Posts Tagged ‘ Church ’

VerseD: Revelation 7:9-10

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

Revelation 7:9‭-‬10, ESV

We don’t and probably can’t comprehend how great the saving grace of our God is, and one glorious day we will join with the multitudes of saints in universal praise of our God!

VerseD: 1 Thessalonians 5:15

See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.

1 Thessalonians 5:15, ESV

We rebelled against God, yet He came to show goodness to us.

Likewise, we show kindness to each other inside and outside the Church to show His goodness.

VerseD: 1 Corinthians 12:25-27

that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

1 Corinthians 12:25‭-‬27, ESV

We tend to be selfish, self-focuded. In Christ, the Holy Spirit helps us genuinely care for others, joining in weeping and pain as well as celebrating and laughing. All to the glory of God.

Sermon: Growing into Friends of God – John 15:7-17

I preached again!

Once again, I was back in Paulden covering for Brother Paul. We both have been retreading ground. In my last sermon, I preached verses 1-11, and last week Paul did the same (covering things from a slightly different angle.)

This week, I started in verse 7, so only a little retreading.

As usual, these are rough notes, and I added quite a bit.

Unfortunately, the recording had a major error, so there is no video or audio. At least you can read my notes, I guess.

Growing into Friends of God – John 15:7-17

Intro – The Day I “Became a Man”

Our society today rebels against true manhood and womanhood, against all the things God calls good: family, traditional roles, childhood and parenthood.

Frankly, it is all stupid, especially as they wonder why our society is going to hell in a hand basket, even as studies keep coming out showing the importance of fathers and two-parent homes, the rise in depression especially among younger generations and even those who “find their true selves” through gender-swapping and transgenderism, and the yearning for justice that no one can find.

Yet, growing up I wanted to be like my dad.

I remember the day I knew he saw me as a man. It was a summer day in 2002. We were taking our almost annual road trip from Illinois to Upstate New York to see family and friends. I was 18-going-on-19, and I was ready for the regular 12-14 hour day of riding in the back seat, reading, playing some games with my siblings, maybe pretending to nap. (I don’t nap well while traveling.) My dad usually drove, though sometimes he would have my mom drive for a couple of hours to let himself rest a little.

We made our stop near the border of Indiana and Ohio, did the usual rest stop stuff and got some lunch, and then headed back to the car.

Dad stops me a few feet from the car, dangles the keys in front of me, and says, “Ready for your turn?”

It was huge. I knew I was a man that day.

But he also went through a quick list of “remember this and that” for safe driving and such, as well as a reminder that he would be next to me if I got worried or needed to pull over.

In other words, “You’re not a kid anymore. Remember the rules, and remember I am here to help.”

______________

Before we resume John 15, let’s remember what we’ve talked about.

The past two weeks, Pastor Paul and I covered abiding in Christ.

We discussed much about obeying God, showing we love Jesus by obeying His commands.

What are God’s commands?

  1. Love God with everything you are;
  2. Love other people;
  3. Love each other, the Church.

There are different ways of doing this, yes, but there are some specific ways of doing this.

As Pastor Paul reminded us last week, the people of Israel were supposed to be the light to world drawing other people to God. They were God’s vine that consistently did not grow good fruit, so He had to cut them off.

Not just prune the vine. He had to cut them off. First through exile, and then, after Christ’s ministry and resurrection, the destruction of the nation of Israel (until 1948).

He gave a new Vine, Himself, to make a new people, the Church.

In other words, if we want to do truly good works and find eternal life, we must be found in the Vine of Christ. Only in Christ do we find life and fulfillment. Only in Christ, the faithful Son, can we be faithful to obey.

We must be a people who desire Christ more than anything, only finding our fulfillment in Him.

This leads us back to John 15, starting in verse 7.

​Reading

John 15:7–17, ESV

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

Growing Up

Just like my Old Man showed his love by letting me drive, we see here that Christ is showing God’s love for us.

We are being elevated from mere servants of God to friends.

I don’t know if I ever would have asked to drive on a road trip. That was Pop’s job. He did the hard work of driving, even if I really, really wanted to drive.

I don’t think we realize what we fail to ask God for in this life.

Many teachers, preachers, and theologians today like to teach “See! We can ask for whatever we want!” To the point that some famous preachers say they had to ask God for a new luxury car, a bigger house, and a faster private jet. Verses 7 and 16 say so!

Is this what Jesus is saying we should be doing?

“If you abide in me … whatever you ask the Father in my name …”

We should be asking according to Jesus’ will.

