. Many of you will never be called to pick and go somewhere else to be a “missionary.” But you can still be, and should be involved in missions. Thew two ways that works itself out is through prayer and through financial support.
Now, a couple of things about financial support. First, God calls us to give. He calls us not to give begrudgingly, not to give out of obligation, but to give cheerfully and sacrificially. Our giving is to be considered as a part of our worship.
Now, if you are not a believer, this does not apply. If you are not a believer, you do not worship God so giving is not a part of your worship. If you are a believer, your first commitment is to your home church, wherever that is.
After you have cheerfully and sacrificially given to your home church, if God has blessed you and called you to give above that, I ask that you consider giving to missions. If you have missionaries that you know, or an orginazation that you believe in and trust, give to them. If you don’t know where to start, I humbly submit Village Missions for your consideration.
You can give generally to the mission, you can go online, look up specific missionaries, you can choose specific churches to give to through Village Missions. You gift, your support of VM allows missionary pastors like me, and their families to be placed in these rural communities, in these small towns to ensure that there is a gospel presence, that there is a light in the darkness that is enveloping the our country today.
The prayer part if it may seem obvious and we try to make it as simple as possible for you. One way you can pray is by praying for the Missionary Spotlight of the week that we put in the bulletin each week. Village Missions also puts out Stories from the Field. These are stories sent in from Village Missionaries from around the country showing how God is moving in their churches and their communities. This is usually monthly and when I receive them, I post them on one of those back bulletins boards. Vms quarterly newsletter also gets set on that back ta\ble when it comes in. I encourage you to grab one and read through it, seeing what is happening. Lastly, you can sign up for emails, or like them on Facebook and they will send prayer requests or share updated information with you through that method.
Ultimately, if nothing else, what I want you to leave today remembering is that salvation is only found in a true, biblical faith in Jesus Christ as our LORd and our savior from sin. Romans says that faith comes by hearing, hearing through the Word of God. All of it is ia gift of God, not of ourselves, so that no one may boast. We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the Glory of God alone, as revealed by the scriptures alone. And how are they supposed to hear the Gospel, the Word of God, the scriptures, unless someone is there to tell them. It is the Gospel that saves. The Gospel that changes lives, the frees us from our sins. It is the Gospel that brings us out of the jaws of death and into the eternal life that is the loving arms of God the Father.
We are going to close by watching a brand new video from Village Missions, highlighting one of those changed lives and the role that Village Missionaries and the churches they partner played in that life change. Thank you

 

 

Hope to the Hopeless from Village Missions on Vimeo.

 

Romans 9:19-23 Objections to Gods Sovereignty, part 3

Romans 9:19-29
Objections to Gods Sovereignty pt 2

Good Morning! Please turn with me in your Bibles to Romans chapter 9. As always, if you do not have a Bible, if you do not own one, please take one from the back table and let that be our gift to you.
Now, as we are turning to Romans 9, I want to kind of sum up what we have already seen in this chapter. Kind of collate the information. Paul, coming off of Romans chapter 8 has brought us to the top of the hill, if you will in regards to what we are hearing about God. God is good and faithful, there is no condemnation. The Holy Spirit works in us and through us and even prays for us and through us when we don’t know what to pray. God works out all things to His glory and has done so since before the begining of time. And when we are in Christ, nothing, ABSOULUTLEY NOTHING can remove us from the love of Christ.
Thats what Paul just gets finished with when he moves into, what we know as chapter 9. He didnt write the letter with Chapters. None of the books in the Bible had chapters originally. The closet thing to it would be the Psalms. The chapters and the verses were added later to help us navigate the text. And he finishes what we know as Chapter 8 and moves into what we know as Chapter 9.
At the very beginning he expresses so heartbreak and grief for those who dont know Christ, we are outside of his love and therefore in line to experience his just wrath. Those that are outside Christ included some of Israel, the physical descendants of Abraham. Stemming from that, three questions are brought up that object to Gods sovereignty.
First, stemming from Israel not being fully, corporately saved, the question is brought up, Had Gods Word failed? There was question whether or not God’s promises were really trustworthy? There was question whether or not God had fail to deliver on what he said he would do.
Pauls response is that God is sovereign and his Word does not, will not and cannot fail. We may misunderstand some of the things that he promises, or who he promises them to, but his promises will be fulfilled. In this case, the promise is made to the spiritual descendants of Abraham, which may or may not include physical descendants of Abraham. Its Gods right to chose.
The second objection is that it is unjust, it is unfair for some to be saved from their sins and the eternal consequences there of, but for others to not be saved. That salvation is left solely up to God, his wisdom, his providence and his sovereignty, with no dependence on human will or exertion, is in fact unjust. It is only by his mercy that we do not get what we deserve, his wrath, but instead, we may receive his mercy and eternal life with Him. He pours out his mercy, “that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Verse 18 here, the last verse we looked at last week, Paul writes, So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. He decides in his perfect and infinite goodness and justness and holiness and mercy, who will respond to his call and who will not.
The third objection is the one we will look at this morning. We will pick up and read Romans Chapter 9, verses 19-23 as Paul continues on. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version. Romans 9:19-23, Paul writes:
You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—

So the third object that Paul is responding to here is an exercise on If, If, If… If God is sovereign, and IF he has mercy on whom he has mercy and IF he hardens whom he hardens, then we don’t have a choice to accept or deny. And IF we don’t have a choice, then how can he find fault with those who he decides not to save?
Now, this is a tough question and its one that Paul response to excellently I think. Remember about Paul. Paul’s writings can be tough, they can be somewhat “In You Face”, when needed, they can be blunt, as a matter of fact. But Paul writes out of love and compassion. He writes with a shepherds heart. HE started this chapter crying out in great sorrow and unceasing anguish over his lost brethren. And he answers here, with words inspired by the Holy Spirit, with the Words of God. He takes great care in how he answers this objection and he answers it with 3 responses.
First, the first part of verse 20, he lays it out, saying,But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Now this may be the least gentle or compassionate of the three responses, but it may also be the most true. We, as human beings, as the people who God created, as his creations, we have no right to argue with him about anything that he says or does.
God shows us throughout scripture, that he is the boss and what he says goes. With Moses numerous times, both before and during the Exodus that his word is final. He rebukes Job when job tries to overstep his bounds. Jonah, so many of the prophets, the same thing. In the New Testament, through the Apostles, through Paul, Peter, James and John especially, God says it. End of discussion.
And one thing that God says throughout the scriptures, can seem like a contradiction on the surface. It can seem as if he saying two different things if we are looking for contradictions and errors in the scriptures. But the Bible, being the Word of God is able to hold two tensions together and them both be true.
It does so often with a variety of things, in this case, two truths are both truths. God is sovereign and nothing happens outside of his will. He has Mercy on whomever he wills and he hardens whomever he wills. Only those whom he calls will respond to his saving grace, and all that he calls will respond to his saving grace. Thats truth number 1.
Truth number two is that Man is responsible. He is, we are responsible for our actions, for our thoughts, our sins, all of our decisions. Gods grace is poured out on us through faith. He has given us the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ, His Son. Faith comes by hearing, hearing by the Word of God. That is the only way to be saved is by hearing the Gospel and responding to it in faith.
All of us have that opportunity, to either respond or to reject. And we are responsible for our decisions. John 5:39-40, Jesus, talking to the Pharisees, says “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.
Jesus puts the responsibility on each individual if they refuse to come to him. We see in both the Old Testament and the New, the idea that those who reject Jesus as the Messiah, reject the cornerstone, reject the foundation of the faith. Again, the onus, the responsibility is on those who do the rejecting.
God and his Word are crystal clear. Yes God is sovereign and Yes man is responsible.

