Christmas 2018

Christmas 2018

Good Morning and Merry Christmas!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kids and songs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Romans 8:31-39 Nothing Separates us from God

 

Romans 8:31-39

Nothing Separates us from God

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

Lets Pray.

Mark 4:1-20 The Soils and Seeds (VBS follow up)

Mark 4:1-20

The Parable of the Sower

Good Morning. Please grab your Bibles and turn to the Gospel of Mark, chapter 4. If you do not own a Bible, please grab one from the table in the back as our gift to you. Our joy and our prayer is for each and every person to have one.

Now, I said open up to Mark chapter 4, that’s not Romans chapter 8! No, we are taking a 1 week break from Paul’s letter to the churches in Rome and we are going to look at a passage in Marks Gospel.

This past week, as you can see by the decorations that are up, and the pictures that showed before the service, we held Operation Arctic!, our Vacation bible School. The theme and the lessons were exploring the Bible, the coolest Book on the planet. The purpose for doing this is to share the Gospel, the truth and the Good News with children in our community. We were doing our job, the job that God gave us, both as individual believers and as a church body. Right now, I want you to raise your hand if you were at all involved in VBS. That means attended, volunteered, donated, helped set up, or prayed for VBS. Look at how many hands are up.

As I was getting ready for this week, I was reflecting through the work that was going to be done and praying about the results to come. And It took me back to Marks Gospel.

Marks Gospel is a gospel of action, of movement. So now, when he slows down to look at chunks of Jesus teachings, it should be noteworthy.

Now, Marks Gospel is not necessarily in chronological order. However, some scholars estimate that the first three chapters of Marks Gospel take up a year and a half of his ministry. But here Mark slows down and shares some of Jesus teachings, of which Mark admits that these are still just a sampling. We will be looking at the first parable Mark has Jesus sharing, the Parable of the Sower. Over all we will be looking at Mark 4:1-20, but we are going to be breaking it up into sections.

First, I will read Mark 4:1 & the beginning of Verse 2:

 Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. 2 And he was teaching them many things in parables

When I talk to people that have gone over and done tours of Israel, that always tell some of the same stories. One of them is about demonstrations of the unique acoustics that are at play over there. Different hills and rocks and such cause such natural amphitheaters, allowing Jesus to sit on a hill and speak to thousands and have all of them hear him.

Water also makes sound carry. Jesus is being surrounded and pushed back everywhere he stops and here, he finally gets in a boat, gets a little off shore and speaks to those on the shore. The natural amphitheaters and the water allowing the sound to carry allowed this to take place.

Think about that for a moment, there’s more there than meets the eye. God could have chosen any where on Earth for civilization to pop up. Could have chosen anywhere For Israel to be given their piece of Land, anywhere for the Roman Empire to spread to and anywhere for Jesus to be born in and minister to. He also could have caused Jesus’ voice to supernaturally carry and boom so that thousands could here Jesus’ words. Instead he choose this piece of land, where the acoustics provide natural amplification and allowed Jesus words to be heard with out supernatural help, at least volume wise.

And so Jesus did address the crowd. He went in the boat to give himself some room, but he stood and he started teaching. Picking back up with v 2, Jesus relays the following parable:

and in his teaching he said to them: 3 “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. 5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. 6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8 And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty fold and sixty fold and a hundredfold.” 9 And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

So this is maybe one of the more famous parables that Jesus tells. It appears in all 3 of the Synoptic Gospels and really kicks off a series of parables here in Marks Gospel. I want to make sure we really look at this and the explanation that Jesus will be giving because there is a lot going on here.

So he starts off with the sower going out to sow some seed. When he does this, there are 4 results that Jesus shares. First, some of the seed was sown on a path, where the ground is hard. The seed is unable to get into the ground and just ends up sitting on top of the soil and being eaten by the birds.

Next, the seed falls on rocky ground. There is some soil there, the seed sprouts quickly, shoots up fast, but has very shallow roots, no foundation. So when the sun comes out it gets scorched and withers and dries out very quickly.

Third, The seed falls among weeds and thorns. It starts to grow there, but the weeds do what weeds due and chokes out the good seed, so that it doesn’t produce any harvest or grain.

So these were the first three of the four that Jesus told us about. Notice that, despite initial outward appearances, none of these three end up yielding positive results. That’s going to end up in a pretty low success percentage. But Jesus is not done and he gives one more example.

Fourthly, the seed is sown onto good soil. It produces grain and yields a harvest that increases its yield. It increases as much as 30 times, 60 times and 100 times.

Jesus lays out these 4 scenarios and then he says something odd. He says, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Doesn’t that seem a little odd to you?

