Malachi 3:13-4:6 The Cynical and the Faithful

Malachi 3:13-4:6
The Cynical and the Faithful

Good Morning! Lets go ahead and grab our Bibles and turn to Malachi chapter 3. IF you do not have a Bible or own a Bible, please help yourself to one from the back table as our gift to you.
Today we look at the last section of Malchi, finishing up our time with this Old Testament minor prophet. Next week we are going to start a series going through 1 & 2 Timothy, Pauls letters to his Son in the Faith, showing us how God designed the Church to run and to act. Whats right and wrong and what the truth is that we are command to keep and stand up for.
Ut, today, as we come to an end of our series through the book of Malachi, we see Malachi, or God speaking through Malachi, Malachi writing down the words of God. We see the theme of the rest of book, come together and be wrapped up in the last sections of this book. And part of the themes of this book could be ripped from todays headlines.
If you follow the news at all, and if you dont, good for you. But if you follow the news at all, this past week you saw that Jefferey Epstein died in prison last weekend of a reported suicide. He was an evil man, charged with many account of human trafficking and other horrible, unspeakable crimes. When his death was reported, the Newspaper headlines shouted out that he had escaped Justice.
The world has the thinking that if you die before you are punished for your crimes and sins, you have escaped justice. And we, inside the church fall into that same thinking. If we dont see people around us facing the consequences for their sins, we get upset with God, because justice is not being served.
Malachi addresses that and more as we look at this last section. Before we go any further, lets read this week’s text. Reading Malachi 3:13-4:6. Ill be reading out of the English standard Version and I do encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation here today. Again, Malachi chapter 3, verse 13, through the end of the book, chater 4, verse 6. God, our Father, speaking through his prophet, Malachi, says:
“Your words have been hard against me, says the LORD. But you say, ‘How have we spoken against you?’ You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the LORD of hosts? And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape.’”
Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name. “They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.
“For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the LORD of hosts.“Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel. “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”

The first thing we see here is the last accusation God makkes iof Israel in this prophetic book. We have spoken hard words against Him. And of course, as with every accustation in this book, Israel’s and our response to him is HOW? We dont see things through Gods eyes. We dont see accurately what we are doing, how we are acting and what we are saying. We ceratinly dont see what our words mean, especially to those around us. By responding in this way, Israel is playing the victim. “Thats no what we said!” Or “Thats not what we meant!”
But each time God responses with exactly what they have done wrong. And he says, when you look around and you see evil doers prospering, when you see them test God and seeming to escape punishment, when you see that happen and you say, “Theres no Justice!” or “Theres no Point!” When you see those things and you figure that there is no point in serving God, those are our hard words against God.
And to be clear, you can have the ideas, the thoughts that those who do evil are getting away with it and you can wonder why God isnt punishing them and continue to serve God with all your heart, mind body and soul. You can see those things and still trust that God And those are not necessarily hard words against God in and of themselves. But when you say that BECASUE justice is not being served, BECAUSE you see these issues that there is no point in serving God then you are turning back from God.
We see Job cry out quite a bit about the perceived injustices and he continues to trust in God. We see Habakkuk cry out about the violence and asking why God is allowing it to continue. Jesus cries over the city of Jerusalem and their hard hearts. But when we see people sin openly and freely, and blaspheme God in their hearts and their actions, God tells us to trust him even more and to be faithful to what he has called us to do. Serve him, obey him, trust in him and share him with the world.
God says that he will be faithful to those who are faithful. As a quick aside, sparked by the text, this shows, as well, the importance of fellowship. Of getting together on a regular basis, both on Sunday mornings and otherwise. Talking wth each other, meeting together, getting to know each other deeper, knowing our struggles and our triumphs.
Our church family will help us stay faithful and comitted. It can be very easy to feel isolated. It can be very easy to feel like we are the only ones. Both as individuals and as a church. We have talked a lot recently on Wednesday mornings AND Sunday nights of churches in Northern California and cross America that are being unfaithful to their designed purpose of Preaching the Word of Gods, teaching the Bible and discipling Christians to follow the commands of God. And with that it can easy for us to get prideful and think we are the only faithful church left.
Individually, we look around us, look at the multitudes across America that identify as Christians and yet, seem to be living as the world or have poor theology and it can be very easy for us to get prideful that we are true christians when they are not or we are better, more mature, righter christians, while they are still immature or believe false teachings. And we do so as though either of those have anything to do with our efforts , as opposed to our faith being a gift of Gods grace.
But, again, it can very easily feel like we are the only ones left in this world. And yet, God has addressed this all throughout scripture. In 1 Kings 19, we see Elijah frustrated about the things going on around him and the lack of faithfullness from israel. He says in verse 14, talking to God: “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.”
Essentially, I am the only one faithfully serving you, LORD. Everyone else has abandonded you and I and only I am the one doing right in your eyes! Well, there is a lot we could go into there, but Suffice it to say that Elijah feels isolated and like there is not much hope left in anyone but himself. God response to him in verse 18, telling Elijah: Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.
We are not alone. Despite what we see around us, or what society and the prevailing culture present to us, God always keeps a remnant and it is always larger than we expect. This of course does not cntradict what Jesus says in Matthew 7:13 & 14. Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount: Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
Many will think that they are Christians and they are decieved. And yet, many more than we can see will also be along side of us in heaven. The truth is, Christianity is not shrinking. Let me say that again, more accurately. True, biblical Christianity is not shrinking.
True, biblical Christianity is protected by and preserve by God. True, biblical Christianity, the Invisible and universal church is not what the world sees as Christianity. Studies over the last few years have shown that over 90% of Americans believe in “god”. There is ot a definition to who or what god is in that question, just, “Do you believe in god?” It goes further to show that somewhere around 75% of Americans claim to be Christians.
And yet, as we have discussed before, many who claim to be Christians dont actually now what Christianity is. They dont actually know what the Bible says. They hold to what is, by definition, heretical beliefs. And those are who we see walking away, leaving the church and John writes in his letter that they went out from us because they were never really one of us.
But those who fear the LORD, they shall be mine, says the LORD. Those who have been saved by God, through his grace, manifested in our faith in Christ and his finished work on the cross, assured of their salvation through a doctrine called “Perserverence of the Saints.”
Got Questions describe the doctrine this way:
God, by His own power through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, keeps or preserves the believer forever. This wonderful truth is seen in Ephesians 1:13-14, where we see that believers are “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchase possession, to the praise of His glory.” When we are born again, we receive the promised indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit that is God’s guarantee that He who began a good work in us will complete it (Philippians 1:6). In order for us to lose our salvation after receiving the promised Holy Spirit, God would have to break His promise or renege on His “guarantee,” which He cannot do. Therefore, the believer is eternally secure because God is eternally faithful.