The second way that Paul responds to this objection is with an illustration, one that God himself uses in Isaiah and Jeremiah. God is the potter and we are the clay. Paul in the second half of verse 20 and verse 21, Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?
My Aunt and Uncle in Pennsylvania are potters by trade. I have seen them mold something, and they saw imperfections that I could not see. It looked so good to me. But they knew better. They saw something I didn’t see and they decided to undo the whole thing and started over. Is there anyone that can say that they didn’t have the right to do that? They were the potters who take the clay and mold it into something useful and something beautiful, something that is worth making.
They create out of the clay their creations. Their clay doesn’t look at them and say, I am going to be a mug, or I am going to be a bowl. They decide what that clay will become.
As such, we, as Gods clay, as what is being molded by God, we don’t have any ability or right to question why God has molded us into what he has molded us into. As the Potter, he says what we are going to become. He knows what he has planned and what it takes to make us into that. He knows and has every right to decide that some vessels are designed for wrath and some vessels are designed for glory.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth. God created.  The earth was without form and void. God took this clay without form and void and molded all of creation. He took the dust from the ground, formed Adam and blew life, breathed his Spirit into him, creating Mankind. He is the Creator, we are the creation.
It is hard for us to remember that order. We forget that we can’t tell God what is right. We forget that we can’t tell God what to do. Timothy Keller reminds us that “If your God never disagrees with you, you might just be worshipping an idealized version of yourself.”
God is the Potter, we are the clay. God is sovereign, Man is responsible. Those are the first two responses Paul gives. They flow right into the third. Basically, because God is sovereign, and because he is the potter, the Creator, he knows how it will all work out. Because we are the clay, because we are the creation, we don’t know how it will all work out.
Go back for a moment to the vessels that my aunt and uncle mold and create. The bowl that they create doesn’t know what it is going to be used for. It doesn’t know if it will be a cereal bowl, a soup bowl, a storage bowl, whatever.
In that same vein, we, as the clay, as the creation, don’t know what God is going to use us for. Paul points out that from the same lump, some are made for honorable uses and some are made for dishonorable. Some vessels made for wrath and some for glory. Both categories show Gods grace and mercy. Both categories give glory to God. We don’t know what God is going to use us for.
We looked at Romans 8:28 recently, that God uses all things for good for those who love him. God works it all around and pulls it all together to achieve his glory and to show his power and to exhibit his goodness and mercy.
Now, we can rarely see this things playing together in real-time. God, who is outside of times, see it all, knows it all and orchestrates it all. We see things around us and wonder how this can all be a part of Gods plan. We see the absolute evil in our families, our communities and in the world and we question Gods will, and his timing.
2 Peter 3:9, Peter writes The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you,[a] not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
God is patient. He wants as many people as possible to be saved and to join him in glory in eternity future. We don’t know who those will be. We don’t know how God will use us.
In Acts chapter 8, we see God work out so many variables to bring Phillip to a place in Samaria, where he happens upon a eunuch riding by, who is riding the scriptures, but needs someone to explain them to him. Philip is more than happy to oblige and the eunuch hears the Gospel. He believes and wants to be baptized immediately.
If we watched that mans life, before Philip showed up, we would have assumed he was bound for destruction. But God knew better. God used Philip and the scriptures and everything else to call the eunuch to him. For his part, the eunuch heard the Word of God. He believed the Word of God. He trusted in the Word of God, Gods goodness and forgiveness and respond to the call of God.
And that’s the biggest key. One Systematic Theology says “People do not learn of Gods choosing them by prying into his eternal councils but by embracing Christ as offered in the Gospel.”
Now the cross, the gospel, the saving faith of christianity is foolishness to those who don’t believe. And it is foolishness to us, its counterintuitive. It goes against what we as humans believe, what we think and what we would expect. It goes against what we think is fair.
The way that changes is that, when we respond to the Gospel, the Holy Spirit makes Gods Word real to us. God changes our hearts from a heart of stone to a heart of flesh. Jesus and his perfect and complete work on the cross brings us from death into life.
So we are going to finish with a quick refresher of what, exactly is the Gospel? Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15, verses 1-5: Now I would remind you, brothers,[a] of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
And thats what we respond to. We have the repsonsibility, now having heard it to say, Yes, LORD, yes God, I believe in what you Word Says, I repent of my sins and put all my trust in you, knowing that I cannot do anything to earn this gift of grace, of forgiveness and of eternal life.
Or you can say, No thanks. I don’t believe I’m a sinner. I don’t believe I need to repent. I don’t believe in Gods Word. I can do it all myself. I can be good enough, do enough good things that I don’t need to put my trust in Christ.
I repeat and emphasize what paul started out this chapter for those who fall into that second grouping.  I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers,[a] my kinsmen according to the flesh.
Ultimately, if you trust in Gods Word, we can have a foundation on things like this that transcends our feelings or our instincts. And we can submit those to the truth of Gods word.
Lets Pray
O Lord, we bow before You and we ask that You would open our eyes to understand hard things, things that are not intellectually hard to understand. The reason and the logic is impeccable and clear, but these things are hard for our hearts to get around. Some of us resist them. They just don’t sound right. They’re counter intuitive. Others of us are in the process of resisting Your grace and using this type of a teaching to do it. Still others of us have never tasted the joy of salvation because we don’t realize how gracious and how sovereign You are. To all of these we pray, O God, You would speak in Your word today. For we ask it in Jesus name. Amen.

