Malachi 2:10-16 Gods Covenant and the Marriage Covenan

Malachi 2:10-16

Gods Covenant and the Marriage Covenant

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles and turn with me to Malachi, chapter 2. As always, if you do not have or own a Bible, please help yourself to one from the back table as our gift to you.

This week we are looking at a much smaller chunk of the Malachi than we have over the last two weeks. Malachi was written during, but towards the end of the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. We see some of the same issues pop up here in Malachi has Ezra and Nehemiah addressed in their books.

And this section today was written because Israel was failing to follow what God had made clear to them regarding marriage. They have been breaking Gods commands in to explicit ways. First, we will look at in verses 10-12, they have been taking women for wives that had been off limits to them. Second, in verses 13-16, that had been divorcing their wives, against what God had been telling them.

But we are also going to look at the relationship between Gods covenant with his people, those who belong to him, those whom have been saved by grace, through faith, and the covenant of marriage that God has given to mankind as a gift and as a way to see His goodness and His love. Now, this is not your typical sermon on marriage. This is not 7 ways to have a great Marriage or anything like that. This is about God, his love, his covenant with his bride, his people, the church, you and I.

So, now we are going to go ahead and read our passage for this week, Malachi 2:10-16. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version though I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation. Malachi, chapter 2, verses 10- 16. God, speaking through his prophet, says:

 Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers? 11 Judah has been faithless, and abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem. For Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the Lord, which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god. 12 May the Lord cut off from the tents of Jacob any descendant[e] of the man who does this, who brings an offering to the Lord of hosts!

13 And this second thing you do. You cover the Lord‘s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. 14 But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. 15 Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union?[f] And what was the one God[g] seeking?[h] Godly offspring. So guard yourselves[i] in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. 16 “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her,[j] says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers[k] his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”

All right, so we start off, brieflyy, with something so simple, yet so foundational that it needs to be repeated and retaught and reminded of time and time again. God is our Father. He is the Father of All Believers, He is the creator of all, If you are not a believer, a Christian, you are not considered a child of God because you are not an heir to the Kingdom, a co heir with Christ. (Romans 8:17)

And as our Father, he is faithful in his Word to all. He has establish a covenant with his Children, summarized and represented by Israel in the Old Testament and summarized and represented by the Church in the New Testament. He has established a covenant of grace, by which he saves his children, offers forgiveness of their sins. He works in us to change us from death to life and to change our hearts of stone to hearts of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26)

And as we see throughout the scriptures and throughout history, God gives us ways to see greater truths. He has given us examples, types and shadows to help us better understand Gods truths. In this case, we see that God gave us the gift of marriage, in part, to help us understand and to see Gods covenant with us. He has given us this gift to help us relate to it and as an example to follow.

I want to touch on real quick, some of the difficulties we have when we read through the Old Testament. I think we can all be honest here right? The Old Testament is not as easy to read through and apply accurately as the New Testament. We tend to make one of two mistakes, or sometimes both actually.

The first tendency we can fall into is that we can over spiritualize what we are reading. We remove the historical reality of the stories in the Old Testament. We forget that these were real live people, in real live circumstances. Nothing has context and the only meaning of the text is allegorical for today, for modern day believers. It ends up being less, “What does Gods Word say?” and more, “What is God revealing to me individually, for my individual life?”

The second mistake we make, the second tendency we fall into is the over moralizing of the text. It puts the context back, but removes God as its author in this sense. It has no types, shadows or looking forward to Jesus Christ or the Church, but is essentially a guide book, a bunch of examples of good and bad, of right and wrong. It ignores the fact that the Bible is one unified book, with one unified story, the story of Gods redemption plan of us. It ignores that God has been pointing toward the coming Messiah and Savior since the beginning of the Bible, with the first prophecy of Jesus being in Genesis 3.

Both of those, on their own are wrong. The Old Testament is both of those and it is so much more than that. These are real, literal people, in real, literal events. The Old Testament is God telling a story, His Story, through real life history, The people and the stories are just as real as you and I sitting here.

And so our challenge is, as we read through the sections of the Old testament is to balance those two things, not  over spiritualize it and to not over moralize it, but to read the Truth of Gods Word and to pull out what God has intended to share with us.

One of the biggest themes in Malachi, one of the biggest things He has intended to communicate with us is showing how Israel has broken the covenant that was established between God and Israel. And as God is pointing this out to them, he is reminding them of who He is. In Malachi 1:2, He makes it clear,  I have loved you,” says the Lord. He has loved them and has been faithful and He has kept His end of the covenant. He is a God of His Word.

But in Malachi 2, verses 10-12, we see that Israel has broken their end of the covenant. You dont have to read much of the Old Testament to Israel breaking their covenant one way or another. In this instance, Israel breaks their Covenant with the one true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God if Israel, the God of the Bible, they break their covenant by marrying foreign women.

Now, to clarify what the issue is here, we can point to most obviously the book of Ruth to see that it is not simply the fact that these foreign women were born somewhere outside of Israel that is the issue. This is not about nationality, ethnicity or anything else like that. What the issue here is that the women that the Israelites were marrying were worshipping foreign gods. They were not within, but were outside of the covenant with God. They were not following or worshipping the True God of Israel.

We are reminded that Malachi was a later contemporary of Ezra and Nehemiah. Coing at the end of their ministries, Malachi has seen what Ezra and Nehemiah have had to deal with. We saw specifically, but not limited to Ezra 9 & 10, and in Nehemiah 13 that they too had to deal with the Jewish exiles returning to Jerusalem with foreign wives and marrying foreign wives once they have returned as well.

Some of them had multiple wives as well. We see that this unbiblical practice went all the way back to Genesis 4. Genesis 4:19, it records that Lamech took two wives, the first instance of polygamy in the Bible. Unfortunately, it would not be the last, as we see even otherwise Godly men such as Abraham, Jacob, David and Solomon having multiple, and in some cases, many wives.

As we bring these things together, I want to read the first few verses of the 10 commandments as recorded in Exodus chapter 20. Verses 1-3 read:

 And God spoke all these words, saying,

2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

3 “You shall have no other gods before[a] me.

There is One, True God, and there is only One True God. God created marriage to mirror this point, that we are to marry one person, and only one person. One man, one woman. And that we are intended to marry only someone who worships the One True God, as we do.

This principal continues on and is shown that it applies to us today by showing up in the New Testament as well. We see this in 2 Corinthians 6:14, where Paul writes: Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. And while thats not the limit for what it means, this is, in part, referring to having the same spiritual views as the one that we will marry.

RC Sproul gives us some insight as to why, saying, “Intimacy at its deepest dimension is impossible when the partners are not united in faith.”

Our faith should be the foundation of your entire identity. It should the foundation of who you are. And if you dont and/or cant share that with your spouse then you wont be able to have the deepest connection that God has desired for you.