Am I saying we should never ask for things or to drive our dad’s car? No. God loves when we talk to Him, even over seemingly trivial things.

However, this passage and others show that we ask according to His will.

The Mega Millions was just at $1.3 Billion (a winning ticket was sold in Chicago). It got me thinking about all of those people who win and suddenly find out about family and friends they weren’t aware of. People who come asking for money and/or gifts.

That’s annoying, having people only come to you when they want something, a free handout.

Or if I had started asking random people if I could drive their car. Also annoying and silly.

But Jesus tells us that He is not inviting anyone to come ask Him and His Father for stuff.

Like my dad, He demands faithfulness to His commands, regular obedience.

He wants us to grow up.

My dad didn’t hand me keys to the car when I was five or even 16 years old (though there was practice driving from the age of 15). He waited until I had faithfully shown him that I could be trusted with a vehicle.

Likewise, Jesus says we are His friends if we obey Him. He has shown us we are friends by revealing what His will is.

He says, v. 16, that He chose us to bear fruit, so we know we can bear the fruit He wants.

He says, v. 8, that His will is to glorify the Father.

He says, v. 17, that His will is to glorify God by loving others.

He says, v. 13, that we are to love sacrificially. Even to the point of giving up our lives.

We get over our selfish desires and seek to glorify God by serving others. We are to grow up and start caring for others.

Back in the Garden of Eden, our super-great grandparents chose personal rewards over obedience, and nothing has changed since.

But now we have the Holy Spirit of God who changes our way of thinking and acting to be conformed to the likeness of Christ, to seek the will of God, to love the same way He has loved us.

Some examples

Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.​
Exodus 33:11, ESV

But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”
Isaiah 41:8-9, ESV

Moses and Abraham were murderers and liars, yet they were called friends of God because of their obedience and sacrificial love, both giving up children for God.

And through these men, God called people to Himself, not to be selfish but to seek the will of God.

In chapter 4 of his letter, James, the brother of Jesus, told us as much:​

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
James 4:1-10, ESV

So, the message?

Grow up. Be a friend of God, one who seeks His will and glory above your own, who loves God by loving others.

Be humble and realize your dependence on Him, drawing near to abide in His everlasting love.

We live in a world that says we should be seeking our own comfort and glory, but God demands obedience to His will. And He helps us be faithful if we draw near.

My dad didn’t give me the keys to the car because I was the greatest driver in the world.

He gave me the keys of the car because he loved me enough to train me to drive and rewarded my faithfulness to growing. (Even though I still had a ways to go!)

Likewise, Jesus gives us His Holy Spirit to go into the world and bring glory to God.

He promised (in the last chapter, 14:18) that He would not leave us as orphaned children, rather that He would help train us up and empower us by His Holy Spirit to preach the gospel to whole world, loving them as He has loved us.

[Hebrews 6:1] “Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity,” [2 Peter 3:17-18] “beloved, knowing this beforehand, taking care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”

Sermon: Abiding in Christ – John 15:1-11

I preached again!

I once again covered for brother Paul at Paulden Christian Fellowship.

As usual, I offer the reminder that these are my rough notes. In fact, I added about double the words verbally this time!

Also, there is no video this time around.

Branching Out: Abiding in Jesus: John 15:1-11

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

John 15:1-11

Intro

Here are some interesting things about grape vines:

  • The ground beneath a vine needs to be perfectly clean: no weeds, no fallen branches or fruit. It is hard work to keep the ground clean for a vine to grow strong and healthy.
  • Vines are creeping plants, so they want to spread out across an area. If they stay on the ground, they do not grow good fruit. Therefore, grape vines are usually help up off the ground on trellises (woven/netted fences) or forked stakes.
  • New vines are allowed to grow for three years before they can grow fruit, being pruned once a year to keep the ground clear and conserve growing energy.

  • In the winter (usually December-January) of the third year, the vine is extensively pruned to prepare for fruit growth.

  • There are two kinds of branches that grow on the vine: those that produce fruit and those that don’t. Again, to help those that produce fruit get the most energy and food, the fruitless branches are cut off, to help keep them from robbing the good branches of sustenance. They are not good for anything (except maybe some artwork) due to being too soft for construction and burning too quickly to be used for useful fires. They are at best kindling and even described in Ezekiel 15 as only good for being burned in a bonfire.

  • Israel was often described as a vine (Isaiah 5, Jeremiah2, Ezekiel 15-19, Hosea 10, Psalm 80), and for much of its history Israel used the vine as its national symbol.