Romans 9:13-29, pt 1 Answering Objections to Gods Sovereignty

Romans 9:14-18

Objections to Gods Sovereignty

Good Morning! Please turn with me in your Bibles to Romans Chapter 9. If you don’t have a Bible, if you do not own one, we have a couple on the back table there that we would love for you to have. If you do not own a Bible, please let that be our gift to you.

Now, as we get into what Paul is writing here in Romans chapter 9, it is easy for us to have the intellectual answers and responses, but it is much harder to have the right, true emotional, instinctual and reactionary answers and responses.

We look at what Paul has been showing us about God, not only over the course of the last chapter and a half, but over the last 9 chapters, building from the beginning of this letter and still continuing to build as he writes chapter 9 here.

Paul is hammering home the point, in many different ways, with many different applications, that God is completely and totally sovereign. That what he has determined, not just seen, but determined before the beginning of time has zero chance of not happening. That God has chosen, strictly in his Goodness, His grace and his Mercy, He has chosen to save some of us from the eternal punishment deserved from our rebellion against him and our sin.

That doesnt always sit well with us. In fact, in our emotions and our human understanding we do whatever we can to reject this idea. We reject what God has clearly taught. We call him a liar. We say that things are not fair because we dont understand them. We attack Gods character.

Ultimately, we dont want to come under authority, and God demands that we submit to his authority. In all this, human objections to Gods authority, to his will, to his goodness and fairness pop up all the time. Romans chapter 9 addresses 3 of those such questions. We addressed the first one last week.

God promised Abraham that his descendants would be the recipients of the promise. Not all of the Jewish people, the physical descendants of Abraham, were saved. So then, has Gods Word failed? No! We, in our human wisdom, see the promises that God makes and assume they will be fulfilled in a certain, specific way. God says otherwise.

In this case, the promise is not made to the physical descendants, though they have many advantages, but to the spiritual descendants, all who believe in Christ. All whom God has called to him, will receive the fulfillment of the promise of God and Gods Word will not have and has not failed.

This morning we will take a look at two more of those objections. Overall, we will end up looking through verse 29. We are going to start with verse 13, which we also touched on last week, some of that overlap I was mentioning. We will start with verse 13 and in this first section and read through verse 18, looking at the first objection. Romans chapter 9, verses 13-18. Paul writes:

As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion,[b] but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

So, in its essence, the argument here is that it is unfair for some people to be saved and for some to not be saved. The argument usually comes along like this, “It is unfair for God to choose to save some and not choose to save others.”

Now, if you think this as well, if this question, or objection is a struggle for you, or if you hear this objection and want to know how to respond to it, or if you have any other questions and objections, or hear from others various questions and objections, I’m going to show you today how we answer and respond to those questions. It’s the same way Paul responded to those questions and objections.

We look at what the Bible says.

Simple and clearly. What does Gods Word say? If we limit it to that question, we can see the answers to our questions very easily. Paul here, very simply answers this objection. He says, “No, it’s not unfair, nothing about God is unfair!”

And Paul shows that this is what Gods Word says. Many places, in many ways. Now, we see that said very simply and clearly, but, who wants to raise their hand right now and say, “But God…” But you don’t know my situation. You don’t know what I’ve been through. But my brother, but my sister. But my child, but my grandchild…

That answer God gives us through out scripture, the answer that Paul gives us here is simple and clear. We make it complicated. Our sin nature, that we are all born with, makes it complicated. This fallen, broken world makes it complicated. When I read this, I make it complicated. Im willing to wager, more often than your willing to admit, when you read this, you make it complicated.

The answer is simple. The situation, the context, the application can all be complicated. So let’s try to keep this simple.

Hope brought up a point this week. We were watching something together this week, I don’t even remember what it was. But it was a couple of episodes of something in a row. She went to skip one of them. At some other point in time, she had seen the end of the episode, the last few minutes or so. She knew what happened, She had been spoiled to the ending. That ever happen to you? See the end of something before you see the whole thing? Or someone spoils the twist, the surprise of a movie you have been waiting to see? Whats the point of watching it then, right?

God never gets spoiled in that way. He is never surprised by the ending. And it isn’t because he sees the whole picture, it isn’t even because of his omniscience, his knowledge of everything. God does not see the episode or movie all at once and know the future if you will. No, God wrote the script. He wrote it with the ending already in mind. He wrote the ending, and in a way, it is the purpose of the story.

Again, it’s not that God sees all and knows all, but he determines all. He creates all. He has authority over all. He gets to determine what happens, he gets to determine when it happens and he gets to determine who it happens to. He and he alone has the right, the ability and the authority to determine anything, let alone everything.

God says, simply and clearly, I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” and Paul again, makes crystal clear that because of this, it is based on God, his mercy and his character, his perfect mercy and his perfect character, and not on anything about us, no human exertion, no human will. His mercy is based on him and him alone.

Paul bring sup Pharaoh. It is interesting to me. We see Pharoah in the beginning of the book of Exodus. Pharaoh was again and again presented with the truth of Gods Word and with Gods plan and Pharoah continually rejected it. It’s very telling, I believe that the language the Bible uses alternates between Pharaoh hardening his own heart, and God hardening Pharaohs heart.

They are both used. They are used interchangeably. And they are used with no difference. The Bible makes no distinction between God hardening his heart and Pharoah hardening his own heart. And I think that’s a key thing to keep in mind when we remember and acknowledge Gods sovereignty and authority. It doesn’t take away our responsibility.

John Piper says, Results are God’s business. Obedience is ours. And this is true obedience that he is talking about here. This is not checklist obedience. This is not righteousness based on obedience. This is an obedience out of love, out of thankfulness, out of passion and out of submission to a greater authority than ourselves.

That means obeying to the best of our ability. That means obey, not just enough, but all the way. That means obey just like we love, with all our heart, mind, soul and strength.

That means that we plant seeds. We plant them with love and passion. We plant them anywhere and everywhere. We plant them in all times and places because we don’t know which ones he will water. We don’t know which one will be on rocky ground, on shallow soil, on fertile ground. We don’t know who he is calling to himself. We do not know the end of the movie, who gets saved and who doesn’t. God knows because he wrote the movie. God knows because he determined it.

And He determined it for a specific purpose. Look back at what Paul quotes, what God said to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”

To the Glory of God alone.

The purpose of Gods revealed will. To show his power in us so that his name might be proclaimed in all the earth. This specifically is not talking about salvation. That would be real easy to take out of context. God shows his power in us, his followers, us healing people and doing miracles so that we can bring people to Christ. That would be a wrong interpretation and application of this text.

