Daniel 3:1-30 God of All Nations: 3 men and a Furnace

Daniel 3:1-30
God of All Nations
3 men and a Furnace

Good Morning Bangor Community Church and anyone else that may be listening. Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Daniel chapter 3. In the book of Daniel, especially the first 6 chapters, there are a lot of stories that we are at least partially familiar with, and we may think that we are intimately aware of. These tend to be classic Sunday School Lessons.
Today, the story we will look at in Chapter 3 is a prime example. We are going to look at the story of Shadrack, Meshack and Abed-nego (Babylonian names) getting thrown into the fiery furnace by King Nebuchadnezzar. And I think that we are going to see a lot of things that we assume were part of the story, or that we assumed we understood that we just didn’t see before now. I know that’s at least what happened with me.
Before we get into that, however, let’s look at what’s already happened n Daniel, that led to this point. Ol Nebby had, in chapter 2, had a dream revolving around a huge statue where he was the golden head. When Daniel was able to tell him what his dream was and to interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dream for him, The King acknowledged Daniel’s God as “God of gods and Lord of Kings.”
What the King did NOT do, however, was turn to and acknowledge Yahweh as exclusively God. He still ruled over, lived in and believed in a pluralistic community. There were many gods, over many things, each nation had their own god, and all were valid and powerful.
In this, Daniel was put as, essentially, the Kings right hand man, he was given authority over all the magi and wisemen. Shadrack, Meshack and Abed-nego were appointed as governors over the province of Babylon.
As we move forward into chapter 3, we see that the theme of this chapter and the theme of the entire book as a whole is that God is not just a god among gods but is God over all. He is the God of all Nations. He is the God of all Kingdoms. He is the God over all other so-called gods. He is the God of all people. That is why I have titled this series, God of all Nations.
So, with all that being said, let’s go ahead and start reading Daniel chapter 3. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please follow along in your Bibles, with your preferred translation. So, Daniel chapter 3, we will start with verses 1-7, though we will cover the entire chapter 3 this morning.
Daniel 3:1-7, Daniel writes:
King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits[a] and its breadth six cubits. He set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. 2 Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent to gather the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 3 Then the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 4 And the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, 5 that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.” 7 Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

May God Bless the Reading of His Word
So, we see from the beginning a couple of questions that pop up to me, but that we won’t find answers for in the text. First, we don’t know how long after chapter 2, that this chapter takes place. It could have been very shortly afterwards, when the dream was still fresh in Nebuchadnezzar’s mind, or it could have been much later on, as the impact of the interpretation has faded just a bit. We also don’t know where Daniel is during this story. He may have been left behind to tend to business while all the other officials were at the statue. He could have been alongside Nebby during this, and just exempt from the command and punishments. The truth is we just don’t know.
But we start this chapter off with very clear connections to Nebbys dream. He builds a statue made of gold, and he builds it 90 feet tall. This is a huge statue for the day, but it’s also not unheard of, meaning it’s incredibly impressive, but not unbelievable. To give an example of the scale, the Sphinx in Egypt is 66 feet tall.
I want us to look at one possible motivation here as well. Nebuchadnezzar built this statue out of Gold. Now it was likely Gold plated, but it was still, the entire thing was Gold. It is likely and it seems obvious to me that Nebby was trying to ignore or to undo the interpretation of his dream. Daniel was clear that, while Nebby was the golden head of the four kingdoms and that the ones who came after him would be progressively inferior. Nebby was a narcissistic sociopath. He would have greatly accepted that he was the golden head. He may have, though probably not have accepted that strong and superior kingdoms would have defeated him. But he most certainly would not have been willing to accept that inferior kingdoms would replace him. And so, in the imagery of his statue, he eliminated them and made it all about him.
So, he builds this monstrous monument to himself. And all the movers and shakers, all the government officials, all the influencers, all of them came to stand before the statue, came for the event of the dedication and the unveiling. They all came to pay homage to Ol’ Nebby.
Nebuchadnezzar tells them how. When the signal hits, in this case the orchestra playing, when you hear this, you will bow down and worship this golden image of me!
Now, for me, when I usually think of this story, I think of it as, every time you hear music you have to bow down. But that’s not what we see here. This is not an ongoing thing, this is a onetime event, a show, or maybe a test of loyalty.
And here is the law. If you do not keep this command, you will be thrown into a fiery furnace and burned alive. This was not an uncommon punishment for those days. And there would have been a giant furnace, or a kiln may be a better way for us to think about it, right there. It would have been used to forge and smelt the metals and the gold used in the construction of the statue.
And yes, it seems odd to us today that people would bow down and worship a statue of their king, or that Nebby would build a 90 foot statue of himself in order for people to worship, but it’s not that odd. It is that days manifestation of Romans 1:25, where Paul writes: they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator,
Today we see it in our practical worship of our jobs, our schooling, our sports teams, our politicians, our favorite celebrities, even our families, husbands, wives, kids and their activities. John Calvin wrote that the “human heart is an idol factory.” It can even be our way of life, our comfort, or our nation that we make an idol in these days.
We are rarely called to literally bow down before our idols, though in some places and to some idols that still happens today. But we sacrifice for them. We put them first. We put them above God himself, even if we believe in God.
Our politician says something, no matter what, no matter what the Bible says, and we agree with it and we manipulate the bible to make it fit. We forget that the Bible is more important and more applicable to a Christians life than the Constitution is. We have kids who have activities Sunday mornings and so we justify ignoring church to worship at the altar of our kids, or our own hobbies and interests. These idols are still out there, and we are still bowing down before them, even today.
In verse 7, the music played. The band struck up a tune and the people all bowed down to the statue. All bowed down. All nations, all languages, all tribes. False gods don’t discriminate.
Music can be very powerful. That’s why we like to have music when we sing our songs of worship and praise at church. That’s one of the things, outside of fellowship, that I miss the most in this time of not meeting together.
But music can be used to manipulate as well. Many of the false teachers today use music to manipulate their congregation into emotional experiences. When you can make worship an experience, you can focus and steer that experience towards the desired object of worship.
You may often hear of these places where during the worship was a spectacle, it is described as an environment, people get caught up in the moment of that worship.
Sinclair Ferguson has some good things to say about this in his commentary on Daniel. He writes about this story: there was an aesthetic effect in abundance on the plain of Dura. A person would have had to be extremely narrow-minded not to share on the sheer magnificence of the occasion and the splendor of the music.
He continues: The sad reality is “all that glitters is not gold.” The important thing about worship is its object. Do we worship God or ourselves? The test of whether worship is God centered or centered on ourselves will be found in the question: Do we worship God according to His revelation or according to our own disposition? In worship, the statement, “How I like to worship is…” is irrelevant. All that matter is how God chooses to be worshipped.
And of course, worshipping and bowing down to a 90-foot statue in the image of Nebuchadnezzar is not how he chooses to be worshipped. Songs more about our feelings and emotions are not how he chooses to be worshiped. But worship these people did.
Let’s continue on with Daniel 3:8-18, as he writes:
Therefore, at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews. 9 They declared[b] to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! 10 You, O king, have made a decree, that every man who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image. 11 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace. 12 There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good.[c] But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”
16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.[d] 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