Why talk about this? Because it has everything to do with our passage today! We will see what the fruitless branches look like, what a fruitful branch looks like, and we will look from the beginning of history all the way to the end of history.

The Vinedresser and Fruit

The first thing we must think about is our Father in heaven.

God created the heavens and the earth in six days. During that creative work, He made a Garden in which to place Man, giving the Man dominion over the Creation to tend it and cultivate it, to care for animals and plants, yet to enjoy the fruit and rest of that Garden.

There was only one rule established at the beginning: don’t eat the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

I find it interesting that Adam is not told to not eat the fruit of the Tree of Life. Is this because God Himself is that tree? It is possible, as Christ told us in the previous chapter of John that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

But our focus is that Adam – and via him Eve – was commanded not to eat of this fruit.

“Every branch that does not bear fruit, He takes away.”

Well, let’s discuss for a moment the nature of vines: that the bad branches need to be pruned off so that they do not take sustenance from the good fruit.

Adam and Eve took fruit that was not theirs. When we give in to temptation or blatantly sin, we join with them in taking fruit without permission.

When people in church are living in unrepentant sin, they are robbing the fellowship of God’s goodness.

They are fruitless and deprive those with good fruit of sharing in all goodness, because they must then share their good fruit without the benefit of return. (Not that we do good things expecting good in return in this life!)

Galatians 5 explains the works of the flesh – the lack of fruit, which leads to immorality, sensuality, idolatry, hatred, rage, divisions, and wild living. When people live this way, we perpetuate the curse of sin and draw away others from God’s goodness and fellowship.

So God cuts them off.

The bad branches are cast into the fire.
This sounds harsh. It may even sound like people can lose their salvation.

Let me share my understanding, based on the whole council of God’s Word and historical orthodox understanding:

The bad branches are not those who once put their faith in Christ and fell away. These are those who tried to be good on their own power. They may be those who were raised in church, and even believed much of what they were taught and maybe even taught themselves. Just like the parable of the soils (Matthew 13, Mark 4, Luke 8) explains, some believe and even immediately take root, but the cares of this world, worries, fears, and even greed get in the way and they die.  

These are people who like God’s grace, but they take issue with other teachings in the Bible. The word translated as divisions in many modern Bibles is adequately translated in the KJV as “heresies”: different or false teachings. Those who fall away often believe false teachings.

Today it is the people who love God’s grace but hate the Bible’s “homophobia and transphobia.” After all, love is love, and God is love. So stop hating.

Today it is the people who love God’s grace but hate the Bible’s teachings on slavery and how it was used to keep the US in slavery for so long.

Today it is the people who love God’s grace but hate that the Bible seems to keep women down.

In truth, God does love all people, but He does have His standard on what love looks like. We do not hate people, but there is a best way to live, according to God.

In truth, none of these teachings are in the Bible the way these people understand them (or they understand them correctly and hate it all the same.) It does not condone slavery as seen in the 19th Century and before, but it set a standard for protection (that today looks more like the employer-employee dynamic). And the Bible is the reason women were elevated as much as they were historically, to the point that women could eventually own property, run businesses, and have a say in society.

No, these are people who take the good things from God and only keep what they like. They try to steal from God and His People while claiming they have the real goodness.

So, God cuts them off of the Vine, for they were never really a part of the Vine. (As Jesus points out in Matthew 25.) They are unable to do any truly good work (v. 5), so they are cast into the fire.

And God prunes those with good fruit.

Good branches

What does it mean that He prunes us?

It means He cuts of the parts that are not helpful. And yes, it hurts. We have to give up the things that get in the way of God in our lives.

It can look like the hard circumstances in our lives (though, yes, the hard circumstances could also be a direct result of our sinfulness.)

It can look like having something lost, taken from us, or being out of reach, like a job, a car, or a dream.

It can look like being corrected, as much as we like doing what we’re doing or as much as we would rather no one knows what we did.

But we are able to endure it if we abide in Christ.

What does abiding look like?

It is regularly attending church.
It is regularly reading the Bible.
It is regularly (and often) praying.
It is regularly helping others.

It looks like seeing the fruit of the Spirit as shown in Galatians 5:22-23: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

These are not separate fruits, rather they are attributes of the single fruit of the Spirit. If one of these nine is missing in our lives, we are out of step with the Holy Spirit, not fully abiding in Christ. We should take a moment to examine ourselves, possibly with the help of others, to see what God wants to prune from us to keep us in step with the Sprit, abiding in Christ.

And we see the patience, joy, and self-control to go through that process.
We see the love, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness to want to help bring others into that same joy and peace.