Gods people are his treasured possesions. They, we, will be spared our much deserved wrath of God and instead be declared rightouess in His sight and promised eternity with a prefect, holy and loving God.
The thing that God is showing us is the distinction between the rightouess and the unrightouess. That can be very hard to see. Its not always clear. Jesus shows us this in the prable of the wheat and the tares, in Matthew 13:24-30:
He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds[c] among the wheat and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27 And the servants[d] of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”
Our churches in America, in this world are filled with both believers and non believers. Coming together, growing up intermixed, with nobody but God able to tell who is who.
Not only is America one of the biggest mission feilds in maerica, the reason Village Missions exists, but churches are one of the biggest mission fields in America. Many think that if they attend church regularly, or if their parents or grandparents brought them to church or Sunday School as a kid, or if they raised their hand or walked down to an altar and said a prayer, that they are saved. Too many think that if they live moral lives, bring their kids to church and vote Republican that they will have check off enough items on the chrck list that God uses to determine if we are good enough to get into heaven.
However, Jesus is quite clear in Matthew 7:21-23: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
This is important. What we claim, what we identify as, how we act, none of it does anything to save us. Salvation is by the grace of God alone, through Fiath alone in His Son, Jesus Christ alone, to and for the glory of God alone, as He has revealed in the Sciptures alone.
So, regardless of what we would like to think, there are only two distinctions. The rightouess and the wicked. And the Day of the LORD is coming. And on that day, we will see the seperation, the distinction between the rightouess and the wicked.
On that day, the arrogant and the wicked, those who reject Gods covenant and his grace and mercy, those who know the truth but supress it by their unrightouesness, they will be subject to the judgment fire. The lake of fire, that never quenches.
This is unfortunately not the refining fire that we see back in Chapter 3, verse 2. This is an eternal punishment. Perfect and Holy Justice will be served. Man like Jeffery Epstein, who many think have escaped justice, cannot escape the Justice and wrath of God. And because of our sins, that is what we all deserve. I came upon this wupte this week: “Nobody wants a God who declines to deal with evil. They just want a God who declines to deal with their evil.”
But for Gods covenant people, for those who fear him, for those who serve him, for those whose faith is in Him, The Son of Rightouesness will come with healings. This is not necessarily speaking of physical healing in this world, in this life. God came to save sinners. He will heal us of our sins. We will be healed of our sins to spend eternity in our perfect, glorified, physical bodies.

Gods message in the scriptures is often a dual message with one purpose. Malachi shows that as well. Malachi starts with a declaration of the love of God. And it ends with the threat of a curse. Paul writes in Romans 11:22: 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.

The Kindness AND the severity of God, all designed to bring us to repentence and faith. His kindness poured out on those who respond to this message. His severity poured out on those who reject it.
Christianity is both, at the same time, the most inclusive AND exclusive religion in the world. Exclusive because there is only one way to salvation, only through Christ. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He is the only door that we can go through to get to God the Father. Period, There is no other way. It is inclusive more that any other religion, because the invitation to walk through that door goes out to anyone and everyone. It is going out to everyone here this morning. If you have not responded to this message of love and salvation, now is the time. If you thought youw ere safe and realized that you are trusting In your own works and rightouesness, now is the time to believe the Gospel and repent. If you have already respended to this message and trusted in Christ alone, now is the time to share with those around you and to rejoice in the coming of the LORD to dole out his perfect and Holy justice and his perfect and holy mercy and grace.
The Message of Malachi, the Message of this book is Gods Faithfullness and his love and his compassion and his mercy. And the message is his wrath and his justice, all perfect, all complete and all holy just as God himself is. The covenant God has made is perfect, complete and Holy just as He is and it will never end, it will never be broke by God and we can place our complete and total trust in him and his commands.
Lets finish this book off by reading what The psalmist writes in Psalm 84:11 & 12:
For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
from those who walk uprightly.
12 O Lord of hosts,
blessed is the one who trusts in you!

