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

1 Timothy 1:8-11

The Law is Good

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

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

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

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

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

“God wants you to be happy.”

“He has already forgiven all sin.”

“Its not that big of a deal.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The thing that unites us together is the cross of Jesus Christ. Today we pursue that unity by remembering. We remember and celebrate Christ’s death for us, that act on the cross, that act of pure love, grace and goodness. That perfect act of mercy. God holding out his hands to us, disobedient and contrary people.
We remember the sacrifice, the blood shed. We remember what that means to us, as those who have turned to follow Jesus Christ. It means that we have been declared righteous in his sight and we get to spend eternity with Jesus Christ and God the Father.
We often take this time somberly and soberly, because of what it cost Jesus, what he had to go through. But, We celebrate because Jesus is alive and we get to partake in eternal life with him if we chose to follow him.
Now, Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 11 some things about partaking in communion. First of all, this is for those that have made a commitment to Jesus. This is a celebration and remembrance for what he won, what he purchased when he paid the penalty for our sins and rose from the grave. If you have not made that commitment, out of respect, please pass the plate.
Paul also makes it clear that we need to be in the right state of mind, that we need to be honest with ourselves and with God and about our sins.
I greatly encourage you, as we are passing out the items for communion, take that time to talk to God. Make sure you are examining yourself and you are taking it for the right reasons. Again, please do not be afraid to pass the plate along. There will be no glances, no judgments. What is important is for each of us to make sure that we are in right standing with God.
Paul gives us a picture of Communion in 1 Corinthians chapter 11. In verses 23-25 he writes:
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for[f] you. Do this in remembrance of me.”[g] 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
So, what we are going to do here, is Mike and Jim are going to come up here. One will pray for the crackers, which symbolize the broken body of Jesus on the cross. They will pass them out and when we are finished we will take the cracker together as a church family.
Then, the other will pray for the juice, which symbolizes the blood of Christ, shed for the forgiveness of sins. They will pass them out and again, we will take it together as a church family.

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

1 Timothy 1:1-7

Life in the Local Church

Built of Sound Doctrine

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 To Timothy, my true child in the faith:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gods message in the scriptures is often a dual message with one purpose. Malachi shows that as well. Malachi starts with a declaration of the love of God. And it ends with the threat of a curse. Paul writes in Romans 11:22: Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness.

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

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

Malachi 1:6-2:9 pt 2 The Church is a Defender of Truth

Malachi 1:9-2:6 pt 2

The Church is a defender of the Truth

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles and turn with me to the Book of Malachi. If you do not have or own a Bible, please remember to grab a Bible from the back table as our gift to you. One of our missions here at Bangor Community Church is to get the Word of God in the hands of as many people as possible.

So, the book of Malachi is where we are. Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament and is split up in to 6 different sections. Over simplifying, 6 different dialogues that God is having with Israel. We started last week looking at the second and longest of those last week, looking at Malachi chapter 1, verse 6, all the way on through to Malachi chapter 2, verse 9.

We saw how God calls us to put Him first. We are here in church to worship and glorify God first and foremost. If we are not fully focused on God and his glory, then God says, dont bother. Church is a poor hobby. Dont play Church.

And we saw what we are to be, as a practical outpouring of our glorifying God, what we are to be as the church. We are to edify and build up the body of Christ, we are to evangelize those that dont know Jesus Christ, and to disciple those who do, so they grow in the wisdom and knowledge of the LORD. And we are to contend earnestly for the faith.

We are to give God our first and our best, of our time, our money, our thoughts, our actions and our life. God is talking here to Israel in general but also, specifically to the priests, those who are called to do the work of the LORD. They have been dropping the ball, and giving cheap, diseased sacrifices. God is going to remind them of what their calling is.

So, before we jump into that part, we are going to read the text that we are looking at this morning. Again, it is a longer section, the same section we read last week. Malachi 1:6-2:9. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. I do encourage you to follow along in whichever is your preferred translation. So starting in Malachi, chapter 1, verse 6, God, speaking through His prophet, says:

 “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ 7 By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the Lord‘s table may be despised. 8 When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the Lord of hosts. 9 And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? says the Lord of hosts. 10 Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand. 11 For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be[b] great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts. 12 But you profane it when you say that the Lord’s table is polluted, and its fruit, that is, its food may be despised. 13 But you say, ‘What a weariness this is,’ and you snort at it, says the Lord of hosts. You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering! Shall I accept that from your hand? says the Lord. 14 Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the Lord of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations

 “And now, O priests, this command is for you. 2 If you will not listen, if you will not take it to heart to give honor to my name, says the Lord of hosts, then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you do not lay it to heart. 3 Behold, I will rebuke your offspring,[a] and spread dung on your faces, the dung of your offerings, and you shall be taken away with it.[b] 4 So shall you know that I have sent this command to you, that my covenant with Levi may stand, says the Lord of hosts. 5 My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him. It was a covenant of fear, and he feared me. He stood in awe of my name. 6 True instruction[c] was in his mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity. 7 For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people[d] should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. 8 But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the Lord of hosts, 9 and so I make you despised and abased before all the people, inasmuch as you do not keep my ways but show partiality in your instruction.”

So, I mentioned last week too, that specifically God is talking to the priests of Israel. Those who were called to teach the law, to run the temple, to perform the sacrifices, those who are to serve God and spread the Word and his Will throughout the nations. And so, that may seem like it means that he is not talking to us, that he is only talking to a certain segment today.

However, we read in 1 Peter 2:9, that this includes us, as Peter writes:  But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

God created this world with order, not chaotically, not randomly. He created things to go in a certain order and to work in a systematic way. It started as a paradise, but man sinned and chaos was brought into the world. Thats why the world is as it is today, because of our sin and disobedience. Because we are totally depraved. We have a sin nature that enslaves and control us.

But God is a graceful God. He is a God who cares about his creation. So he has poured his grace on the entire world. Some of that is whats called common grace. This is all of the good things that we see around us. God is still giving blessings to the world around us.

This is everything from rain to help plants grow, swamp coolers and Air Conditioning. This is the colors that we see around us, the beauty of nature. This is pet dogs and our favorite books or movies. This is art in general, this is way that our favorite food tastes. This is our friendships and our marriages and our relationships. This is everything Good and lovely in this world. And this includes the revelation of how to live right and the standard of our Holy and Perfect God.

And then there is specific, special grace. This is what God pours out on those whom he calls to believe in him and to save from the consequences of our sin. And it is only through the grace of God that we get this. He chooses to pour his specific, saving grace through the vehicle of faith, and only faith that is in God’s Son, Jesus Christ.

God is very clear in His Word. There is only one way and there is only two choices. Salvation by God is through his grace alone. Jesus shows us the two destinations possible in his parable of the Goats and the Sheep in Matthew 25. Starting in verse 31, he says:

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

These sheep are those whom he has called, those whom he has poured his saving grace out on. Those who have turn to him in faith, trusting in Jesus Christ to forgive them of their sins and repenting of their sins. The sheep are those whom He calls His children.

He continues on down in verse 41, speaking to the Goats:

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

This is referring to those who have not turned to Him. Those who trust in themselves or any other god rather than the One true God. Those who think that they can be righteous enough, or can be holy enough. These are those who, as Paul puts it in Romans chapter 1:18, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. The Truth of Scripture and of who God is is made plain and clear by God through His creation. We have no excuse for not recognizing the truth except that our own rebellious, unrighteous attitudes reject the truth for what we want the truth to be instead.

And one of the biggest points that is made by Jesus in the parable is that these are the only two options. There is no partially saved. There is no temporarily saved. There is no used to be saved. You are saved by grace through faith in Christ or you are not. Period.

We looked last week at the sufficiency of Scripture. How we are to defend the doctrine that as Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:16 & 17:  All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God[b] may be complete, equipped for every good work.

We looked at that the Word of God is the foundational book and rock that we can base our faith on and how it is when we get away from the truth of scripture that we fall into heresy, blasphemy, apostasy, compromise, and so much more. Gods word is living and active, sharper than any two edged sword. Hebrews 4:12. Nothing is more important, or helps us stay In the truth or focused on God more than defending and affirming the Word of God.

One of the most important, if not THE most important truths contained in the Word of God is the exclusivity of Christ, the need that we have for a savior and that Christ is the only savior.

And one of our jobs as the church, as a royal priesthood is to defend that truth. We are to share that truth. We are to help as many people as possible know that truth. And we need to remember to do so out of and with love. We can say the right things, we can say the exact words of the Bible, but if we are not speaking the truth in love, we are wrong.

Speaking the truth in and with love is very different than compromising the truth. We need to hold firm to the truth. We need to grab Jesus and the Bible with both hands and go full speed ahead. But, one of the most common reasons we start speaking the truth in the wrong way is that we are frustrated that people don’t get it. Or because we want them to see the truth so bad. Or whatever the motivation, it can typically be narrowed down to not trusting God to take care of the results. We are called to be faithful and God is called to take care of the results.

In Chapter 2 of Malachi, God tells the priests about being faithful to what God has called them to. And he points out the difference between true, obedient priests, and the false priests who fail to obey the commands of God.

In Malachi 2, verses 2 & 3:

If you will not listen, if you will not take it to heart to give honor to my name, says the Lord of hosts, then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you do not lay it to heart. 3 Behold, I will rebuke your offspring,[a] and spread dung on your faces, the dung of your offerings, and you shall be taken away with it.[b]

One of the things we need to make sure we remember is the order that these things transpire. We are either sheep or goats. That determination is the first thing. Are we children of God or are we not? First, Gods grace is poured out in us and we repent of our sins and we turn to Christ. Then we receive the blessings that come with it. Also after we become a child of God, we are able to follow and obey his commands.

Without Gods saving grace, without the Holy Spirit changing us from the inside and regenerating us, we are not able to obey God. Hebrews 11:6, And without faith it is impossible to please him. So, without faith, we are the Goats, to be cursed, to be thrown into the eternal fire. If we do not honor his name, which can only be done through true spiritual worship that comes through faith, than God will send curses down on us.

But, if we come through faith and enter into covenant with God, he says in Malachi 2, verse 5 & 6: My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him. It was a covenant of fear, and he feared me. He stood in awe of my name. 6 True instruction[c] was in his mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity.

