What happens after Christmas? Matthew 1 & 2, Luke 1 & 2.

Post Christmas Manuscript

What happens after Christmas?

Hope everyone had a great Christmas here. Let me ask you a question. How many of us were able to sit back for a moment, or more, and really reflect on what we just celebrated? Like really reflected what Christmas is. I want to take a quick look back at the Christmas story and see what that means for us all going forward into the new year and into the rest of our lives. Go ahead and grab your Bibles. If you do not own a Bible, please take one from the back table as our gift to you. We are going to be spending most of our time in Mathew and Luke, in the Christmas stories.  

Now, we have all heard the Christmas story, many times. And I’m willing to bet we all have our favorite people in the story. We heard the kids talk about theirs last week.

For some of us it is Mary. Mary was a young lady, possibly as young as 13 or 14, we don’t know for sure. She was a virgin and betrothed to be married. She was an everyday, average, normal jewish girl. Except that God chose her. She was visited by an angel, named Gabriel, who told her that she was going to bear Gods son.

Some of us, our favorite is Joseph. The Bible doesn’t tell us much about Joseph. However, in the christmas story, Matthew tells us that “Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream” The angel told Joseph that Mary was not cheating on him, but was conceived of the Holy Spirit and he decided not to divorce her, and to raise the child. Not to be overlooked is that Joseph was also called to be the one that named the boy, the name that we call the son of God, Jesus.

Some of us, we like the Shepard’s. These men were out in the fields on the night Jesus was born and angels appeared to them, and they quickly, hurriedly & purposefully went to Bethlehem and saw the baby Jesus.

And others of us, love the story of the magi. These men, saw a star in the sky, realized something big was happening and travelled a great distance, and presented gifts to a young Jesus, who was likely close to 2 years old by this time.

We all have our favorites, our people that we relate to the most, that speak to us. They are all different, different lives, different experiences, different encounters with God. But they all have something in common.

Each of these people risked a lot to respond to God and follow what they were told. None of them stayed with the status quo, instead they acted. They took risks to follow God. Lets look at some of those risks.

Mary risked being forever labeled and shunned. She was unmarried and pregnant. Luke 1:26-27 tell us, “ In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed[b] to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary.”

The text, as we saw a moment ago shows that Joseph was a just man and unwilling to shame her so he would divorce her quietly. Mary couldn’t have known how Joseph would react. We can read into this and see that a quiet divorce was not a guarantee. We see that Joseph is the exception and not the rule and that most men in that day in his position would have made as big a deal as possible of putting her as far away from him as possible. Mary was risking her marriage, her social standing, and maybe even her life. Her life?

Lets look at the passage in John chapter 8, verses 3-11.

3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. 5 Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” 6 This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”]]

In this passage, the scribes and Pharisees brought Jesus a woman who was caught in adultery. They point out that the Law commands them to stone the woman. Now Mary was not caught in the act of Adultery. In fact, she did not commit adultery at all. But those who were not tuned into the Holy Spirit, who were not in tune with God, would point to her pregnancy as proof positive evidence that she had. Mary risked everything to do what she did. The comments behind her back or too her face, the ridicule her kids must have gotten, The disbelief of her explanation…and she held her head high.

Joseph also risked everything. Joseph was a just man and was ready to do what he was supposed to do. What he thought he was supposed to do, what he thought the right thing to do was to divorce Mary quietly, trying to allow her to keep as much dignity as possible. He would have been ridiculed in one of two ways. In the people’s minds there were only two options. Either his fiance cheated on him, or he broke the marriage contract and slept with Mary before they were married.

The other way Joseph risked all was in providing for his family. We see this today. Often times we choose to support or not support a business because what we know or hear about that business practices they use, or the owners personal actions. Joseph was a carpenter. He had to work to feed his family. And in that day, in that culture, your reputation was everything.

We see Jesus point this out time and time again with the Pharisees. He showed that their reputation was more important to them than their heart and then God to them. Josephs reputation would have been….. questioned…. to say the least. It is entirely plausible that some people would have chosen not to use Joseph as their carpenter.

Joseph was not the only one that risked his livelihood to listen to God that first Christmas. We look at the Shepard’s, how they saw the angels announce the arrival of the Messiah, and they hurriedly and purposely went straight to Bethlehem. Luke 2:15-20 shows us:

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

They left their flock, they walked out on their career, leaving the sheep to do what it is that sheep do. They left them their without protection from wolves, bears, other predators or shepherds who would take them as their own. They didn’t walk away from visiting the baby Jesus with anything tangible in their hands either. They went there to see and to worship and because that’s what God was telling them to do. These men were not just risking a smaller paycheck or skipping a paycheck, the flocks they were keeping were responsible for their entire years wages.

You know, These shepherds pre-filled one of Jesus parables when they left their 99 and went after the One. They found the only one that matters. They found the Good Shepard who left heaven to bring himself down to come after us.

The Magi also did not leave their visit with Jesus with tangible items in their hand. In fact, they did the opposite. We don’t know where they came from exactly, only that it was from the east. In fact we know very little about them. We know they weren’t Jewish. They saw a star in the sky, not much brighter than the other stars and they knew that something much bigger than them was occurring, something that no one had ever seen before. That star had not been there before, and for a star to appear out of nowhere was an uncommon occurrence and a very big deal. They travelled for a long time to Bethlehem, leaving their home, risking their families and their well-being for a promise in a scroll that was from a culture not their own. They brought expensive, rare gifts for a baby….. a baby. , We wonder how they communicated with Mary and Joseph. No commentator I’ve read has seen any possibility that they spoke the same language. Herod, who was an absolute paranoid, violent ruler, wanted to use the Magi to find this new threat to him and then kill the Magi. They were risking their lives.

All of these characters risked their world. Why? Why would they do that? Why would they risk everything they knew for a baby? Because they encountered the living God. Mary, Joseph and the Shepard’s all encountered angels that told them what God wanted them to do. They all encountered that at different times, being given different messages and in different circumstances. The magi saw a star. They saw a star. Let me say that again. They saw a star.

But that’s what happens when we come, figuratively, face to face with God. None of these characters were allowed to stay where they were. None of them were allowed to encounter God, and then sit back and wait. Each of these characters physically got up and went. Now we have no idea where the shepherds were, but they went to the manger in Bethlehem. Mary and Joseph left Nazareth and went to Bethlehem. And the Magi came from somewhere in the East, some speculate it could have been as far as from China. We just don’t know.

Christmas is celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. A reminder that we could not raise ourselves up to be with God, that he had to humble himself down to our level for us to have any hope of being reconciled with Him. Thats what Christmas is. Usually we celebrate this with family. This could be blood relations, it could friends whom we consider family or it could be our church family. All of us here.

