The Gospel

LIGHTS WORK BEST AT NIGHT

It is a plain and obvious fact, that lights have the greatest affect when it is dark.

This is a physical truth; that is echoed as a spiritual reality. Jesus said,

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

God’s Word refers to us as being light in a world that is dark with ignorance, evil and sorrow. We are not only meant to grow through hard times, we are meant to be lights for the gospel in them.

Some of the most powerful moments I have witnessed have been believers shining in the dark places of life. Anyone can be hopeful, joyous and content in smooth sailing; storms show if these qualities have depth.

It is easy for people to rationalize away our testimony when they see nothing but prosperity around us. But it is much harder for people to forget our testimony when our life is swirling with troubles.

People understand troubles; they understand fearful and hard circumstances. What they will not understand is how we can have peace, joy and hope in the midst of them

However, if all we do in our difficulties is complain with the same intensity as those who don’t know Christ, what reason do people have to pay attention to our testimony?

We don’t have to be on top of the world, to be a light on a hill. Darkness is when people want a flashlight; so let them see that you have one inside you.

THOUGH YOU HAVE NOT SEEN HIM, YOU LOVE HIM

I Peter 1 8-9

 

by Debbie Huber

“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:8–9).

It is easy to tell my husband that I love him. My love for him is deepened when I think about how much he loves me. Our confidence in our love for each other is partly based on what we SEE each other demonstrate every day. It is a wonderful thing to be confident in someone’s love for you.

We do not see God but through faith we have great confidence in His love for us by what is revealed to us by our salvation and through His word.

Through our salvation, we are forgiven, set free from condemnation, a new creation, and partakers in His glorious nature! What love God has for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Reminding ourselves about the truths of our salvation and being thankful every day for our salvation only increases our love for Jesus.

The more we love and treasure Christ and His salvation, the more we desire to be with Him and cheerfully serve Him. This love should result in an “inexpressible joy, full of glory” that cannot be described in human terms and is not related to our circumstances.

Our lives can demonstrate this supernatural joy to those around us. May we know this joy in all its fullness and may it be a testimony to the work of Christ.

THE UNENDING POWER OF GOSPEL PROCLAIMATION

 

The power of the Word of God can never be overstated.

God’s Word was not only given to us by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, it is the Holy Spirit who works through God’s Word when we speak it to ourselves and to others.

Even though we may feel the impact of our sharing the gospel to someone may have long since drifted away like smoke from a chimney – that is not necessarily true.

Here is my favorite story which captures these truths. May it encourage us to be faithful with the gospel and in our prayers for the unconverted.

A young boy named Luke Short once heard the eminent Puritan John Flavel (1630-1691) preaching in Dartmouth, England.  When that boy grew up, he immigrated to New England, going through his life without much thought of God.  

One day as Luke Short sat in a field reflecting upon his long life, he recalled a sermon he had heard in Dartmouth as a boy before he sailed to America.  The horror of dying under the curse of God was impressed upon him as he meditated on the words he had heard so long ago and he was converted to Christ – eighty five years after hearing John Flavel preach.    

From Michael Boland’s introduction to “The Mystery of Providence” by John Flavel. Published by Banner of Truth

 

SERMON LEFTOVERS 1.11.16

‘Life is about what Christ is doing’

 

Philippians 1:12-18

When we are in a place of hardship, limitations or uncertainty, our impulse is that we NEED to get out, because nothing good can happen here. However, when we serve what Christ is doing, every situation becomes fruitful

 

Paul Describes His Imprisonment (vs 12-14)

We can imagine the concern and interest of the Philippian Church

Yet, the only details Paul is interested in sharing are about gospel mission

The central issues for Paul are how he is serving the gospel, and how the gospel is “advancing”

Paul’s tone is not just positive, it’s victorious

We are not to have a ‘success model’ that is separate from Christ’s kingdom: our success and his kingdom success should be the same concern and joy for us

“But what if my life is in a bad place?” How are you defining ‘bad’?

  • A bad place is when we are in sin and pushing God away
  • We may be in unpleasant place, but can still be a Christ advancing place

In Paul’s hardship, limitations and uncertainty, gospel mission is advancing in two ways

(1) The gospel was advancing to unbelievers

The Imperial Guard was an elite force, and Paul was a mere prisoner, yet he has gotten the attention of this “whole” group

From 4:22 we know the gospel had advanced into Caesar’s household

(2) The gospel mission was advancing in believers (v14)

The church could have slunk back in fear, but Paul’s example led them in the opposite of “boldness”

Paul was limited, but the Holy Spirit was not, because God is all powerful, ever active and fully sovereign

Until the “day of Christ” arrives, the gospel will not stop advancing, because God has people to save

The gospel was not advancing despite hardship, it was advancing through it!