When you are teaching someone, when you are talking to someone, do you usually say things like that? Don’t all ears hear? Shouldn’t all ears hear? Jesus is going to explain that and the meaning of the parable next.

First the reason for parables and meaning of his words. Mark continue on in v 10,

 And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11 And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, 12 so that

they may indeed see but not perceive,
and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven.”

When Jesus taught to the public, he taught in parables. He did this on purpose because once he was with his disciples, often when he was with the Twelve, he would then explain the parables and some of the disciples might even understand them.

Jesus here is quoting Isaiah here. The context of that passage in Isaiah is interesting. Its in Isaiah 6, and God asks, whom should I send , who will go for us? Now the use of the word, “us” is a different point for a different time, but Isaiah responds and says, “Send me, Ill go!”

Here is what God tells him his message to the people will be. Isaiah 6, verses 9&10:

Go, and say to this people:

“‘Keep on hearing,[c] but do not understand;
keep on seeing,[d] but do not perceive.’
10 Make the heart of this people dull,[e]

and their ears heavy,
and blind their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”

I then read the study notes for this section and it helps connect what Jesus is saying and what God is saying to Isaiah.

My Bibles study notes say this: The proclamation of the Word is paradoxical in its effect. The prophetic word closes the way of God to those who are rebellious, proud and hypocritical, but opens it to the deaf, the blind, the humble and the poor.

That’s what we see the teachings of Jesus showing us. The parables were used to teach because some people, who were listening to Jesus, were not ready to hear. Sometimes the truth was hidden in these stories. We often see the disciples not understanding even after Jesus explains it to them.

But Jesus says here that they will make sense to those who are in the know. To those who are not in the know, no matter how clear you make it, they will not understand. To those who have hardened hearts, closed ears, the Gospel, the Word of God is foolishness. Paul tells us such in 1 Corinthians 1: 18 &19:

 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,

I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

We will understand nothing that Jesus says, without Jesus or the Holy Spirit giving us understanding. Proverbs tells us this, James tells us this, We just saw Isaiah and Paul tell us this and Jesus tells us this.

With that in mind, we turn to Jesus explanation of the parable, picking up in Mark 4:13-20:

13 And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? 14 The sower sows the word. 15 And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. 16 And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. 17 And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.[a] 18 And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, 19 but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 20 But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty fold and sixty fold and a hundredfold.”

So Jesus addresses all four of the situations that he spoke of moments ago. For the most part, this addresses 4 different kinds of people and their responses. However, we could also look at it as four different stages of life or situations where we hear the Word and our responses to it.

So first, Jesus tells us what the seed is that is being sown. It is the Word, it is the Gospel.

The first place the seed is sown is along a well walk, well-worn path. Satan has done such a good job make this path wide and easy, that when the seed is sown, when the word is spoken, there is no hearing at all, no acknowledgment whatsoever. The seeds are sown and immediately it is taken away. Jesus uses a path here in this parable, and he uses a path again in one of the other Gospels. Matthew 7: 13&14, Jesus tells us about 2 different paths in the world.

For the gate is wide and the way is easy[a] that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

Obviously the path that these seeds were sown on was wide and easy.

The next situation is the seed sown on rocky ground, sprouting fast and withering quickly. I see this as someone who hears the word and starts to believe in their head, but has no heart change, no life change and as soon as troubles pop up, they bail. Practically, today, this could be someone who is walking along the path to, who is seeking, who is visiting church and interested in learning and seeking and something happens and turns them away.

The third is seeds sown among the thorns. I look at this and I see two specific instances that we see today. First is those who hear the word and may even intellectually believe, but at least acknowledge some validity to the Word. Yet, instead of changing their lives and handing it over to Christ, they refuse. They say, if I go ahead with this Bible stuff, with this Jesus stuff, Ill have to give up all the things I like in my life. Ill have to quit doing drugs and sleeping around, quit cheating, stealing, quit living for the world and I really don’t want to do that.  The cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.

The second way I see this today is when someone is interested in hearing more, in seeing just what the Gospel is all about, but they are not willing or able to remove themselves from the people around them, friends, family, whatever, and they are so afraid of what those people around them will think that you can never get them into a one on one situation long enough to give them a chance to make a true, decision based on the Gospel.

I had one of these in my life a few years ago. He was mad at God and he would attack Christianity at any and all opportunity. I was able to live my life a way that allowed me to speak into his life IF and that s a big if, IF no one else was around. As soon as someone else was around, he felt, that to keep the image up and not open himself up to ridicule or whatever, he had to go on the offense.