God doesn’t let us stay in our comfort zone. We are called to risk. There is a change in us when we encounter him and when we turn to him. We are called to turn away from the things that we used to turn to and instead turn to God. We are called to give things up. Like Mary and Joseph, some of us might be called to risk our friends and our family to follow what God has told us to do. Like the Shepard’s, some of us might be called to risk our jobs to follow what God has told us to do. Like the Magi, some of us might be called to risk our homes move far away to follow what God has told us to do. Gods call to risk the things in our life is not always the same for everyone. Not all of us will be called to risk our friends. Not all of us will be called to risk our jobs, or our homes. But some will be.

And we will all be called to risk pieces of our lives and turn away from things that we have held dear. I would argue that the tighter we have held onto something, the more likely it is that that is what God is going to call us to turn away from.

With risk comes fear. Fear causes us to stay still. Fear causes us to not act. It freezes us into inaction. Fear kept the Israelites out of the promised land for 40 years. It is one of the most human reactions to have. We are supposed to have fear. Fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, Proverbs says. But too often our fear is not of the LORD, instead, our fear is of what our friends and family will think. Our fear is what will happen when, in our minds, God fails to live up to his word. Our fear is what will happen when he sends us to do a task but wont help us accomplish it.

When we come face to face with this fear, and with our other issues, we need to go back and ask what the Bible says. The Bible is Gods word to us. It is the inerrant message that God wants to tell us. Lets look for a moment at one verse where God address fear to follow his commands. Joshua 1:9 reads in the NIV, Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

There is a lot packed in to that verse. God speaks his commands, and the expectation on his end is that when he says go, we go. This also implies the expectation that when he tells us to go, he enables us and equips us to go. He will make us able to go. Then he says, Be strong and courageous, Do not fear; do not be discouraged. God tells us numerous times to not be afraid. I have often tried to count the times he says this in the bible and have lost track each and every time I’ve tried. I know that in the NIV, the Bible has this phrasing, Do not be afraid, over 70 times. He also uses variations and additions often. I’m just gonna run through a few real quick.

Deuteronomy 20:3 says Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not panic or be terrified

Isaiah 7:4 says keep calm and don’t be afraid

And the Psalmist says in Psalm 118:6 The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid

This message is usually delivered by God, through a prophet, or through an Angel, as is the case numerous times in the Christmas story or through Jesus directly. We look again at Mary. Mary shows that we can receive the most impossible mission from God, and still respond in a godly way, full of worship. We see in Luke 1: 28-38:

28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”[c] 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”[d]

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[e] will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant[f] of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Mary knew that this was impossible for her to do. She knew it was not going to be easy and she knew that if this were to happen, that it was all God. Again, she knew it wouldn’t be easy. God never tells us that us following him is going to be easy. The Bible tells us exactly the opposite. Jesus tells his followers in John 15: 18-19, ““If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. “

Paul suffered greatly after he turned his back on persecuting the early church and following the call Jesus had on his life. He tells us a little bit about that in 2 Corinthians 11, saying,

24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food,[b] in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.

Those are likely not the same hardships we are going to face in 2019, in the United States of America. But are we willing to deal with the hardships that come today with following Jesus. We are not called by God to come here once a week and sit in the pews and go home after the service. He has more than that for us. I was not called to stay at my warehouse job and just continue on with life. I was not called to have a steady 9 to 5 job that provided benefits and security to my family. Thats what I wanted and that’s what I had. God had more for me, once I was willing to listen and once I told him, as Mary did, “Behold, I am the servant[f] of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

I’m not saying that he is calling all of you to quit your jobs and go into ministry. He doesn’t have the same calling for all of us. Remember Pauls analogy of the church body. We are not all arms, or all heads, instead some of us are the feet, some are the hands, some are the eyes, others the ears. He has a different call for each of us.

One thing he does have for each of us is a call to be active in our faith and in our spiritual growth. What are we being called to do? To grow in him, to learn to depend on him more and more each day. We are called to turn away from the things that keep us distracted from him and keep us from diving deeper into his word. Most often, those are the mundane things of everyday life. There usually are not big obvious things that come between us and God.

But are you willing to recognize those mundane, everyday life things. Recognize them and step out of your comfort zone? Are you willing to give up some of your time during the week to attend the prayer meeting, or Bible Study and contenders Discipleship Initiative when we start those up? I promise you that it will only improve your walk with God and often, God will reveal the path he wants us on through these. Are you willing to give up a little bit of time during the week to help clean the church or take care of the grounds? Are you willing to volunteer to teach the kids during the service in children’s church? It would require missing part of the service when you do, but we do have ways to supplement that.

A couple of those ways are that I print the manuscript of my sermons and have them here for those who would like a copy. I have also started printing of the scripture references and verses to put in the bulletin so it is easier to follow along. We record the sermon here and I post it, along with the manuscript online. It is available either on the Bangor Community Church Facebook page, or at CaseyHolencik.com. The sermon audio is also available as a podcast on iTunes. There is no excuse not be under the teaching and in the Word from Sunday Mornings.

Are you willing to come to events early to help set up? Or stay late to help clean up? Often times God will use us where we feel gifted. But other times, he needs you to step out of your gifting and do the job that needs to be done. Many of you have heard me talk about how all this up here, it’s not me. Its God, It’s the Holy Spirit using the areas where I am not gifted on my own, where I am weak, and God is using me here, the last thing I would have ever picked based on what I was good at.

The question I had to ask myself when I was searching for Gods calling for me, and that we all have to ask ourselves, what are my priorities? Is God, and walking with him, following him, living for him, is that my priority? Or is it something else? For me, it was stability and structure for me and my family. For you, is it your job? Is it your kids activities? Is it your house, your bank account? Youth, is it your grades, or your sports? Or is it God? What is your priority?

Every person in the Bible that had an experience with God, acted because of it. Even Jonah acted, by running away. At least he acknowledged what God was wanting him to do. He didn’t want to do it, but acknowledging who God was and that it was God who was doing the commanding, he ended up doing it anyway. He made God the priority. He stepped out of his comfort zone and did what he knew he was supposed to instead of what he wanted to. Abraham became the Father of the Jewish nation. Paul became what many consider the greatest evangelist. Peter walked on water. Moses parted the Red Sea. Mary gave birth to a son. Sheppard’s left their flock. Joseph manned up. His wife gave birth to a child that he did not conceive. Was Jesus Josephs step son? Technically, sure. You read what the scriptures say about Joseph and I’m willing to pretty close to guarantee you that Jesus was as much his boy as any other of Mary and Josephs kids. God gave us his son, Jesus. John tells us in his Gospel that “He came to his own,[b] and his own people[c] did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:11-13) and when we believe in him, when we turn away from this world and turn to Jesus Christ, we are adopted into Gods family and we are just as much his children as Jesus is his son.