The Philippians may have wondered if their continuing support was being wasted

In v12 Paul lets them know that that the opposite is happening

No effort for Christ and his kingdom is wasted because He reigns

 

Sadder Than Paul’s Chains, Were the Actions of Some Believers (vs 15-18)

First, we need to piece together what is taking place

  • They are among the “the brothers” mentioned in v14
  • They are not false teachers, because Paul always confronts and condemns them
  • These are believers preaching out of envy (v15) and selfish ambition (v17)

It seems that they are Christians who want to be known for having bigger ministries than the famous Paul

Once again, for Paul this situation is seen through the eyes of gospel mission

He didn’t approve of the heart in these believers, but he approves of the gospel being declared

There are churches we may not want to attend, because we disagree with their approach to ministry

But if they are clear with the gospel, we should take joy in that reality (v18)

Last week, we saw Paul’s joy was rooted in the progress of the gospel rather than circumstances

We never lose our reason for joy, when our reason is the reign of Christ

If your reason for joy is in other things, then your joy will come and GO

 

Paul Wants the Church to Be Encouraged

His circumstances included chains, but his words include “advance, confident, bold, without fear and rejoice”

This is because the key phrase in Paul’s heart is “for Christ”(v13)

In vs 1-18, Paul refers to Christ twelve times, God four times, and the gospel four times

As Christians, we need to grasp that everything is meant to be about Christ!

v21 “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain”

  • He is worthy of this being true for us
  • It is wise and good when this is true for us
  • God is serious about this being true for us

As a Church family, we want to show grace toward one another as we struggle to grow, but we also want to be zealous to grow

None of us live for Christ in everything and at all times.

But we all can be moving in that direction

1. Live by God’s word; it incessantly points us to Christ

2. Pour your life into gospel mission “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21)

3. Be a worshipper! Your love for Christ and your interest in his kingdom will increase

WE ARE MORE THAN GOD’S PROJECT

 

Christians sometimes hold incomplete perspectives about God’s gospel work in us.

A common viewpoint that is only partially true and so misguiding to us is to think of ourselves as a good works project by God.

We imagine our salvation as similar to when people save birds caught in an oil slick. Rescuers gather the poor oil soaked birds. After they carefully clean them off and make sure they are healthy, the rescued birds are then released to continue on with their lives.

Yes, it is true that God rescues and cleanses us, but we are not merely a project He looks on with satisfaction and then sets free to live out our now “better” lives.

God rescues us in order to remove us from our state of rebellion and then brings us into His kingdom as dearly loved and adopted children. God has no intention of watching us go on our way – He calls us into His way.

God never stops working in us until the moment when we are complete, ready to be presented to Christ as His perfect Bride.

God does not settle for anything less in anyone He has saved.
Christ desires nothing less in anyone He has redeemed with His blood.
The Holy Spirit will produce nothing less in anyone in whom He has begun His work.

So we should not consider ourselves as anything less than people restored into a forever relationship with God. We cannot explain why, but God wants His eternity to be spent with us!

What are the implications of having a correct and full understanding of our salvation?

We never consider going back to life on our own

We never think of any aspect of life apart from God’s role in and over it

We recognize that we are more than clean (as wonderful as that is), we are literally “new creatures” in Christ

Our purpose now remains God-centered

Our kingdom is Christ’s Kingdom and our home is where Jesus lives

God should receive ongoing declarations of praise and thanksgiving for His ongoing work

We should see ourselves as “overcomers” of all that is sinful and in rebellion against God

Obedience of God’s Word is our heart

Following Christ is our path

Being with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is our destiny

DON’T TALK YOURSELF OUT OF GOD USING YOU

self talk

by Debbie Huber

This Sunday is National Back to Church Sunday.  We pray that God will use us as we invite our friends and family to church and we will get to see many new people come to church. Let us commit together to making them feel welcome.

The truth is, almost every week someone new visits our church. Do we seek every week to keep ourselves aware of those around us who we do not know with the same enthusiasm as on this special Sunday?

