1 Timothy 1:18-20 Life in the Local Church: Continue in Faithfulness

1 Timothy 1:18-20
Life in the Local Church
Continue in Faithfulness

 

Good Morning. Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to 1 Timothy, chapter 1. We are going to pick back up in our series today, going through 1 & 2 Timothy, called Life in the Local Church. As always, if you do not have a Bible, or do not own a Bible, please grab on from the back table. We would love the Word of God to be our gift to you.
Now, its been a few weeks since we have been in this series and so we need to do a brief review before diving into todays text. Paul is writing to Timothy, who is the Pastor at the early church in Ephesus. Timothy is personally, very close to Paul, with Paul referring to him several times as a son to him.
Paul is writing to Timothy because there have been some issues and some teachers that have gained a foothold in the Ephesian church that need to be dealt with. The biggest issue we see that has been mentioned by Paul is that False teachers are False teaching a False Gospel. And there is no room for that in the church, of whom Christ is the head. Christ, who is revealed in Scripture, whose Gospel is revealed in Scriptures, not through the smooth words of people who look and sound good.
Paul is both encouraging Timothy and challenging him to do what needs to be done. And he is actually going to name names of two men who have been causing confusion and discord amongst the church.
So, with all that being said, lets go ahead and look at this morning’s text. Ill be reading 1 Timothy 1:18-20, and I will be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please follow along in your preferred translation that you have in your hands. 1 Timothy, chapter 1, verses 18-20. Paul, inspired by God, writing the holy and inerrant scriptures, writes:
This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.

All right, so Paul here is returning to his train of thought from earlier in the letter, back in verses 3-7. Timothy, do what you have been called to do. Do what has been entrusted to you. We know that with great power comes great responsibilities. And with great responsibility can come great rewards.
Paul has shown Timothy that God has entrusted him with great responsibility. Timothy is responsible to and charged to protect the flock at Ephesus, to protect the truth from the attacks of the enemy. He is to refute false teachings and teachers with the plain, pure, simple truth of the true Gospel.
One of the things we see about Timothy, if we study his life as recorded in the Bible, is that Timothy has a timid streak. He is not the loudest, surest, most take charge kind of guy. In that, a lot of the encouragement and challenges that Paul gives to Timothy, hit very close to home for me. Timothy does not always seem to be entirely sure of his ability to do the things that he needs to do to fulfill his responsibility.
And so, Paul reminds Timothy that God has called him to do this job. When God calls you to do something, he will equip you to accomplish exactly what He has called you to accomplish. This does not always mean that we will be successful at the task laid before us. We are not always called to be successful. We are called to be faithful and to do what God has said. In that, He will equip us as we need it.
As an example, I am called to shepherd the flock here at Bangor Community Church. I am also called to be a missionary to the community in and around Bangor, Ca. I may or may not be called to grow this church numerically. I may or may not be called to do many baptisms or to see firsthand many people come to faith. The results of my faithfulness are in Gods hands. I’m not responsible for that. I am responsible to Preach the Word and Love the People.
And guess what? That’s what God has equipped me to do. And what he has called you to do, he will equip you for exactly that task and the outcome that he has determined. And with that faithfulness comes great reward.
In this I am reminded of the parable of the talents. Jesus tells us in Matthew 25 that he entrusts each of us with different things, different tasks, different amounts. We are not responsible for each other’s talents. Talent was a unit of money, or gold back then. It works for material goods, for talents as we know them today, for anything because the idea is our level of faithfulness transcends it all. I am not responsible for your talents and how you use them. I am, to a point responsible for Hopes and the kids and how they use them. But I am primarily responsible for my own talents.
You are not responsible for my talents and how I use them. You are not responsible for each other’s talents, with your kids and your spouses being partial exceptions. We are responsible for helping to encourage, exhort and equip each other, as a body of Christ, as Paul shares in Ephesians 4. But you will not stand before God and must give an answer or an account for why I did or did not use my talents faithfully. You will stand and give an account regarding how you used your own talents.
In the parable, three men were given different amounts of money to take care of while their master was gone. One of them, given the most, was very faithful and got a return on his good works, he bore much fruit because of his faithfulness. The second was given a middle amount and was faithful to what he was given and he bore some fruit from his faithfulness. The last man was given a small amount and he was not faithful, bearing zero fruit. The first two were rewarded because of their faithfulness and the third was rebuked because of his lack of faithfulness.
God called those men to be faithful with what they were given, and he gave them the ability to be carry that out. Did the second man bear as much fruit as the first? No, but he wasn’t called to. He was still successful in carrying out what God had called them to.
So, the leads us to looking at, what was Timothy called to by God here in Ephesus? First, Timothy knew what he was called to because Paul and many elders laid hands on him, prayed over him and for him and prophesied over him. We see an example of this happen at the beginning of Acts chapter 13, with Paul and Barnabas. We will get more into prayer over the next couple of weeks but that is something we are still called to do. To pray over each other and to pray for each other. And there is something that happens, something that makes it much more personal and meaningful to both the person doing the praying and the person being prayed over.
But we also know that the prophetic offices have been closed. Gods Word has been fully revealed and there is no more extra biblical, special revelation. We need to remember to discern and see when to read the scriptures as descriptive, relaying that this is what happened, and when to read prescriptive, saying this is what we are supposed to do.
But at this point, in part because of the prayer and prophecy put onto Timothy, he was clear in his mission and his call. He is to fight the good fight. He is to wage good warfare. He is to fight against what Paul has already been writing about in this letter.
Timothy is to wage war against False Teaching in the church. He is to wage war against the False Teachers who are doing the false teaching. He is to wage war against the enemy’s scheme to destroy the witness and the mission of the Church. He was to wage war against the lies and the corruption and the sin that come along with all those things.
And Timothy is to also go the other route as well. He is to fight for Gods Truth. That’s Truth with a capitol T. The only actual truth there is. The Truth that all other claims are to be tested against. Timothy is to fight for Gods holiness, something we, as a Christian community in 21 century America don’t fully understand or grasp. He is to fight for the purity and sufficiency of the Gospel. And he is to fight for Gods righteousness, because we have none of our own and can only receive Christs perfect righteousness trough the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ.
And this is also what, in general terms, we are all called to do as well, in our lives, in our family, in our circle of friends and in our church. And it isn’t easy, and it takes an incredible amount of discernment.
Because this is one area where we must be careful. And we are going to use False Teaching as an example here. Not all False Teaching is heresy. One definition I like says this: “Heresy is a false teaching about the essential doctrines of our faith – the ones we must adhere to, regarding who God is, who Jesus is, salvation by grace, and Jesus’ resurrection.”
And so, False teaching about the non-essential issues is not heresy. It still needs to be confronted and dealt with, but we need to be careful about what words we throw around when we do indeed confront it.
Also, not all teaching that reads the text differently is false teaching. For example, we look at the various views on the end times. What did Jesus teach? Well, his speaking of the end times are summed up in be ready for it and nobody knows the time when it will come.
And yet the church today has three very different views about when Jesus will return and each of these three will influence how you read scriptures and are influenced by how you read scriptures. Now, in the end, two of those three will end up being wrong. But you can teach each one of them from a biblical standpoint and therefore, they are not, by definition, false teachings.
They are opinions and preferences that we believe. And we can hold them tightly even. But they are secondary issues that we should not divide over. I love Village Missions Statement of Faith on this subject. It reads, and I forget the exact wording, but it reads, We believe that Jesus Christ will one day, physically return. Done. That’s what we unite over in this subject. If we deny that part, that Jesus will physically return, then we get into heresy area. But if we disagree on whether we are pre, post or amillenial in Christs return, we simply read the text differently.
Some of these things that we differ on, they are differences of opinion. They are our interpretation. They are our preconceived notions and preconceived views, of which we all have. Some of these things, as I have said, we can still be united together as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, despite those differing views. Some of these things you can see or think differently than I do and I can still that you have a genuine and pure faith. And it is that genuine and pure faith that Timothy and all of us are called to defend and to protect.
So we also look at what the Bible says is the faith that we hold in a good conscience. Of course there is John 3:16, maybe is, and definitely used to be the single most well know bible verse in the world. John writes: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. And I also like what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15: 3-8:
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
That is what we cling to. This is what we hold tight to. And this is what, if we reject it, we make what Paul calls here, a shipwreck of our faith. Those who reject the faith, those who reject the Gospel, also those who claim to believe the Gospel but reject those closed handed Gospel issues, they are not just rejecting salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. But they are also rejecting unity. They are rejecting the Gospel, despite what they claim. They are rejecting the true Biblical God and the true biblical Jesus.
And when you have rejected these things, you have rejected the faith. Paul names two men who have been in the church and have fallen into this category of False teachers, rejecting the core tenets of the faith and teaching heresy. Alexander and Hymanaeus are specifically named as having been dealt with and have been handed over to Satan.
Now, we can not just take that verse and start doing whatever we want with it. We need to be really careful with what we take from it and how we apply it to today.
When we separate from people, we do so after having tried everything we could do on our end for repentance and reconciliation. We see Matthew 18 as the go to text about how to treat issues like this. We separate only after much prayer. We separate only after much effort. We do so only after every other option has been exhausted.
And we do so for what purpose? As shown here and in 1 Corinthians 5:5, We separate from others, we remove them from the church only as a last resort, in order to bring them to repentance. We do so in order to, ideally bring them back into the fellowship of the saints and bring them back into the body of believers.
In this instance, if Alexander and/or Hymanaeus were to repent of their false teaching and they were to accept the full, clear, simple, true gospel, Paul would welcome them back into the church with open arms.
Now, we don’t know what exactly they were teaching that fell into the category of false teaching, though we could make fair guesses based on what Paul has already written in this letter. But we do know that Paul says they are guilty of blaspheming God.
Here is one definition of blasphemy: To blaspheme is to speak with contempt about God or to be defiantly irreverent. Blasphemy is verbal or written reproach of God’s name, character, work, or attributes.
Does that help any of you? Practically it was not very much help for me. So, I will describe blasphemy in this way and this is not specific or entirely complete, but it helps me practically. Blasphemy is giving Gods attributes and identity to someone or something else. Giving credit for Gods Works to someone or something who is not God. It is giving to God lesser attributes or taking away from Gods true identity.
Cause here’s the thing. God and God alone has the right to determine who he is. God and God alone has the right to what his identity is. He is God. He has revealed who he is in his revealed word, the Bible that you have right in front of you. God is the creator and the author of all things. He is the almighty and he is a jealous God. And all of creation was made to give glory to God. So, if we give the glory that is rightly due to God, to anything else, we are blaspheming God. Let’s not do that.
See what God himself says in his word. Believe in his Gospel, that Jesus his son, died for our sins and rose from the dead to full achieve the forgiveness of our sins. That forgiveness and eternal life with God, available by Grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.
So, we continue to do what has been entrusted to us. Fight against the false teachings and sin that has corrupted this world. We stand up for and fight for the Truth and holiness of God and we trust both the results of our fight and our salvation to God and God alone.
Let’s Pray.