We seek to want to help till the ground of the hearts of others to be ready to accept the gospel of Christ, understanding that it is the Holy Spirit using the Word to change their hearts.

Maybe, like Jude tells us, we are able to snatch some from the fire, to help them, as Paul says, to be truly grafted into the True Vine, Jesus.

Jeremiah called out Israel for becoming a wild vine that produces bad and even rotten fruit. But Jesus is the True Israel, the True Vine, in whom we are grafted and see the good works that can flow through us to glorify God.

As Jesus said …

Glorifying God

Abiding in Christ – being grafted in to His Vine – means we seek the glory of the Father. Our will is being conformed to His will, such that we will want to ask for things that bring Him glory and draw others to Him.

As even Pastor Paul preached, we show we are abiding in Christ, loving God, when we obey His commandments.

What are the greatest commandments?

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; Love your neighbor as yourself; and the new commandment from John 13, love one another (the Church).

When we love God, we obey His commands to keep Him first and foremost in our lives, to love other people sacrificially and in truth, and we love His Church.

We are born into a world that rebels against God, and that includes our thoughts. We must realize that we naturally want to rebel and believe what the world teaches us is truth.

We believe that God literally created the world in six days, but the world teaches the universe began on its own and gradually progressed to produce every better (fitter) life. That we get better as we go along. That as a people we are smarter than in the past.

We let this sink in to our understanding today: We must know more than Christians in the past. It may be true for some things, but here we are 2000 years after Christ lived, died, and rose again still disseminating meaning from what was written in this book.

We ask for God’s wisdom through His Holy Spirit to realize where our world is influencing our understanding rather than Him and His Word. We ask for the change in our hearts and minds that only He can give us to be transformed to be more like Christ.

As James reminds us, this is the kind of thing that delights God and that He wants to grant. (See Solomon, after all.)

But what else do we ask for?

That He helps us abide in Him and bring Him all glory.

We see that the vine spreads. Likewise, Christ the Vine spreads as His Church cleans the land through the spreading of the gospel.

We do the good works of pointing people to Christ that they may be drawn near to Him. It may look like feeding and clothing the poor, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and being kind to those the world has forgotten.

Most importantly it is sharing the gospel.

Abiding Toward the Future

As we see, Christ wants us to abide in Him as He abides in the Father, and we are abiding if we are obeying His commands.

And this brings us all joy.

It is because we remember that humanity was invited to abide with God in the Garden of Eden, but through Adam (and our own sin) we rejected that.

The gospel shows us that Jesus was born to faithfully obey, and His greatest fruit was being put on a tree in the place of Adam and Eve and all of us.

The gospel shows that we can one day be with Him in Paradise, as intended.

That is the hope that we have.

If we abide in Christ, we have the hope of eternal glory in the presence of The Glory.
No more pain. No more suffering. No more want. No more tears. No more difficult labor (double meaning here).

But we are to follow in His love as Jesus followed the love of the Father.

That means that we are to live sacrificially for others for the sake of the gospel.

The Father loved Jesus, yet the love was displayed through the crucifixion.

God loves us, so we will see pain and trouble in this life for His sake.

Abiding Today

I could give a list of “this is what it looks like” to abide in Christ.

In a way, I did: attend church and small groups, read the Bible, pray, encourage each other, be a servant.

The thing is, abiding in Christ is all of this, but it also can look different for everyone.

It can be serving the hungry. (Which the food bank here does well!)
It can be listening to someone hurting: physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually.
It can be giving money or things to help someone in need, even to the point of wondering how all the bills will be paid this month.

Without the love of God, the fruit of the Spirit guiding our every decision and action, it does not much matter.
Therefore, we keep meeting together to encourage each other in Christ, reminding each other of the hope that we have in Christ, and … how about we let the Word tell us:

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Hebrew 10:23-25, ESV

The pastor is supposed to help us understand the Scriptures, and I pray I have helped with that today. But it takes all of us working with Christ to encourage each other to abide in Christ. It is that whole living life together thing.

How do we abide?

We trust in Christ for our salvation.
We rely on the Holy Spirit and the Church to grow us and change us.
We encourage each other and ask for the wisdom God offers.
We spread the good news of Jesus Christ throughout our community and the world by doing good works and sharing the gospel.

And we do it together, joining God in this great mission of love, grace, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

Sermon: Freedom and Truth in the Spirit – Galatians 5:16-26

I preached again!

While Pastor Scott is out of town, I was given the privilege of preaching on the passage about the works of the flesh versus the fruit of the Spirit.