And in this, we see the parallels between Gods covenant and relationship with us and with the covenant and intention of marriage. God doesnt want us to have a casual relationship with him. He doesnt want us to like him. He doesnt want us to come to him only when its convenient or when we are in trouble. He wants all of us all the time. And thats how we are supposed to be with our spouses as well.

Now, does this mean that two non believers cant be married and have a happy, a faithful, and a long lasting marriage? Does that mean that a believer and a non believer cant be married and have a happy, faithful, and long lasting marriage? Of Course not! As many of you can attest, either personally or by those who are close to you, family, friends and the like.

We see all around us, through Gods common grace, that people can have a happy, successful marriage without both being completely and solely focused on Christ. But its not how God intended it. Just like if Someone says they are a Christian, but never reads their Bible. The intimacy in the relationship will never be able to be as deep and as complete as its supposed to be.

And so we worship One God, the True God and we are intended to become one with someone we can share that worship with. Now, scripture also addresses how to respond if we find ourselves in a situation which was not the intended ideal. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 7:12-16, starting in the middle of verse 12:

if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. 13 If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. 15 But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you[b] to peace. 16 For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

If you are married, you are married. Dont throw away what you have to try and go back in time. God uses all things for good, more specifically, for his glory. Romans 8:28 Paul says here that we are never to give up hope that an unbelieving spouse may come to know the LORD, whether partly or mostly from our lives we are living, loving and living with them, modeling the love of Christ and the dedication to Christ that we are to have.

God hates divorce. We are to worship only the One True God and we are to marry one our one spouse. One God enters into a covenant with us and we are to enter into a covenant with only one partner. Gods covenant is never ending. The Jesus storybook Bible calls it an Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.

Once we are in covenant with Him, we are sealed into that covenant with the Holy Spirit. That covenant is salvation. Salvation from the consequences of our sin, from the failure to keep our end of the covenant, from failing to live up to the perfect and Holy Standard that One true and perfect God has set. That salvation is by grace alone. The vehicle that grace is poured out is by faith alone. The object of that faith is in Jesus Christ alone.

Once the Holy Spirit has sealed us in the covenant with God, it is forever. It is unbreakable and it is permanent. In the same way, as a shadow of that covenant, our marriage covenants are intended to be unending, unbroken and full of grace being given to sinners.

Romans 5:8 God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. And we see teachings and directions about how to model that love to our spouses. One such example is Ephesians 5:22-33:

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.[a] 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Again, we see that Marriage was an incredible gift that God has given to us. In Genesis 2:24, God says:  Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh Men, you and your wife are one flesh. Women, you and your husband are one flesh. We are to love and serve each other in the manner that Christ has loved and served us.

You may have often heard that marriage is designed not to make us happy, but to make us Holy. And that is true, and its true because marriage is designed to help us to see God more clearly. It is designed for us lean on God more intensely, more dependently, because those things Paul just listed in Ephesians 5, we cant do those with out the help of God. Marriage is designed to remind us of Gods love, his service and his sacrifice.

Marriage is designed to be the human equivalent of the covenant that God has established with his people, his church, his bride. Exodus 34:6 & 7 is one of my favorite parts where God speaks his covenant, saying to Moses:

The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands,[a] forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty,

Marriage is not always easy. Fights will take place. Arguments, disagreements, misunderstandings… Both parties of a marriage are still sinners and they are now thrown in super close proximity to each other. Those faults and sins will manifest themselves and often.

With God, only one side is sinful. Thats our side. Our sin will manifest itself and often. We will misunderstand God. We will argue with God. We will walk away or puch him away. But he will never leave. He will never forsake us. He will never abandon or break his covenant with us and that deserves our full and everlasting praise and thanks.

I also love the way that John Piper sums up this passage, writing:

He is the God of Israel. The fellowship may be broken. There may be exile and separation. There may be anger and tears. But when whole story is told, the sum of the matter is Isaiah 54:4–8:

Your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called. For the Lord has called you like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, like a wife of youth when she is cast off, says your God. For a brief moment I forsook you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In overflowing wrath for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you, says the Lord, your Redeemer.

God will never nullify his marriage to the elect. Christ will never forsake his bride, the church. He is a covenant maker and a covenant keeper. And that is the meaning of marriage.

Lets Pray

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

Genesis 15:1-6 God reassures and comforts

Genesis 15:1-6

God Reassures Abram

Good Morning. Lets flip on over in our Bibles to Genesis chapter 15, as we take a short, temporary break from Romans. As we look at a snapshot from the life of Abram, I see things which I think are very relevant to us in this day, especially now. As always, if you do not have a Bible with you, or if you do not own a Bible, please take one from the back table as our gift to you.
And so, as a starting point, what do we know about Abram up to this point is the story of Genesis, up through chapter 15?
Well, we know that God chose him. We know that Abram had great faith and trust in God, most of the time. We know that Abram had epic moments of failure, where he leaned on his own plans, his own understandings and did not trust in God and his promises. We know that he and his wife, Sarai, were an older couple who were passed child-bearing years and were barren. We know that God promised to make a great nation of him in spite of his lack of a child.
And we know that Abram just saw, in chapter 14, that when he listened to God and his plans and acted on Gods instructions, that he was blessed. In Chapter 14 Abram takes an army of 318 trained men, and defeated an incredible coalition of 4 kings who took Abrams nephew Lot. Abram followed God and acted on his faith, trusting completely that he and the 318 men could take theses 4 armies.
They did, and in a clear and decisive manner and brought Lot back to Sodom, where he was living. He then worshiped God with a high priest, the King of Salem, Melchizedek. And what we are going to see here this morning is that even in the good times, we still have a need for questions to be answered, to be reassured, to have God answer our questions and, ultimately, to be allowed to question.
We are going to look at Genesis 15, verses 1-6. It’s a few short verses, but it is packed dense with meaning and message and application and truth. I highly encourage you to follow along in your Bible as we read this few verses. So, Genesis 15:1-6 and I’m reading out of the English Standard Version:
Gods Word says:
After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” 2 But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue[a] childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” 4 And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son[b] shall be your heir.” 5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.