1&2 Timothy: Life in the Local Church- 1 Timothy 1:12-17 The Glorious Gospel

1 Timothy 1:12-17

Life in the Local Church

The Glorious Gospel

 

 

Good Morning. Please grab your Bibles and turn with me to 1 Timothy, chapter 1. If you do not have a Bible, if you do not own one, please help yourself to one off the back table as our gift to you.

Paul is writing this letter to Timothy, who he left in Ephesus to be the Pastor, the head shepherd over the flock of the local church there. And he is writing as a Call to Arms, as it were. There was much false teaching, many false teachers coming in and spreading lies and falsehoods amongst the believers in Ephesus.

And what Paul is going to show Timothy and us this morning is that the way to combat false teaching and false teachers, the remedy, the cure, as I said last week to the disease is the Glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ. Or as he says it back in verse 11, the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.

This Gospel is life changing and transforming and ultimately, is the Ultimate truth that brings Glory to God. Paul knows this from firsthand experience as he often shares as his witness and testimony. Before we read his letter to Timothy, I want to go back and look at Paul’s testimony. Turn over to Acts chapter 22, while we read, in Paul’s own words the story of God’s grace and mercy on him. Acts 22:3-21, Paul recounts:

I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel[b] according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. 4 I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, 5 as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished.

6 “As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. 7 And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ 8 And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ 9 Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand[c] the voice of the one who was speaking to me. 10 And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’ 11 And since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus.

12 “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well-spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. 14 And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; 15 for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

17 “When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ 19 And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. 20 And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’ 21 And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”

 

Part of what makes this applicable to what Paul has already told Timothy was that we see that Paul was exactly what we saw him teach against last week. He was overzealous for the law. He misunderstood what the law was, and he strove for and demanded obedience to it. There was no grace, no compassion and no mercy. He was 1 Timothy verses 8-11, teaching that the law was the means and the way to salvation. He was that, until…

Until Paul’s experience on the Road to Damascus, also recorded in Acts 9. Paul literally had Jesus knock him down, struck him blind and spoke out loud to him. It took all that for Paul to get the message. And in that, he experienced the life changing grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

And Paul writes about that here in 1 Timothy, verses 12-17. That’s our text for the week that I’m going to read for us now. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and I do encourage you to read along with your preferred translation. 1 Timothy 1:12-17, Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, writes to Timothy:

I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service,

  though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief,

and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

  But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.

To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

So, in this section of this letter, we see Paul lay out the Glorious Gospel. And basically, we are just going to look at this section bullet point by bullet point. We start, as those who have also experienced the perfect and holy grace of God, that we are to Be Thankful.

We are to be thankful to God. Because the Gospel, the forgiveness of sins, is not about us and more importantly, its in no way because of us. Salvation is a gift from God. Ephesians 2:8-10,

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.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

So not by us or from us, but all by Gods grace, through faith, which is also from Him in Christ, as the Bibles says and all to Gods glory, not our glory.

Paul also thankful for the strength that is given to us by God. Because, again, it is a gift from God. And the strength that He gives us is His strength, it is not our own strength. One of the clearest things that scripture teaches, and one of the hardest things for us to learn is that we have no inherent strength of our own. We are wholly and solely dependent on Him.

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “But he (God) said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

And what Paul is specifically referring to here is the strength to be and to stay faithful. And faithful to the service that God has called us to. We see that again as well back in the Ephesians 2 passage we read a moment ago. That we were created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

And God has done all of this, been this generous, been this faithful, given us these incredible gifts despite who we were, if we are now in Christ. We were sinners. If we are not in Christ, we are still sinners. Paul writes in Romans 3, All have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God. All of us are in need of a savior. We not only sinned and separated us from God, but the Psalms say that we were sinners even in our Mothers Womb. Romans 6:26 tells us, For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And when Paul says that he received mercy because he acted ignorantly in unbelief, I want to make sure we are clear on what that meant. Make no mistake, the adage is still true with God, “Ignorance is no excuse for the law.” Paul is not saying, I didn’t know the law, so God took it easy on me. First, we all know the law, it was written on stone and given to Moses, and written on our hearts and written in nature, as we see in Romans 1. So, we know that he is not saying that ignorance of the law makes us innocent or righteous.

And so, what he was saying, is that “I did not know I was not righteous. I thought I was good enough to be righteous. I was ignorant to my unrighteousness. And despite that, even because of that, God gave Paul the grace and mercy that he did not deserve, instead of the wrath and judgment that Paul did deserve.

And that grace that God gave him resulted in the faith and love of Jesus Christ. Jesus actions, his incarnation, coming down from heaven and being born a human baby, his purposeful and intentional death on the cross, the forgiveness of sins, his resurrection and his ascension, even his yet to come Second Coming, all of these were done from an overflow of His love.

We know that, as Paul writes in Romans 5:8, God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. God didn’t need us. God wasn’t lonely and created man for our company. He didn’t create us because he lacked anything. He didn’t need us and still does not need us. Instead, out of the overflow of the perfect, complete love that eternally existed between the Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, out of that overflow, His love poured out and flowed down and God created us out of that overflow.

And as we have seen, especially in recent weeks, love manifests itself in truth. Love speaks truth. Love reveals truth. And when Paul says, the saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, he is not saying that other things he has said are not true or trustworthy. Instead, this is one of those rare statements that we can lift out of context and allow to stand on its on two feet. Paul is essentially writing this purposely as a stand-alone statement, a summary of what the Gospel is. What he is really saying is “Hey, if you read nothing else, I’ve written, read this statement!” Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

This was the purpose of Christs actions was solely to save sinners. That’s the Gospel. If you hear that Jesus mission, his main purpose, his goals and his priorities were anything other than to save sinners, then run. This could even be things that sound good. But the Gospel is simple, God became man to save sinners. Anything else is a false Gospel.

The Gospel is not physical healing. The Gospel is not miraculous signs and winners. The Gospel is not being happy, or being wealthy, or being healthy. The Gospel is not your testimony. The Gospel is not our political sides winning. The Gospel is not our nationality or ethnicity. The Gospel is not living moral, good upstanding lives. The Gospel is not being on the right side of History. The Gospel is not equality. Those are false Gospels.

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

Another important aspect is that we need to have a right and true understanding of who we truly are. We are sinners from birth. We are unrighteous. We are totally depraved. That doctrine, Total Depravity can be easily misunderstood. I like how one resource clarifies it, writing:

There is a common misconception regarding total depravity. Total depravity does not mean that man is as wicked or sinful as he could be, nor does it mean that man is without a conscience or any sense of right or wrong. Neither does it mean that man does not or cannot do things that seem to be good when viewed from a human perspective or measured against a human standard. It does not even mean that man cannot do things that seem to conform outwardly to the law of God. What the Bible does teach and what total depravity does recognize is that even the “good” things man does are tainted by sin because they are not done for the glory of God and out of faith in Him (Romans 14:23; Hebrews 11:6). While man looks upon the outward acts and judges them to be good, God looks upon not only the outward acts but also the inward motives that lie behind them, and because they proceed from a heart that is in rebellion against Him and they are not done for His glory, even these good deeds are like “filthy rags” in His sight. In other words, fallen man’s good deeds are motivated not by a desire to please God but by our own self-interest and are thus corrupted to the point where God declares that there is “no one who does good, no not one!”

(https://www.gotquestions.org/total-depravity.html)

That is who we are when we are born. That’s who we are naturally, corrupted by our sin nature. That’s who we are without Christ. Paul says that he is the foremost of sinners. He is clear about who he was before Christ. We need to know who we were, and what our identity was. For many, this is still who they are as well.

But, if you are in Christ, if you have believed the Gospel and repented of your sins, then you are born again into the Holy Spirit and you are now a Child of God.

You are loved.

You are chosen.

You are Redeemed.

You are a saint.

You are Forgiven.

You are declared Righteous.
You have received mercy.

Paul then says why he received mercy. It is so that Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. Christ displays his perfection as an example to his followers. Yes, an example of how to act and how to live, but more than that.

If God could save Paul, with all that he did in persecuting the early church. If He could save the Disciples, who continually missed the point of Jesus teaching and abandoned Him in his time of need and after his death. If he could save sinners like you and I, then He could save anyone he chooses.

Again, having a right view of ourselves and having a right view of God is vital to understanding the Gospel. It is said that a high view of self leads to a low view of God. Invertly, a low/right view of self leads to a High/right view of God.

When we see him right, when we see who he is, his holiness, his righteousness, his goodness and love, when we see all of that correctly, as revealed to us in the bible, we can not help but cry out in worship. We cry out in exaltation and we lift up praises and cry out Glory to God!