King Nebby didn’t discriminate. He didn’t care what nation you were from. He didn’t care what language you spoke. He didn’t care which gods you chose to worship. As long as you worshipped him. Again, same thing we saw in Rome. You can worship Jesus, as long as you call Caesar LORD. We see it today. You can believe in Jesus, as long as you worship science, inclusivity, tolerance, self-reliance, America, comfort, social justice, celebrity culture, communism, capitalism, achievements, worth health, Obama or Trump. As long as you bow down and worship at least one of those, go right on ahead and believe in Jesus.
And we see that the Chaldeans came to Ol Nebby and told him of three men who would not bow down to hum and his statue. They were very pointed in their accusations as well. It says they, “maliciously accused the Jews.” Some see some anti-Semitism in this, in how they singled out that they were Jews. That’s definitely possible. Some see this as personal jealousy that these three guys had such privileged positions after so short a time. That’s definitely possible. Some say it was a combination of the two. That seems most likely.
The fact is that all the people in attendance were told to bow or they would be punished by law. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego didn’t. Sinclair Ferguson uses them as an example to point out that we are not to make big shows of ourselves when we take stands like this. The three men didn’t make a big deal. They didn’t protest the statue. They didn’t sit down and so a hunger strike. They didn’t boycott. They just stood quietly and off to the side. They didn’t hide obviously, but they didn’t draw any undue attention to themselves.
We have a tendency, as human beings, to think like this,” Did you see me not doing that thing that everyone else was doing? Yup, I’m pretty holy. Did you see me doing that thing that nobody else was doing? Yup my faith in God is strong and uncompromising.”
We have seen this in the last two months, where churches have decided not to listen to the various state at home orders by the governors and the opened up anyway and various things have come if those situations. But most of them are not quietly meeting, not making a big deal of it, many of them are flaunting their disobedience in the name of religious liberty.
But Shad, Mac and Abe didn’t do that. They just stood to the side and refused to bow down. The Chaldeans kind of come across as annoyed children. I know I see in my house, “Daaaaaaad! They’re not doing what they are supposed to be! They are not listening to you!”
And if course, Ol Nebby was furious, to put it mildly. He brings the 3 guys in to give them a chance to make things right. It may be that he couldn’t believe it because he trusted. It could be he didn’t believe it because he could believe that anyone would dare disobey him.
Either way, it is surprising what happens. He gives them a second chance. He says, “They told me you wouldn’t listen, well here’s your chance. Ill strike up the band again, and if you bow now, we can put thus whole scenario behind us. If you don’t, well… you know the consequences…”
In fact, he says, who is the god that can save you. Essentially, he is saying that he is the one with ultimate power and authority and their god has none and cannot save them. Part of this seems to be that the furnace, or the kiln, is right there. There is no transportation. There is no waiting or delay. So, there is no time for another god to step in and help them.
Of course, the decline the invitation. They make their point; No matter what God can save them. He may choose not to, but even if that’s the case, we will still choose to worship Him, and we will never bow down to you.
Stephan Miller writes: although no doubt existed in the minds if Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-ego about the ability of their God to deliver them, they humbly accepted the fact that God does not always choose to intervene miraculously in human circumstances, even on behalf of his servants.

The early church father and historian Jerome, also says this: Thereby they indicate that it will not be a matter of Gods inability but rather of his sovereign will if they do perish.”

In addition to Gods ability to deliver and save regardless of whether he chooses to, here’s I, I think, the biggest point that I can take away from this. Yes, we are to obey Gods laws over man’s laws. Yes, they were right to take their stand and not bow to the statue. But man’s laws still stand. God puts every leader into authority, and he has granted governments their power and authority. So, if we decide that a situation or a law goes against Gods law, we may be right in choosing to not obey or submit to the situation or the law, but, and here is the kicker, You need to be willing to, and expect to face the consequences of your choices.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego were right to obey God instead of man, and not bow down. But they were also willing to submit to the punishment and consequences of their decision. This is one spot where, here in America, I think, Christians are soft. We want the right to disobey the laws and rules that we think are unbiblical and wrong, but we also want immunity from doing so.
We saw a crystal-clear example a few years ago, after the supreme decided that same sex marriage was legal. There was a county clerk in Kentucky. Her job was to sign the marriage licenses to make them legal. She decided that she was not going to sign the licenses for same sex couples. That was her conviction regarding obey Gods laws instead of mans. But then there was a whole uproar after she was arrested for not complying with the law. She was well within her rights to refuse to do so, but that doesn’t mean she should not have been punished for it. Christians, brothers, sisters, there are times and circumstances when it is right and good to reject man’s laws because they go against Gods laws. As Martin Luther famously said as he came before the synod at Dort, as he was told to recant of his 95 Thesis, he said he would not recant, he would not back down. He said, and I quote, “Here I stand, I can do no other.”
But we have to remember that there are consequences that come with it and we may not like them. We may be harmed, we may be imprisoned and killed for these stances. We need to know that ahead of time and we need to be willing to go through with that if and when we choose to stand for God against man’s laws.
Ok, so let’s read the next chunk of verses, Daniel 3:19-23:
Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury, and the expression of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated. 20 And he ordered some of the mighty men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. 21 Then these men were bound in their cloaks, their tunics,[e] their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace. 22 Because the king’s order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace.
Now, their response, as you would imagine, did not go over well with Ol Nebby. In fact, his fury raged. He was incensed. He ordered the furnace to be heated up to 7 times hotter than normal. It seems obvious with eh number 7 being used that this is an expression meaning to get it as hot as possible. He ordered that the 3 men would be thrown into the furnace immediately.
The guards tied them up, still in their clothes and took them to throw them in the firs. The furnace had gotten so hot that the guards throwing them in where overwhelmed by the heat and died. Many suspect that this was either because of the urgency of Nebuchadnezzar’s command, that they didn’t have time to prepare themselves, protect themselves from the heat. Or that there was a sudden shift of the wind direction right as they were throwing the guys in. I personally like the second one, because if that’s what happened, it speaks to God acting in the situation regardless of if he decides to save the 3 men in the furnace.
Let us read the last chunk of verses, Daniel 3:24-30:
4 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” 25 He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”
26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Highest God, come out, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. 27 And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them. 28 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside[f] the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.” 30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.
What a scene that must have been for Ol Nebby. He had the three of them thrown in, tied up, into a fiery furnace that was made as hot as it could possibly be, so hot that it killed the guards who threw them in. And Nebuchadnezzar looks in and is shocked and amazed. He says, not three, but four men! Unbound! Walking around! He couldn’t believe it! He had to show others as well to make sure he wasn’t seeing things!
And the fourth had the appearance as a son of the gods. Now, there has been a lot of speculation about this. Whether this was a physical appearance of the pre-incarnate Jesus, otherwise known as a Christophany. I believe that it is. Some believe, as many of the Jewish scholars did, that this was the archangel Gabriel. It isn’t explicit in the text, but here is what we do know. Nebby didn’t know who it was either, but from his appearance, it was clear that this fourth person was divine. He was more than a man. He would not have had any idea who Jesus was or that this was Jesus, but he knew that this was a divine being in there protecting Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego.
Nebby was so amazed that he called for the three to come out, along with the “Most High God.” Now, to the Jews and to Christians now, this title refers to the one and only, living God. But to the unbelievers, especially of the day, to those in a polytheistic, pluralistic society, this would have meant the highest of many Gods.
So, the boys came out and everyone around saw that they were unburned, unsinged and that they did not even smell like fire.
Nebuchadnezzar is so amazed, and he declares that their God is a god. That he sent an angel to save them. Their god saved them because they wouldn’t bow down to any other gods.
He then, for this particular instance, reverses his course and his decree. He says that anyone who says anything bad against their god will be punished. By not saying anything about it, he says that they no longer need to bow before his statue.
To be clear, there is no evidence that Nebuchadnezzar repented of his idolatry or his blasphemy. There is no evidence that he tore down his statue. There is no evidence that he trusted in the one true God, the God of Israel, the God of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. The god of the Jews was a great god, a god to be feared and respected and a god of which nothing may be said against, but he was not the god of Nebuchadnezzar.
In the end, Nebuchadnezzar restored the boys to their positions over the province of Babylon and even gave them a promotion of sorts.
This is the biblical story of 3 men in the furnace. This is not the typical Sunday School story. This is not the veggie tales’ story. This is what happened. The more I preach on stories in the Bible, that are supposedly well known, the more I see that God is incredible and he puts so much more into these stories than we see on the surface. It inspires me to try to look deeper and I hip it does the same for you.
Again, the main point of all this is that God is over and above all. He is over and above everything else. He is not one of many. He is not the greatest of many. He is the only and the highest. He is the all holy, all knowing God of all tongues, tribes and nations. As the only God, he sends only one means of salvation.
By his grace and his grace alone, he sent his Son, Jesus Christ, truly man, and truly God. ON that note, I will leave you with a passage from the Gospel of John. John 3:16-21:
“For God so loved the world,[i] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