So we start out at some point after the battles, after the worship and experience with Melchizedek, sometime after chapter 14. My guess is that it is shortly after the events of Chapter 14. And what we see is that God speaks to Abram, he comes to him and he encourages him, reassures him, reminds him and comforts him.
Now, why would Abram need this at a time when he had just had such a successful victory following the LORD and such an amazing time of worship with Melchizedek. This should have been the time when Abram was flying highest. He should have zero doubts, no questions, he should feel never closer to God than at that moment up to that point in his life.
And yet…..
And yet, I bet that each and every one of us here can testify to a time like this. Things are going well in our life, more specifically, in our relationship with God. We are doing what we know he wants us to do. We are praying. We are reading. We are giving. We are walking with him and being faithful.
But something is off. Questions pop up. Doubts are raised. We feel far away from him. We wonder IF. Or we wonder WHY. Things just aren’t quite settled like they are supposed to be. The enemy loves to take this opportunity to attack and attack hard.
For Abram, it seems to be that his question or doubt, not sure which, seems to be along these lines. God is proving him self faithful and trustworthy. He is keeping his promises. He is blessing me and my family and protecting us and just being God. But, why is he not keeping this one specific promise. This one promise has not yet been fulfilled. Why? Why is God not keeping this one promise?
The promise Abram is talking about goes back to Genesis 12, where God tells Abram, in verse 2, “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great.” This was a great promise. It was a promise that God and God alone could keep, could bring about. But it was a promise that seemed to need to be fulfilled a certain way.
In order for Abram to become a great nation, someone needed to take it over and keep his name going after he would pass on. That meant that Abram needed an heir. Without an heir, whoever took over for him would stake out his own claim, put his own name on it. But if Abram had an heir, his name would continue on.
So Abram is wondering, maybe worrying. “God said he was going to do this. He said he was going to make my name great, but I have no son to continue on my name. I have seen God keep all his other promises, and prove himself over and over, but I’m not seeing it in this.”
And this would happen occasionally in those days. A couple has no child, so who would inherit their possessions after they die? Often times in those days, one of their slaves or servants would become like a son. He would be adopted into the family and he would become the heir. Somebody needed to be an heir and take possession of their stuff.
And that’s what we see here. God appears to Abram and reassures him, responds to his wondering, saying, “I am your protection and I am your reward. I am faithful, I have been faithful and I will continue to be faithful.”
Abram responds, saying, “I don’t even have a son, I need to have my servant, Eliezer of Damascus be my heir.” He is saying, what we often say to God. “I don’t understand and I don’t see you working in this situation. I know what you said, but I don’t see it. This is the only way I can see this promise coming true.”
Lets be clear here. Abram is not sinning here. He is not doing anything wrong. What he is doing is he is being open and honest with God about his struggles. So often we are afraid to be honest with God. We worry that we are going to be ungrateful and demanding of him. We worry that we wont continue to be faithful to be honest with him and what our worries and questions are. Often, we will even worry that others will question our faith or our love for God if we are honest with our questions and struggles.
God calls us to come to him. Adam and Eve, in the Garden it says that they were naked and unashamed. The reference here is not only towards their marriage relationship with each other. But it also has to do with, I think firstly, their relationship with God. Adam and Eve were completely open and transparent with God. They hid nothing from him, had literally a perfect relationship with him. After the fall, the first thing they did was realized they were naked and cover themselves with a fig leaf.
When we look at the passage in Genesis 3, it’s about more than physical nakedness. It’s about our relationship with God, and us putting up barriers between us and him and hiding things from him that we never hid from him before. Our relationship with him was now fractured.
We don’t come to him, we are not honest with him and we question and doubt. but one of the things that God is showing us here is that if we are faithful, if we follow him, if we come to him with honest questions, honest wonderings, he will not hold it against us.
Now his response wont be like they are to Abram right here. Here, he answers Abrams questions. But Gods Word tells us he doesn’t respond in that way anymore. 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. He has already given us all the promises, all the assurances, all the reassurances, and all the response we need.
Here, He reiterates his promise to Abram and clarifies it as well. He tells him that it will not just be any heir that keeps Abram’s name going, that allows his name to be great, but that God will give him a son. A literal, physical born son.
And his descendants, he says, will be as numerous as the stars in the sky, which while there is a literal number to that, we will never be able to count that high or accurately.
But know that sometimes, God’s answer isn’t always so… well, it’s not always what we are looking for. Looking at Job, he questions why God was letting him go through the things he was going through and Gods answer to him was essentially, “I’m God, that’s why.”
And here is the key, Job accepted that answer. Abram believed God. That’s what is important to this story if we are to try to see how it works in our lives today. It’s not wrong to ask God questions, to be honest about your struggles and doubts. But, when we know Gods answers, or when he hasn’t revealed them to us, you need to respond in faith.
Verse 6 is one of the key verses in all the Bible. I don’t think I’m overstating that either. Abram believed God. And what God was promising was not easy to believe. Remember what we know about Abram and Sarai. They were old and they were barren. They had no children and they were past the age where it was possible for them to have one.
There was no earthly, worldly reason for Abram to believe God. But he did. And God credited it to him as righteousness. And that’s good news because Abram had no righteousness of his own. Just like we don’t have any righteousness of our own. All of our righteousness, piled up on each other are as filthy rags to God. Abram’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. This statement and what it means is so important that Paul devotes an entire chapter of Romans, Romans chapter 4, to this verse, which we looked at a number of months ago.
When we wrongly understand this, it is not a good thing. And it’s not a thing of little matter. Hear this. Abram did not earn his righteousness by believing God. That would put Abrams salvation entirely in his own hands. It would take his salvation out of Gods hands. Abram, and each and every one of us, has no righteousness. We don’t have it, we can’t earn it and we cannot be given righteousness of our own.
Well then, what righteousness is credited to Abram, whose righteousness is credited to us? I’m glad you asked. It is called the doctrine of Imputed Righteousness. I know, big words. But what they mean is both complicated to explain in some ways, but very simple in other ways.
There are actually two parts to it. First, look at 2 Corinthians 5:21. Paul writes:
21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

The work of Jesus Christ on the cross is part one. Even though it happened in our linear thinking and experience, long after Gods promise to Abram and Abrams belief in God. God works outside of time. He is at the same time in the past, present and future, all at the same time. His plan from before the world began was for Jesus Christ, the Son of God, himself God, to be born as a human,live a perfect life and die on the cross.
For our specific discussion, one of the most important parts there is that he lived a sinless life. He had no sin. So what happened? God imputed our sins on to Jesus there on the cross.
Jesus sacrificed and paid the price for sins that he never committed. He did it for the sins that we committed. Romans 3:21 & 22, Paul again writes:
 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:

God, imputed our sins on to Jesus Christ on the cross. He then imputed HIS righteousness, his very own righteousness onto us. But, just in case you misunderstand what I’m saying, not all who live, not all who are born, receive Gods righteousness. There is a specific way, a specific method that God uses to impute his own righteousness onto us. It is through faith. It is through faith alone. Faith, which itself, according to Paul in the letter to Ephesians, is a gift from God. It is through this faith in Jesus Christ, to all who believe that Gods righteousness is given, or as said here, credited.
Abram had faith, he believed what God was telling him. In the face of a lifetime of reasons not to belief, a life time of experience that says, “Your not going to have a kid. You haven’t had one yet and now you are too old.” In the face of all this, God says, “Trust me. I will give you a son.” And Abram believed the LORD, and God credited it to him as righteousness.
I know this can get confusing, SO I want to share an example that John Piper gives on how this plays out by giving an analogy from his life.
He says:
Here’s a very imperfect analogy. But I will risk it in the hope of greater understanding. Suppose I say to Barnabas, my sixteen-year-old son, “Clean up your room before you go to school. You must have a clean room, or you won’t be able to go watch the game tonight.” Well, suppose he plans poorly and leaves for school without cleaning the room. And suppose I discover the messy room and clean it. His afternoon fills up and he gets home just before it’s time to leave for the game and realizes what he has done and feels terrible. He apologizes and humbly accepts the consequences.
To which I say, “Barnabas, I am going to credit your apology and submission as a clean room. I said, ‘You must have a clean room, or you won’t be able to go watch the game tonight. Your room is clean. So you can go to the game.” What I mean when I say, “I credit your apology as a clean room,” is not that the apology is the clean room. Nor that he really cleaned his room. I cleaned it. It was pure grace. All I mean is that, in my way of reckoning – in my grace – his apology connects him with the promise given for a clean room. The clean room is his clean room. I credit it to him. Or, I credit his apology as a clean room. You can say it either way. And Paul said it both ways: “Faith is credited as righteousness,” and “God credits righteousness to us through faith.”
So when God says, this morning, to those who believe in Christ, “I credit your faith as righteousness,” he does not mean that your faith is righteousness. He means that your faith connects you to God’s righteousness.

It is only through this righteousness that we are not sentenced to eternal punishment and torment. It is only though this righteousness that we are able to stand before God and have anything to say. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:20:
For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

But When we become believers in Jesus Christ and his work on the cross, when we are imputed with His righteousness, God doesn’t look at us and see us anymore. By that I mean, he doesn’t see you and me as the sinners that we are, that we were, that we were born as. Instead, he sees us through the lens of Christ’s blood, Christ’s righteousness. That’s what allows us to be adopted into his family. That is what allows us to be heirs to his kingdom and be given eternal life with Him.
This is one of the rewards that Abram is promised of God in Verse 1. Now, there are a couple of other rewards, rewards that Abram would be more in tune with that God is referring to as well. His son, his heir is one and if you continue reading Genesis, you see how big of a deal that is.
But the grand scheme, big picture thing that God is referring to when he says that Abram’s reward will be very great. He is rewarding Abram with himself. He is giving Abram his righteousness. Abram is getting the opportunity to exercise faith, belief, trust. And through that God has chosen to give him his righteousness.
When we believe in him, when we exercise faith, when we put our complete trust in Jesus Christ, God has promised to give us his righteousness. So my question to, are you covered in His righteousness? Are you promised a great reward? Eternal life? There is no other way. No other door leads to eternal life in paradise. Not all who live are getting in. I want you to get in. I love you and I want you to enjoy eternal life, but it’s not going to happen unless you exercise faith in his Son, Jesus Christ.
Now, to those of you who are covered in his righteousness, the Christian life is not one to “Set it and Forget it.” It is one of constant growth and trials and periods of feeling closer to God and feeling further from him. Peaks and valleys. The Psalms are filled with songs where David is begging, literally begging God to make him presence felt to Him. This is David we are talking about! And he has times where he can’t feel God close to him.
So you are going to go through those times too. That doesn’t mean your faith is weak, or you are a “lesser Christian,” or there is something wrong. What matters is how you deal with these valleys, these periods of life. Abram went to God, was honest with his questions, listened for and heard Gods response. And he trusted in that response. Job was going through incredible hardships and questioned why God was letting this happen! Today we ask, why God, why?
Why are these fires happening? Why did entire towns get wiped off the map? Why is this country allowing untold millions of unborn babies to die, without being given the chance to live their lives? Why are so many rejecting your Word and your promises? Why are you letting this company take away my job? Why are you letting me go through this health issue? Why are my friends and family letting me down? Why are my friends and family dying?
And it’s not just the questions like that, that we have. It’s also the ups and downs of life itself. As I mentioned earlier, there are times where we know in our heads and our hearts that God is faithful and true and he is without us to the end of the ages. But we don’t feel him. Many of Davids Psalms are asking God why it feels as if he is not there with him. David knew nothing could keep God from him or separate him from God, but that doesn’t always mean we feel his presence. And that can be tough.
Do you all know the story of Horatio Spafford? He wrote the hymn, It is Well. It is a heartbreaking story. He and his wife lost a son at the age of 2. He was financially ruined in the Great Chicago Fire, and then, sending his family ahead of him to Europe while getting their affairs in order, the ship they were traveling on sank and his three daughters drown at sea. His wife survived and while he was going over to meet up with her, as he was passing near where his daughters drowned, he wrote It Is Well.
Tim Chaffey of Answers in Genesis writes about the Hymn:
How could Spafford possibly proclaim “It is well with my soul” in light of the numerous tragedies he endured, including the loss of his young son to scarlet fever? The song reveals at least two reasons. First, he knew that all of his sins had been “nailed to the cross.” Second, look closely at the final line. It begins with two short words (“Even so”) quoted from the final passage of the Bible. He longed for Christ’s return because he was convinced that he would dwell with His Creator and would be reunited with his precious children.
(https://answersingenesis.org/answers/biblical-authority-devotional/it-is-well-with-my-soul/)
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
“Even so,” it is well with my soul

Some recommended Bible reading for you, I am not going to read it to you this morning, but Read Psalm 77. This one specifically deals with a man going through these times, this depression, and through it all, through this moment in life, he cant sleep, he can’t feel Gods promises there with him. He knows intellectually God, his promises and his attributes, but that knowledge in and of itself does not dismiss the depression. And he says in this psalm, in the Casey translation, I can’t see you, I can’t feel you, but even so, you frighten the things that frighten me. You will bring me through this and you will take care of me and my soul. And he ends the psalm, not cured, or healed or happy or out if his depression in any way. But he ends it, still in his circumstances, but leaning and trusting in the God who promised to take care of him, who promises to take care of us.
We all have these questions. Own it. Face up to it. Ask God your questions. We all have those moments, when we know in our heads, but we feel so far from him, or we can’t see how his plan is working through whats going on, or if we are going through a valley, missing the peace and exhilaration of the peaks. We all have them and they hit in different ways or with different feelings or emotions, but I bet you all know exactly what I’m talking about. And we can’t always know when they are going to hit.
But when you do, there are two things you need to do. Read his word, searching for an answer. He wont always give you the answer you want, and he wont always say it clearly. If we see something we don’t like, that disagrees with out expectation, especially in the bible, we have a tendency to just ignore it and overlook it. But that doesn’t mean it’s not there and that he is not answering. Be willing to see whatever the answer is, not matter how unexpected it is.
Second, trust in his answer, whatever it is. Trust in it, accept it, lean on it, depend on it. Cling to it with everything you have. Whether he answers you like he did Abram and say, “your worried about this situation, I’m going to fix this situation the way you want it.” or whether its like Job where he says, “Im God, that’s why.”
Either way, God is God. And he loves us. He has promised us a great reward if we trust in him. Bank on that and accept that. Let it be credited to you as righteousness. Because, in the grand scheme, he promises us something very clearly. If we believe, if we have faith, and if he credits that to us as righteousness, we will have the greatest reward of all. We will receive him and we will enjoy that gift forever into eternity.
No matter what you are feeling. No matter what the circumstances, no matter what is going on in your life, in your heart, in your anything. When sorrows like sea billows roll. Whatever your lot, God has taught us to say, Even so, It is Well with our souls.

