Village Missions Sunday Focus on Rural Missions Ephesians 4:11-16

Village Missions Sunday

Focus on Rural Missions

Ephesians 4:11-16

 

 

Good Morning! SO. Go ahead and grab your Bibles with me this morning and turn to Ephesians chapter 4. We are going to be taking a break this morning from our series through the Gospel of Luke to look at Gods design for the local church and what our role in that is and what role Village Missions plays in it as well.

Who here had heard the name Village Missions? Who here has a general idea of who they are and what they do? Who here knows exactly who they are and what they do? Village Missions mission statement is that they exist to produce spiritually vital churches in Rural North America.

The text I want us to read this morning will show us what it means to become a spiritually vital church in our community. So, we are going to read from Ephesians chapter 4, verses 11-16. Grab your Bibles, follow along with me. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version though more important than which translation you read along with, is that you do in fact read for yourself what the Word of God says.

Paul, writing to the church in Ephesus, inspired by the Holy Spirit writes:

And He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by waves and carried about by every doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

 

          May God Bless the Reading of his Holy Word.

 

The first thing I see in this passage is that God has given us all the things we need, people, gifts, each other, to grow the local church into a spiritually vital church. A lot of people think that it’s just the pastor’s job to grow and build the church.

But we see that has given the church more than just the pastor. As the pastor, I have very specific purposes and very specific things that God has called me to, and I will be held accountable for. But it is not solely my responsibility to grow and build the church. It is all of our responsibility.

The church is what and who helps the church grow. I have been around when new people have come to a church. Sometimes they are there for a day, sometimes they are around for a couple weeks, sometimes a couple months, but they leave because of someone or someone’s in the church.

At one church, we had many families start to come into the church, young families with kids. Exactly what the church said they wanted. Only the inner influencers at that church chased away every single family that came through the doors. Families didn’t dress or live the way they were supposed to. Kids didn’t sit down, shut up and stand quietly off to the side. The church actively, though likely unknowingly, stopped that church from growing.

The other option is that people come in those church doors and the people in the church help them stay. Bring them in, welcome them. Make them feel like the church is happy for them to be here. Help them to hear the Gospel and to grow in maturity of Jesus Christ.

That is the responsibility of each and everyone of us in this room. One of the things that Ephesians 4 makes clear, both in our passage this morning and back in verses 3-6 is that the unity of his church is absolutely vital to the church being spiritually vital.

Unity. Its one of the things that we have talked about and prayed for for the entire 2 ½ plus years I have been here. Unity is something that we are continually striving to get better at. We are a community Church. We are not a specific denomination. We hold the Bible up as our standard. With that, people from all different theological backgrounds and no theological backgrounds.  We are not going to agree on all the different details, and we don’t have to. You hear me say it often, but it bears repeating often. Unity is not uniformity.

Hear that. WE don’t all have to believe all the same things. We don’t all have to live the same life. We don’t have to look a certain look. We have to believe and be united in one thing. And that is Jesus Christ. We have one core set of beliefs that classify us as Christians.

We are saved by the grace of God alone. That grace is poured out through a gift of God called faith. And it is through that faith alone in the one and only Jesus Christ alone, fully man, fully God, lived a perfect, sinless life, died a death in our place to pay the penalty for our sins, through that faith that Jesus Christ reconciles us to God the father and grants us eternal forgiveness and eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven. We believe that this is revealed only through the Word of God alone, that Word given to us by the scriptures that are combined into what we have and is known as the Bible. None of this is or can be deserved by us. It is done for the glory of God alone and by the glory and holiness of God alone.

We believe that core group of beliefs and everything else is secondary. We believe those core beliefs and we can rightfully call ourselves Christians. We believe those core beliefs and we are united as a church family and as the chosen children of God. We are united in our standing before God. Justified by faith. Justified through Christs perfect righteousness. In united in that we are all disciples of Christ.