I am sure I never to too controversial … (I mention false teachers and current political drama …)

As a reminder, these are sermon notes, so they may not necessarily have everything I actually said. (Especially seeing as, as I said at the beginning of the message, a bunch of my notes digitally disappeared! I put much of what I said in here.)

Freedom and Truth in the Spirit – Galatians 5:16-26

Intro

Be thankful.

54 weeks ago, I preached in Mark 10 and gave a mini-seminary lesson on chiastic structures in literature, especially the Bible. A chiasm, as a reminder, is when ideas flow, like a door on a hinge, such that there is a Thought A, a Thought B, and a Thought C (possibly a similar Thought C’), that then connects with similar Thought B’ and concluding with a similar Thought A’.

I could go deeper, but I will spare you a full repeat of that lesson.

I wanted to explain possibly dozens of chiasms in this little book of Galatians, and that in Galatians 5:15-26 I found a possible four chiasms! Oh, how I wanted to point out similarities between the various thoughts and how God used Paul to connect our own infighting and envy, getting over ourselves, and the goodness of God; how certain works of the flesh correlate with each other!

Instead, I will not gratify my own desires and nerdiness for language and grammar. I will leave you in the freedom of not being lectured on the intricacies of such things … so that you do not slip into sinful rage against my boring interests.

No, I will just focus on stepping on everyone’s toes, pointing out how sinful our world is and we ourselves can be! I even admit that looking at the list of the works of the flesh in Galatians 5, I see too much of myself … in all 15 things and things like these.

And, hopefully, as we go through Galatians 5:16-26, you also find the encouragement and freedom we have in Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit against our own sinfulness and in His grace.

Who are we gratifying?

​Galatians 5:16–18 (ESV)

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.There are many things that we want to do. There are many things that feel good. Maybe they are not in and of themselves bad, but are they necessarily the things we should be doing.

If we are in church – or even listening online or later – we are probably seeking to live good and godly lives. A good church – good pastors and leaders – will point out that even as Christians we often fail to perfectly live good lives.

How do I know?

I look at my own life! I am sure most if not all of you would be willing to admit that you know where, when, and how often you fall short.

Hamartia – the Greek word for sin that literally means “falling short of the target.”

But we do get encouragement from God’s Word, when Paul reminds us in Romans 7 that he, too, fell short:

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
Romans 7:7-25, ESV

We are content to live our lives assuming we are living well, but then God’s Law shows us that we consistently fall short. And before anyone can assume they are doing okay, we are also reminded in Romans 2 that God has written His Law on our hearts. Our own consciences betray us, knowing what we should or should not do and doing the opposite.

In other words, we are enslaved to our own sinful desires when left to our own devices. We would rather gratify our sinful, fleshly desires than seek God.

Now, as pastors Scott and Aaron have reminded us the past two weeks, when we are found in Christ we are set free from the confines of the Law. We are free to choose to please God rather than our own desires.

Paul has now told us twice – in Romans 7 and back here in Galatians 5 – that our flesh keeps us from wanting to obey God, but in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit we are able to fight back, to cast off the yoke of slavery to sin to willingly take the yoke of Christ. The Law reminds us we can’t measure up, but when our faith is in the So n of God, the Father sees the Son’s faithfulness and empowers us with the Holy Spirit to walk in the same righteous faithfulness of Christ.

But there are many who teach a twisted form of this truth.

The “Gospel” of the Flesh

​ Galatians 5:19–21 (ESV)

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Some quick definitions and explanations:

  • Sexual immorality, impurity, and sensuality:
  1. Sexual immorality is our translation of the Greek “porneia” – denotes sex outside of marriage, where we get our word for “pornography”. And as Jesus informed us in the Sermon on the Mount, even lusting is adulterous, so not merely the physical but also the emotional and imagination.
  2. Impurity comes straight out of this, that we taint the marriage bed by pursuing fantasies, personal gratification, or non-husband-and-wife relationships that interfere with marital relationships.
  3. Sensuality also comes out of this, by being tempting to others, dressing for attention (both male and female!) especially in a sexy way, pushing boundaries (“How far is too far?”).
  • Idolatry and Sorcery, sorcery being the Greek word “pharmakeia”, where we get our word for “pharmacy” – it can mean medicinal research (so not all bad), but it carries the implication of using drugs or magical manipulation to alter reality or our perception of it, i.e. trying to play God by creating new things from nothing or by illicitly combining elements of things. In other words, putting things before God or playing God, including addictions and trying to do things apart from Him, including seeking eternal life and personal happiness.
  • Enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy:
  1. Enmity and strife are making people enemies by purposefully spreading lies or gossip with the intent of causing harm, thus …
  2. Rivalries, dissensions, and divisions – purposefully and malevolently seeking to harm others to selfishly get ahead. “We’re better than they are because …” The Greek word for divisions is “hairesis” or “heresies”. People who make up new meanings and teachings to help themselves.
  3. Fits of anger and envy are slipping into rage and desiring harm to others, thinking others have it better off because of special privilege or advantage and therefore need to be taken down a peg.
  • Drunkenness and orgies go together, as the implication of drunkenness (Greek “methai” – which sounds a lot like our drugs Meth, but while that is merely coincidence it should serve as a good reminder) is one who lives in a perpetual state of being drunk, i.e. an alcoholic or addict, and the word translated “orgies” implies alcohol fueled parties in which anything goes and often does.