Romans 16:25-27 Pauls Doxology

Romans 16:25-27
Pauls Heart for the One True God

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to the very last few verses of Paul’s letter to the early churches in Rome. Chapter 16. Well, we did it. We made it to the end of Romans! This is the 46th message in our series and today we finish. And if you have read this mornings passage ahead of time, what a finish Paul has to end this letter with.
Before we get to the end, lets review. Paul wanted to come see the churches in Rome, but had so far been unable to get there because God was using him further east to srpead the Gospel, plant and develop churches and to disciple those who did come to Christ.
He went through and wrote the most comprehensive systematic theology that hwe have in the Bible. Covering everything from sin, that we all know God instinctively, but suppress the truth and reject God, to One People and one plan of God, both jews and Gentiles. He showed that none of us are rightoues, none of us seek God according to our own will, and none does good on their own. We looked at the who Jesus is and how he secures our slavation. He spoke on the processes of regeneration, and justification. He spoke on the process of sanctification and his struggle with sin.
He looked at the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the role he plays in our walk with Christ. We looked at glorification and our security in our eternal destination. We looked at the Gentiles being grafted into the people of God and we looked at the practical application of all this theology; submitting our lives to God as living worship, setting aside our differences to unite in and by love. We put things in the right priority. Jesus first, others second, ourselves last.
Paul spent a couple of chapters make that point and how it looks practically and then pours his heart out in these last two chapters; his heart for Gods Gospel, for sdiscipleship, for missions, for unity, for his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, for protecting Gods people against false teaching and finally, as we look at these last couple of verses, his heart for worshipping the One, True God.
So, before we go any further, lets go ahead and read this weeks text, the last three verses in Romans. Romans 16:25-27. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version, and I encourage you to follow along in your prefferred translation. Romans 16:25-27, Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit finishes his letter, writing:
25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

So, real quick, before we move on, some astute readers amy have noticed that we didnt cover verse 24 last week or this week. Your Bible should have a note in it about Romans 16:24. It should be bracketed or italicized or something and the note will say that This verse is not Included in some earlier manuscripts, or something along those lines. Others of you, the verse wont be in the regular portion of the text, but instead will be printed in the footnotes, saying something along the lines of, some manuscruipts include… and then put the verse. Romans 16:24 says The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen
There is no theological impact to whether this verse is in there or not and the truth is that if my Bible had the verse in it with the rgular verses and then a footnote that mentioned it, instead of putting it in the footnotes, I would have included it last week and probably made little mention of it. As it is, I mostly just want to acknowledge it so that in case any one wondered. If you have questions about verses like this, I really do recommend our Bibliology class Sunday nights. We will be going over how we can trust the Bible, he we get our translations, all those different sorts of things.
But, moving on to this weeks text, We see Paul pour his heart out in worship in these last lines of the letter and show who and how important God is in our hearts and minds and our lives. This section is likely given the sub heading of the Doxology in your Bibles. The definition of a Doxology, broken down from its original greek wording is Glory or Splendor Words. It is a formula of Praise to God. The occur occasionally throughout the New Testament Letters, this obviously purposely put together as, not just a prayer, which we also see in scripture, but instead almost like a psalm or a hymn, specifically lifting up praise and worship to the Glory of God.

Lets look at what Paul says here in this Doxology. It really is powerful and awesome. And it brings together and brings to a culmination everything tha Paul has written so far. And as a conclusion, Paul draws all attention off of everything else and straight on to God Almighty. “Now, to Him who is able…” God is able. God is completely able to do anything and everything, and specifically God is able to strengthen us. Both the NASB and the King James say that God is able to establish us. God is able to establish us! Paul has spent quite a bit of time showing his readers and us that we need to be established and that we are not able to do it ourselves. He can establish us justified before him. God and God alone can do that.
And Paul has shown throughout this letter that none of it is through us, our works, our thoughts, our national, familial or spiritual heritage, none of it is through our own rightouesness. Instead Paul showed us that it is Christs and Christs alone rightousness that is able to stand up against the holy and rightouesness judgement of God. And it is God alone who can transfer, or impute as Paul puts it, Christs righteousness on to us.
Paul has already share how God has designed to do it. It is Gods grace that allows us to be clothed in Christs rightouesness. He chooses to pour out his grace in a specific manner and through specific methods. Faith is the vehicle which He Chooses to deliver his saving Grace.
Paul already shared in Romans 10:17, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ.” We also see in Ephesians 2:8,  For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, So not only is grace a free gift, delivered through fatih, but the faith itself is a free gift from God. And God has decided to deliver it through the hearing of the Word, through the Gospel as Paul says here in the Doxology, through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Through preaching, teaching, reading and hearing of the very words of God, the Holy Bible. Jesus Christ, the Word made Flesh.
This next part is interesting, looking at the last part of verse 25, and verse 26, Paul mentions the mystery that was a secret but has been disclosed through the prophetic writings, which is another word for the Scriptures. The Scriptures, the Bible, the Word of God, they have revealed to all of us and all nations the truth of the mystery revealed, the Gospel, the life and works of Jesus Christ. IT was a mystery to those in the Old Testament and to many in New Testament times, thats why Paul, Peter, the other apostles are writing these letters and the Gospels. Sadly, its still a mystery to many today even though we have it revealed to us in the Bible. One of the sayings that you will here Ron Sallee say often in our Bibliology class is that, speaking of the Old and the New Testaments or Covenants, “The New is in the Old concealed, the Old is in the New Revealed.”
Again, even with it being revealed, its still a mystery to many. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:4, In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
All throughout the Old Testament, starting in Jesus 1, Jesus has been present. Starting in Genesis 3, God promised the coming of a savior, a messiah. Those who were looking forward to his coming didnt exactly know who they were looking for. The coming Messiah was expected to be a mighty warrior, one who came down and militarily, politically overthroew all who were against the nation of Israel and especially those who were oppressing them. He would set himself up as a physical King on the throne and rule over the physical nation of Israel, Gods chosen and loved people.
Thats not how Jesus came, however. Look to Isaiah 53 to see some descriptions of the coming Messiah that would apply to Jesus that were not corporately expected. Jesus is God, truly God. Eternal and not created. Part of the perfect, eternal, holy trinity. One God, three persons. Before the creation of time, the trinity, co-equal, determined a plan that would rescue us, save us, redeem us, justify us from our sins and reconcile us back into perfect fellowhip with God.
And God foretold it all throughout the Old Testament, they were all looking forward to him. And he came down, still God, born a human baby, with no earthly father, so as not to inherit our sin nature. He grew up, lived a perfect, sinless, life. He taught truth and clarity where there had previously been confusion and unknownness. He called out sin where people thought they had none. He pointed out that we have no rightousness of our own and that the needed rightousness was more than we expected. He pointed us to a correct understandingof the Law given in the Old Testament, challengeing our assumotions and traditional understandings. He was sentenced and put to death on the cross, paying the wages for our sin. He died, was buried and then, on the third day, was raised from the day, in accordance with the scriptures. It is his sinless life and his work on the cross that forgives sin and defeats death. By the grace of God and through the faith that God has given us in that very work of Jesus, we are able to be called Children of God. When we become a part of the whosoever shall believe in Jesus, we gain forgiveness of sins, and we are adopted into his family and we get to spend eternity back in perfect relationship with God, worshipping him and glorifying him forever.
And all of that is free! God gives it graciously and generously. Faith in Christ allows us to recievethe gift of eternal life, again, the forgiveness of sins. But what do we do with our lives after we come to faith and we repent of our current and past sins?
Paul mentions here the obedience of faith. I mentioned last week what our purpose is here on this earth. What we are created to do in this mortal life. We are created to bring glory to God. All things are to be done to the glory of God and to the glory of God alone.
Again, Paul is using this Doxology, this praise and worship of God at the close of this letter and it brings the themes from throughout this letter into it. Notice we see this phrase, the “obedience of faith” back in the very beginning of the letter. Lets read again, Romans 1:1-6:
Paul, a servant[a] of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David[b] according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, 6 including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,