Paul finishes his point here in this section of his letter, the passage we are looking at this morning by doing exactly that. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever.[d] Amen.

Its funny to me, this section by Paul, as he cries out in praises and shouting out Glory to God, it reminds me of the clip I played, I think it was Easter. An old Baptist preacher named SM Lockridge shouting, “That’s my king!” That kind of inspired this last section here.

Jesus is the King of Ages, the King of Kings, and the LORD of LORDS. He is at the top of all things and he is the highest one there is.

He is immortal. He always was, he always is, and he always will be. He is alive. He will live forever at the right hand of God the Father.

He is invisible. Jesus is the image of the invisible God. He is in all times, all places and all everything, all at the same time.

He is the only God. Deuteronomy 6:4 tells us: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. There are no other gods. Any other god that people call upon, they don’t exist. They are false gods. They are fallen angels disguising themselves as and with lights.

The Triune God is one and only one. And to him go all honor and glory. And as Lockridge finishes up: And Thine is the Kingdom the power and the glory forever and ever
and ever and ever.
And ever and ever.
And when you get through all the forever’s, then
Amen!

 

For those of us who have been declared righteous and saved from eternal wrath and judgment, today is a day we rejoice, and we celebrate. We celebrate the fact that we have been assured of our right standing with God and we remember what Christ did to achieve this for us. We come together as a church family, once a Month and we celebrate communion. We come together, setting aside any differences, any pettiness, all that stuff that does not matter, anything other than our standing in Christ and we unite together as brothers and sisters in Christ.

The thing that unites us together is the cross of Jesus Christ. Today we pursue that unity by remembering. 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 bloodshed. 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 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, 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.” 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.

 

 

 

 

1&2 Timothy: Life in the Local Church, 1 Timothy 1:8-11 The Law is Good

1 Timothy 1:8-11

The Law is Good

Good Morning! Lets grab our Bibles and turn to 1 Timothy, chapter 1. As I say every week, if you do not own a Bible, please take one from the back table as our church’s gift to you.

So, we started going through Paul’s first letter to timothy last week and the context surrounding it. We saw that Timothy was sent by Paul to pastor and shepherd the famous (Infamous?) church at Ephesus. One of his primary tasks was to protect the flock from false teaching that was come from both within and without. We touch on some of that false teaching last week and we will be looking at it many weeks as we go through these letters from Paul.

These false teachers would come in and simply, they would teach contrary to biblical teachings. They would teach different than what the Bible teaches. Not always obvious either, sometimes very subtly and very persuasively.

Paul has in many places addressed legalists. Very similarly, Jesus often addressed the Pharisees during his ministry. These two groups had a common trait. Their world view was all law, it was very rigid, focusing solely on obedience, without any regard to love and grace.

But we have and see the opposite problem in scripture as well. It was prevalent then and its rampant now as well. All “love,” and all “grace,” and no law. The idea that is all over our culture, “Do what ever you want.”

“God wants you to be happy.”

“He has already forgiven all sin.”

“Its not that big of a deal.”

“That was for a different time, and more primitive culture, not for now, when we are enlightened.”

All these and more are a part of the false doctrine, false teaching called antinomianism. It means anti law. And Paul addresses that here in the passage we are looking at this morning.

SO lets go ahead and read our passage for this morning. We will be reading 1 Timothy 1:8-11. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please follow along in your preferred translation. Again, 1 Timothy, chapter 1, verses 8-11.

Paul, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit writes to Timothy:

 Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, 9 understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers,[b] liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound[c] doctrine, 11 in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.

One of the most common misunderstandings in Christianity is that the law is no more. Yet, Jesus says in Matthew 5:17, Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. So the law has not gone away. It is still there. Others also have the misunderstanding that the law is bad, that is too hard, that it is antiquated, that it is just there to punish those who break it.

And yet Paul says right here that the law IS good, IF you have a right and accurate understanding of what the law is and what it is designed to do. That misunderstanding is rampant and it reminds me of parts of the Sermon on the Mount.

In Matthew 5:21-48, 6 times Jesus says, “You have heard it said…” Jesus points out the common, contemporary understanding and then corrects it from what the scriptures actually said or what the true meaning of the scriptures was. It feels like Paul is doing that here too.

“You have heard it said that the Law is bad, or old, but I say to you that the Law is good if one uses it lawfully.”

And Paul does and has shown exactly what that looks like. The law is a mirror, that, when we look into it, points out our blemishes, our sin. It points out our unrighteousness so that we can understand that we ourselves need someone else’s righteousness. See what Paul writes in Romans 7:7-12:

 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

Again, the law is a mirror to point out our unlawful behavior. The best description I have heard, Ive shared this before, but the law is the diagnostic tool. You go into the Doctors office and they give you an Xray or an MRI and the find something wrong with you. Did the MRI cause the issue? No, it helped identify the issue. The Law is the MRI. It identifies our issues. Sin is the disease. It is already in there, festering, growing, killing. If we don’t identify it, it will grow unchecked and it will kill us without us even realizing it. That’s one form of False teaching though, the one Paul is addressing here. The Law does not cause sin. The Law is not bad. The law is good.

But we also have to not swing too far the other way. The MRI does not cure the disease. The Law does not eliminate sin. The Law is not the cure. The law does not provide righteousness. It points out unrighteousness. As Paul does here in verses 9 & 10. He lists a small number of sins, small compared to the other lists he provides in his New Testament letters.

This list of sins is not exhaustive, and is not meant to be. It ends on verse 10, with the phrase “And whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine.” So, if its not meant to be exhaustive, then what is the purpose of this list. Paul is showing both what happens, what we easily fall into and justify when we have a wrong understanding of the law, but also, he is showing what False teachers teach is ok, what they encourage. Remember the last line in Romans 1, verse 32, Paul says, Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

False teachers will make your favorite sin, your specific temptation be ok. They will twist it so that what ever it is that you struggle with, Guess What? You don’t have to struggle with it any more because its not really a sin, or its not really that bad. They make sin and lawlessness subjective. Right and Wrong are culturally determined.

Bethel Church, up in Redding put out this statement recently:

God loves all people, LGBTQ+ and straight. The message has never been “All Must Change.” We share these stories specifically for Christians who are unfulfilled in identifying as LGBTQ+. For those of you who feel fulfilled and happy as you are, we love you!

God doesn’t force people to change, and people – including Christians – shouldn’t force others to change, either. We stand against any and all forms of shame, manipulation, force, humiliation, or physical harm in so-called “ministry” or therapy.

CHANGED is a safe space for Christians seeking an alternative to LGBTQ+ as they follow their faith according to their personal convictions.

You see that? However you want to live, is fine. You can follow Jesus and you dont even need to change anything! You can stay living exactly the same as you always have; disobedient, unholy, profane, not honoring mothers and fathers, murder, sexually immoral, homosexual, enslavers, liars, oath breakers, and everything else contrary to sound doctrine, everything listed in Romans 1:24-32, in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, in Galatians 5:19-21.

Free and easy, cheap grace that demands nothing of you. Instead, all you have to do is replace Jesus as God with your own desires, your own passions, your own sins as your god.

Thats the exact opposite of what the Gospel calls us to. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.[b] The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. The Gospel calls us to repent. It is the first thing mentioned in regards to the Gospel, Jesus says repent and believe the Gospel. Martin Luther says that a Christians life is one of repentance, meaning continual, lifelong change and growth. False doctrine says you are good just how you are.

False doctrine and false teaching is what is contrary to sound doctrine. And how do we know what sound doctrine is? Sound Doctrine is in accordance with the Gospel. Ligon Duncan tells us “The Gospel itself is the measure of sound teaching.” The measure of the law and whether it is used lawfully, the measure of whether we are accurately and correctly keeping the law is Jesus Christ and his Gospel.

Sin is the disease. The law is the MRI and the Gospel is the cure. Our disease, our sin results in death, eternal death, eternal seperation from Gods glory and grace and mercy. The only cure is the Gospel. We cant cure ourselves, not by keeping the law nor by changing and ignoring the law.

So, again, what is the law for? Paul writes in Galatians 3:19-22:

Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. 20 Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.

21 Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

The law was not given as a cure for sin, but given in response to sin, to show the way to the cure, Jesus Christ. The law cannot make one righteous. But what the law can do, what the moral guidelines that are handed down from God to Moses, written on stone and that are now written on our hearts, they do help restrain and identify sin.

Jesus tells two back to back parables on Luke 18, that point out that show that just physically, superficially keeping the law is not enough to make us rightouess. First, with the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. The Pharisee often gets a bad wrap in this story and he should, but I dont think we really see him clearly. He does all the right things. He obeys all the rules and then some. He acknowledges that God is the one who makes him not like the tax collector. But he thinks that he earned or was good enough to keep Gods grace. He attributes Gods grace to himself as his own righteousness. The point of the prable is not to show that the pharisee was acting or living wrong, or even that his prayer in the temple was wrong, but it was to point out that, despite what the pharisee thought, he was not righteous.

The next parable was the rich young ruler. This guys thought he had lived a good enough life and was searching out various religious teachers and leaders to confirm his goodness and to affirm his righteousness. Jesus pointed out some commands that he did not keep. First, lying, saying he had kept all the commandments since he was a kid. Second, his money and his possessions were an idol in his heart. His was trusting in his own goodness instead of in Gods grace.

Both of these parables are designed to point out that we have no saving righteousness of our own, but need to trust in Christ for his. The law is the way that points to Christ.

False teachers will shove the law out of the way, therefore obscuring the way to and need for Jesus Christ. Or they will focus on the law and teach our ability to keep it enough that we dont need Jesus Christ.

The law is there, again, not as a solution to sin, but as a response to sin. The solution to sin is the Gospel. Pure and simple. Thats what the sound teaching is, the Gospel.