You know, I use that word “disciples,” very purposely. New Village Missions Executive Director John Adams asks this question; “Do you think like Jesus, respond like Jesus, trust God like Jesus does?”

We are disciples of Jesus Christ. This is a lifelong goal and a lifelong process. God is always offering opportunities for us to grow. But we can’t do it alone. We were never meant to do it alone.

Paul makes it clear in Ephesians that the church is to be “No Christian Left Behind.” WE build up the body until we ALL attain the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

          Christ is our standard. We cannot and will not meet that standard here in this lifetime. But we work towards and we desire for that progress. The Holy Spirit works in us and if we are truly Gods children, we will see continual growth and maturing over our lifetime. And we will see it together. And of course, it won’t be like a rocket, a straight line moving up, instead our sanctification is more like the stock market. It will have us and downs. We will rise and we will fall. But over time, we will always see it trending towards that maturity and that unity in the faith.

We work together, walking with each other from the beginning of our walk with Christ. We don’t start immediately mature. I know when I became a Christian, I knew very little of the Bible. Most of us are in the same boat. And because we don’t have that anchor in place, that foundation set of the Word of God, we are susceptible to false teachings. We are susceptible to passion and persuasive abilities to deceive. We are susceptible to those who would play off our emotions and take us down the wrong path.

We already have a natural human tendency to believe what we already agree with. We already have a natural human tendency to believe what we want to believe instead of what’s true.  We see this all the time. Do you have a bible teacher, a pastor online, or an author that you really like? Be careful, because we tend to put blinders on to what they teach and ignore if they say something unbiblical. Worse yet, if they start sound and go down the path and end up completely unbiblical, we ignore the problems with the new teaching and when confronted with it, we point to the older, more solid stuff. My point is this; if there is anyone that you let teach you or influence you and you cannot find anything that you disagree with them on, you just made them an idol.

Focus on the Bible. In context. Focus on learning and knowing his Word. That’s how we get to know Jesus. John Adams makes the point that The Better you know Christ and the more entrusted every area of life to his will, the less likely you will be deceived. Know and Trust his Word. BE sensitive to the conviction of the Holy Spirit but be cautious. Only Jesus had a 100% true belief system. We only get a diminishing percentage of error.

The more we know Gods Word, the more we can speak the truth to others. But we have all been on both the giving and receiving end of speaking truth in a very unloving way. We unfortunately see it too often. I see it around here more often than I would like. I have also been guilty of it myself more often than I would like. We don’t always realize we are doing this when we do it though, so I want to say that if I have spoken truth to you or spoken anything for that matter, in an unloving way, I am sorry.

Paul here is talking about more than just the words that come out of our mouth though. The word used for truth here is a verb. It basically means that we are to be truthing in love. Our Words, our actions, our attitude even when we are speechless, our whole lifestyle, living out truth and love. Again, I know we can all agree that God gives us plenty of opportunities to improve in this area and to build unity.

If we have truth without love, we have hurt feelings, anger, and so much more. If we have so called love without truth, we have pretty lies. We give false hope. We see this in some many portrayals of Christianity in our culture. Christians are often only portrayed one of two ways.

First is that bigoted, close minded, hate filled protestor that says that everyone except them is going to hell. Now, they have some truth in that, in regard to we need to repent of our sins when we come to Christ. Rejecting Christ and embracing our sins will unfortunately lead us down the road to eternity in Hell. The other portrayal is those who claim that none of that matters and that every one gets to go to heaven or as long as you’re a nice person, you get to go to heaven, or that all religions lead to the same path towards heaven. They have what looks like love, but there is no truth there. Jesus makes the claim, the true claim, that He is the way, the truth and the life, and the only way to the Father is through him. You can’t have it both ways.

Truthing in love can and will be hard. But that what God calls his church to and it’s a sign of that spiritual maturity. And Paul is showing us what Gog has called his church to look like.

Discipleship.

Truthing in Love.

Unity in Christ

Growing in Maturity.

Using our gifts to build up the saints and to do the work of Gods Kingdom.

 

Gifts that Christ has given the church. Pastors and teachers to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry. You. You are the saints. You are here to do the work of the ministry. To walk and grow with each other. Make Bangor Community Church a spiritually vital church. You determine what this church looks like, how it acts, how it is seen in the community.

If you are here because God called you here, then you have a vital role to play in this church. If you are here because God called, you here you are responsible to use your gifts for the betterment of the church. You play a vital role in making this a spiritually vital church in our rural community.

First, and I’m not talking chronologically, but first, we make ourselves and our church family more spiritually mature. We walk together and grow to act more and more Christlike. We gather together and we worship together.

I said it recently and Ill say it again this week. A common anthem over the past 6 months with COVID and the church shutdowns and what not, the anthem is that the church is not the building, it’s the people. And that’s true but its not the whole truth. The word that is used for church in the New Testament means gathering. So more accurately, the church is the gathering of Gods people.

We gather to preach the Gospel. We learn and teach and study the Word of God. WE preach the Word.

 

The second thing we do. We love the people. We look out from this church; we look out from the building and we look at the community around us. We look at our family and our friends. We look at our co workers and all those we know that don’t know Christ.

Each and every one of us is responsible for showing and more importantly, telling those we know about the good news of the Gospel. Each and every one of us is responsible for praying for our friends, neighbors, loved ones, the Bible even says we are all responsible for praying for our enemies and those who don’t like as well. We are to love the People.

 

You know, one of the mottos that I fell in love with from Village Missions, and I cling to this, and use this as one of my guides. They say our job as Village Missionaries is to Preach the Word and Love the People. That’s what I just described.

Someone asked this week, “IF we don’t Bangor, who will?” There is so much truth in that question. Most rural communities are forgotten places. Most rural communities the non-hyperbolic answer is that outside of their own community, literally no one will be praying for them.

This one of the benefits to Village Missions. Its an organization, a web of churches in rural communities that can and do pray for each other. And they make it so easy to pray for each other. In our bulletin each week, we include the Village Missionaries of the week. The give a brief description of their field and then give a few brief prayer requests. They include in their communications, Stories from the Field. These are actual stories sent in by Village Missionaries about the work that God is doing on those fields. This way you can see how to pray and see the answer to those prayers.

Their quarterly Newsletter called Country Matters gets sent out as well, highlighting Village Missionaries and the mission. This most recent one talks about the retirement of Executive Director Brian Wechsler and the new Director, John Adams.

AS you all walk in the front, you will see the work in progress map I’ve got going on. That is a map of all the Village Missions fields throughout the country. These are rural or formerly rural in a few cases, rural communities that are all connected. They pray for each other. They know and share the unique challenges that come with rural ministry. They know the struggles and the blessings. The know the opportunities and the joys of seeing friends and family come to know the LORD and the heartache of seeing families destroyed, communities torn apart and disunity in the church.

IF you wonder if there is anyone outside of Bangor praying for us. There is. 230 communities throughout North America. 230 communities that Village missions serves plus numerous others that receive the Village Missions material. All praying for Bangor Community Church and this community.

Praying for the saints for each and everyone of us to build up the body of Gods church. Remember, Paul tells the Ephesians, no family member left behind, until we all attain the unity of the faith.

We sow the see of the Gospel. We go out and make disciples. We preach the Word and Love the People. We do that and God grows his church. In the book of Acts, it says that God added to his church daily.

IF we do Gods work, if we use the gifts that God gave us to use for the building up of the body of Christ, our local church, Bangor Community Church, will grow into a spiritually vital, spiritually healthy church.

And Gods church, the universal church will grow in numbers. God will bring the increase. We sow the seeds and he bring the growth. Numerically, that may or may not our local church. But we know that his church will increase, his people will come to know him and that the gates of hell will not prevail against His church.

After I pray, I’ve got a few Village Missions videos to play, maybe take 10 minutes total.

Let’s Pray.

 

 

 

Rural Missions Sunday– Village Missions and Bangor, CA

Rural Missions Sunday

Village Missions and Bangor, CA

 

 

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

 

 

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

Now, we are going through a sermon series through Romans, and we are coming towards the end of Chapter 9, so we will get to this passage in a few weeks, and we will get deep into it at that point. But I want us to just see the point of this passage here.
Call on the name of the LORD and you will be saved. Turn away from your sins and put your complete trust and faith in Jesus Christ as your only hope of salvation.
There is a need. We are a broken people. God created the world perfect and good. The first two chapters of Genesis show us that ALL of creation, all the way through the creation of Adam and Eve and marriage of husband and Wife was created perfect and good. In Genesis 3, everything changed. Adam and Eve sinned and brought a sinful nature that has infected every single person ever born like a disease.
That moment not only left us all sinful by nature and guilty of sin, but it left us spiritually dead. It left us longing and searching for something to fulfill us. Before sin, we had a purpose. We were created to give glory to God, to worship him, in essence.
Now, our purpose is obscured. We don’t want to worship God, we want to be God. We instead worship ourself or our own desires and wants. So we are missing our purpose. We have a need inside of us that is unfulfilled.
That manifests itself in a wide variety of ways. Looking for purpose, looking for acceptance, looking for understanding, looking to numb pain and emptiness. We see drugs and alcohol abuse sky-rocket. We see suicide when we get to what we think is our wits end, when the pain is just too much. We see Sexual sin, seeking pleasure, acceptance, intimacy and love. We see abusive relationships, both sides of them. The abuser doesn’t see that the person they are abusing is made in Gods image. They see themselves as god and the one who gets to decide what happens to the one who they are abusing. On the abuser’s side, they think that this is what love truly is. They think this is what they deserve. They think their abuser has the right to do with them what they want.
All of this sin, all of this evil is here because we are trying, with imperfect avenues, with imperfect, broken people, and with imperfect, temporary measures, trying to restore the relationship that we were created to be in with the One, Holy, God.
And even in what I just describes, you can see two different extremes. One side is the side that elevates themselves up to a god status. They are the authority. They decide what happens and who it happens to. There is no need for a savior because they havent done anything wrong.
Also in this group are those who are good, moral people and think that they can be good enough, or do good enough, or somehow earn their way back into Gods good graces.
The other side, the other extreme is the one who knows just how broken and sinful they are, but there is no hope for salvation. God either doesn’t exist, or doesn’t love them. God doesn’t know what I’ve done and if he did, he could never forgive me. There is no hope, no point and I deserve what ever I get.
Both of these extremes are wrong. Jesus says differently. Jesus puts the invitation out to all who hear. He puts the invitation out that there is only one way, what the Bible describes as the hard and narrow path. But that path is open to all who believe. Jesus is the only path to salvation. He is the only way to restore the relationship between us and the Holy, creator, perfect, triune God.
Jesus comes, not to promise earthly comforts, but freedom from our sins. The freedom to choose to do right. He changes lives and hearts and can change generational problems. He brings hope to the hopeless. He gives a father to the Fatherless. He restores relationships and purposes. He offers rest for the weary.
This life, here in this world is draining. It is wearisome. We get tired easily. Especially when we are trying to earn something we cannot ever earn. We get tired of fighting the truth. It wears us down trying to go against God, think we know better than him. When we rely on ourselves, it takes a lot out of us.
Its like trying to stop a train by standing on tracks. And the more we rebel against God, his plans, his offers, the more we trust in our own understanding. The more we try to hold onto what we think we have in this life, the more extremes we will go to.
If you talk to anyone who has been an addict, no matter what it was that they were addicted to. They will tell you, at the beginning, it just takes a little bit. The further things go, the deeper down they go, the more it takes to reach the same level of feelings. The more it takes, the harder it is to stop, both habitually and physically.
Sin is an addiction as well. And we cannot get ourselves out of it. The hold it has on us is too strong. Strong enough, that of ourselves, we don’t want sin to let us go. But Jesus, fully God, fully man is the one who can break those chains that hold us. He will fix the brokenness that is our lives. He will change our lives and our hearts from the inside out. He will bring us from spiritual death to spiritual life.
He will do that, if we repent and believe. He will do that if we confess him as our LORD and savior, If we have faith, But that has to be a real, true, saving faith. Not a verbal confession and we go on living the same life, but a faith that he gives us that breaks the changes of sin and gives a heart for his plans, his desires and helps us to lean on his understanding.
And how can people make that decision, if they don’t know that option is there? Lets read the rest of the passage in Romans 10, verses 14-17:
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?[c] And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

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

 

 

Hope to the Hopeless from Village Missions on Vimeo.

 

Romans 9:19-23 Objections to Gods Sovereignty, part 3

Romans 9:19-29
Objections to Gods Sovereignty pt 2

Good Morning! Please turn with me in your Bibles to Romans chapter 9. As always, if you do not have a Bible, if you do not own one, please take one from the back table and let that be our gift to you.
Now, as we are turning to Romans 9, I want to kind of sum up what we have already seen in this chapter. Kind of collate the information. Paul, coming off of Romans chapter 8 has brought us to the top of the hill, if you will in regards to what we are hearing about God. God is good and faithful, there is no condemnation. The Holy Spirit works in us and through us and even prays for us and through us when we don’t know what to pray. God works out all things to His glory and has done so since before the begining of time. And when we are in Christ, nothing, ABSOULUTLEY NOTHING can remove us from the love of Christ.
Thats what Paul just gets finished with when he moves into, what we know as chapter 9. He didnt write the letter with Chapters. None of the books in the Bible had chapters originally. The closet thing to it would be the Psalms. The chapters and the verses were added later to help us navigate the text. And he finishes what we know as Chapter 8 and moves into what we know as Chapter 9.
At the very beginning he expresses so heartbreak and grief for those who dont know Christ, we are outside of his love and therefore in line to experience his just wrath. Those that are outside Christ included some of Israel, the physical descendants of Abraham. Stemming from that, three questions are brought up that object to Gods sovereignty.
First, stemming from Israel not being fully, corporately saved, the question is brought up, Had Gods Word failed? There was question whether or not God’s promises were really trustworthy? There was question whether or not God had fail to deliver on what he said he would do.
Pauls response is that God is sovereign and his Word does not, will not and cannot fail. We may misunderstand some of the things that he promises, or who he promises them to, but his promises will be fulfilled. In this case, the promise is made to the spiritual descendants of Abraham, which may or may not include physical descendants of Abraham. Its Gods right to chose.
The second objection is that it is unjust, it is unfair for some to be saved from their sins and the eternal consequences there of, but for others to not be saved. That salvation is left solely up to God, his wisdom, his providence and his sovereignty, with no dependence on human will or exertion, is in fact unjust. It is only by his mercy that we do not get what we deserve, his wrath, but instead, we may receive his mercy and eternal life with Him. He pours out his mercy, “that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Verse 18 here, the last verse we looked at last week, Paul writes, So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. He decides in his perfect and infinite goodness and justness and holiness and mercy, who will respond to his call and who will not.
The third objection is the one we will look at this morning. We will pick up and read Romans Chapter 9, verses 19-23 as Paul continues on. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version. Romans 9:19-23, Paul writes:
You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—

So the third object that Paul is responding to here is an exercise on If, If, If… If God is sovereign, and IF he has mercy on whom he has mercy and IF he hardens whom he hardens, then we don’t have a choice to accept or deny. And IF we don’t have a choice, then how can he find fault with those who he decides not to save?
Now, this is a tough question and its one that Paul response to excellently I think. Remember about Paul. Paul’s writings can be tough, they can be somewhat “In You Face”, when needed, they can be blunt, as a matter of fact. But Paul writes out of love and compassion. He writes with a shepherds heart. HE started this chapter crying out in great sorrow and unceasing anguish over his lost brethren. And he answers here, with words inspired by the Holy Spirit, with the Words of God. He takes great care in how he answers this objection and he answers it with 3 responses.
First, the first part of verse 20, he lays it out, saying,But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Now this may be the least gentle or compassionate of the three responses, but it may also be the most true. We, as human beings, as the people who God created, as his creations, we have no right to argue with him about anything that he says or does.
God shows us throughout scripture, that he is the boss and what he says goes. With Moses numerous times, both before and during the Exodus that his word is final. He rebukes Job when job tries to overstep his bounds. Jonah, so many of the prophets, the same thing. In the New Testament, through the Apostles, through Paul, Peter, James and John especially, God says it. End of discussion.
And one thing that God says throughout the scriptures, can seem like a contradiction on the surface. It can seem as if he saying two different things if we are looking for contradictions and errors in the scriptures. But the Bible, being the Word of God is able to hold two tensions together and them both be true.
It does so often with a variety of things, in this case, two truths are both truths. God is sovereign and nothing happens outside of his will. He has Mercy on whomever he wills and he hardens whomever he wills. Only those whom he calls will respond to his saving grace, and all that he calls will respond to his saving grace. Thats truth number 1.
Truth number two is that Man is responsible. He is, we are responsible for our actions, for our thoughts, our sins, all of our decisions. Gods grace is poured out on us through faith. He has given us the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ, His Son. Faith comes by hearing, hearing by the Word of God. That is the only way to be saved is by hearing the Gospel and responding to it in faith.
All of us have that opportunity, to either respond or to reject. And we are responsible for our decisions. John 5:39-40, Jesus, talking to the Pharisees, says “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.
Jesus puts the responsibility on each individual if they refuse to come to him. We see in both the Old Testament and the New, the idea that those who reject Jesus as the Messiah, reject the cornerstone, reject the foundation of the faith. Again, the onus, the responsibility is on those who do the rejecting.
God and his Word are crystal clear. Yes God is sovereign and Yes man is responsible.

The second way that Paul responds to this objection is with an illustration, one that God himself uses in Isaiah and Jeremiah. God is the potter and we are the clay. Paul in the second half of verse 20 and verse 21, Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?
My Aunt and Uncle in Pennsylvania are potters by trade. I have seen them mold something, and they saw imperfections that I could not see. It looked so good to me. But they knew better. They saw something I didn’t see and they decided to undo the whole thing and started over. Is there anyone that can say that they didn’t have the right to do that? They were the potters who take the clay and mold it into something useful and something beautiful, something that is worth making.
They create out of the clay their creations. Their clay doesn’t look at them and say, I am going to be a mug, or I am going to be a bowl. They decide what that clay will become.
As such, we, as Gods clay, as what is being molded by God, we don’t have any ability or right to question why God has molded us into what he has molded us into. As the Potter, he says what we are going to become. He knows what he has planned and what it takes to make us into that. He knows and has every right to decide that some vessels are designed for wrath and some vessels are designed for glory.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth. God created.  The earth was without form and void. God took this clay without form and void and molded all of creation. He took the dust from the ground, formed Adam and blew life, breathed his Spirit into him, creating Mankind. He is the Creator, we are the creation.
It is hard for us to remember that order. We forget that we can’t tell God what is right. We forget that we can’t tell God what to do. Timothy Keller reminds us that “If your God never disagrees with you, you might just be worshipping an idealized version of yourself.”
God is the Potter, we are the clay. God is sovereign, Man is responsible. Those are the first two responses Paul gives. They flow right into the third. Basically, because God is sovereign, and because he is the potter, the Creator, he knows how it will all work out. Because we are the clay, because we are the creation, we don’t know how it will all work out.
Go back for a moment to the vessels that my aunt and uncle mold and create. The bowl that they create doesn’t know what it is going to be used for. It doesn’t know if it will be a cereal bowl, a soup bowl, a storage bowl, whatever.
In that same vein, we, as the clay, as the creation, don’t know what God is going to use us for. Paul points out that from the same lump, some are made for honorable uses and some are made for dishonorable. Some vessels made for wrath and some for glory. Both categories show Gods grace and mercy. Both categories give glory to God. We don’t know what God is going to use us for.
We looked at Romans 8:28 recently, that God uses all things for good for those who love him. God works it all around and pulls it all together to achieve his glory and to show his power and to exhibit his goodness and mercy.
Now, we can rarely see this things playing together in real-time. God, who is outside of times, see it all, knows it all and orchestrates it all. We see things around us and wonder how this can all be a part of Gods plan. We see the absolute evil in our families, our communities and in the world and we question Gods will, and his timing.
2 Peter 3:9, Peter writes The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you,[a] not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
God is patient. He wants as many people as possible to be saved and to join him in glory in eternity future. We don’t know who those will be. We don’t know how God will use us.
In Acts chapter 8, we see God work out so many variables to bring Phillip to a place in Samaria, where he happens upon a eunuch riding by, who is riding the scriptures, but needs someone to explain them to him. Philip is more than happy to oblige and the eunuch hears the Gospel. He believes and wants to be baptized immediately.
If we watched that mans life, before Philip showed up, we would have assumed he was bound for destruction. But God knew better. God used Philip and the scriptures and everything else to call the eunuch to him. For his part, the eunuch heard the Word of God. He believed the Word of God. He trusted in the Word of God, Gods goodness and forgiveness and respond to the call of God.
And that’s the biggest key. One Systematic Theology says “People do not learn of Gods choosing them by prying into his eternal councils but by embracing Christ as offered in the Gospel.”
Now the cross, the gospel, the saving faith of christianity is foolishness to those who don’t believe. And it is foolishness to us, its counterintuitive. It goes against what we as humans believe, what we think and what we would expect. It goes against what we think is fair.
The way that changes is that, when we respond to the Gospel, the Holy Spirit makes Gods Word real to us. God changes our hearts from a heart of stone to a heart of flesh. Jesus and his perfect and complete work on the cross brings us from death into life.
So we are going to finish with a quick refresher of what, exactly is the Gospel? Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15, verses 1-5: 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, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
And thats what we respond to. We have the repsonsibility, now having heard it to say, Yes, LORD, yes God, I believe in what you Word Says, I repent of my sins and put all my trust in you, knowing that I cannot do anything to earn this gift of grace, of forgiveness and of eternal life.
Or you can say, No thanks. I don’t believe I’m a sinner. I don’t believe I need to repent. I don’t believe in Gods Word. I can do it all myself. I can be good enough, do enough good things that I don’t need to put my trust in Christ.
I repeat and emphasize what paul started out this chapter for those who fall into that second grouping.  I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers,[a] my kinsmen according to the flesh.
Ultimately, if you trust in Gods Word, we can have a foundation on things like this that transcends our feelings or our instincts. And we can submit those to the truth of Gods word.
Lets Pray
O Lord, we bow before You and we ask that You would open our eyes to understand hard things, things that are not intellectually hard to understand. The reason and the logic is impeccable and clear, but these things are hard for our hearts to get around. Some of us resist them. They just don’t sound right. They’re counter intuitive. Others of us are in the process of resisting Your grace and using this type of a teaching to do it. Still others of us have never tasted the joy of salvation because we don’t realize how gracious and how sovereign You are. To all of these we pray, O God, You would speak in Your word today. For we ask it in Jesus name. Amen.