Familiar, parallel themes include that this is done for ALL nations, something Paul has been quite clear on through out the letter. We also know that it is for Gods name and glory among the nations, that he gets ALL the glory. And we see the obedience of faith.
Many churches, many Christians today dont want to think this. They dont want to believe this. Todays American Gospel is cheap, free grace. Grace that gives us everything we ever wanted and requires nothing from us. Gods gift of grace is indeed free, but that is very different that saying it doesnt require anything of us.
Faith brings about obedience. Obedience is one of the main aspects of sanctification. Sanctification is the process, after justification, after we come to faith in Christ, whereby God, specifically through the works and ministry of the Holy Spirit, works on making us Holy.
We kill the sin inside of us, no longer gratifying the desires of the flesh. Instead we work on being conformed to the image of Gods Son, Jesus Christ as Paul writes in Romans 8:29. The process of sanctification is a necessary part of being adopted into the family of God. Our identity when we are born is that of fallen man, of sinners seperated by God. God, who has the right, seeing as he created us, changes our identity when we are born again, or born of the spirit. We are now called “Saints” by God. We are forgiven, we are redeemed, we are set apart and we are now waiting for our glorification, when our sanctification is complete and we leave this life to enter our perfect bodies in Gods perfect presence and perfectly worship and glorify him for perfect eternity.
But that we all want ot skip right to that part. We want the end result without going through the work that it takes. We want to be iron that is sharpened, without the hammer banging us against the anvil and without being purified through the refining fire.
Ultimately, our actions, our lives give testimony to who we see God as and how we see his character. Got Questions.org say:
Prior to salvation, our behavior bore witness to our standing in the world in separation from God, but now our behavior should bear witness to our standing before God in separation from the world. Little by little, every day, “those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14, ESV) are becoming more like Christ.
Paul writes in Galatians 5 the difference between the two. The works of the flesh contrasted with the fruit of the Spirit. We should be seeing both an incredible, drastic change inn our lives before and after Christ, but also a gradual growing and maturing of our faith and obedience in Christ. Paul writes in Galatians 5, verses 19-24:
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy,[d] drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do[e] such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
The work that happens, the refining fire, the process of discipline that Father lovingly doles out on his children. It doesnt always make sense. It often hurts. We can easily question what the purpose is or why God is putting us through this. Of course we see that in many instances in the Bible, but Paul ends this Doxology, by calling God wise, to the only wise God, as a matter of fact. God knows all. He created all. He is in all times at the same time. And so, he is wise beyond all of our understanding. Our God is a God of wisdom.
Paul draws the entire letter of Romans into this praise and worhsip of God and lifts up to him all Glory and sums up so much here. Lets read it one more time, as a whole:

Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

Amen indeed! Now, we mentioned Jesus being the key, the lynchpin on which our faith hangs. His sinless life, his death on the cross. His resurrection. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:3 & 4:
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

While Jesus was here, during his life, he knew what was coming. He knew what his mission here was. He warned his disciples, and promised his disciples that not only would his death take place, but he also promised that he would return. On the night before his death, we see recorded in Matthew 26:26-28,  Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the[c] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.  I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
We are called to come together as a church family and celebrate the LORDs Supper. And we are called to come together and remember. Dustin Benge is a Pastor in Kentucky and he walks through the different aspects of communion. He says:
The Lord’s Supper is an act of: 1. Obedience “In remembrance of Me” 2. Thanksgiving “When He had given thanks” 3. Representation “This is My body…My blood” 4. Examination “Examine yourself” 5. Proclamation “You proclaim the Lord’s death” 6. Anticipation “Until I come.”