God is then our Father. Our father has plans for us, better than anything we can imagine. But he also has some chores to do around his house, so that we, as he says in Romans 8:29, to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. God wants us to be like Jesus. And we only get to be like Jesus by doing the things Jesus did. Risking everything to do what God tells us, to follow the path that he has laid out for us, and to bear good fruit, being salt and light. Most of all, we can’t do any of that until we turn and follow Jesus Christ and are then given the right to be called a child of God.

It’s not easy, and Jesus does not pretend that it is. If someone tells you that become a Christian will make all your problems go away, or that if we have enough faith or pray hard enough then we wont have troubles or struggles, they either don’t know their Bible or they are lying.

But Jesus tells us that the reward is worth it. The promise that we can trust is that in this instance, the ends justify the means. That’s one way we can’t emulate God, our ends will never justify the means. But God can do that. That’s one of the benefits of being God.

Our reward and our treasure is in Heaven. Nothing this side of heaven will do. Nothing this side of heaven will give us an identity. Jesus sees you, and until that is enough, nothing else will be.

Jesus needs to be enough. He is enough. We have to treat him like he is enough. Because if he is not number 1 in our heart, mind, body and soul, then our rewards are here on earth and that is all we will see. Prioritize, take your thoughts captive. Do not Be conform to this world, but be renewed by the transforming of your mind. Put Jesus where he belongs, on the throne in your heart and follow him, no matter what that looks like, no matter what sacrifice that means, and no matter what he is calling you to do.

Lets pray.

Christmas 2018

Christmas 2018

Good Morning and Merry Christmas!

Charles Spurgeon once said, You only have to read the Gospels, and look with willing eyes, and you shall behold in Christ all that can possibly be seen of God. One of the great things about Christmas and the Christmas season is that the main focus in the scriptures tends to be in the Four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These are, for lack of a better word, biographies of Jesus Christ.

If anyone has ever encouraged you to read the Bible, more regularly, every day, or at all, it is likely that they told you to start in one of the four Gospels. And that is a great place to start. We see the birth, the life, the teachings, the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ in the Gospels.

But there tends to be two things that we either miss, or we skip over all together. The first, is where we are going to start this morning and that’s in Jesus Genealogy. Go ahead and open up your Bibles to Matthew Chapter 1. When you open up to the New Testament, to the Gospels, Matthew is the first book. And the very first thing Matthew does is list Jesus’ ancestors, his genealogy. Along with his genealogy comes the 2nd part. We often skip right over the Old Testament or look at it as purely a history book.

But Jesus, who he is, where he comes from, is so much more important than skipping over those things. We are going to see why we are celebrating his birth and what it means to our future.

So let’s go ahead and read out text for this morning. Matthew Chapter 1. verses 1-17. I’ll be reading out of the English Standard Version. Matthew stats by writing:

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 3 and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram,[a] 4 and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5 and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, 6 and Jesse the father of David the king.

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, 7 and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph,[b] 8 and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, 9 and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10 and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos,[c] and Amos the father of Josiah, 11 and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel,[d] and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13 and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14 and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 15 and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.

17 So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.

At first glance, this is simply a list of names. Something we should read, but really just gloss over when we read. But when we truly look at this, this is a history of Israel and their complete looking towards the coming savior. Now, the first thing question that comes up is, “Why do they need to look forward towards a savior?” Good Question, I’m glad you asked.

For that we need to go all the way back to the beginning. Before Israel. Before any nations, any people groups. Before sin. We have Adam and Eve. They were sinless. They walked with perfect communion with God. They had it made. God showed his power, his omnipotence, by creating the universe, creating the heavens and the earth, creating the animals and finally, creating man, Adam and Eve. God showed his love, by creating them in his own image, his own likeness, and giving them open access to himself.

Then, they trip up. They ruin perfection. They break the one rule that God laid out and they brought sin into the world. And now, each one if us born in this world is born into sin. Can I make an assumption? I have not talked to one person that disagrees with this statement. There is something wrong, something broken in this world. This world, as we look out the windows, as we look at the News, as we look at our families and our selves, this is not what the world is supposed to be like.

It’s because of sin. We will come back to that in a moment. But first, lets look at this list. It starts with Abraham. Abraham was the first Hebrew. In Genesis 12, God promised to bless him, and through him, to bless the world. This promise would play out in a couple of ways, but ultimately, what God was promising, was the Messiah, the Savior.

And he choose Abraham, as the beginning of the line. God made many promises, many prophecies about how this Messiah, this Savior would be. And one of the first is that he would be a descendant of Abraham. We are going through Genesis here Sunday mornings and we see this promised getting passed down through the generations we see listed here in Matthews genealogy. From Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob, to Judah and to Perez. This all takes place in Genesis and we get to see all sorts of fantastic stories where God supernaturally, miraculously keeps this promised line in place.

And its interesting that this line is not kept in place with the perfect, not kept in place with royalty, with the upper echelon. Often, the dregs or the controversial would be picked by God to be a part of this lineage, to be Abrahams descendants. Again, Genesis, looking at Abram, Isaac, Jacob, Judah and Perez, shows that these men have lived lives that are full of sin, full of doubt, full of faithlessness and they do not deserve, through their own doings the right to be a part of this line.

We see Rahab, a gentile woman, gentile being another word for non-Jewish, non-Hebrew, and she was very likely a prostitute. When the Israelites are coming to attack her city, she placed her faith in the God of Israel, she helped the Israeli army and was brought into the fold as a member of Gods family.

We see David, who committed adultery with a here unnamed Bethsheba, married to Uriah. When David got her pregnant, he essentially ordered Uriah to the front of the battle lines to ensure his death. From that union came Solomon, and the line of Christ was continued in a most unexpected way.

David, by the way, whose grandmother was Ruth. Ruth was a Moabite, which means that she was descended from a line that was cursed, and yet, she was redeemed by Boaz, and married into the line of Christ, by faith, through faith. These women and the children of these were brought into the family of God, they became, in Gods eyes, descendants of Abraham.

Why was the genealogical record kept so immaculately? Especially when the Jews got displaced, conquered and sent into exile? Why did it matter where Jesus came from? Israel was looking forward to this messiah, this savior.

Going back for a moment to Adam and Eve, once they sinned, things had to change. Sin entered and perfection left. Death entered. Adam and Eve died because sin came into the world. We will die because of sin. We all know some one, most of us, had someone very close to us, me, just a few months ago, and they died because sin is in this world.

God made a promise in Genesis 3, that the serpent, the devil, the one who tempted Adam and Eve, would get what was coming to him. Sin and death are here, thanks to Adam and Eve tempted by the serpent, but God would send a savior, someone to take away sin and death. He was promising hope, and he would fulfill that promise.