Life, peace, full of awe towards Him. Jesus says that he came to give us life and life abundantly. John 10:10 And John says towards the end of his Gospel, John 20:31, these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

True instructions are to be in our mouths. We are to speak the truth. We have to know our Bible, and now it in context in order to do this. Right doctrine matters. Gods Word matters. I love this quote by Jared Wilson:

The Bible is so revealing, so penetrating, so calibrating, so explanatory and upending. The Bible is God himself telling us the what, where, when, why, and how of everything that ultimately and eternally matters.

Malachi 2:7 says:  For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people[d] should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. Again, thats every believer. We are a royal priesthood. And we are called, both individually and as a corporate group, as a church gathering, to guard knowledge. Not to keep it away from others, on the contrary, to make sure that right knowledge is passed out to all.

Let me ask this. Those that have been a Christian for longer periods of time, Do you guard knowledge? And do people ask you for instruction? I think we can bring this around to discipleship and mentorship. Titus chapter 2 says that the older are to teach the younger.

This is not exclusively referring to age, bit to maturity in the LORD and his word. Are you teaching those newer in the faith, those who are curious or have questions, are you sharing true, biblical knowledge and instruction with them? Are you able? Or do you need to spend time in the Word and with someone sharing knowledge and instruction with you?

Want to know a secret? We should always be in both camps. As you grow and mature in the faith, you should be looking for those around you whom you can invest in and you can teach, once you have a solid foundation in Gods Word.

Once you become a Christian, you should never not be learning and growing. You should be seeking our fellow Christians, brothers and sisters, depending on the context, who are willing to teach, to invest in you. Who are willing and able, thats important too, to guard knowledge and share it with you and to share right instruction with you, helping you grow in wisdom and knowledge of the LORD. That should never stop, no matter how long you have been a Christian. There will always be someone more mature, some one who knows more, and even if you dont recognize it, someone who you can learn from.

Now, you should not start mentoring and discipling someone else as soon as you become a Christian. When you start out, you take time to sit under right biblical teaching and learn from those who have gathered and acquired a lifetime of biblical, godly, knowledge.

And all this plays into, how do we know what teaching, what knowledge and what wisdom is right to give and right to listen to. It all comes back to the Bible and what it says about Jesus Christ.

False teachers never accurately portray who Jesus Christ is. They either diminish or demean Jesus humanity or his deity. These can be subtle. These teachings can be hard to notice at first. But if you look and use the Bible to test the spirits, to test all things by scripture, even bible verses that are quoted, the fruit will become apparent. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Matthew 7:17 & 18.

If and when we see teachings that say things like Jesus was just a man while here in earth, That should be a red flag. That start can lead to many different endings, but as you may have learned in school, a faulty premise always leads to a faulty conclusion. Its false and unbiblical and cuts away saving faith. Or if you here that Jesus was God, be only appeared to be a man. This is wrong too. He was truly God and Truly Man. Thats part of why it could only be Him that had the ability to be our savior. If you hear that Jesus mission, his main purpose, his goals and his priorities were anything other than to save sinners, then run. This could even be things that sound good. But the Gospel is simple, God became man to save sinners. Anything else is a false Gospel.

The Gospel is not physical healing. The Gospel is not miraculous signs and winners. The Gospel is not being happy, or being wealthy, or being healthy. The Gospel is not you testimony. The Gospel is not our political sides winning. The Gospel is not our nationality or ethnicity. The Gospel is not living moral, good upstanding lives. The Gospel is not being on the right side of History. The Gospel is not equality. Those are false Gospels. What does Paul say about these? Galatians 1:6-9:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

Heres why those things are able to get a foothold even though they are false Gospels. Because often, the can be a result of the true Gospel. When the true Gospel is preached and received, it can, at times, as a secondary matter, result in healing, or miracles, or equality, or prosperity, or whatever. But it is not promised, necessary or required. And the reverse is true to. If that is absent, it does not mean that the Gospel is absent as well.

False teachers wont hear this. If you point out false teaching or false Gospels, it is highly likely that you will be called divisive, that you are fostering disunity or that you are dividing up the body of Christ. But God points out here that it is the False teachers that are divisive.

Malachi 2:8 & 9:

But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the Lord of hosts, 9 and so I make you despised and abased before all the people, inasmuch as you do not keep my ways but show partiality in your instruction.”

Our job as the church is to defend the truth. Our job as the church, both individually and as a group, is to be a pillar, a buttress of truth, as Paul says in 1 Timothy 3:15. We are to know Gods Word, trust Gods Word and preach Gods Word. We are to share Gods Word and leave the results with him. We have the word of God, the sword of the spirit and thats all we need.

Ill leave you with a Charles Spurgeon Quote, The Word of God is like a lion. You don’t have to defend a lion. All you have to do is let the lion loose, and the lion will defend itself.

Lets Pray.

Malachi 1:1-5 Gods love is Unbreakable

Malachi 1:1-5
No Doubting Gods Love

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to the Minor Prophet, Malachi. He is the last book in the Old Testament. If you do not have or own a Bible, please help yourself to one from the back table there as our gift to you.
So, does it feel weird not to be turning to Romans? So as some of you may already know, my philosophy in preaching is to preach Line by Line, Verse by Verse through books of the Bible, what’s called Expository Preaching. My ideal is to alternate between New Testament books and Old testament books. We just finished Romans, which is in the New Testament and so now, we are going to go through Malachi, a book in the Old Testament. This will be a shorter(ish) series, at least that’s my plan, and no, I don’t yet know where we will go after Malachi.
This week, we will look at the first verses in Malachi, but even before that we will introduce ourselves to this book of the Bible, grouped with the so called minor prophets. So, some background first.
The name, Malachi means ‘Gods Messenger.” Now, because of this, there is some debate as to whether Malachi is a title or a name in this instance. For me, I will always lean towards the historical answer, or in this case, I will always believe it is a name as opposed to a title unless and until there is compelling evidence to the contrary.
Regardless, Malachi is a messenger of God. He wrote down the oracles, the words that God gave to him. Historically, timeline-wise, he is a contemporary of Ezra and Nehemiah. Its likely though not guaranteed, coming along towards the end of their ministries of rebuilding the temple and the wall and reestablishing Gods Word and a remembering of Gods covenant among the Jews coming back from Exile.
And we are going to see that Gods covenant is one of the major themes throughout Malachi. Gods covenant, his Word is unchanging, it is unbreakable. It is the same, just as God him self is, yesterday, today and tomorrow. And Gods covenant does not go away. God is faithful even when we are not. And not only that, but God is faithful, especially when we are not. He is Holy, Holy, Holy and all that that entails. Gods faithfulness and our lack of faithfulness will be on full display in this book.
Again, this is the last book in the Old Testament. After God finishes speaking to Malachi, it ushers in the 400 years of silence. God stops speaking to and through the prophets. John the Baptist and at almost the exact same time, Jesus of Nazareth broke the silence and ushered in the New Testament time. Hebrews 1:1 & 2 speaks to this, saying,
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 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.
We don’t have prophets anymore. John the Baptist was the last of what are considered the Old Testament prophets. And from then on, God spoke to us through his Son, The Word made Flesh, The Word of God, Jesus Christ. And his Words are what we have written in our hands, in the Bible you are holding. Every word in the Bible is the Words of Christ.
The Book of Malachi has a unique style to it. It is written in a “disputational” style. Not to be mistaken with dispensational, which is a theology system specifically regarding the end times. But this back and forth disputation style is like a dialogue between God and the people of Israel.
There are 6 of those in this book and the plan is that we are going to follow them in our series, so 6 sermons through Malachi. This first one, we will be looking at Malachi, chapter 1, verses 1-5. So I will read our text for this morning, and I will be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please follow along in your preferred translation while I read. Again, Malachi, chapter 1, verses 1-5.
Malachi, The prophet of God writes:
The oracle of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi.[a]
2 “I have loved you,” says the Lord. But you say, “How have you loved us?” “Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob 3 but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.” 4 If Edom says, “We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins,” the Lord of hosts says, “They may build, but I will tear down, and they will be called ‘the wicked country,’ and ‘the people with whom the Lord is angry forever.’” 5 Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, “Great is the Lord beyond the border of Israel!”