Now, We remember the sacrifice, the blood shed. We remember what that means to us, as those who have turned to follow Jesus Christ. It means that we have been declared righteous in his sight and we get to spend eternity with Jesus Christ and God the Father.
We often take this time somberly and soberly, because of what it cost Jesus, what he had to go through. We celebrate because Jesus is alive and we get to partake in eternal life with him if we chose to follow him.
Now, Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 11 some things about partaking in communion. First of all, this is for those that have made a commitment to Jesus. This is a celebration and remembrance for what he won, what he purchased when he paid the penalty for our sins and rose from the grave. If you have not made that commitment, out of respect, please pass the plate.
Paul also makes it clear that we need to be in the right state of mind, that we need to be honest with ourselves and with God and about our sins. So take the time we are passing the elements to reflect on our sins and Gods grace and forgiveness.
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 16:1-16 Pauls heart for his fellow workers

Romans 16:1-16

Paul’s Heart for His Fellow Workers

Good Morning! Grab your Bibles with me, if you will, and turn to Romans chapter 16. If you do not have a Bible, please help your self to one from the back table there.

Well, we have reach the very last chapter of Romans. How many of you, as we started this book, knew that there were 16 chapters? And how many of you have actually read purposely and focused through it? We have reached the end of Romans and Paul is closing up his letter. But he is not done yet. He has three things yet to say, the first of which we will look at this morning.

But before that, I want us to take a bigger look at these last two chapters of Romans. There is a mini theme in Romans 15 & 16 that we have been seeing. And that is that Paul has been pouring his heart out about the things that are important to him. We have seen over the last few weeks Paul speak his of his passion and love and heart for Christ, We have seen him express his heart for spreading the Gospel and growing disciples. We have seen him express his love for Rome and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Today we see him show his heart for his fellow workers in Christ. The next two weeks will show Paul show his heart for protecting the flock, protecting Gods Children, and his heart for worshipping the One True God.

Bu this week, as I said, we are looking at Pauls heart for his fellow workers in Christ. We are going to read this weeks passage and its a bit of a long one. There are a lot of names in the 16 verses we are going to read, 30 people named or referenced. Its not quite like reading a genealogy, but it can be very easy to just gloss or skim over. What I want to show you though, is that there is a depth and wealth of wisdom and information in this passage. Before we continue, lets read this mornings passage, Romans 16:1-16. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please follow along with your preferred version in your hands. Romans chapter 16, verses 1-16. The apostle Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit writes:

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant[a] of the church at Cenchreae, 2 that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.

3 Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, 4 who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well. 5 Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert[b] to Christ in Asia. 6 Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you. 7 Greet Andronicus and Junia,[c] my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles,[d] and they were in Christ before me. 8 Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord. 9 Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my beloved Stachys. 10 Greet Apelles, who is approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the family of Aristobulus. 11 Greet my kinsman Herodion. Greet those in the Lord who belong to the family of Narcissus. 12 Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord. 13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well. 14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers[e] who are with them. 15 Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. 16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.

Amen. All right, so as I said, thats a long list of names. We are going to look at a few of them real quick, not all of them of course, but highlight a few of them and see what we can learn from these names. We start, of course, at the beginning, with Phoebe. And there is actually quite a bit we can know about her based on these couple of verses. She served in the church of Cenchreae, which was essentially in Corinth. Paul was writing this letter to the romans from… Corinth. And so it is very likely that she was who carried the letter from Paul to the Roman churches. Paul obviously had a great amount of trust and respect for this lady.

We see Prisca and Aquila mentioned here as well, and we have seen them before. We arent going to dive into their whole story, but if you turn to Acts 18, you can read about some of their story. But again, worked alongside Paul, risked their lives for him, utmost trust by Paul.

We also see Rufus mentioned here. This is very likely the same Rufus that was mentioned in Mark’s Gospel. Mark writes in chapter 15, verse 21: And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross.

Many scholars think that the entire reason why Simon was even mentioned in marks Gospel is because his son, Rufus was well known at the time of the writing. Its very possible that Rufus and his family, notice that his mom is mentioned here as well, that they were one of the first to bring the news and Gospel of Jesus Christ from Jerusalem to Rome.

And so, we see some familiar names here in this last and many unfamiliar names as well. Jewish names, and Gentile names, both Roman and Greek names. And its interesting that a full third of these names are women. This during a time when women have little to no rights. When a woman’s testimony was not admissible in court. When women were not regarded as equal to the men of the day.

And we hear today that people call Paul sexist, they call him a misogynist and a woman hater. Yet we see form scripture this is not the case. We hear people say that the Bible, that Christianity, goes against women. And yet we see throughout scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, that women are shown to serve God with strength, honor, faithfulness, trustworthiness and they are quite literally, irreplaceable.

But because the Bible affirms that men and women are different, because they are created for different roles and purposes, yet equal in worth and value and in spiritual standing in the sight of God, both created in his image and likeness, but created for different roles, many thing that the Bible and Christianity discriminates or holds down women.

Scripture could not be more clear on this issue. Yes, men and women are in fact different. Men can do things women cant and/or shouldn’t do. And the other way around as well. Women can do things men cant and/or shouldn’t do. Scripture makes clear that the roles of elders and pastors are to be fulfilled by men. This is especially clear in 1 Timothy 2:12 & 13.

Its just like God made men and women different in regards to childbirth. The function and role of Mom & Wife is reserved for and designed for and to be fulfilled by women. The function and role of Father & Husband is reserved for and designed for and to be fulfilled by men. Is a mom better than a dad or a dad better than a mom? No, but they have different functions and roles. Both need to rightly raise up children the way that God designed it.

Are the men in this church, or any other church for that matter, including the churches that Paul wrote to and visited, are the men better than the women? No. Are the women better than the men? No. But they had different roles and functions. And anyone who things that because God called men to be elders and pastors means that women are not vital or capable to the ministry of the church simply has not read what Paul is saying here.