Let’s Pray

1 Timothy 2:1-7 Life in the Local Church: Give Grace because we recieved Grace

1 Timothy 2:1-7
Life in the Local Church
Give Grace because we Received Grace

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to 1 Timothy chapter 2. We are continuing through our series through 1 & 2 Timothy that I am calling, Life in the Local Church. The Apostle Paul is writing to his spiritual son, Timothy, whom he has been discipling and whom he sent to Ephesus to pastor and shepherd the flock, and to protect them from the wolves that are False Teachers.
Last week, we look at one of the ways that we deal with False Teachers. Essentially, as we made clear last week, as the last resort of dealing with them is that we are to separate from them, to remove False Teachers from the fellowship of believers in our local church. This is specifically the last resort for those who refuse to repent and those who work towards disunity and discord and continue to spread a False Gospel.
And again, the purpose for this seemingly extreme position is not to punish, it is not to repay evil with evil, but it is, as Paul wrote, so they would learn not to blaspheme. Jesus tells in Matthew 18 that every opportunity should be made for a person to repent and turn back to the true Gospel. When we confront someone, we do so lovingly, to bring them about to repentance.
With that in mind and established, lets start looking at this week’s text. Overall, 1 Timothy chapter 2 is going to be a look at what prayer and worship look like in the local church. This week we will be looking at 1 Timothy 2:1-7. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and I greatly encourage you to read along in your preferred translation in front of you. 1 Timothy 2:1-7, Paul under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writing the holy, inerrant, infallible and immutable Word of God writes:
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,
for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,
who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,
who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.
For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