When I look at this list and compare my life 16 years ago, I remember thinking reading this in 2007 that my life (as a Christian!) had become all but two things on this list – sorcery/witchcraft and orgies. Yet, knowing the deeper meanings today, I can see that many of the parties I attended the previous two years fell into this, because we would have hookah mixed with other things or the crazy drink concoctions (sorcery) while having mass make-out sessions (included in the understanding of orgies). All of this is one of the reasons I understand and appreciate the Parable of the Prodigal Son and God’s grace so much more!

But let’s work through these works in light of what others may teach today:

People like to point out all of the accounts of abuse in churches, thinking it proves the Church is merely another religion of men trying to control other people.

While a few of those caught in abusive scandals in recent years do look like orthodox preachers who did horrible things, we must realize that a) non-Christians and even the irreligious are at least as guilty as people found doing such things in the Christian churches and b) the vast majority have been caught teaching heresies, man-made doctrines, and/or twisted gospels. It is an expected sign that people teaching/promoting heresies and such are later caught in abusive behaviors, be they controlling others (often through emotional and spiritual abuse) and/or sexual sins and/or addictive behaviors.

The Hillsong scandals of the past two years: a church that promotes the prosperity gospel and has been associated with known false teachers. I specifically mean those in the New Apostolic Reformation full of false prophets and apostles, such as the Bethel Church of Redding, CA, group, and the International House of Prayer out of Kansas City. Why do I mention them? Sure, they occasionally get a prophecy right and typically have good sounding statements of faith (if they have one), but the vast majority of their prophecies have been wrong. According Scripture (Deuteronomy 13 and 18, as well as smatterings throughout the Hebrew Bible), it only takes one false prophecy to be a false prophet.

These people and even some historically sound teachers argue that it merely means they attempted to prophecy in their own power, not that they’re false prophets. This is definitely a heresy (division in our list today), and it is definitely a blasphemy. They have attributed falsehood to God, what Jesus (in Matthew and Luke 12) calls blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

It is people who teach we need to be doing certain things – performing signs and wonders or loving a certain way – to be saved or to prove we are saved or to finish our salvation by doing works or making reparations for our sins and the sins of our ancestors.

It is the so-called pastors who twist Scripture to justify their own teachings and lifestyles, saying things like “Jesus never said anything about gay marriage” or “words like homosexuality were added in the past 120 years” or “they were writing to the cultural context of their day only.” If the changes in society govern how we should interpret Scripture, it would mean it is not the eternal Word of God that it claims to be, that God – who the same Scriptures say does not change – changes with the times, too.

Our fruit, they say, is to admit that love is love and that we need to be tolerant of each others’ personal truths. Embrace your fruitiness, come out of the closet, and don’t judge! Jesus said don’t judge, so stop being hypocrites and celebrate our diversity and inclusivity!

Yet, these are the very people who show their fruit by demanding their rights over the rights of others.

These are the people who say they don’t care what God’s Law says, they have their own personal freedom to do what they want when they want. They may think it is good to have out-of-control protests and riots.

These are the people who say “my body, my choice,” and then attack others – verbally and physically – such as demanding we forfeit our religious rights for their preferences, or deface and damage businesses and non-profits that they disagree with, taking away the choice of others. (Yes, I am referring to the news of the past week (and two months) of Roe v. Wade being overturned as well, as Pride Month.)

All of these are different gospels, things they those who profess them think are “good news”, but like Paul reminded us (and Pastor Scott in his messages has reiterated) these are no gospels at all. They are false gospels from false teachers. They think they have freedom, but they are still slaves to their sinful desires.

I know. I am being a bit confrontational. Science and Scripture are actually on our side.

And I can hear some of the rebuttals:

  • “But aren’t you being divisive with these words?”
  • “What happened to loving your neighbor?”
  • “Aren’t you told not to use your freedom in Christ to hurt others?”

And technically these are true, but this is using the same tactics of the serpent in the Garden.

  • “Did God really say …?” – “Why are you going against God’s Word?” (While they twist it themselves.)
  • “You will not surely die …” – “God didn’t really mean what He said.”
  • “You will be like God …” – “We have freedom, too! You are the ones not obeying!”

“Those people” are the ones misunderstanding. Jesus commanded us to judge rightly, not hypocritically, in Matthew 7, using God’s Word to examine ourselves and each other.

And how do we love others?

By revealing God’s truth, even when it hurts. No one likes hearing they are deplorable sinners, that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We don’t like hearing we have spit in the face of God, slapped Him, beat Him, killed Him by our own sin.

We all have broken His righteous Law.

We all are guilty of abusing His words and His grace.

We all are guilty of putting Jesus on the cross.

Yet, it is Jesus who told people we do not take sin seriously enough, that getting rageful (from our list) is tantamount to murder, that lusting is tantamount to adultery.

It is Jesus who said to go and sin no more.

It is Jesus who said no one comes to the Father except by Me, that only those who deny themselves and believe in the Son will be saved from God’s wrath an inherit eternal life.

It is Jesus who willingly went to the cross to pay for our rebellion, our sexual immorality and impurity, our rage and jealousy and strife and division against God.

So, how do we respond?

Knowing we are just as guilty as everyone raging against the Church and God’s Word and recent Supreme Court decisions …

How do we respond?

Galatians 5:21–26 (ESV)

I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

One of the things that blew my mind as a young Christian was when my pastor (also a Pastor Scott) pointed out that the word for fruit is singular. These are not nine different fruits that we may show at different times. We are looking at one tree (one vine!), and it produces a single fruit comprised of various parts.

How do we respond?

Those outside of Christ are still in the yoke of bondage to sin. They do not have the freedom they think they do.

We who belong to Christ have crucified our flesh, our desires, our passions, that we may be conformed to the image of Christ. Dying to ourselves does not sound like freedom, but as Pastor Aaron said last week, it is just like being invited into a construction site to write scriptures and prayers on the hidden structure, being told there are limits to where we can go, but for the love of those working and the officials (of the school) freely choose to stay within those limits.

And that is what we see: love (for God and others), joy (that is difficult to explain), peace (that is difficult to understand), patience (to deal with limitations on ourselves and from others), kindness (reflecting the kindness our Lord has shown us when being mocked and beaten), goodness (in the midst of evil), faithfulness (when the easy thing is to compromise and settle), gentleness (controlled strength, not reacting to attacks but from love), and self-control (when we want to give in.)

How do we respond?

We freely choose the gospel over retribution or even our own rights. We do not concede to evil, but we stand up in the midst of it, showing love and grace with a faithfulness to truth and God.

We show patience and kindness towards those who disagree with us, showing gentleness (“forgive them, for they know not what they do”) as our all-powerful God was with us who crucified His Son.

When they lose control, mocking us, getting violent, destroying property and lives, we show self-control, not getting overly angry or spiteful toward them.

We take the time to listen, to hear their hurting hearts, their fears, even their hatred. We do not relent in truth, but we stand in the truth.

It is too easy for us to give in to the passion of the moment, desiring retribution and our chance to be heard. Instead, we are crucified with Christ. It is no longer we who live but Christ in us. We walk in the Spirit, knowing that in Christ we died to our selves. We await our renewed bodies, but we walk in the renewal of our minds in the Holy Spirit. We lay down our rights to be heard and to be “right” in every argument.

But we hold to the truth.

We do not force truth on others, mocking their arguments and actions while wishing people listened to us as much as they listen to “the woke left” or even the conservative right or anyone in between.

No, we rest in the truth of God’s Word, telling others the truth in love.

Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit
1 Peter 3:13-18, ESV

Yes, we have the truth on our side, but we do not make others listen. We speak God’s Word and trust the Holy Spirit to work on their hearts.

Yes, we do work toward making our world a better place and standing for truth, but …

though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ
2 Corinthians 10:3-5, ESV

Why do we do this?

We remember that we are no different. We are just as guilty of sin and rebellion.

But Christ has saved us who believe.

So we are patient and kind and self-controlled and loving, even when we don’t necessarily feel like it.