The New Testaments churches would have fallen apart if not for the women and the roles that they played. God made sure that women were used in wonderous and incredible ways. I said earlier that in that day and age, a woman’s testimony was inadmissible in court. Yet, who did God first have discovering the empty tomb and tell the apostles? Mary. And did the Bible conveniently omit that so that the story was more acceptable and believable? No. She played a vital and incredible role in the early church.

We see in churches today and specifically in our church right here. This church would fall apart and be a shell of itself with out the work and ministry of the ladies right here in this room. All of you do so much, and different stuff, things that often no body sees, sometimes things that people do see. For all those times you work and nobody sees it, Thank you, from all of us.

And that leads to another thing that we can take away from this list of greetings, encouragements, and exhortations. Sometimes we do a lot of work for God. We do a lot of work for the church. And often times when we do, we don’t think anyone is noticing. No one says thank you or Good Job. We don’t feel appreciated. Some people don’t notice. We often don’t notice when others do certain things at certain times. We should, but we sometimes don’t. Even when Paul here does acknowledge theses, they aren’t immediate recognitions, but things that have happened over time. Sometimes recognition and thanks is more of a long game than an immediate play.

But regardless, when we feel like no one sees what we are doing, like maybe we are not making a difference, or affecting anything. Take heed. God notices. God sees. And we need to be careful of our own hearts and attitudes. The reason we do the work that we do is not to be seen and recognized by each other, or by man, as the Bible puts it. Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6, verses 1-4:

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

2 “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

And with that warning we need to make sure that we are looking for our reward from our Father who is in Heaven, rather than looking for our rewards from man here and now. And so, we lift our heads high, we do what God has called us to do and we let God worry about the rest. Easier said than done, I know, but that’s our call.

As clarification, this does not mean that you don’t have to recognize when people do things. This does not mean that you don’t have to say Thank you or appreciate when you see people doing things. Again, we see that Paul is recognizing and showing appreciation and making sure that others also knew and appreciated what these fellow workers were doing. But what it means is that the LORD is our provider, it is he who will deal with all things A ND we know that he sees all and is fair and just.

So, we do what God has called us to. We become, as Paul describes here, “workers in Christ,” “servants of the Church,” “working hard for you,” “in Christ,” Gods beloved, fellow workers in Christ, those of us who are in the LORD, and who worked hard for the LORD.

Our work, what we do, we do to the Glory of God. We do it to serve God. We do it for Him and that is its own reward. And God sees. We see here names written in Paul’s letter to Rome. He thanks and greets and acknowledges and recognizes and I’m sure they felt good about that. I’m sure they felt loved from Paul and felt love for Paul. They didn’t know it at the time but their names ended up being written in the Bible, Gods Word for us to all see and read about. But ultimately, we know that we would rather have our names written in Gods Book of Life than in this book to be read by men.

The grass withers, the flowers fade, the Word of God endures forever.

Maybe the last thing I want pull out of this text this morning is I want you to see that we are supposed to greet fellow workers in Christ, fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, fellow believers.

We greet these brothers and sisters. We greet those who work in Christ.. We recognize those who work hard for the LORD. We welcome fellow workers in Christ. Paul exhorts them, greet one another with a Holy Kiss. And all the churches in Christ greet you.

Now, the Holy kiss is one of those situations, where we separate the principal from the literal. Do we have to all greet each other with a kiss? No. First, that’s not our culture. That wouldn’t work, nor should it If I were to greet each of you that walk through the door with a kiss. But there are cultures and times where this was a normal greeting custom.

The principal of what is being said here is that we greet each other genuinely. We are to greet each other warmly, with love. We are to greet each other openly.

Heres the thing, we walk through that door back there, what are you here for? You are here to worship and serve the one true God, our king, our savior Jesus Christ. WE give all we have to him. We bask in his holiness, lifting our lives up to him. We focus on him, and the Holy Spirit working in us, sanctifying us, changing us, starting with out hearts, changing them from hearts of stone to a heart of flesh, becoming a new creation, working all things in us for his good and his glory.

We are not here for ourselves. So we walk through that door, we greet each other openly, genuinely, warmly. We are not to avoid each other. We are not to ignore each other. We are not to hold grudges. We are not to be fake with each other. And are most certainly not to cause division in the house of the LORD.

If there is an issue, Paul has said multiple times, as much as it is possible, as much as it is up to us, live at peace with one another. Forgive each other. Worship together. I have found in my experiences that if there is an issue between two people and they are able to truly worship their God together. That issue becomes so little, so unimportant, that it falls away.

So once again, Paul is, in this list of greetings, encouragements, recognition, in these list of names that we normally would just gloss right over, Paul is calling for unity. He is calling for us to put aside our differences, put aside our disagreements. He is calling us to come together and unite under the one thing that can change people. The one thing that can change situations and scenarios. The one thing that can change hearts and offer forgiveness and that s the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That is the grace of God alone, poured out through our faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. This we see reveal through the pages of scripture alone. And all of it, all things, all everything, to be done for the Glory of God alone.

We see next week that those who do not come together in unity, or more specifically who call for unity outside the Gospel, or without the Gospel or worst of all, through compromise of the Gospel, those we do not greet warmly. Those we do not unite with. Those we do not worship together with. Those are wolves, they are enemies of God and they are false teachers and false disciples. But we will get to that next week.