I have come to the conclusion that most of us think we are shy and therefore self-conscious. We allow this shyness to prevent us from approaching others to welcome them.

We talk ourselves out of it with thoughts such as, “I feel awkward. I don’t have anything interesting to say.”…”Why would they want to talk to me?”…”I won’t bother them.”….”They probably have been coming to this church a long time so I don’t want to offend them if they are new.”…”God has not given me the ability to talk to others.  That is for people like Linda or Susan.”…”I don’t have time today. I have to get home to______________(fill in the blank: watch the game, make lunch, etc.)”

But let us put ourselves in the shoes of the visitor and think about what their self-talk might be:  “Everyone seems happy, but they already are talking with their close friends, I do not think they are interested in meeting me.”….”The church is big, I am not sure where to take my children. Will they feel safe and comfortable not knowing anyone?”…”I am not sure where to sit. What if I sit in someone’s seat?”….”Maybe I shouldn’t have come because I do not know anyone.”…”Christianity Explored sounds interesting but I do not want to go alone.”

Remember that we are the body of Christ and we are called ambassadors for Christ.  Not just the pastors or the few that are “good at it” but all of us!  When we allow the self-consciousness to talk us out of our role as ambassadors we are believing our own lies.

Most of us will likely encounter someone new in our church this week. Let’s ask God to give us eyes to see the new person, the one who is lonely or the one who seems like an outsider. Pray that God will help you to push past the discomfort and interact with them.

Just a simple hello or an offer to help them with their children can make a big difference. Maybe you could ask them to sit with you or invite them to stay with you for the hot dog meal after church this week.  God may even use your interaction for the gospel to be shared.

Do not listen to your inner voice that tells you not to interact. Listen to God’s voice through His word that tells us to be His ambassadors.

Something as simple as a helping hand or a warm welcome can show them the love of Christ and invite them into a community of believers. We may even have the opportunity to introduce them to Christ Himself.

MOUNTAINS OF GRACE

If we have come to faith in Christ, we know grace. In fact we are immersed in grace. This grace never stops showering our lives, and more is piled up in eternity waiting for us.

Yet, somehow we all can find ourselves forgetful of this grace.

When we doubt God

When we become impatient with others

When we think we our life stinks

When we envy the lives of people who “have it all”

When we think God is asking too much of us

When we think we don’t have enough in us to serve others

When we think a sin doesn’t matter

When we wallow in self-pity

When we don’t feel like praising God

Grace is minimized when we focus on ourselves or on the temporal circumstances of this world. We say to ourselves: “I know that I have received some grace”. But compared with our frustrations, it just doesn’t seem like that much.

In those moments we not only fail to see the magnitude of grace received, we fail to perceive how insulting such an attitude is toward God who has provided and continues to provide abundant grace.

The book of Ephesians is my favorite reading on grace. The first 14 verses of chapter 1 alone present an awe inspiring description of the grace we have “in Christ”.

When grace looks a little thin to you, take the time to peek under the circumstances of life to see what mountains of grace are even now keeping you afloat. Take joy in knowing that soon all that is hidden will soon be manifest and stand forever in all its majestic glory!

 

SERMON LEFTOVERS 4.06.15

Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence      

There is no shortage of people who claim they can ‘make our life better’

Oprah interviews them, QVC sells their products, and on Election Day we put them in office

Even as skeptics, we find it hard to resist the claim: “Eat all you want and still lose weight!”

The Astronomer Carl Sagan, wrote

‘Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence’

This is a requirement that Christianity has no problem meeting

Christianity makes extraordinary claims

We do this because Jesus made extraordinary claims about himself:

“Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28)

“I have come that you may have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10)

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Matt 24:35)

Jesus went further; he made claims greater than anyone who ever lived  

“I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6)

According to Jesus claims about himself:

There are not many ways to God – there is only him

There are not different paths of truth – it is all found in him

There are no other sources for eternal life – only Jesus gives it

How could Jesus make such claims?

When challenged on the authority behind his claims, Jesus once responded:

“Destroy this (body) and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19)

Jesus declared that his resurrection from the dead would be proof that his claims are true

Jesus can make greater claims than anyone else, because he still lives

There is no better basis for making claims about life, than by defeating death

The bodies of everyone else who had theories about how we should live – are dust

Resurrection is so extraordinary a claim; others don’t try to make it

Christianity alone boldly says;

Jesus lives, or all we believe is a lie!