God raised up Pharaoh. He made this man the most powerful man in the world at that moment in history. He put him in charge of the greatest nation in the world at that point. And he hardened his heart. Pharaoh was not and would not be a believer. He would not know Gods mercy and grace. And God used him, in his wickedness, in his evilness, in his sin, to show Gods own power. He showed his power for his own glory. He showed us power so that his name would be proclaimed in ALL the earth.

He showed us his power because one day, in the end, all will eventually submit to Gods authority. Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that He is LORD. But not all will bow and confess in time.

God is for God. All of Gods choices, while he works all things together for the good of those who love him, all of Gods choices are made to glorify himself. All of Gods choices are made with the perfect knowledge of a perfect God, who is perfectly good, perfectly merciful, perfectly just, perfectly perfect. There is no unfairness in God.

Just because we can’t see everything he sees, doesn’t mean he is wrong. Just because we don’t see everything he determines, doesn’t mean he doesn’t determine it. Deuteronomy 29:29. The secret things belong to the LORD. He doesn’t reveal everything to us. He is under no obligation to.

That doesn’t change our responsibility, shouldnt change our obedience. There is quote that is often sourced to Charles Spurgeon that says: If the Lord had put a yellow stripe down the backs of the elect, I’d go up and down the street lifting up shirt tails, finding out who had the yellow stripe, and then I’d give them the gospel. But God didn’t do it that way. He told me to preach the gospel to every creature that ‘whosoever will may come.’” Jesus says, “and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”

Results are Gods business. Obedience is ours. To be obedient, we need to submit. To be obedient, we need to acknowledge his authority. In order to rightly obey, we need to forsake any authority that we think we have the right to lay claim to.

We insert what we think is our right to have authority over or in place of God in a number of ways. Lets start with this. What is the name that God has given himself in the Scriptures?

Gods name, Yahweh, translates I AM. I am what? Thats part of the problem. We want to finish what we see is an incomplete sentence, an incomplete description. But for God, I AM is a complete sentence. For us, we try to fill in the blank, we speak for God where he has not spoken.

We try to label God, to conform him to what we want or what we expect. We do what we have no right to do. We do what we have no authority to do. Only God has the authority to define himself. Only he has the authority to declare what is true. And he has. And he has revealed to us what he has declared true. He has given us his inspired word, inerrant, infallible and fully sufficient. He has given us the Bible.

This book, his Word, reveals all that is needed to be revealed for us to do what we are supposed to do. It is fully sufficient for matters of life and faith. And it gives us the answers that we need. It does not always give us the answers we want. That works two ways. Sometimes it is silent, not answering the questions that we ask of it. More likely, more often, it answers the questions we ask. It answers simply and clearly. But it does not give us the answers we want.

We can intellectually and verbally affirm we believe that the bible is true, fully true and completely true, but if we take Gods answers and we change them to fit what we want them to say, then we are not being obedient to God. We are not submitting to his authority.

When Paul answers this objection, that God is unfair because some are saved and some are not, when Paul tells us there is nothing about God that is unfair, and that all his choices, which are not dependant on human will or exertion, but on God himself, when Paul shows us that simply and clearly that God is completely and totally sovereign and has planned all things out before time began, and that ll his choices and decisions and determinations are done for His Glory and His Glory alone… When Paul tells us that, we don’t like it.

It can trigger some fatalism in us. Thats the attitude that, since God has predestined it all, I don’t have to actually do anything. I don’t have to submit. I don’t have to obey. I don’t have to evangelize. I don’t have to repent. I can continue to sin. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15, Eat, Drink, for tomorrow we die.

God squashes that pretty hardcore if you read anything in the Bible. Gods sovereignty does not negate man’s responsibility. Gods sovereignty does not negate your responsibility.

This is the next objection that Paul responds to. Dealing with what responsibility we have and why should we bother doing anything. We will dig deeper into that next week.

As we come close to finishing up this week, want to come back and emphasize, we don’t always like what God says in his Word. We don’t have to. We do have to submit to it.

We have to do what he has told us to do. He doesn’t make that optional. And when we are saved by God, when he has chosen to show us mercy and compassion, we want to do what he tells us. Not in order to achieve righteousness, not to earn favor or salvation, not to be worthy of mercy and compassion, but because he has already shown it to us.

We are not saved by obedience or by works, or by human will or exertion. But we are saved by grace alone through faith alone, by Christ alone, as revealed in scripture alone, all to the glory of God alone.

We show that salvation, we show our faith with obedience, with works, with our human will and exertion, powered by the love of Christ which compels us.

That means that we put to death the sins that live inside us. In our salvation, our sins have been crucified and we are new creations. Our sins have been forgiven and we are to pursue holiness and sanctification. But they have not all been driven out.

We still have sin inside us. They can include sins that we are working through, trying to drive them out. They can include sins we don’t want to let go of. They can include sins that we have hidden or denied so much that we don’t recognize them as sins. What sins are you hiding from others, including yourself? What sins are you justifying based off your situation, your circumstances? Or based of what you want the Bible to say instead of what it actually says.

Anger, pride, sexual immorality, apathy, indifference, idolatry, and so much more. But not only killing sin, but also, in the positive, doing the good works that God has prepared for us. Creating disciples, do justice, love kindness, taking care of widows and orphans, sharing the good news of the Gospel, studying the Word, praying and so much more.

Gods word is clear. What he says is often and mostly simple and clear. Allister

Begg likes to say, “The Main things are the Plain things and the Plain things are the Main things.”

Our job, our responsibility is to do all things to the glory of God. And to do that, we need to submit to Gods authority and his will as revealed through his word, the Bible.

Lets pray

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Casey

Romans 9:1-13 Gods Word has not failed

Romans 9:1-13

God chooses the Children of Abraham

Good Morning, please go ahead and turn with me in your bibles to Romans chapter 9. Please know that if you do not own a Bible, there is always one for you on the table in the back as our gift to you.

Romans chapter 9. This is a chapter that many people on different sides of various theological fences both use against each other to try to prove their points. In that regard, this is a worrisome chapter to preach through. I may, as we go through this chapter, the next couple of chapters even, I may upset some of you. I may teach or preach what I see as the plain meaning of the text and it may go against what you see and believe as the plain meaning to the text. Here’s the thing, that’s ok.

I’m not going to not preach and teach what the Bible says in fear of upsetting some of you. And I hope you aren’t going to just take what I say from up here as Gospel without pouring over the scriptures yourself. There are things in the Bible that we can disagree on.