Timothy Keller has said, ““The world can’t save itself. That’s the message of Christmas.” We can’t save our selves. The worlds cant save our selves. With sin in the world, we are without hope. With out a Messiah, without a savior, we are without hope. Without being the children, the descendants of Abraham, the line God chose to bless, we are without hope.

And then, one night 2000 years ago. To an unmarried teenage mother, far away from home, through the line of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob, of David, of Solomon, of all these men and women that Matthew lists in these first words of the New Testament. The adoptive, and therefore legal son of Joseph, hope was born into this world. A hope that we could believe in, a hope that we could trust in. A hope that had been promised for 4000 years was fulfilled that very night.

Kids and songs

Why are we all here this morning? Why do we celebrate Christmas? The answer is a simple one, even if not easy. We are here this morning, we celebrate Christmas to celebrate that Jesus was born. That answer in itself leads to more question that I want to address this morning. First is simply, Who was, or is Jesus? And Second, why is his birth worth celebrating?

The kids just gave some answer to that first question, Who is Jesus? As they showed and as they told the teacher at the end of their program, Jesus is the true King of Kings. It says so in Revelation, chapter 19:16, the Disciple John writes about Jesus: On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.

He is the true King, the ultimate King. We see in the Old Testament a bunch of what we call types. Adam, Samson, David, Solomon, even John the Baptist. All of the, were a shadow, were a partial vision of what was to come and what was being looked forward to. They were setting the stage, whetting the appetite, if you will for the one that the world was waiting for, the coming savior, the long-awaited Messiah and the eternal Christ.

All these men were looked at as leaders of Israel. And all these men were greatly flawed. The people we see in the Old Testament, the men we looked at here this morning and all the rest we see, they were all flawed. They were broken, sinful, fallen people. And they were sometimes faithful, God-loving people. They were just like us. Fallen, broken, sinful, sometimes faithful people.

And God used them, gave them a very specific purpose. John the Baptist knew what his purpose was. He told everyone around him. He was there to point towards Jesus.. All the men that we hold up in the Old Testament as Heroes of the faith could say the same thing. They were there to point ahead to Jesus.

Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus who was born in Bethlehem all those 200 years ago, he is the fulfillment of all that they were looking forward to. In each instance, where they failed, he was perfect and sinless.

We go back to Adam, at the very Beginning, the very first, and we will see why this was all necessary. Genesis 3, to be specific. Adam and Eve were created in Eden, in perfect paradise, but the serpent was craftier than any other animal and tempted Eve and caused Adam to sin. This caused Dam and eve to be separated from God, their perfect relationship, their perfect walk with God was now shattered, and now sin and death are a part of our world. See, God is Holy and cannot be with sin. And, as Romans 5:12 tells us, just as sin came into the world through one man, (That’s Adam) and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—

And so, to restore our relationship with God, to have our sins covered and washed away, to move out of death and into eternal life, we need something that we cannot do on our own. And there in Genesis 3, v 15 specifically. God tells the serpent, and Adam And Eve and all of us that there will be one who comes that will defeat the serpent, and will defeat death, will conquer sin, will restore everything back to its original intent and purpose.

All those types, all those Old Testament guys that we look at, that the Bible tells us about, that God sent, they failed. They were imperfect and they sinned and so they could not bridge that gap between humanity and God. But they were a continual reminder of Gods love and Gods grace.

He promised a savior there in Genesis 3. And after so many failures, after so many years, after so many obstacles and adversity and persecution and exile. After years of darkness and wondering, “When LORD?”

Then on that night, 200 years ago, a baby was born. The bible says that it was “at the right time,” that Christ was born. Exactly when God the Father, God the Son, Jesus Christ, and God the Holy Spirit planned it to happen. Not to early, not too late, but at just the right time, The Father sent him, the Messiah, the Christ.

Jesus of Nazareth, born of Mary, eternal God, 1/3 of the trinity, he lowered himself, came down from Heaven, and was born a human baby boy, still fully God, now fully human. He was the one all the Old Testament guys was pointing towards. And where they failed, where they sinned, he succeeded, he lived a perfect, righteous life.

And it was because he was sinless that he was able to bridge that gap between God and humanity. And He did. He paid the price for sin, nailed to the cross, dead. He took the punishment for sin. But not his sin, as he had none. So he paid for ours.

And he says repent, turn from your sins, turn to Jesus as both our LORD and savior, believe in him, trust in him and accept the free gift of grace and forgiveness, and we will be forgiven. Christ will clothe us with his righteousness, his perfect righteousness, and allow our relationship with God to be restored to what it is supposed to be.

Look, there are only two choices, only two options. And they boil down to what you think of Jesus. Reject who he is, who the Bible says he is. Reject the love of God, the gift of grace, the forgiveness of sins. Reject the knowledge that we need saving and there is only one that can give us that salvation. Reject the fact of Jesus is God and man and was born a baby. Reject that and you receive eternity without God, eternity outside of Heaven. That relationship with God that we were created to dwell in was shattered and lost and we can’t do anything to change that.

We cannot do anything to earn salvation. We cannot do good enough to restore that relationship. We cannot be sinless, cannot be perfect and so cannot have our own perfect righteousness to enter into perfect heaven with God the Father for all eternity. And when we trust in ourselves, when we reject what Jesus did and who Jesus was, we instead receive eternal rejection, and eternal torment.

But Gods love for us doesn’t want that for us. He wants for us to live forever with him, praising him, worshiping him, being in the relationship that we were originally created to be in. Look, if you have not come to know the historical, biblical saving King of Kings, LORD Jesus, today is a great day. The day we celebrate his birth, the day we celebrate the literal personification of his love and the day we celebrate that we came to save us.

Salvation belongs to the LORD and today is the day of Salvation. I ask you to turn your life over to Jesus today and not to wait.

For those of us that have come to know Jesus Christ, we celebrate this today. And we have a job to do.

We point to him just as the Old Testament did, and we celebrate today, the fulfillment of those promises that God made all those years ago, and we look forward to the day when the rest of the promises are fulfilled. See, Jesus also says that he will come again and that is when the earth will be restored and sin will be removed and every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is LORD. Right now, Jesus has given us the opportunity for the forgiveness of sins. But we still live in a sinful world. We will still slip in sin. We look to the promise of Heaven, and we look around this dark world, and we ask, “When, LORD?” Just like they did then, we do know, that is our job.

Our job as imperfect, fallen, broken, saved, redeemed people is the same purpose that all the men in the Old Testament that we looked at earlier had. Our job is to point to Jesus. We are to point to him and his saving work. We are to point to him and his loving sacrifice. We are to point to him and our need for him. We are to point to him and his commands. We are to point to him and his works and his righteousness. Matthews Gospel tells us in chapter 6, seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.