Many commentators say that Paul changes subjects at this point and moves on to something different than he was just talking about. I think that’s only partly true. He does indeed move on from talking specifically about false teachers and moves on to prayer and worship. But I think that Paul is also showing the other side of the coin, so to speak.
And so, therefore, First then. These are all ways that Paul transitions in his letters. Including what he just wrote and using that to give context to what he is saying next. We just went back over what Paul said last week, at the end, in the extreme, that is how we deal with False Teachers. In the meantime, this is how we treat people until that point.
Here’s a little bit of information, some behind the scenes info on your pastor by the way. I still have a kids sense of humor. I have 5 boys at home, their sense of humor is prevalent and will continue to be for several years. So I’m reading this passage and writing my notes and I realized something. The Bible is telling us to spit on people!
Bear with me for a moment. I know the list is slightly different in different translations, but it is telling us that we are to give all Supplications, All Prayers, all Intercessions, and all Thanksgivings for all people. The first letter of each of those words is SPIT! Now, don’t literally go out and spit on anybody, but if that is able to help you remember the list, then it’s a funny pneumonic device.
Now, in all seriousness. Paul is telling us something very difficult right here. We are to do these things FOR ALL PEOPLE! This is, of course, the people we like, our family, our church family, our co workers and the people we choose to have in our lives. But, maybe more importantly, and more challenging, this includes those we looked at last week, it includes those in a position of power over us in this world. It includes our enemies, our hated and those who do us wrong. It includes those who we chose not to include in our life.
Paul refers here to Kings and those in high positions. Often, and especially when Paul was writing this letter, those who assume power, those in physical power, most often will not believe in our orthodox Christian beliefs. Many who claim to, will not stand up to uphold or defend our orthodox Christian beliefs.
Caesars, such as Nero at the time this letter was written, kings, presidents, Generals, governors. All these positions are more likely to fight against our beliefs than for them. And sometimes it turns into physical persecution, such as we have not yet experienced, but Paul, Timothy and those in Ephesus would have been intimately aware of. Remember that Paul was writing this letter as a prisoner of the Roman Empire.
Are there some leaders who believe what we believe? Yes, I believe there are. Are all who say that they are, really believers, of course not. Even when they agree with us politically, that does not mean that their faith is real.
So many on both sides of the aisle claim to be Christians, claim to have faith, and yet how many do we see upholding and living what the bible says?
There has never been a president of the United States that has not identified themselves as some denomination of Christian or in the case of John F Kennedy, as Catholic. There have been 0 Jewish, 0 Muslim, 0 Mormon, 0 atheists that have been president. Kings and those in high positions will claim to be for us and with us, but rarely will share our beliefs and protect us.
And yet we are called to pray for them. And not just pray for them, but we are urged that supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for All people and Paul specifies Kings and those in high places as those who especially needs these things.
Ligon Duncan says that the reason that Paul uses so many words for prayer here in this section is so we can’t just walk through our prayers. We can’t just tack on a quick prayer for them at the end of the things that matter to us. Do you really hear this? We are to be praying for AND TO BE THANKFUL for people like Caesar Nero. People Like Presidents Obama and Trump. We are to be praying for and giving thanksgivings for men like Governor Newsome.
I know that’s not easy to hear. And its even harder to do. But we go back to the Words of Jesus. In the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:43-48, Jesus tells his followers:
“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.
We are called to a higher standard than we want to be called to. We don’t get to respond to people the way that they respond to us. The attitude that we have towards the world, towards false teachers, towards heretics, to those in power who oppose the church, to those who have personally wronged us; our attitude towards them is called by God to be one of supplication, one of prayer, one of intercession and one of thanksgiving.
We don’t have the right to respond with rancor. We don’t have the right, as followers of Christ, to respond in the same way that people treat us. Remember, our lives do not belong to us. When we surrender to Christ, our lives are not our own, but instead, we belong to Christ. We move from being slaves to sin, to be a slave to Christ.
Paul continues and says that we are to lead a peaceful and quiet life, one that is godly and dignified, for this is pleasing to God. This comment leads me to remember a few passages that Paul also wrote, all of them in 1 Thessalonians.
First, Paul twice mentions clearly what is the will of God in our lives. In 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7, Paul writes this:
For this is the will of God, your sanctification:[b] that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body[c] in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.
Lest we think that the will of God is all about outward actions, Paul also says in 1 Thessalonians 5:15-18:
See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Gods will is not hidden. He has been very clear. What His word says, we are to do. Period. It may not be as detailed or specific as we want it to be. We may not see how it applies to each minute decision that we make, but that doesn’t mean that He has not already told us how to proceed. And when he says, to live a peaceful and quiet life, that should be our goal.
Now, how does this relate to verses 1 & 2? Well, I think it comes back to us having a right heart, and a right attitude. With us being in the right place spiritually, it will allow us to focus on what important. Doing God-glorifying, kingdom work for God. It will allow us to not get caught up in the quarrels, the hatred, the discord that comes from, first, false teachers teaching falsely, and second, from wanting others who have wronged us to “get what they deserve.”
Those issues, those attitudes and those actions continue to escalate unless they are dealt with and they most certainly are not peaceful. They are not quiet. They are not godly, and they are not dignified.
Those are the things that are pleasing to God, to God our Savior. To God who desires ALL people to be saved. This speaks to the love, compassion and mercy that accompanies the grace of God. But this does not negate the justice and wrath of God as well. We know that Scripture does not contradict scripture.
So, we know that this does not mean universalism, where false teachers teach that ALL people will be saved and all people will go to heaven, no matter what their faith and no matter what they belief about Jesus Christ. False teachers will focus on the love of Christ to the detriment of all Gods other attributes.
This also does not mean that God rejoices in the destruction of some, or that he was a blood thirsty monster. False teachers will often teach that God of the Old Testament and God in the New Testament, manifested in Jesus Christ are, essentially, two different gods. They will teach that the Old Testament god was an angry, vengeful God. And that Jesus came along in the New Testament and replaced that angry, vengeful god with love, mercy and grace. We know, however that The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one God, three persons. There is only one God and God is unchanging. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.
And this also does not mean that we can be saved from any other source or method than by the grace of God alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. There are not many paths. There are not many gods who can forgive or offer salvation. It does not matter how sincere and genuine the faith of a Muslim, or a Hindu or any other religion is, without faith in Jesus Christ, there is no salvation. The gods of other religions are not all the same god with different names or seen from different perspectives. There is one God. And Has chosen to reveal himself through His Son Jesus Christ as recorded in Gods Holy Word, the Bible.
We can only be saved with knowledge and faith in the truth. The truth that Paul lays out right here in verses 5 & 6. “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.”
Again, Paul is using the truth to address and combat false teaching, both of his day and of our day as well. There is only one God. Not many like the Romans and various cultures from then worshipped. There is a God, unlike what many in our culture today say. And many today as well believe that the idea that there is only one God is egotistical of us. Specifically, the fact that we can claim to know who among al the gods that are worshipped out there is the true God. Who are we to say? Well its not us to say, its God himself who says, right here in his Word.
There is also only one mediator between God and men, and that is the man, Jesus Christ. One mediator, one path, one method. As we just addressed a moment ago, not many paths, many mediators, many saviors. This also means that there are not many go betweens. Saints are not mediators between us and God. Angels and spirits are not mediators between us and God. Pastors, Priests and ministers are not mediators between you and God. I do not have “an in” with God that you don’t have. I am not closer to God or having any sort of influence with him that requires you to come to me to pray to God.
There is but one. One commentary describes a mediator as “one who brings together parties who are out of communication, and who may be alienated, estranged or at war with each other.”
Well, if you know anything about human nature, about our sins, if you have read the Bible and seen what God has said about us, you know that this describes us and God. We are in rebellion against him and his sovereignty. Our sins have estranged us from Him.
But God. But God wasn’t satisfied with our estranged relationship and sent his son. He who was himself God, but he who was himself man as well. Again, Paul addressing false teaching here.
There were many teaching that Jesus was not actually a man. He was God, but he was not a man. He only appeared to be a physical human. His resurrected body was just an apparition, almost a ghost. Paul is emphasizing here that Jesus was indeed a man, a physical, literal man. This is essential for his mission to mediate, to bring together humanity and God, because he was both.
In order to bring us and God together, our sins needed to be atoned for. Because we were sinful, any atonement we tried to bring forth, would be woefully insufficient. If Christ was not a man, he would not be able to atone for mans sins. And because he was God, he was able to live a sinless life so that his atonement would indeed be sufficient, and not only for himself because he had no sin that needed atoning for, but sufficient for all those whom He has called.
The fact that Jesus was both God and man is absolutely essential to our faith. If a church is teaching that Jesus is not one or the other, it is a false church. One of the ways one church is teaching this today is by saying that while Jesus was here on earth, he was not God. He was only man while he was here. The teaching goes that this means that the miracles that Jesus did during his earthly ministry, we can also do as well, since he did them as just a man.
Please do not listen to or fall for this unbiblical heresy. If someone teaches this, run! This is a false Gospel that Paul, in scripture, in Galatians 1 curses to the depths of hell.
And so, Jesus, being able to atone for our sins, being man, gave himself as a ransom for all our sins. Marks Gospel uses Jesus own words that he came to be a ransom for many.
This is the truth that we are to come to knowledge of. This is the truth of salvation. This is the truth of God and his mission and his word. This is what Paul, Timothy and all believers have been called to believe and to share with others. It is what Paul and Timothy and I have been called to teach and defend from attacks from all directions. To teach in faith and truth.
Remember the grace that you have received, the gift of faith that has been given to you by God. And remember that if not for that grace, that we did nothing to deserve or to receive, that we are just as worthy of Gods wrath as those we don’t want to pray for and for those, we don’t want to give thanks for. But God.
What an amazing two words. Paul shows the importance of those two words in his letter to the Ephesians, chapter 2:1-7, he writes:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body[a] and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.[b] 4 But[c] God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
So when we think of those kings and those in high places that are antagonistic at best to our faith and the way we live it out, when we see those who are actively trying to work against our faith, we remember that God tells us that we are to not only pray, but pray honestly and earnestly and give thanks for them as well.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Let’s Pray

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

1 Timothy 1:1-7

Life in the Local Church

Built of Sound Doctrine

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 To Timothy, my true child in the faith:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Malachi 2:17-3:5 Pt 2

Gods Response to Sin

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

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

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

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

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

God, speaking through his prophet, Malachi says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But God isnt done here. Not all are called Children of God. Johns Gospel, chapter 1, verses 12 & 13:  But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

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

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

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

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

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

A special, informational interview: The Making of An Domestic Missionary

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Romans 16:1-16 Pauls heart for his fellow workers

Romans 16:1-16

Paul’s Heart for His Fellow Workers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lets Pray

Romans 12:9-13 Living the Christian Life part 2

Romans 12:9-13

Living the Christian Life pt 2

 

Good Morning! Please go ahead and grab your Bibles and turn to Romans chapter 12 with me. As usual, I you do not have or own a Bible, please grab one off the back table as a gift, from our church to you.