Wherever you end up after going through Romans 9, the one thing I ask is that you read in the context of building right upon the promises and assurances and the complete sovereignty of God that Paul built up in Romans chapter 8. Remember the context and recognize your own presuppositions. We talked about this on Wednesday morning. What you go to the Bible looking for, you will get out of it. If you go into the Bible looking to prove the theological point that you already assume, you will find evidence for that point. If you go to the Bible asking God to reveal the truth to you, to speak his words to you, which is what the bible is, If you go in, with no human assumptions, looking genuinely, earnestly and completely to seek Gods Will and Gods truth, then that’s what you will get out of the Bible.

Speaking of the Word of God, before we go any further, let’s go ahead and read the passage for this week. I am going to read Romans chapter 9, verses 1-13. This chapter is so interconnected that we will have overlap from week to week, so next week wont necessarily start with verse 14. We may not make it all the way through verse 13 this week, but because of the interconnectedness, we will read through these 13 verses today.

So Romans Chapter 9, verses 1-13, Paul writes:

I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers,[a] my kinsmen according to the flesh. 4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 9 For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.

Paul starts off, finishing up what we looked at last week, knowing that Gods promises are true, that he is faithful, that he had it all planned out since before the beginning of time and that there is but one way to God the Father and that is God the Son, Jesus Christ. We lays all that out, and then coming off of the highest of highs, he expresses the great sorrow and unceasing anguish that is in him.

Why does he have this pain, suffering and sorrow? This great sorrow and unceasing anguish? Because his flesh and blood, his Jewish brothers and sisters who had so much advantages, as Paul points out in verses 4 & 5, they have negated those advantages, those privileges.

Paul’s statement in verses 2&3, summed up, say that he loves his brothers so much, that we would switch places with them in a heart beat, if it meant that they would be saved. He says “I wish that I myself were accursed,” implying that they are accursed, the word in the Greek is Anathema. Accursed, cut off from Christ. Paul wishes that he could be cut off from Christ, if it would mean that his kinsman, his fellow Israelites would be brought back into the fold of God the Father.

Two things that jump out to me about Paul in these first few verses. First, he knows that he cannot switch places with his fellow kinsman. Paul’s sacrifice, if he were to lay down his life, thinking that it might save anyone, would have no meaning. At least, it would not accomplish anyones salvation. Oh how Paul wished it would and wished it could, but he knew what Christ had said, and what he had written just chapters previously in this letter. Christs atoning death on the cross and his resurrection, allowing for the forgiveness of sin is the only single thing that can save any one. Period. Outside of Christ, there is no hope, no heaven, no salvation from sin.

And in this, since a vast majority of Israelites rejected this Jesus guy as the promised Messiah, that means that they had rejected salvation, they were accursed, cut off from Christ, and therefore, were doomed to punishment in Hell instead of eternal glory with Christ.

That broke Pauls heart. And it should break ours. It’s easy to have our heart-break for our close friends, or family that don’t know Christ, knowing the eternal future that awaits. Its harder to look at our enemies, whatever that actually means in our life, and to weep for them as dead in their sins and eternally lost. Its harder to look at people who have physically, mentally, or emotionally done us wrong, have hurt us in whatever ways and to pray for their salvation. To love them enough to be willing to eternally doom ourselves to hell so that they would have a chance for eternity with Christ. Its harder to look at people we fought against in wars, people we voted against, people whose beliefs and behaviors may disgust us, it’s harder to have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in our hearts for them.

And yet, that s exactly what Christ calls us to do. To love and pray for and minister to those who we don’t want to, who “dont deserve to be forgiven,” just as we didn’t deserve to be forgiven. To reach out to the very people that we try to pull away from. Our hearts should break for every single soul to dies outside of Christ.

The second thing that jumps out to me is how steadfastly Pauls clings to Gods sovereignty and faithfulness. He knows what God promised, as we wrote in this letter. Those who are in Christ, are forgiven and will reign as co-heirs with Christ for eternity future. Those who die outside of Christ are not, and will spend eternity suffering the wages of their sin and feeling the full force of Gods wrath.

God is faithful. God keeps his word. God keeps his promise, The Promise. But if God keeps his promise, how can some of Israel not be saved? Israel, the Israelites, the Jewish people were the physical descendants of Abraham. God made his promise to Abraham, back in Genesis 17, verse 7: And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.

So, the argument by the Jewish people was that BECAUSE they were Jewish, BECAUSE they had the advantages mentioned in verses 4 & 5, because they had & kept the law, they didn’t need that grace through faith thing that the gentiles needed. They saw the coming Messiah as an earthly, political, geographical, national savior as opposed to an eternal, spiritual, individual savior.

And so, if God has not saved the whole nation, every physical descendant of Abraham, then he hasn’t fulfilled his promise, right? Paul says, No, the Word of God has not failed. God’s promises are still fulfilled, totally and completely. What he promised will happen, happens. But what was commonly understood as how it would be fulfilled is, in fact, not the way that it would be fulfilled. Again, what they wanted to see from the scriptures is what they saw from the scriptures, even if it was inaccurate.

This part in Romans right here is just one of the spots where Paul shows that the promise given to Abraham about his descendants, about Israel, is not given to his physical descendants, but to his spiritual descendants. Here in romans 9, the second half of verse 6, through verse, Paul, through inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writes, For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.

Paul also spends much of Galatians chapter 3 & 4, within the context of comparing righteousness by faith or works of law, showing us who the promises of God were made to. Again, looking at Galatians 3, starting with verses 7-9:” Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify[c] the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” 9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

The Word of God has not failed. As Paul explains this, again, we remember the context. God is sovereign over all. Only what he allows to happen, happens and he continually shows that, despite our human perspective at times, his Word does not fail. Many of us know Proverbs 3:5, Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.

Our understanding is fallible. And especially when we try to focus in on certain verses our passages, without paying attention to whats going around in the scriptures around it.

John Piper speaking on Romans 9, he says this:

Romans 9 is an explanation for why the word of God has not failed even though God’s chosen people, Israel, as a whole, are not turning to Christ and being saved. The sovereignty of God’s grace is brought in as the final ground of God’s faithfulness in spite of Israel’s failure, and therefore as the deepest foundation for the precious promises of Romans 8. For if God is not faithful to his word, we can’t count on Romans 8 either.

Here is what I see as one of the points here. Paul spent Romans 8, as I said at the beginning, showing what Gods promises and how we can have faith and hope and assurance in God and his promises. But some came up with a concern. They came and wondered, how can we trust in those promises with these concerns, with seeing many Israelites not being saved? It was a valid question.