This is why we continue meeting together: to (Hebrews 10:23-25)

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Hebrews 10:23-25, ESV

We devote ourselves to biblical teachings and the fellowship of the saints, to the breaking of bread and prayers in the awe of God.

We are in the world but not of it, so we join with God to bring heaven to Earth – patiently, kindly, and lovingly, with God’s goodness, joy, and peace which surpasses understanding.

I know I see myself too well in the works of the flesh, but I strive to enter through the narrow door, to enter the freedom of God’s rest that I may not enter into the same disobedience, for peace with everyone, for the holiness without which no one sees the Lord.

I strive for the freedom from sinfulness and bitterness that Christ offers.

I trust in Christ to change me to change the world.

I strive to live a full life in Jesus and bring others along for the ride.

Will you join me as I seek Jesus?

Prayer

Heavenly Father, You are the Holy One, the righteous Judge, our loving Savior. We know we have chosen to pursue our own sinful desires, to chase down our own passions, to rebel against You and each other.

We ask again for your forgiveness for all those times we fall short, when we give in to the fear of this world over the fear of the Lord, when we act self-righteous over trusting in Your righteousness, when we fight and rage against each other over seeking Your peace, when we seek our own gratification over the fullness of the Spirit.

By Your Spirit, guide us in all truth and love, that we may carry your love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in our own lives and to our violent, impure, rebellious world. Make Your light shine through us, helping us to trust You more and more, sharing the hope of Your yet future return, that others may come to glorify Your Name in all the Earth.

Help us to be faithful in all things, with all gifts.

VerseD: Proverbs 4:23

Guard your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.

Proverbs 4:23, LSB

This world wants to twist us to its own desires, but hope can flow through if we focus on and seek God first, through the Bible, prayer, and fellowship with other believers.

Pray for the Youth River Trip 2022

Tomorrow and Wednesday, I am taking 13 youth (and a couple adults) on an overnight kayaking trip. Our focus this summer is “Getting Away”, remembering to pray and rest in God.

Please join me in praying for these youth (and those who can’t go this time!) that they will get a taste of God and His strength, that we have fun and relax, but mostly that we find greater faith and strength in Christ.

Daniel

VerseD: Hebrews 10:24-25

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Hebrews 10:24‭-‬25, ESV

Jesus came to proclaim the good news of reconciliation with God. We are now sent to fo the same as we await His return, so we mist encourage each other to continue spreading the Gospel.

The Church Next Door Sunrise Service – April 17, 2022

Happy Resurrection Sunday!

Our elder, Bill Swenson, delivered the Sunrise Sermon this year. Enjoy.

Easter Sunrise Sermon

Why do we celebrate Easter/Resurrection Sunday?

Because Jesus was raised from the dead?
Jesus was not the only one to rise from the dead.

Old Testament:

  1. Elijah raised a widows son. 1 Kings 17
  2. Elisha raised a Shunamite’s son. 2 Kings 4
  3. A man was thrown into Elisha’s bones. 2 Kings 13:21 

New Testament:

  1. Peter raised Tabitha aka Dorcas. Acts 9
  2. Paul raised Eutychus. Acts 20
  3. Jesus raised a widows son. Luke 7
  4. Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter. Luke 8
  5. Jesus raised Lazarus. John 11
  6. God raised Jesus. 1 Corinthians 15
  7. Saints raised with Jesus. Matt 21

What made Jesus special?

  1. He prophesied it. Matt. 12:38-40
    1. This is why guards were placed at the tomb. Matt 27:62-64
  2. He was raised immortal. Romans 6:9
    1. With a physical form though a spiritual body. 1 cor 15:44, John 20:27

Why does it matter? Or as Paul says in 1 Cor. 15:16-19

What is to be pitied about being a Christian?

  • Look at Paul’s life 2 Cor. 11:24-27
  • Trouble is promised to us. John 15:20, 16:33

Why do Christians endure this? Why sign up for it?

Past

  1. Rom 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”
  2. 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
  3. Colossians 2:14 “by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”

Present

  1. 2 Cor 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
  2. 1 Cor 6:19-20 “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
  3. Phil 4:7 “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Future

  1. Rev 20:15. “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
  2. Rom 6:23. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
  3. Matt 6:19-21. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust[a] destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
  4. Persecution breeds reward. Matt 5:11-12 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”


Rev 21:3-4 “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Because Jesus was raised, our sins are forgiven.

Because Jesus was raised, we are a new creation.
Because Jesus was raised, we will dwell eternally with God!

Hallelujah! He is Risen!

Easter Service