Lets Pray.

Rural Missions Sunday– Village Missions and Bangor, CA

Rural Missions Sunday

Village Missions and Bangor, CA

 

 

Across the Nation: Proclaiming the Gospel in Rural America from Village Missions on Vimeo.

 

 

Good Morning. Go ahead and turn to Romans 10 in your Bibles. The passage that was read earlier is going to be our anchor text for this morning. You know, Village Missions produces numerous short videos about rural ministry, and that is far and away, one of my favorites. And they all revolve around Jesus Christ. Preach the Word and Love the People. I love that. And at the end of that video, when the Village Missions logo came up, what did it say underneath? Keeping Country Churches alive.
I don’t know if you guys know this, but we are a country church. This church was put here by God in Bangor, CA for a very specific reason. That is to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the lost. Village Missions has partnered with this church since 1964. Reading up on the history of this church, it had essentially closed down prior to partnership with Village Missions. God preserved his church here in Bangor for a reason. To Preach the Word and to Love the People.
But what does a country church bring to a community? Why is it important to keep these churches alive? And not just alive. Village Missions stated purpose is that they exist to develop spiritually vital churches in Rural North America. Thats us. Thats you guys out here. Village Missions purpose is to make you spiritually vital, so that you can go out and bring the light of the Gospel to the community.
So, today we are talking about missions. Specifically, rural missions, and the role that you and I and Village Missions plays in rural missions. When talking about missions, we can get some images in our heads. We can think of missions as some one else going to some far of country to teach Jesus to primitive tribes in the middle of nowhere. If we are involved at all, it is through giving money to our church or a missions organization and don’t give it another thought.
Some a couple of things about that. First of all, missions don’t just exist out there. John Piper famously says that “Missions exist because worship doesn’t…” Missions, which is simply sharing the Gospel with those who don’t know Christ. Missions are not just out there. Missions are everywhere. Missions are in out family, missions are in our churches, often. Missions are in our communities especially. In terms of un saved population numbers, The United States of America is the third largest mission field in the world.
And even when missions organizations or churches think of domestic missions, they think of urban and suburban areas, and no one will argue, or no one can argue anyway, that these communities don’t need Jesus. But, as we saw in that video, what happens to the rural areas, the small “picturesque,” towns that dot the landscape of America? They get forgotten. They get overlooked.
And the idea, whether it was ever accurate or not, that the problems from the cities, the problems that plague America, didn’t also effect small town, rural communities, is gone. Today, drugs & alcohol, addiction in general, teen and unwed pregnancy, suicide, poverty, loneliness, broken homes, all of it are just as prevalent, if not more so in rural communities than in urban and suburban communities. Look at the insert in your bulletin and it tells a couple of stories about drugs becoming and, in fact, already being a major problem in these rural communities. Many of you know people or family members or neighbors that are somehow affected by drug addiction.
And that’s where the local church comes in, that’s where we, Bangor Community Church comes in and that’s where Village Missions comes in. Because we have the solution to broken lives, broken hearts, hopelessness, and weariness. That solution is Jesus Christ.
Are your Bibles still open to Romans chapter 10? Lets read again, first verses 9-13, which shows Jesus as the solution to these problems. Romans 10:9-13. Paul writes:
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. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 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. For everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.

Now, we are going through a sermon series through Romans, and we are coming towards the end of Chapter 9, so we will get to this passage in a few weeks, and we will get deep into it at that point. But I want us to just see the point of this passage here.
Call on the name of the LORD and you will be saved. Turn away from your sins and put your complete trust and faith in Jesus Christ as your only hope of salvation.
There is a need. We are a broken people. God created the world perfect and good. The first two chapters of Genesis show us that ALL of creation, all the way through the creation of Adam and Eve and marriage of husband and Wife was created perfect and good. In Genesis 3, everything changed. Adam and Eve sinned and brought a sinful nature that has infected every single person ever born like a disease.
That moment not only left us all sinful by nature and guilty of sin, but it left us spiritually dead. It left us longing and searching for something to fulfill us. Before sin, we had a purpose. We were created to give glory to God, to worship him, in essence.
Now, our purpose is obscured. We don’t want to worship God, we want to be God. We instead worship ourself or our own desires and wants. So we are missing our purpose. We have a need inside of us that is unfulfilled.
That manifests itself in a wide variety of ways. Looking for purpose, looking for acceptance, looking for understanding, looking to numb pain and emptiness. We see drugs and alcohol abuse sky-rocket. We see suicide when we get to what we think is our wits end, when the pain is just too much. We see Sexual sin, seeking pleasure, acceptance, intimacy and love. We see abusive relationships, both sides of them. The abuser doesn’t see that the person they are abusing is made in Gods image. They see themselves as god and the one who gets to decide what happens to the one who they are abusing. On the abuser’s side, they think that this is what love truly is. They think this is what they deserve. They think their abuser has the right to do with them what they want.
All of this sin, all of this evil is here because we are trying, with imperfect avenues, with imperfect, broken people, and with imperfect, temporary measures, trying to restore the relationship that we were created to be in with the One, Holy, God.
And even in what I just describes, you can see two different extremes. One side is the side that elevates themselves up to a god status. They are the authority. They decide what happens and who it happens to. There is no need for a savior because they havent done anything wrong.
Also in this group are those who are good, moral people and think that they can be good enough, or do good enough, or somehow earn their way back into Gods good graces.
The other side, the other extreme is the one who knows just how broken and sinful they are, but there is no hope for salvation. God either doesn’t exist, or doesn’t love them. God doesn’t know what I’ve done and if he did, he could never forgive me. There is no hope, no point and I deserve what ever I get.
Both of these extremes are wrong. Jesus says differently. Jesus puts the invitation out to all who hear. He puts the invitation out that there is only one way, what the Bible describes as the hard and narrow path. But that path is open to all who believe. Jesus is the only path to salvation. He is the only way to restore the relationship between us and the Holy, creator, perfect, triune God.
Jesus comes, not to promise earthly comforts, but freedom from our sins. The freedom to choose to do right. He changes lives and hearts and can change generational problems. He brings hope to the hopeless. He gives a father to the Fatherless. He restores relationships and purposes. He offers rest for the weary.
This life, here in this world is draining. It is wearisome. We get tired easily. Especially when we are trying to earn something we cannot ever earn. We get tired of fighting the truth. It wears us down trying to go against God, think we know better than him. When we rely on ourselves, it takes a lot out of us.
Its like trying to stop a train by standing on tracks. And the more we rebel against God, his plans, his offers, the more we trust in our own understanding. The more we try to hold onto what we think we have in this life, the more extremes we will go to.
If you talk to anyone who has been an addict, no matter what it was that they were addicted to. They will tell you, at the beginning, it just takes a little bit. The further things go, the deeper down they go, the more it takes to reach the same level of feelings. The more it takes, the harder it is to stop, both habitually and physically.
Sin is an addiction as well. And we cannot get ourselves out of it. The hold it has on us is too strong. Strong enough, that of ourselves, we don’t want sin to let us go. But Jesus, fully God, fully man is the one who can break those chains that hold us. He will fix the brokenness that is our lives. He will change our lives and our hearts from the inside out. He will bring us from spiritual death to spiritual life.
He will do that, if we repent and believe. He will do that if we confess him as our LORD and savior, If we have faith, But that has to be a real, true, saving faith. Not a verbal confession and we go on living the same life, but a faith that he gives us that breaks the changes of sin and gives a heart for his plans, his desires and helps us to lean on his understanding.
And how can people make that decision, if they don’t know that option is there? Lets read the rest of the passage in Romans 10, verses 14-17:
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.