And so Paul is showing here what the response would be to that concern and why, even with that, we can still have hope and faith and assurance in God and his promises. Those whom have faith in Christ, in the person and work of Christ, in his death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins. We are the children of the promise. We are Abrahams descendants. We are adopted as the children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.

Paul uses two examples from Genesis to show that God’s Word, no matter how crazy it may sound to us, No matter what we think we see that seems to negate Gods word, no matter how far-fetched it all is. The Word of God has not and will not fail. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

When he tells a 90-year-old woman whose life has proven her to barren, that in 1 year, she would have given birth to a son, that sounds crazy. Why would we believe that? Of Course, that s exactly what happened, and Isaac was born. Then, when Rebecca was pregnant by Isaac, God knew it was twins, knew which would be born first, which would be born second, told Rebecca that the older would serve the younger and both in their physical, individual lives, but in relation to their lives and descendants and the line of Christ, “For Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

All of this, before either one had a chance to do good or bad, to show that is not based off works, but on Gods grace and sovereignty. He says something and it happens. Because and for his glory and his purposes. When he says something, we can trust it to but fulfilled fully and completely and perfectly, even if not how we foresee it.

Remember, none of us could foresee his grace and mercy poured out on us. Not with who each and every one of us is outside of Christ. Not with our natural sin nature. Again, what Paul has been repeating in this letter. Romans 3, All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The sins that identified us and caused us to suppress the truth of God, that is intrinsically known to all. Romans 1. Romans 6, The wages of sin is death. But. but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 5 God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 10, which we will get to coming up, verse 9-13:

if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Not deserved, not foreseen, not predictable. But promised. According to his will and his purposes. Christ poured his blood out for us. He willingly took the place that we deserved. He died on the cross, for us, for the forgiveness of sins. To show us his love, his glory and his goodness, his Holiness.

Normally, on the first Sunday, this month, instead today, we remember and celebrate this. Christ’s death for us, that act on the cross, that act of pure love, grace and goodness. That perfect act of mercy.

Jesus knew ahead of time. God planned from before the begining of the world, that this would happen. It was the way it had to be. It was the only way it could be. And Jesus told his disciples that it was about to happen and instituted this sacrament as a remembrance of it.

We remember the sacrifice, the blood shed. We remember what that means to us, as those who have turned to follow Jesus Christ. It means that we have been declared righteous in his sight and we get to spend eternity with Jesus Christ and God the Father.

We often take this time somberly and soberly, because of what it cost Jesus, what he had to go through. We celebrate because Jesus is alive and we get to partake in eternal life with him if we chose to follow him.

Now, Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 11 some things about partaking in communion. First of all, this is for those that have made a commitment to Jesus. This is a celebration and remembrance for what he won, what he purchased when he paid the penalty for our sins and rose from the grave. If you have not made that commitment, out of respect, please pass the plate.

Paul also makes it clear that we need to be in the right state of mind, that we need to be honest with ourselves and with God and about our sins.

I greatly encourage you, as we are passing out the items for communion, take that time to talk to God. Make sure you are examining yourself and you are taking it for the right reasons. Again, please do not be afraid to pass the plate along. There will be no glances, no judgments. What is important is for each of us to make sure that we are in right standing with God.

Paul gives us a picture of Communion in 1 Corinthians chapter 11. In verses 23-25 he writes:

 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for[f] you. Do this in remembrance of me.”[g] 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

So, what we are going to do here, is Mike and Jim are going to come up here. One will pray for the crackers, which symbolize the broken body of Jesus on the cross. They will pass them out and when we are finished we will take the cracker together as a church family.

Then, the other will pray for the juice, which symbolizes the blood of Christ, shed for the forgiveness of sins. They will pass them out and again, we will take it together as a church family.

Social Justice and Gospel Statement

So, I actually started righting this in the last week or so, before the Social Justice and Gospel Statement came out. I combined this with my response to the statement and am throwing my thoughts out there. (Spoiler: I agree with every word of the statement, but have not, and might not sign it.)

This post is me trying to put into words what’s been rattling around in my brain over the last couple of months regarding the whole Gospel/Social Justice division. Respectful, articulate, conversational thoughts will be loved and encouraged. Thanks for taking the time to read the whole thing.

So, what’s it been? 6 moths? A year? Since this whole “SJW” “Cultural Marxism,” and all those terms and identifiers have blown up and become a massive dividing point within Christianity. One side claims that addressing things like racial inequality, human dignity, very real social issues, especially within Christianity itself, are a very real, core part of what it means to be a follower of Christ. The other side claims that preaching the unfiltered, unwatered down, simple, by grace alone through faith alone gospel is the only thing that needs to be done.

Both sides are right. And Both sides are wrong. And both sides (not all individuals, thankfully) but both sides of the issue are unwilling to see any common ground, any room for compromise (not compromising truth, that’s not ok, but compromising as in coming together and hearing each other out without assuming meaning into words, without assuming motivations into arguments, and without assuming salvation into the way beliefs play out in individuals)

This divide and the arguments (and names) that are thrown about from both sides, very closely mirrors the political divide in our country as well. If you don’t believe the exact same political views that I believe your a Nazi and fascist, or a communist. No middle ground, no area for unity in disagreement.

The same thing here in Christianity today (not the magazine, lol). If you don’t hold the same convictions as I do, your wrong. If you believe that past racial issues are not fully gone, if you believe that there are social ills and problems in our society and our communities, then you must not believe the Gospel and you water down Christianity and you don’t believe in the sufficiency of the scriptures.

If you don’t believe that, if you don’t believe that those issues are ones that, not only exist, but exist within the church and should be addressed, well, then your not really following Christ. You have your head in the sand and you are a part of the problem, allowing these issues to continue, sometimes out in the open, sometimes just under the surface, and always because it benefits you.

And so with arguments like that from both sides, it can be hard to find common ground. It can hard to believe that you can both be on the same side. It can be tough to see that you both can be right.

Here’s the thing. The Gospel is sufficient for all things. The Gospel is what saves, what changes hearts, and lives. The Gospel is what brings us out of our sins and into right relationship with God. The Gospel is all that is needed.

And, there needs to be application of that Gospel in our lives. There needs to be fruit that bears itself out of that Gospel. And not all sin ends immediately upon salvation. The process of sanctification, the process of sin leaving our lives, our actions, our words and our thoughts, can take time. It will take a life time. We will never be completely sinless. But we are told to try. We are told that is the standard we are to strive for, that’s what we need to live up to. Not because its required for salvation, but because salvation requires it of us.