So, today, we are going to continue to look at this bullet points list that Paul has laid out in Romans chapter 12. Again, as a quick recap, Paul has written this letter to the early churches in Rome. And he starts out with a kind of systematic theology, through the first 11 chapters. In chapter 12, he shifts the direction from knowledge to application. But it’s not as big of a shift as it may seem. Part of Paul’s point is that we need the first, we need right knowledge of what Paul writes about in Chapters 1-11 in order to live out, with the right heart and the right motivation what he is laying out starting in chapter 12. If you remember last week, I likened it to an addition problem. We add the knowledge of why we need salvation (Romans 1:18-32, & 3:23), we add to it who does the saving, (Romans 5:12-21) and how we are saved (Romans 1:16, Romans 4, Romans 10:9-17) and that equals what our lives should look like, our growing sanctification (Romans 12-14). In others words, right biblical knowledge and understanding necessarily leads to right biblical application and action.

And so, last week, we started looking at Romans 12, verses 9-13. Like I said earlier, this list that Paul writes in verses 9-13, they are basically bullet points. There is not a lot of exposition or explanation to them, but what we see is that they are thoroughly scriptural. Paul talk more about each one in different letters and the scriptures speak to these in many different areas.

So we are going to continue our list this morning, and we will read the whole bullet point list, Romans 12:9-13. I’ll be reading out of the English Standard Version and I greatly encourage you to follow along in your Bibles.

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.

So, we looked last week at verses 9 and 10, looking at 5 of the 13 actions listed here by Paul. And what Paul is stressing here is the love and the unity of the diversity of the body of Christ. We saw that these 13 things are practical outpourings, physical signs of our justification, or our salvation, and our ongoing sanctification, or growth and maturity in our walk with Christ.

And so we are to let our love be genuine and to love one another. Not fake love, not pretend love, not hypocritical love, but to genuinely, sincerely, love one another. We are to abhor what is evil. We are to recognize sin, we are to grow to hate our sin and we are to repent and turn from our sin. We are to hold fast to what is Good, which is Gos himself. Cling tightly to him and all that he teaches, His Word to us. Read your Bible, as it is the most important physical thing we have in this world and it is the thing that God has stated he uses to draw us close to him. And lastly, we are to outdo one another in honor, thinking of others as better than ourselves.

Thats what we looked at last week. This week we jump off with Paul telling us #6, not to be slothful in our zeal. One commentator said that this was to show “no hesitation or sloth in Christian living.” Paul refers back to verse 8, where he said, the one who leads, with zeal; With passion, with enthusiasm, with zeal. Striving after, giving all diligence.

There is a reason that the term, “Christian work ethic,” exists. We should work hard and we should work to the very best of our abilities. We should be the first to get to work and the last to leave.

Gotquestions.org has this to say:

Christians should work hard. Work is integral to life, and approaching work as God-given will give us more pleasure in it. We can work cheerfully and without complaint because we are working for the Lord who loves us and has redeemed us. A good work ethic can also be a witness to others (Matthew 5:16). The world takes notice of our efforts and wonders why we do what we do.

Paul not only tells us that we are to work hard and serve the LORD, but he also tells us in Colossians 3 why, what should be behind it. Colossians 3:23&24, he writes:

23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

We have a reason to work hard, because we are to do it for the LORD. WE are to have passion and zeal for the work that we do and we are to find purpose and meaning in our work for the LORD and for serving others. Thats when and where we find our passion and purpose.

When we serve the Church. When we serve our church family. When we serve our spouse and our kids. When we serve our parents and family. When we serve our coworkers or our clients.

We are to be enthusiastic, passionate and hardworking in our work and our service. Do not be slothful in zeal. But, #7, Be fervent in Spirit. Be boiling in your Spirit. The passion and the fervor that he need to have in our spirit to work hard. We cant do it out of compunction, out of obligation, instead, Paul tells us that we need to have in our spirit a desire and a passion to serve.

And the other aspect to this is that, not only do we have to have passion and desire to work and serve, but our passion and enthusiasm has to be submitted under the authority of the Holy Spirit. It needs to be directed by the Holy Spirit.

Paul knew what he was talking about in this case, for two reasons. In Acts chapter 18, verse 25, Luke, who wrote Acts as he traveled with Paul, wrote that Apollos was fervent in Spirit. The same expression, the same phrasing as here in Romans 11. Apollos was passionate and doing good work for the LORD, but there were some aspects he had to be guided in and corrected. And in both cases, there is a vagueness in the translation, whether the spirit that is mentioned is our spirit or the Holy Spirit. Both are biblical and that’s why I’m addressing both.

The second way that Paul is intimately aware of this is that he himself led a life of zeal & passion that was not directed by the Holy Spirit. Paul’s life before his conversion by Christ on the Road to Damascus (Acts 9?) was one where he was dedicated 110% do doing the will of God. He had the entirety of the scriptures, what we have as the Old Testament, he had the whole thing completely memorized.

He was zealous in defending the Jewish faith and way of life. He chased after, hunted down, arrested and murdered Christians, doing what he thought he had to do to be a Good Jewish leader. And he was wrong.

Jesus Christ appeared to him, and Paul saw the truth, saw who Christ was, had his heart changed. And from there, he still had that same zealousness, that same passion, the same enthusiasm, but instead he submitted that zeal to the Holy Spirit and went where and did what God actually had for him. If notice, there are a few times in the book of Acts that Paul says they tried to go somewhere but the Holy Spirit restrained them.

Paul knew first hand about not being slothful in zeal, and to be fervent in spirit and as he says, #8, to serve the LORD. We talked about this some over the last couple weeks and these three really do blend and merge together.

Paul says to serve the LORD. And we are to do it with all our mind, soul and strength. We are to use the gifts and talents that God gave us, and use them with passion to serve him. There is a key distinction I want to point out here. We are not called to follow our passions, or to use our passions. We are to use our gifts WITH passion.

One of the biggest meta narratives in our culture today is that of follow your heart, find what your passion is, do what makes you happy. This is simply and clearly anti biblical. Of course Jeremiah says that the heart is deceitful above all things (Jer. 17:9), but we also are born with a natural, human sin nature. What we want and we desire is not what Paul says in verse 9. He says to abhor evil and cling to what is good. Look at the world around us. Remember if you can, who you were before christ. We abhor what the Bible says is good and cling to what the Bible says is evil.

Our passion is for ourselves and our benefit and our glory, our comfort. The things that we place ahead of God. Instead Christ says to follow him. Do what he tells you to. The gifts and talents, the job that he calls you to might not be what you are passionate about. That doesn’t matter.