Lets finish with one of the most well know, most hopeful and one of my favorite Old Testament passages looking forward to Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the King of Kings and the LORD of Lords, Isaiah 9:6

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon[d] his shoulder,
and his name shall be called[e]
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 

On the day that we remember the birth of Jesus Christ our savior, its all the more important to also remember Christ’s death for us, that act on the cross, that act of pure love, grace and goodness. That perfect act of mercy. God holding out his hands to us, disobedient and contrary people.

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. But especially today, in celebration of his birth, 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.

Romans 11:33-12:2 How we Should Respond To God

 

Romans 11:33-12:2

Our Reaction to God

Good Morning. Go ahead and turn in your Bibles with me to Romans chapter 11. As always, if you do not have a Bible, if you do not own one, please grab one from the table in the back as our gift to you. If you forgot yours at home or in the car, you can grab one as well, to follow along, though we do ask that you leave it here for us to gift to those who do not have one.

We will be looking at the last couple of verses of Romans chapter 11 this morning and the first two verses of Chapter 12. We started touching on these verses last week and I wanted to expand on that as we start off this morning.

We talked last week, and many other weeks as well, that these letters we have in the bible were not written with verse numbers nor were they written with chapter breaks. They were written as a continuing flow of thoughts, connected and meant to be in context. However, we also know that, as when you or I write a letter, do any of us still write letters?, we touch on numerous subjects and we wrap up one line of thought and start another one. Thats what is happening here.

Paul does this often in his letters. Often he talks and writes about theology in the first part of a letter and then changes directions, which is a poor way of wording it because they are necessarily related, but he changes directions and talks about application and how to live a christian life in the second part of the letter. Thats what Paul does here in Romans.

The first 11 chapters have been called a systematic theology by Paul, and there are many things to focus on and take away from it. Often people think of Romans and what they see and read is conviction and repentance. And thats in there for sure. Some read Romans and what they see and read is God sovereignty, and praise, God, thats is there too. There is sin, total depravity, hope for the future, the work of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. There is justification, sanctification and salvation. All of that is in there, so what are we supposed to pull out all that? Thats what pull uses to transition to his practical instructions going from Chapter 12 on through the end of the letter.

SO thats why we are looking at the last few verses of chapter 11 and the first two verses of chapter 12 this morning. So lets see what Paul has to say, reading from chapter 11, verse 33 through chapter 12, verse 2. I’ll be reading out of the English Standard Version.

Paul writes:

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
    or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Or who has given a gift to him
    that he might be repaid?”

36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

 I appeal to you therefore, brothers,[a] by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.[b] 2 Do not be conformed to this world,[c] but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Heres the important thing. This is Paul’s response to all he has written in the previous 11 chapters. Praise and Awe of God, worship and joy. These are the marks of understanding who God is. because when we see God for who he truly is, it shines off us in a way that is impossible to not see.

The Bible shows us the darkest sides of our selves. It does so, not only because it is true, the heart is deceitful above all things, as Jeremiah says (17:9) but also to show us how great God is. Lets break both of those things down for a quick moment.

God is God. As such he is holy and perfect. His standard is the same. He created us to commune with him in perfect paradise. But we sinned, now we cannot meet that standard. God cannot abide any unholiness and so our communion, our perfect fellowship with him is broken.

Tell that to people today on the street. Their response would be to talk about how incredibly unfair that is. Why would God take issue with the occasional sin? Or our sin isn’t really that bad. Or any other myriad of thoughts that don’t allow them to realize how serious their sin is.

And so the Bible has to make clear just how serious it is. Because our eternal souls literally depend on it. We die without having made atonement for our sins, no matter how small WE think they are, and we get to spend eternity in Hell, Gods perfect and holy wrath being poured out onto ou for all of eternity. However, we deal with our sins before we die, and we get to spend eternity with God in perfect paradise, sinless, perfect bodies, worshipping and serving Christ our King, just as we were created to do. No more death, no more sickness, no more tears, no more hurt.

But here once again, the Bible has to be crystal clear because our human assumptions, thoughts and beliefs are not accurate and will lead us astray. We can’t atone for our sins. We, despite what our friends and family will say, we are not good enough. God does take sin seriously and we cannot not sin. We cannot pay the cost to make up for our sin and wipe our slate clean.

And so the Bible shows us our darkest sides so that we can see and appreciate what God did. In a plan from before time, God the Father sent his son, His only begotten son, God the Son, Jesus. God became man. He was born a human being. He didn’t stop being God, but made himself man. And he lived the life we couldn’t live, died the death we should have died, to pay the price for sin, and through the grace of God, through our faith in Jesus Christ, we become are no longer seen as unholy or unrighteous by God, but we are seen through the lens that we are clothed in Christs righteousness and no longer seen as unholy or as sinner, but seen as a saint, and our relationship with Him is restored.

So the Bible shows us our bad, to show us how in need of His good we are. And then we get to see the good of God and we get to marvel at it. How big, how great, how loving is God! He chose to do those things, to save us from our sins. He chose to love us, while we were unlovable. He chose to redeem his people, to bring them out of this broken, sin nature and change us from sinner to saint. To change us from goats to sheep. We cant chose Him without him first choosing us.

Paul is looking back at the grand picture of Gods entire plan. He is looking back at the entirety of what he has written in Romans. And he is looking above some of the details and specifics, which, as we looked at last week, are not always the clearest and most important parts. But he is looking at gods entire character, his entire redemptive plan, the entirety of his love and goodness and he looks back and is just amazed by God.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever.

I said this last week too, but I think it bears repeating, If we are reading the Bible and it doesn’t not lead us into worship and awe of God, we are reading it wrong. Yes, it should convict us, yes, it should teach us, yes it should inspire us, yes it should do all those things and more. But if it isn’t leading us into worship, we have completely missed the point. We have lost the forest for the tress. And Paul is reminding us of that here, as we finish up the systematic theology of the letter and we move into application. One commentary say this about Paul, “From a mountain height the apostle surveys the sublime plan of God, and his soul breaks out in a transport of delight.”

When you look at Gods plan, at his Word, does your soul break out in a transport of delight? Meaning, is it well with your soul? Do you have joy, joy, joy down deep in your heart? Do you Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.

We talked last month about giving thanks in all circumstances to God. And the benefits of a joyful, a thankful heart. And what that does for us. And one of the things that Paul is showing here is that this joyful heart, this praise and worship of God in all things is what allows us to live for God. Joy is one of the fruit of the Spirit that Paul mentions in Galatians 5. These are the evidences that the Holy Spirit is working through you, that Jesus Christ has justified you and you are being sanctified.

Of course, Joy does not always mean happiness. It certainly does not mean “Grin and Bear it.” But it means that through the various trials that we experience, as James puts it, that we can consider it joy. That when we have Christ, he gives us peace of God, which surpasses all understanding.

And it is that peace, that joy and the rest of the fruit of the spirit that allows us to lead the lives that God has set before us. We can’t do it on our own. We cant have true, lasting peace or joy, we cant have true, meaningful worship without the work of the Holy spirit inside of us.

Paul shows us what a true understanding of God is. He ends what we have as Chapter 11 with  For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

All Glory, all Honor, all praise and worship, all things are to be given to God. He is great and worthy to be praised. To God be the glory, great things he has done. Paul also writes at the end of Ephesians 3, verses 20 & 21:  Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

When we look at God and the more we look at Him, the true Him, the more we learn about Him, the more we see him all around us and learn from his Word, his revelation to us, the more we should praise him. Paul said back in Romans 8 that one of Gods purposes for us is to conform us to the image of his Son Jesus Christ.

And to do that, he gives us rules, principles, advice and laws to live by. True worship is loving God. Jesus says if you love me you will keep my commandments. John writes that we show love by keeping his commandments. Paul says that obedience is not for obedience sake, but for worship sake, to show love to God. He says in 1 Corinthians 10:31:  So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

And Paul is going to get into the practical nitty-gritty of that starting in Chapter 12. I want to say one more thing before we move on. We come together on Sunday morning here, the purpose of the church, the purpose of our gathering, the number 1 main thing is to worship God. This is a worship service. There are other reasons as well, to edify and build each other up. To learn more about the Bible and what God says. Even too much lesser extents, for fellowship and to be fed. I’m not going to say those things are not important. But the reason God calls us to gather together is to gather in worship of him.

This is a part of that unity thing that has been coming up lately. We have differences in a number of things. Backgrounds, ethnicity, gifting, musical preferences, order of service preferences, minor, secondary doctrinal issues, as we saw last week, we can disagree on a great many things. But when we gather together as a church body, we come together united in the Gospel to lift us glory and praise to the One True God. For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

And so, one of the main ways we worship God is how we grow in him and how we live according to him, and so turns his attention from theology, or more specifically, why we need salvation, what salvation is, who provides salvation and how we receive salvation. The application part of this letter is Paul explaining what do we do AFTER we salvation.

Romans 12:1&2:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers,[a] by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.[b] 2 Do not be conformed to this world,[c] but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Therefore. You know what comes next. When you read in the text, the word therefore, you should ask, whats it there for? It’s a connective phrase. Paul changes direction, changes his line of thought, but he doesn’t change subjects completely. What he starts writing here in Chapter 12 is directly connected with what he has already written. “Because of what I have just written, because of that, I say to you…”

Therefore, because of Chapters 1-11. Because you are sinners who have been saved by the mercy and grace of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, because he is conforming you to His image, we praise him and glorify him above all things. Because of all that, present your bodies as a living sacrifice.

Live your life for him. Do all things for him and through him. Theres a meme going around Facebook right now, I picture with a caption. It’s a person holding up their heart to God and saying, “Its all I have.” Gods response in this picture is “Its all I ever wanted.”

And if he truly has our heart, if we have truly given it to Him, that is true. But so many people think that this is all they have to do. They just have to profess faith. They can say I love God, while using the American word love, not the biblical word love. They can redefine who God is, who Jesus is and what love means and they can say that God has their heart and they dont have to change a thing.

And yet, that is the very thing we see happen in the bible. We are changed. WE go from people who have an inherent sin nature, who cannot not sin, and we are made into new creations in Christ. We have been changed by the Holy Spirit from the inside out.

And that change requires action. If all there is, are words, then there has been no heart change. How many of us who have kids can attest to this? Your kid does something wrong, maybe they hit one of their siblings. You do whatever correction or discipline is required and then what do you say to them? Go say your sorry. How do they say it. Most of the time, you can tell they don’t mean it. They say the words, but there is not a heart change. And that means that often, only moments later, they do the same thing again.

And so, if God has a hold of our heart, we will worship him and one of our methods of spiritual worship, as Paul says is to present our bodies as a living sacrifice. That is that all we do, we do to the glory of God.

And that should cause us to ask some pretty tough questions to ourselves. Are we presenting ourselves to him? Or are we living life as functional atheists? Are we living a life of sacrifice? Or are we taking, looking for what makes us comfortable and what makes us feel good? Are we living a life that is holy and acceptable to God? Or are we living a life, doing what is good and right in our own eyes. And I want to add another question that the scriptures are clear on; If we answer yes to those questions, that’s good, but, then the hardest question to answer, Are you trusting in those answers to save you? Because we can fake our actions, outwardly, for a while.

And Paul is saying that we cannot continue our old ways, we cannot remain unchanged as followers of Christ. Henry Blackaby says “It is impossible to worship and remain unchanged.” Worship changes us. And so, when Paul says that our lives are to our spiritual worship, he then tells us this same thing.

Do not be conformed to this world. We do not do what is right in the eyes of the world. We do not do what is right in our own eyes. We do the will of God. Proverbs writes, Lean not on our own understanding. Do not be conformed to the world. If the public at large, if society as a whole is on our side, then we are conformed to the world. Remember that Paul says that the gospel, the cross is foolish to those who don’t believe. It doesn’t and it wont make sense until and unless God reveals the truth to them.

Do not be conformed, but be transformed. Be changed by God. Change your life to live according to what you know God is saying. Do not call yourself a Christian and continue to live the same way you were before. Do not call yourself a christian and continue to live the same lifestyle. Transform. Repent. Grow.

C S Lewis says We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; Martin Luther says that The life of a Christian is one of repentance.”

Now, brand new Christians, or those who have not been taught, those who are still feeding on milk, may not know what God is calling them to change in their life. How will they know? The Word of God. The Bible is Gods word to us. It is not only inerrant, but all-sufficient. If you want to know what God says, read your Bible. If you want to know what God wants, read your Bible. If you want to know what God expects, read your Bible. And if you want to know Gods will, read your Bible.

That is the biggest, most important, and really the only advice to give a new believer who is looking to learn about God. Books are good. Solid theological books are great. We are giving some away both this morning and tonight. But I go back to one of the first pastors that I listened to after coming to church.

He was sharing his mentors advice, and after this pastor came to Christ, he asked his mentor, what should I do now? He said read your bible.

Ok, Did that. What should I read next?

Read your Bible again.

Ok, read the Bible again, there’s all these awesome looking books in the library and in the book store, what do you recommend I read next?

Read your bible again.

He read through the Bible more than six times before his mentor told him he could read something else. This book is foundational and is the only foundation we have to our faith, to know what is right and what is wrong. To know what the bible and therefore, what God says. That way, if a book says something else, or a friend or loved one says something else. Or if, heaven forbid, a human pastor says something wrong, we have a foundation to look back and knowing the truth.

But this is not just for new believers. This is for all believers. It’s easy to think we know what God says and what god wants. It’s easy to think that we know what the Bible says. Here’s the problem. James makes it clear that even the demons believe. Luke’s Gospel shows us during his recounting of Satan tempting Jesus in the wilderness that Satan knows the scriptures as well as anyone. I guarantee you that he knows the scripture better than you and I.

We have to keep reading, keep learning, keep seeking and chasing after God. Otherwise we will become reconformed to the world. We will not be able to discern Gods Will, what is good and acceptable. We are going to talk more specifically about gods will coming up, not next week which is our Christmas service, but likely the week after, when we continue through Romans 12.

But right now, we need to see that is through the reading of the Bible that allows us to know God better. The more we know him, the closer we get to him, the easier it is to discern his will. The easier it is to discern between God and the world. There is no substitute. It’s the only way to grow closer and to stay closer.

And only by reading the bible and growing closer to God that we can see how he expects us to act and live. And it is only through the heart changing gospel and the work of the Holy Spirit that gives us the ability to see it in the Bible and gives us the want and the heart to actually act and live that way.

Lets Pray.

Romans 11 All Gods People are One

Editor’s Note: This week did not get a chance to get spell checked. WordPress changed some things in regards to how type up your post and I haven’t had time to fool around with it and find the spell check button. Please forgive the spelling errors. Thank you

Romans11:1-32

Good morning! Please turn with me in your bibles to
Romans chapter 11. And this week we return through our series going
through the book of Romans, Pauls letter to the churches in Rome. If
you do not have a Bible, please help yourself to one from our back
table as our gift to you.

As I have been reading through Romans as a whole and
chapter 11 specifically, one of the things that jumps out to me is
the reminder that It is not just the single verses or small passages
of scripture that need to be taken in context. But longer passages
including entire chapters, when we read them, we need to make sure
that we are looking at those passages in the context of what the
author, both human and divine, is writing.

Remember that Paul did not write this letter with verse
numbers or with Chapter breaks. He wrote this as a letter. It is a
flow of thought. Romans especially is systematic and organized and
there are parts where he changes the directions of his thought
process, but he wrote it as a letter and we have to remember that as
we read it.

So, we need to remember that, as we read Romans 11,
that it is not divoreced from what Paul was writing in chapters 9 &
10, and its also not divorced from the previous 8 chapters before
that. And especially the last few chapters, but a main theme
throughout this letter has to have an impact on how we read this
chapter.

Paul
starts off in Romans chapter 1, verse 16 talking about this main
theme, saying: For
I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for
salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the
Greek.

The
Gospel and only the Gospel brings salvation. And the Gospel is
available to all, Jews first, but now to the Gentiles as well. Thats
you and me.

And
There is no distinction now between us. We see in Romans 3, verses
22-24:  the
righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who
believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and
fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his
grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

All
have sinned. None are worthy. All who come to Christ and bear His
righteousness thorough the grace of God, given through our faith in
Christ, All who do that are justified, or declare righteous. No
matter who, no matter what, no matter your background, ethnicity,
your sins. All.

Justlast chapter, chapter 10, Paul again, remphasises this, writing inverse 11-13:  Forthe Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be putto shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew andGreek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on allwho call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of theLord will be saved.” Andthen in verse 17, faithcomes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

And
so, it was with that contextual background that Paul dives in and
writes Chapter 11. I wanted to break this chapter chapter up a bit.
Its a long chapter. I even gave Dave the verses and was going to stop
with v 24, but the closer we got to Sunday morning, the more I felt
it needed to be read in its entirety, partly for the reasons I
already mentioned, the need for full context. So, we will see if we
teach through the whole chapter, but I am going to read Romans
Chapter 11, and I am writing out of the English Standard Version.
Please, if you have your Bible follow along in yours, whatever
version that may be.

Paul
writes:

I
ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am
an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham,[
a]
a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not rejected his
people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of
Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? 3 “Lord, they
have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I
alone am left, and they seek my life.” 4 But what is God’s
reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have
not bowed the knee to Baal.” 5 So too at the present time
there is a remnant, chosen by grace. 6 But if it is by grace, it
is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer
be grace.

7 What
then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained
it, but the rest were hardened, 8 as it is written,

God
gave them a spirit of stupor,
    eyes that
would not see
    and ears that would not
hear,
down to this very day.”

9 And
David says,

Let
their table become a snare and a trap,
    a
stumbling block and a retribution for them;
10 let their eyes
be darkened so that they cannot see,
    and
bend their backs forever.”

11 So
I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means!
Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so
as to make Israel jealous. 12 Now if their trespass means riches
for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles,
how much more will their full inclusion[
b]
mean!

13 Now
I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to
the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry 14 in order somehow to make
my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. 15 For if
their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will
their acceptance mean but life from the dead? 16 If the dough
offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root
is holy, so are the branches.

17 But
if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild
olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the
nourishing root[
c]
of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches. If
you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root
that supports you. 19 Then you will say, “Branches were broken
off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 That is true. They were
broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through
faith. So do not become proud, but fear. 21 For if God did not
spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 22 Note
then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who
have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his
kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. 23 And even they,
if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for
God has the power to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut
from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to
nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the
natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.

25 Lest
you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of
this mystery, brothers:[
d]
a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the
Gentiles has come in. 26 And in this way all Israel will be
saved, as it is written,

The
Deliverer will come from Zion,
    he will
banish ungodliness from Jacob”;
27 “and this will be my
covenant with them
    when I take away their
sins.”

28 As
regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards
election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. 29 For
the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30 For just as
you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy
because of their disobedience, 31 so they too have now been
disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may
now[
e]
receive mercy. 32 For God has consigned all to disobedience,
that he may have mercy on all.

33 Oh,
the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How
unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

34 “For
who has known the mind of the Lord,
    or who
has been his counselor?”
35 “Or who has given a gift to
him
    that he might be repaid?”

36 For
from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory
forever. Amen.

So
there are a few things that Paul touches on in here but there is one
main, unifying theme in what Paul writes here, in language that lends
itself to confusion and is often misunderstood, he says in verse 26,
In
this way, All Israel will be saved.”

And
that right there is why we need to take things in the whole of
context. The context of the chapter, the context of the letter, the
context of the other letters of Paul, the entire Bible.

In
this way, All Israel will be saved. Which begs the question, who is
Israel that Paul is referring to here? And essentially, historically,
there have been three main opinions on this.

Before
sharing what these three options are, I want to reitterate something
I said at the beginning of us going through Romans chapter 9.

This
is a chapter that many people see different sides of various
theological fences and dont often see how the other sides can come to
their conclusion. In that regard, this is a worrisome chapter to
preach through. I may, as we go through this chapter, 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 Romans11, the one thing I ask is that
you read in context. Remember the context and recognize your own
presuppositions, which we all have. Thats all I ask.

So,
Who is Israel that Paul refers to here? Who is Israel, whom all will
be saved? The three historic options boil down to this. First, Paul
is referring to all ethnic Jews, all the physical seed of Jacob, also
known as Israel. And yet, just a few chapters previously, in Romans
9:6-8: 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.

This
shows that the term Israel can mean something other than the Ethnic,
physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Option Number 2 is
that Israel refers to the physical nation or country-state of Israel.
This is the nation of Israel of the Old Testament. This is Israel who
conquered and was conquered. This is the nation of Israel, made up of
the 12 tribes that fractured into Judah and Israel, both of whom were
conquered, captured and exiled. This is the current nation of Israel
that was created in the aftermath of World War 2.

However,
much of the nation of Israel is largely secular. They are not, as a
nation, observing the Jewish religion. They are not walking with God,
instead they are, if not functional atheists, then placing there
future on their ethnic identity, much like option number 1.

The
third option, the one that I see in the Bible is that in verse 26
here, All of Israel referes to All believers, both Jewish and
Gentiles. Again, starting from Pauls own writings, in Romans 9, that
the children of the promise are Abrahams offspring, to whom the
promises of Israel are made. Paul says it as well in Galatians 3,
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
Bible makes it clear that the Old Testament, that Jesus is the
fulfillment of the Old Testament, meaning that all of the Old
Testament is shadows, types and foreshadowings of Jesus. This
includes Israel. Galatians 6:16 refers to Jesus as the Israel of God.
The promises made to Israel in the Old Testament were fulfilled in
Christ and the punishment and curses on Israel were poured out on
Christ. As one Pastor explained, The Church has not replaced Israel,
the church is the expansion of Israel. Since Jesus is the true
Israel, all who belong to Christ, and ONLY those who belong to
Christ, belong to Israel.

Now,
lets stop for a moment and ask, why am I spending time on this? Why
is this important. Again, this is not something that you all may
agree on. For me, this gets at the very heart who God is. And it is
consistant with who God is and what he has revealed to us.

We
see here in chapter 11, the idea of the olive tree, representing the
Jewish people and the wild trees being grafted in, representing the
gentiles. We, you and I are here because God choose to unite Jews and
gentiles, to make us all one in Christ. Again, all those who are in
Christ and Only those who are in Christ. There is no difference in
our standing, in our rightousness, in our salvation. There is no Jew
nor greek.

This,
again, can be misubderstood. In this world, in our workd and our
society, there are jews and greeks, there are males and females,
there are rich and poor, there are distinctions. We are all
individuals and God has created us this way. He determined your
ethnicity. He determined your sex, whether you are male or female. He
determined where and when you were born and all those things. But
none of those things can affect our salvation. None of those things
can affect whether we are saved.

I
referenced Romans 1:16 earlier. For
I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for
salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the
Greek.
Paul
has alternately spent his time writing both to the Jews that, Yes,
the Gentiles are included in the Kingdom of Heaven. He calls it the
mystery of the Gospel on numerous occasions, because to the Jewish
people at the time, it would not make any sense to them that God
would choose to include the gentiles, especially when there were
plenty of Jewish people still around. But Paul alternates that with
his words to the Gentiles that No, the church has not replaced
Israel. Both are called by God. There are the elect in both, there
are believers predestined and foreknown by God in both groups and
more accurately and to the point, there are not two groups. There is
only one, those who are in Christ.

To
me, this is a call, an appeal and an example of the kind of unity
that God wants from us. When one tree gets grafted in another, they
are not two trees, but they are now one tree. Yes, one was fisrt then
the other, but they are one tree. In a marriage, a husband and wife
come togethere and the bible says they are now One Flesh. If you are
married you are not two individuals living life along side each
other, you are united, you are one. When we are brought in the
Christ and receive from him our salvation, He is inseperable from us.

And
ths how he calls us to be. Insepperable. United. Not uniform, not
Stepford, but united. There is no super Christians. There are no
varsity or JV christians. There are only Christians, Christ
followers.

The
other part of this, for me, is that God knows all things, from before
he created time. There are no surprises. He didnt just happen to be
surprised that the Old Testament Nation of Israel rejected him over
and over. He didnt then come up with a plan B. There was no spite and
thought process that, If they are going to reject me then I have to
come up with a plan B. This was Gods plan from the beginning. God is
unchanging. The theological term is immutable.

His
plan from the beginning of time was to save you and I from our sins.
We are not replacing anyone, nor are we second best. We are a part of
Gods redemptive plan. That should be both an encouragment and a
comfort to us. And especially as we get close to Christmas, when Gods
redemptive plan got put into affect. Jesus, the Son of God, being
born, still God, but now, also, man, a little baby boy. Before this
plan was put into action, before the beginning of time, when this
plan was initially hatched, by God the Father, God the Son and God
the Holy Spirit, at that point in time. Gos picked you and I to be a
part of his people. He picked you and I to be a part of his
redemptive plan and he picked you and I to be with him in perfect
eternity future.

What
A God. What Love. What foreknowledge. What foreplanning,
predetination. What a blessing he is. What a gift he is.

And
this is all the sulmination of these first 11 chapters of Romans. I
said earlier that Pual didnt write these letters with chapter breaks,
and thats true. But there are points in his letters where there is a
clear and purposeful shift. This could be in theme, or in subject or
as some have broken up Pauls letters, first half is theology, second
half is application. And we see one of those shifts between Chapters
11 and 12. So the end of chapter 11 here really is the climax of what
Paul has been writing.

And
what that means is that these last few verses, verses 33-36, which we
are going to look at next week, instead of division or confusion or
anything along those lines, the first 11 chapters of Romans should
bring us to worship and awe of God. He is good, He is just. He is
Love. He is holy. And while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Worship, praise, glory and Honor to God.

And
unity and grace to each other. Again, we can disagree on what certain
parts of what Paul writes means, including who ALL Israel is as we
looked at today. We can disagree on that and still be fellow brithers
and sisters in Christ. We can disagree and still show each other love
and mercy and grace. We can disagree on this and still be united
under the cross and the death and resurrection of our saviour Jesus
Christ.

If
Pauls writings do not lead us to this, then we are reading them wrong
and we need to repent and search our hearts for the love and
forgiveness for each other that Christ first showed us.

Lets
Pray.

Sources:



http://www.upper-register.com/papers/Rom1126.pdf



https://twitter.com/NewGeneva/status/1071426758820290561)

Walking in Light, Love and Wisdom Ephesians 4:1-3

 

So, this week, I had a few wisdom teeth removed and so one of my elders, Dave Delle filled the pulpit for me. He built on his previous sermon, which can be heard here

Thank you and God bless.