Right now, after I pray, I ask that we all come together. We all stand, as we are able. WE lift our voices together and we worship together. We worship our King. We worship the all powerful creator of the universe. We worship our all knowing supreme being, who called us for his glory before he created time. We worship the all loving God who came up with a plan of redemption, a way to reconcile our sinful and unholy selves back to the only one who is good, the only one who is worthy, the only one who is Holy, Holy, Holy. Lets come together and worship God.

Lets Pray

Romans 10:9-21 Salvation belongs to the LORD

Romans 10:9-21

Salvation Belongs to the LORD

Good Morning! Please turn with me in your Bibles to Romans chapter 10. We have seen Paul over the last couple of weeks, the last few chapters, and more generally, this whole letter to Romans, he is talking about salvation. Paul has been very clear about the need for salvation. We are all sinners and unable to save ourselves. We are all sinners and therefore separated from God. Paul has established the author of Salvation, Jesus Christ and he alone. Paul, as we saw last week has established the need for knowledge about salvation, calling those who refuse to acknowledge Christ as savior ones with Zeal not based off knowledge.

Today, in this section of scripture in romans chapter 10, Paul shows some of the mechanics of salvation, and again, emphasizes that those who are saved and secure in their salvation. And he is again establishing and emphasizing that salvation is for all, Jews and gentiles alike.

So with that, we will go ahead and read the text this morning. It’s a bit of a longer passage, as we will be reading verses 9-21, through the end of the chapter. You will likely recognize some of these verses, but as happens often in the Bible, when you recognize some verses, its likely you wont recognize others. So, I greatly encourage you to read along in your Bibles. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version. Romans 10, verses 9-21.

Paul writes:

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

14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?[c] And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

18 But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for

Their voice has gone out to all the earth,
and their words to the ends of the world.”

19 But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says,

I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation;
with a foolish nation I will make you angry.”

20 Then Isaiah is so bold as to say,

I have been found by those who did not seek me;
I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.”

21 But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”

So as we start to examine this passage of scripture, there are two questions that seem to jump out, maybe a third if you want to flow into chapter 11. And the two questions are slightly different, but close enough that we will look at both of them this week. The first question is, How is one saved? & the second is like it, put in the words of the Philippians jailer in Acts chapter 16, as he addressed Paul and Silas, What must I do to be saved?

Now, as we get into these questions, and look at the Bible for the answers that we are given by God, I want to acknowledge one of the resources that has been a big help for me in studying those questions. This book, From Death to Life: How Salvation Works, by Allen Nelson IV is a simple, clear, concise, and straight Biblical account of what the bible says and teaches about salvation. I highly recommend picking up this book and reading it through. Its simple enough for beginners and in-depth and thorough enough for serious bible students. But I want to be clear that this book was a big resource for me as I prepped this sermon.

Now, as we look at this passage, we see it broken down into a few different sections, but yet, it’s not able to pulled apart and separated. Normally I would read these sections separately, as we walk through the text, but this text is so interconnected that even if we address it in chunks, we cannot separate these sections from each other.

Now the first couple of verses we look at here, we see Paul show us a glimpse of the mechanics and continue to assure those who have been saved. Confess and believe. Believe and Confess. Believe in your heart and confess with your mouth. It sounds so simple. It sounds so easy. And in many ways, it really is.

But, with something so clear and so simple, humanity comes along, we come along and we skew it. We either make it more difficult, by adding conditions on to it. We say, you have to do this, you have to be circumcised, you have to celebrate the festivals, you have to use this Bible translation, you have to confess to a priest or pray to someone other than Jesus. Even things we are commanded to do, like being baptized, if we add them as necessary to salvation, we add to the gospel and we change the gospel.

Or we try to help God, we try to simplify the Gospel so that there is basically no distinction between followers of Christ and those who don’t. We make it easier to follow his teachings, changing the meaning of the text, raising up the letters in red while downplaying any of the other words in the gospel. We make it easier to come to church and not be confronted with sin, to come to church and not hear the Words of God, to come to church and not be accountable. We make it easier by saying all you need to do is raise your hand and say a prayer and your good.

In both cases we are saying that Gods word is not sufficient. His sovereignty is not complete. He needs our help to reach and to save the people around us. The truth is, as we have seen throughout Romans and especially in the last few chapters is the God is completely and totally the sole author if salvation. And here, he makes it clear how he provides salvation to us.

Believe in your heart and confess with your mouth,  For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. Jesus says simply repent and believe in the Gospel. Here we do have to define terms. This is where the knowledge we talked about last week comes in to play. This is where knowing the comprehensive and systematic themes and words of the Bible shows its importance.

What does it mean to believe? Remember some of the stats we mentioned last week? Over 90% if Americans claim to believe in God. That is actually a good start, but does not go near far enough. The author of Hebrews writes in 11:6, whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists. But that’s just a starting point. God exists. Paul says that EVERYONE knows that, though most of the suppress it, as he explains in Chapter 1 of Romans. James also shows how this is but a starting point, and not enough, as he writes in his letter, chapter 2, verse 19,  You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!

So, we see that belief that God exists is not enough. We must believe in our heart that Jesus is LORD. That he is God. He is the Son of God and he is God the Son, one-third of the trinity. This is a belief that is given free and clear, but a belief that demands something. This is not “easy believism.” I came across this quote a couple of days ago that I read a few years ago while in school. Gerald Sittser looks at the culture in America today and says this:

In modern American culture, we can be “spiritual” without actually believing in a particular faith tradition and belonging to a particular faith community, especially Christianity. This kind of fuzzy spirituality allows us to fashion a spiritual life that suits our immediate interests and consumer tastes. But such spirituality often lacks substance, integrity and discipline. It means everything and nothing at the same time; it is as vacuous as Hollywood’s definition of love.”