Jesus Christ, truly God and truly Man, sinless and died and pied the penalty for our sins. Gods wrath poured out on Him so that his grace will be poured out on us. The vehicle he uses to pour his grace out on us is our faith in his son, Jesus Christ. God became man to save sinners. Marks Gospel says that Jesus came to be a ransom for many. He paid the price to purchase our salvation.

The change in us, it does change us, and it gives us a heart to serve and obey God. For believers, the law serves as a guide. It gives us perameters to stay within so that we can live right, live the way that God intended and the way that he designed it.

I love how John writes it in his first letter, 1 John 5:1-5, he writes:

 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

Paul, in his letters to Timothy, will continue to harp on emphasizing sound doctrine, on right, biblical teaching. It is a repeating theme that Paul will pound on again and again, because oit is so important. Sound doctrine, sound teaching are the only ways to combat and fight false doctrine and false teaching.

Ligon Duncan points out, “We are not just teaching so you’ll know more things, we’re teaching so that you will have a healthy Christian embrace of doctrine and experience and practice.”

And that’s the important part, that’s a part of why the law in and of itself is not able to save. Because head knowledge, simply knowing the truth, simply knowing how to live, the physical act, doesnt do anthing. But our heart change, that the Holy Spirit does inside of us, the faith that is a gift from God, the faith that leads to the heart to keep his commandments, that is what saves us.

One of the commands Christ gives us is to be united in the truth. We are to be united as the church, as the body of Christ.

The thing that unites us together is the cross of Jesus Christ. Today we pursue that unity by remembering. 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. But, 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.

1 & 2 Timothy: Life in the Local Church – 1 Timothy 1:1-7 Built on Solid Doctrine

1 Timothy 1:1-7

Life in the Local Church

Built of Sound Doctrine

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to the New Testament letter of 1 Timothy. And today, we start a new Series, as we study and teach through books of the Bible, line by line, verse by verse.As always, if you do not own a Bible, or do not have a Bible, please help yourself to one from the back table as our gift to you.

So, we will be going through and looking at Pauls so called Pastoral Letters. These are his letters to Timothy and Titus, his proteges and pastors of local churches. These letters lay out exactly what God has in mind for the local church. We will look at the importance of doctrine, the inportance of order. We will look at the qualifications for who will lead the church and, just as importantly, who is not qualified to lead the church. And there is so much more. We will see what God had in mind for living life in the local church.

So, I do want to start by reading our text for this morning, though after we read it, we will also spend some time looking at the context and who Timothy was, inlcuding who he was to Paul.

So, lets start by reading together, the first 7 verses of this Pauls first letter to Timothy. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version, and I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation. 1 Timothy 1:1-7.

Paul, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, opens his letter:

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope,

2 To Timothy, my true child in the faith:

Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

3 As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship[a] from God that is by faith. 5 The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.

Man, I love that opening, as much, maybe more than any of Pauls other letters. And I want to start there, because one of the things it does, is that it identifies who, both Paul and Timothy are and it focuses the letter squarely on what, where and on who the focus should be, God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Lets start with who is Timothy and who is he to Paul? We first get introduced to Timothy back in Acts 16. In Acts 16, verse 1, we see Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. 

So, Timothy was half Jew, half Gentile. We will see later in Pauls letters to Timothy that it was his Grandmother and mother who shared the scriptures with him, which were able to make Him wise for salvation. (2 Timothy 3:15). We dont know anything else about his Father, other than he was Greek. We dont kow if he was there or not, if he left the family or stayed, if he was dead or alive even. Scripture doesnt deem fit to make that important.

We also see a bit about Timothy’s character in Acts 16:2, that he was very well spoken of by the other believers in Lystra. Tradition holds that Paul is the one who brought Timothy to Christ, and can be inferred by scripture. (Timothy 1:5, etc.) And as Paul came to Timothy in Lystra in Acts 16, Paul had Timothy join him on his missionary journeys.

So, Even at this point, Paul and Timothy had a close and personal relationship. We know Paul was picky about who accompanied him on his journies and here, he asked Timothy to come with him. Timothy had a lifelong foundation in our Old Testament scriptures, to them, the Hebrew scriptures. And from there, being saved through and being taught by Paul, his knowledge would have grown tremendously.

We see two practical things that Paul and timothy did, as well, before headed out to spread the gospel. The first is mentioned back in the verses in Acts 16. Paul had Timothy circumcised. Again, Timothy was half Greek, and on his Fathers side. And its important to recognize that this was not done for religious purposes. This was not done to make him rightoues, or to make hm right in Gods eyes. If you want to know Pauls views on those, read Galatians. He is pretty clear about what circumcision does and does not do. But Timothy was circumcised for practical, ministry purposes. Paul was going from city to city and he was going to the synagogues first, preaching Christ to the Jews. Part of his testimony was that was a Jew of Jews, a Hebrew of Hebrews. But Timothy was not, and so it would have been more difficult for him to gain entrance and to be heard, and even more so, to be listened to. So, as a practical step to gain an audience, they circumcised him.

And thats not THE takeaway from this today, but its something important to remember. Is there something that doesnt matter, that it getting in the way of someone hearing the Gospel? Get it out of the way. Dont be a stumbling block. Our Christian Liberty, our freedom only goes far enough as long as it does not get in the way of our witness and bringing others to Christ.

The second thing we see happen in Lystra before Paul and Timothy leave on their missionary journey, is that Paul and the elders laid hands on Timothy and prayed over him. Dont forget prayer. Not only when you are going through something, but more importantly, before you go through something. Pray for the things that are coming up. Pray for deisions, discernment, wisdom and planning. Pray for the seeds to be planted, and then pray for God to bring the increase, for him to water the seeds. And pray for your own role in the ministry in Bangor Community Church and the other witnesses and outreaches you may have. And pray for those in leadership of the church. Pray for the trustees and the elders. Pray for those who are volunteering and working in and around the church. And Heaven knows I could use as much prayer as you could possibly give. As Dave continually says, prayer is the backbone of the church. Once a church stops praying, a church starts dying.

So, Paul and Timothy go on their journeys and grow close, as if a father and a son. This section of 1 Timothy is not the only place these references are made. But this is where we see how close their relationship is. And we see that Paul left Timothy to be the Pastor at the church in Ephesus.

So, not wanting to get too fsar off track, a real quick look at the timeline of the church of Ephesus. It was founded by Paul, likely in the early 50’s AD. Timothy arrived to be their pastor in the early 60’s. Tradition holds that the Apostle Johnmade the Ephesian church his home in the mid to late 60s. We also know that Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians and that was probably right before Timothy arrived. So the Ephesians had a pretty standout group of teachers and pastors and influences. And yet, by the mid 90’s, Jesus tells them, relayed through John, thst while they did good works, while had the right actions, and even right doctrine, they no longer had a love for Christ, and they were told to repent in Revelation 2:1-7.

And yet, we see in Pauls opening and greeting that a love and passion for Christ are front and center. Paul, as in usual for him, opens with his name and calling. He is an Apostle of Christ Jesus. And he is an Apostle at the command of God. See, when God calls you to something, He is telling you that you will do it. His commands are not gentle suggestions. They are not optional and they are not one of many possibilities. They are also very rarely our first choice, what we would choice for us. You may fight against it for awhile. You may ignore for a period of time. You can try everything else you can think of. I did all that. But, just like Jonah, eventually God will spit you out of a fish, right where you are supposed to be. His will will be done, whether you cooperate or not. But, trust me, it will be much more pleasant if you cooperate.

Now, look at what Pauls focus is on in these first two verses. God is mentioned specifically twice and Christ Jesus is named three seperate times in these two verses. Dont miss this. Dont gloss over this as just some perfunctory greetings. Remember what Paul is writing this letter for. He is writing it to encourage Timothy in how to lead the church and what the practical life in the local church should look like. And he starts it by focusing entirely and fully on The Father and the Son who they are. And who are they?

First, we see that Christ is the head of the church. Paul writes in Colossians 1:18 about Jesus, he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. As we look at what we are to be doing as a church, how we are to be living in the local church, the thing that we need to remember above all else is that this is not your church. This is not our church. This is not my church, as the Pastor. This is Christ’s church. Every choice we make, every action we take, every thing we do, is for and because of Christ.

And then we see ways that Paul describes God and Jesus. God is our savior and Christ Jesus is our hope. Our salvation is through no one but God. He is our salvation. It is his grace poured out on us, and only through his grace that we are able to escape the perfect and just wrath of God and to enjoy perfect communion with God for eternity. God pours his grace out, giving us the gift of faith. And it is only through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, that we gain access to the forgiveness of sins.

And so Jesus is our hope. He is God. One third of the trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. When he created the world, it was created perfect, in perfect harmony with God. Man was created and was created to be in perfect relationship with Him, with Christ. And yet our sins keep us seperated from Him, unable to be in that same perfect relationship. And yet, Jesus is our Hope.

He came down, born a human baby. Lived a perfect life that we couldnt live. Died a death that we deserved, took the wrath of God on himself from OUR sins, so that, through our faith in Christ, we can be reconciled with him. We can have our sins forgiven, our slate wiped clean. We can escape the wrath that we so rightly deserve and enjoy the perfect and eternal love and fellowship of God, as Paul writes here, the Grace, mercy and peace of God the Father and our LORD Jesus Christ. Christ Jesus is our hope and he is our only hope.

And he is something else as well. He is God. Ligon duncan, A pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi makes the point here that this is one of the spots where the Bible makes clear that Jesus is God. Here is what he said in a sermon he gave on this passage:

Think of it, my friends. Paul says to Timothy, “Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Now isn’t that an interesting way of speaking? 

What if I were to say to you, “Friends, I am called by God and by Billy Graham.” You might think, boy, that second level was a few steps down from the first one! I mean, Billy Graham’s a great man, but God he is not. Or what if I were to say, “I am called by God and John Calvin.” Well, you might say, “I always thought that he cared too much about Calvinism!” You would never think that I would group together John Calvin with the triune God. At least, I hope that you wouldn’t think that I would group together John Calvin on the par with the Triune God! But here’s Paul saying, “blessings to you from God the Father and our Lord Jesus the Christ.” Now how can he do that? Because Jesus is of the same substance, equal in power and glory with God! It’s a testimony to His deity. 

Again, Christ as the head of the church. The church universal, all believers in all places, but also the head of the church, His church, the local church. Where we come together, with Him as the head, us as the body, and we live out His will. We do so because of who he is and we do so because of our love for him.

Now, after Paul opens his letter to Timothy, we see why he left Timothy at Ephesus. Read again verses 3 & 4:  As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.

Timothy was put in Ephesus to protect the flock, to protect Gods People. Its obvious that people were coming in, likely well respected in the church, maybe even higher ups. They were coming in and they were teaching false teachings, false doctrines. They were focusing on extra biblical and un biblical hypotheticals. They have rejected the authority and the sufficiency of scripture. They have trusted in man made philosophies and earthly wisdom instead of Gods plainly written word and Godly wisdom.

And the first thing, the very first thing that Paul tells Timothy, what Paul tells the church at Ephesus, what God is telling us is that we need to be aware of and to oppose false teaching. Thats the very first thing that he says for the local church to focus on.

Because the church is built on what? Christ as its head of course. And what is Christ, Jesus is the Word, He is the living Word. He is the Truth. And so the local church is built on the Truth, the Word, which we have in our hands as the Bible. It is built on Christ.

False teaching leads to spending time on anything and everything other than the true and written down, clear Word of God. One commentary says this: Heresy is to the church what treason or sedition is to the state–a divisive force made treacherous by the fact that it begins within the organization and exploits lines of trust and positions of authority.

False teaching is incredibly divisive. It will divide a church, and thats part of its purpose, to divide us, to divide the people of God. False teaching is designed and purposed to get us off mission. To make us not trust each other, or to make us not trust the Word of God itself. All the way back to the very first false teaching, Genesis 3, when the serpent asked Eve, “Did God say?” And thats the very same attack thats coming in today. Did God really say? Is that really what the Bible says? Is that really what it means?

False teaching prevents us from uniting together in worship. It makes minor things very major, causing freindships to be divided, causing churches to split, causing feelings to get hurt and leave. Sometimes its innocent congregants, sometimes its the false teachers, sometimes its those who believe the teaching and are not willing to hear the truth.

My job here as a Missionary Pastor with Village Missions, serving here at Bangor Community Church is to Preach the Word and Love the People. Preach and teach and share the Bible, its clear and life changing message of the Gospel. To sheild against false doctrine and to teach and promote right and true doctrine. And Im to love the people. I love you guys. Each and every one of you. And part of how I love you is by prtecting you and teaching you.

I rarely name names, but I have often mentioned specific false teachings that are going through from popular Bible teachers and preachers and churches that have influence. This is something I will continue to do. And I do it because I love you.

Look at what Paul writes next, in verse 5 to Timothy:

The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

Our beliefs and our practice, the practical application are necessarily intertwined. As James famously writes, faith without works is dead. To say that we love God, that we have faith in Christ, without belive in the Word of God, Christ himself and his recorded Word, our Bible, means that we dont really love God like we think and say we do.

We must believe in the truth. We must believe in and live that truth. Remember that Jesus is the Truth and it is that Truth, Jesus Christ that will set you free. But just believing the truth is not enough to drive out and protect against the lies.

The enemy is smart. He is the most cunning of any of the creatures. His tactics may have changed over the last 2000-6000 years, but only superficially. The lies disguise themselves as truth. Satan appears disguised as an angel of light. The false teachings will not be obvious at first. In fact, they often start off as not false. And then slowly, discreetly, and incrementally, it becomes more and more false and it becomes more and more divisive. So we can not protect against false teaching ONLY by believing the truth.

Let me put it this way as well, actually one pastor used this example, put out as a critique of another pastor. He said: “Let me tell you something about that teacher. He’ll draw a horse and say to his students ‘this is a horse,’ but he won’t draw a cow next to that horse and say to his students ‘this cow is not a horse!’

Jude tells us that we are to contend for the faith. We are to actively fight for the truth and against the lies. And we know its the truth because I tell you its the truth. No? No! We know its the truth because the Bible tells us, because Jesus tells us its the truth.

That brings us to the last two verses here this morning on what these false teachers will be like. They will say that “This is the truth because I say its the truth.” Paul writes: Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.

There are people, who move away from the charge Paul mentioned in verse 5, pure heart, good conscience and a sincere faith. They pull away from that and they want to be a teacher. Almost exclusively, they want to do so for fame, for fortune, for power or for influence. They want you to follow them exclusively. Instead of going to your Bible, go to them. Instead of listening to these other guys as well, listen only to me. Instead of listening to Dave when he fills in, just dont worry about being here and stay home when Im not in the pulpit.

James reminds us in his letter, Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. Only those whom God has called should become teachers.

Because if you have not been called, you will not accurately and succesfully, in Gods eyes at least, do the job you are trying to do. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 2:12-16,

 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.[d]

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

False teaching and False teachers will be a common theme in Pauls letters to Timothy, so we will get into more of these things then, bit we see how important it is the the local church based on Paul putting this right at the front of the letter.

And so we remember and ensure that Christ is the head of the church, and not just the churc but this church, Bangor Community Church. And one of our job is to protect the church and live as the body and pray for each other Toidentfy and call out false teaching when we see it. Our job is to worship and serve God as a united body of Christ, manifested here in the local church. Lets Pray.

Malachi 2:17-3:5 Part 2 Gods Response to Sin

Malachi 2:17-3:5 Pt 2

Gods Response to Sin

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with and turn to the Book of Malachi. Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament. And if you do not have or own a Bible, please help yourself to one on the back table as our gift to you.

So, as we turn to Malachi, we are going to continue looking at the same passage we looked at last week. And the theme covering both weeks is “Response to Sin.” Last week, essentially, we looked at out own response to sin. We either justify it, both in ourselves and others, saying that God is ok with sin, because… whatever. Or we look around and figure that God is not going to respond to sin because we don’t see him responding to it around us right now.

But we see in this passage that God will indeed respond to sin, indeed he has to. But we will look at the two ways that the LORD responds to sin. One of the things that I didn’t mention last week the book of Malachi is especially showing us, and we say it some in Romans as well, we see it through out the scriptures, is that the Chapter breaks and the verse numbers are not inerrant. They were developed and inserted into the text much later. The chapter breaks were designed and inserted in the 1200s, and the verse numbers were inserted in the 15th and 16th centuries, for the Old and the New testament Respectively.

This section is a section that fits together overreaching the chapter break that was put in there. The Chapters and the verse are incredibly useful and they are a gift from God, to allow us to memorize certain sections of scripture even to locate and find certain passages easier than if it was just one long paper, book or letter with no markations. So, I also don’t want you to hear that the chapter and verse breaks are bad. Of course they are not. But, we can also remember that they are not infallible, it is the Words of God that are infallible.

So, we will go ahead and read our passage for this week, Malachi 2:17-3:5 and we will look at what the Work of God says. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version, and I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation. Malachi chapter 2, verse 17, through Malachi chapter 3, verse 5.

God, speaking through his prophet, Malachi says:

You have wearied the Lord with your words. But you say, “How have we wearied him?” By saying, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delights in them.” Or by asking, Where is the God of justice?”

 “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord.[a] 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.

5 “Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.

So, in chapter 2, verse 17, where we spent most of our time last week, we see how we, how you and I respond to sin, as I explained in the beginning. And starting in Chapter 3, verse 1, we see how God is going to respond to sin, and in fact, from our perspective of time, how he already has.

All through out the Old testament, God has been preparing his covenant people for a coming Messiah, a savior. One who would, as God foretold back in Genesis 3:15, one who would crush the head of the enemy.

See, because of the Holiness of God, sin is not something that He can overlook or ignore. It is an affront to his holiness, his character, his God-ness. RC Sproul refers to sin as Cosmic Treason. And so, something has to be done about it. One of the things we also see in Genesis 3, specifically in verse 21, it says,  And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. Seems nondescript and innocuous enough, right?

But if we look at what’s going on here, we see that Adam and Eve had been naked and unashamed in the Garden. After their sin, the realized they were naked and they were very ashamed. Now, there’s a whole lot we could get into there, but the point we are looking at today is that God made them clothes to cover themselves. And what were those clothes made of? It says out of skins. It took the death of the animal. Adam and Eves sin caused the death of an animal just like it cause death to enter into this world. This is the first instance and example of our sin requiring blood, requiring death to atone for it, to pay for it.

So, our sin requires a blood payment to make things right. Paul tells us famously that the wages of sin is death. The problem is that our sinful blood, our death is not enough to cover our sins. And even if it was, it would only cover sins that had already been committed, it would not cover sins yet to come. So, after Adam brought sin in to the world, and through Adam we have all sinned, Romans 5 something or rather, we have become separated from the goodness and holiness of God. Our relationship with him is broken. And we have no ability to reconcile it, no hope of fixing our relationship, no chance of making things right with him. Gods holiness, his fairness demands that he respond to sin by punishing sin, by pouring his just and holy wrath out on it.

As John MacArthur puts it, “Fair would send everyone to Hell. You dont want fair, you want Mercy.” And we see Gods mercy even back in the garden when he made the clothes for Adam and Eve. Yes, Had to expel them from the garden, and yes, death was required, but don’t miss that even in that, God made clothes for them and provided them with the means to make clothes for themselves. God reached out in mercy and provided for them what they couldn’t provide for them selves.

And He has promised the One who could do for us what we cant do for ourselves. The One who would restore our broken relationship with God, who would save us from the consequences of our sin, who would be mercy to those who need mercy.