God starts off with a simple, concise, clear statement. “I have loved you.” The people of Israel, however, didnt feel this was true. When you read all that they had been through over the previous 500 years or so, they felt like there was no way that God could love them. Their country was split in two. Each one, at seperate times was conquered and taken into captivity. Even before that, they were constantly being invaded, oppressed and attacked by their neighbor countries. Even more immediate to when this was written, Ezra came back, brought many Israelites with him and they started rebuilding Jerusalem. There were some complications there, to put it mildly if you read through the book of Ezra. Nehemiah came back and rebuilt the wall around Jerusalem but also had some problems. And if that timing is correct, that this was written and prophecied towards the end of Ezra’s and Nehemiah’s ministries, than the Israelites would not yet have been fully restored to their home back in Israel. It would have still been on ongoing process.
The Israelites didnt see the blessings, the Israelites didnt see the proof of Gods love. They only saw the negative. They only saw what they felt. And so this book starts off with the clear truth that we need to hear. God has loved you.
The Word of God is clear. It is what it is and it says what it says. There is no ambiguity and there is no grey area here. God gives a factual, true statement. The truth of Gods word is not dependant on how we feel. We may not always feel that God loves us, just like the Israelites didnt feel like God loved them. But that doesnt make it any less true.
Gods word, both written and spoken, means exactly what it says. And we have it here written down. We have the written Word of God. Israel didnt have it written down, all ready for them. They hear from God through the prophets. Now the words of those prophets are written down and they are just as clear as they were then. (Clearer if you understand the context of the New Testament being the fulfillment of the Testament and, as we have learned in our Bibliology class, The New is in the Old Concealed, the Old is in the New Revealed. This means simply that if there are things we dont understand in the Old testament, then the New Testament will speak to it and explain it.)
Gods Word, as revealed then and as written down is true, it is complete, it is comprehensive and it is sufficient. Because of all that, it is also Final.
So, at this point in History, Israel does not feel the Love from God. Their response to Gods Word was to question it based on their feelings and disbelief. They dont believe what God is saying. “I have loved you,” says the Lord. But you say, “How have you loved us?”
Have you noticed that we all go through different and difficult times, times when we feel removed from God. We all have times where we are not seeing him work, not seeing the evidence of God around us. During times like those, we are spiritualy weaker. We get extra aggitated. We take offenses easier. We give offenses easier. We are more prone to giving in to sin and temptation. When we either feel temptations more and more or when we give in and sin, it exacerbates the problem and we feel Gods presence and love less and less.
But we have a factual anchor to keep us safe in the storms of life when our feelings are blowing us all over the place. Gods Word says that if you are in Christ, you are loved. Period. Those who are in a covenant relationship with God, those whom he has foreknown & predestined, those whom he has called by his grace, to believe, through faith, in his Son, Jesus Christ, and repent of their sins, to those God says, I love you.
Now, the Israelites during the time of Malachi did not know who Jesus was. He had not come down from Heaven, born a baby, truly God and Truly man. But, they knew that God had promised a savior and a messiah. They knew he was coming and they knew that Gods promises would be fulfilled. We read through Hebrews 11 and we see that in the Old Testament, those who, as Hebrews 11:2, puts it, “received their comendation,” received it through faith. Faith in the One True God and faith in the coming savior and Messiah. They had faith in Christ, even though they had not yet seen him. They too, were under a Convenant of Grace. And the vehicle God has designated to pour out his grace is through that faith, the same faith that was counted to Abraham as rightoeusness is the same faith that saves us today. Faith in Christ alone.
But because not everyone has that saving faith in Jesus Christ, Gods love, his saving love is not received by everybody. We need to remember that Gods language, his definitions differ from what our society and our feelings want words to mean. God loved the world, loved the world so much that he sent his one and only son to die for the sins of the world. God is a God of Love. God is Love. God is perfect and complete. But that doesnt mean that Love is the only thing that God is and it doesnt mean that love is God.
Within our Good and Perfect and Holy and Complete God, also exists hatred. God hates sin. He says here, Jacob I loved, but Esau I have hated. Thats hard for us to understand and believe and accept. But its there in the Bible, in his Words, in Black and White. And so he have to do something with this. We have to try to understand what God means by this.
There will be two parts of this that we will look at. First is the definition and the use of the word hate, and second, what is God saying here in Malachi? So I looked up in Bible dictionaries and all that what the root word, what the word “hate” meant in the original languages and definitions and its not good news.
The word simply means hate in the dictionary, but it can also be translated as enemies, or foes, so there is an advesarial role that plays into this. There is a tendency to simplify and say that when God hates, it is simply that he loves less. There are times in the Bible where the word hate is used this way. Specifically with Jacob hating Leah but loving Rachel. But that is not the entirety of the definition of this word, hate. We see for example in the the New Testament, one of the words translated “hate,” means to “hate, detest or persue with hatred.”
Gods hatred is not tame. It is a perfect and complete hatred as well. It does us no good to water down his hatred. But we do need to balance it and contrast it with his perfect and complete love. For us, when we say we hate someone or something, it either means that we dont particularly care for it, or more likely, its filled with mean spiritedness and we wish bad, we wish ill will for those whom our hate is directed at.
But on Gods end, its not mean spirited, his hate and the consequences there of are a part of his perfect love and justice. They are a part of his perfect grace and mercy. Due to our natural, sinful nature, our sinful rebellion against God, we are justly in his wrath. That is what we deserve, what we are due. Because God is God, he can do this but at that point we are on the receiving end of both Gods love and his hatred. We do know that Paul wrote in Romans 5:8: God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
For those he hates, for those outside of Christ, God withholds his grace and his mercy. For those outside of Christ are on the receiving end of Gods wrath and judgement. Esau and his descendants, mentioned here in Malachi, they are no more because Gods mercy and saving grace where withheld from them. Because they chose to not live and obey through faith.
And we need to remember that it wasnt that God took away his love, his grace, his mercy, but instead that he pours those things out on whom he choses. When his specific, intentional, saving grace and love are poured out on a sinner, we are unable to resist the call and draw of God and his love, grace and mercy. And it is only through that love of God poured out on us, allowing is to have faith in Christ, that lets us respond in faith and repentence. Without that saving fatih, Gods saving grace, we will go the way of Esau. Hebrews 11:6 says that without faith it is impossible to please God. Those whom God hates wll not prosper, not in eternity. Those whom God loves, the specific, saving love, will be with him and will have Gods perfect wrath and judgment pass over them.

But I also want to look at the context of what God is telling Israel here in these first few verses of the book of Malachi. God says, I have loved you. They dont see it and say how have you loved us? Essentially, God is saying, in a more perfect and loving way than I am know, “If you dont think I love you, see what happens to those whom I hate.” Him bringing up Esau and the fact that his descendants are no more is him saying, I dont hate you, I love you and this is part of the proof of the difference.
And again, we have this factual, tangible proof, then, through the words of the prophet who spoke the words of God, and now, through the words of God written down in the Bible, that God does indeed love us. Regardless of our feelings. Regardless of what we are able to see. Regardless of our current or past circumstances. God loves us.
Becasue of Gods love and because of Gods judgment, our previously closed eyes to the wonders and works of God, are now open. If we see the works of God in our lives and around us in the world, we will shout out and exclaim how great God is. “Great is the LORD beyond the border of Israel!”
God, the one True God, the God of the Bible, The Father, the Son, The Holy Spirit, God is not just the God if Israel, as many in the Old Testament world thought of him, but is the God of Heaven and Earth, the God of all creation, The God of each and every one of us. He is the God of not just a small group of people but of who so ever shall believe.
This is where we see that Christianity, the worlds one true religion, is both the most inclusive and the most exclusive religion in the world. Christianity is exclusive in this sense. Only those who walk through the narrow door that is Jesus Christ are saved and welcomed in to the family of God, to be called his children. There is no other way, there is no other path, there is no other door to walk through that leads to the one true God. Jesus says in John14:6, “I am the Way, the Truth, the Life. No one comes to the Father exceot through me.”
But as exclusive as Christianity is, it is also the most inclusive religion. It is inclusive in that though the path is narrow and there is only one door, the invitation to walk that path, the walk through that door, the invitation to believe and repent is giving to every single person in the world. We just finished going through Pauls letter to the Romans, and what was one of his main points? Your background does not matter. Your ethnicity does not matter. Your ppast sins dont matter. Your previous religious or spiritual beliefs dont matter. Your parents and grandparents dont matter. Your church attendence and your morality dont matter. Your politics dont matter. Everyone is invited to come to saving faith in Jesus Christ.

God is sovereign over those who believe and those who dont. God is sovereign over heaven and hell. God is sovereign over those who he loves and those whom he hates. His grace, his love and his mercy are all poured out, ultimately, to bring glory to himself. His wrath and his judgment, his hatred, are ultimately poured out to bring glory to himself.
See, thats another part of Gods love and hatred that we havent yet mentioned. God is holy. The scriptures say he is Holy, Holy, Holy. He hates what goes against his nature. He hates what and who sins against him. He hates what takes away from his rightful glory. He hates what is not Holy, Holy, Holy.
If it were not for the sacrifice, the shed blood of Jesus Christ, he would hate us. And yet, there is what is called a Great Exchange. When Christ gave his life and took on the punishment for our sins, he only was able to do so because of his perfect righteousness. With no sin of his own, he took Gods wrath and punishment for our sins on himself. In exchange, those who repnet of their sins and turn in faith to Jesus Christ, we receive his perfect righteousness. We receive the forgiveness of sins, so that when we all stand before God at the end, and we will all stand before before God in judgement at the end, when we do, He will either see and judge uw for our sin or he will see and judge us for being wrapped up in Christs righteousness. Both outcomes speak to his glory.
That doesnt make earthly sense, does it? That doesnt make worldy sense, that punishing people, that judgment and wrath, that Hell can speak to the glory of God. But what is hell? A common response, that sounds real good, is that Hell is simply seperation from God. And that would be an extreme punishment, thats for sure. And there may be aspects of that, in regards to God withholding his love, grace and mercy.
But heres what society and much of the Christian church forget. Hell is not where Satan rules supreme. God doesnt send us to a spot where Satan rules over us. God rules over Hell just as much as he rules over Heaven. God is the God of Heaven and Hell. And he is a holy God. Sin goes against his holiness and therefore it is to the glory of gods holiness to punish sin.
And of course, Gods saving grace and mercy, through faith in Christ, show the glory of God, who changes hearts of stone to hearts of flesh. Who brings us from death to life. That is all done to and shows the might and supremem Glory of God.
Now, again, we dont always feel or see this. But we can stand on the Solid Rock of Christ and his word. We can stand on the promises of God our Savior. RC Sproul says I don’t always feel His presence. But God’s promises do not depend upon my feelings; they rest upon His integrity.
If we are living for the Glory of God. If his love and mercy have been poured out on us, making us children of God. Then the simple and clear fact is that, whether we feel it or not, whether we think it or not and whether we believe it or not, the simple and clear fact is “I have loved you,” says the Lord.

Lets Pray

Romans 13:8-10 Love fulfills the Law

Romans 13:8-10
Love fulfills the Law

Good Morning. Lets grab our Bibles and turn in them to Romans chapter 13. As a reminder, if you do not own a Bible, we have some on the back table as our gift to you. We are indeed back in Romans after a kind of, sort of, not really, detour last week.
Paul here, in his letter to the churches in Rome has been showing what being a follower of Christ practically looks like. Right application and right action necessarily come from right understanding of doctrine. And Right understanding of doctrine should lead to right application and action.
But just simply having the right doctrine and the right application, might not be enough. In order for the doctrine to be put into practice, our heart needs to be changed. In order for our actions to be rooted in right doctrine, we need the right motivation. And that is one of the things that we are going to see Paul talk about this morning.
This section, chapters 12 & 13, are one big thought by Paul, following up on his long, extended treatise on the Christian doctrine and faith, from chapters 1 through 11. Pastor Ligon Duncan reminds us of the connective thought process Paul has been developing over the last two chapters, as he says:
This whole section of Romans in chapter 12 and chapter 13 is Paul’s fleshing out of what it means to live your life in light of the realities that you are to be a living sacrifice to the Lord as your spiritual service of worship. This is what it means to put your life on the altar. It’s what it means to die for the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s what it means to live the whole of life as an act of worship.
(https://www.fpcjackson.org/resource-library/sermons/a-call-to-fulfill-the-law-through-love)

So, with that said, we look at our verses from this week, Romans 13:8-10. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version, and please follow along in whatever version you have with you. Romans 13:8-10, Paul writes:
8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

So, right away here, Paul continues on from verse 7 and follows it up in verse 8. Summing up, verse 7, Paul told us to give to everyone what is owed to them. He went into the specifics about some of the ways that looks like. Taxes, revenue, honor and respect. And here, he writes out the general principle. All of those things fall under how we treat each other and how we treat each other falls under the heading of love.
We know the Great Commission, Matthew 28:19 & 20:
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[b] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
However, we often forget about the great commandment. This is what we looked at last week in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Remember in Luke 10, Jesus asks the lawyer, starting in verse 26, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
Love God and Love your neighbor. This is the Great Commandment. All other commands, principles, and applications fall under these umbrellas. And Paul says that here in verse 9, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
There are a couple of aspects that flow out of what Paul is saying here. Two main ones actually. The first is that all are owed love. We are to owe no one anything except love. This has to come from some place. If we are owed something, it implies something. If we are owed something, it implies that we deserve it. If we deserve it, our minds imply that we did something to deserve it. If we are owed love, it implies that we are loveable.
We know by reading Romans specifically and the bible in General that we are, indeed not lovable. Thats the whole beautiful thing about the Gospel, about what God the Father sent God the Son to do, to love us when we were at our most unlovable. And when we become followers and children of God, through the Power of the God the Holy Spirit, we are to love all those around us who are unlovable. By that still implies that there is a reason for us to love those who are unlovable. And there is.
Imago Dei. Genesis 1:27 tells us So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. We, as in all of us, as in all human beings ever, as in people. We were all created in the image of God. We were made reflecting the glory and image of God. We are evidence of the reality of God. That does not mean that we are all children of God, that we are all followers of Christ or that we all will go to heaven. But we were all created in His image and therefore, through Gods goodness, and nothing we have done, we are all worthy of the dignity and respect, and In this context, love that comes with being made in his image.
As we saw last week, neighbor is not a limited term. It is everyone. That includes all of our enemies. It includes our religious enemies. It includes our political enemies. It includes our personal enemies. It includes our workplace enemies. It includes our friends. It includes our family. It includes each other in this very room. Each of those categories is our neighbor and we are commanded to love them. None of those categories is easy to love.
DA Carson says that Christians are a band of natural enemies who love one another for Jesus’ sake.” Think about this, Any group, any association you have, any friends, you all spend time together because there are common interests. You get to know people and you spend time with them, “Hey, you like horses? I like horses! You like working on cars? I like working on cars! You like knitting or crocheting? I like knitting or crocheting!” There is a common bond that brings us together.
Now look around this room. We are here together whether we have anything in common or not. We look around this room and we are all different. If we have things in common, great! Added bonus! The Bible says that we don’t need anything in this world in common. Jesus tells us that he is enough.
We talked last week about loving those we don’t like, those who we don’t know. But we need to remember to love one another, even when and especially when its hard and especially when we don’t want to.
The Apostle John writes in his second letter:
And now I ask you, dear lady—not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another. 6 And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it. (2 John 5&6)
He reiterates the Great Commandment. He points out how we are supposed to be with one another. Peter writes that love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8) We are brothers and sisters in Christ, those of us who are children of God. We are family. Think about your family. Nobody can get on your nerves, nobody can irritate you more than your brothers and sisters. You know its true. But they are still family and there are few that we love as much as or more than our family.
The same with our church family. I’m sure there are people in this room that can, at times, annoy us, grate on us, do things we don’t particularly care for. Thais a part of life on earth. Anytime you gather a group of people together in a room, there is 0 chance that at some point, there wont be something that happens in that room where one, two or more are annoyed, hurt or mad.
But the Bible reminds of us that often, we are on the giving end of that hurt. Get a handful of sinners together, we are still sinners.
That brings us to the second main point here in our passage this morning. Paul says that Love is the fulfilling of the law. The law needs to be fulfilled. It especially needs to be fulfilled if we want to be let in to the Kingdom of Heaven. But we are unable to fulfill the law. We cannot live up to the perfect and holy standard that God has set. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:20, during the Sermon on the Mount, what I see as the entire point of the Sermon on the Mount summed up in one statement, I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
The scribes and Pharisees were the most righteous of the Jews in their day. God handed down the law to Moses back in Exodus. Forgetting that Abraham was justified by faith and not fully understanding the Great Commandment, which was given in the law and was where the Pharisees got that from, the tried so hard to follow the letter of the law and even added rules and laws on top of Gods laws. But they thought that, by following the commands of God, that their own righteousness could be enough to earn them salvation and eternal life. They were not only wrong, because our righteousness on our own can never be enough, we don’t have perfect righteousness. Only Christ had that. But also, as they trusted in their own righteousness, by following the letter of the laws, they lacked the very love that God command them to have.
We see numerous times in the Old Testament prophetic books that God admonishes Israel for doing the things, the religious rituals, the sacrifices, and offerings and the pageantry in the temple, but doing them without love, with wrong hearts and motivations. God says, through the prophet, in Malachi 1, verse 10:
Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand.
This is just one of many examples. The priests were making the offerings they were supposed to, but wrong hearts and motivations, without love and in this case too, offering unsuitable animals and gifts for the offerings.
With what Ezekiel calls a heart of stone, (Ezek. 36:26) our outward actions don’t add up to anything in Gods eyes. Moral actions without a heart of flesh, does nothing but make us white washed tombs. (Matt. 23:27) Nice looking on the outside, but dead on the inside.
Paul talks about what it means to do all sorts of good things but to do it without love. 1 Corinthians 13, verses 1-3:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.

We cannot love with a heart of stone. We cannot love in and of ourselves. And we can’t change our heart of stone to a heart of flesh. It takes the holy Spirit to do that. And it took Jesus, his perfect life, perfect righteousness and death and resurrection to secure forgiveness from our sins and clothe us in His righteousness.
That forgiveness is a key thing here. Love covers a multitude of sins, right? Paul writes in Romans 5:8 that God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
We are forgiven, we are clothed in Christs righteousness. We are made a new creation. Our heart of stone is change to a heart of flesh. Because God loved us and Jesus secured our forgiveness.
God gives us all this through by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Nothing we do can earn it, nothing about us can be good enough. Our forgiveness and salvation is based and solely based on Gods love for us.
God loved us first, and now calls us to love him, to love God with all out heart, soul, strength and mind. He also calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves. And just have to be careful we put things in the right order. Again, it bears repeating often, we don’t do anything to earn our salvation. We don’t follow the commands of God in order to earn his good graces. We are saved by grace through faith. When we are saved, we follow his commands to show our love for God who loved us first.
Jesus says it clearly in John 14:15: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And love is the fulfillment of the commandments. Jesus says, just about a chapter later, John 15:10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.
Love is the first of the fruit of the Spirit that Paul lists in Galatians 5. It is the first and foremost of the visible evidences of our salvation, of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. And through love, we show others the love of Christ. Again, in Johns Gospel, 15:35, Jesus says: By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Again referencing Ligon Duncan, he shows the love that God gives us as debt to be paid. We pay our debt by pouring out love to those around us. He says the following:
The interesting thing about the exercise of this debt is that you get richer as you pay the debt. Listen to what Robert Haldane says, “The more they pay off this debt, the richer they will be in the thing that is paid.”
You pay off this debt with love, and as you pay off this debt, you don’t end up with less love, you end up with more love.
But just talking about loving each other and loving our neighbor is not enough. 1 John 3:18, John writes: Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. Paul lists a few of the Ten Commandments in this passage, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” And says that these are all reduced and simplified to Love your neighbor.
Heres what he is not saying. No longer follow the Ten Commandments. We are not bound by them, as in required to keep them to achieve or earn salvation. But God gave them for a reason. We have looked at that recently too. The law was given for our benefit. For our holiness. But we are called to be Holy as God Our Father is Holy (Matt. 5:48) We are called to know and follow the word of God. Jesus tells us to repent and believe the Gospel. (Mark 1:15)
But as we also saw just a few moments ago, we can follow the commands the wrong way and missing the point, missing God in that. And so Love God and love our neighbors gives us the umbrella from which we filter all things. Again from 1 John, 5:3: For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
We love God, we love his word. inerrant, sufficient and complete. No new revelation, no picking and choosing what we like and what we don’t. But to love God means to love all of him, including what he has revealed to us in the Bible.
And We love our neighbors, we love each other by acting on his commands, by following them. We reject the worlds definition of what love is and we act on the Bibles definition. We owe all people around us love, it is a debt that can never be fully repaid, a debt from God. Since all people are created with the Imago Dei, creation in the image and likeness of God, they deserve love and respect.
The two aspects of the Great commandment are intrinsically related. I like and Ill finish with the way John Piper sums it all up these verses: Christ will be my focus, love will be my fruit.”
Lets Pray

Luke 10:25-37 Who is my Neighbor? (Romans Tie-In)

Good Samaritan Sermon
Luke 10: 25-37

Good Morning. Please grab your Bible and open on up to Luke’s Gospel, chapter 10. If you do not have a Bible, please grab one from the back table as our gift to you. So, I know this seems to be a change from our regular series through Romans, and it is, but only just a bit.
The next passage we are going to go through in Romans is chapter 13, verses 8-14, and in that Paul talks about love being the fulfillment of the law. As I was starting to work on that sermon, I kept getting drawn to this passage in Luke, this famous Bible story and I decided that this would be a good primer, it would be laying some groundwork for us to continue into that passage in Romans. So, my next sermon will be on those verses in Romans and it will pick up off some of the themes we look at today.

So, In 2008, ABC News did an experiment. Much of what I am sharing with you about this experiment comes directly from the news article.
They placed ads in a newspaper and on Craigslist. The ad said we were looking for people to participate in an “on-camera tryout” for ABC News. Those who responded were interviewed on the phone, and those selected were asked to come to appointments over the course of two days.
When they arrived for those appointments, the volunteers met with an ABC producer who talked to them in general about the audition, but did not go into specifics about what they were to do. She explained that each person needed to have a topic to discuss before the cameras, and that she was going to help them select that subject. She then showed each of them a sampling of cards and asked them to pick one.
What appeared to be random was in fact not a choice at all. The topic listed on all those cards was the same: The Good Samaritan story that we are going to look at this morning.
They were given the Sunday school version of the story. A man who is beaten by robbers and left for dead on the side of the road. Two religious men come by and ignore the victim. But a third man, an outcast from society, a Samaritan, comes along next and not only stops to help the man and care for his wounds, he takes him to an inn and pays for him to stay in a room there and have meals. Jesus instructs his followers to follow the lead of the Good Samaritan.
After our producer read the story to each person, they were told they were to give a short speech about it for their “audition.” Thinking that the cameras were set up at a nearby studio, they walked the short distance. They set off with the Good Samaritan story fresh in their minds. Following the directions took the volunteers through a small park. They had no idea what would be awaiting them there: actors hired by ABC News.
Two men took turns playing a person in distress. They were seated on the grass directly alongside the path the volunteers were instructed to use. The actors were told to play men clearly in need of help, and both cried, moaned and rocked back and forth. They seemed to clearly need help. Who better to come to their aid than our volunteers, who approached with the Biblical story of helping one’s fellow-man echoing in their ears?
The question: Would these participants stop to help? Carrie Keating, professor of psychology at Colgate University, expected they would. She predicted they would be suspicious of the situation, and likely to do anything to make themselves look good.
But Keating was in for a surprise: many of the 22 volunteers did not stop. They rushed right by the actors, proceeded to the studio, and gave the speech on the Good Samaritan. Their words were the complete opposite of their actions from just minutes before.

They completely missed the point, much like the lawyer in our story, many, many years before this experiment.
Jesus would often teach In parables. Parables are simple, memorable stories that use common examples or imagery from the culture and use them to teach greater truth. Sometimes the greater truth was painfully obvious and sometimes the truth was hidden. Jesus would, at times explain the meaning of some of the parables, not to the public, but to his disciples.
After teaching a parable early on in his ministry, the disciples asked Jesus what it meant. In Mark 4:11 & 12, Jesus tells them,
“To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that

“they may indeed see but not perceive,
and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven.
The parables were used to teach because some people, who were listening to Jesus, were not ready to hear. Sometimes the truth was hidden in these stories. However, sometimes the truth comes through to everyone and, as happens here, is very pointed at the Pharisees, or the religious leaders of the day.
Let take a look at the parable of the Good Samaritan. It is in Luke chapter 10, verses 25-37. I’ll be reading out of the English Standard Version, I highly encourage you to follow along in whichever translation you have with you.
Luke writes:
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

We see here that the expert in the law asks a very deep and profound question. Now, he just thought he was trying ask a difficult question to try to trip up Jesus or get Jesus to contradict himself. But he asked a question that people everywhere and in every time have been asking and we have here a very clear answer. The lawyer asks in v. 25, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” He is asking what do I need to do to be saved?
Jesus, as is the norm for him, answers this question with a question himself. He asks the man, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” Good teachers will do this. If you ask a question that you already know the answer to, they will redirect you in a way that has you say the answer and think through it instead of just telling you the answer.
And the man did give the correct answer. He replied to Jesus, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And Jesus affirmed this answer as correct.
Now this is at first a simplistic easy to follow answer. “What must I do?” Love God and Love your neighbor. The whole Law is summed up in these two commands. This is the Great Commandment. But this is also a very easy answer to dismiss. Because, in some ways, the lawyer asks a very human and valid question. “Who is my neighbor?”
The lawyers heart was all wrong. The scriptures show us that the lawyer was trying to justify himself when he asked “who is my neighbor?” Instead of genuinely asking and looking for who his neighbor was and how he could help them, he was looking for loopholes, looking for reasons to not help. He was looking for the least that he could do. The least he could do to not help those around him…To not help those different than him…To not help those he did not like….To not help those he did not know…
By teaching him this parable, Jesus is showing the lawyer, and us, that the question is not Who is my neighbor? But instead, Am I loving my neighbor?
The details that Jesus uses in this parable are not incidental or accidental. The man was walking from Jerusalem down to Jericho. This was a 15 mile journey and the road here was very treacherous. It was steep, rocky and had a lot of twists and blind turns. It was notorious for having many bandits being a very dangerous journey. This was well known for having these dangers and people knew the risks involved in this journey. Often times people would wait at one end of the journey for a group of them to gather so that they would at least have a little it of safety in numbers.
So this man got mugged and beaten and was left lying on the side of the road, half dead. Now, even though this was an infamous, dangerous walk, many people did take this journey alone as well. It took 8 hours for the journey, and sometimes, time was of the essence. It was the only way to get between these two cities.
Now, Jesus brings along a Priest. If any one would see a man in need and stop and help him, to show him mercy and kindness it would be a priest, right? He sees the man, crosses to the other side of the road and just walks on by. He had a job to do, he was ceremonially clean and he didn’t have time to deal with this situation and then get ceremonially clean again.
The law at the time was looked at as the ‘Be-all, end-all” and it didn’t matter what had to be sacrificed, or what the motivation behind it was. In this case, there would have been no reason, no excuse in the priests mind to becoming ceremonially unclean, not even a different Law of God. If the priest had stopped, the best case scenario for him was that he would be unclean until the next sundown. That’s assuming he had time to get home and go through the cleansing process. If the body was a dead body and the priest came in contact, he would be unclean for a minimum of 1 week. During these times of being unclean, he would not be able to enter the temple or take part in any of the ceremonies.
However, some also speculate that he knew he was making the wrong decision and that’s one of the reasons why he crossed over to the other side of the road, so that the man would not recognize him if he survived and this story later got out. Either way, the priest was not willing to take time out of his busy schedule doing Gods work, to be a neighbor to this beaten broken man.
After he passes by, Jesus brings along a Levite down the road. Instead of crossing to the other side of the road, the Levite actually looked at the situation before deciding to continue on his way. Levites were of the same family, in the line of Aaron that the priests were. In modern terms, if the priests were the pastors, the Levites were the elders, the deacons, the worship leaders, or other people in the church that work behind the scenes to keep the church running.
Just like the priest, the Levite knew the Law and had it memorized since he was a young man. He knew the laws about loving your neighbor, which are all through out the Old Testament. But, for whatever reason, he did not want to take the time and effort to stop and help this man. He looked at the situation and it was very likely that he could see the gravity of the situation, that he could see that the man would surely die if he did not get any help, but also that the man could be saved. The Levite saw what was happening and then crossed over to the other side and passed on by.
This is where Jesus throws the curve ball in the parable. Starting in verse 33,
“But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.”
A Samaritan! What is he going to do? Finish the man off? See if the robbers and muggers missed anything? At best, he will just do what the other two did and just pass on by. I mean, he is just a Samaritan.
This was the mindset of the Jews at the time regarding the Samaritans, and vice versa. There is no putting it mildly, they disdained each other.
The Samaritans were partial Jews who had been living in the Northern Kingdom of Israel prior to the Exile in Old Testament times. When the Northern Kingdom was conquered and captured, They intermarried with the culture around them and were often guilty of worshiping false gods and idols.
The Jews looked down on them, mocked them, made jokes at their expense, and this hatred was returned back at the Jews by the Samaritans. When traveling to certain areas of Israel during this time, the quickest, most direct route would be through Samaria, for example from Jerusalem to Nazareth, where Jesus was from, or the Sea of Galilee. Instead of going through Samaria, most Jews went far out of their way, going around the area, adding much time and distance to their journey.
So when a Samaritan comes walking down the path and sees a Jew, beaten and bloody, there is no inclination that he would stop and help.
And yet, he does. He stopped his journey. He bandaged the wounds of this man. Luke, who was a physician, noted that the Samaritan poured oil and wine on the mans wounds. But he didn’t stop there. He lifted the man up and put him on his own personal donkey and took him to the nearest inn. It was here that he essentially put a down payment and opened up a tab at the inn for whatever the beaten man needed.
Jesus asks the lawyer in v. 36, “Which of these three, do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”
And you can almost hear the contempt and defeat coming out of the lawyers mouth when he says in v 37 “The one who had mercy on him.” He couldn’t even refer to him directly, just, “That one…”
See, each group in this story saw the man who was beaten very differently. The lawyer saw the man as a subject to discuss. The robbers saw the man as someone to use and exploit. To the priest and Levite, the man was someone to avoid at all costs. The innkeeper sees the man as a customer. To the Samaritan, the man was a human being, a man worth caring for and helping, a neighbor.
The lawyer in this story was full of head knowledge. But he would not see or admit the truth. He knew what the commandments said about loving God and loving neighbors. He knew who his neighbors were. The priest and the Levite in the story, They Knew! They knew that they were supposed to stop and help the man. And yet, they didn’t. Knowledge without application. exactly what Paul has been talking about in Romans.
Back to the experiment I talked about earlier. They had divided the volunteers into two groups at the start. Everyone heard the Good Samaritan story but only half of the volunteers got something more: time pressure. That group was now facing a dilemma. In order to get their chance at something they really wanted — a chance to be on TV — they would have to hurry. And researchers discovered, that made a big difference in their behavior.
Only about 35 percent of our volunteers in a hurry stopped to help our actors. But almost 80 percent of those who were not rushed stopped to help.
Since the volunteers thought they were rushing in order to do something they thought would be beneficial to them, perhaps it is not surprising that time pressure would influence them. The researchers found that being rushed changed people’s actions. Time pressure was the only significant factor the researchers found that they concluded would determine if a particular volunteer would stop to help a stranger.
Keating says that other research since then has shown that it is possible to make anyone disregard the needs of others if enough pressure is introduced. She concluded that in this experiment, not stopping to help was not an indication at all of whether any particular participant is a good or moral person. She said any of us might act in the same way.
And we do, everyday. But we shouldnt. Every subject in this experiment knew that the right thing to do was stop. But many of them didn’t. Would we? Do we? I said earlier that the lawyer asked the wrong question. The question was not Who is my neighbor? But should have been, Am I loving my neighbor?
The Greek word used in the New Testament for neighbor is the word, plesion {play-see’-on}� One concordance defines it like this:
1) a neighbor
1a) a friend
1b) according to the Jews, any member of the Hebrew nation and commonwealth
1c) according to Christ, any other man irrespective of nation or religion with whom we live or whom we chance to meet.
We need to remember this, “any other person whom we chance to meet.” It doesn’t matter who it is. God put them into our life, into our Day for a reason. It doesn’t matter if it is someone we know and don’t get along with. It doesn’t matter if it is someone of a different religion, Muslim, Wiccan, Hindu… It doesn’t matter even if they live by different moral codes than the one that God gives to us. We are to love them. It’s not a choice available to us to not love them.
What is required of our love? What do we need to give and sacrifice to love people? Time,mostly, is one biggest ways we show others love.
The priest in this story did not have time, in his mind, to stop and help the man. The subjects in the experiment that did not stop were in a time crunch, trying to get to the studio. But it takes time to love people. It takes building relationships with them.
It takes times to identify needs and opportunities to show love. What about your neighbor? The one that you don’t get along with, maybe you argue over your property line. But you know that your neighbor is not doing great physically. Maybe they are getting older, maybe they just had surgery, whatever it is, you know that they have needs in their home. Their faucet is leaking, the lawn needs mowing. And you know that you can help.
Peter and John once encountered a crippled man begging outside the gate of Jerusalem. Instead of giving him money, they recognized that the man’s need was that he couldn’t walk. So, working in the Holy Spirit, Peter healed him instead.
But in our minds, we are justifying ourselves, asking, “Do you know how long that would take?” or “But I am on my way to go do this or go do that” I know I do this all the time. But when Jesus said, at the end of v.37, “Go and Do Likewise,” he was not just talking to the lawyer, or to the Pharisees, or to the Jews. He was also talking to us. And the commands he gives to us, they are rarely easy.
Time is the most precious commodity we have. I costs us more to give someone our time that to give any thing else. It means more too. Visiting people and spending time with them, taking the time to talk to them and get to know them, is one of the most loving things we can do.
Jesus tells us in Matthew 25 how important this is.
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’
Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
Matthew 25:24-40
The other way that Jesus’ commandment is not easy is that it will be messy. Not just physically messy,as it would be with the beaten, bloody man. But getting involved with people is messy. Hearing about people’s problems, telling them about ours. Showing them that we love them, that we care. It’s not always easy, it’s not always fun. But its important and it’s how we show the love of Christ to those around us.
One of the aspects that the lawyer missed, is that the law the lawyer referenced earlier was to Love your neighbors as yourself. That doubly shows that the question of “Who is my neighbor?” was an invalid question. If we were beaten, robbed and mugged, how would we want to be treated? Which of these three figures would we want to be the ones to come along? Whatever our answer is, and most of us, if not all, would want someone to act like the Samaritan, stopping to help us, that is how we treat the people we come across in our lives.
The thing here is that Jesus has already done this for us. Sin has left us beaten up, dying on the side of the road. It has robbed us of our right standing with God. Jesus came down and sacrificed everything, including his life for us, to save us from the death of sin. When Jesus affirms that loving God is the first and foremost commandment, he does so by also having told us that if we love the Father, we will love the Son. And here Jesus is showing us that if we love the Son, we will love our neighbors, we will love the least of these. Paul is going to tell us that love is the fulfillment of the law.
Jesus is showing us that he all have opportunities to help those around us. We all have neighbors in our community that could use a helping hand in some way. We all have people that we just don’t like, that could use our help. But Jesus loves them and Jesus wants us to show them love on his behalf.
I mentioned earlier that each character in the story saw the man who was beaten in a different way. One that I did not yet mention was Jesus. To him each and every character in the story, from the lawyer, to the pharisees, to the priest and the Levite, the innkeeper, the Samaritan and the man who was beaten and robbed, he sees them all the same way, as a sinner in need of a savior, as someone in need of forgiveness and some one who by all objective standards is not worth the time to die for and take care of. It doesn’t cost God anything to not save us. It did cost Jesus his human life to die for us. But, as God, being in complete control, he knew the outcome. He knew that, though we were not worth dying for, the act of dying for us was worth it. There was nothing reckless about Jesus love for us. God knows the end of the story and all the outcomes because he wrote the end of the story.
Like the Samaritan, he sees us beaten up by sin, by grace through faith, picks us up and put down a down payment on the price of our sins and has an open tab for us, not matter what it costs to win us, for those that are his, he did it. No one else has been able to do that because no one else was God and man. No one else was able to atone for our sins and offer forgiveness. Buddha, Mohammed, Joseph Smith, any other religious figure that people follow, they are the lawyer, the prest and the Levite, unable to help us in our sin. Only one can offer forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Jesus said that He is THE way, THE truth, and THE Life. Paul wrote that God showed us what love was, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Love him, trust him, repent and believe, as Jesus says, and let him show us how to love others.
Lets Pray

Romans 12:9-13, Living the Christian Life, part 1

Romans 12:9-13

Living the Christian Life

(Editors Note: I have been creating a bulletin insert recently, listing the scripture references that I use in the sermon that morning. Its kind of a quick, Go-to guide that you can either refer back to or follow along with. I am going to try to add it to the manuscript as it gets posted moving forward. My ultimate Hope is that it comes through as the podcast notes on iTunes and is a usable resource here on the blog.)

Romans 12:9-13

Romans 12:1-8

Romans 7

John 14:15

Galatians 5:22&23

James 2:14-26

1 John 4:19

John 13:35

1 Timothy 1:5

Matthew 5:43-48

Romans 5:8

Romans 1:32

1 Thessalonians 5:21&22

Mark 10:18

Psalm 119:105

Romans 10:17

Genesis 1

Phillipians 4:8&9

Hebrews 13:1

Romans 12:18

1 Peter 4:8

Phillipians 2:3

Good Morning! Go ahead and grab your Bibles and turn with me to Romans chapter 12. If you do not have or own a Bible, please help yourself to one from the back table as our gift to you.

We continue through the section of Romans this morning where Paul is teaching, or commanding on the practical living out of the theological truths he has laid out in Romans chapters 1-11.

And Paul makes a few things clear as he goes into this section of his letter. First, in the first two verse, he shows that the application of what we read earlier in the letter can only come with a transformed heart and mind, which can only be given by God. Second, as we looked at last week, that the basis for all of our actions, all of our works, all of our life that we are living for God should be based on love.

And so in verses 3-8, which we looked at last week, Paul showed how we should be serving and using our gifts to love God, love the Church and to love one another.

And then here in the 5 verses we will look at this morning, Paul gives, kind of a bullet point list of things that we are to do in showing our transformed hearts and love for God.

Lets go ahead and read Romans 12, verses 9-13. I will be reading out of the English Standard version. Paul writes:

 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit,[g] serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

These here are 13 commands that Paul gives to true believers. These are d-signs, or fruit that show the transformed heart that God has given us. And that leads to something I want us to remember. We cannot expect people who don’t know God, who don’t know his commands, who don’t have a transformed heart to show the signs the Paul lays out here of a person who is a follower of Christ.

The standard in regards to judgment is the same, don’t get me wrong. We will all be judged by the same standard. However, Paul talks in Romans 7, how he would not have know what sin was if he had not known the law. We cannot meet someone and expect that they will be following the law if they do not know the law or if they do not know the one who is the reason to follow the law. Instead, what we need to do is show them what the law is, why it needs to be followed and who is the reason for following it. As we remind ourselves each and every week, we follow the law, not to earn salvation, not to show that we are a good person. We cannot follow the law enough to do either of those things. Instead we follow the law because we have been delivered from the consequences of not following the law and we have had grace and mercy poured out on us. Jesus tells us, If you love me, follow my commands. (John 14:15)

And so what Paul lists here are 13 physical, visible evidences of what true saving faith looks like. He gives a list, a very different list, but with the same baseline idea, in Galatians 5. There, he lists the fruit of the spirit. The list there is more characteristics or qualities that we will see progression with when we are walking and growing with the spirit. This list here in Romans 12 is more of the activities and actions that we can look and see progress as we walk and grow with the Holy Spirit.

And again, Paul has given us, like an addition problem, how we get to these actions. We have the Why we need to be saved, plus who it is that saves us, plus how we are saved, equals what we do after we are saved. Good, clear Biblical theology necessarily leads to good, clear biblical application. Remember what James says in his letter, that so-called faith, if not accompanied by physical evidence of that faith, what he calls works, then it is truly no faith at all. That faith is dead. (James 2:14-26)

So we are going to briefly look at these 13 things Paul lists and make sure we understand what is expected of us as followers of Christ.

First, Let Love Be Genuine. The NASB translates it, Let Love be without hypocrisy. And the greek uses the root word from which we get hypocrite. Originally, it was used for actors who would wear masks for their different roles and the parts they play. The point is that we should not be playing a role. We should not “act” loving towards one another, but actually love them. Let your love be sincere. Not superficial.

Casting Crowns have a song called, Stained Glass Masquerade. The point of the song is that there is a church culture that is killing us. We come in, and we put up walls and we fake our way through, hiding our love, hiding our pain, hiding our lives. We ask, “How are you doing?” and we don’t listen to the answer. Our someone asks us, “How are you?” and, no matter what we are going through, no matter how we are feeling, no matter the truth, we say, “Fine.” Dont be Fine. “Fine,” is an answer that kills relationships, kills families and would eventually kill a church. Don’t be fine, be honest and open.

Pour into each other so that they are willing and feel safe to open up and be honest. Be honest and sincere first, so that others see and can reciprocate. We are here as a family, One body in Christ. We are not a social club or a gathering of strangers. We are a family. We are to love God and love each other God first loved us. (1 John 4:19) They will know we are Christians by our love. (John 13:35)

Heres the other thing. People, each and every one of us, its incredibly difficult to see the hypocrisy in our own hearts and in our own actions. But we can see it in others very easily. And they can see it in us. If our love is not true and sincere, people will know. Either the person we are interacting with, or the people observing us, or, more likely, both. That kind of fake love is what causes people to not want to come to church. That idea that we need to be all buttoned up, that we need to be on top of out game to come to church. And if not then we need to look the part, act the role.

It also affects more than our personal interactions with each other. If we, purposely or not, are putting out the message that we need to be ok in order to come in Sunday mornings, that expands outward to another wrong idea. This idea that goes around in our communities that we need to clean ourselves up in order for God to accept us and to love us. People think this because that’s what they see from us.

Heres something we need to constantly remember, People who don’t know God get their ideas and beliefs about what God is like and what he expects by watching those of us who say we know God. You ever wonder how culture, how TVs movies and such get such wrong impressions and ideas about what Christianity is, about what the Bible says and means? It’s because they watch us Christians and how we act and what we show them.

So People, if they see us showing insincere lover, if they see us showing conditional love, if they see us being fake with each other, they are going to assume that they will not be accepted or lived until they look just like us. This, again, is that idea that we all need to be the same. They will all look-alike, have the same personalities, same interests, same preferences, and all that. Its simply not true.

Paul writes in 1 Timothy 1:5:  The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Paul is going to re-emphasize this with a similar but different command in the next verse, saying to Love each other with brotherly affection. We will come back to the differences in those two similar sayings after finishing up verse 9.

But first, lets finish up this command. Paul’s point here is repeating commands from Jesus. During the Sermon on the Mount, recorded in Matthew chapter 5, verses 43-48, Jesus said:

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers,[i] what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

One of Jesus’ points throughout the Sermon on the Mount is that we, as Christians, as followers of Christ, we don’t get to take the easy way. We don’t get to be just like everyone else. We know that we are held to a standard, as we mentioned earlier, and we know it, unlike unbelievers who either do not realize or do not recognize the standard that they will be held to. And the common sense, human mind natural will of people is to love those who love you and hate those who hate you. Without the Holy Spirit renewing our mind, that just feels right and it is instinctive. But that’s not what we are called to and it’s not what Gods standard is.

Gods standard is to love even those who are not lovable. To love even those who are not worthy of love. To love even those who we can find no reason to love. Because, guess what? Thats what God did to us. We were not lovable. We were not worthy of love. There was no reason for him to love us. And yet, as Paul wrote earlier in this letter, Romans 5:8,  but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Let that love be genuine, without hypocrisy. Let us not just play a role, to act a part, to pretend to love But let it be genuine.

Now, command number two, continuing in verse 9, Paul says, abhor what is evil. This word, abhor, is an interesting word. It is defined as “to have a horror of,” or “to detest utterly.” Thats a very strong statement. God standard, his perfect standard, what he says is good. And not only good, but perfectly good. He sets that standard. And so what goes against or falls short of that standard is, by definition, not good. And not like it’s on a spectrum and it’s just not as good. It’s not good, there is no good in it. It is evil. And it is called sin. Anything that goes against what God says or falls short if his holy standard is sin. And God calls it evil.

Do you believe that about sin? About all sin? Do you abhor sin? Do you think it is all evil? Or is some sin, just sort of ok? Do you think of ALL sin as evil? Even YOUR sins? Even the little sins? Even the sins that you don’t think will hurt any one? Even the sins that you don’t think any one will find out about? Even the sins that you don’t think are sins? Even the sins that you justify?

It’s all still sin. And Its all evil.

RC Sproul, in his classic book, The Holiness of God, describes sin in this way:

Sin is cosmic treason. Sin is treason against a perfectly pure Sovereign. It is an act of supreme ingratitude toward the One to whom we owe everything, to the One who has given us life itself. Have you ever considered the deeper implications of the slightest sin, of the most minute peccadillo? What are we saying to our Creator when we disobey Him at the slightest point? We are saying no to the righteousness of God. We are saying, “God, Your law is not good. My judgement is better than Yours. Your authority does not apply to me. I am above and beyond Your jurisdiction. I have the right to do what I want to do, not what You command me to do.”

Sin is evil. We are to abhor sin, to be horrified by it, to utterly detest it. Most especially, the sin that’s in us, the sins that we ourselves commit. Its real easy to hate the sins of others, especially if they are different sins than we struggle with. But its a lot harder to abhor the sins that we commit and struggle with. And even the sins of others, we don’t hate until God gets ahold if us. The last part of Romans 1 shows this. We are not going to read through it, except for 1 verse, verse 32, which reads:  Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

The only way for us to understand the power and magnitude of sin, even little sin, or even what sin is, is for God to reveal it to us. Romans 1 also mentions that we all know the truth but we suppress it. God lifts the veil from our eyes and with a transformed heart, the Holy Spirit can reveal the truth of our sin to us and, as we grow in repentance and sanctification, we then grow in our hatred for sin and in our view of God grows higher. And the reverse is true too, as our view of God grows higher, our hatred and abhorrence for sin grows as well.

Third, as we detest utterly evil and sin, we Hold Fast to what is good, the last command in verse 9. The word in the King James is cleave to what is good, meaning to stick like adhesive tape, to be welded or cemented together.

Again, this is not simply to like good, or to enjoy good things, but to cling, to cleave, to be inseparable from that which is good. Paul writes to the church at Thessolonica, and tells them,  but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.

It is the absence of evil that is good. And the absence of good that is evil. And yet, good is such an ambiguous word, especially in English. But this is the word the Jesus used when he said, in Mark 10:18, No one is good except God alone.

God alone is Good. We are to cleave to, to cling fast to what is Good. So he hold fast to God, to Jesus Christ his son. He grab hold of him with all we have and learn from him, the one who is good, what is good.

And we have his recorded word to us to guide us. We are going through Psalm 119 in our scripture reading here in Sunday Mornings. We are a number of weeks away, but we will read in verse 105, the psalmist writes  Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.

We know what is good because God tells us. We have Gods Word. We have what he tells us. We have his good and perfect standard right here in our hands. As we grow in him, as we walk in Christ, we read his Word, we will grow in wisdom and knowledge. As we grow in Wisdom and knowledge, we will learn more about what is good and what is evil. We will learn what is sin and what is right. We will progress in learning about the theology and the application of the Bible.

Salvation comes through repentance and belief, that’s what faith is. The faith that is given to us by God through grace and received by the hearing of the Word. (Rom 10:17) Thats what salvation entails. Correct and perfect theology is not required for salvation. Immediately living a sinless and perfect life is, because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, not required for salvation It would be if we did not have Jesus. But those things are not required for the moment of salvation ot occur.

The aftereffects of salvation however, will cause us to grow in those areas. We will learn more about what the truth of Gods Word says and means. To use an example I have used before; For me, I was saved and I still believed in evolution and whats called the Day Age Theory or gap theory. Those are two theories about the creation account in Genesis that try to reconcile the creation account with what todays science says is true. But as I grow, as I read the Bible, as I become sanctified and grow in wisdom and knowledge, I came to see and believe in 6 literal day creation account just as it is plainly read in Genesis 1. Is that required for you to become a Christian? No. Do I think it’s highly likely that, if you are a Christian for long enough, actively reading the bible and following God that you will come to see and believe this? I do.

The same goes for our life and our actions. Are we to immediately, upon salvation, to know everything we do that is sin and to immediately stop it cold turkey? God will convict you of your sin. Some of it he will do immediately, some may not happen immediately.

Now, I want to be careful here. Some things the Bible is crystal clear and very strong on. For example, if you are sleeping with your boyfriend or girlfriend, and you get saved, you need to stop that immediately. There is not grey area, there is no ambiguity there. Scripture is clear on sexual sin and the devastating effects that it will have. But again, using my experiences as an example. I was a smoker when I got saved. It was a number of years, three years , I think, before God convicted me to quit. Now, it’s also possible, likely probable that he was convicting me of that earlier and I was able to suppress it, but again, this shows the growth that we are to be having in our walks and in our lives over time with Jesus Christ and his word.

We grow in sanctification, we become purer and holier. As we grow, we learn more about our sins and we have a heart to sop sinning. We have a desire to hold fast to what is good, even when it goes against our natural desires and instincts. We become transformed by the renewing of our minds.

Paul writes in Philippians 4:8&9:  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned[e] and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Keep your minds on the things of God. Learn the things of God. Practice the things of God. This is how you hold fast to what is good.

The last one we are going to look at this morning, is the one I mentioned earlier this morning. Number 4 in the list of evidences and commands of a Christian Life is to Love one another with brotherly affection.

As I said, this one especially touches on what we looked at a lot last week. And it sounds very similar to the first one we saw this morning, Let love be genuine. But this one is focused, not one how you and I treat and act towards everybody, but specifically how you and I treat and act to you and I. This is how we are to be with each other, our church family, fellow members of the body of Christ.

We are to pray for each other and with each other. This is vital to our body growing together. We are to serve each other and alongside each other. What better way to get to know someone than to work right along side them. We are to genuinely, sincerely and without hypocrisy, love each other. Hebrews 13:1 reads: Let brotherly love continue.

Again, I want to emphasize what this does not mean. This does not mean that we are all going to be best friends. You can love people with out be close friends with them. This does not mean that we will not end up doing something that will grate on or hurt someone else in here. Unfortunately, due to sin in this world, that’s inevitable. This does not mean that we will or even should have the same talents, callings or personalities. We are all different.

But we who are in christ are one family, one body. And We are to go out of our way to make things right with each other if we happen to sin against another, or even if we didn’t but we hurt someone anyway. Remember Jesus says that we are to leave our offering on the altar and go and make amends with our brothers before coming back and continuing our offering.

Sometimes, sometimes, it doesn’t even matter if you were right in your words or actions or if the other person is right in their hurt. We will get into this a little more later in this chapter, but Pul says in this chapter, Romans 12, verse 18: If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Now, this is not the immediate context of verse 18, but it does fit together. And in this context, we should be doing more than living peaceably with each other. We should be actively making things right, treating each other as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. 1 Peter 4:8, Peter writes:  Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

If we all are quick to forgive and even quicker to apologize, then we will treat each other as family, loving each other with brotherly affection. We will actually touch quickly on the last phrase in verse 10, command number 5. Paul says to Out do one another with honor. And this could easily be combined with “love one another with brotherly affection,” But again, tis just a slightly different angle.

Paul writes in Philippians 2:3,  Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Jesus was much more than this, but he was also our example. He told his disciples in Matthew 20:28 that he did not come to be served, but to serve. And that’s how we are to show love to each other. And that’s Paul’s big point in all of this. Love. And not just feeling love, but acting on it. And not acting a role, but with genuineness and sincerity.

Ligon Duncan sums these two verses up this way:

Paul is interested in showing you what Christian love looks like in order to move you to display that kind of Christian love. Not simply to stand back and admire, “Oh, that’s what love looks like,” and not only simple to aspire to it, “I’d like to be like that some day,” but actually to act that way, especially in the context of the church, the communion of the saints.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

Lets Pray.

Romans 8:1-11, pt 2 The Holy Spirit

 

Romans 8:1-11

The Spirit is Greater than the Flesh pt 2

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles and turn to Romans chapter 8. If you do not have a Bible, if you do not own one, please take one from the back table as our gift to you. After a brief break last week, to look at VBS and our responsibilities to plant and sow the seeds of the Gospel, this week we pick back up looking at Paul’s letter to the churches in Rome.

Two weeks ago, we started looking at this passage. The passage this week is Romans 8:1-11. We started looking at it but we focused on the very first verse. Paul has spent the past 7 chapters dealing with practical and deep theological issues, such as salvation, justification, sanctification, regeneration, Original Sin, total Depravity, a whole lot of big words for clear, sometimes simple, sometimes not, Biblical truths. And he continues here into chapter 8, with this first part, the part we are dealing with this morning. Paul will deal especially the freedom we have in Christ and the Holy Spirit who gives us that freedom. He deals with the difference between the flesh and the Spirit.

He has, most recently, been showing what the law is and is not designed for. And within in that, how we can or cannot keep or fulfill that. And we get some answers here in this section of Romans. Lets go ahead and read the text. Romans 8:1-11, and Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version.

Paul writes:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.[a] 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you[b] free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,[c] he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus[d] from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

There is a lot in there, in those 11 verses. We spent the last sermon, two weeks ago, just looking at verse 1. That, IF we are in Christ, there is no condemnation, that we are forgiven and we have been justified, regenerated and adopted in the family of God as His children. IF. And the rest of this section is all predicated on that IF. If you are in the flesh, or if you are in the spirit. That’s the distinction the Paul is drawing here. And then, IF you are in Christ, what does that look like? And he brings in some new elements that he hasn’t truly focused on as of yet in the letter.

Paul here begins to show us the ministry, the power and the role of the Holy Spirit in what’s going on here. Now, Paul has mentioned the Spirit 4 times over the previous 7 chapters. So this is not coming out of nowhere. The Spirit has been a part of Paul’s theology and his writing from the beginning. However, in these 11 verses, Paul mentions the Spirit 11 times.

We definitely see a shift in emphasis here. We will continue to see the Holy Spirit emphasized over the course of, especially the rest of this chapter. And over the course of the next couple weeks, as we look at this chapter of Romans, we will learn a lot of about who the Spirit is and what he does.

To start off, before we start looking at what Paul is saying here, just a couple of introductory bullet points about the Holy Spirit. First, the Holy Spirit is God. He is one-third of the trinity. One God, Three Persons. Not One God, three personalities. Not three Gods. One God, three distinct persons. God the Father is not God the Son. God the Son is not God the Holy Spirit. God the Holy spirit is not God the Father. But they are all God and there is only one God.

If you don’t fully grasp this, don’t worry. Theologians have been trying to study this and figure out the specifics and the intricacies of this for 2000 years now. It is something that is described in Scripture enough to know what I just shared, but its also something that is, what’s called an Incommunicable attribute of God. Gods attributes come in two categories. Communicable and Incommunicable.

Communicable attributes are the ones that we can know, not just intellectually, but take part of and share. Of course, not to the perfect extent that God has them, but humans can know them, can experience them. These are things like love, mercy, jealousy, hate, justice, knowledge, and many more. You and I can love. You and I can have mercy. You and I can be jealous, can hate, can have knowledge. You get the idea.

His incommunicable attributes are ones that we can’t identify with, we cant have any part of, we cant experience in any way. God’s Omnipresence, for example. We cant, in any way shape or form, be in more than one place at once, let alone everywhere, at the same time. God’s omnipotence. We cannot do whatever we want. We are bound by physical and intellectual limits. We can be in relationships with others, but we cannot understand the eternal, perfect, equal, relationship of the trinity.

So, you don’t have to understand the Trinity in full. But, this is a key doctrine to Christianity, you must understand that the doctrine is true, You have to believe that the trinity is true, because the Bible says it is, even if its full grasp is beyond us in its totality.

Another bullet point truth about the Holy Spirit, and this is intricately related to the first. The Holy Spirit is a person, He is referred to as a He every single time in scriptures, not as “it.” The Holy Spirit is not some mysterious “force,” it is not the wind, or anything like that. The Holy spirit is a person with all the qualities associated with the personhood of God.

Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit in John chapter 16. he says in verse 7, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.

Then down in verses 13-15,  When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

There is so much more to say and share and teach about the Holy spirit and we will get to some more of that in the upcoming weeks as Paul continues to talk about the Spirit. But for now, we will look specifically at what Paul is saying here.

So, we see Paul here differentiate between the law of the Spirt of life and the law of sin and death. This is what we have spent some time looking at over the last few chapters. We have been looking at what the Law does and does not do. We have seen that adherence or obedience to the Law, the moral law that God gave down to Moses back in the book of Exodus, obedience to that Law does not and cannot save us.

Attempting to earn our salvation, to earn forgiveness, or to live perfectly enough to not need salvation or forgiveness, instead of freeing us, actually binds us to sin and death. When we accept Gods grace, through faith in Jesus Christ, the bondage to sin and death is broken and we are given life eternal through the acts and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

God did what the law could not do. The Law, will good and holy and given by God for our good, was then corrupted by our sinful flesh. And so, again, the law cannot and would not save, would not and could not give us righteousness, especially the righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees that Jesus says is required to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.

And so, he sent his Son. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:21, making the same point as he does here,  For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. God the Father, sent God the Son, to be born a human, fully man, wrapped in the same flesh we are, though himself sinless, took the punishment of our sin. Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the law. Jesus showed his perfect righteousness, the righteousness required to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. God the Father did so because we cannot have our own righteousness by ourselves, but we can have Christs righteousness through the Spirit.

But there is a requirement for receiving Christ’s righteousness. We need to walk, not in the flesh, but walk in the Spirit. So, we need to be good to earn it? We need to do something in order to receive it? No, the Holy Spirit is the Key.

Back to what Jesus said in John 16, that the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth. He reveals the truth of Scripture. He reveals in our hearts and in our minds that Jesus is God, that He is the Christ, the Messiah and that Jesus is the Word. The Spirit is the one who reveals to us, by revealing what Scripture says, how we are to live, how we are to act and how we are to believe. The Holy Spirit is the one who changes us from the inside, who changes our heart and desires, who breaks the bondage to sin.

And so we again, see a clear distinction, a clear divide between the many, who reject the Holy spirit, reject Scripture as the all sufficient, and inerrant Word of God, who reject Jesus as our savior and reject God the Father as the omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent sovereign deity that created us and those of us who accept and affirm those facts.

One of the things that we pull out from what Paul is saying, is that we will walk with what our minds are set on. We will align ourselves with what we are walking with. So, what is that? Is it the flesh? Or is that the Spirit?

We all start out walking with our minds set on the flesh. We care about man’s acceptance. We see things through the lens of the culture. We seek out the wide and the easy path. We live life as if there are no consequences. We live a life hostile to God. The author of Hebrews writes that, without faith, it is impossible to please God.

But, Paul again, brings up the IF, verse 9,  You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

If we are in the Spirit, we are in direct opposition to walking in the flesh. God changes us from the inside. He calls us to a higher standard. He does so because he has given us grace through faith, not to get the same grace. The mind set on the flesh does not submit to the Law. That’s what Paul says. Instead of submitting to it, the mind set on the flesh can trick itself into thinking its mind is set on God and it tries to conquer the law, tries to master it and fulfill it.

But the mind set on the Spirit is learning the truth and it will know better. AW Tozer writes, The Holy Spirit never enters a man and then lets him live like the world. You can be sure of that. He doesn’t just change the behavior, that wouldn’t be enough. He changes the heart, changes our desires. He changes what we set our mind on and we turn from the flesh, to the Spirit.

How many things can you say that have truly changed your life? What can you talk to any stranger about, whether they are interested or not? Sports, Nutrition, music, kids, work, love, etc Where is Jesus on that list? Where is the Holy Spirit on that list? Where is the Bible on that list?

Because, sure, events, or thoughts, or circumstances or whatever happens when we are focused on the flesh, some of those can change some of our life here and now. Look again at verses 10 where Paul writes,  But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11

Paul brings it back around with that big, long, huge word, IF. If Christ is in you. There is no both. Fact one, the body is dead because of sin. That is true either way. Whether you have been saved by Grace through Faith in Christ, or whether you have not. Whether you have a mind and a life set on the Spirit or a mind and a life set on the flesh. The body is dead because of sin. What happens after that?

There are only those two options. Leading to only two different results in eternity. If the Spirit is not in you, than your eternity will be spent feeling the eternal pouring out of Gods wrath on you. Eternity in Hell.

But, Paul writes in verse 11,  If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus[d] from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

Citizenship in the kingdom of Heaven. Adoption into Gods Family. Fellow Heirs with Christ. New, Heavenly, Immortal bodies. Perfect, sinless bodies. Eternal worship and glorification of God. Perfect communion with Jesus Christ on the throne. No pain, no tears, no hurt, no death. Eternal life.

If Christ is in you, if your mind is set on the Spirt, not only do you get these benefits, the best of them all, but your life today will also reflect it. You will be at odds with the world, at odds with the flesh. You will have to turn away from everything this world has to offer, and say, NO. What you, the world has to offer is death. I choose life. I choose the Sprit, I choose Christ.

And many wont understand. Many wont agree or appreciate it. Many wont see that the choice has to be either/or. “Well, I am a Christian and I still…” How often do we here that. Or, Love is more important than being right. Its not true, but even if it was, it wouldn’t be in the way that they say that. We are to do all things in love. Especially when dealing with people who continue to choose to have their mind set on the flesh. We cant respond back at them how they respond to us.

We are to do all things out of love. And it is loving to warn people that if they do not turn from their life set on the flesh and turn their lives to be set on the spirit, salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, to the Glory of God alone.

It is love to have a right doctrine on what the Bible says. It is love to love God first, and to then let the love of Christ flow out of us. We cannot love without knowing Christ.

What do we know about Christ. Romans 5:8. God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Christ’s death for us, that act on the cross, we will remember here this morning as we do every first Sunday of the month.

Jesus not only knew ahead of time, the Trinity planned before the creation of the World that this sacrifice, this act of perfect love would be required and how it would take place, but Jesus told his disciples that it was about to happen and instituted this sacrament as a remembrance of it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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