Some sins God delivers us from instantly. Some sins he gradually, over time convicts us of and helps us work through. Some sins we get so comfortable with that we never do listen, no matter how much we are supposed to or how saved we are.

Racism is a sin. Period. All are created in Gods image and likeness. There is none better or worse. We are all one in Christ under the cross. It seems to me that Racism is a sin that one doesn’t not just get delivered from, but one that, through a process, through the Holy Spirit pointing out errors in that way of thinking, will take some time before being purged from a person.

When we see Racism in the church, our job is to confront it. When we see pride in the church, when we see sexual sin in the church, when we see any sin inside the church, our job is to confront it. And because we are so good at trying to ignore our sins, especially ones that take time to be convicted of, and because we like our own sin, but hate others sins, we tend to congregate with people who share the same sins as us. This is especially true if we are not intentionally looking for, seeking and trying to kill the sin that is inside of us. The Bible says that is what we are to do, seek out and kill the sin inside of us. But we don’t always do that.

And any sin that congregates together has the opportunity to become systemic. The easiest to point out is if a church has a systemic problem with pride. It starts with the leadership and it flows down from there. We see it happening in various denominations with sexual sin. If the leadership starts to accept certain sexual sins, over time it will also be accepted by the congregation and it will imbed itself within the church body, even as it turns over and new people come in and old people (not age related) leave.

The same can take place with racism. It starts with someone who becomes a Christian, and is struggling with that sin. Either they don’t eliminate it or are established to a leadership position before its eliminate. It is accepted by that person and eventually, knowingly or not, consciously or not, becomes accepted by the people around them, (others in leadership or authority) and then the rest of the congregation. It then becomes a part of that church in a systemic way, both as an institution and in the individuals.

That sin needs to be confronted both as individual sins, and in some of those institutions where it has allowed to fester and not be confronted. That doesn’t mean that the people are not saved. That does not means that racism is rampant in all institutions or all individuals within those institutions. It does not mean that we as individuals need to repent of what people have done in the past. But institutions may very well need to repent of what the institution did before any on currently in the institution was there.

The Gospel is sufficient for all things, first and foremost, but certainly not only for salvation. There is nothing that needs to be done. But once we are saved, we are required to search our hearts and eliminate any sin that we come across. We don’t succeed in that 100%, but we are command to continue to root it out. For some, the sin that never gets eliminated or takes a while is racism. To deny that is foolish.

It is a poor argument to say, the Bible says racism is bad, so if we are truly saved there will be no racism. That is true in theory. Just as, if we are truly saved, we wont give in to sexual temptation, we wont sin in anger, we wont struggle with pride, we wont lie, cheat or steal. Hear me loud and clear, this is not excusing any of these sins. They need to be confronted and dealt with when they are there.

If you have not read through it yet, I highly suggest that you go and Read the Social Justice Statement that came out on Tuesday, September 4th. (https://statementonsocialjustice.com/) I will go on record as saying that I agree with every affirmation and denial that is in the Social Justice Statement. However, at this point, I will not be signing it.

The reason I will not be signing it is because this statement, I think, misses the nuances of the conversation going on. Again, I agree with everything in this statement. But not everyone on the other side of the conversation disagrees with anything in this statement. This statement is good, it provides clear, biblical reference points and summations about the gospel, salvation, sanctification, race and the role it plays, and more. But it doesn’t address the concerns that people who agree with this statement still have regarding the treatment, historically and currently, individually and corporately of minorities. Obviously, I do not think that the people who put this statement together and put it out there are the ones guilty of this kind of treatment, (Though, in all honesty, I don’t know them or their personal lives, thoughts, actions, I make that judgement based on what I do see from them, their actions, teachings and convictions.) But there are those who have and are. The question becomes, what do we about those, and what do we do to those who have been on the receiving end? Tough questions that we cannot answer until we are actually willing to sit down and listen to each other.

And the conversation is not about coming up with solutions, we have the solution, the Gospel, being transformed by the renewing of the mind. But the conversation is about recognizing where these sins occur, how we are blind to them (similar to the sin of pride) and how it can be a stumbling block and a barrier to our brothers and sisters around us. There is no substitution for the Gospel, there are no add-ons to the Gospel, but there is required application of the Gospel and this is a way that some have not recognized a need for application to be purposely and consciously dealt with.

Anyway, that’s my two cents, stemming from watching people I love, admire & respect on both sides of this division try to stand up for the truth of Jesus Christ. Maybe its a language issue, thinking words that are used mean something other than what they are intended to mean when they are used. Maybe its looking to the extremes in both sides and labeling everybody in with those two sides (similar to American Politics today) Maybe its just ignoring the heart and the nuances of what’s being put forth, but we need to do a better job loving each other and listening to each other. We need to do a better job being the body of Christ, standing up for the truth in love and yet loving the truth in all its application, not just theory.

Casey

Galatians 3:28 & Genesis 1:26&27

Romans 8:31-39 Nothing Separates us from God

 