Christianity has stood on this claim, since the first Easter

Many have wanted to disprove Jesus resurrection, but all have failed

Resurrection should interest us, since we all die

Death presents an enormous problem that we cannot fix

1.  Death brings us (who are sinners) before God who is perfect

2.  Death brings us to the appointed time of judgment

“It is appointed for man to die once and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27)

This is God’s world and he judges us by his standard, our standards and measurements will not matter

Jesus solved this huge problem of our facing God who judges all sin

Jesus, the Son of God, became a man and lived without sin

Undeserving of death, he gave his life to pay the penalty the Father requires for our sin

How can we be sure? 

The resurrection proves that the penalty Jesus died for was paid in full

Because Jesus is alive now he can help you now

“(Jesus) is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25)

Jesus came for the express purpose of restoring us to God

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, will live, even though he dies” (John 11:25)

‘Believing’ in Jesus, means we accept and act upon his claims

We do this by confessing our need and submitting to His rule

“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” (Romans 10:9)

What do you believe about Christ, and about yourself?

If there is truth you do not know about Jesus death and resurrection – do you want to know it?

If Jesus is alive now to save those who trust in him – will you call out for him to save you?

A LOT CAN HAPPEN INDEED

Let’s praise with exceeding joy, prayer with fervor, and gather with great expectation!

SERMON LEFTOVERS 1.05.15

 “We Are In Christ”

Ephesians 1:3-14

Sunday began a new series on Our Identity in Christ:  “Know Who You Are”. Each week will examine a different descriptive statement about our identity in Christ. We begin with the most foundational one of all – we are “in Christ”

** “Found in Him” by Elyse Fitzpatrick is a great book on our union with Christ

We are united to the person and accomplishments of Christ

We are not just saved “by” Christ; we are saved “in” Christ

Jesus saved us by what he did: He lived a perfect life, He died to pay for sin and He was physically raised

Although we didn’t do any of this, through faith it lives in us

1.  Our status before God is as if we did them

2.  Our life goes on to share what Jesus has (Ephesians 2:5-7)

What Christ accomplishes as God in flesh is “who we are”

Every spiritual blessing is built on our union with Christ (v3)

These blessings begin now, because Christ is victorious in this world

These blessings will flow into eternity, because Christ will reign there

We are in what is sometimes called, “the already– not yet”

Our salvation is completely done, but we don’t fully experience it yet

Our Primary Identity Is Not From This World

Our identity flows from eternity into the everlasting

1.  Our identity stood in eternity past (vs 4-5)

Our identity has always been known and in God’s heart

2.  Our identity is known in heaven now (vs 7-9)

We are redeemed, forgiven and God’s grace is “lavished on us”

3.  Our identity is everlasting (Ephesians 2:6-7)

Forever we will share life with Jesus and experience immeasurable grace

God’s commitment defines who we are, not the fickleness of people’s opinions or our accomplishments

Our identity is in our relationship with the triune God

1.  With the Father who has a wondrous plan and placed us in it

We are in Christ according to the Father’s ‘will’ (vs 5 & 8), and His ‘purpose’ (v11)

Our value is in how deeply our Heavenly Father is committed to us

2.  With the Son, who redeemed us so we could share his inheritance

We can never be separated from Jesus; he gave too much to ever let go

If how we think about ourselves, doesn’t flow out of what we have in Christ – we have a distorted opinion

3.  With the Holy Spirit who lives in us a proof God is “all in” (vs 13-14)

His presence is undisputable proof that God’s grace is lavished on us

The Holy Spirit’s presence is our greatest attribute

Our relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit defines us, nothing less

What do we do with this identity

1.  Be at peace

Our great blessings cannot be lost, because they are in him not us

Our future is inevitable, because we are not completing it

Our weaknesses don’t affect our hope

2.  Be fascinated with everything about Christ (Colossians 3:1-4)

We are with him. All that he is and has done directly affects us

The more we know about Christ, the more we know about our life

3.  Be a worshipper

All these blessings are to “the praise of his glory” (vs 6, 12, 14)

If you want the truths of God to become rooted in your heart – be a worshiper

If you want a deeper and more joyful relationship with God – be a worshiper

If you want to bring joy to God’s heart – be a worshiper

4.  Don’t sip at your union with Christ, drink from it

To drink means to believe, and biblical faith means we takes action on what we believe