The only way for someone to respond to Christ is to hear the gospel, giving them something to respond to. The only way for them to hear the Gospel is for someone to bring the Gospel message to them. Thats what missions is. Thats the job of believers every where, to share the Good News with every one around us. And, to those called, to be sent, to go out and become a part of a community and to, in the words of Village Missions, to Preach the Word and Love the People.
As we mentioned earlier, missions come in all sorts of varieties. Urban, Suburban, foreign, tribal, and rural just to name a few. Each of them has their own challenges and their own opportunities, their own rewards.
Village Missions tries to identify some of the challenges of rural missions. Once they are identified, we can see how to reach the people of these rural communities. Whats interesting to me is that a number of these challenges all the same solution. Some of the unique characteristics of rural communities, we see that it takes awhile to become a part of the community. Newcomers stay newcomers for many, many years.
When Hope and I arrived at our last field, a month or two after we got there, a guy pulls up in his blazer, introduces himself and as we were talking, he mentions that he is still considered the new guy, having “only” lived in town for 15 years.
In many rural communities and small town, family and social connections go back generation upon generations. Everyone knows everyone else. People come and go, but family sticks around. It’s not uncommon, and we have heard it in our short time here, for the thought towards newcomers to be, “How long til this guy leaves?”
And we know that question doesn’t come out of nowhere. There is a reason that question is common. People come and go. IT takes a while to make a difference. It takes a while to gain and earn trust. It takes awhile to show the people of communities that you truly do love them.
There’s a saying that “People dont care how much you know until they know how much you care.” And showing you care takes time. So when Village Missions places Missionary Pastor into these communities, the idea is for them, for us, for Hope and I, for all the couples that are a part of VM, to be a part of the community, to be there for a long time, to show the People that we are committed to them and that we love them. Preach the Word and Love the People.
Another challenge in reaching the people in rural areas is that many people have moved out from the city, from the suburbs, and many of them have moved because they don’t want to be known or found. In many of these communities, it is really not a good idea to start going door to door, up random driveways.
To meet and get to know people who don’t want to be found, it takes time and presence. Just being around, a part of the community. The church being a presence in the community. Think about what this church has done or is doing to help Bangor. The fire relief, Commodities, used to have AA meetings here, weddings and funerals, even open doors and a listening ear. Those things make a difference. They show people that the church is open, for one. They show people that we are here to serve, to show the love of Christ, to be the arms and the feet and earn a hearing with them so that we can share the Gospel with them.
The last unique thing about rural communities and rural churches especially that I will share is that feuds and loyalties run deep and last seemingly forever. When there are very few churches around, or, as in many Village Missions fields, only one church, it is guaranteed that you will talk to people who wont go to the church because of something that happened years and years ago, sometimes with the church, sometimes with someone else in the community who happens to attend the church. Often times, in these feuds, the initial cause isn’t even remembered years later. But loyalties and feuds run deep.
This works the other way as well. We have some people here who attended when this building was built. We have people whose parents, maybe even grandparents attended Bangor Community Church. The problem comes in when, as is so common in America especially, the Bible Belt and rural communities especially, is cultural Christianity. My folks went to church, my grandma took me to Sunday School, so I’m good. I raised my hand, I prayed a prayer, I walked down an aisle, but with no real relationship with Christ.
Showing people what real, true, biblical Christianity is can take time as well. We get entrenched in our beliefs. We assume there is no more to learn, or no need to learn more. Bible Studies, one on one discipleship, the teachings her on Sunday mornings, all are ways to show the truth of what the Bible actually says. Combined with fellowship, potlucks, work party’s, generally living our lives with each other, walking through the ups and downs of life, as the bible says, bearing each others burdens. Preach the Word and Love the People.
That is the call and mission of all believers. Missions in one form or another. You are a missionary to your family, to your coworkers, your neighbors, your community. Many of you will never be called to pick and go somewhere else to be a “missionary.” But you can still be, and should be involved in missions. Thew two ways that works itself out is through prayer and through financial support.
Now, a couple of things about financial support. First, God calls us to give. He calls us not to give begrudgingly, not to give out of obligation, but to give cheerfully and sacrificially. Our giving is to be considered as a part of our worship.
Now, if you are not a believer, this does not apply. If you are not a believer, you do not worship God so giving is not a part of your worship. If you are a believer, your first commitment is to your home church, wherever that is.
After you have cheerfully and sacrificially given to your home church, if God has blessed you and called you to give above that, I ask that you consider giving to missions. If you have missionaries that you know, or an orginazation that you believe in and trust, give to them. If you don’t know where to start, I humbly submit Village Missions for your consideration.
You can give generally to the mission, you can go online, look up specific missionaries, you can choose specific churches to give to through Village Missions. You gift, your support of VM allows missionary pastors like me, and their families to be placed in these rural communities, in these small towns to ensure that there is a gospel presence, that there is a light in the darkness that is enveloping the our country today.
The prayer part if it may seem obvious and we try to make it as simple as possible for you. One way you can pray is by praying for the Missionary Spotlight of the week that we put in the bulletin each week. Village Missions also puts out Stories from the Field. These are stories sent in from Village Missionaries from around the country showing how God is moving in their churches and their communities. This is usually monthly and when I receive them, I post them on one of those back bulletins boards. Vms quarterly newsletter also gets set on that back ta\ble when it comes in. I encourage you to grab one and read through it, seeing what is happening. Lastly, you can sign up for emails, or like them on Facebook and they will send prayer requests or share updated information with you through that method.
Ultimately, if nothing else, what I want you to leave today remembering is that salvation is only found in a true, biblical faith in Jesus Christ as our LORd and our savior from sin. Romans says that faith comes by hearing, hearing through the Word of God. All of it is ia gift of God, not of ourselves, so that no one may boast. We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the Glory of God alone, as revealed by the scriptures alone. And how are they supposed to hear the Gospel, the Word of God, the scriptures, unless someone is there to tell them. It is the Gospel that saves. The Gospel that changes lives, the frees us from our sins. It is the Gospel that brings us out of the jaws of death and into the eternal life that is the loving arms of God the Father.
We are going to close by watching a brand new video from Village Missions, highlighting one of those changed lives and the role that Village Missionaries and the churches they partner played in that life change. Thank you

 

 

Hope to the Hopeless from Village Missions on Vimeo.