Romans 8:31-39

Nothing Separates us from God

Good Morning! Please go ahead and open up your Bibles to Romans chapter 8. If you do not own a Bible, we do a have a pile on the back table that you are free to help your self to, as our gift to you.
So, this week we come to the end of our sub series through Romans Chapter 8. We have spent the last month and a half in this chapter, since before VBS, in fact. Not only is this the last section in Chapter 8, but what we are looking at today is the very wrap up of what Paul has expressed, argued and taught up until this point.
In these final verse if chapter 8, Paul puts the final nail in the point that he has been building to. Paul puts the complete and total emphasis on the faithfulness and promises of God. He started the chapter reassuring us that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
And one way to describe the one of the main points he makes through chapter 8, culminating in the emphasis today, is that if you are in Christ Jesus, there will never be any condemnation because once you are in Christ, you will never be out of Christ.
Last week, Paul showed that all things work together for those that love God. That the Holy spirit works inside of us and through us as we continue progress in our walk and our growth. And Paul showed that God knows and determined all things before the beginning of time, so we can have a peace and rest that, pulling from Philippians 1, what God has stated and what he has started will, fully, completely, and without exception, come to perfect fulfillment. If he started saving you, you will be saved. In fact, because of who God is, in his time, in his eyes, its already done. It is finished.
With that in mind, lets go ahead and read the last section of Romans 8, this weeks passage, Romans chapter 8, verses 31-39. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version. In Romans 8:31-39, Paul writes:
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be[i] against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.[j] 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Bad things happen to us. There is spiritual warfare going on all around us. This world is fallen and broken and we are fallen and broken. Sin is our first and only response with out Christ. Suffering and pain are a part of this life. But God has a promise for us.
As he says in verse 18, For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. God promised those of us that are in Christ Jesus eternity future in perfect paradise. And not only that, It will be so much better there & then than it is here & now, that we wont even think about or remember or pains and struggles from now.
Thats the hope and the promise that gets us through now and gets us til then, but that doesn’t lessen the pain and suffering from now, and so Paul last week and this week helps us remember things that can get us through the stuff of today. Last weeks point was that God works all things together for good and what he has planned, what he has promised, what he planned, not only will happen, but has happened. We can have trust that he fulfills his promises.
What then shall we say? That spiritual warfare going on all around us, the pain and suffering that is the result of the enemy, his demons and sins that are perpetrated against us are designed to cast doubt and fear in us. Designed to make us forget Gods promises, his goodness, his power and control over all things. It is designed to cause us to neglect to give Glory and honor to God the Father.
One of the biggest doubts and fears that can pop up in a Christians mind, as it did for me, is, “Am I really saved? Am I really a Christian?” And that can be a valid question in certain circumstances. Im thinking especially in light of Jesus in Matthew 7:21-23, where he says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
And Paul, tells us that we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. But we also see in the Gospels that, when Jesus was in the desert and Satan came to tempt him that the devil knows his scriptures. He knows them, I guarantee, better than you and I, and so he twists them. He knows how to use them to try and make them say things that they don’t say. He pulls out of context. He can use these scriptures to make it seem like God is saying he can never be sure about our salvation, when God makes it clear in numerous places that this is just not true.
Just a quick list, you can write these down and look at them later, a quick list Of scriptures that show that we can indeed be assured that we are saved. Romans 10:9 & 13, John 5:24, John 3:36, John 10:28, 1 John 5:10-13, Acts 2:38-39, Titus 3:5, & John 20:31. And the best of all, in my opinion, this passage right here that we are looking at.
If God says something, who can say differently? If God says that we are his children, that we are free from his wrath, than we can take that fact to the bank. If God is for us, then who can be against us? The love of God for us is shown, that he did not even spare his own son from His wrath, the wrath that we deserved but his son didnt. Paul says three chapter s previously, Romans 5:8, but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
What does he save us for, or maybe what does he save us towards? He saves us for his glory. He saves us for the aforementioned glory that is to be revealed to us. And he saves us from his wrath. He saves us from condemnation. He saves us from fear and doubt and sin and death.
The LORD God created all of creation. Everything, every single thing, from the biggest galaxies, universes, down to the tiniest things, smaller than atoms. All of it created by God. Included me and you. Including the perfect and holy standard of which he has the right to judge us. With God being the only one who can judge, he is the only one who can declare us guilty. Where God has forgiven, there is only forgiveness.
If God has declared us innocent, if he has justified us, what else can anyone, ourselves included say to that? If Christ died for us, if we have been given His righteousness, if He is interceding for us, who can say anything? We can’t, Satan cant, society certainly cant. We have been tried and judged and if we are in Christ, than we have been declared innocent and have been welcomed in to Gods family as his children and into his loving arms.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? Nothing that we go through in this life and in this world has the power to separate us from the love & goodness of God. All the things that the enemy throws at us, that are legitimately painful and meant to destroy us, our relationship with God and the good works that Christ prepared for us. These things that are meant to foster fear and doubt and worry. These things, as bad as they are and as real as the fear and worry feel, it can  do nothing to separate us from God and his love.
In dealing with these things, Paul says that we are more than conquerors, though it is not us who are good enough or powerful enough or anything of the like, but we are more than conquerors THROUGH him who loved us.
It is the power and the blood and the person and the work of Christ who brings us through these things. It is through him that we are able to come out the other side. It is through him, that we not only have our eternal security, but we also have kids of victories today. We have the choice about weather we let the enemy steal our joy about what Christ has done for us, whether we let him steal our peace about who we are in Christ.
Paul tells us some of the things that we have received here and now, to help us in this world, to fight these trials and suffering in the well known passage in Galatians 5 about the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; All things that the enemy tries to steal from us, if we let him, but Christ has already given us victory, we are more than conquerors through Him.
But when we forget these things, when allow the worries of today, how are we going to get through this month, where are we going to sleep, will we have enough gas, our food or whatever. Those very real and very scary worries that affect how we live and what actions we take. We let those fears cloud our thoughts about who God is. We let those doubts make us forget the goodness, the faithfulness and the holiness of God. And we forget the promises that he has made that not only has he already fulfilled but that he will fulfill in the future as well.
We forget what Paul says in the last 2 verses here, For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Gods Word is truth. Gods Word is fact. We dont always feel the truth of these words that Paul writes to us. We dont always feel the truth of Romans 8. Within that reality, that we dont always feel the truth of Gods Word, we can rest on the bedrock, on the foundation that Gods Word is truth no matter what we are feeling at that moment.
This is a mistake that we often make, we filter the scriptures, and what they mean, what the truth is, we filter them through our feelings and our emotions. Instead what we are supposed to do, what we need to do is filter and adjust our emotions and feelings through the truth of the Scriptures.
The World is telling us that we should follow our hearts we should be true to ourselves. As Paul has been showing us throughout Romans especially that our hearts are not to be trusted, Isaiah says that the heart is deceitful above all things. So the Bible tells us , when our heart and our feelings dont believe it or dont remember it, that we can still know it and be assured of the truth of this fact, nothing in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Ill give you one of my other favorite quotes, not the Jonathon Edwards one, but one from RC Sproul, who says, When there is something in the Word of God that I Dont like, the problem is not with the Word of God, its with me.
No matter what we want, what we think, what we feel, the Word of God is truth and nothing surpasses that. Now, for a variety of reasons, including, but not limited to the importance of putting scripture in context and how long we have been in Romans 8 and broken it down in to so many separate passages, I want to finish up today by reading through the whole chapter. I think its important, especially in a chapter like this that we dont end up losing the forest for the trees. We have gone through 39 verses, taking over a month and Paul had a theme here. He had a cohesive message that he was writing to the churches in Rome and I think that it sometimes does us good to read out loud, as it was written, the whole passage so that we can see the bigger themes that the Holy Spirit has inspired the writers of the Bible to put down in paper and pass down to us.
So Im going to read Romans chapter 8 and then I will close us in prayer.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.[a] 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you[b] free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,[c] he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus[d] from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
12 So then, brothers,[e] we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons[f] of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because[g] the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[h] for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be[i] against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.[j] 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Lets Pray.

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