Mike Rowe, who hosted the TV show, Dirty Jobs, gave a commencement speech in 2016 and, without knowing it, made this Biblical point, while giving advice to graduates. He advised them not to follow their dreams, their passions, but to follow opportunity. He talked about one guy, who started a septic tank cleaning business. This guy made himself into a millionaire by doing this dirty job. When asked about the how and the why, he said, “I looked around to see where everyone else was headed and I went the opposite way. Then I got good at my work. Then I began to prosper. The one day, I realized I was passionate about other people s crap.”

The principle there is what I want to focus on. You wont always be called to do what your passionate about. But if you submit to the Holy Spirit, do what you are called to do and do it joyfully, with the right heart, you will develop a passion for it.

If you would have talked to me 10 years ago, you would not recognize me. I was a newer Christian. I had almost not graduated High School because of the senior speech I needed to do, almost didn’t do and did so poorly at. I broke out in shakes and sweat speaking to more than 2 or 3 people at a time. As I was trying to figure out what God had for me, the one thing I knew was that it wasnt going to be a preaching or teaching position. God loved me too much to put me through that. He would use me in some behind the scenes way. He would use me somewhere where I didn’t have to be known or pointed out or in front of anybody. And yet, I am following Gods call and did, and still does sometimes, scare the living daylights out of me, I have developed a passion for sharing the truths of the Gospel to people, whether it be one on one or to small groups or to an entire congregation like now. I still get nervous and sweaty every time I get up here, but God has grown the passion and zeal inside of me so that there is no option of saying no.

And yes, some of you, in how God calls you to serve him, it will have been your passion before as well. But for most of us, the passion will follow the obedience instead of the other way around.

Next, number 9, Paul says that we are to rejoice in Hope! This is not the first time he has said this in this letter either. Earlier on, in Romans 5:1&2, he goes into more detail, writing:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith[b] into this grace in which we stand, and we[c] rejoice[d] in hope of the glory of God.

Our hope is in the grace of God alone. Which is obtained by faith alone. Our faith in Jesus Christ and his work on the cross alone. It is in that, It is in the promise that God made us regarding his grace, our faith and the free gift of salvation that we rejoice.

The writer of Hebrews assures of the promise of God, writing in chapter 10, verse 36, For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. We will receive what God has promised. That is guaranteed. What is promised is based on the aforementioned faith. When we the gift of faith (Eph 2:8) we have secured the promise.

Biblical hope is not the same as how we use the word in English today. Hope, as used in the bible is defined as to wait for salvation with joy and full confidence (www.blbclassic.org)

It’s not that I hope the rain will start, or that I hope the kids behave, or that I hope we have steak for dinner. It is a hope that is already paid for, that is promised by the one who can make those promises and guarantee his faithfulness in keeping them. It is a hope that is seeing its fulfillment even though we have not yet obtained it. But rejoice in that hope, and we rejoice with full confidence.

And that’s what allows us to do the next in this list, number 10, to be patient in tribulation. We know that, despite the hope and promises that we have, that we are still living in fallen world full of sin. We know that one day, all this will pass away, that all things will become new again. When Jesus Christ comes back, the scriptures say that this world will pass away and the new heaven and new earth will come down. In that new world there will no more sin.

But sin is here and sin is now. There are trials and tribulations. And they are real. Nothing the scriptures say is meant to lessen the pain that we feel as we go through, or to negate the difficulty of the tribulations we will feel. But because of the hope we rejoice in, because of the promise, we can be  patient in tribulation. James 5:7&8, he writes:

Be patient, therefore, brothers,[a] until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. 8 You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

The other part, what scripture does make clear is there is reason and purpose to the things that we go through. God is in control and he has every speck of dust, every moment in history, every event, every hair on our head under his true and good and sovereign control.

James 1:2  Count it all joy, my brothers,[b] when you meet trials of various kinds. James makes it clear that we will meet trials. There is no getting around that and not all circumstances warrant praise. But because of the hope that we rejoice in, we do count it all joy. We praise him in the storm, and we remember what Gods Word says.

Paul writes in his letter to the Philippians, chapter 2, verse 17 &18:  Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.

Paul was telling them that no matter what happened to him, no matter if he was put death, no matter what, he was doing and going through what God had determined for him and he was proud to be of service to the LORD. And for that same reason, we should rejoice with him. Paul says later in the same letter,  Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. (Phil 4:4)

The writer of Hebrews also makes it clear some of the reasons that we go through some of the things that we do. Some of it is to grow us, to sanctify us. Proverbs tells us that Iron sharpens Iron. (Proverbs 27:17) Our human sin nature means that we don’t change unless we need to. Thats a part of the reason that the Holy Spirit needs to change our hearts, because we can’t and wont on our own.

And so God puts us through some of these things to grow us into the people that he has for us to be. Hebrews 12 talks about the discipline that comes from God. If you read that chapter, that word discipline can be applied two ways.

Discipline can be the negative consequences of decisions we make and actions we take. But it is also in the form of being disciplined. Being trained and disciplined to do whats right and to do the things that God has for us. We go through these trials and tribulations and we are patient with them, knowing that God has a plan.

One of the ways that we are able to stay patient through tribulations is number 11, Be constant in prayer. Prayer is a vital part of our spiritual life. It can take the form of formal, group prayer, like we do here multiple times throughout the service, but it is also what we do all day every day. Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians that we are to Pray without Ceasing.

One of the problems, as Paul wrote in Romans 8, he says in verse 26, For we do not know what to pray for as we ought. So we do what we can. We throw little prayers up throughout the day, what ever come into our minds. We spend intentional and specific time in pray, lifting up petitions, praising God, letting him know whats going on in our lives, whats on our hearts and minds. Prayer is us communicating with God. It’s what grows our relationship with him. The Bible is Gods way of talking to us, and prayer is our way of talking to God.

And because we do not know what to pray for as we ought, Jesus gave us a prime example of how to pray. In Matthew 6:7-15, he tells his followers:

And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 Pray then like this:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.[
a]
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,[
b]
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,[
c]
12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.[
d]

14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Best advice I can give you in regards to prayer is to just do it. Whatever comes into your mind. Whatever is on your heart. Pray the words of God right back to him, pray the scriptures. In all things, what ever you pray, pray without ceasing and be constant in prayer.

Number 12, Paul says to Contribute to the needs of the saints. We are a family. If one of is struggling, if one of us is suffering, if one f us is going through things, we need to come together and help. In Galatians 6:2, Paul tells us to Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

This, of course, ties directly into what we looked at last week, to love each other with sincere love. And we need to be open with each other about our struggles and sufferings. If we need help, we need to ask. And if we see that someone needs help, we need to act.

Jesus tells us the two greatest commandments. In Mark 12, starting in verse 29, The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

We love our neighbor as ourself. We love each other with sincere love. We show the love of Christ with each other. We use our gifts to serve each other as the body of Christ. Hebrews 13:16,  Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

This isn’t just about material goods either, as is the easiest way to think about it. We share what we have. WE have much to share. We have our gifts and talents to share. We have opinions and insight to share. We have knowledge and experience to share. We have love and, maybe the thing that costs the most, we have time & our lives to share.