God tells us clearly here that this is not how it’s supposed to be. We are to have faith. Not a general, generic faith that doesn’t actually mean anything, But a saving faith in Jesus Christ, his godhood, his humanity, his life, his death, his resurrection. And this faith is not of our own, but a gift from god in and of itself as Paul writes in Ephesians 2. Now, some don’t like to here that. Paul writes in Romans 3 that none of us chase after God of our own volition. Jeremiah says that our hearts are deceitful above all things. Paul says here that it is only through this saving faith that we can be saved, and then I Ephesians 2 that our faith is not from ourselves, but a gift from God.

Some would argue that this means that we don’t do anything, we have no say in our salvation. They are both right and wrong. We don’t play any role in our salvation, not in initiating it, not in earning it, not even in accepting it, for as Jonah cries out, Salvation belongs to the LORD. Allen Nelson takes the biblical text and lays out 5 things that happen, that need to happen, that work together and all that in regards to salvation.

First, the Gospel is proclaimed. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ. We cannot be saved, we cannot know what salvation is or how to be saved without hearing from God. And the way that God communicates with us is through his Word. Hebrews 1:1 & 2: Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

No one can come to know God without hearing the Word, without the scriptures. Second, through hearing the word of God, God moves in us, he calls us. The Spirit quickens in us. However you want to say it, we talked last week about Jesus lifting the veil from our eyes. Ezekiel talks about changing our heart from one of stone to one of flesh. This happens inside of us, by God and has nothing to do with us. At this point, if God does this, if he calls us, we will end up responding.

Thats number three. We respond in faith and repentance. This is where we play a part in our salvation, even if we don’t have a say in it. Now, we may, and most of us did or will fight this, again, suppress it, resist it as best we can, for as long as we can. But, if God has called us we will respond. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

When we respond with repentance and faith, number 4 happens. God justifies us. He declares us righteous. This is where the death of Christ on the cross actually come in to play. Sin, of which we all commit, is treason against God. Sin, in any shape and size makes us instantly and completely unrighteous. In order to get back into a right relationship with him and in order to not be punished for the sins we committed, a punishment we so rightly deserve, we need to become righteous. But we can’t. We are completely, physically, emotionally, spiritually, 100% unable to make ourselves righteous. Not only that, but even if we could, we can’t undo the things that we already did to make our selves guilty, to make ourselves unrighteous.

But Jesus can and does. He lived a perfect and completely righteous life, so that he had no sin to make up for, no sin of his own to atone for. He died a death, a sacrifice for sin. The wages of sin are death, (Romans 3:23). God showed us and Adam and eve in Genesis 3 that sin requires death to cover it up. God shows in the Old Testament through the sacrificial system that blood and death are required to make up for sin. The animals that were sacrificed were a temporary measure and they could atone for sin that had not been committed yet. Jesus dies a death that was undeserved. The death of his perfect life, his blood shed was sufficient to cover all of our sins.

But, it didn’t stop there. Jesus didn’t stay in the grave. He didn’t stay dead. One of my favorite hymns is In Christ Alone. The third verse says

There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious day
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine –
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

When we are justified, when we are saved by grace through faith, when we respond with repentance and faith, we are now his. We are no longer clothed in our own unrighteousness. We are no longer given the identity of sinner. But we are his and He is ours. We are clothed with Christs perfect righteousness. We are now called saints by God. We are his.

Of course we know, every single one of us should be able to testify and admit, that we don’t stop sinning. We will trip up. We will stumble. We will not achieve perfect righteousness of our own, not in this lifetime. Sin’s curse has lost its grip on us. But sins curse has not yet lost its grip on this world.

But number 5, after justification, comes sanctification. The sinner grows in Christ. We grow in Christ. We sin less. We read his Word. We love his church and his people. We show our love for him by obeying his commands, summed up in Love God with all your heart, mind, body and soul. And Love your neighbor as yourself.

In this part is what we talked about last week, growing in the wisdom and knowledge of God. Having a zeal for him, based on knowledge. Putting that knowledge into action and serving and loving our God.

But this section of scriptures also points out one very important aspect of what we are called to do. To share the good news of the Gospel, to share the share of Christ and his Word with those who don’t yet know Christ. How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?[c] And how are they to hear without someone preaching?

Despite what we hear in the wording of that passage, we are not all called to be preachers, not in the sense that I am up here preaching. We are not all called to the office of pastor or elder. But we are all called to be able to help spread the Gospel.

There is no hope outside of Christ. There is no salvation outside the Word of God. God is clear in his Word that no actions, no abilities, no obedience can earn or merit or achieve or anything in regards to our salvation. Our best works are like filthy rags to him. However, after we know Christ, after we have been justified, as part of our sanctification, works will show our faith. And we are called to obey. One of his commands is to share this great news with everyone. We are to spread the Gospel to all people, tribes and nations, making disciples of all nations, teaching them what Christ commanded.

We do that without regard to what we view of as success. Our success is obedience. The results are in Gods hands. And Paul warns us that many will hear and not respond. Not all who hear will be saved, but rest assured, all who are saved will have heard. And we all, each and every one of us, has been disobedient and contrary. We have all committed this cosmic treason, as RC Sproul refers to it. And yet, God has held out his hands and gathered us in. Remember Romans chapter 8, verse 30? And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

And so, we praise and we glorify our almighty God the Father and God the Son, Jesus Christ, and God the Holy Spirit. And Paul tells us, here this morning in verses 11-13: “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

When we are his, and he is ours, we see the last verse on In Christ alone,

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand:
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.

One other thing Jesus tells us to do is to remember, to celebrate in remembrance. Today, we remember and celebrate 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. 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.