 

Romans 8:18-25 Waiting with a Purpose

Romans 8:18-25

Our hope is our Assurance

Good Morning! Go ahead and turn in your Bibles to Romans chapter 8. As you hear every week here, If you do not own a Bible, please let us gift one to you from the table in the back. Please take one if you do not have one.

So, we are continuing through Romans chapter 8 this week. Paul is establishing our identity, who we are in Christ, who the Holy Spirit is and what His ministry is. He is establishing what God has promised and assured us of and what we can expect to see coming up in our Christian walk.

Last week, we established that those who know Christ, those that have been changed by the Holy Spirt, Christians have been given the right to be called children of God. And with that, God is our father. And with that, as our Father, and as Perfect and true in all forms and senses, once were are in Gods arms, he will never let us go. Romans 8:16 & 17, the end of what we looked at last week, Paul tells us: 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.

We are given a promise, an inheritance now, that we will receive in the future, at the right and proper time. But, in the mean time, for a variety of reasons, some of which we touched on last week, we will endure suffering. That suffering, those trials, the things that we are dealing with every day, Paul is going to tell us later in this chapter that it will all work together for Gods glory and that it will help conform us to Jesus’ image. But that doesn’t always help us in the moment as much as it is supposed to. Paul is going to remind us that our focus is not to be on this world, but on God and his Glory in eternity.

Lets go ahead and read this mornings text. Ill be reading Romans chapter 8, verses 18-25, and Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. Romans 8:18-25, Paul writes:

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.

Pauls first point here is that, yes, there are sufferings, there is pain in this present world. Some of the things we have touched on over the last couple of weeks that manifest this pain and suffering include, but are not limited to spiritual warfare between the enemy and his forces and God and his forces. It includes times when God disciplines us, either punishing us for things done wrong, or, and I think more often than that, growing us in discipline, disciplining our bodies to be conform onto the image of his Son, to grow in holiness and sanctification. It includes the evil of people and things around us having an effect on us, due to nothing that we have done. It includes the consequences to good and bad decisions, results of our sin and persecution and mockery for our holiness. All of those and more fall into the fact that we do indeed experience pain, suffering and troubles in this world.

But Paul says its not all bad news…And he is certainly not dismissing the pain and the struggles. What he is saying is that whatever it is that each one of us is going through, no matter how bad it is, no matter how tough things seem to be, how infinitely greater it will be when we get to eternity future and get to spend it reigning and ruling along side our co-heir, Christ Jesus, the King of Kings, the LORD of Lords.

Humanity got a glimpse of this, to what extent, we honestly dont know, but we got a glimpse of this in the Garden of Eden. God created, God spoke creation into perfect existence. Scripture records that after God created different aspects, It was good. When God created Adam and Eve, they were made perfectly in his image and likeness. Creation, including mankind, was made to perfectly reflect his glory and his majesty.

But, as we know, from the Bible of course, but also, just by opening our eyes and looking around us, humanity and creation do not stay in this perfect, glorified state. Sin came and brought death, corruption, entropy, decay, imperfection.

We became sinful and we fell from Gods favor. We lost all righteousness. We spent the past 7 plus chapters looking at the results of the moment in Genesis 3 that Adam and Eve sin in their lack of faith in God and his Word. And people go back and forth. People try to have both sides. They want to believe that people are generally and naturally good. That left to their own devices, people will do the right thing. The Bible says thats wrong. Paul has pointed out numerous times in this letter that this is wrong. Read chapters1 & 3, its crystal clear. The heart is deceitful above all things.

And so, for 6000 plus years, creation and mankind have failed to fully and rightfully reflect Gods glory and power and have failed to give Him the full honor that He is deserved. And yet, something in creation remembers. Psalm 19:1, David observes and points out, 19 The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Something inside of us knows. It is deep down and sometimes just beyond the edge of our mental awareness, but something in us remembers. We just don’t do anything with it. Way back in Romans 1, Paul writes in verse 18, that by our unrighteousness we suppress the truth.

But the truth is there. And it is known, remembered even. We have a desire to get back to that, though our heart and our mind lie to us about how to get back to that. And so, when we attempt to fix the ails of this world, while listening to our hearts and our mind, we are desiring to build heaven. We are desiring to return to Eden, the perfect utopia that we were created to inhabit. We intrinsically know that this world is wrong, that it is broken and we either try to take advantage of that, the “every man for themselves,” mindset, the survival of the fittest idea of evolution. Do unto others before they do unto you. That’s the broken part of the world. Some people give in to that and give in to the desires of the flesh. That’s how the enemy helps to keep them from examining the brokenness of the world and trying to do something about it.

Others go a different route. Many genuinely see the brokenness of this world, they see inequity, they see injustices, they see systems and processes that are designed to protect those who take advantage of this broken world and its vulnerability. They see these things that are not right and they want to fix them and they fight for those whom they think are being oppressed, where they think they see injustice. This means things like racial inequality, this means businesses and owners oppressing the workers. This means equal rights for all, unless you disagree with these “rights.” This means righting wrongs, whether real or perceived. This stems from a desire to fix the world of its brokenness and recreate the Garden of Eden. The desire that this stems from is there as a remembrance for Genesis 1 & 2. But without God, the one, true God, with the Gospel, with out the redemptive power of Jesus Christ, without the truth being “un suppressed,” by the Holy Spirit, without those things, it is nothing. It is a failure, before it ever gets started. Often, its perceptions of what is right, what is being fought for, and its perception of what is wrong, what is being fought against, those perceptions are just plain wrong. But the desires to remake, to recreate, to bring us back to Eden are there.

CS Lewis wrote, If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

And that’s true. We are made for a different world than this. Partly. I want us to be careful with this. As with many things in the scriptures, if its is misunderstood or misconstrued, it can sound like permission to be unbiblical. We are not here by accident. We are not here simply to wait for Christ to come back. We are not here to wait until we die and then go to Heaven. We are here, right here, right now, to glorify and honor Jesus Christ as LORD and to do the will of the Father.