Throughout the Old Testament, God sent a series of prophets, speaking His Words. Most of their primary purpose was to call Israel to repent of their sins, to turn back to God and through that, they also prophesied and prepared the way for the coming savior.

Remember that Malachi is the last of the prophets that we have in the Old Testament. Now, Israel didn’t know that at the time, they didn’t know that Malachi would be the last one to hear from God for over 400 years. They didn’t know that the next prophet of God would be the one whose main purpose was to prepare the way, a prophet whom Isaiah 40:3, calls “A voice cries: in the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”

John the Baptist is this prophet that God was foretelling. He was a prophet in the order of Elijah. He was the last of the Old Testament prophets and he was the one whom who introduce the world to the Savior. The Gospel of John records in John 1:29, John the Baptist saying, of Jesus, Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

Johns’ Message, as Matthews Gospel records is ““Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The Kingdom at hand because The Son of God have arrived. Jesus of Nazareth was the promised, the foretold, the prophesied messiah and Savior. God became man to save sinners. Jesus said, in Mark 1:15; The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

One of the things we need to see and recognize is that there are two ways to read the scriptures. And some of the differences we can have in our theology can come from which of these two hermeneutics we use.

The question is, how do we understand, how we filter the things that are not crystal clear. Do we filter what we read in the New Testament by what the Old Testament says? Or Do we interpret the mysteries and the prophecies, the promises that God has made through what the New Testament says. I contend that the Bible itself and the writers of the New Testament use the New Testament to explain and interpret the Old Testament. And this explains parts of why Jesus did not look like what Israel was expecting the Messiah to look like. It helps explain the confusion over who the messenger was that would prepare the way for the Messiah and who John the Baptist was. It explains a lot about the blind eyes of the Pharisees and other religious leaders in the Gospels.

It also means that Jesus is the fulfillment of all the types and shadows of the Old Testament. Malachi writes that after the messenger, another messenger will come, the LORD who comes to his temple, the messenger of the covenant. He is coming, says the LORD of Hosts.

And he is coming, as the fulfillment of prophecy, as the fulfillment of types and shadows, in this case, as the fulfillment of the temple. He is coming because someone needs to be held accountable for our sin. Someone needs to pay the price of atoning for our sins. Some one needs to shed blood and pay with their life for our sins. That’s how serious our sin is. If we don’t understand that, we can never truly appreciate Jesus.

It is either us that has to be held accountable for our sin, or we give it all to Jesus. For those whom He has called, Jesus has already been held accountable for our sin. He has already paid the price for our sin. He paid by shedding his blood and dying on the cross, so that our sins may be forgiven. He rose from the dead to prove his dominion over sin and death in eternity past, present and future.

He is coming. In Malachi’s context, this was mainly talking about His first coming. His Incarnation. God became Man. Immanuel, God with us. He came, he lived, he never sinned though he was tempted in all ways. Hebrews 4:15, says it this way: For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

And Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4:

Now I would remind you, brothers,[a] of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

One of the things we dont tend to see as much anymore in the church is Creeds and Confessions. These were used through out all the denominations of the coarse of the history of the church and were essentially used to boil things down to the essentials. In the minds of the people, or groups of people, of councils of learned men, they wrote these things to have a line in the sand, basically, against what is needed to be believe in order to be a Christian. I want to eventually find a way to incorporate some of these moving forward, but that’s neither here nor there and is also a long term goal. All of that to say that I love what the Nicene Creed says about Jesus, God the Son:

One Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried, and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father. And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end.

And that last line there, he shall come again with glory. He will judge the living and the dead. And his kingdom will have no end. He will come again and when he does, none will be able to stand against him. When Jesus comes back, we will all stand before him and give an account for our sins. We will be separated, as we looked a few weeks ago, separated in to the sheep and the goats. Scriptures talks elsewhere about the wheat and tares, growing together, entangled and not able to be identified as separate or different. (Matthew 13:24-30) And in that parable, what is it that ends up separating them? Jesus tells his disciples in Matthew 13:30:  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.”

And who can stand against him? None will be able to. From those of us who are falling on our faces, worshipping him, to those who thought they did enough good works to be surprised at their rejection, (Matthew 7:21-23) to those who have spent their lives fighting against him, Paul writes in Philippians 2:10-11:  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

And the LORD will come as a Refining fire. And thats a relief if we understand it correctly. The LORD is not coming as just any fire. John Piper describes the fire this way:

He is a refiner’s fire, and that makes all the difference. A refiner’s fire does not destroy indiscriminately like a forest fire. A refiner’s fire does not consume completely like the fire of an incinerator. A refiner’s fire refines. It purifies. It melts down the bar of silver or gold, separates out the impurities that ruin its value, burns them up, and leaves the silver and gold intact. He is like a refiner’s fire.

God is doing a good work in us. He is working all things for our good, that we may be conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. (Romans 8:29) All of his creation will be refined. This earth will be put through his refining fire. And all the impurities, all the sin, all the chaos and corruption will be burned away, leaving the New Heavens and the New Earth and God dwelling with his people, our concept of Heaven. Where will spend eternity in our glorified, physical bodies, (1 Corinthians 15)

And this is where we will enter into true, perfect, pleasing worship of God. Jesus tells us the woman at the well, in John 4:23&24: But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

Paul appeals to us in Romans 12:1, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

This is our offering in righteousness, this is our offering of Judah and Jerusalem that will be pleasing to the LORD. This is the side of mercy and grace of God. Jesus Christ, God becomes man to save sinners. To save you and I. And If you have been called, if you have been clothed in Christs righteousness instead of trusting in our own, we get to partake in this gift of eternal life with him.

But God isnt done here. Not all are called Children of God. Johns Gospel, chapter 1, verses 12 & 13:  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.

God says that those who do not trust in him, who do not receive His Son will receive the full force of his wrath and holiness. Look at the last verse of our section in Malachi here, Malachi 3:5: Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.

Those who do not fear Him, or those who say that every who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD. Those who live in and love and partake in the sins of this world, the desires of our flesh. Our heart breaks for these and grieves theses people. These are often our close friends, our close family, people that are incredibly important to us, whom we love so much. And Revelation 20:15 says if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Hell is real, it is hot and eternity is a long time. Today, and hopefully every day, we beg, plead and pray, that if you have not received Jesus Christ, not recognized that he is the way and the only way to true, eternal life, please, now is the time. Please believe the Gospel, please believe in and receive in Jesus Christ. Repent of your sins and turn to the One True God. After this life, there are no second chances and we can never know when this life will end. Salvation is by the grace of God alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. Your goodness, your morals, even your church attendance, cannot save you. Only Christ can do that. Please.

For those of us who have been delivered from the eternal punishment of our sins, today is a day we rejoice and we celebrate. We celebrate the fact that w have been assured of our right standing with God and we remember what Christ did to achieve this for us. We come together as a church family, every first Sunday of the Month and we celebrate communion. We come together, setting aside any differences, any pettyness, anything other than our standing in Christ and we unite together as brothers and sisters in Christ.

The thing that unites us together is the cross of Jesus Christ. Today we pursue that unity by remembering. 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. But, 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.

Malachi 2:17-3:5 Sin is still Sin

Malachi 2:17-3:5

Gods Response to Sin

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to the Minor Prophet of Malachi. As always, if you do not have a Bible, or do not own one, we would love for you help yourself to one from the back table as our gift to you.

Malachi is the last book in the Old Testament, and starting today, and through the rest of the book, we will see how close to the New Testament this book really is. During this time in Jerusalem, Gods People had lost a lot of Hope and they were tired of playing by the rules and they were tired of seeing those who didnt play by the rules not being punished.

God is continually reaffirming his Covenant with them and letting them know that nothing is out of his control and that he keeps his promises. We saw in the passage we read last week that marriage was given to us as a gift and as a type, a shadow and a mirror of what Gods covenant with us actually looks like. It is made to be an unending, complete, total and permanent covenant.

Anything that breaks our end of the convenat is sin. And all sin and any sin breaks our end of the covenant. And we are going to see some reactions to that this morning. First we will see how we tend to react to covenant breaking sin and then we will see how God is going to and has responded to covenant breaking sin.

So, lets go ahead and read our passage for this morning. Malachi 2:17-3:5. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation. Again, Malachi chapter 2, verse 17 through chapter 3, verse 5. God, speaking through his prophet and through his Word, says:

You have wearied the Lord with your words. But you say, “How have we wearied him?” By saying, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delights in them.” Or by asking, Where is the God of justice?”

Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord.[a] 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.

5 “Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.

So, we start by seeing that we weary God. And we do this by having one of two different reaction to the sin in this world. First, is our actions and even sometimes our words say that everything you want to do is good and fine and that there is no such thing as sin. “This is just the way that I am. That may have been wrong then, that may have been a sin then, but we know better now. You dont understand my situation, Its just easier this way. You dont know what Ive been through or what others have done to me. No one will ever know. Or, but its my child, grandchild, cousin, spouse, parent, whatever.”

We come up with every reason under the sun to justify our sins and the sins of others around us. Isaiah writes, Isaiah 5:20:

Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter!

Right is right and wrong is wrong. And sin is always wrong. And Gods Word is clear about what sin is. We see many lists throughout the scriptures about what sin is. And we see here in Malachi, what RC Sproul referes to as “a cyninical rejection of Gods oral government and the attendant insolent spirit that constantly puts God on trial.”

This might hurt some of our prides, but essentially this comes down to pride. Pride is far and wide considered the sin from which all other sins flow. Ezekiel 28:17 reads: Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor.

Pride is one of the so called 7 deadly sins. We are bombarded with the message that we are to take pride in ourselves. We are to take pride in everything we do. We are to take pride in our sins especially. We are told to take pride in a abe loud and proud about our immorality. About our greed. About Idolotry. We are to be loud and proud about our self idolotry. We take pride in our openmindedness. We take pride in how enlightened we are, that we dont have to believe in these antiquated, racist, sexist, narrow views of who God is.

Not only are we told and shown to take pride in our sins and our rebellion against God, but we are to encourage all the rest of the people around us to do the same. In fact, tday, your kind of an outcast if you dont. If you dont take pride in your sins and you dont tell others to take pride in their sins, you are a closed minded bigot. Period.

Paul writes in Romans chapter 1, he lists a whole long list of sins that we do that are rebellion against God. The list is a list of sins that are worthy of death. And at the very end of that list, the very last verse of Romans chapter 1, he writes: Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

These sorts of things are not just limited to those “out there,” this is not just those that are outside the church. Not just those that are on the “other side” of us. But a lot of this is coming from within the church as well. There are church signs all over this county, this state and this country that say things allong the lines of, “All are Welcome,” and “Come as you are.” Those are true words in and of them selves.

No one with a bilical understanding of salvation and evangelism and discipleship would, or should say that only certain people, or only people with their lives put together, or even nly people who struggle with this sin instead of that sin, are welcome to come to church. We should want and encourage and invite all people in all walks of life, in all lifestyles and all seasons of life to walk through those doors on any given Sunday Morning and here the life changing Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

But thats not what those church signs actually mean. Those are code statements that really mean something else. Those statements really should read “Come as you are and stay as you are.” or “All are Welcome, no need to change.”

Thats not what the Bible calles us to. The Bible does not affirm our sins, instead it calls us to repent. Martin Luther says that a Christians life is one of repentence. Meaning that our repentence is a life long process. We are to spend our life in Christ continually growing and changing and continuing to repent. Our sins are not to be our identity.

And yet thats exactly what they are when our life begins. Before we come to a saving knoweldge and faith in Jesus Christ, our identity is sinners. Thats who we are and its not something that we can can change by our own power. When we leave this life and we stand before God in judgement, if we have not submitted to him and repented of our sins, we will be seen in his eyes as sinners.

God nows all that. He nows it all and has planned for this and has created a redemption plan before the beginning of time. This was a plan to save us. It was a plan to redeem us. It was a plan to reconcile us sinners with his holiness. And we see this plan prophecied all the way back in Genesis 3. God could send a saviour, he would send someone who would accomplich our salvation, our redemption and our forgiveness.

And it is through his son, through Jesus Christ, his perfect, sinless life, his death on the cross, his resurrection, we can have our sins forgiven. We can have our hearts changed from stone to flesh. Our identities can be changed. Through the Holy Spirit inside of us when we come to faith, our identity is changed from sinner, to saint.

But that requires dying to self. That requires stopping doing what we like doing, what our flesh craves. Gods love and mercy and grace trump our desires though. And as he he changes our heart, he also changes our desires. We still stumble, we still give in to temptation, though the longer we walk with Christ, the less we should be struggling with that. But what does Romans 8:1 say? There now is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Gods forgiveness, his mercy, the death of Jesus, those are not partial things. Christs death is sufficient for all the sins his children will commit, past, present and future. You cannot sin away your salvation. Jesus says in John 10:28: I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.

The Key pillars of the Reformation that you have heard me repeat often, that Salvation is by Grace Alone, through Faith Alone, in Jesus Christ Alone, as revealed by the Scriptures Alone and to the Glory of God alone. These doctrines make it clear that God is the one and the only one who saves us, And that our salvation, eother receiving it or keeping it is not dependant on anything that we can offer.

I love the way Paul Washer says it, You are not saved because your faith and your repentence are perfect. You are saved because the work of Christ is perfect and you are clinging to that in your fraility and your helplessness.

Ultimately right is right and wrong is wrong. Period. Gods Word says so. God says so. And we weary him by saying otherwise. God does not celebrate in our sin. It grieves him. It is cosmic treason against an all holy God. Adam and Eve’s sin is what fractured our relationship with God. God doesnt need us. He doesnt need anything. If he did, he wouldnt be God. But in the outpouring, in the overflow of his love, he created us to be with him and to glorify him. Our sin changed that. Our sin brings dishonor to him. JC Ryle reminds us [Don’t mistake] God’s patience with sinners for the idea that God is tolerant of sin.

He is not going to do nothing about that. He is not going to sit idly by. If He celebrates our sin, that makes him a liar and unholy. So sin is still sin and always will be. He is not going to do nothing about it and allow sin to come into fellowship with Him. First He cant, because His holiness cant be in communion with sin. But also, even if He could, He wouldnt because that would take away from His Holy Justice.

God will deal with sin. He will deal with our sins. We dont always, or sometimes, often see it. We cry out as is said in Malachi 2:17 “Where is the God of Justice?” Of Course this is not the only place we see Israel cry out in this way. We see the prophet Habakkuk starts out his book, chapter 1, verse 2-4 crying out,

O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save? 3 Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted.

We even look around us today and wonder why all of this is allowed to go on. Death, disease, murder, stealing, corruption, all the things listed in the various lists of sins in the New Testament, lists in Romans 1, Galatians 5, 1 Corinthians 6 and Revelation 21 just as a few examples. I marked them down in the notes and I encourage you to look them up on your own later.

But we see those things going on and it can be easy to wonder where God is in all this, why he is waiting to act or why are we feeling or receiving Gods discipline. Well, the author of Hebrews deals with that second part, writing in Hebrews 12:7 & 8:  It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.

God pours out his discipline on us to help sanctify us. He disciplines us because he loves us. Those who are not his children, they will feel his wrath and his judgment, sometimes in this world, but always in the next. We, his children will sometimes have to deal with the negative consequences of sin in this world, but never in the next.

We dont know when that will be, our transition from this world to the next. And many of us will often pray, “LORD come quickly.” The motivation behind this prayer is we see whats going on around us in this world, the corruption taking place, the hurt and the death, and we read about the promises that are coming, we read about Jesus Second Coming. We read about what eternity future will look like, at least the glimpse we get to see. John records in His revelation, Revelation 21:1-7:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place[a] of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people,[b] and God himself will be with them as their God.[c] 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment

And we are rightly excited to finally experience that for ourselves. Everything in this world is a a shadow, a broken mirror of what is to come. But why hasnt God brought this about to fruition? Why is He allowing this world to continue as it is? Peter addresses this in his second letter, 2 Peter 3:3-9 he writes:

scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 4 They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” 5 For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, 6 and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. 7 But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you,[a] not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

We remember that God is God. He is omniscient, all knowing, he is omnipresent, all places and times, and omnipotent, all powerful. He is sovereign and in control of all things. He has all of eternity past and eternity future already planned out. He is patient, knowing that not all who will come to him have yet come to him. There is still hope that we can share the Gospel with those who have not yet been saved. And we dont know when that moment will be.

Since the time of Jesus resurrection, we have been in the alst days. And we dont know the time nor the the hour that Christ will return. So there should be some urgency when we are sharing the Gospel.

We dont know who will and who wont respond. We are to have faith that those we share it with will respond while knowing that not all will. God is the one who knows who will respond. There is a great quote from Charles Spurgeon about evangelism, saying: If God would have painted a yellow stripe on the backs of the elect I would go around lifting shirts. But since He didn’t I must preach “whosoever will” and when “whatsoever” believes I know that he is one of the elect.

When I started writing my sermon, did not expect this sermon to go on as long as it would have, God obviously wants us to hear some things this morning and so we are going to look at how God says he is going to respond to sin next week.

Israel is crying out, “Where is the God of Justice!” And God has an answer for them. Sin is sin and the wages of sin is death. Thats part of how He will respond. But the other way he responds is with a free gift that is eternal life in Jesus Christ our LORD. And much of the rest of Malachi will be looking ahead at the coming of the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, and the messenger that God will send ahead of his son. So, lets go ahead and pray, and get some water and let you all get out of the heat and we will continue on in Malachi and specifically finishing this section of Malachi next week.

Lets Pray

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 15:22-33 Pauls heart for Rome

Romans 15:22-33

Paul’s hearts for Gods Plans

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles and turn with me to Romans chapter 15. If you do not have one of your own or do not own a Bible, please grab one off the back table as our gift to you.

Well, we will finish up Romans chapter 15 this morning. Which means that there is just one more chapter left before we have completed this long journey to Rome. And one of the other things we will see this morning is the Paul harkens back to the very beginning of his letter here.

Again, we see Paul’s heart on display here. We see from him, complete transparency in his heart, his intended actions and more importantly, his submission of all of those to Gods plans and intentions.

Last week, we saw what Pauls calling was, he was both missionary and pastor. He was a missionary, going and spreading the Word of God, the gospel of Jesus Christ to the people who had not yet heard of them. He planted churches in those areas, built them up, pastored the people, raised up elders to be heads over the church and then continue on to the next place to share the Gospel.

And thats important, because Paul is going to talk about that here. His submissiona nd heart for Gods plans for him and how that both fits and differes from Pauls own wants and desires and plans.

Lets go ahead and read this mornings text. We will be reading Romans chapter 15, verses 22 through the end of the chapter, verse 33. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and I encourage you to follow along in your perferred translation. Romans 15:22-33, Paul, through inspiration of the Holy Spirit writes:

 This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you. 23 But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, 24 I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while. 25 At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. 26 For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. 27 For they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings. 28 When therefore I have completed this and have delivered to them what has been collected,[b] I will leave for Spain by way of you. 29 I know that when I come to you I will come in the fullness of the blessing[c] of Christ.

30 I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, 31 that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, 32 so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company. 33 May the God of peace be with you all. Amen.

Paul had shared in the section we looked at last week that he was called bring and preach the Gospel to those who who were in the Eastern Meditaranian region, from Jerusalem to Illyricum. That was what God had set out to him. Just like you and I are called to the Bangor, California area, Paul was called to that Eastern Meditaranian area.

He knew that, and he had a heart for it as we saw last week. But we also know that his calling, what God called him to do, prevented him from coming to Rome until now, something he truly and deeply wanted to do. He had a passion and a desire to go see the churches, the believers, his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ that were in Rome.

Lets look back for a moment at what Paul wrote as he opened this letter. He started his letter to the Romans, in chapter 1, starting in verse 8:

 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you 10 always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers,[c] that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. 14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians,[d] both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.

We see here that Paul was longing to go spend time with the churches in Rome. Fellowship is so vital to our walk and life in Christ. He says that they would be mutually encouraged by each other. When believers spend time together, in any form, we should all leave each others company being encouraged and uplifted.

Think about this, I know some of you have shared stories in this vein with me and with the congregation before. You are on vacation. You are on a trip somewhere. Hours or days from home. Hundreds or thousands of miles. You just happen to strike up a conversation with someone and Lo! And Behold! They are Christians too! When that happens, how do you feel afterwards? From my experience, thats a great time and you walk away marveling at God, his timing, his providence.

We need companionship and fellowship. We were made to be in community with each other. We are that way because we were made in the image of God. God who himself is trinity. Eternal fellowship, never alone. We were created to reflect the image and nature of God and one of his natures is fellowship.

Paul is excited that he finally gets to come to Rome and fellowship with his fellow believers there. And for good reasons! But we continue to see that Paul gladly and willingly submits his plans and his wants to Gods plans for him. Before Paul can go to Rome, he must make a detour. And when he does think he will be going to Rome, he will be going there on his way to another missionary journey, another job that he is being given by God.

And this is important to see. Gods call on your life, your obedience to him will require you to do things you dont want to do. It will cause to you to speak up when you would rather stay silent. It will require you to stay silent when you would rather speak up. Im not saying who is on which side there, but we each have work to do in one of those areas, I garauntee that. Gods call and our obedience to it will make us step out of our comfort zone. It will make you go places yu dont want to go. Or, in Pauls case, to go somewhere that you may want to go, but want to go less than many other places.

The flip side of all that, Gods call on your life and your obedience to it will delay an/or cancel plans that you have for yourself and things you really want to do. Sacrifices will be made. Plans will change. Other things will come up. Paul can not high tail it straight to Rome.

Paul needs to go back to Jerusalem, personally go back to Jerusalem, to deliver offerings taken up by the mostly Gentile churches that Paul had established, back to the mostly Jewish church in Jerusalem that was poor and struggling.

This is most likely mentioned by Luke in Acts 24:17, where Paul says that after several years I came to bring alms to my nation and to present offerings.” And one of the things we see here is there is a two fold reason for why this offering is so important to be brought to Jerusalem.

The first of course is because of the needs of the poor in the churches in Jerusalem. There are people there who had real needs and those needs had to be met. It is the responsibility of the church body to meet the needs of those within the body. Thats starts local. If we in this room have needs that need to be met, not wants mind you, but needs, than it is the responsibility of those of us in this room to help as we are able.

Scripture makes it clear the order these things are to go. We take care of our own household first. We make sur that our spouse and kids, if they are still at home, we make sure they are taken care of first. Our household is our fisrt priority when it comes to meeting peoples needs.

Second would be our local chhurch family. Again, thats when we look around this room, we share our prayer needs every week, we share life together in fellowship, and we carry each others burdens. When someof us are incapacitated for whatever reason, surgery, sickness, car accident, when one of us gives birth, whatever the reason, we come together and we meet each others needs.

Further out from that, still no less our responsibility is to help the universal church body. This is other churches that are not ours. This is parachurch and missions orginizations. This is believers in other parts of the country, maybe ones that have been hit with natural disasters. This is believers in other countries, maybe ones that are undergoing incredible persecution, or ones that are in incredibley poor regions. This could be local orginizations and ministries like Mt Hope or Caring for Women, the local pregnancy resource center. It could national orginizations like Village Missions, as one example. It could be international missions orginizations as well.

We give when and where we can. We give first to our local home church. Thats what we call our tithe. Above that, as you are able, you give your offerings. The causes and the ministries that God has put on your hearts and when we see needs that need to be met.

Paul saw needs in Jerusalem and as he was on his journies, he was raising money to send back to help meet those needs. And Paul shows that there is a direct connection between our giving and what the Gospel does to us.

John Piper makes this point, writing:

when we go to 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 where Paul gives his fullest explanation of this offering for Jerusalem he explicitly connects the offering with the gospel. In 2 Corinthians 9:13, he says this, “By their approval of this service, they [the poor saints in Jerusalem] will glorify God because of your [the Gentiles’] submission flowing from your confession of the gospel of Christ.”

Piper continues, saying:

In other words, one of the things at stake in this collection for the poor is the demonstration of what the gospel does to people—it makes them generous. It frees them from the love of money.

Paul also tells us that we are to give cheerfully and generously and in 2 Corinthians 8:13 & 14:

For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness 14 your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness.

So that is the first reason why it was so important that the churches that Paul had been visiting gave and sent their offerings back to Jerusalem. The second reason why it was so important to Paul that this happened was to bring the church in the 1st century together

Church Unity. This has obviously been a theme of Pauls all throughout the letter to Rome. And most specificallyto what we see here, unity in the church between the Jews and the Gentiles. Starting from back in chapter 1, through out the rest of the book, culminating in chapter 11 and continuing through what we see here, Paul makes the point time and time again that there is no difference, no two people of God, in the church of God, in the Kingdom of God, in Jesus Christ, there are no distinction between Jews and Gentiles.

Now, one thing we do know, is that God did choose to reveal himself and his Son, through whom we can obtain salvation, through the Jewish people and offered it equally to the Gentiles as well. Paul writes in Romans 1:16&17:

 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. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith,[e] as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”[f]

But Paul is just as clear that, in Christ, there is no difference. We are all one in Gods eyes and in status before him. And we see here, that it wasnt always easy and it didnt match their preconcivied notions but Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians were showing love and unity to each other.

Dr Kim Riddlebarger writes:

Those whom the gospel sets free, will find themselves filled with gratitude and desiring to help out their brothers and sisters whenever necessary. Since the blessings of that gospel were first preached to the Jews, and then spilled over on to the Gentiles, the Gentiles are able to show their gratitude by collecting an offering for the relief of the Jewish poor. Having been given spiritual blessings from the Jews, the Gentiles can now share their material blessings with them.

With the gospel, everything changes. Our heart, our attitudes, our actions, even our perceptions of other groups of people. Outside of Christ, Jews & Gentiles were essentially enemies. In Christ, they were brothers and sisters.

Piper again writes:

The spiritual blessings we enjoy—forgiveness of sins, and justification by faith, and reconciliation with God, and escape from hell, and all things working together for our eternal good, and the hope of enjoying the glory of God—all of these are owing to our being connected to the seed of Abraham, namely, Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:16). Jesus said in John 4:22, “Salvation is from the Jews.” Our savior is the Jewish Messiah.

The unity between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians was brought about by their submission to Jesus Christ and by the work of the Holy Spirit, but it took purposeful work on their part.

Unity takes work because we are all different peoiple, from different backgrounds with different experiences. But unity is both called for and worth it. It comes through the changed hearts of the Gospel. It comes through work on our end. It comes through loving each other, remembering love covers a multitude of sins. It comes through setting aside our own preferences for the sake of the good of the body of Christ. It comes through fellowship and serving together.

Paul finished this section with an appeal to prayer. Even in this, Paul is fostering fellowship and unity. He is asking the believers in Rome to pray for his situation. He is praying for his trip to Jerusalem and that he gets to Rome for their meeting up on his way to Spain.

Heres the thing, based on scripture, we never see Paul get to Spain. And we do see him get to Rome, but not for fellowship. He was arrested in Jerusalem in Acts 21. He then appeals his trial and sentence to Ceaser and is brought to Rome in order to be put before Ceaser himself. Pauls motivation was to preach the Gospel to the highest authority in the land. The book of Acts ends with him waiting for that chance, under house arrest in Rome.

Paul knew that there was trouble waiting for him in Jerusalem. He was asking for prayer that that trouble would bypass him. He was also asking for prayer that the gifts he was bringing for the Jewish Christians would be accepted as the gift it was intended to be and accepted with grace and humility. The good news, we see in Acts 21, is that it was indeeded accepted by James.

Paul finishes his prayer, praying a blessing over the believers in Rome. That the God of Peace would be with them all.

Dont miss this as a throw away few verses. Prayer is a vital part of coming together in fellowhsip. It is a vital part of unity within the body of Christ. We cannot come together and grow together if we do not pray together.

This is why our time here on Sunday morning, we have a time of prayer. We have our list in the bulleting that we pray for continually. We also open it up to hear your current requests. We have both our family of the week and we have the Village Missionaries of the week as well, and they list some prayer requests in there. We have prayer meeting Wednesday mornings and we pray for you all specifically and by name. Prayer is connec tive and brings us together in ways that would not happen otherwise. It opens us up to each other and helps us to know each other on deeper levels.

There is no throwaway lines in these 11 verses. Paul lays his heart out and models heartfelt and sacrificial submission to Gods plans and Gods will. And in that, I will leave you with John Pipers 4 takeaways from this passage.

He writes:

So I close with these summary exhortations:

1) Be vigilant for the reputation of the gospel.

2) Care for the poor. Ask God for that kind of heart.

3) Love the unity of the church and its ethnic diversity, and rejoice that there is one people of God, not two.

  1. Embrace the glorious truth that when you are born again by the Spirit of God and treasure Christ—who died for you—above all else, you begin to change. You delight to do what it is your duty to do, and want to do what you ought. This is holy joy. And it lasts forever.

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.

Social Justice and Gospel Statement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Casey

Galatians 3:28 & Genesis 1:26&27