Again, I want to point out that 3 of the 4 situations come away with a negative outcome. Again, see what Jesus said in Matthew, For the gate is wide and the way is easy[a] that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

One of the four, the last of the four is what Jesus desires. The seed sown on Good soil, hearing the word and accepting the Word and producing fruit. Now this section, this situation, this outcome includes all of us who are called children of God. If we are believers, we are in this 4th section here.

And there are a few things I want to point out now that Jesus is done explaining the parable.

First, when you are out there, sharing the seed, sharing the Word of God, most people will reject it in one of those three ways. Only one of the four ways is a positive outcome. I cant stress this enough when it comes to us sharing the Word. Most people will not respond in genuine conversion, at least not right away. Our job as one sowing the seed is not to ensure the good fruit-growing from it. That is the Holy spirits job. Our job is to get the word out there, to get the seed sown.

Paul addresses this in 1 Corinthians 3: verses 6-9:

6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

And here is the thing. We sowed seed this past week. You all here are well experienced with seed planting, helping out after the fire last year, the commodities food boxes each month, things like that. That seed has been and will be sown throughout Bangor and the surrounding communities. At that same time, the odds are against us seeing immediate, long term, genuine results. And whether it is there or not, is out of our control. God is the one to determine whether the seed sprouts and whether fruit grows or whether it doesnt.

The seed that we have all and will all sow throughout the community, many of those seeds wont sprout. God says “Dont worry about that, Ive got that.” Of the seeds that do sprout, not all are going to automatically come here. There are many reasons people will go to certain churches and not to others. Some of those are valid reasons, some of those are petty at best, but plain wrong in many instances.

My point is that God tells us to do what he has entrusted us to do, regardless of what the results are. He tells us to leave the anxiety, the worry, the stress behind and trust in gods goodness and his perfect knowledge, his perfect plan and his perfect will. If those who have heard the Gospel, if they respond, believe and repent, then getting them connected with a Gospel Preaching, Bible Teaching, Believer Discipling church is the number one thing. When we believe, we become part of Gods church, Gods family and so as long as we are committed to a local, discerning and orthodox church, orthodox, meaning right, historical, biblical beliefs. As long as new believers get hooked up with a church like that, they are good. My point in that is that we should not be discouraged if we are doing our job, doing what gods has called us to do and we don’t necessarily, especially early on and right away, see the numerical growth or the outward fruit of those works God calls us to do. The benefit’s of VBS, of commodities, of Fire outreach and relief, are not often or immediately seen. That doesn’t mean we stop doing it. We remember that God is in control of all of it.

Getting believers into Gods word is crucial. If there are no roots for the seed to grow and take hold, what is that root system? If there is an unrealistic expectation that there will be no troubles, that you become a Christian and you get rich and don’t get sick anymore, what is the foundation that shows us what god has and has not promised?

The Bible is where roots can take place. The Bible softens ground. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. One of the stories we shared and taught the kids this week, Matthew 7:24-27:

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

The Bible, the Word of God, Gods revelation of himself and Jesus Christ is that foundation. With Gods word as our foundation, when those rains come, when the thorns try to choke us and when the lack of root system causes issues, we will persevere. God will bring us through. We will not avoid hard situations and we will have the rains come, but God brings us through that with our foundation, our faith, everything still standing.

The last thing I want to point out is the mystery that RC Sproul points out in this parable. I’m going to paraphrase him here. He says, the mystery here is not moral teaching about humans hardness of heart. But instead, the mystery of this parable is the paradox that Gods kingdom, Gods reign, Gods power, is identified here with a fragile seed.

His point is that true power shows up humbly. True leaders will walk with humility. Jesus Christ is God. He is all knowing, all powerful, all everything. He is the King!

And yet, he comes down to us here on Earth as a human baby. He comes down in the must humble way possible. He comes down and he makes himself one of us. He puts off til later his right to reign on earthly as a warrior king and instead he gives up his life to die the most humbling death. The death on the cross. He does this for the forgiveness of our sins.

That is the seed that gets sown, that gets thrown on the soil. That is the seed that was planted in each and everyone of us. So, lastly, take a look and ask, question, look into yourself and see which one of these four results are you? Are you one sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. 17 And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.

Are you one sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, 19 but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.

Or, as I pray everyone here is , are you one sown on good soil, the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”

I ask that you take that question seriously, dont just assume the answer, because those thorns, that rocky ground can trick us and be deceptive. They can look good and inviting and encouraging at first, but in them there is no true transformation, no true regeneration. If there is, if we have that transformation, if the seeds that are sown are sown on what God makes into Good soil, the fruit that comes out of it will be incredible and God will give the increase and fruit will be born thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”