Lastly, number 13, Paul tells us, Seek to show Hospitality. Hospitality as the Bible uses it is showing love to strangers. This, again, can mean many things based on the context of our interaction with people and what their needs are. It depends on the context of what we have to give, as we just talked about. Strangers can be anyone we meet on the street. It can be visitors that come in here Sunday mornings. It can be anyone and everyone.

Jesus says in Matthew 25:35-40:

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, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[f] you did it to me.’

Hospitality is of course, at the same time, both incredibly simple and can be complicated, mostly in discerning what it means right then and there. The simple part, be loving, welcoming, treat all with the dignity and respect that comes with being made in Gods image. (Gen 1:27) Showing the love to strangers.

The hard part is what knowing or seeing what is needed to be loving, welcoming at the moment or to that individual. Is it food, is it visiting, is it encouragement, is it a smile? What is it? Only way to know is to start with the simple and discern what comes from that.

As Paul listed these 13 things, these ways that we can show love to each other and to show that we love Christ, he isnt just listing a check list of things we need to do. Instead he is again focusing on what should be pouring out of us when God gets ahold of our hearts. Paul tells us that faith, hope and love are the Good things God gave us. And the greatest is love. (1 Cor 13:13)

This list here and what Paul is going to continue to write, it’s not just what we are supposed to do, it’s what love looks like. What true biblical love, love that God defines, what that love looks like. And is what we need ot be continually challenging ourselves with. Are we listening to Gods Word? Are we showing His love? Are growing and progressing? Has the grace of God, received through faith alone in Christ alone overtaken us and as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:14, does the love of Christ control us?

God has given us this list for a reason and we need to make sure that we are listening to him.

Lets Pray.

Romans 8:26-30 God is Sovereign

 

Romans 8:26-30

God is totally Sovereign

Good Morning! Please go ahead and turn with me in your Bible to Romans chapter 8. As always, if you do not own a Bible, if you do not have one, please take one from the back table as our gift to you.
So, Romans chapter 8. We have kind of camped out here for a while. From what I figure, we have this week and next week left in Romans chapter 8. I said when we started this chapter that many consider this the greatest chapter in the Bible. Paul has packed so much in this section of scripture.

Paul wrote this letter to the churches at Rome. He loved the churches in Rome, and he wanted to come to them, wanted to meet them, wanted to spend time with them. As of yet, he had been unable. And so, in this letter, Paul lays everything out here. Everything that you need to know about the human condition, about God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Everything you need to know about sin and death and salvation and the cross. Everything you need to know about the promises and assurances of God. Everything you need to know about practically living life as a Christian.

And while there is theory and practical in both sections, Chapter 8 seems to be the crux of that. It is the combination of it all. It brings together everything that Paul has been talking about prior to this chapter and it lays all the groundwork for what is to come.
And what we looked at last week, is an incredible sense of encouragement and assurance from God. There will be suffering, there will be sin and pain, there will be death, but Paul says in verse 18,
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
God promises us that, those of us who are children of God, those who have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, those who have repented and believed in the [perfect and all-sufficient work of Christ, what is waiting for us in eternity future is so far beyond what we can even begin to imagine that when we get there, the things we are dealing with today will pale in comparison.
God makes that promise and we look forward to the answer, the fulfillment of that promise, we have put our hope in that guarantee that God gives us. That hope, that knowledge of Gods fulfillment of his promise is one of the biggest things that helps us get through today.
So with all that build up, let’s go ahead and look at the passage of scripture we will be studying today. Paul’s picks right up in Romans chapter 8,and we will look at verses 26-30. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. Romans 8:26-30.
Paul writes:
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because[g] the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[h] for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
So Paul here in this section is looking at some more of the specific things that we can take assurance in, that we can hang our hope on and how we can do that. First up is the Holy Spirit and prayer. This first verse here, verse 26 is a verse that I read wrong for a long time.
I read this verse as saying if we happen to not know how to pray in that moment. When you stumble over your words in prayer. In those moments and in those times, The Holy Spirit will pick up your slack. But that’s not what the text says. There is no IF in the text. instead it says simply, We Do Not Know What To Pray For As We Ought.
We don’t. Not if or when. We don’t. We pray as best we can. We pray to petition God. We pray to lay our hearts and our wants and needs out to Him. We pray to align ourselves with his will. We pray to confess our sins. We pray to thank him for his grace and his blessings. Prayer is an expression of all that we think and feel about God. But we don’t pray on our own.
Just like we can not achieve our salvation, we can not receive salvation without God giving it to us. We cannot receive salvation without the Holy Spirit changing our hearts from stone to flesh, without Jesus lifting the veil from our eyes. Just like that, we cannot know what to pray for as we ought, not without the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. Our weakness. That weakness which makes God such a great and grace filled, merciful God. Paul recount is 2 Corinthians 12:9, that the LORD said to him,
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
We see in scripture that the Holy Spirit is our Helper. The same role, the same description, the same wording that was given to Eve in the Garden as the Helper to Adam is Given to the Holy Spirit. We helps us with out walk, helps us with our sanctification, and so much more. And he helps us with prayer.
Now, how often do you go to pray and you find that you just cant. So much is going on. So much that we only get glimpses of, or rumors of. Things that we don’t know what the will of God is.
But the Holy Spirit helps us in that weakness. The Holy Spirit knows what the will of God is because the Holy Spirit is God. And he takes our heartfelt, deep, guttural, internal prayers that we can’t communicate and He takes them and delivers them to Jesus Christ, who is our intercessor, our advocate, THE WAY to God the Father.
The Holy Spirit is who gives grace to our imperfect prayers. The Holy Spirit is who give mercy to our wrong prayers. The Holy spirit is the one who changes our prayers over time. The Holy Spirit is the one who helps us in our weakness, which is to help us pray the will of God.
Words are easy to say. To believe and to mean the words that we say, that is hard. It is easy to say, “God, your will be done.” We say it all the time. We pray it all the time. But do we really mean it? Do we really mean, LORD, Not my will, but your will be done.
Because the natural tendency for human beings is to chose to twist Gods will, or ignore Gods will. It is to choose to hear the Gods will is what we already want to do, what we are comfortable with or what we are already doing.
Jesus of Nazareth, as in addition to fully 100% God, was also 100% fully, physically human, was a perfect example that he would rather not do what God the Father was having him do. He says in the Garden, right before he is arrested, says this very thing. He says, Father, I know this is the only way to achieve what we decide needed to be achieved, but if there is any other way, I would rather do that. But there’s not, so not my will, but your will be done.
Perfect submission to Gods will. Thats what we are called to. Thats what the Holy Spirit will help us move towards. And Gods will does not always have to be a mystery towards us. It is in certain circumstances, certain situations, maybe even certain seasons.
But God has perfectly revealed his will to us. He has given us his Word, the Bible. The Bible is all sufficient. It is complete and it is perfect and there is no special revelation from God outside of the scripture. And so, how does the Holy Spirit help us? The Holy Spirit helps us to have a desire to know Gods Word. He gives us a want to know what Gods will is. He helps us to rightly understand the scriptures, so that we can rightly understand from the bible what Gods will is. He opens our eyes, helps us to see things in scripture as we read, as we mature, as we memorize scripture, the Holy Spirit helps us to see things in the scripture that we had not seen before. His glories are new every morning.
The Holy Spirit reveals the meaning of scripture to us as we read Gods Word. And so we have access to Gods revealed will. We can know what his will is in a great many things and situations, IF, IF we are willing to submit to Gods will. Jesus knew. He said it first, he said, I don’t want to do it. But I know its Gods will so I will.
But why? Why would we do Gods will if we don’t want to? Why would we choose to suppress his will? Why would we submit to his will if it isnt good for us? Well, Paul addresses that here too. First, verse 28, And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Those that love God, another way of identifying the children of God, genuine, legitimate Christians. For those, Gods will, when it plays out is always for the best. Always.
We could say, and give lip service to we do Gods will because God said so. And that’s technically true. But why does it matter that God said so? Who is God? What are his motivations, his purposes?  We could  try to use human leaders as examples. If King David told us that we were to do something, we know that he was a godly man, a man after Gods own heart. Not perfect mind you, no human example will be. but we can generally trust him to have whats best in mind when he, as King, gives us a command. We can do what he said, because he said so.
But what about the other side. It would be easy to use recent or current American Politics here, but I’ll resist that temptation. Instead, imagine living in Eastern Europe in the 30’s and 40’s. Hitler is reigning supreme. He says to do something. You know that he does not have whats best for anyone other than himself in mind. IF you chose to obey what he says, it would generally be done out of fear, fear for safety or causing waves or being noticed. You may choose to obey, but there is no confidence in the motivations or the purposes behind his commands.
We are shown that God is perfectly Good and perfectly just. God is perfectly perfect. And God works all things together for the good of those who are called, according to his purposes. I shared last week, this does not mean that all things are good. It does not negate the pain, the suffering, the hardships that we are going through today. But it means the same thing Joseph said to his brothers in Egypt back in Genesis 50, verse 20:
 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive. God is not the author of sin or evil, but he has authority over it and will use it to bring about his purposes, to bring about good.
Now, many know that verse, Romans 8:28. It’s a popular verse and many know that God works all things together for good. But we also need to remember the context. The verses before and after. So I will often say you can’t read, or maybe more accurately you can’t understand the right meaning of Romans 8:28 without Romans 8:29.
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
As we have looked at over the last couple of weeks, we have to go through SOME of the discipline and problems that we go through in order to be sanctified, to work through our sin and to kill the sin that keeps coming back at us. And we see here, some more details regarding that. All those things that God works together for the good of those who are called. The good that is being done is that we are being conformed to the image of his Son, the image and likeness of Christ Jesus.
What our sin means for evil, to tear us away from God, to give in to our flesh. What our sin means for evil, God uses for good. And one of the overarching points, which will become even more apparent in verse 30, is that what God wills, what he willed before the beginning of the world, will come to pass. Period. Whatever God said is going to happen, will happen.
Those whom he foreknew, he also predestined. This can be scary for many people. God knows all. And he knew it all before the beginning of time. He is omniscient. He knows all. But if that was all, then we could not be assured that what he has determined as his will will come to pass, but also, that means that he only knew but didn’t cause it to happen. If he only foreknew, he would be omniscient, but not omnipotent, all powerful. All it would mean is that God could see the future.
But not only can he see the future, but he is in control of all things. He is in control of what happens and so, not only can see the future , but determines it as well. And if he determines it, we can trust in it and we can, as we dealt with last week, put our hope in the future, because we know that God leaves nothing to chance, but works all things together for good.
And so, if you are in Christ, if you are a fellow heir with Christ, you can rest in that, you can be assured of that, secure in that because God determined that it would be so from the beginning of time. And that leads us into verse 30, where we will finish up today.
And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
And this is where we can stand firm with assurance. This has the same point, different process, different context of what is being talked about, but same point as what Paul is saying in Philippians 1:6,
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
We see a bit of a timeline here in Romans 8:30. First, before the beginning of time, God predestined those whom would be saved. Again, if you struggle with that term, that phrase, that doctrine, Paul points it out as a comfort, as a reassurance, it is designed to give you peace about your salvation.
But that determination by God comes first. Then, at some point in our life, at some point God calls us to him. We don’t start by searching for him, he reaches out to us and calls us to him. sometimes that process takes a long time. Sometimes it starts to take effect, it changes something in us, and we do start searching for him. Sometimes we resist. Sometimes we respond quickly and emphatically. Sometimes, the Holy Spirit ends up dragging us kicking and screaming to God. But those whom he calls will, ultimately respond to that call, and they will be justified.
Remember some of these words Paul has spent time establishing earlier in this letter. Justification is what happens when we respond to that call. It is what happens when we believe, when we are saved through faith alone by grace alone, in Christ alone. We are justified. Our sins make us guilty in the eyes of God. That guilt required blood atonement. We cannot provide perfect enough blood to cover it ourselves. Christs blood on the Cross, his death on the cross covers it for us. When we are justified, that blood is applied to us. And So, when we are justified, we are no longer seen as guilty in Gods eyes, but he sees Christs righteousness covering us and we are declared innocent.
And those whom he justifies, he also glorifies. This is the end. This is when we pass from our broken sin filled bodies to our physical, spiritual, glorified, perfect, eternal bodies. This is when we enter into the eternal Kingdom of God where we will eternally worship and reign with christ for eternity.
It is interesting that the past tense of glorification is used here. We already mentioned Gods omniscience, his omnipotence and now we see his omnipresence. This is the fact of God that he is in all places at once. He is everywhere at the same time. But that’s not all. I feel like an infomercial, But wait, there’s more!
Not only is God everywhere all at once, but he is at all times at the same time. He is outside of time. He created time. That means he is in the Garden with Adam and Eve at the same time he is protecting David from his enemies, at the same time he is telling the crowd at jesus baptism that he is please with his Son, at the same time Christ is crucified, at the same time he is right here, right now, at the same time he is at the end when all will stand before him in judgment and every knee shall bow and every tongue confess. Which means, for the purposes of this section of scripture, that our glorification is already done. Not in our timeline because we are not in all times, we are not outside of time, But in Gods eyes, we are already glorified. The job is done. It is finished. Nothing can undo it.
And that glorification is when the glory that will be revealed to us will render the sufferings of this present time over and dead. God shows us his revealed will and he gives us all we need to know at the moment, in this time, as Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 13,  
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
God through the Holy Spirits inspiration of Paul, writing this letter, is giving us assurance. If you are a Christian, if you have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, if you have been justified, if you have been saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, then you will be glorified. You will spend eternity with Christ. As we read earlier, he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Lets Pray

Give thanks to the LORD, his steadfast love endures forever

Why should we give thanks to God? and When? Here is my sermon from November 23, 2014

 

 

Would love to hear your feedback and what you all think!

 

Casey

 

Psalm 100