We are here for a reason. We are to be in the world, not of it, but we are to be in it. God is in control of everything in the world, in the universe and beyond and in control of time and everything else you can think of. He put you right here, right now for a very specific reason. We may or may not know what that very specific reason is, but we can rest assured that it exists. We have a God given purpose, as does creation. So we are created for this world.

But we have also been created for a different world. Not “out there,” or “up there,” but this world, only different. Revelations tells us that in the end, this world will be cleansed by fire, whether thats literal or metaphorical is for a different day, but out of that, God will recreate the world, we will have New Heavens and the New Earth, there will be a New Jerusalem. This world, creation itself, that has been broken and fallen, will be recreated into what it was always, and originally created to be.

But we are not there yet. Creation recognizes it better than we do at times and Paul says, it eagerly waits, it cries out, it groans with labor pains for that moment when we, as adopted children of God, get to redeem our bodies and take hold of our inheritance.

We have talked about that, Already and Not Yet. The tension that this creates. The tendency of us to forget about today, to ignore it and just focus on getting to heave. Or the tendency to forget about eternity and simply focus on living our best lives now.

But one of the terms that Paul uses to describe our longings and waiting and crying out is the pains of childbirth. Having, of course, not experienced this physically, my self, but having been with Hope for 5 births so far, having talked to her about this phrasing, having heard her and other moms, especially among themselves, talking about their experiences, some things about this make more sense than they used to or otherwise would.

One of the things that was explained, maybe expressed would be a better word, hopefully accurately out into my own words, is that labor has a similar tension of the already and the not yet. There is the intense focus on what is going on right there at the moment. There is the inability, and I don’t say that as a bad thing, but the inability to see past that purpose and that moment and reason why God put you in that spot. And there is pain, there is tiredness, there can be frustration. It can, at times, feel like it will never end. I can feel like all the work, all the pushing, is for nothing and its not working. It can feel like there is no progress being made. It can feel that way, In That Moment.

But, God designed this all for a reason, for a purpose. And God has given that purpose to mothers along with the knowledge that, in just a little while, all of it will be over and the mom will be in a euphoric state holding their newborn and, Moms, testify to this, in that moment, holding your baby, the pain that you felt while in labor, and while you were pushing, the pain is completely forgotten. Now, alter as the kid is growing up, terrible twos, not napping, waking up at 4 AM EVERY MORNING, or in their teenage years, hormone riddle, sure, you remember, in your mind, the pain, and you make sure that the kids know what you went through to bring them into this world, but when you are holding your baby, feeding that newborn, seeing their perfect little faces, their perfect little fingers holding onto ours, none of that pain, exhaustion, struggle, none of it exists.  For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

There was a Christian pop rock band when I first became a Christian called Reliant K. In one of their songs, that has stuck with me since I heard it, they are in a conversation with God and their lyrics here could have been inspired by this passage of scripture. Listen to this:

And you said I know that this will hurt
But if I don’t break your heart
Then things will just get worse
If the burden seems too much to bear
Remember the end will justify
The pain it took to get us there

Read more: Relient K – Let It All Out Lyrics | MetroLyrics
https://youtu.be/9rUtyfB6gVU

I love that. God has a purpose for everything that we are going through. Careful, that doesnt mean that everything we are going through is good. We go back to last week. Sometimes is God doing things to discipline or get our attention. But, sometimes, sometimes it is an attack from the enemy. Sometimes, its a result of others sinning against you. Sometimes its a result of our own sin. Not everything we go through is good.

It hurts. Its painful. It breaks us down. It stinks. Out of that all, John Piper sums up this passage with three words; Its Worth It. All that stuff, when we get to see the glory of God that will be revealed to us, It will be forgotten and it will be worth it. We will be redeemed and glorified to the glory of God and not only us, but ALL of creation will also be freed from the corruption and bondage that is here and now because of sin.

Thats what creation is waiting for and thats why we are going through this life. We are in this life for a reason and purpose. We are to make sure that we are focusing on why and where God has placed us. We have jobs to do here in this world, and that job is not to bunker down, with our admission ticket to heaven and wait for Christ to return. Our job is to do the will of God in the community, on the family, in the job or the school where God has placed us.

That might seem like a natural stopping point, but we still have a couple of verses that we haven’t touch on. Lets reread these verses, starting in the second half on verse 23:

we 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.

We finish up this passage with Hope. And our Hope is in the promises that God has made to us, that we are the adoptive sons of God and that, as the sons of God, we will receive the redemption of our bodies. Again, our hope is in the promises of God. Which means that our hope is in the character of God, because if God makes a promise, he will keep it. Our Hope is in what God has done, not what he have or will do. Our hope is in Jesus Christ death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins. For in this hope, we are saved.

Now, Paul uses the word hope very purposefully. Because Hope that is seen is not hope. We are looking forward, we are longing, desiring the promise of God to be fulfilled. We know it will be, it already has, but we are not there yet. We have it already, but not yet. Hope is not a wish. Hope, as used in the Bible, is not used as, I hope this thing happens,” when it might not. Instead hope is the knowledge that it will happen, it just hasn’t yet.

Look around, we don’t hope right now that we are all getting together for worship this morning. We already are gathered together, as a part of Gods family. We hope that next week, we will get together again, for worship and fellowship. We don’t hope that we have the Word of God from which to learn Gods will. We hope that we will encounter and spend eternity with the Word, and the Word was God and the Word is God.

Paul finishes this passage if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. We hope for Jesus to come back. We hope for the new creation. We hope for the redemption of our bodies and of creation and we hope to be eternally in the presence of Gods glory. We don’t see that right now. We see our broken, disease riddled, decaying bodies. We see the broken, sin filled world around us, the injustice, the inequity, the attempts to fix it in our own power and the temptation to take advantage of the brokenness. We see problems in nature. Animals going extinct. Forests burning out of control. Pollution, droughts, smog, all sorts of things.

All of which will disappear when our hopes are realized. All of which will disappear when Christ comes back and this world, creation itself and each and every one of us who are sons of God will be redeemed and created anew. All of which will disappear when Gods promises are kept and fulfilled and he is glorified above all.

We do not yet see what we hope for, and Paul says that we are to eagerly wait for it with patience. Does that sound contradictory to you? On the surface it absolutely does. But to me, it fits. We are here and now, doing the will of God, and we can and should be excited and waiting eagerly for Christ to come back. But we should be waiting eagerly with patience.

One of the things that Hope and I tell the kids, when we are teaching them when they are young, is What is patience. Patience is waiting with a purpose. We can and should eagerly wait, but we do so with a purpose. We eagerly wait while focusing on why we are here. We eagerly wait while fulfilling our purpose. We eagerly wait while doing Gods will and living our lives for his glory. We eagerly wait, and we wait with a purpose. It will be worth it.

Lets Pray

%d bloggers like this: