Faithfulness…Enduring faithfulness

Faithfulness

Reflections on VM Staff Conference

 

All right! So, my memory and I, combined with the way the last few weeks have played out are the exact reason that Village Missions asked us each to take a Sunday after we return from Conference to share that video, sharing the state of the mission and to take a few minutes to share our reflections on what we learned or took away or were blessed by at the conference.

And usually, coming back and immediately sharing what we took away from the conference would be timely and easy. But when you come home and get COVID and miss church and Bible studies and all that for two weeks, its easy to forget some of the things unless you are specifically trying to think of and remember them.

So, this helps me to remember and to apply what was taught and it helps to strengthen the connection between our church and Village Missions, strengthen the connection between each of you and Village Missions.

 

The theme of this year’s conference was Faithfulness, and I just keep hearing from the Princess Bride, Faithfulness! Enduring Faithfulness!

Now the focus of our week together was on us as Village Missionaries, as missionary pastors staying faithful long term.  Us living out and working out our faithfulness. Having and keeping that faithfulness long term and finally staying and finishing faithfully…

You heard John Adams talk a little bit about some of the ways that Village Missions is trying to assist and proactively help Village Missionaries stay and finish faithfully. We saw some of the things that they are implementing.

Village Missions desires for the reason that missionaries leave their field, and leave the mission be due to retirement and not due to burnout or depression or frustration or moral failures, or any other reason that pastors leave the ministry. I know that there have been a number of Village Missionaries here that, when they have left Bangor, they have left the ministry and so I know you guys understand the importance of investing in the long-term faithfulness of missionaries.

 

I want to share one of my biggest takeaways from the conference. There was a theme that ran through the various speakers and sessions. Ultimately the theme was that we are called to be faithful, and God is on control of the results.

John Adams taught on Ephesians 2:1-10. I had Frank read that this morning and I want to take a real quick glance at it. Paul writes:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body[a] and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.[b] But[c] God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

 

 

One of the things is that we can not be counted faithful if we know all the details and we know the outcome. Yes, we know the outcome in terms of salvation and where we end up and God wins and all that. But in terms of every day and the result of our faithfulness, our obedience, we don’t know the outcome of any of it.

Ephesians 2 tells us that its all about God.

God is the one who chose me.

God is the one who pulled me out of my sin.

God is the one who called me to follow him and to be faithful.

God is the one who brought me from dead in my sin to alive in Christ.

God did it all.

When we decide to be faithful and follow him, we don’t really know what we are getting into. We don’t know what it actually entails.

When I decided that I should start attending church with my roommate at the time, I didn’t know where that would lead.

When I decided that, since I believed what the Bible says, that I probably should read it, I didn’t know where that would lead.

When I decided to attend Bible college, I didn’t know where that would lead.

When I married Hope, I didn’t know what that would entail.

When I graduated and decided to go to graduate school, I didn’t know where that would lead.

When we discovered and applied for Village Missions, we had no idea what that would entail.

When we went up to Mossyrock, on our first field, we had no idea the ups and downs, the successes and the trials and tribulations, that would come with that.

When we accept the assignment to come down here to California, CALIFORNIA?!? We had no idea that it would be such a perfect fit, not again, the successes and trials that came with pastoring here in Bangor.

The point is that all these steps were a part of being and staying faithful to God and his call on my and our lives. And we had some ideas and some glimpses of what that would look like, but in reality, we didn’t know how each of those steps would turn out. We were stepping out in faith, being faithful.

That’s our call. That’s what God calls each of us to do. Be faithful. Stay faithful. And the even better news, 2 Timothy 2:13: if we are faithless, he remains faithful—

          I can not do it. Not of my own. Nor can you. But God will remain faithful, even though our failures, our trials, our slip ups, our sins. AS we cry out, I believe! Help my unbelief! As we have moments and maybe more than moments of faithlessness, he remains faithful.

When I remember and know, truly remember and truly know that the results are in his hands. That we plant the seeds, we water, but he brings the increase. That the harvest is ripe, and the workers are needed, but he is the God of the Harvest.

Again, Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:10:  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

We are called to be faithful. We are called to be Holy. We are called to do good works. But it is he who created us to do them. It is he who prepared those good works beforehand. It is he who equips and allows us to walk in them. He brings the increase. He remains faithful.

Let’s Pray. b

Luke 20:1-8 Jesus is the Son of Man The Authority of Jesus

Luke 20:1-8

Jesus is the Son of Man

The Authority of Jesus

 

All right, please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Luke chapter 20. As I say often, if you do not have a Bible or you need a Bible for whatever reason, please come see me after the service and we can help get one into your hands.

So, Jesus is in Jerusalem, finally. And he is getting ready to go to the cross. Last week in our time, in the last passage, Jesus flexed his power and authority. He cleared the temple and rebuked those who were turning the temple from a house of prayer into a den of thieves.

The scribes, pharisees and principal men of the people, they were trying to get Jesus. But they didn’t have the chance or the opportunity to grab him because the people all around him were hanging on his every word. It would not have gone well for them.

They knew where he was and where he was going to be. He had been teaching in the temple during the event we looked at last week and would be teaching in the temple throughout the next couple of days.

And so, they knew where to confront Jesus. And that leads us to this morning’s passage, Luke chapter 20, verses 1 through 8. I’ll be reading out of the English Standard Version, and I encourage you to grab your preferred translation and follow along as we read the Word of God.

Luke 20:1-8, the Holy Spirit inspires Luke to record:

One day, as Jesus[a] was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes with the elders came up and said to him, “Tell us by what authority you do these things, or who it is that gave you this authority.” He answered them, “I also will ask you a question. Now tell me, was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?” And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ all the people will stone us to death, for they are convinced that John was a prophet.” So they answered that they did not know where it came from. And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

 

May God Bless the Reading of His Word.

 

 

                    So, Jesus was teaching, on one of the days, in the temple. Just like everyone knew he would be. He was teaching God’s truth and preaching the Gospel. The chief priests, the scribes, the elders, these guys came looking for Jesus. They wanted to ask him a question. And they wanted to do it in front of all the crowds and the hangers on and everybody. They wanted everyone to hear Jesus’ answer, because no matter the answer, they had him right where they wanted him.

So, they ask, “Tell us by what authority you do these things, or who it is that gave you this authority.”

          They come at Jesus, basically saying, who do you think you are What do you think you are doing? What gives you the right? Who gave you the authority?

They were asking about the events in the temple, clearing out the money changers and the sellers. And if they were asking the question out of pure curiosity, genuinely curious, then it would be a valid question. It’s a question we all need to answer for ourselves at some point or another.

Jesus, you are doing all these miracles, you’re healing all these people, you’re clearing the temple, you are teaching these crazy, previously unheard things. Jesus, from where are you getting all this?

We had already seen previously that they said Jesus got his power from Beelzebub, essentially from Satan. And so, we know that they recognized and acknowledged that He had power. In Marks Gospel, they and the people marveled at Jesus because he spoke as one with authority. He just sounded different. He was teaching what a bunch of previous rabbis had to say. He was teaching what He said, and he was teaching it with authority.

So, they knew he was claiming some authority, they knew he wasn’t a nobody. But they weren’t ready to acknowledge who He was and by whose authority he spoke and acted on behalf of.

They were trying to discredit him. If he said by Gods authority, he would be blaspheming. And if he said no one, then he was not a credible teacher, at least not within the context of 1st century Israel.

And Jesus knew they weren’t going to accept any answer he gave them. So, he didn’t answer them. Even upon hearing the truth, we know that Romans 1 says that we all, in our unrighteousness, suppress the truth. And so, Jesus basically says that, since you won’t listen to me anyway, I’m going to answer your question with a question.

He confronts them right back, Johns Baptism, meaning his ministry, not only the physical act, was it from heaven and therefore from God? Or was it from man, was he doing it on his own?

Well, the scribes, pharisees, elders, and all of them, they had to discuss this…

They weren’t discussing it in order to discover the truth, but to figure out and coordinate their answer. They weren’t answering based on truth, but instead they were discussing how to get out of answering this question because of how the people would react.

I was originally going to say that they were trying to give the Politically Correct answer, but I don’t think that’s accurate in the way the term is used today. Today, it is used as if all things are right and permissible. It’s used that all answers are valid and true. It is also that there was right and wrong, true and untrue, but you held back from saying something if it would be offensive.

Historically, it was for politicians and leaders, giving the answer that the majority wanted you to give, no matter what you actually believed. Giving the Politically Correct answer. Doesn’t matter what the truthfully right or morally right, but what is right politically. Check the Polling before I answer. Will this answer cost my votes or supporters? I don’t care what’s right, just what will keep me elected.

In that historical sense of the word, that’s what the scribes, pharisees and elders are trying to figure out here; What is the Politically Correct answer? Which answer will keep us out of the most trouble?

Their dilemma was this. If they said that John’s ministry was from heave, that it was from God, then why didn’t they believe him, listen to him. Most succinctly, why didn’t they acknowledge that authority when He was here?

If they say John’s ministry and baptism was from man, then they are in deep trouble. First, I suspect they know its not true. Second, the people who were around, the common people, they repented and were baptized by John. They believed his ministry was from Heaven. And so, if the chief priests, elders, etc., if they discounted John’s ministry, the people would turn against them and kill them.

I believe another reason they couldn’t admit that John’s ministry was from Heaven was that John himself testified that Jesus was the Messiah, that He was the lamb of God, who came to take away the sins of the world. If they would admit John’s ministry was from Heaven, they would have to admit John’s testimony that Jesus was the Messiah.

And so, they refused to answer. They showed themselves cowards. They refused to stand on or for the truth, whether it was the truth, the Johns baptism was form Heaven, or on their truth, which was no truth at all, that John’s baptism was from man.

We talked about this recently as well. As much as we want everyone in here and everyone we know to be saved, to believe in Jesus Christ and to be at a Bible teaching, Gospel believing Church on Sunday morning, don’t fake it. IF you don’t believe something, BE HONEST. Stand up for it. Yes, be willing to receive new information and to hear new ideas and evidence, but don’t lie about what you believe and don’t fake belief in something you don’t believe.

 

 

 

These men refused to give Jesus an answer for his question and so Jesus refused to answer theirs.

Jesus didn’t refuse to answer them simply because they didn’t answer. Their inability or maybe more accurately unwillingness to answer was a view into their heart. Jesus refused to answer them because they knew the answer and they would t listen. Jesus refused to answer them because their hearts were hardened. Jesus refused to answer them because the veil had not been lifted from in front of their eyes. Jesus refused to answer them because they had not been brought from death to life.

 

If these men had asked and had approached Jesus and were genuinely seeking him and were truthfully curious, Jesus would have answered in a heartbeat.

Don’t misunderstand, Jesus won’t turn away anyone who is genuinely seeking him, anyone who turns to him, anyone who trusts in him, regardless of their questions, or their doubts.

And that’s because, in order to seek him, he has to already be calling you and he knows the end result. Your heart has to already have been changed in order for you to be seeking and responding to Jesus. And in that case, he is not going to give up on you, no matter what.

But to those who callously, or half heartedly “Search” for answers, but more accurately searching for answers that confirm their own understandings, those who are suppressing the truth in their unrighteousness, don’t expect Jesus to answer your tests and challenges.

Instead, pray. Pray for God to change your heart. Pray for God to open your eyes. Pray for God to lift the veil. Pray for God bring you out of death and into eternal, spiritual life. Pray for God to change your heart form a heart of stone to a heart of flesh. Pray to be adopted into Gods Family, as one of the children of God.

Pray that you would become one in Christ. That you would find forgiveness and freedom in Christ. That you would find everlasting rest in Christ. And that you would find a family, a church family, fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

 

Those of us who believe, we are one in Christ. Christ and his work on the cross are what unites us. And today, being the first Sunday of the month, we are going to come to the LORDs table, we are going to celebrate communion, celebrate our unity. We are going to this with partaking of bread and juice symbolizing his body and blood and with reflection.

Now, I ask that if you are not a Christian, if you are not a follower of Jesus Christ, please just pass the elements along. There is nothing magical about it. There is nothing special about it for those who do not believe that Jesus Christ gave his broken body and his blood for the forgiveness of our sins. There will be no pressure and no judgment. Again, like we said earlier, don’t play the part, don’t pretend to be something you’re not.

Stemming from that, Communion does not save us, it does not cleanse us, it does not do anything along those lines. It has no power to keep us clean or to restore our relationship with God, only Jesus can do that. This was given to us by Jesus for the purpose of remembering. Remembering who Jesus was. Remembering what Jesus did for us. Remembering how much he loved us and remembering just how big of a deal our sin really is. It is meant to be sobering and somber, but at the same time it is meant to be a celebration.

Thirdly, we are told that we need to come and participate with the right heart. As I said, we do this in remembrance of what he gave up for us, the sacrifice he made. We do this because we remember how big of a deal our sin is, that he died on the cross for it. We need to make sure that our hearts and minds have their hearts set on what’s important and that we seek God’s forgiveness and make our relationships are right with him. In addition to a tradition becoming too important and placed above the word of God, tradition can become bad is by it losing its meaning and becoming simply a ritual. Please take some of this time to reflect on what this tradition means and to make sure that you are prepared to receive. There will never be any judgment if you choose not to participate, and just pass the plate.

Paul recounts to the church in Corinth what I now tell you as well, in 1 Corinthians 11: 23-26:

 

23 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[e] you. Do this in remembrance of me.”[f] 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.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

 

          We have individual cups that contains both the wafers, which symbolize Jesus’ broken body on the cross. His Death that pays the penalty for our sins. It also contains the juice, symbolizing the shed blood of Christ, which purchases our eternal life in Christ, through faith.

First, we will take the wafer together. Afterwards, we will take the juice together and we will be united together under the cross and blood of Jesus Christ. I will pray and we will come to the LORDs table.

 

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